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Newsline - December 16, 1998


In the latest of a series of articles about Russia's reaction to the removal of a security guardpost outside the home of the Russian ambassador in Washington, "Noviye izvestiya" reported on 15 December that Russian authorities have threatened to remove guards from the U.S. embassy in Moscow and from the U.S. ambassador's residence. According to the daily, U.S. Ambassador James Collins paid an urgent visit to the Russian Foreign Ministry, requesting that security measures be increased rather than decreased. The newspaper reported that a State Department official in Washington explained the guards' removal there by saying "we are having financial difficulties, and you Russians must understand this." "Noviye izvestiya" concluded, "We do understand. But what, then, are our state organs to do, when wages have not been paid for months and no one is removing guards from foreign diplomatic missions in Moscow?" JAC


In an published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 December, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called the U.S. and Russia "natural strategic partners" but said that Moscow will oppose pressure to alter its relationship with Iran. "Our cooperation with Iran will continue to be implemented in strict compliance with our international commitments and nonproliferation policies," he wrote. He also noted that the strategic goals of the U.S. and Russia "mainly coincide" but "different measures and methods to reach [these goals] are often suggested, which sometimes causes serious differences." JAC


Yurii Kopylov, appointed acting mayor of Vladivostok by Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, appealed on 15 December for "assistance" to help him occupy city administration headquarters, which are currently occupied by supporters of former Mayor Viktor Cherepkov, ITAR- TASS reported. However, Viktor Kondratov, presidential representative to the krai, said that "there will be no use of force to settle the conflict." "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 December that lights, telephones, and water have been turned off at the mayor's office in order to drive out Cherepkov's supporters. Earlier, many city residents experienced heating outages at their homes because of a battle between the local power supply company and the Mayor's Office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1998). JAC


Duma deputy and deputy chairman of the Communist party faction Valentin Kuptsov told reporters on 15 December that the Duma is unlikely to pass the budget quickly. He said that "neither the party nor the voters would appreciate it if we skipped studying the government's proposals in depth." Meanwhile, Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev said that the Duma will try to complete consideration of the budget in January if it fails to do so by the end of the year. Duma Budget Committee Chairman (Russian Regions) Aleksandr Zhukov said that the budget has a good chance of passing in the first reading, while Agrarian faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov said his group will support the budget, despite the fact that it will not resolve the problems experienced by farms and agrobusinesses. JAC


State Duma Security Committee Chairman and member of the Communist Party Viktor Ilyukhin said at an impeachment commission hearing on 15 December that "large-scale genocide [against the Russian people] would have been less serious if the president's entourage and the government included representatives of other ethnic groups and did not consist exclusively of Jews, although they are a talented group." The next day, the Duma rejected a Yabloko faction proposal for a resolution condemning Ilyukhin for his remarks. Only 82 deputies voted in favor of the measure, according to Interfax. Ilyukhin, meanwhile, has denied that his remarks were anti-Semitic, according to ITAR-TASS. Duma deputy and fellow Communist Party member Tatyana Astrakhankina accused television journalists of trying to discredit Ilyukhin. Financial magnate Boris Berezovskii, who earlier proposed that the Communist Party be banned, suggested that if necessary, the government should use force to get rid of the party. JAC


Russian military and government officials stepped up their rhetoric in support of State Duma ratification of the START-II treaty on 15 December. Strategic Rocket Force Commander General Vladimir Yakovlev told reporters that under the treaty, Russia would not have to take a single missile off combat duty before its service life expired. He added that "just like human life, the lifetime of any piece of equipment is limited." The same day, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov said that START-II is a touchstone for Russian foreign policy and delays in its ratification are providing other countries with justification for speeding up their own nuclear weapons program. Maslyukov also urged that talks begin immediately on START-III. JAC


Meanwhile, the treaty has become a subject for "political horse trading" in the Duma and some groups are demanding changes in the budget in exchange for their support for ratification, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 December. According to the daily, Yabloko, Our Home is Russia, and Russian Regions support ratification, while the Liberal Democratic Party is "unambiguously opposed." Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov reportedly believes that there is no point in examining the treaty until the government submits a plan on how it will safeguard the nation's security over the next 10 to 15 years. Duma Chairman Seleznev said the Duma Council will consider START-II ratification on 17 December. JAC


Five creditors who filed suits against Russian Public Television (ORT) have withdrawn them under government pressure, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 December. According to the newspaper, the government now has full control over the station, which "can be reminded of its debts and the prospect of bankruptcy at any moment." By gaining this leverage, the government has delivered a "crushing defeat" to financial magnate Boris Berezovskii, according to the newspaper. In the meantime, however, a Moscow arbitration court decided to continue bankruptcy proceedings against ORT, despite an appeal from the Federal Bankruptcy Service, the "Moscow Times" reported on 16 December. Artem Bikov, deputy head of the service, said his agency will continue to oppose ORT's bankruptcy. A first hearing has been scheduled for 18 February. JAC


About 100 teachers and parents of schoolchildren from the village of Suda in the Vologda Oblast blocked the Oktyabrskaya railroad on 15 December, Interfax reported. At the same time, more than 12,000 teachers from 443 schools and daycare centers also protested months of unpaid wages. A local teachers' union official told Interfax that only teachers working in the cities of Vologda and Cherepovets and in one other school district in the oblast receive their pay regularly. The next day, a Transport Police official told Interfax that criminal proceedings have been initiated against the striking teachers who blocked the railroad and delayed four trains. JAC


Former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko has launched his own website (, Interfax reported on December 15. The site contains an application form for people wishing to join Kirienko's new movement, called Novoye Delo [New Cause]. Kirienko's former colleague, Boris Nemtsov, former deputy prime minister also has his own web site (, at which people can join his Young Russia movement. In an interview with "Novoye vremya" in its December issue, Nemtsov said that Young Russia's ranks are swelling by "one hundred new men a day." JAC


Moscow city authorities have announced that Russian National Unity (RNU) will not be allowed to hold a congress with more than 5,000 attendees at the Izmailovo Sports Palace on 19 December. RNU leader Aleksandr Barkashov told Interfax the same day that his organization will appeal the ban. According to Barkashov, the city has no legal right to prohibit the meeting of the party, which "is registered in Moscow as well as in 33 other Russian regions." On the agenda of the meeting had been amendments to the group's charter enabling it to officially register with the Justice Ministry and participate in presidential elections in 2000, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported. JAC


The Chechen parliament on 15 December refused to approve the deployment of the several thousand reservists mobilized by President Aslan Maskhadov to crackdown on crime, imposing instead a 30-day state of emergency, Interfax reported. Parliamentary speaker Ruslan Alikhadjiev told ITAR-TASS that the parliament's decision does not constitute defiance of the president, as the state of emergency will serve the same purpose as Maskhadov's proposed deployment of reservists. But Deputy Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriev condemned the parliament's decision as "the wrong way to combat crime," according to Interfax. As in July, when Maskhadov imposed a state of emergency following clashes between rival military groups, former Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin argued that Moscow should not condemn the Chechen move, which is technically illegal as only the Russian president is empowered to declare a state of emergency on the territory of the Russian Federation, ITAR-TASS reported. LF


A Baku district court handed down two more fines on independent newspapers on 15 December, Turan reported. "Azadlyg" and "Yeni Musavat" were each fined 150 million manats ($39,000) for having insulted the honor and dignity of President Heidar Aliyev by publishing former President Abulfaz Elchibey's allegations that Aliyev played a role in the creation of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The Baku city court judge who on 14 December had imposed a fine on "Azadlyg" for publishing details of alleged purchases of foreign real estate by members of Aliev's family, has applied to the prosecutor-general to begin criminal proceedings for slander against the newspaper's editor, Gunduz Tairli. LF


The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry sent letters of protest on 15 December to Anglo-Dutch Royal/Dutch Shell and Britain's LASMO plc, which the previous day signed an agreement with the National Iranian Oil Company to conduct an exploration study in what Baku says is its national sector of the Caspian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December 1998), Reuters reported . The ministry also wrote to the governments of the other four Caspian littoral states--Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan--to protest the agreement. Ilham Aliev, vice president of the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, told journalists that by signing the agreement, BP and Shell have jeopardized their activities in Azerbaijan and their chances of participation in future projects. LF


Frontera Resources Corporation and SOCAR signed an agreement on 15 December in Baku to develop the Kyursangi and Karabaghli onshore oil fields, located 150 kilometers southwest of Baku, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported. The Saudi-U.S. Delta-Gas Alliance is the third partner in the consortium. The fields have been in production since the 1960s and have estimated reserves of 150 million metric tons of oil. LF


A senior Georgian Interior Ministry official told Caucasus Press on 15 December that Russian claims that Georgia has exceeded the maximum number of troops it may deploy close to the border with Abkhazia "do not correspond to reality" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998). Galaktion Mdzinarishvili said that the officer from the Russian peacekeeping force deployed along the border who made that allegation may have been confused by the weekly rotation of Georgian forces in that district. Abkhaz Interior Minister Amazbey Kchach has sent another 60 police officers to Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion in response to an increase in terrorist activity there, Caucasus Press reported on 16 December. LF


Presidential adviser and Self-Determination Union chairman Paruyr Hayrikian told journalists in Yerevan on 15 December that Armenia's full membership in the Council of Europe will depend on how next summer's parliamentary elections are conducted, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. "If our elections don't meet European standards, we may find ourselves in a sad situation," Hayrikian warned. Hayrikian met in Paris last week with Council of Europe officials. Armenia currently has special guest status with the council. A decision on its full membership is not expected before May 1999. Previously, Council of Europe officials had said that full membership for Armenia and Azerbaijan is contingent on progress toward resolving the Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan has declined to send a delegation to talks sponsored by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Karabakh that begin in Paris on 16 December. LF


A Tajik delegation led by President Imomali Rakhmonov left Tehran on 16 December following a three-day visit to that city, ITAR-TASS and IRNA reported. Rakhmonov met with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Khatami, and the country's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Said Ali Khamenei, the previous day. Rakhmonov thanked the Iranian leaders for their help during and after the Tajik civil war, saying the peace process in Tajikistan has become "irreversible." He received promises from the Iranian leadership of continued aid, including in the construction of dams and power plants. Rakhmonov and Khatami signed a declaration on strengthening "friendly relations" and accords on cooperation in the fields of banking, education, sport, tourism, communications, and avoidance of double-taxation. On 14 December, Rakhmonov met with Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani to discuss cooperation in defense. Included in the Tajik delegation were United Tajik Opposition leaders Said Abdullo Nuri and Khoja Akbar Turajonzoda. BP


The IMF has approved releasing a $217 million tranche of a $430 million loan to Kazakhstan approved by the IMF in 1996, Reuters reported on 15 December. The IMF praised Kazakhstan for its tough economic policies and efforts to adjust "to difficult economic circumstances." Until now, Kazakhstan has not requested the release of a loan tranche, but the IMF representative in Kazakhstan, Paul Ross, said he expects the loan to be used to prop up the country's depleted gold and hard-currency reserves, which have decreased by an estimated $600 million in recent months. On 14 December, Kazakhstan approved the 1999 budget, which foresees a deficit of 3.1. percent of GDP. BP


Serikbolsyn Abdildin, the Communist Party's candidate in the January presidential elections, told journalists in Almaty on 15 December that if elected, he will offer the premiership to Deputy Prime Minister Baltash Tursumbayev, Interfax reported. Tursumbayev was ambassador to Turkey until October, when, after declaring himself a candidate in the presidential race, he accepted the post of deputy prime minister. At the same time, Abdildin said efforts are continuing to hamper his campaign, and he cited restrictions on his access to voters. RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty quoted him as also saying that if independent organizations are not allowed representatives on district electoral commissions, he will renounce his candidacy. BP


Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said at a meeting in Astana 15 December, one day before the seventh anniversary of the country's independence, that he does not expect an economic crisis to hit Kazakhstan, Interfax reported. Nazarbayev said he does not believe that the global financial crisis will "become a serious ordeal for our economy," but he added that the government has already started implementing a number of anti-crisis measures. Looking ahead to Kazakhstan's presidential elections next month, Nazarbayev rejected any suggestion that the Russian economic crisis would be repeated in his country following the 10 January vote. "This will not happen to us," Nazarbayev promised, adding that "if the people support me at the elections, they will support the policy of continued privatization, pension reform, low inflation, and increased investments." BP


The director and chief accountant of the Governmental Fund for Economic Developments have been arrested on corruption charges, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported on 15 December. Aziz ImanAliyev and Janyl Abekova join five others arrested earlier on corruption and embezzlement charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December 1998). In related news, Prosecutor-General Asanbek SharshenAliyev has been appointed chairman of the Supervisory Council on Corruption, Smuggling, and Economic Crimes. The council, which was formed by Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev on 11 December, includes all heads of law enforcement bodies. BP


The trial of three ethnic Uyghurs arrested in April on charges of disseminating Wahhabi propaganda, terrorism, illegal possession of weapons, forgery, and inciting inter-ethnic and inter-religious hatred has ended, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported on 15 December. Jalal Mahmud Kasarly, a Turkish citizen, was found guilty of illegal possession of weapons and armed resistance to authorities and sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment. Kurban Yasin, a Chinese citizen, was sentenced to eight months in prison but was freed immediately as he has been in detention for that period. Kular Dilaver, also a Turkish citizen, was acquitted. BP


The Kyrgyz authorities have ended their search for a canister containing 70 liters of cyanide, after finding the missing container outside a hospital in the city of Naryn, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The canister, which belonged to a company working on the Makmal gold mine in Naryn Oblast, was part of a shipment of 56 tons of cyanide from China. The contents of the container had been spilled onto the hospital courtyard. BP


The Kumtor Gold Mining Company announced in Bishkek on 15 December that it will open a diagnosis and monitoring center in the village of Barskoon, on the southern shore of Issik Kul, RFE/RL correspondents in reported. The company will pay all construction expenses and finance the center for the first year. In May, a Kumtor truck overturned into the Barskoon River, spilling 1.7 tons of cyanide. That spill was linked to the deaths of four villagers and illnesses suffered by other local residents. BP


Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has said he may call a referendum to extend the president's right to issue economic decrees for five more years, Reuters and Interfax reported on 15 December. "I do not see any other way in the future than to hold an all-Ukrainian referendum on major articles of Ukraine's constitution," he added. Adopted in 1996, the Ukrainian Constitution contained so- called transitional provisions that granted the president three years to issue economic decrees on matters not covered by existing legislation. The term of these transitional provisions expires in June 1999. Kuchma added that a proposal to replace the current unicameral parliament with a bicameral one could also be put to a nationwide discussion. According to ITAR-TASS, Kuchma said that "it is not expedient to hold presidential elections in the present economic and political situation." Kuchma's term in office expires in October 1999. JM


The Supreme Council on 15 December voted by 210 to 89 to approve the new constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea but fell 16 votes short of the required majority of 226 votes, AP reported. Lawmakers from the pro-government Popular Democratic Party criticized Crimea's basic law for containing "separatist provisions," in particular those allowing Crimea to engage in economic activities abroad and the Crimean parliamentary speaker to sign international agreement and treaties. The opposition Rukh, Hromada, and Green parties opposed the provision stipulating that taxes collected in Crimea are to be channeled only to the autonomous republic's budget. They added that the document fails to ensure the official status of the Ukrainian language and to provide for the rights of Crimean Tatars. The Supreme Council has set up a commission composed of Crimean Tatar and Kyiv legislators to examine the disputed provisions. JM


The Belarusian Chamber of Representatives on 15 December adopted a law on local elections that in effect strips opposition members of the right to submit their candidacy, RFE/RL's Belarusian service reported. Under the law, anyone found guilty of any offense, including even those of an administrative nature, is barred from running in local elections, which are scheduled for March 1999. This provision will primarily affect the opposition since many opposition activists have been fined or detained for taking part in protest actions. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka earlier warned legislators that if such a provision is not included in the election law, he will introduce it by a decree. The law states that turnout must be at least 50 percent in the first round and 25 percent in the second for the elections to be valid. JM


Lidziya Yarmoshyna, chairwoman of the Central Electoral Commission, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 15 December that by insisting such a provision be included in the law, President Lukashenka wants to fill local government bodies "with the best people, who do not commit even petty offenses of the law." Commenting on a correspondent's remark that the bill violates the constitution, Yarmoshyna said that "it is necessary to look not only at the letter, but also at the spirit of the constitution. The state has the right to take measures in its defense." Yarmoshyna told Belarusian Television the same day that "all the basic principles" incorporated in the local election bill will be "reflected" in an election code regulating parliamentary and presidential elections. JM


Belarusian Trade Minister Pyotr Kazlou said on 15 December that Belarus needs some $100 million to overcome food shortages, Reuters reported. Hard cash is needed to purchase staple foods, including vegetable oil and wheat. "We understand that the country does not have such volumes of hard currency and we are looking for barter," Kazlou said. He added that there is no danger of hunger in the country but that food shortages may continue because of state price controls. JM


By a vote of 59 to five, lawmakers on 15 December passed in the third and final reading legislation that establishes language requirements for elected officials, ETA and BNS reported. Under amendments to the parliamentary elections law, the local elections law, and the language law, members of the parliament and local governments must have sufficient knowledge of Estonian to take part in the work of those bodies and to understand the contents of legislative acts. The amendments will not go into force until May 1999 and therefore will not apply to the parliamentary elections scheduled for March. Late last year, the parliament passed amendments to the language law that delegated authority to the government to establish language requirements for deputies. Those amendments were vetoed, however, and the Constitutional Court ruled that such requirements must be stipulated in the election law. JC


Two parties representing Russian-speakers in Estonia--the United People's Party and the Russian Unity Party--will run together with the Social-Democratic Labor Party on one list in the March elections, BNS reported. The three parties signed an agreement to that effect on 14 December. The parties' common electoral platform "underlines the need to unite left-central forces in order to significantly change the country's social and economic policy," a spokesperson for United People's Party told the news agency. The three parties have appealed to the Russian Party in Estonia to accede to the agreement. According to the latest opinion poll conducted by EMOR, none of those parties has more than 2 percent backing. JC


While Latvia's ruling coalition parties remain at odds over whether to involve the Social Democrats in the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998), a poll conducted by Latvijas Fakti last month shows that the popularity of those parties has decreased since the October elections. Latvia's Way, which came second in the elections, had 16.3 percent support last month, down from its 18.22 percent election showing. The other two coalition parties-- the Fatherland and Freedom party and the New Party--saw their backing fall to 10.3 percent and 5.7 percent, down from 14.15 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively. Support for the Social Democrats fell from 12.87 percent to 8.5 percent. By contrast, the People's Party, which won the elections but is not a member of the minority government coalition, has increased its ratings. It topped the poll with 23.3 percent, up from 21.19 percent in October. JC


Workers of the Mielec Aviation Plant and the Radom Lucznik arms plant have decided to continue their strikes, despite an announcement that overdue wages will be paid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998), Polish Radio reported on 15 December. PAP reported the same day that the coal miners' underground strike over the new pension law continues and has expanded to involve a total of 67 miners in eight mines. Meanwhile, some 1,500 workers in the Railroad Maintenance and Repair Plant in Ostrow Wielkopolski, central Poland, have gone on strike to demand negotiations on a social package. The Solidarity-led government promises talks on labor issues with trade unions next week. "There is no change without social unrest," AP quoted Deputy Finance Minister Krzysztof Ners as saying at a news conference on 15 December. At the same conference, an IMF representative endorsed Poland's 1999 tight budget spending policies, opposed by trade unions. JM


Max van der Stoel, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, has praised the new Slovak government's progress in implementing minority rights since it took office in October, CTK reported on 15 December. The commissioner, who is on a three-day visit to Slovakia, told journalists after meeting with Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and Pal Csaky, deputy premier in charge of human rights and national minorities problems, that the time has come to focus on the issue of minority language legislation. Csaky said he expects the parliament to pass a law on the use of national minority languages in April 1999. He also said the government has decided to appoint an ombudsman overseeing human and national minorities' rights. MS


Hungary's two largest opposition parties on 15 December blocked a constitutional amendment that would have facilitated the movement of NATO troops across Hungary's territory, Hungarian media report. Parliamentary members of the Socialist Party abstained from voting on the issue, while the Free Democrats did not take part in the ballot. With only 204 votes in favor, the ruling coalition fell short of the necessary two-thirds majority in the 386-seat parliament. Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said the opposition's abstention was an expression of lack of confidence in the cabinet. MSZ


Unnamed U.S. sources told an RFE/RL correspondent at the U.S. mission to NATO headquarters in Brussels on 15 December that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has known since he reached an agreement with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke in October that NATO will station a rapid reaction force in Macedonia to rescue unarmed civilian monitors in Kosova should they run into danger. The same sources said Milosevic did not raise any objections to the force or its mission in October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 1998). Milosevic and other top Belgrade officials have recently said they will regard any attempt by NATO troops to enter Kosova as aggression (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998). In Madrid, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said the UN has approved the mission of the force to enter Kosova if monitors' lives are in danger. PM


"The gap between the Serbs and the Albanians on the future of [the province] very grave," Holbrooke told reporters in Belgrade on 15 December after talks with Milosevic. Holbrooke did not give any details. U.S. envoy Chris Hill added that there are still "enormous differences" between the two sides. Unnamed U.S. diplomats stressed, however, that Washington will continue its shuttle diplomacy aimed at bridging the gap and reaching an interim political settlement, VOA reported. Earlier in Prishtina, Holbrooke argued that persons involved in the fighting on either side are "playing with dynamite." On 16 December, Milosevic said in a statement that Washington is "losing credibility" because it has allegedly blocked resolutions in the UN Security Council that condemn Kosovar "terrorism." PM


Holbrooke said in Belgrade on 15 December that the killing of six young Serbs in a cafe in Peja was "outrageous and unacceptable...[and] appalling beyond words" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998). In Washington, a State Department spokesman called the slayings "wanton murder." He added that "barbarous actions like this can only lead to a spiral of retribution that will make reaching a settlement...all the more difficult." The spokesman also called on Yugoslav security forces to "exercise restraint" in carrying out their duties in patrolling the frontier with Albania. In Prishtina, the Yugoslav army confirmed in a statement that its forces killed some 36 uniformed fighters in a border incident the previous day (see below). PM


The Serbian provincial authorities in Prishtina said in a statement on 16 December that the killings in Peja are "the most monstrous crime in the series of assaults by Albanian terrorist gangs.... The not about human rights, this is most cruel terrorism and Nazism supported secretly and publicly by some representatives of the ethnic Albanian community." The statement, which was released by the Temporary Executive Council, also called for an end to "Western, one-sided condemnation of Serbs and the Serbian people" and for "international recognition of what is obvious...[namely] that Albanian terrorists and their political leaders are the obstacle for reaching a peaceful solution," AP reported. Milosevic pledged in a statement that the killers will be brought to justice. Serbian students in Peja boycotted classes on 15 December to protest the slaying of the young men. PM


Adem Demaci, who is the political spokesman of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said in Prishtina on 15 December that the "Serbian regime and police" are responsible for the cycle of violence that led to the deaths of more than 40 individuals in the province in the previous 24 hours, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He charged that the Serbian forces are "pouring oil on the fire" in Kosova. PM


The federal Yugoslav Foreign Ministry on 15 December handed to the Albanian charge d'affaires a strongly worded protest over the border incident the previous day. The Foreign Ministry called on Albania to prevent what it called "systematic threats to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia," adding that the continued border incidents indicate direct Albanian "support for terrorists [whose] objective is to create tension and jeopardize the peaceful resolution" of the Kosova problem. This was the second major border clash in 11 days. FS


Carlos Westendorp, who is the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, told the annual meeting of the Bosnian Peace Implementation Council in Madrid on 15 December that returns of refugees to areas where their ethnic group is in a minority is his "priority for the coming months, for the coming two years. We must not allow ethnic cleansing to be rewarded," he added (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998). Westendorp stressed that "peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite all that we have done, remains fragile." He noted that a breakthrough in accelerating the return of refugees will require a "collective effort of Herculean proportions." Westendorp pointed out that Bosnia will have to become more attractive for foreign investigators if it is to attract the capital to create much needed jobs. PM


Milan Djukic, who is an ethnic Serb member of the Croatian parliament, said in Zagreb on 15 December that Reconstruction Minister Jure Radic "hates" Serbs and should resign, AP reported. Djukic added that the governing Croatian Democratic Community "lacks the political will" to enable ethnic Serb refugees to go home under terms that will be acceptable to Western governments. Also in the Croatian capital, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Croatia will open consulates in Kotor and Subotica and that Yugoslavia will have a consulate in Vukovar. And in Osijek, a conference of relatives of missing persons from Croatia and Yugoslavia concluded by issuing a statement calling on authorities in Belgrade, Zagreb, and Sarajevo to release all remaining prisoners from the 1991-1995 war as the three states are obliged to do under the Dayton agreement. PM


The Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 15 December fined Croatian defense attorney Anto Nobilo $5,300 for disclosing the name of a witness whose identity was supposed to remain confidential. Nobilo said he did not know that the witness's identity was a secret. And in Zagreb, a county court formally indicted Dinko Sakic, whom Argentina recently extradited to Croatia to face a series of charges stemming from Sakic's role at the Jasenovac concentration camp during World War II. PM


A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's office told ATSH on 15 December that prosecutors have called Sali Berisha to testify in an investigation into the alleged coup attempt on 14 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 14 September 1998). Berisha was previously summoned as a witness to answer questions about the 14 September event, but he refused to appear. The prosecutors have now classified him as a defendant, which obliges him to appear before the prosecutors. The parliament lifted Berisha's immunity from prosecution following the violence, but so far no formal charges have been brought against him, Reuters reported. The Democratic Party issued a statement calling the summons an "act of blind political revenge." FS


Chief military prosecutor Dan Voinea told journalists on 15 December that investigations show that no Romanian or foreign "terrorists" were involved in the attempt to crush the 1989 upheaval against the communist regime. Voinea said those responsible for ordering the opening of fire on demonstrators were members of the army and of the state and Communist Party apparatus. He also said that next week, several former army commanders will be charged in connection with the December 1989 events. The same day, Deputy Prosecutor-General Mircea Zarie said General Paul Vasile is among those to be prosecuted for ordering the opening of fire on demonstrators in Timisoara. MS


President Emil Constantinescu on 15 December rejected an accusation by an unidentified "group of generals and officers" that he is "waging total war on the Romanian army." The accusation was contained in an "open letter" published in the daily "Cotidianul." Constantinescu said the accusation is part of the campaign launched against himself and the government's policies of integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. The Ministry of Defense said in reaction that the likely authors of the letter are "precisely those involved" in the December 1989 events, who now find themselves under investigation. At the same time, the ministry said it is "inadmissible" for the Prosecutor-General's Office to pursue in a "communist-like manner" its investigation, without taking into account that officers who opened fire in 1989 did so "under orders." MS


The Senate on 15 December approved a controversial article in a law on public administration that grants national minorities the right to use their mother tongue in contacts with the authorities in localities where they make up at least 20 percent of the population . Other controversial articles of the law, allowing street signs in minority languages and debates in municipal councils in those languages, have not yet been voted on. The opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania walked out of the debate to protest the approval of the controversial article. MS


Vladimir Voronin, leader of the Party of Moldovan Communists, has said President Petru Lucinschi must "stop [simply] talking about the need to enlarge his presidential prerogatives and [instead] act on it." Voronin said Lucinschi must begin by dismissing Ion Ciubuc's cabinet and taking over the premiership himself, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He said Lucinschi must declare a state of emergency in view of the country's economic situation, adding that his party is ready to participate a new cabinet, which, he said, will not be made up "exclusively" of Communists. Voronin criticized the budget approved last week, saying it is "a hybrid between IMF-imposed conditions and Moldovan corruption." But IMF representative to Moldova Mark Horton, praised the passage of the budget, saying the IMF is now likely to resume loans to Chisinau, Infotag reported. MS


The parliament on 15 December voted by 157 to one with two abstentions to pass a law on international passports and the status of aliens, thereby upholding a presidential veto on an earlier version of the law. President Petar Stoyanov had vetoed that version, saying that a provision preventing Bulgarian citizens from contesting in court the decision not to issue a passport on security grounds violated the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights, BTA reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1998). MS


Ivan Kostov on 15 December told the National Council of the ruling Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) that the party has failed in "establishing a proper dialogue with society." He said the SDS needs to "urgently promote" parliamentary deputies who are capable of explaining the party's legislative policies. Kostov also said some ministers "often react emotionally" and "engage in debates that do not reflect society's interests." He said the process of nominating SDS candidates for the local elections will be completed by the end of June 1999 and the election campaign will begin in September, BTA reported. MS


by Paul Goble

Having consolidated its status as a major economic player in Asia, China is now positioning itself to play an expanded economic and geopolitical role within and among the post-Soviet states.

But just as along the Pacific rim, Beijing's growing influence in these states is also generating a kind of backlash that the Chinese authorities have not yet found a way to overcome. Consequently, China's impact on developments in these countries--both intentional and unintentional--may prove to be large but very different from what the leaders in Beijing almost certainly would like to see.

That downside risk helps explain why Beijing has moved so cautiously in the political realm up to now. But an event last week signals that at least some in the Chinese capital are prepared to take the greater risks associated with a higher political profile.

On 10 December, Beijing successfully sold more than $500 million in bonds on the international market. This sale has attracted international attention not only because it was the first such offering by an Asian country since the August collapse of the Russian ruble but also because it was so clearly political.

Beijing currently has more than $140 billion in foreign currency reserves and thus has no immediate need for the cash raised by this sale. Instead, it appears to have made this offering in order to highlight its stability, economic progress, and growing political influence.

Not surprisingly, that aspect of the sale has sent shock waves through many Asian capitals. But those capitals may play an equally important role in the post-Soviet states, helping Moscow rein in its restive Far East while giving the other countries of the region expanded freedom of action.

China's impact on the Russian Far East is likely to be especially great, but it may prove the most complex. On the one hand, increased Chinese involvement in the economy of that hard- pressed area is likely to be welcomed by the population, as long as it does not entail large-scale Chinese immigration. Such economic improvement, in turn, could push some regional leaders to think about pursuing an even more independent course, one that some have said might even include eventual independence as a Pacific rim state.

But on the other hand, Moscow will almost certainly use any increase in Chinese participation there to generate Russian nationalism and hence increase cohesion of the Russian Federation. Over the past five years, Moscow officials and especially those in the military have sought to frighten Russians in the region by suggesting that an overpopulated China continues to look "greedily" at the wealthy but underpopulated Russian Far East. And Russian generals frequently have dramatically overstated the number of Chinese migrants there in order to press the case for greater vigilance against what they say is the Chinese threat.

Such campaigns have not always worked, but they have proved effective in countering nascent secessionist movements in the region. They are likely to be tried again and may be more effective if China becomes the dominant player in the region, thus eliminating or at least reducing the possibility that leaders of the Russian Far East could play off China against Japan.

China's impact on other post-Soviet states is likely to be larger and also less contradictory. Until recently, China has pursued a relatively low profile in both Central Asia and further afield, including the southern Caucasus and Ukraine. Now, it appears likely that China will choose to increase its economic presence and hence its political influence in these countries. Such a development would likely have three major consequences:

First, it would give the economies of these countries a boost. Second, it almost certainly would lead other Asian countries to increase their participation in the economies of these countries, thus diversifying the latter's economic ties. And third, it would give these countries expanded opportunities to stand up to Russian pressure while participating in economic ties with a country that in most cases would be less likely to provoke Moscow than would greater attachments to Western states.

In all these ways, China's latest sale of bonds may have an impact on the entire post-Soviet region. In itself, that sale is yet another indication of the way in which these countries are now being integrated not just into the West but into the world economy.