SELEZNEV SAYS YUGOSLAVIA WANTS TO JOIN SLAVIC UNION
President Boris Yeltsin told reporters on 9 April that Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev brought back a message from his trip to Belgrade that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic asked that Yugoslavia be admitted into the Russian- Belarusian Union. President Yeltsin, according to ITAR- TASS, said that the proposal seems impractical from both a legal and political point of view, since a nationwide referendum on the issue would have to be held in Yugoslavia. Earlier, First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov also said that such an admission was unlikely since the process of unification was facing difficulties even within the CIS, Interfax reported on 31 March. Seleznev has been a persistent advocate of both the Russian-Belarusian Union and its expansion to include not only Yugoslavia but also Ukraine and Bulgaria. On 4 April, he predicted that a national referendum on the merger of Russia and Belarus would be held as early as this autumn. JAC
LIGHTS OUT IN SAKHALIN
The deputy governor of Sakhalin Oblast, Vladimir Shapoval, told Interfax-Eurasia on 8 April that his entire oblast will be without electricity by 15 April because the local government lacks the money to buy fuel. The blackout will affect not only residences but also hospitals and schools. Already, in the city of Yuzhno- Sakhalinsk, where some 170,000 people live, lights are on for only three to four hours a day. According to Shapoval, the oblast is on the edge of a humanitarian and ecological disaster. Meat, fish, and milk products are quickly going bad, and the region is witnessing a sharp increase in intestinal illnesses, according to "Izvestiya" on 9 April. In addition, some 30,000 pre-school and school children are going without breakfast or lunch. JAC
REGIONS ORGANIZE AGAINST NATO...
Many of Russia's regions continue to express their opposition to NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia. According to the organizational committee of the Right Cause movement, tens of thousands of people from St. Petersburg, Saratov, Penza, Tver, Krasnodar and other Russian cities and towns have signed a statement condemning NATO's action, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 9 April. In Sverdlovsk, local Cossacks have organized a blood drive and plan to send the donated blood to Yugoslavia, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 6 April. Meanwhile, volunteer military detachments in the regions continued to be organized. According to Liberal Democratic Party headquarters, 15,000 volunteers have signed up in Moscow and 55,000 more have registered across Russia, "Segodnya" reported. While all of these "regiments" are being formed in support of Serbs, Tatarstan nationalists are forming a battalion to support the Kosova "separatists," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 8 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 1999). JAC
...WITHOUT SUPPORT OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, LEADERS?
The federal Ministry of Justice issued a warning on 8 April that recruiting volunteers for Yugoslavia would be considered a violation of the law prohibiting the formation of illegal militias. In Kemerovo, where almost 200 men have signed up to go to Yugoslavia, Governor Aman Tuleev said on 5 April that he opposes sending volunteers to the conflict, although he said he believes that the U.S. might target Russia next, Interfax reported. He said Russia should follow the U.S.'s example and carry out only air strikes without committing ground troops. In Tatarstan, President Mintimer Shaimiev denounced the idea of Russia sending any kind of volunteers, noting that "it is unacceptable to send volunteers from such a multi-ethnic country as Russia under any pretexts or mottos," Interfax reported on 8 April. JAC
ANOTHER LEBED FOE FELLED...
A prominent local opponent of Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed is now facing criminal charges for money laundering, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 April. Krasnoyarsk Aluminium chief Anatolii Bykov, who is reportedly in the U.S. undergoing medical treatment, said he would return to the krai to meet with First Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Kolesnikov, who has been heading up a task force investigating crimes in the region. As soon as Bykov started openly battling with Lebed, "Kommersant Daily" reported last month, he attracted the attention of the Interior Ministry, which sent brigades of investigators to perform checks on all of his enterprises (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 March 1999). After the former Krasnoyarsk Coal (Krasugol) company director was arrested, the regional office of the MVD told the newspaper that more arrests will be forthcoming. JAC
...AS COAL WAR REACHES CONCLUSION?
On 8 April, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov headed a cabinet session at which the draft agreement on the stabilization of the coal sector in Krasnoyarsk Krai between the federal government and the krai government was approved, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, the federal government will coordinate with regional officials the terms for the sell- off of government stakes in coal companies. At a key meeting of the board of directors of Krasugol on 20 March, Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Generalov supported Lebed's plan to save the company from bankruptcy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1999). Bykov had been trying to assume control over Krasugol through one of his companies to which it had an unpaid debt. JAC
NEW FSB HEAD APPOINTED?
"Moskovskii Komsomolets" reported on 9 April that Federal Security Service (FSB) head Vladimir Putin was dismissed from his post at the FSB because he could not combine those duties with those of his more recent assignment as head of Russia's Security Council. According to the newspaper, Lieutenant General Nikolai Patrushev, long-time security officer and deputy director of the presidential administration, has been tapped to succeed him. That day, FSB senior spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich told ITAR-TASS that he had no information about Putin's departure, but he did acknowledge that Putin had said publicly that although he would hold both posts for a time, eventually a new FSB director would be selected. JAC
GROUP CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR FSB BLAST
A group called the "New Revolutionary Alternative" has claimed responsibility for the explosion near FSB headquarters in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 1999), ITAR-TASS reported on 8 April. Investigators are checking both the authenticity of the claim and whether the group exists. The organization said the act was "staged in protest against bourgeois terror exercised by the Russian police systems against radical opponents of the existing regime." JAC
ILYUKHIN TO STAR IN HIS OWN VIDEO?
Duma Security Committee chairman and Communist faction member Viktor Ilyukhin told reporters on 8 April that a video is being prepared showing him in the company of prostitutes. According to Ilyukhin, a man strongly resembling him has already been found and the soundtrack of the video will have his voice as it has been recorded in the Duma and at other public events. He believes that he is being framed because of his inquiries into how the last tranche of money from the IMF was spent. According to Interfax, Ilyukhin sent a letter about the funds to U.S. House majority leader Dick Armey and representative Jim Sexton with copies of bank documents indicating where he thinks the money was transferred. Also on 8 April, Ilyukhin accused the presidential administration and "a number of departments" of working on a plan to declare a state of emergency in Russia within days. JAC
DUMA TO CONSIDER DELAYING IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS
The State Duma agreed on 9 April to consider delaying an impeachment hearing for Russian President Boris Yeltsin that had been scheduled for 15 April. The Duma Council will take up the issue of postponement on 13 April. The same day, the Yabloko faction announced that it would support at least one of the impeachment counts against the president, that is, for his launching of the war against Chechnya. The impeachment effort is likely to founder in the Constitutional Court, according to "Izvestiya" on 9 April, because of a number of gaps in existing laws. For example, the law does not say what the court's composition must be in order to prepare the impeachment verdict or what procedure a jury would use to dismiss the president from his post, "since Yeltsin is being accused of as grave a crime as genocide against the Russian people, he presumably has the right to a trial by jury." JAC
BEREZOVSKII IMPLICATED IN CHECHEN ABDUCTIONS
"Komsomolskaya pravda" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 9 April quoted Chechen security official Shaykhakhmed Akhmatkhanov as saying that documents proving business magnate and former CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii's involvement in abductions for ransom in Chechnya, including the kidnapping in Grozny on 5 March of Russian Interior Ministry General Gennadii Shpigun, have been handed over to the Russian Prosecutor-General's office. Akhmatkhanov suggested that Berezovskii was attempting to undermine Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov in return for which Maskhadov's domestic rivals included Berezovskii in oil transactions. On 7 April, Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin rejected similar Chechen accusations against Berezovskii as "total nonsense" and unsubstantiated gossip, according to ITAR-TASS. Berezovskii has been instrumental in negotiating the release of several individuals kidnapped in Chechnya. LF
ARMENIA MAY SUBMIT NEW PROPOSALS ON KARABAKH CONFLICT
Aram Sarkisian, a foreign policy aide to Armenian President Robert Kocharian, told journalists in Yerevan on 8 April that Armenia may be constrained to submit new proposals for resolving the Karabakh conflict if Azerbaijan persists with its rejection of the most recent draft peace plan proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Sarkisian offered no indication as to what the new Armenian proposal might comprise. But a visiting U.S. State Department official told Armenian journalists in Yerevan following a meeting with Kocharian on 6 April that two earlier OSCE Minsk Group peace proposals remain on the negotiating table. LF
RUSSIA TO LOWER TRANSIT TARIFFS FOR AZERBAIJAN'S CASPIAN OIL?
The Russian pipeline company Transneft may agree to a request made several months ago by the Azerbaijan International Operating Company to cut by up to two-thirds the present tariff of $15.67 per metric ton for Caspian oil which the consortium exports via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline, Bloomberg reported on 8 April, quoting "Vremya" of the same date. But the reduced tariffs would still be higher than those charged for exporting oil via the alternative Baku-Supsa pipeline, which are believed to be $1.50-$2 per metric ton. In addition, as Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev told Georgian ambassador Zurab Gumberidze on 7 April, Azerbaijani light crude exported via the northern pipeline is mixed with lower quality crude from western Siberia, Turan reported on 8 April. The first tanker with AIOC oil exported via the western pipeline left Supsa for a Spanish refinery on 8 April, Caucasus Press reported. LF
GEORGIA COUNTS ON CIS, UN TO RESOLVE ABKHAZ CONFLICT
Georgian presidential advisor Shalva Pichkhadze told Interfax on 8 April that Tbilisi will rely on exclusively peaceful means to resolve the Abkhaz conflict through the mediation of the CIS and the UN, rather than appeal to the U.S. and NATO. But he added that Georgia would lobby for a UN "Peace-enforcement" operation in Abkhazia if negotiations fail to yield a settlement. Pichkhadze also argued that the international community should hold the Abkhaz leadership responsible for genocide and ethnic cleansing of the region's Georgian population. On 9 April, Caucasus Press quoted Valeri Lomia, administrative head of Abkhazia's southernmost Gali raion, as stating that 1,402 Georgians (including 216 children) who had fled the district returned to their homes last month. LF
KAZAKHSTAN TO FACE BUDGET CUTS IN WAKE OF CURRENCY CRISIS?
Marat Ospanov, speaker of the lower house of parliament, told journalists on 9 April that the fall over the last week in the value of the tenge may necessitate further budget cuts, Interfax reported. The parliament had already sequestered the 1999 budget last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1999). That budget was predicated on an exchange rate of 87.5 tenge to the dollar, but the tenge is now trading at 116 to the dollar. Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev said in Astana on 8 April that he expects the tenge to stabilize within a week at 120 to the dollar. Former National Bank deputy chairman Grigorii Marchenko, who now heads Deutsche Bank Securities, told Interfax on 9 April that he does not believe the introduction of a floating exchange rate for the tenge will result in a systemic banking crisis in Kazakhstan. LF
WORLD BANK GRANTS NEW LOAN TO KAZAKHSTAN
The World Bank has approved a loan of about $42.5 million to help Kazakhstan implement a long-term health service restructuring program, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 9 April. The loan is the first phase of three "adaptable loans" totaling $162.5 million the bank plans to provide to Kazakhstan over the next eight years. LF
KAZAKHSTAN, TURKMENISTAN OPT FOR CHINESE EXPORT PIPELINES
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov told journalists in Ashgabat on 8 April following a meeting with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev that in the next century priority will be given to exporting Turkmen gas and Kazakh oil via China, ITAR-TASS reported. Kazakhstan and China signed an agreement on construction of a $3 billion, 3,000 km oil export pipeline in September 1997 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1997). In the short term, however, Kazakhstan will continue to export oil via Iran: Prime Minister Balghymbaev will travel to Tehran on 10 April to discuss oil exports and also sales of grain and engineering products, according to Interfax. Turkmenistan last year commissioned a feasibility study for a gas pipeline to China and Japan with an annual throughput capacity of 30 billion cubic meters. LF
HELICOPTER CRASH IN TAJIKISTAN WAS AN ACCIDENT
Russian Federal Border Service Director Konstantin Totskii said in Dushanbe on 8 April that the helicopter that crashed in southern Tajikistan on 2 April, killing 18 Russian border guards, had hit a power line, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 1999). Totskii was attending a meeting of CIS border guard commanders in Dushanbe, at which he warned that it is impossible either to halt drug trafficking across the Tajik-Afghan frontier or to counter Islamic fundamentalism just by strengthening border guard forces, AP-Blitz reported. LF
UZBEK PRESIDENT QUERIES NEED FOR RUSSIAN MILITARY BASE IN TAJIKISTAN
Islam Karimov told journalists at Tashkent airport on 8 April before departing for a Central Asian summit in Ashgabat that he opposes the planned establishment of a Russian military base in Tajikistan, Interfax reported. Karimov argued that the increased militarization of Central Asia will destabilize the regional situation, and that Tajikistan's neighbors are justified in asking "who this base is aimed at." Karimov also endorsed Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's decision to reimpose visa requirements for citizens of most CIS states wishing to travel to Turkmenistan. LF
LUKASHENKA LAUNCHES SOWING CAMPAIGN IN BELARUS
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka held a televised conference on 8 April devoted to spring sowing, calling the event a major economic and political issue of the year. According to Lukashenka, the current international situation "urgently dictates" that Belarus must secure food stocks. "If we have bread, we will be strong...Today almost the entire republic is getting down to work in the field," he told agricultural managers. Belapan reported that Lukashenka ordered Deputy Premier Alyaksandr Papkou to inform every collective farm--"without paying attention to any democratic norms or principles"--"how much to sow and how much to harvest." National Bank Chairman Pyotr Prakapovich said on 8 April that Belarusian banks will release 20 trillion Belarusian rubles ($84 million) and $40 million in credits to finance the sowing campaign. JM
FORMER BELARUSIAN PREMIER TO BE JAILED FOR THREE MONTHS
Mikhail Chyhir, former prime minister and a candidate in the 16 May opposition presidential elections, was officially charged on 8 April with "grand larceny" and "abuse of office." According to a court ruling, Chyhir, who was arrested on 30 March, will stay in jail for three months. Authorities say Chyhir is suspected of embezzling $1 million during his tenure at Belagroprombank, which he headed before Lukashenka appointed him prime minister in 1994. The opposition maintains that Chyhir's persecution is politically motivated. Meanwhile, former National Bank Chairwoman Tamara Vinnikava, who spent 10 months in a KGB prison and has been under house arrest since November 1997, has disappeared, according to official reports. No court charges against Vinnikava have so far been made. JM
CRIMEAN TATARS PROTEST ALLEGED DISCRIMINATION
Some 3,000 Tatars held a rally in front of the Crimean Supreme Council building in Simferopol on 8 April to protest "discrimination" against them. The protesters demanded a representative quota in Crimea's parliament, official status for their language, and changes in the Ukrainian and Crimean Constitutions, which they view as discriminatory. They burned documents symbolizing Crimea's Constitution and a 1783 manifesto in which Catherine the Great declared Crimea to be part of Russia. Protest actions will continue until 18 May, the date of the deportation of Tatars from Crimea by the Stalin regime. Out of the 260,000 Tatars who returned to Crimea in the past decade, some 100,000 are still unable to acquire Ukrainian citizenship. JM
PACE CHAIRMAN GETS MIXED RECEPTION IN UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT
"It is simply fantastic what you have done," Ukrainian Television quoted Lord Russell-Johnston, chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), as saying at a Supreme Council session on 8 April, where he praised Ukraine's efforts to meet its obligations to the Council of Europe. But when Johnston criticized the parliament for denouncing NATO strikes in Yugoslavia without mentioning Serb repression against Kosova Albanians, left-wing deputies reacted with indignant shouts, ITAR-TASS reported. When he called the rule of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic a fascist regime, leftist deputies left the session hall in protest. JM
ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT MAY CUT BUDGET EXPENDITURES BY 1 BILLION KROONS
Finance Minister Siim Kallas has said that the government is considering cutting budget expenditures by up to 1 billion kroons ($71.4 million), ETA reported on 8 April, citing "Eesti Paevaleht." Kallas was unable to say which government institutions will be targeted, but he noted that the reductions will be made by cutting operating expenses. The final figure will become available at the end of this month, when the Finance Ministry submits a negative supplementary budget to the government. The volume of this year's budget, which must be balanced by law, is 18 billion kroons. JC
ALBRIGHT PRAISES KRISTOPANS FOR STANCE ON 16 MARCH
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has sent a letter to Vilis Kristopans praising the Latvian premier for his stance on Latvian Soldiers' Day, LETA reported on 8 April. Albright wrote that Kristopans's "condemnation of Nazism and the ban" on representatives of the government and armed forces taking part in the 16 March ceremonies revealed Riga's position on "human rights and civil society." Albright also expressed satisfaction that the Latvian parliament is to consider changing the date of Latvian Soldiers' Day to a more "appropriate" one. Veterans of the Latvian Waffen SS mark 16 March as the anniversary of the unit's first battle against Soviet forces. JC
ADAMKUS APPOINTS NEW ENVIRONMENT MINISTER
Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus has signed a decree appointing Danius Lygis as environment minister, BNS reported on 8 April. Lygis, a member of the ruling Conservative Party, had served as deputy minister of the environment since 1996. He replaces Algis Caplikas, a member of the Center Union, who resigned early last month. Also on 8 April, Finance Minister Algirdas Semeta survived a vote in the parliament following an interpellation initiated by the opposition. The vote was 71 to 26 with one abstention. JC
POLISH PARLIAMENT BACKS GOVERNMENT'S FOREIGN POLICY
Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek presented the key goals of Poland's foreign policy to the parliament on 8 April. "Poland is safe as never before in this century," Geremek said. The main goals of Poland's foreign policy include integration with the EU and full EU membership in 2002, more active participation in NATO decision-making, developing relations with Poland's strategic partners (U.S., Germany, France), developing a strategic partnership with Ukraine, and good-neighborly relations with Russia. All of the parliamentary caucuses approved Geremek's report. All major parliamentary caucuses, except for the Peasant Party and a small group of right-wing Catholic deputies, spoke in support of NATO's air campaign in Yugoslavia. JM
POLAND'S EXPORTS TO RUSSIA PLUNGED IN 1998
Poland's exports to Russia plunged by 25.9 percent to $1.6 billion, down by $557 million from 1997, AP reported on 8 April, citing the Main Statistical Office. Most of the decrease came after the devaluation of the Russian ruble last August. Economists say that due to the Russian crisis Poland's economic growth slowed in the last quarter of 1998 to 2.9 percent, compared to 4.9 percent in the third quarter. One benefit of the Russian crisis for Poland was low inflation. In the wake of the crisis exporters were forced to dump goods on the Polish market, forcing prices down. In February 1999 the inflation rate fell to 5.6 percent, compared to 11.3 percent in August 1998. JM
KLAUS CRITICIZES NATO STRIKES AGAIN...
Vaclav Klaus, the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies and leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), said in an interview with "Lidove noviny" on 8 April that "the mass displacement of Albanians from Kosova occurred only after the NATO strikes." He added that it did not please him to conclude that his earlier statement that the strikes "were not the right policy" had been correct, since "the suffering in Kosova has since increased manifold." Klaus also said the strikes had not been prompted by the wish to prevent the mass displacement of Albanians, but by the "inconsiderate" and harsh treatment of some representatives of the Kosovars by Serbian police. He also said the rich countries were "somewhat hypocritical" in wanting to solve the refugee problems by sending money, "so that, God forbid, it does not affect us," CTK reported. MS
...AND MEETS HARSH CRITICISM
In reaction, the Freedom Union on 9 April called on the Chamber of Deputies to dismiss Klaus from his position as chairman. In a statement, the Union said Klaus "severely damaged the Czech Republic's credibility and prestige within NATO," CTK reported. Jan Kasal, acting chairman of the Christian Democratic Party, said Klaus is adopting the arguments used by Slobodan Milosevic. In other news, CTK reported on 8 April that a monument to U.S. soldiers in Cheb was defaced the night before. The vandals sprayed the monument with swastikas and phrases denouncing NATO and the U.S. MS
SLOVAK PARLIAMENT STRIPS LEXA OF IMMUNITY
Ivan Lexa, former head of the Slovak Counter-Intelligence Service, was stripped of his parliamentary immunity on 8 April, CTK reported. This opens the way for the launching of legal procedures against Lexa on five counts, including his alleged participation in the abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995. Lexa is also accused of masterminding the fictitious sale of a triptych as a provocation against the Catholic Church, of ordering the planting of an explosive device at an opposition rally, of bugging mobile telephones and of failure to report the theft of a vehicle. In other news, Defense Minister Pavol Kanis said on Slovak television that so far only two NATO bombers have used Slovak air space but "dozens" of transport and refueling planes have overflown Slovakia. MS
NATO CONTROLS HALF OF HUNGARY'S AIR SPACE
In line with the Hungarian parliament's earlier authorization, NATO has taken control of about half of the country's air space since 24 March, Hungarian media reported on 8 April. In other news, Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said in Luxembourg that Hungary intends to set up an air corridor between Budapest and Tirana, as well as extend humanitarian aid for victims of the Kosova conflict. Istvan Dobo, director of the Office for Refugees and Migration, said that temporary shelters will soon have to be opened to cope with the refugee influx. He said that 387 Yugoslav citizens have sought "protection" in Hungary since the beginning of NATO operations. MSZ
MACEDONIAN SOLDIER KILLED ON SERBIAN BORDER
A Defense Ministry spokesman said in Skopje on 9 April that a soldier was found dead near a watchtower 100 meters inside Macedonian territory in the Blace area. The spokesman added that the soldier was killed by a shot fired from the Yugoslav side of the border. The soldier's patrol had challenged an unidentified man to stop. The man fled into nearby woods, after which the shot that killed the Macedonian soldier was fired, AP reported. A NATO spokesman said that the incident took place the previous afternoon. Reuters added that two Macedonian soldiers were also wounded in the incident. The Serbian military machine dwarfs Macedonia's fledgling army. PM
SHOOTOUT ON SERBIAN-ALBANIAN FRONTIER
A spokesman for the OSCE said in Tirana on 9 April that a shootout took place near Tropoja around 6 a.m. local time. He added that it probably involved Serbian forces and the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), which is strong in the area. It is not clear whether Albanian forces were involved. PM
WHY HAS BELGRADE CLOSED THE BORDER?
British Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short told a press conference in London on 8 April that Serbian forces closed the border with Macedonia and Albania, forcing back into Kosova thousands of refugees who were waiting to cross (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1999). She added: "We don't know whether [the refugees] are being driven back to their homes or elsewhere in [Kosova]...They have all been turned back...We don't know where they are, and we are very concerned about them." She spoke of a "worrying change in Serb tactics...Our message to [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic is: 'The forcible movement of people in any direction is not acceptable.' Milosevic and his henchmen will be held accountable for war crimes." Short stressed that "there will be no compromise, no fudge and no partition." The BBC reported that the Serbian forces may be planning to use the displaced persons as human shields around military targets in Serbia to deter NATO attacks. PM
OR HAS IT?
Some 800 Kosovars arrived at the Kumanovo crossing in Macedonia on 9 April. One refugee told Reuters that "Serbian police kicked us out [of our village], burning cars and houses." Serbian forces then held the refugees for up to four days at the border and robbed them. PM
ALBANIAN TV: DRENICA IS STARVING
Albanian public television reported on 8 April that "tens of thousands" of people in the Drenica area of Kosova have no food or medicine, Reuters noted. The Albanian broadcast added that the people of Drenica hope that "the international community will open a corridor urgently and bring in food and medicine, because the population is threatened with starvation." The broadcast said that Serbian forces in the area are using heavy artillery to keep "tens of thousands of inhabitants displaced from their homes under iron-like siege" and that "Serbian military gangs... have executed...defenseless civilians, especially the elderly and sick." Serbian snipers prevent people from moving about freely, the broadcast added. The contents of the broadcast have not been independently confirmed. Pope John Paul II recently called for the establishment of an aid corridor into Kosova. PM
U.S., GERMANY HAVE EVIDENCE OF WAR CRIMES
State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 8 April that "independently we've been able to confirm that the Serb forces are conducting this type of ethnic cleansing," pointing to aerial photographs of damage before and after the entry of Serbian forces into four towns in Kosova, AFP reported. He added that Washington is also tracking "credible" reports of summary executions or "mass killings" in eight towns, including one in which 200 people may have been killed. In Bonn, German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping told a press conference that "near the town or village of Pastric, a massacre has taken place in the last 24 hours. Near the village of Sopi, 35 unarmed civilians were executed." PM
UNHCR FINDS MISSING REFUGEES
A spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said at Stankovic, Macedonia, on 9 April that the missing 10,000 Kosovar refugees have been accounted for (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1999). She said that the latest figures from camps in Macedonia and Albania include the missing 10,000, Reuters reported. PM
ALBANIA CRITICIZES MACEDONIA
Prime Minister Pandeli Majko said in Tirana on 8 April that the forced expulsion of Kosovars from Macedonia is straining relations between that country and Albania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1999). Majko told Greek Foreign Minister Georgios Papandreou and Macedonian Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov in Tirana that "Albania is passing through a difficult time. I am convinced that Greece is standing closely by us, but I cannot say the same for Macedonia." Majko stressed that Macedonia has a duty to provide shelter for the refugees. He added, however, that "we will welcome them in Albania if you can't guarantee them accommodations." Opposition leader Sali Berisha called the expulsions "inhumane." Elsewhere, President Rexhep Meidani criticized as "chauvinistic" remarks by Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov to the effect that the homeland of Albanians is only Albania. FS
MACEDONIA REJECTS FOREIGN CRITICISM
Many Macedonian officials and citizens are angry over what they regard as totally unjustified criticism from NATO countries and other foreigners, the "Daily Telegraph" reported on 9 April. The Macedonians charge that they were left to cope with a massive refugee influx without sufficient help from the countries that are now criticizing. PM
NAUMANN: GROUND TROOPS MAY BE NEEDED
General Klaus Naumann, who heads NATO's military committee, said in Bonn on 9 April that there is a "theoretical possibility" that NATO will send ground troops into Kosova. He added that "any conflict is ultimately decided on the ground." Naumann stressed that it will be "very, very difficult" for the Atlantic alliance to bring peace to Kosova without sending in troops. In Rome, "L'Unita" quoted Meidani as saying that NATO ground troops will be essential to ensure the safe and secure return of the refugees and displaced persons. FS
GERMANY'S CONTRADICTORY REFUGEE POLICY
As during the Croatian and Bosnian wars, Germany is preparing to take in the largest single number of refugees of any country outside the region, namely 40,000. But the authorities have announced a policy that may put undue burdens on the state while preventing recourse to the least expensive and most humane form of refugee care, the "Berliner Zeitung" reported on 8 April. The authorities plan to assign a specific number of refugees to each state on a pre- determined basis. The Kosovars will live in camps or other institutional centers. But Kosovars will not receive entrance visas that would enable them to stay with relatives in those people's homes. For political reasons, the authorities want a policy that shows voters that the refugees are under tight supervision and unlikely to stay in Germany any longer than necessary. PM
PAVLE SLAMS ROCK CONCERTS
Serbian state-run media reported on 8 April that the death toll from NATO air strikes has reached 300. The report could not be independently confirmed. That night, hundreds of people gathered on bridges in Belgrade and elsewhere in an effort to discourage NATO from bombing them. Public opinion across Serbia and Montenegro is growing increasingly angry over the bombings, "Die Presse" and the BBC reported on 9 April. Two days earlier, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle spoke in Belgrade of civilian deaths and "our present suffering." He also criticized the recent rock concerts, which the authorities have organized as a protest against the air strikes. Pavle warned against "manifestations at which people sing, dance, and shout sacrilegious and blasphemous words," even though this weekend is Orthodox Easter. He added that "our people can and should defend themselves from this evil [of the bombings] through prayer and repentance, just as our holy ancestors defended and succeeded in defending...our homeland and people," the non- state Beta news agency reported. PM
CROATIA WARNS OF ECONOMIC LOSSES
The Croatian government said in a statement on 8 April that it is concerned that NATO's attacks on Serbian targets will damage the Croatian economy by discouraging tourists from visiting the region. The government also noted that unspecified foreigners have already cancelled contracts with Croatian shipyards. Tourism and shipping are key earners of hard-currency for Croatia. The cabinet also approved a package of aid for Kosovar refugees in Albania and Macedonia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Zagreb. PM
ROMANIAN RULING PARTY TO SPLIT?
Former Premier Victor Ciorbea on 8 April told members of the leadership of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) that he will join a new splinter Christian Democratic political formation headed by Senator Matei Boila and his brother Ioan, who is a member of the PNTCD Standing Committee, Mediafax reported. The new party is likely to be set up later this month. The Boila brothers called in March for the PNTCD to leave the government in order to be able to remain faithful to its "historic values." Senator Serban Sandulescu and Standing Committee member Liviu Petrina are likely to join the new party. PNTCD spokesman Remus Opris said the party has advanced Ciorbea to a leadership position and his intentions to leave it are "incorrect." MS
ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES FURTHER AGRICULTURAL PRIVATIZATION
The government on 8 April approved a draft law providing for the privatization of land owned by the state, by local administration and other public organizations, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Agriculture Minister Ioan Muresan said the law would also make it possible to determine by 2000 which agricultural properties confiscated by the communists can be returned to former owners. The government also approved raising the minimum monthly wage from 350,000 to 450,000 lei ($30). MS
ROMANIA'S HUNGARIANS CALL ON POPE TO VISIT TRANSYLVANIA
Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), told journalists on 8 April that the UDMR "would like Pope John Paul II to include Transylvania in his visit" scheduled for 7-9 May, Mediafax reported. Most of Romania's Roman Catholics, a large part of whom are ethnic Hungarians, live in Transylvania, but the Romanian Orthodox Church is reported to have opposed a visit by the pontiff to the region. Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban, in a letter sent to the Vatican in mid-March, also called on the pope to include Transylvania in his visit, MTI reported on 6 April. MS
MOLDOVAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION OUTLAWS REFERENDUM
The Central Electoral Commission on 8 April said a referendum scheduled for 25 April, which was enforced by the Tiraspol authorities on the local administration of Varnita village, was "illegal and contravenes the law on local administration referenda." The village is in the vicinity of Bendery/Tighina, a town controlled by the separatists. The town is a Transdniestrian outpost on the Chisinau-ruled right bank of the Dniester River. Varnita is part of Chisinau county and the Bendery/Tighina town soviet wants to move it under its own jurisdiction. The town soviet threatens to cut Varnita off from electricity and gas supplies unless the villagers vote in favor of the change, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Chisinau authorities view the referendum as an attempt by Tiraspol at territorial expansion. MS
BULGARIA IMPOSES ENTRY RESTRICTIONS ON YUGOSLAV CITIZENS...
Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev on 8 April announced that Bulgaria has imposed entry restrictions on Yugoslav citizens in response to similar measures imposed by Belgrade on the entry of Bulgarians, BTA reported. The restrictions do not apply to members of the Bulgarian minority in Yugoslavia. Bonev said Yugoslavs applying for political asylum will be granted that status. Kosovar Albanians will be allowed to enter Bulgaria only in transit to Turkey and will be escorted to the border, he said, but those Kosovars who entered Bulgarian territory illegally can get refugee status if they apply for it. "Unlike other countries, we do not pay lip service" to the Kosovar refugee problems while "deploying troops at borders to prevent their entry," he said. MS
...AND OFFERS MACEDONIA A FIELD HOSPITAL
Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova on 8 April told journalists that Bulgaria is prepared to set up a military field hospital in neighboring Macedonia to serve Kosovar refugees, BTA and Reuters reported. She also said Sofia was ready to "provide two airplanes to transport seriously ill refugees for treatment in Bulgarian hospitals," but will send them back when they recover. Also on 8 April, the parliament approved Bulgaria's military doctrine, which is focused on the country's determination to gain admission to NATO, AP reported. The government allocated 41.4 billion leva ($23 million) for accession preparations. The document will be presented at NATO's summit later this month. The opposition Socialist Party voted against. MS
Macedonian Economy Hammered By Side Effects Of Kosova Conflict
By Michael Wyzan
Concern about the impact of the conflict in Kosova on Macedonia has centered on the acute problems surrounding the country's enormous refugee burden. Less attention has been devoted--at least outside Macedonia--to the conflict's economic effects on the country, which give every indication of being prolonged and catastrophic.
Before the NATO bombing campaign and Kosovar refugee influx began on 24 March, Macedonia was looking forward to a good year on the economic front. GDP was projected to grow by 5 percent in 1999, up from last year's respectable 4 percent, the first solidly positively growth figure since independence.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) was finally picking up, reaching $118 million in 1999, after being negligible in previous years. The government has been hoping for a substantial inflow of FDI from Taiwan (the figure of $200 million over four years was frequently mentioned), with which Macedonia established diplomatic relations in 27 January. The upturn was sorely needed in an economy with Europe's highest unemployment rate.
Unfortunately, any prospects for economic growth this year and possibly for the next several years have now been snuffed out. The most obvious problem is the cost of handling a refugee influx that is already on the order of 200,000 people, an enormous burden for a country with 2 million people and a GDP per capita of at most $1,700 (similar to Bulgaria and Romania).
However, international assistance and the fact that in the end relatively few of the refugees may stay in Macedonia will perhaps keep the costs borne by Skopje from being catastrophic.
The bulk of the costs will come from broken trade ties with Yugoslavia, severed transport links with EU trading partners, and the perception on the part of those and other partners that the risks of doing business in Macedonia have become unacceptably high. Already on 1 April, Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov announced that the economy had endured losses of over $100 million (annual GDP is about $3.5 billion).
Federal Yugoslavia has remained a major trading partner of Macedonia's, accounting for 5 percent of its exports (in fifth place) and 11 percent of its imports (in second place) in the first half of 1998. Trade turnover between the countries, last year worth about $500 million, is expected to be less than one-third of that this year.
Individual Macedonian firms, especially the large metallurgical and chemical producers inherited from Yugoslav times, are much more dependent on Federal Yugoslavia than these figures apply. For them, that country accounts for as much of 70 percent of export markets and a similar percentage of raw materials. Much of that trade consists of barter-like "compensation deals" that allow Macedonian firms to unload goods not salable on other markets. In other cases, Federal Yugoslavia is the only source of a given raw material.
Moreover, despite having access to the Greek port of Thessaloniki in recent years, 90 percent of exports and imports with the EU go by land through Serbia; rerouting such trade will cost $20 million this year.
Perhaps most damaging of all, EU and other Western trading partners and banks are backing out of agreements with Macedonian firms due to increased risk. In such sectors as textiles and leather goods, enterprises have engaged in "outward processing trade," whereby they import raw materials, process them, and then re-export the finished products. Since the crisis began, in the leather industry alone, Western partners have backed out of 20 such contracts, worth over $20 million. Banks have removed guarantees from foreign companies on joint investments with Macedonian companies.
The severity of these effects has been noticed by the international community. On 6 April, it was announced that the World Bank would provide a $40 million credit under favorable conditions. The World Bank and the IMF will organize an international donors' conference aiming to raise $50-100 million. According to the government, the bank is also recommending that Macedonia ask the Paris Club of sovereign creditors to write off $170 million in debt to that grouping.
Whatever assistance is forthcoming, the tiny Macedonian economy, still so dependent on trade with and through Federal Yugoslavia, is in for a terrible time. Its vulnerability to developments in that country can be substantially reduced only by a complete economic restructuring. However, such can occur only via FDI which creates new productive capacity oriented toward exports of high-value products to European markets, and recent events will scare off such investment.
In the end, as long as Slobodan Milosevic rules in Belgrade, the Balkans will remain unstable, and sustained economic development in Macedonia and other small countries in the region will remain elusive. Michael Wyzan is a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.