President Boris Yeltsin on 2 February accepted the resignation of Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov, who quit for health reasons. Deputy Prosecutor-General Yurii Chaika told Interfax that Skuratov has been hospitalized, but the Russian press speculated that poor health is not the real reason for Skuratov's departure. Officials from the Prosecutor-General's Office also denied that there was any link between Skuratov's resignation and the raid on Sibneft offices the same day (see below). Citing an anonymous "high-level Kremlin source," "Kommersant-Daily" reported that President Yeltsin had been unhappy with Skuratov for a long time because of his inadequate efforts to combat political extremism and his inability to solve some high-profile criminal cases, such as the murder of journalist Dmitrii Kholodov. "Izvestiya" reported that the majority of its sources believe that Skuratov had to resign because of his close ties with the political left. JAC
One of the last investigations Skuratov launched was into allegations published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" article that at financial magnate Boris Berezovskii's request the Atoll private security company was bugging Yeltsin's office and home. On 2 February, investigators raided the headquarters of the Sibneft oil company, which is partly owned by Berezovskii, in search of evidence of illegal surveillance activities. Investigators also searched more than 20 offices and apartments in Moscow the same day, according to Interfax. A Sibneft spokesman said the company has had only "very limited" dealings with Atoll, while Berezovskii claimed earlier that he has ceded all control over Sibneft and acts only as an adviser to the company. JAC
...AFTER BEREZOVSKII EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT FUTURE GOVERNMENT REPRESSION
The previous day Berezovskii spoke out against the government's plan to release 94,000 inmates from crowded prisons and replace their ranks with those who, in the words of Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, are "plundering Russia" and "robbing society" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February1999). Berezovskii told Interfax that the plan "would bring us back to Soviet times when authorities operated on the principle that you can always find something to charge someone with." Berezovskii added that Primakov's pledge that "despite the amnesty, there will be no easing of the government's measures against economic crimes" transforms the "very act of amnesty from a humanitarian one into a simple clearing of space for upcoming repressions." Citing an "unofficial source at the Federal Security Service, "Izvestiya" suggested on 3 February that investigators might have been searching Sibneft's premises for evidence of criminal code violations in the company's dealings in the refined product market. JAC
DOES VAT CUT POSE KEY HURDLE TO IMF AGREEMENT?
The government missed the 1 February deadline to submit a memorandum about its economic program to the IMF because the cabinet had rejected a draft version of the program as "too liberal," Reuters reported on 3 February. The document was based on a plan drawn up in July 1998 by former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais and supplemented with figures from the 1999 budget, which still awaits its fourth and final reading by the State Duma, according to the agency. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the previous day described the draft memorandum as composed of extremely "naive" and "general" answers to a series of questions posed by the IMF. The same day, citing a "high-ranking government official," "Kommersant-Daily" reported that if the government stopped insisting that VAT be cut, an agreement could be reached with the fund this month. JAC
COURT SAYS NO DEATH PENALTY WITHOUT JURY TRIAL FIRST
The Constitutional Court on 2 February ruled that the death sentence cannot be carried out against prisoners who do have a jury trial, noting that the constitution requires such a trial for capital punishment to be imposed. Presidential representative to the court Mikhail Mityukov told Interfax that the ruling does not apply to those 1,000 or so people who have already been sentenced to receive the death penalty but have not yet been executed. According to Interfax, only nine Russian regions are currently conducting trials by jury as "a judicial experiment." JAC
ANOTHER OLIGARCH DOWN?
Vladimir Potanin's Oneksimbank may be the first Russian bank to default on its Eurobond debt, "Kommersant- Daily" reported on 2 February. According to the newspaper, Oneksimbank owes foreign creditors more than $300 million--not including debt owed on unfulfilled futures contracts. The previous day, another company within Potanin's Interros holding company, Sidanko, announced that it is facing bankruptcy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). JAC
COAL MINERS UNIMPRESSED WITH PRIMAKOV SPEECH?
Just one day after Prime Minister Primakov promised coal miners to double government subsidies to the industry, miners in three regions went on strike. Four hundred miners in Sakhalin oblast stopped work to protest unpaid back wages of some 2.5 million rubles ($110,000), Interfax reported on 2 February. Meanwhile, in the Vorkuta area of Komi Republic and the Kuzbass region of Kemerovo Oblast, miners have refused to leave the shaft until unpaid wages are met. According to Interfax, the miners in Vorkuta were told the previous day about Primakov's promises but refused to cancel their action. JAC
UNEMPLOYMENT BY REGION
Regions with the highest unemployment in 1998 were the Republics of Kalmykia, Dagestan, and Komi, along with Orlov, Pskov, and Chita Oblasts, "Segodnya" reported on 1 February. These regions had unemployment rates of 14-22 percent compared with the national figure of 11.7 percent, according to the newspaper. The regions with the lowest rate of unemployment were Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kursk and Orenburg Oblasts. JAC
ULYANOVSK TO INCREASE ROLE OF STATE IN ECONOMY
Ulyanovsk Oblast Governor Yurii Goryachev, an outspoken critic of privatization and "liberal" economic reform policies, is planning to increase his government's role in managing the local economy by acquiring a controlling stake in the oblast's major enterprises, "EWI Russian Regional Report" reported on 29 January. This will be accomplished by allowing enterprises to transfer some of their shares to the oblast government in lieu of paying their tax debts. The government already owns stakes in 180 local enterprises. JAC
IVANOV WINDS UP VISIT TO GERMANY
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov wrapped up a two-day official visit to Germany on 2 February after meeting with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder the previous day. According to Ivanov, the German government supports the Primakov cabinet's economic program and shares its desire to find a solution to the Kosova situation. On 1 February, the German-based Kommerzbank became one of the first foreign banks to receive a Central Bank of Russia license since the 17 August crisis. JAC
KIRIENKO TO RUN IN MOSCOW MAYORAL ELECTIONS?
Former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko has reportedly established a working group to prepare for his possible campaign for the office of mayor of Moscow should the current mayor, Yurii Luzhkov, decide to run for president, Interfax reported on 2 February. JAC
DISMISSED ADVISERS NAMED
In a follow-up to an earlier decree trimming Kremlin staff, President Yeltsin signed a decree on 2 February listing the names of the dismissed officials. Presidential advisers Sergei Krasavchenko and Emil Pain are now former advisers, as are Viktoriya Mitina and Lyudmila Pikhoi. Aleksei Ogarev was dismissed as deputy head of the presidential administration and appointed as deputy secretary of the Security Council. JAC
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION UNCONVINCED BY FAIR ELECTION PLEDGE
Several prominent Armenian politicians have responded with skepticism to Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian's pledge to ensure that this summer's parliamentary elections will be free and fair, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 2 February. Speaking at the founding congress of the Republican Party on 30 January, Sargsian had invited other political parties to hold discussions to ensure such elections. Democratic Fatherland Party leader Eduard Yegorian suggested that Sargsian prevail upon the majority Yerkrapah group in the parliament to amend the election law currently under discussion, which the opposition perceives as encouraging election fraud. Shavarsh Kocharian of the National Democratic Union said that as nominal head of the Yerkrapah union of veterans of the Karabakh war, Sargsian bears a share of responsibility for election violations committed by Yerkrapah members during the 1996 and 1998 presidential elections. LF
TRIAL OF AZERBAIJANI EX-PRESIDENT AGAIN POSTPONED
A Baku district court has again postponed the trial of Azerbaijani Popular Front Party chairman Abulfaz Elchibey on charges of insulting President Heidar Aliev, Turan reported on 2 February. No reason for the postponement was given. The trial was originally scheduled to begin on 25 January but was adjourned at the request of Elchibey's defense lawyers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 28 January 1999). LF
BP SHOWS INTEREST IN UKRAINIAN OIL EXPORT ROUTE
British Petroleum/Amoco is considering the feasibility of exporting Caspian oil from Baku via Ukraine's Odessa-Brody pipeline as an alternative to the proposed Baku-Ceyhan route, Interfax reported on 2 February, quoting Vladislav Tarashevsky, chairman of the Ukrainian state committee for oil and gas. Interfax also quoted the oil company's vice president, Richard Nilton, as saying that the company is considering alternatives in view of the "political pressure" to opt for the Baku-Ceyhan route. The U.S. government is actively lobbying in favor of that route. In other news, on 29 January Canada's Alberta Energy Co. acquired a 5 percent stake in a consortium created by BP/Amoco, Norway's Statoil, a Turkish company, and the Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR to exploit the Alov, Araz, and Sharg off-shore oil fields, UPI reported. LF
TURKS INTERCEPT ENRICHED URANIUM FROM AZERBAIJAN
Turkish intelligence agents have arrested four people in the city of Bursa who attempted to sell 100 grams of enriched uranium from Azerbaijan, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 February. The four, whose nationality is unknown, wanted $700,000 for the uranium. LF
WILL GEORGIA DEMAND ABKHAZ LEADER'S INDICTMENT FOR WAR CRIMES?
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 3 February cited unnamed Georgian sources close to the Abkhaz peace talks as hinting that Tbilisi may ask the UN Security Council to demand that Vladislav Ardzinba be brought to trial for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1992-1993 Abkhaz war. Those sources noted that the council has already called for the arrest of former Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic on similar charges. The previous day, Caucasus Press reported that the Opposition Committee of Abkhazia, which represents the Georgian displaced persons forced to flee Abkhazia during the fighting, intends to appeal to the International Court at The Hague to indict Ardzinba for ethnic cleansing. The committee argued that it would thereby expedite the restoration of friendly relations between the Georgian and Abkhaz peoples. LF
UZBEKISTAN TO LEAVE CIS DEFENSE PACT
The Uzbek Foreign Ministry on 2 February confirmed that Uzbekistan will not extend its participation in the CIS Collective Security Treaty, Interfax reported. The Russian daily "Vremya MN" reported the same day that the reasons for Tashkent's move are dissatisfaction with Moscow's policies in the Caucasus, namely supplying Armenia with the S-300 air-defense missile system and modern fighter aircraft. According to the article, Tashkent believes such policies create instability in the region. It also objects to Russia's expected signing of a similar deal with Tajikistan when the Tajik president visits Moscow in April and to the continued presence in Tajikistan of the CIS peacekeeping force, which is composed mainly of Russian troops. "In the Uzbek government, they question [the need for that force when] the Mujaheddin of the Islamic opposition are no longer in Afghanistan and are almost all incorporated into the Tajik national army," the daily commented. BP
UZBEK PRESIDENT WANTS DEMOCRATIC PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
In an interview published in the daily "Turkiston" on 2 February, Islam Karimov said the key task for his country this year will be conducting honest and democratic parliamentary elections in December, Interfax reported. Noting that his country has already held free elections, he argued that its experience in this area is "insufficient" as other countries "have many centuries of experience of elections." He encouraged Uzbek political parties to "make an all-round analysis of reality and the social situation" and express views that are objective and well thought- out. Karimov welcomed international monitoring of the elections, saying he hopes it will contribute to the spirit of objectivity, democracy, and openness. BP
KYRGYZSTAN SETS DATES FOR ELECTIONS
The Central Election Commission on 2 February announced that elections to the parliament will be held in February 2000, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. Elections to regional and district assemblies will be held at the same time. Municipal elections are scheduled for October 1999. The parliament's press service reported that the Legislative Assembly rejected a provision in the election code, drawn up by the government and presidential administration, that 15 members of the 60-seat Legislative Assembly will be elected on party lists. Omurbek Tekebaev, the leader of the Ata-Meken Party, told RFE/RL correspondents that current members of the assembly will never allow such a system of representation. BP
CONCERN OVER CONTINUED VIOLENCE IN TAJIKISTAN
At a 2 February meeting in Dushanbe chaired by Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, representatives of the government, the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), and the UN observer mission to Tajikistan all expressed their concern over continued violations of the 1997 peace accord, ITAR-TASS reported. The meeting followed a raid on the Faizabad police station last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 1999), but speakers at the meeting pointed to several other violations by UTO fighters since the beginning of 1999. President Rakhmonov said all means must be taken to implement the peace accord even if that entails "disarming the armed groups." BP
UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PRAISES EU, NATO ENLARGEMENT
Borys Tarasyuk said in London on 2 February that the expansion of NATO and the EU to embrace Eastern European countries--including Ukraine--would create a "double bulwark" of democracy and freedom in Europe, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Tarasyuk, on a three-day visit to Britain, made his comments at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. He said Kyiv's long-term goal is to attain EU membership and that enlargement of the union is a positive process toward creating a "common European home." Tarasyuk said NATO will continue to play a pivotal role in maintaining security and stability in Europe and that Kyiv regards the alliance's enlargement as an expansion of democracy and stability in Europe. He said there is popular support in Ukraine for closer ties with the West. PB
UKRAINIAN PREMIER IN WASHINGTON FOR LOAN TALKS
Valeriy Pustovoytenko held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on 2 February to discuss bilateral issues, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. Albright reportedly told Pustovoytenko that Kyiv must quickly step up economic reforms in order to continue receiving loans from the IMF. She also discussed outstanding disputes in Ukraine involving aggrieved U.S. businesses and warned that failure to resolve them could result in a drastic cut in U.S. assistance to Ukraine. Pustovoytenko met later with IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus to review the continuation of the next tranche of Ukraine's three-year loan. Pustovoytenko also held talks with World Bank President James Wolfensohn on loan programs for 14 projects. PB
IMF DELEGATION ARRIVES IN MINSK
Members of an IMF delegation began arriving in Minsk on 2 February to review the financial situation in Belarus, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. A spokesman for the IMF said the group will monitor the country's progress in initiating measures necessary for Belarus to request an emergency loan from the IMF following losses sustained as a result of reduced exports to Russia. The IMF has refrained from granting Minsk any loans for many years because of the government's lack of interest in reform. In other news, the Belarusian Ministry of Statistics and Analysis reported that consumer prices increased by 17.4 percent in the first three weeks of January. PB
GOVERNMENT'S CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION SAYS PARALLEL BODY ILLEGAL
Lidiya Yermoshina, the chairman of the government's Central Election Commission, said on 2 February that any such commission formed by the banned 13th Supreme Soviet is illegal, Belapan reported. Yermoshina said that since "this agency was set up illegally, no documents it may publish can be regarded as...having any legal effect." She added that according to the law on presidential elections, no commission can be set up specifically for a presidential election. Viktor Gonchar, a deputy of the 13th Supreme Soviet, which has been banned by the government but is recognized as the legitimate parliament by Western countries, is the head of the parallel commission. PB
RUSSIA TO ABOLISH DOUBLE CUSTOMS DUTIES ON ESTONIAN IMPORTS?
"Aripaev" on 2 February reported that Russia may soon abolish the double customs duties imposed on imports from Estonia, according to ETA. The daily asserted that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov wants to scrap those duties in order to boost trade between Estonia and neighboring Russian regions. It also quotes him as saying that the situation of ethnic Russians living in Estonia will improve only when Moscow and Tallinn have "normal economic relations." JC
LATVIAN GOVERNMENT ADOPTS REGULATIONS IMPLEMENTING CITIZENSHIP LAW
The cabinet on 2 February adopted regulations required for the implementation of amendments to the citizenship law that went into force on 1 January, BNS and "Diena" reported. The regulations govern the process whereby parents of stateless children born in Latvia after 21 August 1991 can apply for those children to be granted Latvian citizenship. The government also adopted regulations governing the process of dealing with naturalization applications. The Naturalization Department reports that since the removal of the "naturalization windows" last fall, it has received 3,337 applications from citizens wishing to be naturalized, according to "Diena." JC
MOSCOW, LUKOIL DENY HALTING OIL SUPPLIES TO LITHUANIA
Russian government spokesman Igor Schegolev, speaking to ITAR-TASS on 2 February, denied that Moscow has ordered any cuts in crude oil deliveries to Lithuania. He added that neither the Russian government nor the Fuel Ministry could take such a move because oil supplies are "strictly stipulated by agreements between [Lithuania's Mazeikiai Nafta] refinery and Russian oil companies." The same day, a LUKoil representative told the news agency that the Lithuanian authorities' accusations against the Russian oil company are "groundless." He said that according to his information, all the Russian oil intended for delivery to Mazeikiai Nafta in the first quarter of this year--a total of 150,000 tons--has been "fully pumped." Earlier, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry had requested an explanation as to why Russian supplies of crude have been halted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). JC
BALTIC WAVES RADIO RECEIVES FIRST FUNDING
The founders of the independent radio station Baltic Waves have received some 200,000 litas ($50,000) in funding from the British Westminster Foundation for Democracy, ELTA and BNS reported on 2 February. Based in Lithuania, the station is a non-governmental non-profit institution that intends to broadcast news programs for the Belarusian and Russian minorities in Lithuania. It will be heard on short-wave frequencies in Kaliningrad Oblast, Belarus, and all three Baltic States. JC
TALKS WITH POLISH FARMERS STALLED
The Polish government on 3 February appealed to protesting farmers to end their blockades of roads so that negotiations on ending the strike can resume, AP reported. Andrzej Lepper, the leader of the striking farmers, halted negotiations with Labor Minister Longin Komolowski and Agriculture Minister Jacek Janiszewski the previous day when government officials refused to guarantee immunity from prosecution for protesting farmers. Police said some 20 major roads and 60 local ones are still blockaded. Farmers also want their debts written off and higher prices for agricultural products. PB
BRITAIN TELLS POLAND TO HALT COAL EXPORTS
The British Department of Trade and Industry asked the Polish government to stop exporting subsidized coal to the U.K., PAP reported on 2 February. British Energy Minister John Battle said the previous day that "unsubsidized mining jobs in the UK must not be threatened by coal exports from the massively indebted industry of another country." A spokesman for the department said coal exports to Britain have increased in recent months because of increased subsidies by the Polish government. PB
HAVEL CONCERNED OVER INTELLIGENCE AFFAIR...
Czech President Vaclav Havel told a news conference in Prague on 2 February that he is concerned about the government's recent sudden dismissal of the head of the counter-intelligence service (BIS), Karel Vulterin (see RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 1999). Havel called the sacking "very serious" and "a terrible blow" to the Czech Republic's reputation at a time when the country is about to join NATO. He said that the Czech intelligence services have enjoyed considerable prestige in the West because, as he put it, "they have a position in areas where the secret services of large democracies do not have access." This recognition, Havel says, has resulted in political benefits for the Czech Republic and was a factor in its being invited to join NATO in the first wave of expansion. The circumstances surrounding Vulterin's dismissal have become a topic of heated debate among politicians and in the media. JN/PM
Havel told the same press conference, which marked the first anniversary of his current term in office, that the former conservative government of Vaclav Klaus is to blame for many problems because of its "ideological fundamentalism." Havel suggested that the current Social Democratic government is more flexible. He nonetheless criticized the government for its handling of relations with the Roman Catholic Church (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). Havel said he would prefer a majority government to the present minority one, and he suggested that all parties except the Communists should consider playing a role in forming a broader- based cabinet, "Lidove noviny" reported. Elsewhere, the daily "Slovo" wrote that Havel has become too involved in domestic politics "and no longer stands above political parties." PM
DZURINDA OUTLINES HOPES FOR CZECH-SLOVAK TIES
Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told "Mlada fronta Dnes" in Davos on 2 February that he not only expects but counts on support from Prague to promote Slovakia's integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. He regretted that Slovakia has fallen far behind Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in their common quest for membership in the EU and NATO. The prime minister stressed that Slovak membership in the EU would work to the advantage of the Czech Republic. He commented that "Slovak-Czech relations can be as close as our history and way of life are close." Illegal immigration and drug-trafficking are problems the two countries can work on solving together, he said, adding that student exchanges should be increased and the question of dual citizenship solved in the near future. PM
KUKAN SAYS SLOVAKIA MUST CATCH UP
Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said in Bonn on 2 February that the only reason why his country was not included in the first wave of NATO membership was political. By this, he meant that Western countries did not regard the regime of former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar sufficiently democratic for membership in Euro-Atlantic structures. Kukan argued that the Slovak army is just as good as its Polish, Czech, or Hungarian counterparts but that Slovakia must now make extra efforts to overcome the negative image abroad bequeathed by Meciar. Kukan stressed that the task of catching up has often proved "frustrating," the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" quoted him as saying. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told Kukan that Slovak citizens' claims against Germany dating from World War II will be considered on an individual rather than collective basis, "Sme" reported. PM
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY MINISTER VISITS HUNGARY
Nabil Ali Saat, minister of planning and cooperation for the Palestinian Authority, met with Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi and Economic Minister Attila Chikan on 2 February in Budapest to discuss boosting ties. Martonyi told Hungarian media that Hungary wants to become one of the Palestinian Authority's donor countries. Saat expressed the hope that the two countries will represent a bridge between the EU and the Arab world. He added that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat would like to visit Hungary. MSZ
HILL SAYS BELGRADE MUST ACCEPT SELF-RULE FOR KOSOVA
U.S. envoy Chris Hill told the BBC on 3 February that the Serbian authorities "have got to accept the idea that there will be self- rule [in Kosova].... They've tried to rule it directly from Belgrade. It doesn't work. They're going to have to accept [autonomy]." Hill added: "We do not have independence on the table. What this is, is an interim accord.... It talks about a status for...the next three years. It talks about building institutions that are essential to people's lives and it doesn't prejudice what might be done...after the three years.... Frankly speaking we would be giving [the people of Kosova] a lot of autonomy and a lot of ability to run their own lives," which would include broad rights for all ethnic minorities. Observers noted that the ethnic Albanians are unlikely to approve any agreement that does not include the option of independence at some point in the future. PM
REFUGEE WAVE IN KOSOVA
Some 45,000 persons fled their homes in the troubled province during January 1999, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in Geneva on 2 February. He added that all together there are 210,000 displaced persons within Kosova, 60,000 refugees from Kosova in neighboring regions including Albania, and 100,000 in Western Europe. The spokesman added that some 20 percent of Kosova's prewar population have become displaced persons or refugees since Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic launched a crackdown in early 1998. PM
UCK AGREES TO TALKS?
Jakup Krasniqi, who is a spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said in Prishtina on 2 February that the guerrillas are "certainly ready to go to [peace talks at] Rambouillet" on 6 February, as demanded by the international community (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). He stressed, however, that only the UCK has the right to speak for the Kosovars because the guerrillas "fight and make sacrifices for Kosova." Elsewhere, Adem Demaci, who is the political spokesman for the UCK, said that he will not attend the talks and advised the UCK general staff to do likewise. He stressed that the talks will amount to "capitulation" because independence will not be on the agenda. Demaci added, however, that this is his personal opinion and that others should go if they wish, "Shekulli" quoted him as saying. PM/FS
ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS ON UCK TO JOIN TALKS
At a meeting in Tirana on 2 February with his Belgian counterpart, Eric Deryche, Paskal Milo called on the UCK to attend talks at Rambouillet. Milo stressed that "all ethnic Albanian [political groups] must take part in the meeting...not only to express their views, but also to show that the Albanians are not against dialogue." Deryche argued that any failure of UCK representatives to attend the talks would be a "fatal mistake." He stressed that Milosevic would exploit such a mistake at the negotiations, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS
WASHINGTON WARNS BELGRADE
State Department spokesman James Rubin on 2 February welcomed Krasniqi's announcement that the UCK will go to Rambouillet. Rubin added that "we are awaiting the decision of the Serb side as to whether to attend these talks. NATO has indicated there will be swift and serious consequences if the Serbs do not make that decision." Elsewhere, CIA chief George Tenet said that the situation on the ground in Kosova is "near collapse." He added that "a NATO force would be an indispensable component in trying to bring some solution" in the troubled province. He cautioned, however, that the task of peacekeeping would be more difficult than in Bosnia. "There's a real threat out there and we'll have to be very careful," he commented. PM
MONTENEGRO TO BACK NATO
President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 2 February that his republic will "provide support" for NATO should it eventually station troops in Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that Montenegro will not take part in the Rambouillet meetings unless its interests become adversely affected by the course of the discussions. In that case, he added, Montenegro would be ready to "go to New York and claim its seat in the United Nations." Djukanovic has repeatedly said that Montenegro favors broad autonomy for Kosova but cannot accept that it become a third republic equal to Montenegro within the Yugoslav federation. PM
CHINA TO BLOCK PEACE-KEEPING MISSION?
A Chinese diplomat told the UN Security Council on 2 February that Beijing "cannot be responsible" for any diplomatic consequences if Macedonia goes ahead with plans to establish full relations with Taiwan (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 February 1999). Observers suggested that Beijing may be planning to block the continuation of the UN peace-keeping mission in Macedonia, known as UNPREDEP, AP reported. PM
WIESENTHAL CENTER CALLS FOR PROSECUTION OF NADA SAKIC
Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem office told RFE/RL on 2 February that Belgrade should press charges against Nada Sakic for atrocities she allegedly committed at a Croatian concentration camp during World War II. He criticized a Croatian decision to drop charges against Sakic and free her from prison (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). PM
OSCE, COUNCIL OF EUROPE CAUTION ALBANIA OVER HAJDARI LAW
Legal experts of the OSCE and the Council of Europe issued a joint declaration in Tirana on 2 February warning that a draft law providing for an "independent investigation" into the killing of opposition legislator Azem Hajdari violates Albania's constitution and penal code (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 1999). The OSCE offered to send a group of foreign prosecutors to Albania to assist current Albanian investigators and monitor their work, "Shekulli" reported on 3 February. Democratic Party experts prepared the draft in January following an earlier agreement between Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha. Meanwhile, Berisha said that the government must stop what he called "violations of democracy..., political killings, and cooperation with organized crime" before the Democrats agree to end their boycott of the parliament. FS
ROMANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER ORDERS NEW INQUIRY INTO MINERS' MARCH
At his first press conference since taking office, newly appointed Interior Minister Constantin Dudu Ionescu said he has ordered another inquiry to determine who was responsible for the failure of police to halt the coal miners' march last month. According to Romanian Radio, Ionescu described a preliminary report on the events as "insufficient." He also said that there is no evidence so far to substantiate claims that the five-day march constituted an "attempted coup." Ionescu replaced Gavril Dejeu, who resigned over his failure to prevent the march from taking place. DI
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ASKS FOR MORE POWERS TO RESOLVE GOVERNMENT CRISIS
Addressing the opening of the parliament's spring session, Petru Lucinschi on 3 February asked that his prerogatives be extended to enable him to resolve the current government crisis, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. Lucinschi criticized the idea of another coalition cabinet based on the loose Alliance for Democracy and Reforms (ADR). The same day, the parliament unanimously accepted the resignation of Premier Ion Ciubuc and his government, and the ADR failed to agree on designating Nicolae Andronic to take over from Ciubuc. Andronic's candidature was proposed by the Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM), despite the opposition of one of its members, the pro-Romanian Christian Democratic Popular Front. CDM co- chairman Mircea Snegur responded by announcing his resignation as ADR leader. DI
BULGARIAN MINORITIES CALL FOR RATIFICATION OF FRAMEWORK CONVENTION
Some 40 NGOs have addressed an appeal to Bulgarian parliament speaker Yordan Sokolov calling for the National Assembly to ratify the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Groong reported on 2 February. The appeal was issued on 28 January and signed by representatives of Bulgaria's Roma, Armenian, Macedonian, and Wallachian minorities as well as religious organizations and civic NGOs. LF
MILOSEVIC'S CRACKDOWN ON UNIVERSITIES
by Andrej Krickovic
In the past few months, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his political allies have organized a crackdown on the Serbian university system. That move has gone hand in hand with Milosevic's campaign against the independent media, although it has received far less attention in the international press. Both moves are related to Milosevic's Kosova policy and are intended to stifle even the smallest voice of dissent in the country. While the international community is shifting its policy toward removing Milosevic, and while he again faces the threat of NATO air strikes, his grip on power in Serbia may be stronger than ever.
The crackdown on the Serbian university system began in June with the introduction of a new university law giving the minister of education the power to appoint and dismiss deans and professors as well as to dictate faculty policy. The new law was pushed through Serbia's legislature by the so called ruling coalition of "national reconciliation," which brings together Slobodan Milosevic's Serbian Socialist Party (SPS), the ultra leftist Yugoslav United Left (JUL) of Milosevic's wife, Mirjana Markovic, and the ultra nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) of Vojislav Seselj The law was ostensibly designed to de- politicize academic life at the universities. But in reality, it has stripped the university system of any autonomy it once had.
Professors who refuse to take a loyalty oath, which is provided for in the new law, or who belonged to opposition political parties have been fired and replaced by unqualified SPS, SRS, and JUL loyalists. The curriculum has been changed to conform with the ruling parties' anti-Western world view. Russian is again the chief language at the linguistics faculty, while Croatian and Bosnian authors have been dropped from the teaching timetables of the literature faculty. Shakespeare has been relegated to the Germanic languages faculty, and Albanian has been classified a Romance language.
Initial resistance to the new law has met with intensified repression. Private security guards have been hired by the administration to terrorize recalcitrant students and faculty members. Student protesters have been arrested, and Boris Karajic, the leader of the student resistance organization movement Otpor [Resistance], was badly beaten by unidentified assailants last month after giving testimony to the Helsinki Committee.
In the past, university students and professors have been in the vanguard of opposition to Milosevic's regime. During the winter of 1996-1997, students at Belgrade University led the protest movement that drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of Belgrade each day and threatened to shake the very foundations of the Milosevic regime. As a result of those protests, Milosevic was forced to hand over power in Serbia's largest cities to the opposition.
The crackdown on the university system has been accompanied the draconian restrictions on the free press. Both intensified in the wake of the Milosevic-Holbrooke agreement on Kosova in October 1998, which many saw as a defeat for Serbian interests and which may have cost Milosevic his most ardent nationalist supporters. The economy is also on the verge of collapse, and a showdown with separatist politicians in Montenegro looms. Faced with increasing international pressure and with the complete economic, political, and moral bankruptcy of his Kosova policy, Milosevic is determined to ensure that there is no repeat of the 1996-1997 events.
Professors are organizing an Alternative Academic Education Network (AAOM) as an independent alternative to the deteriorating state higher education institutions. Otpor has also intensified its activities in recent weeks; and a new wave of protest actions is planned for this month.
So far such protests have failed to draw the kind of support that they did several years ago. Most faculties have accepted the new law, while resistance has been shown mainly by the Philosophy and Electrical Engineering faculties in Belgrade. Throughout the country there is a general apathy toward politics; moreover, the organized opposition is weak and regarded by many as opportunistic. Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), a longtime Milosevic opponent and one of the leaders of the 1996-1997 protests, has recently formed a coalition with Milosevic's SPS in the federal parliament and joined the federal government. The handful of liberal parties, which are not ready to cut deals with Milosevic, remain divided and small.
As fighting in Kosova intensifies and as grisly incidents such as the massacre at Recak come to light, the international community has begun to single out the Milosevic regime as the main obstacle to peace and stability in the region. Working toward the overthrow of that regime may be on the new agenda of at least some in the international community. But with an impotent opposition, an apathetic and disillusioned population, and growing pressure on the most die-hard opponents of the regime--namely the universities and the independent press--the Milosevic regime may be able to withstand even the most intense pressure the international community can muster. The author is a freelance journalist based in Zagreb.