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Newsline - July 8, 1998


Unified Energy System chief executive Anatolii Chubais, who is leading Russia's negotiations with international financial organizations, told journalists on 7 July that Russia and institutions that may provide a stabilization loan have reached "an understanding in principle on the biggest issues," Reuters reported. He was speaking after another round of talks with officials from the IMF and the World Bank. Martin Gilman, the IMF's representative in Moscow, said that "all the major issues have been identified and broad agreement has been reached on what needs to be done." But he added that a final deal will depend on "some tough political decisions that will have to be taken very soon." He did not specify the nature of those decisions. LB


The statements by Chubais and World Bank and IMF negotiators came toward the end of a rough day on Russian financial markets. Russian stocks fell by up to 10 percent in early trading on 7 July but recovered slightly following reports about the talks on the stabilization loan. The main index of the Russian stock market closed down 4.5 percent. In trading on the secondary bond market, government treasury bills posted a steep decline, pushing yields up from roughly 90 percent to 120 percent. Aleksandr Pochinok, head of the government's department on financial issues, warned that the government will not sell treasury bills at interest rates of 120 percent. In an effort to avoid domestic borrowing at such high rates, the Finance Ministry on 8 July canceled two auctions for treasury bills. LB


Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov has called on those "who are enthusiastically defending Gazprom" to defend "pensioners, mothers with many children, doctors, and teachers" instead, Russian news agencies reported. Speaking to reporters in Magadan on 7 July, Nemtsov argued that the government must collect taxes if it is to meet its financial obligations. Commenting on the "tremendous uproar" raised over the conflict between the government and Gazprom, Nemtsov said the reaction of unnamed "magnates"--who, he said, control leading media outlets--suggests that they do not want Russia to be a strong state. Reuters quoted Nemtsov as saying the government will "sort it out with the [Gazprom] management," using "all possible measures" if necessary to force the company to pay its taxes in full. An unnamed Gazprom official told ITAR-TASS that Nemtsov's remarks will not aid "constructive dialogue" between the company and the government. LB


Several Russian newspapers have joined Gazprom-financed "Trud" and "Tribuna" in criticizing the government's recent actions vis-a-vis Gazprom. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4 July charged that the government's efforts to collect 4 billion rubles ($644 million) in monthly tax payments from Gazprom have driven down the value of the ruble and cost Russia some $3 billion in lost privatization revenues and declines on stock and bond markets. On 7 July, the newspaper accused Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko of making numerous false and misleading statements about Gazprom during a recent interview on NTV (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii is the main financial backer of "Nezavisimaya gazeta." In contrast, newspapers financed by Vladimir Potanin's Oneksimbank, such as "Russkii telegraf" and "Izvestiya," have praised the government's attempt to crack down on Gazprom. LB


Gazprom subsidiaries in several regions have begun reducing gas supplies to non-paying consumers, Reuters reported on 7 July. Mezhregiongaz has reduced gas supplies to Lenenergo, the regional utility based in St. Petersburg, by 40 percent. Lenenergo owes Mezhregiongaz some 59.2 million rubles ($9.5 million) for the period January-March 1998. Vladimir Sokolov, the head of the Sverdlovsk Oblast unit of Sverdlovsk Mezhregiongaz, told Reuters that gas supplies have been reduced or cut off entirely to 170 enterprises in the oblast, 60 of which are financed by the federal government. He said non-paying consumers in Sverdlovsk Oblast owe Gazprom 1.6 billion rubles, of which government-funded organizations owe 94 million rubles. In Chelyabinsk Oblast, where Gazprom is owed more than 3 billion rubles, the Gazprom affiliate has cut off gas supplies to 14 companies and reduced supplies to 2,884 others. LB


Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 7 July, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin rejected U.S. claims that Moscow has violated the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, Interfax reported. A U.S. government report submitted recently to Congress claimed that Russia handed over to Armenia armaments covered by the treaty and deployed forces in Moldova without the consent of the Chisinau government. Rakhmanin argued that the CFE treaty "does not limit or control exports of conventional armaments." He added that Russia and Moldova have concluded an agreement on the legal status of Russian forces at present temporarily deployed in Moldova. That agreement has not, however, been ratified by either parliament. The Foreign Ministry also criticized as "one-sided" proposals advanced by NATO last month relaxing limitations on force deployments in Central Europe while retaining the existing flank restrictions for Russia, Reuters reported. LF


State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev announced on 7 July that the Duma has no plans to speed up the process of ratifying the START-2 arms control treaty ahead of the upcoming summit between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his U.S. counterpart, Bill Clinton. U.S. and Russian officials announced the previous day that Clinton will visit Russia in early September. Moscow and Washington previously said the next summit of the presidents would be postponed until after ratification of START-2 by the Russian parliament. Speaking to journalists in Copenhagen on 7 July, Seleznev said the U.S. cannot insist that Russia ratify the treaty before Clinton's visit. He added that he has warned members of the U.S. Congress that the more people seek to put conditions on Russia, "the longer the ratification process will be." LB


South Korea has said it will expel diplomat Oleg Abramkin from Seoul in retaliation for the explusion of a South Korean diplomat from Russia for spying, Reuters reported on 8 July. The statement said Abramkin "has engaged in activities which violate a diplomat's status." Five days earlier, Cho Sung Woo, a counselor at Moscow's South Korean Embassy, was asked to leave Russia under suspicion of buying Russian state secrets from Valentin Moiseev, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry's First Asian Department, news agencies reported. South Korea issued a statement protesting Woo's detainment as a violation of the Vienna Convention and expressing regret that the scandal was leaked the mass media, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, the Federal Security Service will bring charges of high treason against Moiseev within the next few days. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev has put off a diplomatic trip to Seoul that was scheduled to begin on 5 July. BT


The Movement to Support the Army convened an extraordinary congress in Moscow on 8 July to elect a successor to leader Lev Rokhlin, who was shot dead at his dacha on 3 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 7 July 1998). Delegates chose Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, an outspoken member of the Communist Party, Russian news agencies reported. Rokhlin founded the Movement to Support the Army last year and vowed to seek the ouster of Yeltsin and his associates, whom Rokhlin accused of destroying the armed forces. According to ITAR-TASS, Duma deputy Albert Makashov and Vladislav Achalov, founder of the All-Russian Officers' Assembly, were also in the running to replace Rokhlin. Meanwhile, an estimated 10,000 people, including many prominent opposition leaders, participated in a funeral procession and memorial service for Rokhlin on 7 July, Interfax reported, citing police estimates. LB


Interfax reported on 7 July that the autopsy on Rokhlin was performed at the Defense Ministry's central forensic laboratory. The results of that autopsy have not been made public. Anatolii Kapustin, deputy head of the Health Ministry's main forensic center, told the news agency that he was "bewildered" that civilian coroners did not perform the autopsy. Rokhlin retired from military service in January 1996, when he became a State Duma deputy. Kapustin said Health Ministry experts normally handle such cases, in light of the fact that the Prosecutor- General's Office--not the Military Prosecutor's Office--is investigating Rokhlin's murder. Some of Rokhlin's allies believe he was killed because of his outspoken criticism of Russia's political leaders and military policy. LB


The government's defense production order for 1998, which has been reduced twice owing to insufficient funds, has been approved by a joint meeting of the cabinet and the special Commission for Military Reform, Economics Minister Yakov Urinson told a 7 July press conference. Urinson said the order includes 15.3 billion rubles ( $2.5 billion) for arms production and military research, although he declined to specify the total value of the order. At the meeting, government officials discussed plans to gradually pay state debts to defense enterprises from 1994-1997, which, Urinson estimated, amount to 16.5 billion rubles. They also considered the rescheduling of defense enterprises' debts to the federal budget, which amount to some 2 billion rubles. Also on 7 July, Prime Minister Kirienko told reporters that the government is determining the amount of the defense production order so that people "won't get any illusions" and "plants will not expect larger orders than the state can afford to finance." BT


The Constitutional Court on 2 July struck down two articles in the criminal-procedural code that barred defendants from filing court appeals until after they have been sentenced, ITAR-TASS reported. The newspaper "Vremya-MN" argued on 6 July that the court's ruling lifts one of the most "totalitarian" parts of the code, which has prevented thousands of criminal suspects from appealing against decisions to keep them in pre-trial detention (rather than releasing them on bail) or to delay their trials. One of those who filed the Constitutional Court appeal spent nearly three years in pre-trial detention and still has not been tried for the crime she allegedly committed. "Vremya-MN" said some 275,000 people are being held in Russian pre-trial detention cells. Criminal investigations have been completed in an estimated 180,000 of those cases. LB


The Constitutional Court on 6 July determined that convicted criminals have the right to appeal Supreme Court rulings if the Supreme Court was the first court in which they were tried, ITAR-TASS reported. The judges ruled that federal law may not restrict Article 50 of the constitution, which guarantees convicted criminals the right to appeal. Consequently, the court instructed the parliament to amend the criminal- procedural code. LB


Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov and the leadership of Magadan Oblast have signed an agreement that may become a model in economic relations between Russia's federal and regional authorities, an RFE/RL correspondent in Magadan reported on 7 July. The agreement gives officials in Magadan more leeway on the distribution of funds. In return, the regional authorities are obliged to forego the use of "authorized" commercial banks in handling budget funds, renounce the use of offsets to settle debts between the government and enterprises, and introduce tough cost-cutting measures. Nemtsov rejected a proposal by Magadan authorities to turn the oblast into a free economic zone with customs exemptions. However, he said the government may support giving gold- mining companies the right to export gold. Magadan relies on the gold-extraction industry for most regional revenues. LB


Ingushetian Presidential Press Spokesman Manolis Chakhkiev has rejected as "misinformation" claims by Chechen officials that abducted Russian Presidential Envoy to Chechnya Valentin Vlasov has been transferred from Chechen territory to the Malgobek Raion of Ingushetia, Caucasus Press reported on 8 July. Chakhkiev said that the Ingush authorities are certain that Vlasov is still in Chechnya. A senior Chechen security official had told journalists in Grozny the previous day that Vlasov had been taken to neighboring Ingushetia, Russian agencies reported. The Chechen official said that the state of emergency imposed in Chechnya two weeks earlier forced Vlasov's abductors to move him but that they are now seeking intermediaries to negotiate his release for an undisclosed ransom. Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin predicted on 4 July that Vlasov would soon be freed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). LF


Heidar Aliyev on 6 July sent a special missive to the parliament requesting amendments to the new law on the presidential elections, RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported. Those amendments provide for local observers to monitor the poll and limit to 2.5 percent the number of signatures supporting prospective presidential candidates that can be verified by electoral commissions. (Numerous opposition candidates were refused registration in the November 1995 parliamentary elections because signatures collected in their support were deemed to be forged.) The amendments did not, however, include the opposition demands for the minimum turnout to be reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent of registered voters and for 50 percent of the members of the Central and local electoral commissions to be nominated by the opposition, according to Turan. LF


The five main prospective opposition presidential candidates issued a statement on 7 July saying the changes proposed by Aliyev are inadequate to ensure that the 11 October poll will be free and fair, Turan reported. Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar and Democratic Party of Azerbaijan chairman Ilyas Ismailov both said that the five's decision is "final" and that they will not recognize the legitimacy of the president elected under current legislation. Also on 7 July, Ashraf Mekhtiev, head of the virtually unknown Association for the Victims of Illegal Political Repression, announced his intention to contend the poll, raising to five the number of candidates who have announced their intention to run. LF


The 7 July issue of the opposition Azerbaijani newspaper "Chag" was rejected for publication by censors because it contained a half-page article questioning whether the Azerbaijani authorities support the Workers' Party of Kurdistan (PKK), Turan reported, citing a statement by the paper's editorial office. The Azerbaijani National Security Ministry has denied any official PKK presence in Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 1998). LF


The 5 July talks in Moscow between Georgian Ambassador Vazha Lortkipanidze and Abkhaz Special Envoy Anri Djergenia failed to yield what Caucasus Press called "principally new proposals." Interfax quoted unnamed sources close to Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba as saying that the Abkhaz side offered "some significant compromises" but that the Georgian leadership is unwilling to make concessions. Djergenia told Interfax that documents have been prepared for signing at the proposed meeting between Ardzinba and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. "The ball is now in the Georgian court," he added. Shevardnadze has consistently said he will meet with Ardzinba only to sign an agreement that defines how and when ethnic Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia during fighting in 1992-1993 and in May 1998 will be repatriated. LF


A Georgian parliamentary delegation was in Yerevan from 5-7 July for the first session of Armenian-Georgian inter-parliamentary commission, Noyan Tapan and Caucasus Press reported. The discussions focused on bilateral trade and economic relations, the creation of regional bodies, and cooperation among the three Transcaucasus states. The Georgian delegation also met with Armenian government officials, including Prime Minister Armen Darpinian, to assess prospects for economic integration, specifically in the energy as well as the tax and customs sectors. Armenia has offered to supply electric power to Georgia to offset part of its debts for rail transportation, according to Caucasus Press on 7 July. LF


Meeting in Yerevan on 6 July with Russian Federal Border Service Director Colonel-General Nikolai Bordyuzha, Armenian President Robert Kocharian called for the continued presence in Armenia of the Russian border- guard troops who, together with the Armenian armed forces, are protecting Armenia's frontiers with Turkey and Iran, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Speaking to ITAR- TASS, Bordyuzha expressed "satisfaction" over his talks with both Kocharian and Armenian Interior Minister Serzh Sarkisian. Bordyuzha said the talks focused on deepening cooperation and "streamlining our structures." But he denied media reports that the Russian presence in Armenia will be reduced. LF


UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Sergio Viera de Mello wrapped up a three-day visit to Tajikistan on 6 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Meeting with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov two days earlier, Viera de Mello said the UN will continue to offer Tajikistan humanitarian aid and to seek donor nations that are also willing to extend assistance. Rakhmonov said that rebuilding more than 10,000 homes in Tajikistan's Khatlon region is "the greatest problem," at present. Shortly before his departure, Viera de Mello noted that the peace process in Tajikistan is gaining momentum but that further success depends on the timeliness and quality of international aid. BP


Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov concluded a three-day visit to Iran on 8 July, IRNA and ITAR-TASS reported. During their two meetings, Niyazov and Iranian President Mohammad Khatami stressed that any agreement on the legal status of the Caspian Sea must be approved by all five littoral states. That statement followed the signing of the Kazakh-Russian deal on the division of the sea bed into sectors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). Both Niyazov and Khatami praised the development of Turkmen-Iranian ties and pointed to the joint gas pipeline opened at the end of last year and the Meshed-Sarakhs-Tedjen railroad as examples of success in bilateral relations. Also during Niyazov's visit, agreement was reached on setting up six joint commissions (on business, oil and gas, health protection, transport and telecommunications, finance, and power engineering). BP


Belarus has told the U.S. and other countries to remove furnishings from their ambassadors' residences at Drazdy by 11.00 a.m. on 8 July, Reuters reported. Otherwise, the Belarusian authorities said, they will remove furnishings and take control of the buildings. "This is the ultimate act of rudeness," U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin commented. He added that the U.S. has not yet decided what "appropriate and proportional responses" should be made to meet the situation. A senior official told Reuters that the U.S. will likely take joint action with other countries involved. JM


Speaking at a meeting with the first graduates from the National Military Academy on 7 July, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said Belarus needs "modern and mobile armed forces." He pledged to create such forces, despite "considerable financial and material outlays," ITAR-TASS reported. Lukashenka deplored the "disintegration of the bipolar [global security] system" that had existed before the collapse of the Soviet Union. He also denounced NATO's "demonstrative military deterrence." JM


Following 19 rounds of voting since its opening session in May, the Ukrainian Supreme Council has chosen its speaker. The parliament on 7 July voted by 232 to 37 to appoint Oleksandr Tkachenko, a member of the Peasants/Socialists parliamentary group, as its head. A majority of 226 votes was required for his election. According to Ukrainian Television, Tkachenko's election was possible owing to votes from the center-right parliamentary groups, which until now had blocked all attempts to elect a leftist speaker. Tkachenko, 59, was a deputy speaker of the former Supreme Council and was Ukrainian agriculture minister before the collapse of the Soviet Union. He is widely believed to strongly support collective farms and oppose private land ownership. JM


President Leonid Kuchma expressed the hope that Tkachenko's election will put an end to the protracted parliamentary crisis and give a boost to the legislative process necessary for continuing economic reform, Ukrainian Television reported. Kuchma's aide Anatoliy Halchynskyy told Reuters that the election of the leftist speaker provides "no reason for panic." But nationalist Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chornovil told the agency that Tkachenko is a "mortal enemy" of privatization and land reform. "He is an orthodox," Chornovil commented to Ukrainian Television. Artur Bilous, a deputy from the pro-government Popular Democratic Party, downplayed the importance of the speaker in the current parliament, saying that the "key parts in this orchestra will now be played by parliamentary groups." JM


Jaak Leimann has said he plans to quit his post as economy minister this fall in order to take up a teaching position at Tallinn Technical University, ETA reported on 7 July. Leimann said the reason for his decision was that he is the only unaffiliated minister in the cabinet, which is bracing itself for elections in spring 1999. Prime Minister Mart Siimann has proposed that Leimann continue in his government post until the elections, which the economy minister says he has not ruled out "if everything goes well this autumn." He also noted that he always considered the minister's post as temporary and teaching as his true vocation. Leimann was appointed to the cabinet in late 1996, when the Reform Party quit the ruling alliance. JC


Aleksander Kwasniewski told Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis during a visit to Riga on 7 July that he is prepared to act as a mediator "not just for Latvians, but for the sake of the entire Baltic region." He said that Poland, which currently chairs the OSCE, would apply every possible effort for Latvia and Russia to resume dialogue. Last week in Moscow, Kwasniewski had suggested to Russian President Boris Yeltsin that meetings could be arranged between the Russian and Latvian foreign ministers. Ulmanis, who met with the Polish president, said he endorsed Kwasniewski's viewpoint, stressing that Latvia has fulfilled all OSCE recommendations on its citizenship law. JC


Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said in the Lithuanian capital on 7 July that Vilnius's improving relations with Moscow bode well for NATO expansion, dpa reported. "If the Russian-Lithuanian relationship is good, this is good for the whole region," he commented, adding that NATO's eastward expansion is not a matter of "working against any enemy-state but of peaceful cooperation and stability." Talbott also said that Vilnius should seek to exert a positive influence on neighboring Belarus. Referring to the stand-off over the eviction of diplomats from their residences in the Drazdy compound, Talbott said "it is absolutely unacceptable how Belarus is behaving. We think that if Lithuania has some influence, this would be good influence." JC


Jerzy Buzek has said he does not believe that the EU's smaller member countries will try to block EU enlargement for fear of losing union funding, Reuters reported on 7 July. Buzek is visiting Lisbon to seek backing for Poland's bid to begin EU entry negotiations on several issues this year. "Having spoken to [Portuguese] Prime Minister [Antonio] Guterres, we reached the conclusion that we are on the same side," the Polish visitor commented. Premier Guterres said Portugal "does not aim in any way" to delay the EU enlargement process. JM


Social Democratic Party (CSSD) leader Milos Zeman told journalists on 7 July after meeting with Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Vaclav Klaus that the ODS will support a minority government headed by Zeman. Klaus said the agreement will be submitted to the two parties' leaderships for approval within 24 hours. Earlier on 7 July Klaus told Czech state radio that the ODS will not form a minority government supported by the Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) because such a cabinet "will not guarantee the country's long-term stability," AP and Reuters reported. MS


U.S. Ambassador to Bratislava Ralph Johnson on 7 July again called on Slovakia to change its election law before the ballot scheduled for September, CTK reported. Johnson told a group of businessmen in Nitra that the law as it now stands impedes free and fair elections. The Slovak parliament passed an amendment to the law in May. MS


Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 7 July told journalists in Budapest that cracking down on violence and organized crime is a priority for his cabinet. He said order can be restored only through a larger police force, more efficient anti-mafia legislation, and tighter control over foreigners. Amendments to the existing immigration law and tightening the criminal code rank high on the agenda of the new cabinet's first meeting, he said. Orban also explained that former police chief Sandor Pinter has been appointed interior minister owing to his thorough knowledge of and experience in police affairs as well as his ideas on how to improve public security. MSZ


Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano said in Tirana on 7 July that the shadow state of President Ibrahim Rugova, the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and other political groups should form a joint National Council. Such a body, Nano continued, would enable the Kosovars to work out a joint position and speak with one voice, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Senior U.S. and Russian envoys recently said that the failure of the Kosovars to develop a joint program is hampering international efforts aimed at ending the crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). PM


Rugova's top adviser, Alush Gashi, said in Prishtina on 7 July that the international Contact Group-- the U.S., Russia, France, U.K., Italy and Germany--lacks a coherent strategy for Kosova. He added that this confusion has in turn led to a widening of divisions in ethnic Albanian ranks, AP reported. Gashi said that "the international community blames their failures to bring peace on natural divisions in Albanian politics. The Contact Group keeps demanding the Serbs withdraw their forces, but [the demands] are ignored. Without a doubt, the biggest problem for us is that there's no international agenda." In Bonn, senior diplomats from the Contact Group countries began a new round of discussions on Kosova on 8 July. PM


Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos said in Washington on 7 July that NATO intervention in Kosova could lead to a regional "explosion." Reuters wrote. He added that "the [UCK] aims at independence, and perhaps even unification with Albania, via conflict. This cannot be tolerated because it would lead to a change in borders, which is extremely dangerous as an idea for the whole area. By participating militarily, NATO therefore [would be encouraging] secession and impelling the [UCK to choose] armed conflict in the hope that NATO would intervene against Serbia. If you once open the window to violent changes of borders, then you will have an explosion in the Balkans." PM


Speaking in his capacity as OSCE chairman, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek told the OSCE parliamentary assembly in Copenhagen on 7 July that "sometimes the peace process cannot be [fostered] by peaceful means. We should look for a peaceful solution, but we cannot accept the impotence of the international community." In Washington, State Department spokesman James Rubin said that both sides in Kosova must realize that they cannot attain their respective goals through violence. In Blois, France, Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine told Reuters that the UCK may be included in negotiations only if they do not undermine Rugova's moderate position. Vedrine added that the UCK might cause any talks to fail by taking hard-line positions. PM


The office of Louise Arbour, who is the Hague-based war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, issued a statement on 7 July in which she argued that the court has the authority to investigate alleged atrocities in Kosova. The text said that "the nature and scale of the fighting indicate that an 'armed conflict,' within the meaning of international law, exists in [the province]. As a consequence, she intends to bring charges for crimes against humanity or war crimes, if evidence of such crimes is established." PM


The international community's Carlos Westendorp and U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard led ceremonies on 7 July to reopen Mostar airport to civilian traffic after a break of more than six years. Airplanes from Croatian Airlines and Air Bosna were the first to arrive. Elsewhere in Mostar, Gelbard told Ante Jelavic, the leader of the Herzegovinian branch of the Croatian Democratic Community, that the Croats are not observing several provisions the Dayton agreement. Gelbard charged the Croats with rebroadcasting only programs of Croatian television, maintaining their own telephone system, and failing to cooperate with the joint police force. He reminded Jelavic that the Dayton agreement specifies that Bosnia is a unified, multi-ethnic country. PM


Ariane Quentier, who is a spokeswoman for the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, said in Sarajevo on 7 July that Germany's policy of strongly encouraging Bosnian refugees to go home is "premature," Reuters reported. She stressed that the German authorities are virtually forcing people to return to areas where there are no homes or jobs for them. "The UNHCR is very concerned [because] the latest wave of refugees aggravates an already difficult refugee situation in Tuzla. The [German] authorities are using take-it-or- leave-it tactics: 'If you don't take the [$4,700 resettlement payment] and leave now, you will be deported from Germany in few months.'" The federal Interior Ministry and the state governments of Bavaria and Berlin have been particularly outspoken in encouraging refugees to leave. German critics charge the authorities with seeking to exploit anti-foreigner sentiments in an election year. PM


Radimir Cacic of the Croatian People's Party, Liberal Party leader Vlado Gotovac, Ivan Jakovcic of the Istrian Democratic Assembly, Social Democrat Ivan Racan, and Zlatko Tomcic of the Croatian Peasants Party discussed the Croatian political situation with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Washington on 7 July. Gotovac told the VOA's Croatian Service that Albright "expressed great interest" in Croatia's playing a bigger role in regional affairs. Racan noted that she does not wish to interfere in Croatian politics but added that she expressed the hope that Croatia will become a dynamic multi-party democracy. Albright invited the opposition leaders despite objections from the governing Croatian Democratic Community. Meanwhile in Zagreb, several thousand pensioners demanded that the government pay them $4.6 billion in back benefits, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. A recent court decision endorsed the pensioners' claim, but the government says it does not have the money. PM


The Democratic Party on 7 July resumed its boycott of the parliament, which it had ended four months earlier. Party chairman and former President Sali Berisha told "Koha Jone" that the boycott is in response to government "corruption and violence" aimed at the Democrats. He also blasted "the return to work of [communist-era] employees of the secret service...and the creation of a parliamentary commission investigating the [chaotic] events of January to March of last year," at which time Berisha was president. The decision to resume the boycott coincided with parliament's approval of a report by the commission calling on the Prosecutor-General's Office to start investigating Berisha's role in the unrest. The report concluded that "Berisha is...legally responsible" for the 1997 chaos. FS


Berisha's deputy, Genc Pollo, and former Democratic Party chairman Tritan Shehu criticized the decision to resume the boycott. Pollo said in Tirana on 7 July that it will be difficult to explain the walkout to the international community, "Shekulli" reported. Just one week earlier, European parliamentarians visiting Tirana urged Berisha to remain closely involved in parliamentary work, especially in the drafting of a new constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 30 June 1998). Shehu said on 7 July that participation in the parliament gives the party a valuable opportunity to make its views known to the voters. FS


Premier Radu Vasile, during his two-day visit to Italy, met with Pope John Paul II and handed over a written invitation from President Emil Constantinescu to visit Romania in May 1999. Vasile told journalists in Bucharest he "regrets" that "for now" the Romanian Orthodox Church has given the Pope only a "verbal invitation" to visit. The same day, the Romanian Patriarchate said the church's Holy Synod will discuss the invitation at its meeting on 15-17 July. If the meeting approves inviting the pontiff, a written invitation will be dispatched in September. The Orthodox and the Uniate Church (which is subordinated to Rome) have been in conflict over the restitution of property confiscated from the Uniates by the Communists and transferred to the Orthodox Church. Vasile also met with Italian Premier Romano Prodi and discussed bilateral relations as well as Romania's NATO bid. MS


The chairmen of the Moldovan and the Transdniester parliaments, Dumitru Diacov and Grigori Marakutsa agreed in Tiraspol on 3 July to start negotiations on an accord between the two legislatures, Infotag and BASA-press reported. Diacov called the move "historic." The two sides will exchange information on a regular basis. Transdniester Supreme Soviet Deputy Chairman Vladimir Atamanyuk said Tiraspol is not willing to negotiate on a "special status" for the region but does not rule out the possibility that a joint commission will examine the case of Ilie Ilascu, who was condemned to death in Transdniester in 1992 and has been detained there. Atamanyuk said a resolution of Ilascu's case may depend on Moldova's revising its attitude toward the Cossacks who fought on the side of the separatists six years ago. MS


The authorities in Tiraspol have ordered the closing of the city's only school in which instruction was in Romanian, Radio Bucharest reported on 7 July citing the BBC. The separatist government said the school curriculum does not correspond to the agreement reached between Chisinau and Tiraspol on teaching programs. It also noted that the school director failed to obtain a license from the Ministry of Education. The BBC said the main reason for the decision was that the Latin rather than the Russified Moldovan alphabet was used at the school. MS


by Kitty McKinsey

Poles are proud of the history of their army. Polish soldiers fought repeatedly over the ages for their country's independence and freedom as well as for the freedom of the future United States of America during the American Revolutionary War. They were actively involved in both the First and the Second World Wars.

In recent years, Polish soldiers have been proving their mettle not on the battlefield, however, but in peacekeeping operations from Haiti to Cambodia, from Bosnia to Rwanda.

Poland is the world's number-one supplier of troops to UN peacekeeping missions in danger zones. It currently has some1,500 soldiers serving as peacekeepers as well as UN and OSCE military observers. This year, it celebrates 25 years as a permanent contributor to UN peace missions. Polish military officials say that experience will serve the country well when it joins NATO in 1999.

Why are Poles in such demand as peacekeepers? "We are good soldiers," says Lieutenant-Colonel Marek Olbrycht, commander of the Polish Army's Peacekeepers Training Center in Kielce, southern Poland. "We have a lot of experience and the result is that we feel [comfortable] in the international family, and I am 100 percent sure the international family also feels comfortable with us."

Olbrycht adds that "the peacekeeper has to be the best soldier in the world" because he has to inspire respect from local people without using any weapons.

A UN official at headquarters in New York (who spoke on condition he not be named) agreed that "in Poland, they have a tradition of participation in UN operations, so they have established a very good reputation."

At the Kielce center, Polish soldiers and officers-- from privates to generals--are trained for specific missions immediately before going abroad. They train for exactly the tasks they will be performing in the field. As Olbrycht jokes, "we prepare them for everything but the climate," which in areas like the Golan Heights and south Lebanon can be dramatically different from Poland's.

Lieutenant-Colonel Marian Kolus, second in command at the Kielce center, explains that "we prepare our soldiers for combat, but for UN soldiers, the main task is to see and be seen." The Kielce school aims to allow peacekeepers to hit the ground running at their assigned destination; there's no room for "on-the-job training" once they are out in the field.

All Poles who go on peacekeeping missions are volunteers, and the army has more volunteers than it can actually send abroad. For conscripts, the incentive is the pay. Instead of the measly $21 per month they make in Poland, they earn $450 a month as peacekeepers.

Former Polish peacekeepers agree the main challenge for a UN peacekeeper is to be seen as impartial by locals on all sides who have recently fought a war. Olbrycht learned this lesson when he served in Serb-occupied Krajina in Croatia during the war there. "If for instance you give one piece of bread to [one side], you have to give the same kind, the same amount, the same size, and the same piece of bread to the opposite side."

In the experience of many Polish soldiers, "peacekeeping" is even a misnomer. In many cases, UN peacekeepers are sent into areas where they are expected to impose, enforce, and build peace. But Olbrycht says only the local people can build peace. If they don't want it, he says, nobody can impose peace on them.

Polish soldiers serve today as peacekeepers in the Golan Heights and south Lebanon, and with the NATO-led peace force in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Polish officers are also UN military observers in, among others, Angola, western Sahara, Georgia, and Tajikistan.

Along with participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace exercises, Poland's role in peacekeeping operations is good preparation for the country's entry into NATO next year. By serving abroad, Polish soldiers learn above all how to communicate in English and also how to deal with soldiers from other armies.

Major Marek Obrusiewicz, in charge of the Polish army's peacekeeping training, says Polish soldiers are learning valuable lessons while serving with SFOR in Bosnia, especially how to do things NATO's way.

And U.S. defense officials reportedly welcomed the recent appointment of Henryk Szumski, a young general, as chief of the Polish general staff. The reason for that reception was Szumski's UN field experience. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent.