Accessibility links

Breaking News

Newsline - October 6, 1998


Russian President Boris Yeltsin completed a round of telephone calls to world leaders on 5 October, trying to reinforce Russia's diplomatic position in the Balkans and forestall NATO air strikes. He contacted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, German Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schroeder, U.S. President Bill Clinton, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Yeltsin stressed the importance of Belgrade's decision to invite an OSCE delegation to Kosova. Ekho Moskvy on 5 October quoted a Yugoslav embassy official in Moscow as saying Russian citizens from all over Russia are volunteering to help Serbia fight NATO. On 4 October, Patriarch Aleksii II of Moscow and All Russia, who met with the archbishop of Tirana in Moscow the same day, strongly rejected NATO bombing plans, saying that "any military interference in the region may have irreversible consequences. JAC


Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed and State Duma leaders have characterized possible NATO strikes in Yugoslavia as irresponsibly aggressive and incendiary. On 6 October, Lebed warned that the U.S. would get its "own Chechnya" if NATO launched an air strike against Yugoslavia. According to Interfax on 5 October, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that NATO's readiness to launch air strikes demonstrates more a "relapse of trigger-happiness" than a "recurrence of cold-war thinking." Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich of Our Home is Russia accused NATO officials of wanting to test their weaponry in Yugoslavia, saying that the "military industrial complex of NATO member nations "is the worst horror in the world" because the mounting tension around Kosova was engineered in its interests. Yabloko's Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Duma's Committee for International Affairs, declared that "Russia will resolutely resist NATO's plans to strike Serbia." JAC


As the national day of protest nears, the Russian government says it is prepared for all eventualities. Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin said that he will not allow the nation's railways and highways to be blocked and will respond "with the necessary measures" should attempts be made to destabilize the country, according to "Rossiyskaya gazeta" on 6 October. NTV reported on 4 October that 11,000 policemen and 4,000 interior troops will ensure order on Moscow streets. Interfax reported the next day that Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov plans to meet with leaders of prominent political organization on 5 and 6 October to confer with them about their plans. According to the Independent Union of Post Office Employees, the work of post offices and telegraph and telephone services will not be affected. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev reported that the Duma will convene as usual on 7 October. JAC


"Segodnya" reported on 3 October that not only interior troops but Defense Ministry units, such as the Kantemirov and Taman divisions, have been ordered to be in a state of readiness. However, the newspaper added that Russian servicemen are not enthusiastic about the prospect of "street fighting." The previous day, "Segodnya" speculated that rumors circulating about the possible replacement of Defense Minister Igor Sergeev suggested that the presidential administration wants an "experienced warrior in the defense minister's seat at such a critical time"--one who, according to the newspaper, would be willing to shed blood, such as General Anatolii Kvashnin, who is chief of the General Staff and fought in Chechnya. "Segodnya" is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most Group. JAC


"Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 6 October that local Communist Party organizations--contrary to the express wishes of their national leadership--plan to incite violence on 7 October. The newspaper reported that local Communists in Kursk are already angry that Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi has not allowed them to celebrate "red holidays" such as 7 November, while their counterparts in Rostov believe that the head of the regional administration, Viktor Chub, was illegally elected. According to "EWI's Russian Regional Report," some 5,000 employees of Atommash in Rostov unanimously decided that they will demonstrate on the plant's main square. It also reported that the Russian Communist Workers Party, which operates independently of the more mainstream Communist Party, plans to stage pickets near the entrances of several Perm enterprises. JAC


President Yeltsin reorganized the structure of the Federal Security Service (FSB) on 6 October, according to Interfax. The new structure will now consist of a chairman, Vladimir Putin, two first deputies, six deputies who will head departments and two additional deputies who will oversee the Moscow and St. Petersburg divisions. The post of state secretary of the service has been eliminated, and a 17- member board composed of Putin, his deputies, and several top officers will be established. Putin said that the reorganization significantly enhances the status of the security chiefs of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Nikolai Patrushev, who Yeltsin dismissed from the post of deputy chief of staff of the presidential administration, will become deputy chairman and head of the department for economic security. JAC


After Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's effort to distance himself from the economic program of First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov, Maslyukov is himself trying to disassociate himself from the economic plan that "Kommersant-Daily" and other newspapers attributed to him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 1998). Maslyukov told NTV on 5 October that "only an idiot would suggest" banning the dollar and that the government is not going to nationalize commercial banks. "Moskovskii komsomolets" suggested on 6 October that Maslyukov's public failure has caused the center of where "economic decisions are made" to shift from the White House to the Central Bank. Meanwhile, tax collections dropped 18 percent in September from the previous month's level. New Federal Tax Service chief Georgii Boos pledged that in October, his service would bring tax collections up to at least the August level. JAC


"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 3 October that mayors of Russian cities were delighted with their audience with Prime Minster Primakov on 2 October at which he publicly instructed the Finance Ministry to "optimize the tax base for all three levels of power." The newspaper quoted Krasnodar Mayor Valerii Samoylenko as saying "the prime minister realizes that we are the foundation of the state and the population is behind us." It concluded that by promising the mayors the independence of their local budgets, Primakov is giving them "a real chance to become a major political force ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections." JAC


In an attempt to compensate for their reduced influence under the new Primakov government, Russian oil barons publicized their effort to fight off higher taxes. According to ITAR-TASS on 5 October, the leaders of 13 major Russian oil companies appealed to the government not to increase their taxes, as Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov has suggested. Earlier, Yukos-Moskva head Mikhail Khodorkovskii held his own news conference to protest the government's economic and industrial policy, noting that the result would be a sharp decline in oil production (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 1998). Echoing an earlier remark by Minister of Fuel and Energy Sergei Generalov, Leonid Fedun, LUKoil vice president, told reporters that the oil industry needs breathing space for some four or five months so that it can stabilize and then "pull out the rest of the nation's industry." Meanwhile, Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev has met with First Deputy Prime Minister Maslyukov to discuss his company's proposals for pulling the country out of its crisis. JAC


Shamil Basaev, a Chechen field commander and leading opposition figure, told an opposition meeting in Grozny on 5 October that his group will seek to remove Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov by peaceful means, ITAR-TASS reported. "We have been fighting enough, and our actions are aimed at ensuring that there is no civil war in Chechnya." He said he hopes that a special state commission will examine the opposition's charges and then present its conclusions to the parliament and Supreme Shariat Court. PG


Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin said on 5 October that his ministry is participating in the investigation into the kidnapping of three Englishmen and one New Zealander two days earlier, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that such steps are necessary to prevent what he described as "an attempt to drive a wedge" between Moscow and Chechen President Maskhadov. Stepashin's deputy, Vladimir Rushailo. is scheduled to travel to Chechnya to supervise operations. Meanwhile, the Chechen authorities have pledged to do everything possible to save the lives of those kidnapped, the Russian news service said. Some Chechen officials blamed the kidnapping on foreign groups aimed at disgracing Chechnya and destabilizing the republic. PG


Ivan Rybkin, the co-chairman of the Russian-Chechen negotiating commission, told ITAR-TASS on 5 October that the Russian Finance Ministry had stopped all fringe benefits, including hazardous duty pay, for workers of the Russian mission in Chechnya. In the light of the murder of one of its members last week, Rybkin said that he could "not understand the heartless decision of the Finance Ministry and its leader." PG


Meeting with President Nursultan Nazarbayev behind closed doors on 5 October, parliamentary deputies said they want additional amendments to the country's constitution, Interfax and RFE/RL correspondents in Astana reported. The majority of deputies favor bringing forward the presidential elections, scheduled for the year 2000, to next year. They also want to increase the number of years of a president's term in office from five to seven and strike from the constitution the provision limiting a president to two terms in office. The deputies warned that failure to include their proposals will make the passage of the amendments proposed by Nazarbayev "problematic." Some even threatened that impeachment proceedings may be launched. BP


Mukhtar Altynbayev met with his Chinese counterpart, Chi Haotian, on 5 October, ITAR-TASS and China's Xinhua news agency reported. Altynbayev assured Chi that Kazakhstan will not allow any separatist group from China to use its territory as a base for operations aimed against the Chinese government. Though he did not specify any particular group, the Kazakh defense minister likely meant the Uyghur population of western China. Uyghur separatists were blamed for terrorist attacks in China in early 1997. Kazakhstan, which borders the region, is home to approximately 250,000 Uyghurs. The ministers met in the capital of the Uyghur Autonomous Region, Urumqi. BP


UN special envoy to Tajikistan Jan Kubis said on 5 October that the UN mission to Tajikistan will not resume full operations there until the motives for the killings of four UN employees in late July have been clarified, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Tajik authorities are detaining three people who confessed to the killings but have not made public the detainees' reasons for committing the crime.


The Tajik government has called on the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) to disband all its armed units by 25 November. Those units would then be incorporated into the regular Tajik army, which is one of the terms of the Tajik peace accord signed in June 1997. Presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov said the disbandment of the units would be accompanied by the government's lifting of bans on political parties and restrictions on mass media loyal to the UTO. BP


Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov signed an amnesty on 5 October freeing from prison women, disabled persons, those suffering from tuberculosis, juveniles, war veterans, and those over 6O, Interfax reported. Prisoners convicted of murder, terrorism, rape, or drug-related crimes are not eligible. Niyazov's decree was timed to coincide with the 6 October anniversary of the earthquake that struck Ashgabat 50 years ago, killing 160,000 people. Niyazov himself was left an orphan after that earthquake. BP


At a special session of the parliament called by 68 of its members, opposition deputies sharply criticized the government for its privatization program, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Deputy Vahagn Khachaturian said the authorities have "discredited the concept of privatization" and do "not serve to be trusted." Meanwhile, Prime Minister Armen Darbinyan said in Washington that the government will press ahead with its privatization program. He ruled out any reversal of deals that have already been signed. PG


Prime Minister Armen Darbinyan told a press briefing at RFE/RL's Washington office on 5 October that Yerevan wants a settlement of the Karabakh conflict but not on anyone else's terms. He said that Armenia believes the people of Nagorno-Karabakh have the right to decide their own future as an independent state or as a part of Armenia, but he rejected any possibility that the region could be part of Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, the results of local elections in the disputed enclave have been finalized, and privatization of land there has begun in earnest, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported 5 October. PG


Five of the six candidates who oppose incumbent President Heidar Aliyev in the 11 October presidential race said at a press conference on the night of 4 October they believe the election will go into a second round because no one will gain the two-thirds majority necessary to win outright in the first round. National Independence Party leader Etibar Mamedov said that he believes no candidate can win that much without fraud, and he expressed confidence that there will be relatively little cheating because of the strict controls that have been established. PG


Arguing that the upcoming presidential poll will be "undemocratic, unfree and unfair," the leaders of parties and political groups not participating in the election called on 4 October for a three- month postponement of the vote, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 October. The call came at a conference attended by delegates from 26 parties and 40 public groups. Several leaders said they will stage protests if a delay in the poll is not announced by 7 October. PG


The publisher of a new English-language paper in Azerbaijan decided to pull the first issue on 5 October lest its contents annoy the government, Reuters reports. The U.S. publisher of the "Baku Sun," James Phillipoff, said that he made the decision unilaterally after officials at the Azerbaijani Communications Ministry complained about two articles entitled "Aliyev Vows to Keep Order" and "Humans Retreat as Azerbaijan's Rat Population Flourishes." PG


President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 5 October that he believes "Georgia should use relations with NATO not only and not so much for boosting its military potential as for stepped-up integration with European structures," ITAR-TASS reported. His comments follow a visit to Georgia on 29-30 September by NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana. PG


Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko has said the World Bank is ready to help Ukraine promote economic reforms, Interfax reported on 5 October. Pustovoytenko added that he had "very productive talks" with World Bank President James Wolfensohn in Washington and that Wolfensohn had "confirmed our cooperation." Pustovoytenko pledged that Ukraine will not default on its debts. Ukraine has already received $1.23 billion in loans from the World Bank. Last month, the World Bank decided to give Ukraine $900 million for four projects to be implemented by the end of 1999. JM


The State Statistics Committee has reported that the monthly inflation rate rose to 3.8 percent in September, up from 0.2 percent in August, Ukrainian News reported on 5 October. However, experts believe that figure is grossly understated. "In this manner, the government is trying to lower inflationary expectations," the agency quoted one expert as saying. The official inflation rate for the first nine months in Ukraine was 6.1 percent. The official hryvnya exchange rate fell by 51 percent in September. JM


Ukrainian Supreme Council speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko has said he is opposing a vote of no confidence in the government, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 October. A total of 202 deputies have supported a motion by the Hromada party and the Socialist Party to put the issue on the parliamentary agenda. The cabinet is expected to deliver a report on the economic situation to the legislature on 13 October. Tkachenko said that under Ukraine's current financial straits, the parliament should seek to avert a political crisis. He added that he does not rule out the possibility of replacing some ministers but is against ousting the entire cabinet. JM


Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Vasil Dalhalyou told Interfax on 5 October that Belarus and Russia have reached "full understanding" on mutual debts. Dalhalyou added that Belarus's $220 million debt for Russian gas deliveries will be paid in full in goods and services. The previous day, Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Valeryy Kokarau told Belarusian Television that, given the current shortage of cash, "there is no alternative to barter settlements within the Union of Belarus and Russia." Dalhalyou also admitted that the Russian financial crisis has dealt a "painful blow" to Belarus. Before the crisis, Belarus's assets in Russian banks amounted to 220 million rubles ($14 million) and $50 million. JM


Tallinn has welcomed Latvians' approval of amendments to the country's citizenship law that ease restrictions on granting citizenship to non-Latvian residents, BNS and Reuters reported on 5 October. The Estonian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the results of the referendum "confirm convincingly that the issues of the integration of non-citizens in Latvia are solved according to the highest international standards." The same day, the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities Max van der Stoel said he is pleased with the results of the Latvian referendum and hopes Estonia will also liberalize its citizenship law. The Estonian government has proposed amendments to the citizenship law that are similar to those passed in Latvia. JC


Latvia's Way, which came a close second to the People's Party in the 3 October elections, has held talks with the New Party on forming a possible coalition government, BNS and Reuters reported. A Latvia's Way spokeswoman said the New Party had showed it would support a government headed by Transport Minister Vilis Kristopans. Maris Grinblats, the leader of the Fatherland and Freedom party, said his formation would agree to cooperate in the formation of a new government with Latvia's Way. Grinblats added that his formation also respects Latvia's Way choice of Kristopans as premier. Meanwhile, the winner of the elections, the People's Party, has said it want to begin talks with Latvia's Way and that such discussions could begin as early as 6 October. JC


Joahim Siegerist, co-chairman of the extreme nationalist People's Movement for Latvia party, announced his intention to resign from that post on 4 October, BNS reported. Siegerist issued a statement saying he assumed full responsibility his party's failure to gain entry to the parliament. According to preliminary results, the People's Movement for Latvia won less than 2 percent of the vote. In the 1995 elections, in which it won 16 seats in the parliament, Siegerist's party formed the third largest faction at the time, after the Democratic Party Saimnieks and Latvia's Way, and remained in opposition. JC


Less than a week before the 11 October elections, the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) has accused the opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) of using "unethical and illegal methods" of campaigning by showing AWS candidates in the SLD's television spots and advertising SLD election slogans on beer bottles, Polish media reported. The SLD accused Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski of "Bolshevist thinking" for his statement that the local elections will be the "true decommunization" of Poland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 1998). Premier Jerzy Buzek, meanwhile, has rejected President Aleksander Kwasniewski's criticism that the government is dragging its feet on administrative reform. Buzek's spokesman commented that Kwasniewski has joined "the false voices of the opposition." A recent poll shows the SLD and AWS running neck-and-neck, with 22 and 21 percent support, respectively. JM


Pavel Rychetsky, a deputy prime minister, has said that the country's Romany community should maintain its language and cultural identity and should integrate, not assimilate, into society, CTK reported on 6 October. Rychetsky, whose portfolio includes legislation and human rights, said he strongly rejects a statement made the previous day by opposition deputy Miroslav Macek calling for the Roma to assimilate into Czech society. Rychetsky said he hoped Macek's program is not similar to that of "Adolf Eichmann and Josif Dzhugashvili [Stalin]." Peter Uhl, the government commissioner for human rights, said there is often a tendency to try and assimilate the Roma and that this strips them of their ethnic identity. PB


Deputy Premier Egon Lansky said the Czech Republic must help Slovakia catch up with the lead group of countries in joining Western European structures, CTK reported on 4 October. Lansky, speaking on Czech Television, said Prague must "keep Slovakia on our side of Europe and not let it slip in the direction of an insecure East end of Europe." Civic Democratic Alliance Senator Michael Zantovsky said he was pleased by the election results in Slovakia and added that the Czech Republic must help the new Slovak government on "its parallel path toward European and trans-Atlantic structures." PB


The parties likely to form the next Slovak coalition government disagree over the means of electing the next president, the daily "Sme" reported on 6 October. The Slovak Democratic Coalition and the Hungarian Coalition Party want a popular presidential election, while the Party of Civic Understanding and the Party of the Democratic Left want the parliament to quickly elect a new president for a two-year term and then hold a popular election when that term expires. Slovakia has been without a president since Michal Kovac's term expired on 2 March. In other news, Wolfgang Schuessel, foreign minister of Austria, which currently holds the EU rotating presidency, said on 5 October in Luxembourg that the EU would like to see the new Slovak government formed as soon as possible. He said it is premature to predict if Slovakia can be added to the first wave of candidates for EU integration. PB


EU Industry Commissioner Martin Bangemann on 5 October told Hungarian Economics Minister Attila Chikan that Hungary will be the first country among those aspiring for membership to join the EU. After a private meeting in Vienna, Chikan told reporters that Bangemann talked about the possibility of Hungary's EU membership in 2002 with "pleasing unambiguity." In other news, Defense Minister Janos Szabo and his Slovenian counterpart, Alojz Krapez, signed an agreement in Misefa, Hungary, on military cooperation and the protection of classified military information. Szabo said Hungary believes NATO "must be open toward Slovenia." MSZ


Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic told U.S. special envoys Richard Holbrooke and Christopher Hill in Belgrade on 5 October that NATO air strikes against Serbia would be a "criminal act." Milosevic added that the international community should "contribute to the revival of the political process instead of [resorting to] pressure and threats." He repeated his assertion that the authorities in Kosova ended their crackdown one week ago, a view with which Holbrooke publicly disagreed. The Yugoslav leader added that the U.S. position on Kosova amounts to "support for Albanian terrorists." The following day, Holbrooke and Hill went to Prishtina for meetings with Kosovar leaders. Observers suggested that the two diplomats now face several days of shuttle diplomacy between Belgrade and Prishtina in an effort to persuade the two sides to accept an interim settlement. PM


Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic told the parliament on 5 October that the government accepts Russia's recommendation that the OSCE send a mission to Kosova to see whether Belgrade has met the UN Security Council's demands on ending the conflict there. Opposition deputies suggested, however, that Bulatovic's proposal is aimed at buying time. The government earlier rejected several attempts by the OSCE to send missions to Yugoslavia on the grounds that the organization has not granted Belgrade membership. At the 5 October legislative session, the prime minister also asked the parliament to approve a sales tax of up to 4 percent to provide additional funds for the military. Bulatovic called upon journalists to report on Kosova in a "professional, responsible, and truthful fashion." PM


Serbian Information Minister Aleksandar Vucic sent a statement to several independent broadcasters on 5 October charging that they rebroadcast "programs produced for the services of propaganda and psychological war by the Western forces." He added that their participation in the distribution of such programming represents an "act of espionage and a direct attack on the constitutional system and legal order." The minister pointed out that those who participate in such activities will be "suitably punished," independent Radio B-92 reported. Vucic belongs to the Serbian Radical Party of Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, who recently threatened to take independent journalists and opposition politicians hostage in the event of NATO air strikes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 1998). PM


Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, who is a leading critic of Milosevic's political and economic policies and the arch-rival of Bulatovic, said on television in Podgorica on 5 October that the Belgrade leadership bears primary responsibility for the conflict in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 1998). Djukanovic charged that Milosevic's policies there amount to a "one-sided, excessive, and indiscriminate [form of] anti-terrorism," which has spared neither property nor human lives, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The Montenegrin leader added that Milosevic has contributed to regional instability by fomenting ethnic mistrust and hatred. Djukanovic argued that the Yugoslav leader is trying to undermine democracy in Montenegro by feuding with the international community and "promoting chaos at home." Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda said that Montenegrin conscripts will do military service only in their own republic if Belgrade declares a state of emergency. PM


U.S. President Bill Clinton told his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, in a telephone conversation on 5 October that the international community must not allow Milosevic to continue "playing the classic game of making false promises designed to remove international pressure." Clinton added that Milosevic must comply with UN demands in a way that is "verifiable, tangible and irreversible." En route from Washington to Jerusalem, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told reporters that "there would probably have to be some kind of international presence" to help implement any peace settlement in Kosova, but added that NATO's planning other than for air strikes is "very fluid." She stressed that Washington's main aim is to produce a settlement, not "to use force for the sake of using force." PM


In a long-awaited report released on 5 October, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said that he lacks sufficient "people on the ground" in Kosova to enable him to judge whether Milosevic has met the Security Council's demands. Annan concluded that the council will have to decide the issue for itself, including whether to authorize NATO air strikes. Russian and Chinese diplomats said that they will oppose any such authorization. In his report, Annan condemned "appalling atrocities" in Kosova, adding that "it is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that the great majority of such acts have been committed" by the Yugoslav forces. In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said that there is enough evidence to indicate that Milosevic has not met the UN's demands. PM


Speaking to the BBC on 5 October after a conference of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said that the ministers "want Milosevic to comply with the United Nations resolution [on Kosova], to stop the hostilities, withdraw his forces and allow the refugees to get home. If he will not do that without the use of force, Britain is ready to back force. I got a very clear message yesterday from that meeting that we are agreed on the two important issues. First of all we are absolutely determined that Milosevic must adhere to the Security Council resolution. And secondly we are all agreed that if necessary, and none of us wants to do it, force must be used to make him comply with the Security Council resolution...a resolution that Russia voted for." PM


Foreign Minister Paskal Milo told Reuters in Tirana on 5 October that "Albania will offer all its facilities" for possible NATO air raids on targets in Serbia. Milo stressed that Yugoslav forces have failed to withdraw, as the Security Council demanded, and that the "way is open" for tough measures by the international community. He added that "we are convinced the reaction from the international community will be very strong." Paolo Tonegutti, head of NATO's newly opened office in Tirana, declined to say if the Atlantic alliance is working with Albania to prepare for possible air strikes. He noted, however, that "everything Albania has done during [recent military] exercises is more or less what Albania can do for NATO in any other event." Albania has provided airport facilities, medical infrastructure, and training areas to the alliance. FS


Anastas Angjeli on 4 October ordered the suspension of 48 customs inspectors, whom the previous administration of Prime Minister Fatos Nano had hired without requiring them to pass a mandatory test. A Finance Ministry spokesman told the ATSH news agency that the move is designed to increase efficiency and fight corruption. He added that the inspectors can return to their jobs once they pass the examination. Meanwhile, newly appointed Information Minister Musa Ulqini told Radio Tirana on 5 October that his priority is to help transform Albanian Radio and Television (RTSH) from a state-run into a public broadcasting institution. The parliament on 1 October approved a new law regulating public and private broadcasting, which paves the way for a thorough reform of RTSH and clarifies the legal status of private broadcasters. FS


Radu Vasile said on 5 October that he urged international financial institutions to have patience with Romania, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Vasile, speaking at the end of a working visit to the U.S., said he was told that the pace of reform in his country must increase if Bucharest wants international loans. In a radio interview earlier the same day, Vasile said it would be "crazy" for Romania to sign a multimillion-dollar deal with Bell Helicopters. Vasile said the deal would increase the country's debt by $1.5 billion. Vasile's government had supported the deal, while the IMF and Vasile's finance minister opposed it. PB


General Constantin Degeratu, the Romanian army's chief of staff, and his Turkish counterpart, General Husein Kivrikoglu, met in Bucharest on 5 October, Rompres reported. Degeratu said that the Romanian army was at a critical moment in its history and needed strong support from the Turkish army so that Romania could meet its interoperability goals and be better prepared for NATO accession. Kivrikoglu said that Ankara "will back up, as it has done up to now, Romania's wish to enter NATO structures." The two also agreed to cooperate in fighting terrorism and organized crime. PB


The Moldovan Communist Party, the largest faction in the parliament, returned to the legislature on 5 October after a week-long boycott, Infotag reported. Vadim Mishin, chairman of the parliament's Committee for State Security and Public Order, said the decision to return was based on meetings between party members and their supporters. "The voters understand the current situation in parliament...and unanimously back us." Mishin said the Communists will continue to oppose laws of a "reformist character" because such legislation is against the interests of the people and is passed only owing to the pressure of "international financial organizations." PB


The Bulgarian government on 5 October approved legislation to ratify the 1995 Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, BTA reported. President Petar Stoyanov signed the convention in 1995 but needed government approval before it could be sent to parliament for ratification. Legislators will be asked to approve an additional declaration that defines what constitutes a "national minority" in Bulgaria. Some 10 percent of the population is made up of ethnic Turks. Meanwhile, the National Statistics Institute in Sofia reported that in the second quarter of this year, GDP was 10.9 percent higher than in the first quarter, BTA reported on 5 October. PB


by Paul Goble

By reaffirming their commitment to the inclusion of those who moved into their country while it was under Soviet occupation, the Latvian people have presented a series of new challenges to the Russian Federation, the West, and perhaps especially to themselves.

On 3 October, Latvian voters rejected by a vote of 53 percent to 45 percent a referendum that would have repealed an act of the Latvian parliament in June eliminating a number of restrictions on naturalization procedures for non-citizens living in Latvia.

Because most of those falling into this category are ethnic Russians who moved into Latvia during Soviet occupation, Moscow, the West, and many ethnic Russians in Latvia itself viewed the removal of these restrictions as a necessary step toward Latvia's establishment of a civil society and its full integration into the international community.

And each of these groups took steps to press the Latvian government and people to move in this direction. The Russian government regularly denounced Riga for its past approach to non- citizens, and some in Moscow have taken more direct steps to try to force Latvia to change its direction.

Western governments have lobbied the Latvian authorities both directly and through the offices of the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities Max van der Stoel. They have pointed out the risks to Latvia if it failed to meet what they called European standards in this area.

And non-citizens in Latvia itself often protested against what they claimed was discrimination against them, although as many Latvians have pointed out only a very small percentage of those eligible in the past actually sought to become citizens of the country.

But now that Latvians have rejected the referendum and thus reaffirmed their commitment to the integration of the non- citizens on their territory, this step presents some new challenges to everyone involved.

To the Russian government, the Latvian vote removes one of the most neuralgic issues in the relationship between Moscow and Riga. It undercuts the recent diplomatic and press campaign that Russians have launched against the Latvian authorities. And it means that Russian efforts to advance Moscow's influence in Latvia will need to find a new direction.

Almost certainly, the volume of Russian attacks against Latvia will decline at least in the short term. After all, the Latvian voters have adopted what many in Moscow said they wanted.

While this may mean that Moscow will seek to raise additional issues about the status of non-citizens in Latvia, it could also lead Moscow to refocus its attacks on Estonia, the other Baltic country that Russia has said is mistreating its non- citizens.

To the West, the Latvian vote presents an even greater challenge. Western officials made it clear to Latvian leaders that the West would find it difficult to support Latvia if its voters scrapped the modifications in the citizenship legislation.

According to Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, these Western representatives had indicated that their governments would have been less willing to back Latvian membership in key Western institutions like the EU and NATO and less willing to defend Latvia against Russian charges of ethnic discrimination.

Now that the Latvian voters have done what the Western officials said needed to be done, many in Latvia will be looking to see whether the West will reward Riga for the step it has taken.

One indication that at least some in the West are prepared to do so was an announcement by the U.S. State Department on 5 October that Washington was releasing $500,000 to help make the Latvian naturalization process more accessible.

Another was the statement by German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel that the vote means that "an important barrier has been lifted on Latvia's road to the European Union." And yet a third was the announcement by Sweden that it will also provide additional help to the Latvian government.

But many Latvians are likely to be looking for even more support from the West. Articles in the Latvian press indicate that many in that country believe they have now met standards on citizenship higher than those that exist in many other European countries.

And that represents the third and probably greatest challenge arising from this vote--the one to the Latvian people themselves. They now have the obligation to make this system work, to implement in day-to-day life the provisions of the laws they have now approved.

That will not be easy, especially given the feelings that this referendum both aroused and reflected. But it is likely to be less difficult in the long term than putting into practice something about which few are saying very much at the moment.

That is the acceptance of the principle that building a civil society and returning to the West cannot be achieved by any single action, however noble. Rather, these goals require a process that will make demands on Latvia even as it continues to make the kind of progress that the outcome of this referendum reflects.