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Newsline - January 27, 1999


In a letter and package of documents sent to the State Duma, Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov outlined a proposal for a political pact between Russia's executive and legislative branch strangely similar to some early versions of the political accord discussed by the two groups last fall. Under the proposal, President Boris Yeltsin would refrain from dissolving the Duma, which, in turn, would drop impeachment hearings and agree not to hold a no- confidence vote in the government. The presidential press service responded initially on 26 January that any truce could not limit the president's constitutional rights. Later, deputy head of the presidential administration Oleg Sysuev told NTV that the proposal was implemented in line with the president's orders. "Segodnya" argued that Primakov's action indicates he "has taken over the helm of state power" and "is acting independently of the will of Boris Yeltsin." JAC


According to NTV, Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi, North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov, Russian Regions faction head and Duma deputy Oleg Morozov all hailed the proposal, while President of Ingushetia Ruslan Aushev called the concept good "but a little late" and asked whether it contradicts the constitution. Deputy Aleksandr Shokhin raised a similar objection, saying that the proposal is legal nonsense since it would in effect suspend the constitution. Duma deputy (Communist Party) Viktor Ilyukhin said he will never agree to dropping impeachment proceedings. According to ITAR-TASS, Prime Minister Primakov and Duma leaders may discuss a draft statement on political stability next week. Moscow Mayor and possible presidential contender Yurii Luzhkov said that the accord "plays down the significance" of the office of the president and strips the head of state of some of his powers. JAC


Teachers from various Russian regions, including Ulyanovsk and Chita Oblasts and the Republic of Buryatia, took part in a nationwide strike, RFE/RL reported on 27 January. On the streets of Sakhalin Oblast, almost 5,000 teachers protested unpaid wages, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Yuzhno Sakhalinsk. In Irkutsk, 2,200 workers from 77 educational establishments went on strike, ITAR-TASS reported. Vladimir Yakovlev, head of the education workers union, told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau the previous day that 380,000 workers in the education sector would likely stay away from work. According to Yakovlev, some 120,000 teachers have protested since the beginning of this month. Among the regions that have seen the most teachers' protests are Kamchatka and Murmansk Oblasts, Altai Krai, and Republic of Karelia, while in three raions in Ryazan Oblast teachers did not receive even 1 ruble last year. JAC


Talk of reducing the number of regions in Russia was revived on 26 January, when Prime Minister Primakov suggested the possibility of merging Russia's constituent territories and establishing a "house of nationalities" in the Russian parliament might be considered in 2000. Speaking at an all-Russia conference on federal relations, Primakov said he supported an initiative of Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress to reorganize Russia's administrative-territorial system and that "about 30 regions have territorial claims on one another now, which is a bad sign." He added that he shares the position of those who believe that governors and regional administration heads should not be elected, Interfax reported. Speaking at the same conference, Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov said that 70 percent of regional legislation does not correspond to federal law, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC


Despite the fact that Moscow has increased their share of federal tax revenues in the 1999 budget, regional governors continue to express dissatisfaction with the budget. Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said on 27 January that the upper house may veto the budget if the conciliation commission does not resolve all disagreements over the distribution of federal resources and adjust the system of tax collection in constituent territories. Members of the Urals Economic Association agreed that the document "completely ignores the interests of Russia's regions and the composition of their respective budgets," according to "EWI Russian Regional Report" on 21 January. Irkutsk Oblast Governor Boris Govorin also denounced the budget, warning that Moscow expects revenues far greater than the oblast's capacity to deliver, according to the report. JAC


At least some Finance Ministry officials are promising to adopt a tougher line on regional transfers than did their predecessors. Deputy Finance Minister Viktor Khristenko told "Vremya MN" on 15 January that "money is a drug and once you have wheedled some financial aid you get inspired to ask for more and more." According to the daily, "financial aid without fixed purposes, which governors of various regions currently enjoy, has become a pernicious practice." However, it added, "Moscow cannot ignore legislative restrictions on intervention in governors' financial affairs." According to Khristenko, regions that pay state workers and transfer tax revenue in a timely fashion will receive financial support, while those with a sizable backlog of unpaid salaries to state organizations will come under the Treasury's scrutiny. JAC


Arkhangelsk Oblast Governor Anatolii Efremov is proposing to the federal government that the city of Severodvinsk be granted the status of closed territorial formation, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 January. If given such a status, the city would be directly subordinated to and receive funding from the federal government. Experts estimate that the city's budget would double, from 300 million rubles (some $12 million) to 600 million rubles. Severodvinsk, where the country's largest nuclear submarines are built, has experienced severe financial difficulties owing to cuts in funding for defense contracts and the lack of money for conversion programs. JC


The Communist Party's Duma faction has requested more information about U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's offer of $10 million to assist the development of independent media in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). According to Interfax, Duma deputy and Communist Party member Rinat Gabidullin said that the U.S.'s intention to support the Russian press prior to elections is "crude interference in the country's internal affairs." JAC


Citing "reliable sources," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 January that a presidential edict dismissing First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov "has already been prepared." Maslyukov's dismissal, according to the newspaper, would enable President Yeltsin to send a "clear signal" to the prime minister as to the direction in which economic reforms must be implemented. In addition, Maslyukov's departure would help smooth over tense relations with Western creditors. The same day, presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin called reports that Maslyukov would be dismissed "nonsense." JAC


In a new interview published on 27 January in "Rossiiskie vesti," renowned film actor/director Nikita Mikhalkov made a statement about his presidential ambitions similar to that which appeared in the "Sunday Times" and that he later denied (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January). He told the Russian newspaper that he is ready "to support within constitutional terms anyone in whom he sees the strength and desire to help the country" but that if there is no such person, he "will have to weigh his own strength." "Noviye izvestiya" reported on 26 January that not only financial magnate Boris Berezovskii is ready to support Mikhalkov but also Media Most Group Chairman Vladimir Gusinskii. "Noviye izvestiya" receives financial support from Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. JAC


Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii has confirmed his plans to run for governor of Sverdlovsk Oblast. He told the "Berliner Zeitung" on 25 January that one prong of his election strategy will be to open talks with the local mafia. He added that Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed was having problems in his region because "he turned his back on the local mafia and businessmen." Earlier, he told a local television station in Yekaterinburg that he will take part in gubernatorial elections this summer and then run for the presidency in 2000 as Russia's most effective governor. Other candidates for the governor's seat are Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii, incumbent Eduard Rossel, and State Duma deputy Valerii Yazev, a member of the Our Home Is Russia faction. According to "EWI's Russian Regional Report," Yazev claims that Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has promised him his support. JAC


Meeting in Novie Atagi, south of Grozny, on 26 January, former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and prominent field commanders, including Shamil Basaev, Ruslan Gelaev, Khunkar-pasha Israpilov, and Akhmed Zakaev, reached agreement on a program of measures to reorganize the present system of authority in Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. They described the present situation in Chechnya as a political and state crisis but denied any intention of ousting President Aslan Maskhadov. Former Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov blamed Russia for instigating the skirmishes on 21 January in the opposition stronghold of Urus Martan, which Deputy Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriev claimed presaged an attempted coup. Udugov said there are no forces in Chechnya capable of unleashing a civil war (see also "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 4, 26 January 1999). LF


Levon Ter- Petrossian issued a statement on 26 January condemning the failed bid by Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian to persuade parliamentary deputies to lift the immunity of former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). Ter-Petrossian rejected Hovsepian's claim to have evidence that Siradeghian ordered the murder of two police officers in January 1994, saying the "evidence" was the testimony of only one individual. He said Hovsepian is either incompetent or simply bowing to orders from his superiors. Siradeghian, who is chairman of the board of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement, was one of Ter- Petrossian's closest associates. LF


Azerbaijani presidential foreign policy adviser Vafa Guluzade told Interfax on 26 January that he believes agreement should be reached during President Heidar Aliev's current visit to Turkey on the transfer of a NATO airbase from Turkey to Azerbaijan's Apsheron peninsula. Guluzade said the decision on relocating the base should be taken immediately as the transportation of Caspian energy resources via Azerbaijan is "in danger" and "tomorrow may be too late." But an unnamed source within the Azerbaijani presidential apparatus told Interfax the same day that Guluzade was expressing his personal opinion, not Azerbaijan's official policy. Also on 26 January, Russian State Duma Defense Committee chairman Roman Popkovich argued that there is no need for NATO or U.S. bases in Azerbaijan, ITAR-TASS reported. Popkovich termed Guluzade's statements "an attempt to influence decision-making in Russia" and warned that Russia has "even more" strategic interests in the Transcaucasus than does the U.S. LF


Countless posters depicting Igor Giorgadze, the former Georgian intelligence chief accused of masterminding the August 1995 attempt to assassinate head of state Eduard Shevardnadze, decorated the streets of the west Georgian town of Zugdidi on 25 January, Shevardnadze's 71st birthday, Caucasus Press reported. Identical posters, bearing the slogan "The future Is Ours," have been sighted recently in other regions of Georgia. Giorgadze's father, Panteleimon, who heads the United Communist Party of Georgia, told Caucasus Press that Igor Giorgadze may be included in that party's list of candidates for this fall's parliamentary elections. Giorgadze fled Georgia in 1995 and is currently believed to be in hiding in Syria. Some Georgian observers have named him as a possible candidate in next year's presidential elections. LF


Presidential press secretary Kanybek Imanaliyev said on 25 January that a visiting IMF delegation has agreed at talks with President Askar Akayev to increase from $15 million to $28 million its aid to Bishkek to cushion the impact of the Russian financial crisis, Interfax reported. The IMF delegation assured Prime Minister Jumabek Ibraimov the following day that the fund will disburse all previously planned loans to Kyrgyzstan for this year, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Ibraimov also met on 26 January with a European Commission representative who confirmed that the EU will grant Kyrgyzstan 1 million euros ($1.156 million) in 1999 to reform the country's health service. LF


Ravshan Gafurov, who was arrested on the outskirts of Dushanbe earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999), has confessed to the 22 September shooting of leading Tajik opposition figure Otakhon Latifi, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 26 January, quoting an Interior Ministry spokesman. Gafurov has also confessed to 25 other murders. Tajik police announced last month that they had arrested a group of people suspected of killing Latifi. President Imomali Rakhmonov said that at the time, he was "99 percent certain" that those arrested committed the killing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 1998). LF


Meeting in Islamabad on 26 January, Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz and his visiting Turkmen counterpart, Boris Shikhmuradov, discussed how to cooperate in halting the ongoing civil strife in Afghanistan, dpa reported. Attention focused on the possibility of convening a meeting in Uzbekistan of the so-called "six-plus-two" (Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, China, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan plus Russia and the U.S.) to discuss the Afghan situation. Both ministers agreed that lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan would greatly enhance the possibilities for bilateral economic cooperation. Shikhmuradov also met with Taliban representatives, who termed their talks "very positive." Agreement was reached to hold trilateral discussions on the proposed Turkmen gas export pipeline via Afghanistan to Pakistan, but no date was set for those discussions. LF


An IMF mission wrapped up its visit to Kyiv on 26 January without recommending the resumption of a $2.2 billion loan program, AP and Interfax reported. "The mission has not made any final conclusion, but I can say that we have laid the foundations for a positive conclusion," President Leonid Kuchma's aide Valeriy Lytvytskyy commented. Lytvytskyy added that the IMF mission noted positive developments in Ukraine, including the timely adoption of the 1999 budget, improved tax collection, a stable exchange rate for the hryvnya, and macroeconomic stability. At the same time, the mission was dissatisfied with the pace of structural and administrative reforms as well as of reforms in the energy and agricultural sectors. Lytvytskyy said the IMF-Ukraine consultations "may continue after the mission's return or after a government delegation's brief visit to the IMF headquarters." JM


Seventy-five miners at three mines in Luhansk Oblast are continuing underground strikes over unpaid wages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1999), while four mines have halted operations, Ukrainian Television reported on 26 January. Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko instructed the Coal Mining Ministry to pay the mines by the end of January for all coal mined last month. Coal Mining Minister Serhiy Tulub said the payment will amount to 200 million hryvni ($58 million) and is "doable." The government owes more than $2 billion hryvni to the mining sector. Also on 26 January, workers at the Ukrnafta and Ukrhazprom companies held "warning strikes for the first time ever in Ukraine," according to Ukrainian Television. The report did not specify the reason for those protests. JM


The National Executive Committee, Belarus's shadow cabinet headed by Henadz Karpenka, has concluded that Belarus faces an economic collapse in 2000, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 26 January. A special report prepared by Karpenka for the Congress of Democratic Forces on 29-30 January states that optimistic official data on Belarus's economic performance are a result of the government's "deliberate manipulation of figures." The shadow cabinet says that economic growth, officially reported over the past two years at 10 percent, in fact declined, by 2 percent in 1997 and 4 percent in 1998. JM


At a news conference on 26 January, Karpenka said the upcoming Congress of Democratic Forces will adopt resolutions on Belarusian statehood, the consolidation of democratic forces, the government's socioeconomic policies, human rights, and the Belarusian language. He added that the parties participating in the congress have coordinated their positions on the proposed resolutions, giving "eloquent proof of their readiness and ability to unite." The organizers expect that delegations from 30 countries will attend the congress. JM


One day after the privatization of Eesti Telekom was launched (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999), 23 parliamentary deputies of all political stripes submitted a bill urging that the privatization plans for the telecommunications company be revised, ETA reported on 26 January. Under the bill, the company would be listed as a strategic enterprise, meaning that the state would retain a 51 percent share. The current plan foresees the state having a 27 percent share and the Finnish and Swedish concerns Sonera and Telia becoming the majority shareholders. Opponents of the current privatization plans argue that the company is being sold too cheaply and are opposed to foreign investors' having majority shares in strategically important companies. Communications and Transport Minister Raivo Vare called the move a "catastrophe," saying the harm done is "impossible to determine because it may undermine Estonia's image among investors." JC


The government on 26 January approved amendments to the statutes of the Naturalization Department that will allow the department to deal with applications for granting citizenship to stateless citizens in accordance with the recently amended citizenship law, BNS reported. Under the amended citizenship law, stateless children born in Latvia after 21 August 1991 can be granted citizenship if their parents request it. "Diena" on 26 January reported that since the beginning of the year, when the amendments to the law went into force, 67 such applications have been received. JC


Speaking on Latvian Radio on 26 January, the 78th anniversary of the de jure recognition of Latvia's independence, Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs said that today "collective security and the Russian issue" are just as important as in 1921, when Latvia was fighting for international recognition, "only this time we are independent both de jure and de facto." Birkavs pointed out that Latvia must use the opportunity to move toward NATO membership "as there is no European security without NATO," and he argued that Latvia should work hard to integrate into the EU. The foreign minister also noted that relations with Russia are "not as good as we would like them to be" but stressed that the political dialogue with Moscow will resume when State Secretary Maris Riekstins meets with his Russian counterpart on 5 February, BNS reported. JC


Thirty-year-old Gintautas Sereika, chief prosecutor at the organized crime and corruption department in the district of Panevezys, was killed by gunmen outside his home on 25 January, BNS reported. Prosecutor-General Kazys Pednycias said the assassination was undoubtedly related to Sereika's work, since the department he headed deals with the "most shady" crimes committed in Panevezys, Lithuania's fifth- largest city. The next day, Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius convened an emergency meeting of law-enforcement chiefs to discuss new ways of combating organized crime. JC


The Polish government on 26 January promised help for the agricultural sector in an attempt to end road blockades by farmers protesting cheap food imports and low prices for domestic agricultural products (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999), Reuters reported. "We are working out extraordinary unblock farm produce sales in Poland and abroad," cabinet chief-of-staff Wieslaw Walendziak said but gave no further details. According to police reports, some 6,000 farmers continued to block 130 roads and obstruct traffic at four border crossings in Poland on 26 January. Negotiations have been held up by the government's unwillingness to meet with radical farmers' leader Andrzej Lepper, whom the authorities accuse of pursuing political goals during the ongoing protest action. Two other farmers' organizations, the Farmers' Solidarity and the Agricultural Circles refuse to negotiate with the government unless Lepper is present. JM


Janusz Onyszkiewicz met with U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen in Washington on 26 January to discuss Poland's NATO entry and the possible leasing of U.S. F-16 and/or F-18 aircraft, PAP reported. Onyszkiewicz said Poland's NATO entry does not require the purchase of modern military aircraft, but he noted that Poland's "national needs suggest that the matter be moved forward." He said Poland will first lease the aircraft and then buy them at a later date, adding that they need not be "necessarily brand new, but of advanced types." JM


German border guards refused entry to two separate groups of Czech and Slovak Roma because they did not have the requisite amount of money to stay in Germany, CTK reported on 26 January. Although they all had valid passports, the German embassy in Prague said anyone entering Germany must have at least DM 50 ($29) for every day they plan on spending in the country. The majority of people crossing German borders are not asked to show how much money they have. In other news, two Roma in north Bohemia were put on probation for two years for a racially motivated attack on policemen last March. PB


Slovak Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner on 26 January said that police will charge two opposition deputies in connection with the 1995 kidnapping of Michal Kovac Jr., the son of former President Michal Kovac, Reuters reported. Pittner refused to name the deputies but said police will request that their diplomatic immunity be lifted. Pittner said "the circle of people who will be charged with the case is wider" than just the two deputies. In other news, Slovak police said on 26 January that they may summon former Premier Vladimir Meciar to explain his behavior at the funeral of former Industry Minister Jan Ducky on 15 January. Meciar verbally and physically attacked Czech journalist Vladimir Misauer at the funeral. PB


Eduard Kukan on 26 January met with Donald Anderson, the chairman of the House of Commons' Foreign Committee, to discuss Bratislava's chances for joining the EU, TASR reported. Anderson said British parliamentary deputies will support Slovak efforts to join NATO and the EU. Kukan later met with 30 financial and business leaders to discuss foreign investment in Slovakia. Kukan said he can give British investors a guarantee of "consistency and coherence." Britain was the leading foreign investor in Slovakia last year. Kukan will meet with his British counterpart, Robin Cook, and Defense Minister George Robertson on 27 January. PB


Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban hosted his Slovak counterpart, Mikulas Dzurinda, and Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima for a one-day summit in Sopron, Hungary, AP reported on 26 January. Orban said the focus of the talks was regional cooperation, specifically, the creation of a development zone within the Bratislava-Vienna-Gyoer triangle. He said a meeting will be held in Gyoer in September at which business leaders will also take part. Dzurinda said Slovakia "must prove capable of cooperation in the trilateral community if we want to become a part of the EU." Klima expressed Vienna's interest in tightening borders to prevent cross-border crime and the flight of illegal aliens to the West. PB


Border guards and police have caught more than 100 illegal aliens in two separate incidents in Hungary, AP reported on 26 January. Sixty Bangladeshis were found hiding in a truck in Budapest. The previous day, a group of more than 40 Albanians were found in a truck on the highway to Budapest. PB


U.S. special envoy Chris Hill discussed the political future of Kosova with representatives of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) at an undisclosed location in that province on 27January. The previous day, the guerrillas issued a statement in Prishtina calling on all Kosovar parties to help set up a "constituent assembly" for Kosova by 10 February. The statement also urged Kosovar politicians to transfer to the UCK money contributed to the shadow state by Kosovars abroad or face unspecified " the interests of the [ethnic] Albanian people." A spokesman for the UCK told "RFE/RL Newsline" that the guerrillas have already set up their own administrative structures in areas of Kosova under their control. Observers noted that the UCK statement is the guerrillas' strongest public challenge so far to the shadow state of President Ibrahim Rugova. The shadow state has its own elected legislature and maintains an extensive network of schools and health care facilities, which are financed by Kosovars abroad. PM


State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Cairo on 27 January that Washington "expects to be able to develop a series of coordinated and parallel military and political measures to bring [Yugoslav] President [Slobodan] Milosevic into compliance [with pledges he has already made] and move both sides toward acceptance of a political settlement" for Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). Rubin added that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who arrived in Cairo from Moscow, wants Milosevic to implement the pact he made with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke in October, which includes a cease-fire and the withdrawal of Serbian security forces. She also wants an agreement "within weeks" on a plan that will give the Kosovars broad autonomy within Yugoslavia for an interim period of three years. Meanwhile in Geneva on 26 January, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that use of force in Kosova by NATO may prove "unavoidable." PM


Federal Minister for Health, Labor, and Social Policy Miodrag Kovac said in Prishtina on 26 January that the recent deaths of five Kosovars whose bodies were found on a tractor near Rakovina were the result of "a traffic accident. The people who were on the tractor were unfortunately killed" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999), Beta news agency reported. Foreign journalists had reported that the five were shot at close range. Meanwhile in Belgrade, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said that the only way to end the crisis in Kosova is through "the final destruction of Albanian terrorist gangs, which get massive support from their American mentors." His Serbian Radical Party called for "the use of the most brutal force" to end the crisis if the Kosovars refuse to negotiate with the Serbs. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic urged the international community to stress that Kosova is an "internal part of Serbia." PM


Rugova's spokesman said in Prishtina on 26 January that Rugova will take part in talks aimed at obtaining a political settlement only if Milosevic first respects the cease-fire, withdraws his troops, and frees political prisoners. A spokesman for the UCK's Adem Demaci made similar remarks in describing the guerrillas' position. Reuters quoted Demaci's spokesman as adding that "there is no autonomy of any kind that will provide safety for Kosovars. Only in an independent Kosova can there be safety." PM


National Security Council spokesman David Leavy said in Washington on 26 January that President Bill Clinton has authorized up to $25 million "to meet the urgent and unexpected needs of refugees and migrants" displaced by the conflict in Kosova. The money will go to non- governmental organizations that are working to end the humanitarian crisis in the province. PM


Helena Ranta, who heads a team of Finnish forensic experts investigating the killings of 45 Kosovars at Recak, said in Prishtina on 26 January that "there is a possibility of contamination and a possibility of fabrication of evidence" regarding the corpses. She added that these problems stem from a "chain of custody." Observers said this is a reference to the fact that the bodies were in the sole custody of the Serbian authorities for almost one week before the Finns arrived (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1999). PM


A group of air traffic and airport experts from the U.S. is expected to arrive in Montenegro shortly to help the Montenegrin authorities prepare the airports at Podgorica and Tivat for international jet traffic, AP reported on 26 January. Montenegro Airlines will soon begin flights to the U.S. On 25 January, that airline and Alitalia signed a cooperation agreement calling for technical aid for the two airports and the opening of Rome-Podgorica and Milan- Tivat flights. Officials of the Belgrade-based Jugoslavenski Aerotransport (JAT), which built the Podgorica and Tivat facilities, said that the airports belong to JAT, which will not give them up to the Montenegrin authorities, "Danas" reported on 27 January. PM


Macedonian Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov and his Taiwanese counterpart, Jason Hu, established diplomatic relations in Taipei on 27 January. Dimitrov said that Macedonia regards Taiwan as a role model for economic development. Both ministers suggested that Taiwan will provide assistance to Macedonia in trade, agriculture, and technical fields. Macedonia's move brings to 28 the number of countries that recognize the island republic. The only other European state to do so is the Vatican. PM


Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger said in Washington on 26 January that the peace process in Bosnia is making progress and that the Atlantic alliance will reduce the number of its peacekeepers there by 10 percent within two months. The U.S. contingent will be cut from 6,900 to 6,200 troops. PM


A spokeswoman for the international community's Carlos Westendorp said in Sarajevo on 26 January that time has come for Republika Srpska nationalist President Nikola Poplasen to stop "playing games and wasting time." She called on him to nominate a prime minister who can win the approval of the parliament, in which his fellow hard-liners are in a minority, an RFE/RL correspondent reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). PM


Social Liberal Party leader Drazen Budisa said in Zagreb on 26 January that President Franjo Tudjman offered to give his party seats in a proposed multi-party government but that he refused that offer. Budisa argued that to accept would have been "political suicide." Social Democratic leader Ivica Racan also spoke with Tudjman about the country's political future but noted that Tudjman did not offer him any seats in the cabinet. Racan suggested this was because Tudjman knew that any offer would be refused. Parliamentary elections are due by January 2000. Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community has fared poorly in recent polls. PM


The Democratic Party on 26 January submitted a draft law to Prime Minister Pandeli Majko providing for the creation of an "independent body" to investigate the killing of Democratic legislator Azem Hajdari in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1999). After meeting with Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha, Majko pledged to study the proposal and pass it on to the parliament, "Albanian Daily News" reported. He also said that "the government is determined to promote dialogue with the opposition and welcomes every legitimate step or initiative that helps solve the Hajdari case." He urged opposition supporters to assist state officials who are investigating the murder. Witnesses from the opposition have repeatedly refused to talk to state prosecutors investigating the case. FS


Emil Constantinescu on 26 January said that he will analyze the "inadequate performance" of security forces who failed to prevent striking coal miners from marching toward Bucharest, AP reported. Constantinescu summoned the Supreme Defense Council to review the incident and determine why the security forces failed. Constantinescu said a review will be made of some officers "who had [been ordered] to organize the troops' strategy and actually blocked the troops' efforts to carry out their mission." The Supreme Defense Council is made up of the president, prime minister, interior and defense ministers, and the heads of Romanian intelligence services. Some reports suggest that officers fled their positions during the clashes with miners, leaving the troops in disarray. PB


Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and Transdniestrian leader Igor Smirnov met in Tiraspol on 26 January to discuss economic and political issues, Infotag reported. Talks focused, among other things, on a draft law defining Transdniester's "special status." Lucinschi said there is a need to "better clarify" the term "common state," which was mentioned in the Moscow Memorandum signed last year. He said the two sides interpret the term differently. Lucinschi also noted that "a necessity certainly exists" for a large-scale meeting on the Transdniestrian issue that would also be attended by Ukrainian and Russian officials. PB.


The Euro-Left and the Liberal Democratic Union on 26 January signed a political agreement pledging to coordinate activities during the local election campaign this year, BTA reported. Euro-Left leader Aleksandur Tomov said the agreement "has implications for future general elections." The agreement urges that an alternative government program be drawn up promoting Bulgaria as an "independent, prosperous nation-state in the European tradition of a socially-orientated market economy." Former President Zhelyu Zhelev is the honorary chairman of the Liberal Democratic Union. PB


by Donald N. Jensen

"Upper Volta with missiles" is how some foreigners described the USSR shortly before its demise, an allusion to the great disparity between the former Soviet Union's vast nuclear arsenal and its lagging economy. While Russia's economic miseries have hardly eased since then, the inability of the Russian state to carry out its core functions--the preservation of public order, the maintenance of a monetary system, tax collection, and income redistribution, and the provision of minimal social welfare-- invites comparison with developing countries such as Somalia, Haiti, and Liberia, where the nation-state has failed. Moreover, it is the collapse of the Russian state, not the breakup of the federation or economic depression, that may in the long run prove the greatest threat to Russian democratic development and international stability.

In a recent paper, Thomas Graham, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, argues that a key trend in Russia over the past decade has been the fragmentation, decentralization, and erosion of political and economic power. To some extent, this is a result of the policies pursued by Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin as well as of global trends. But it has also been both an effect and a cause of the economic decline those policies precipitated. While in Africa the collapse is primarily the result of inter-tribal factionalism, in Russia it is the by- product of bitter inter-elite rivalries, greed, and administrative chaos in Moscow, all of which have eroded the center's capacity to govern effectively. To a large extent, however, Russia's degeneration reflects a society atomized to the point where the concept of national interest has been lost.

The diffusion of power, contrary to widespread opinion in both Russia and the West, has not created strong regions. Rather, the striking feature of the Russian political and economic system, Graham argues, can be summed up as "weak Center--weak regions," that is, there is no concentration of power anywhere in the country capable by itself of managing the situation or creating coalitions for that purpose. As a result, neither the Center nor the regions fully control the political and economic situation. Thus, Russia's failure to police its borders, eradicate pollution, pay overdue wages, and prudently use loans from the IMF is not merely the result of corruption, obstructionist economic lobbies, or the lack of political will (the latter an explanation frequently used in the West to explain the economic collapse last August). They are due to the "gangrene," which is how one prominent newspaper recently referred to the weakening state.

There are nevertheless some things the federal government can still do reasonably well. Its nuclear force would deter any potential aggressor from invading, while its ability to subsidize debtor regions is an important lever of control. Even in these areas, however, there are signs of disintegration. The government is increasingly unable to bear the costs of nuclear force modernization. The state is sometimes unable even to meet Weber's criterion that central to most viable nation-states is the legitimate monopoly on the use of force. The August economic collapse, moreover, has weakened the economies of the 13 regions (out of 89) that are net contributors to the federal budget.

Collapsing states are, of course, nothing new. But today they are no longer isolated and can threaten their neighbors. Such states harbor international criminal organizations, serve as highways for narcotics trafficking, and can have a major effect on the world financial community. In Russia's case, the weak state may be unable to prevent the transfer abroad of nuclear weapons technology, while the natural gas firm Gazprom is so politically powerful that it conducts its own foreign policy, sometimes against the wishes of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

For Russia the central question is where power will finally be concentrated, both geographically and within the state bureaucracy. It is also a crucial question as to what consequences such concentration will have. Russia is likely far from having answers to those questions.

For the United States, the challenge is how best to take into account the state's deterioration, while trying to make progress on the many issues of bilateral concern. At a minimum, Washington should take greater account of non-governmental actors such as Gazprom and LUKoil as well as the few regional leaders, including Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who have political clout. The U.S. should also take care to create clearer and stronger incentives for the successful implementation of policies that it supports. In this context, the tight controls on Washington's food aid package and the recent ban on contacts with three scientific centers suspected of selling missile technology to Iran may prove small but nonetheless constructive steps. The author is associate director of RFE/RL broadcasting.