Accessibility links

Breaking News

Newsline - July 15, 1998


Mikhail Zadornov addressed the State Duma on 15 July to discuss new loans from international financial organizations, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The IMF, World Bank, and Japan are to lend Russia a total of $14.8 billion this year, most of it in new credits (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1998). Zadornov claimed that the Central Bank may not need to draw on funds added to its hard- currency reserves. He also argued that credits from international financial organizations are issued on more favorable terms than any other loans. Addressing concerns about alleged plans to split up natural monopolies in the energy sector, Zadornov said Gazprom and Unified Energy Systems will not be dismembered and that no such plans were discussed during the negotiations over the bailout package. LB


Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev on 14 July expressed concern about the new loans Russia is to receive from international financial institutions, ITAR-TASS reported. Seleznev warned against following the example of Bulgaria, which, he charged, has been unable to pay back its foreign debt and has therefore "lost its sovereignty" because foreigners determine the country's economic and budget policies. Also on 14 July, Vladimir Nikitin of the Popular Power faction drafted a Duma statement noting that "all agreements on foreign loans come into effect only after their ratification, if their implementation demands changes in the current legislation or the adoption of new laws," Interfax reported. Speaking to Interfax, Aleksandr Livshits, deputy head of the presidential administration, hailed the new loans but cautioned that "one should understand that this is the last time" international financial institutions will trust Russia as long as there are "no positive changes" in the economy. LB


The Duma convened an extraordinary session on 15 July to consider a package of government-backed laws on tax and social policy, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Government officials have warned that the executive branch will implement tougher measures unilaterally if the parliament does not approve the anti-crisis program. Speaking to journalists in Tokyo on 14 July, Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko said that measures not backed by the Duma will be introduced by presidential decree, Interfax reported. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko announced on 10 July that the government has "levers" to implement austerity measures without parliamentary approval, but he declined to elaborate, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. LB


Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov warned during a 14 July session of a government commission that "it will be very, very difficult to improve the [economic] situation" without parliamentary approval of four key tax laws, Russian news agencies reported. The Duma has rejected initial versions of those laws, which would change the income tax scale, establish a single rate of value-added tax, introduce a sales tax, and raise the land tax. Nemtsov estimated that those four laws would bring in an additional 100 billion rubles ($16 billion) in budget revenues--as much as the new planned loans to Russia from the IMF and World Bank, he noted. Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov, a high-ranking Communist Party official, told Interfax on 14 July that the Communist faction (the largest in the Duma) opposes plans to introduce a sales tax and revise the income tax scale. LB


Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov, who also chairs the Federation Council's Budget Committee, has called for revisions to some of the government's tax proposals, including the new tax code, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 14 July. Titov told journalists that on the whole he supports the government's anti-crisis program, but he called for amending some proposals to take the interests of regional governments into account. Among other things, the Federation Council wants regions to receive a greater share of tax revenues. It also proposes income tax exemptions for wages below the subsistence level and earnings spent on construction. With respect to the stabilization loan the IMF is to extend to Russia this year, Titov argued that following all the IMF's demands would provoke a political crisis in Russia. LB


During his 14 July press conference, Samara Governor Titov also called on the government to write off fines and penalties levied against enterprises with tax debts, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Titov argued that when those fines were piling up, the government was carrying out a bad industrial policy. He added that forgiving the fines would make Russian enterprises more attractive to potential investors. He did not name any enterprises that he believes would benefit from such a measure. However, the AvtoVAZ automobile manufacturer, one of the largest employers in Samara Oblast, owes the federal government 12 billion rubles ($1.9 billion), "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 July. Back taxes account for only 3 billion rubles of that sum. Fines and penalties make up the rest of the AvtoVAZ debt. LB


President Boris Yeltsin and the Duma deputies with whom he met on 14 July unanimously criticized media speculation about creating "a certain State Council," presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced after the meeting. Duma Speaker Seleznev confirmed that during the Kremlin meeting, the Duma deputies spoke out against forming "any unconstitutional bodies like a State Council" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 1998). At the same time, Yeltsin and the deputies discussed resuming meetings of other extra-constitutional bodies, such as roundtable talks involving executive and legislative officials and the "council of four" (president, prime minister, and speakers of both houses of the parliament). Several of those present later described the talks as cordial. Agrarian faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov commented that he has attended many meetings with Yeltsin, but "today was the first time that tea was served," Russian news agencies reported. LB


During his meeting with the Duma deputies, Yeltsin announced that "I want Russia to start working calmly with a new president in the year 2000," Interfax reported, citing the presidential press service. The Constitutional Court is expected to consider in October whether Yeltsin has the right to run for president again when his current term expires in 2000. Although the president has said on many occasions that he does not plan to seek re-election, many Russian commentators have speculated that Yeltsin plans to run again. Yeltsin recently fired a longtime adviser, Sergei Shakhrai, shortly after Shakhrai publicly endorsed Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov for the presidency. LB


Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko made a five-hour stopover in Beijing on the way back to Russia from Japan, Russian sources and China's Xinhua news agency reported. Kirienko met with his Chinese counterpart, Zhu Rongji, to discuss how to improve trade relations. Both agreed that though bilateral trade is weak (about $6 billion annually), there are possibilities for increasing the total volume. They called for implementation of agreements to boost cooperation in nuclear energy, modern technologies, civil aviation, and communications. Kirienko invited Zhu to visit Moscow in 1999 and also met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin to discuss the Chinese leader's "informal" visit to Moscow in September. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov is due to visit China at the end of July. BP


Prime Minister Kirienko has appointed former Deputy Chairman of the State Statistics Committee Vladimir Sokolin as acting head of that committee, Interfax reported on 13 July. His predecessor Yurii Yurkov, who was arrested on 8 July for embezzlement, lost an appeal in a Moscow municipal court to be released from pre-trial detention, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11 July. Defense lawyer Vitalii Khavkin said in an interview with "Vremya MN" published on 7 July that Yurkov's detainment was illegal insofar as prosecutors took advantage of Yurkov's "state of shock" to elicit a written confession. Meanwhile, two more people have been charged in association with the statistics scandal: Mikhail Malyshev, the leader of the Labor Ministry's Scientific Research Office, and Boris Saakyan, the director of the Statistics Committee's computer center, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 and 9 July. BT


Viktor Makarkin, the mayor of Anzhero- Sudzhensk (Kemerovo Oblast), announced his resignation on 14 July, Interfax reported. The coal miners blockading the Trans-Siberian Railroad since 3 July have long demanded his resignation. On 15 July, Tomsk Oblast Governor Viktor Kress appealed to President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Kirienko to send a working group to Kemerovo Oblast to negotiate an end to the blockade, ITAR-TASS reported. The protest is threatening the oblast's food supplies and a number of industrial enterprises, which have been left without raw materials, Kress claimed. A government group headed by Deputy Fuel Minister Igor Kozhukhovskii again failed to reach agreement with the protesters, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 July. BT


Yurii Vishnevskii, the head of the Russian Atomic Energy Inspectorate, announced on 13 July that the Volga regional department of that inspectorate has given permission to end construction of a nuclear power station in Rostov Oblast, Interfax reported. Some $1.5 billion has already been spent on building the unfinished plant, he said. The decision is a major victory for environmental activists, who have fought for years against building the plant. The Rostov Oblast Soviet voted to end construction in August 1992, according to the 9 April issue of the "IEWS Russian Regional Report." But in 1996 federal authorities ordered that construction be resumed. Environmentalists say the nuclear plant would threaten a major water reservoir and could be vulnerable to earthquakes. They organized a blockade of the road leading to the construction site last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1997). LB


Four men accused of involvement in the August 1997 killing of St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Mikhail Manevich have been arrested in the Osh region of Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported on 15 July. Manevich, the top privatization official in St. Petersburg, was shot dead by a sniper on his way to work. According to an Osh administration official, the suspects are two Russian citizens and two citizens of Uzbekistan (ethnic Russians who are brothers). The official said the four were arrested in a joint operation by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Osh branch of the Kyrgyz security forces. Interfax reported that three men were detained on 14 July and the fourth was arrested several days earlier. The FSB suspects the men of committing various contract killings in Russia between 1993 and 1997. LB


In an interview with Chechen Television, Shamil Basaev said the primary achievement of his six months' tenure as acting prime minister was the shift of the Chechen economy from Russian and toward local markets, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 July. Basaev added that both he and his cabinet ministers will report on their work to President Aslan Maskhadov after the state of emergency imposed by the latter three weeks ago expires on 15 July. In an interview with Interfax on 14 July, Basaev called for the severing of all ties between Chechnya and Russia, saying that "Russia cannot be trusted as it never deemed it necessary to fulfill its commitments." He said that unspecified foreign countries are prepared to help Chechnya if it breaks with Russia. LF


Also on 14 July, the Dagestani authorities released Adallo Aliev, the deputy chairman of the Congress of Peoples of Chechnya and Dagestan, which Basaev chairs, ITAR-TASS reported. Aliyev was apprehended on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan late last week for illegally carrying a pistol (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 1998). It is unclear whether his release is the result of a clandestine meeting that took place on 13 July between Maskhadov and Dagestani State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomadov at the former's request. LF


Maria Magdalene Kawioska, a secretary of the UN mission in Georgia, was shot dead late on 14 July at the door of her Tbilisi apartment, Caucasus Press reported. The Georgian prosecutor-general has launched an investigation. LF


The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 14 July condemning the Georgian Interior and Security Ministries' reaction to the deaths of five Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia's Gali Raion two days earlier, Interfax reported. The Russian statement condemned the killings as an act of terrorism by Georgian guerrillas and affirmed that "any attempts to present the White Legion or the Forest Brothers as organizations that have nothing to do with the Georgian special services are an attempt to ignore reality." The Georgian leadership has repeatedly denied any connection with either of those guerrilla organizations. The Russian statement also criticized the Georgian leadership for failing to comply with written commitments to crack down on groups engaged in terrorism and sabotage. And it slammed the Abkhaz leadership for failing to create conditions for the return to Gali Raion of ethnic Georgians forced to flee during the fighting in May. LF


Tengiz Kitovani has launched a hunger strike to demand a revision of his prison sentence and his immediate release from prison, an RFE/RL correspondent in Tbilisi reported on 14 July. Kitovani, who together with fellow warlord Djaba Ioseliani ousted President Zviad Gamsakhurdia in early 1992, was sentenced in October 1996 to eight years' imprisonment for setting up an illegal armed formation. In a written statement, Kitovani has demanded that he be recognized as a political prisoner. He also characterized Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze as a dictator and called for his resignation. LF


Igor Sergeev arrived in Yerevan on 14 July and held talks with President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Armen Darpinian on the situation in the Transcaucasus and the implementation of bilateral agreements on military cooperation, Armenian and Russian agencies reported. Sergeev also met with his Armenian counterpart, Vazgen Sargsian. Speaking to journalists, Sergeev denied reports that Moscow plans either to reduce its troop presence in the Transcaucasus or to redeploy to Armenia some forces currently stationed in Georgia. Sergeev declined to comment on Russian media reports that Moscow intends to station S-300 air defense missiles in Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF


Senior members of the National Democratic Union (AZhM) told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 14 July that the party does not exclude participating in the Coordinating Council recently established by President Robert Kocharian. But they expressed doubts that their participation would have any impact given that the council is dominated by parties from the Justice and Unity bloc, created in March to support Kocharian's presidential bid. Kocharian established the council last month in order to ensure that small parties that are either underrepresented or not represented at all in the parliament participate in politics. The AZhM, whose chairman Vazgen Manukian came third in the presidential elections with 12.24 percent of the vote, had earlier laid down conditions for supporting Kocharian. LF


The Azerbaijani prosecutor- general and Interior Ministry issued a statement on 14 July accusing former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev of embezzling $73 million from the state budget in 1992- 1993, Turan reported. At that time Guliev was director of one of Azerbaijan's largest oil refineries and a vice president of the state oil company SOCAR. The statement claims that he illegally exported more than 150,000 tons of diesel fuel and 32,000 tons of aviation fuel. Guliev has lived in the U.S. since leaving Azerbaijan in September 1996. He told journalists in Istanbul on 13 July that he plans to return to Azerbaijan in the near future to contest the 11 October presidential elections even though a warrant has been issued for his arrest, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 14 July. LF


Court proceedings against Suret Huseinov opened in Baku on 14 July. Huseinov is charged under 30 articles of the Azerbaijani Criminal Code. Those charges include treason, attempting to launch a coup, maintaining illegal armed formations, embezzlement, and drug-dealing. He has pleaded guilty only to charges of illegal possession of weapons and living in the Russian Federation under an assumed identity, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in the Azerbaijani capital. Huseinov claims he has been subjected to physical and psychological pressure during the investigation into his case. In June 1993, Huseinov launched the insurrection that culminated in the flight from Baku of then President Abulfaz Elchibey and the return to power of the present incumbent, Heidar Aliev. Huseinov fled to Russia in October 1994 after what Aliyev described as a failed coup attempt. He was extradited to Azerbaijan in March 1997. LF


Turkmenistan has met its grain target figure of 1.2 million tons, according to Turkmen media and Interfax. Since independence, the country had failed to meet its target figure for grain; and in 1996 and 1997, the harvest was half of projected levels. President Saparmurat Niyazov recently criticized the poor condition of fields, and Turkmen media reports claim that the Mary Region fulfilled only 80 percent of its quota. Niyazov said during the sowing season earlier this year that those who fail to meet their grain quotas may face criminal charges. BP


Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 14 July that the EU ban on visas for Belarusian senior officials in response to the standoff over diplomatic residences at Drazdy is the "usual blackmail and pressure," Reuters reported. "If it wasn't Drazdy, it would be something else. [The West] does not like Lukashenka," he commented while touring the country's southeastern region, which was contaminated by the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster. Lukashenka added that Belarus is not afraid of international isolation as a result of the EU visa ban. Belarus "will not respond to savage methods with savage methods.... We are a more civilized nation," AP quoted him as saying. JM


Lukashenka also said that Belarus may refuse Western assistance to children affected by the Chornobyl nuclear disaster if the West continues to discriminate against Belarusian citizens who want to visit the EU, Interfax reported. He expressed indignation that some Western embassies in Belarus have created obstacles in granting visas to children sent for treatment abroad using government funds while issuing visas without problems "for children of opposition leaders going abroad via private funds." "Thank you, but we do not want such help. We can do without it," Lukashenka commented. JM


Following the EU ban on visas for senior Belarusian officials, the U.S. has announced visa restrictions for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and "several dozen" Belarusian officials, Reuters reported on 14 July. "Each travel request, except those to international organizations in the United States, will be examined with the presumption of denial," the agency quoted U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin as saying. Rubin added the restrictions will cover Lukashenka, all leaders of the presidential administration, all cabinet ministers, some deputy ministers, and the KGB head. The U.S. is also suspending cooperation programs with Belarus, including educational and exchange programs for government officials and financial aid for Partnership for Peace activities in Belarus. JM


National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko has said the bank is slowly lowering the value of the hryvnya to stop the drain of its foreign currency reserves, Ukrainian News reported on 14 July. The exchange rate slipped from 2.06 hryvnyas to 2.11 hryvnyas to $1 at the beginning of July when foreign investors repatriated some $130 million in government bonds. The National Bank reserves have decreased from $2.5 billion to $1.76 billion in the first half of this year. Yushchenko said that Ukraine's financial situation remains under control and that successful negotiations with the IMF in Washington last week on a new $2.5 billion loan to Ukraine provide hope for a rapid stabilization. JM


The Russian Foreign Ministry has expressed "dissatisfaction" over the decision to hold the reunion of war veterans in Tallinn last weekend (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 14 July 1998), BNS reported on 14 July. Russian Foreign Ministry representative Vladimir Rakhmanin told reporters in Moscow that the ministry acknowledges that no Estonian officials took part in the meeting. But he added that Moscow was concerned that the annual reunion had been transferred from the provinces to the capital. JC


Olari Taal has said he sees no reason why he should resign over a loan that was taken from the Japanese Daiwa Bank last year in order to buy 6 million shares in Hoiupank, BNS and ETA reported on 14 July. At the time of the deal, Taal was chairman of the bank's board. According to ETA, the transaction may cost Hoiupank, which recently merged with Hansapank to form the largest bank in the Baltic States, some 225 million kroons ($15 million) because stocks crashed immediately after the deal took place. Taal, who has no party affiliation, joined the government earlier this year. JC


The president of Williams International, John Bumgarner, was in Vilnius on 13-14 July to discuss his company's plans to invest in Lithuania's oil sector, BNS reported. After a meeting between Bumgarner and Lithuanian Premier Gediminas Vagnorius, Economy Minister Vincas Babilius said the talks on the proposed deal have been "carried forward" but that the main disagreements between the two sides are over the value of the shares that Williams wants to buy. The U.S. company has estimated those shares to be worth 600 million litas ($150 million), while the Lithuanian government says it will not accept less than 1-1.6 billion litas. Williams wants a 33 percent stake in each of Lithuania's three major oil companies: Mazeikiu Nafta, Butinges Nafta, and Naftotiekis. JC


The government privatization plan adopted on 14 July envisages revenues totaling some 70 billion zlotys ($20 billion) by 2001, PAP reported. State Treasury Minister Emil Wasacz told the agency that the largest firm privatized this year will be Telekomunikacja Polska SA, the national telecommunications company. Next year will witness the privatization of PZU, Poland's largest insurance company, as well as two coal mines and the country's largest steelworks. All coal mines, along with the Ursus tractor plant, are to be privatized by 2001. The Polish airline LOT will be privatized either this year or in 1999. According to Wasacz, there are still more than 1,000 state-owned companies slated for privatization. JM


"Gazeta Wyborcza" reported on 13 July that a "Radio Free Belarus" station will start broadcasting in several months from Bialystok, northeastern Poland. According to the newspaper, the radio station aims at "exporting democracy" to Belarus and is a Belarusian-U.S.-Polish project initiated by Belarusian independent journalists. It added that the final decision on financing the radio station was made several weeks ago in Washington. On 15 July, "Gazeta Wyborcza" quoted Premier Jerzy Buzek as saying the government would welcome the station "with sympathy." However, the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw said on 14 July that "no official talks were held between the U.S. administration and the Polish government on independent media in Belarus." The Belarusian Foreign Ministry, for its part, said that the decision to launch "Radio Free Belarus" would not promote the development of Belarusian-Polish relations. JM


Officials from the Social Democrats (CSSD) and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) have agreed on the division of positions in the new parliament, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 15 July. ODS chairman Vaclav Klaus, slated to be speaker of the parliament, will have four deputies: one from his party, two from the CSSD, and the fourth from either the opposition Freedom Union (US) or the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL). Stanislav Gross and Petra Buzkova have been designated as the CSSD's appointees to those posts. The US has nominated Finance Minister Ivan Pilip to become a deputy speaker if the KDU-CSL does not name a nominee for the post. The CSSD and the ODS also announced that they will fill 10 of the 13 committee chairs. PB


Bohdan Dvorak, a former deputy chairman of the ODS, said on 14 July that he is resigning from the party because of its "opposition" agreement with the Social Democrats, CTK reported. Dvorak said that in signing the agreement, which allows the CSSD to rule as a minority government with ODS approval, Klaus has failed his voters and created an unstable situation. In a letter to Klaus, Dvorak said Klaus's "servile bow" to CSSD deputy chairman Vaclav Spidla was reminiscent of wartime Czechoslovak leader Emil Hacha's capitulation to the Nazis. In other news, while a private audit of ODS finances showed instances of tax evasion, fraud, and money laundering, the ODS has said it is impossible to identify the people responsible for the wrongdoing. PB


Lawmakers on 14 July voted to grant the parliamentary speaker the power to dissolve and name a government, AP reported. Such powers were previously held by the president, a post that has been vacant in Slovakia since early March. The vote was unusual in that it received support from members of both the governing parties and the opposition. Observers say the move will prevent a constitutional crisis as there would have been no one to officially accept the current government's resignation after the September parliamentary elections. PB


A 12-member OSCE delegation led by Hansjoerg Eiff, who is Germany's ambassador to that body, arrived in the Serbian capital on 14 July in a bid to persuade the Yugoslav government to allow the OSCE to send monitors to Kosova. The diplomats also want to send observers to the ethnically mixed Sandzak region, which lies between Kosova and Bosnia. The delegation will later travel to Prishtina and to Podgorica. Yugoslavia refuses to allow the OSCE to send monitors to Kosova so long as Belgrade's membership in that body remains suspended. The OSCE suspended Yugoslav membership in 1992 because of Belgrade's role in the Bosnian war. In Prishtina, members of the Serbian opposition coalition Alliance for Change met with representatives of both the Serbian and ethnic Albanian communities in Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM


Luma Haxhiu, who is a spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said that U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke achieved "nothing" on his recent mission to the region because "he talked about peace. What we need is freedom. Peace under Serbia is occupation," the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported on 15 July. Haxhiu added that the international Contact Group has "encouraged" the Serbian authorities to continue their repressive policies by limiting the international community's pressures on Belgrade to sanctions. The spokesman stressed that the UCK has no desire to spread the conflict to Macedonia, whose ethnic Albanians "have their own leadership" and a political agenda limited to achieving additional civil rights. The UCK does "not want to make more problems in the Balkans," he added. Haxhiu said that the UCK is not linked to any political party and that it has "not committed a single war crime." PM


Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, visiting Tirana on 14 July, assured his counterpart, Rexhep Meidani, that Turkey supports Albania's policy of what he called "punishing violence and [helping to bring about] a peaceful solution for the Kosova problem." Demirel made clear that a UN Security Council mandate would be a precondition for any international intervention in Kosova. He was accompanied by a delegation of 140 high-ranking government officials and businessmen, some of whom signed agreements with their Albanian counterparts. One document is a cooperation agreement between the two countries' public broadcasting institutions, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS


A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in Geneva on 14 July that in recent days, the UNHCR has registered a sharp increase in the number of Kosovar refugees fleeing to Montenegro. He said that the total number of refugees there is now 18,000, compared with 13,000 registered refugees in Albania. He added that "the sharp increase may be explained by the increase in military activity, shelling, and fighting in the Peja area." The spokesman stressed that the UNHCR is concerned about the safety of its staff in an area where there are gun battles, armed rivalry between clans, and an apparent lack of formal authority in Kosova and northern Albania. Charles Raedersdorf, who heads the Swiss Catastrophe Aid Corps, said the conflict has uprooted more than 100,000 people throughout Kosova. He stressed that finding winter accommodation for refugees will be a problem. FS


The Federal Court on 14 July ruled that the Belgrade regional court has the legal authority to proceed with the case against Nada Luburic-Sakic for war crimes and that it should do so, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The Yugoslav authorities will seek her extradition from Argentina, where she has lived since the end of World War II with her husband, Dinko Sakic, who is on trial in Zagreb for war crimes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 1998). Nada Sakic was a commander at a concentration camp for women under the pro-Axis Ustasha regime. Her husband was a commander at Jasenovac, which was Croatia's largest concentration camp, at which tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma, and opposition Croats died. PM


Sir Martin Garrod, who is the international community's chief representative in Mostar, urged ethnic Croats to return to their homes in Muslim-controlled parts of the city. He added that the international community will protect persons wanting to go home "regardless of what anybody says," "Oslobodjenje" reported on 15 July. Hard-line Croatian nationalists have sought to pressure all Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina to settle in Croatian-controlled regions that border Croatia. In Sarajevo, a spokesman for the international community's Carlos Westendorp said that Garrod will soon leave his post. The spokesman noted that the British official has spent "a long time" in Bosnia. PM


Hanns Schumacher, who is Westendorp's deputy, said in Sarajevo that the international community is preparing to impose unspecified sanctions against the Bosnian Serb government of Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, "Dnevni avaz" wrote on 14 July. Schumacher cited that government's "disappointing attitude" toward the return of Croatian and Muslim refugees. The next day, the daily quoted Vice President Bozo Ljubic of the Croatian Democratic Community as denying local press reports that his party wants Kresimir Zubak to resign as Croatian member of the Bosnian joint presidency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1998). Elsewhere in Sarajevo, Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro told the three members of the joint presidency that Italy will continue to play a role in Bosnia. The Bosnians told Scalfaro that local small and medium-sized firms need Italian help, which would also be welcome in building a major new highway, "Oslobodjenje" reported. PM


Emil Constantinescu arrived in Washington on 14 July at the start of a nine-day visit to the U.S., an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Presidential adviser Zoe Petre said the president's aim is to change "the image of Romania among all U.S. officials." Constantinescu will address a joint session of congress on 15 July, an honor accorded to few people. It is the first official visit by a Romanian president since Ion Iliescu met with President Bill Clinton in 1995. PB


Petru Lucinschi said on 14 July that any proposed austerity measures in a revamped budget should not disadvantage the poor, Reuters reported. "The budget law should be balanced so that it will not harm the poor," he said. In an attempt to prevent an economic crisis, the parliament is considering a new budget that cuts spending. Finance Minister Anatol Arapu said the old budget included "unrealistic indicators which cannot be fulfilled." The IMF has urged Chisinau to revise the budget and accelerate privatization. In other news, the EU rejected a request by Moldova to join the European Conference, a forum that brings together 15 countries that want to join the EU. The EU said such a move is premature. PB


by John Varoli

On 17 July, Russia will write the last page in the final chapter of its tsarist era by burying the remains of Tsar Nicholas II. But as in life, so in death Nicholas II has served only to divide Russia.

While the tsarist family's burial has been billed by the government as an act of reconciliation and repentance, it has proved a source of division. Most of Russia's political establishment will skip the burial. Moreover, less than half of Russia's population (47 percent) believes the remains are authentic, according to a survey carried out by the Russian public opinion research center VTsIOM.

The root of this uncertainty is the Russian Orthodox Church's decision not to recognize the remains as authentic and not to send ranking officials to the burial. "The burial has become a serious political problem," Yevgenii Volk, an analyst at the Moscow office of the Hermitage Foundation, told RFE/RL. "No one wants to quarrel with the Church."

Church leaders say they fear a division within both the Church and society if they recognize the remains. They claim that many would defect to the dissident Orthodox Church Abroad, which holds that the Bolsheviks destroyed all the Romanov remains with acid shortly after the murder in 1918. And they also argue that the issue of sainthood for the Romanovs demands an even more thorough scientific investigation to establish the remains' authenticity than the one conducted by the government over the past seven years.

But some analysts believe that those arguments are just excuses for other, more sinister problems. "The problem about sainthood and the threat of a defection to the Church Abroad are not serious arguments," said Volk. "The Church Abroad is not that strong in Russia, and few Russians hold Nicholas in great esteem. The Orthodox Church's main consideration is not to open old wounds about its Soviet-era collaboration."

The Orthodox Church has never publicly repented of its close collaboration with the Soviet government and has consistently prevented any discussion of the topic. "The Church is one of the few remnants of the Soviet past, and one of society's most conservative institutions," adds Volk. "Recognizing the remains would raise many questions about the Church's past relationship with the government that executed Nicholas."

Father Gleb Yakunin, a defrocked Russian Orthodox priest who often speaks out about the Church's past collaboration, has another view. At a press conference in Moscow on 13 July, he said that the Church "is deliberately casting doubt on the remains' authenticity and has chosen not to attend so as not to incur the wrath of the Communists." He added that the Church has postponed discussion on canonization of the Romanovs until 2000 in order to see if communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov wins the presidential election. If he wins, the Romanovs will not be canonized, Yakunin argued.

Regardless of whether this is the case, Nicholas II is certainly a controversial figure, and the government's attempt to make him into a Bolshevik martyr has failed. History is not uniting Russia but splitting it, says Volk. People are still influenced by the communist propaganda that the tsar was "Bloody Nicholas."

"It all boils down to the unwillingness of Russian society honestly to examine its past and repent of past sins," said Volk. "It is easier to proclaim democracy than actually overcome the totalitarian mentality."

Many Russians have negative attitudes toward tsarism. After all, Nicholas II's incompetent leadership did lead the country to two disastrous wars and two bloody revolutions.

According to VTsIOM, a majority (56 percent) of respondents have a negative opinion of Nicholas II. Only 25 percent of the 1,600 polled think that Nicholas II was "an innocent victim of the Bolshevik regime."

This strong resentment is evidenced by incidents of vandalism, targeting places specific to Nicholas II. Last year, the first monument to Nicholas II, located just beyond the Moscow city limits, was dynamited only months after having been erected.

In February, on Armed Forces Day, two bombs exploded at the site where the Romanovs were executed, damaging a newly built wooden chapel and memorial cross. The original chapel was burned down in 1996 on the anniversary of the Romanovs' execution.

The St. Petersburg city government promises, however, that security will be tight for both the funeral procession and the burial later this week.

Vice Governor Vladimir P. Yakovlev, the top city official in charge of overseeing the burial arrangements, told RFE/RL that "we will take all necessary precautions." When pressed on what that entails, he stopped short of providing details.

If there really is a significance to the tsarist burial, it is simply that the monarchist idea is dead in Russia. Few Russians have sympathy for it. In Russia's quest for a national idea, the country's leaders will have to look elsewhere. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in St. Petersburg.