YELTSIN REPORTED CONSIDERING HIS OPTIONS VIS-A-VIS SKURATOV...
The Russian press has begun a new round of speculation about President Boris Yeltsin's next move in the wake of the Federation Council's unexpected rejection of Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov's resignation. "Kommersant- Daily" suggested on 22 April that Yeltsin can become "a Kremlin pensioner or begin a counterattack." "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported the next day that high-ranking presidential administration officials said their actions regarding Skuratov "would be quite strict" and that "the criminal case [against him] is irreversible now." However, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov warned that if Yeltsin decides to "augment tension" following the Federation Council's decision, then lawmakers may be tempted to vote for his impeachment. The State Duma on 21 April passed amendments to the chamber's rules on impeachment making it easier for factions to enforce voting discipline. The amendments passed by 329 to 42 votes with two abstentions. JAC
According to "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 23 April, presidential administration officials were unimpressed by Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's speech to the Federation Council to retain Skuratov. The daily reported that they thought his speech was "absolutely formal" and "in reality he did his best to keep Skuratov in his post." RFE/RL's Moscow bureau quoted eyewitnesses as saying that Primakov sounded unconvincing and unconvinced. However, presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told NTV the previous day that Yeltsin "does not bear any grievances against Yevgenii Maksimovich Primakov over [the previous day's] speech to the Federation Council." He added that Yeltsin believes Primakov continues to play a politically stabilizing role in the country. JAC
NEW ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMMISSION TO MONITOR PROSECUTOR'S PROBES...
The Federation Council on 22 April voted by 105 to one to set up a temporary commission to study combating corruption, Interfax reported. Sergei Sobyanin, chairman of the council's Committee for Constitutional Legislation and Judicial Issues, said the commission will closely follow the investigations of high-profile criminal cases, including the ones named by Skuratov at his recent appearances before the upper legislative chamber. During his address on 21 April, according to "Segodnya," Skuratov discussed investigations into the activities of the Swiss firm Mabetex, the Channel Islands investment firm FIMACO, and NOGA. Skuratov said that "in just one Swiss bank in the city of Lugano alone, there are accounts belonging to dozens of current and former Russian officials connected in one way or another with Mabetex." JAC
...AS BORODIN DENIES KEEPING MONEY IN SWITZERLAND OR IN OLD BOTTLES
Pavel Borodin, head of the Kremlin facilities directorate, told "Argumenty i Fakty" that he will sue all those who are accusing him through the press of "keeping fabulous bank accounts in Switzerland." He also denied reports that investigators from the Prosecutor-General's office have found an old wine bottle in his daughter's apartment filled with $100 million. He pointed out that a wine bottle is too small for such a sum. JAC
DUMA ACCUSES RUSSIAN TV OF BEING PRO-NATO
Several Duma deputies, including Sergei Baburin (People's Power) and Stanislav Govorukhin (People's Power), put forward a proposal on 22 April to discuss a petition "on the inadmissibility of using the Russian media to support the actions of NATO," "Izvestiya" reported on 23 April. According to the document, "a pro-NATO trend can be seen in television interpretations of events in Yugoslavia" and "obviously reflects attempts by NATO to use the Russian media to spread propaganda." The previous day, the Duma failed to override a presidential veto of the bill that would have established a "supreme council" to monitor morality in television and broadcasting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March 1999). JAC
KULIK OVERLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT POTENTIAL U.S. INVESTMENT?
Officials at both U.S. and Russian companies are denying Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik's 12 April statement that U.S. companies John Deere and Case Corporation agreed to invest up to $400 million in Rostelmash in Rostov Oblast and Kirovskii Works in St. Petersburg, "The Moscow Times" reported on 23 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 1999). According to the newspaper, after his visit to the U.S. Kulik had been under fire for snubbing domestic farm equipment manufacturers. However, Kirovskii's chief financial officer Vyacheslav Kondrashiev denied that his company is negotiating with either U.S. company. He added that he thought "Kulik's announcement was an attempt to smooth over our opposition and that of the public." Meanwhile, a spokesman for John Deere denied that a contract for tractors was even close to being signed. JAC
YELTSIN TO VISIT JAPAN NEXT FALL?
Despite the fact he is no longer Japan's prime minister, the Russian Foreign Ministry considers Ryutaro Hashimoto's visit to Moscow "very helpful, given his influence in Japan and his contribution to the development of bilateral relations," ITAR-TASS reported on 22 April. Hashimoto met with President Yeltsin the previous day. According to "Kommersant-Daily," Yeltsin avoided discussion of the dispute over the Southern Kuril Islands and was "disappointed" to learn that the position of the Japanese government on Kosova is that "the bombings are evil, but they are a necessary evil." Yeltsin said he would like to visit Japan next fall, an official at the Japanese embassy in Moscow told reporters. JAC
IVANOV CALLS FOR RESUMPTION OF MID-EAST PEACE PROCESS
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told journalists in Jerusalem on 22 April that Israel and Syria should resume peace negotiations and that Russia wants to play a more visible mediation role, AP reported. Ivanov spoke after his Israeli counterpart, Ariel Sharon, took him on a helicopter tour of the Golan Heights and the West Bank. Sharon said he wanted to show the visitor "the areas necessary for Israel's security and existence." The daily "Haaretz" reported on 22 April that Sharon asked Russia to mediate between Israel and Syria. Ivanov is on a three-day tour of the Middle East. FS
DEFENSE MINISTER ON MILITARY DOCTRINE CHANGES
Igor Sergeev said at the Belarusian Military Academy in Minsk on 22 April that Russia will make changes in its national military doctrine in connection with NATO's military action in Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. He said the focus will be on keeping nuclear deterrence forces at maximum combat readiness and developing air defense troops. Sergeev argued that Russia's defense budget should amount to at least 3.5 percent of GDP (this year it stands at 2.6 percent). Sergeev and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka are to meet on 23 April, reportedly to discuss supplies of Russian modern weapons to Belarus's air and air defense forces. JM
PASKO BEGINS TESTIFYING
Military reporter Grigorii Pasko has begun testifying in his treason and espionage trial, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Pasko is accused of disclosing classified information about the Pacific Fleet's environmentally hazardous practices to Japanese television. Pasko told the court that he has reported all his contacts with Japanese journalists to the Pacific Fleet's leadership and to the chief editor of the military newspaper at which he worked. Pasko will likely continue testifying for at least three days. Earlier the Pacific Fleet's military tribunal sent a request to Japan's Foreign Ministry asking them to require a correspondent from the newspaper "Asahi Shimbun" and two reporters from NHK television to give evidence. JAC
LENIN'S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATED WITH FIREWORKS
An unidentified group blew up a 3.3 meter monument of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin in the Sverdlovsk Oblast on 22 April, the 129th anniversary of his birth, ITAR-TASS reported. In Moscow, members of the Communist Party, National Bolshevik Party, led by novelist Eduard Limonov, and Working Russia, led by Viktor Anpilov, placed wreaths on Lenin's mausoleum. JAC
ARMENIAN TRADERS TO SUE GOVERNMENT OVER CASH REGISTER REGULATION
Makich Demirian, the chairman of the Armenian Union of Traders, told journalists in Yerevan on 22 April that the union is bringing legal action against the Armenian government for what it believes are serious violations during the process of introducing cash registers, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In an attempt to prevent tax evasion, the government ruled in late 1998 that all companies with a working area of more than 30 square meters must input their retail sales and services into cash registers beginning February 1999. Demirian said this puts large businesses, whose number is estimated at 1,700, at a disadvantage compared with smaller traders. The traders' union will therefore demand that the law be extended to all businesses regardless of their size. Demirian said that some 600 businesses have been fined by the tax authorities for not complying with the government. Many of those fines were imposed before the introduction of such a penalty on 1 April. LF
GEORGIAN AIR FORCE OFFICERS PROTEST NON-PAYMENT OF SALARIES
Some 50 officers of Georgia's air force staged a protest on 21 April at the Makhata base, Caucasus Press and "Rezonansi" reported. "Rezonansi" said the officers were demanding payment of their salaries for the past seven months, improved living conditions, and free Tbilisi metro passes for themselves and their families. Caucasus Press quoted Defense Ministry official Giorgi Gogashvili as attributing the protest not only to wage arrears but to apprehension over possible redundancies during the forthcoming reorganization of the airforce. Gogashvili said that in 1998 his ministry paid only 70 percent of salaries and owes two months' wages for 1999. He blamed the Finance Ministry for not allocating the necessary funds. Gogashvili added that although the 1999 budget froze the ministry's debts until 2000, courts continue to rule in favor of companies that sue the ministry for not paying its bills. LF
ABKHAZIA THREATENS TO PUT DETAINED GEORGIAN FISHING CREW ON TRIAL
Caucasus Press on 23 April quoted Abkhaz Prosecutor- General Anri Djergenia as saying that the nine crew members of a Georgian fishing trawler detained in Abkhaz territorial waters on 3 April will be put on trial next week unless agreement is reached on exchanging them for five Abkhaz held hostage in Georgia. The Abkhaz authorities released the one woman crew member last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1999). LF
KAZAKHSTAN'S EX-PREMIER CALLS FOR NEW ELECTION LAW...
Speaking at a press briefing convened by RFE/RL in Washington on 22 April, Akezhan Kazhegeldin said that unless Kazakhstan enacts new election legislation, the parliamentary elections to be held later this year will not be free and fair, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. At present, the conduct of elections is stipulated by presidential decrees that have the force of law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 1999). Kazhegeldin said new election legislation is a key factor in promoting democratization in Kazakhstan. He predicted that his National Republican Party will be barred on a technicality from contesting the parliamentary elections, just as he was prevented from participating in the January 1999 presidential poll. Kazhegeldin added that Kazakhstan today is a country without a national identity, primarily because it lacks democratic institutions. LF
...AS ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN CLAIMS NEW VICTIMS
Premier Nurlan Balghymbaev convened a cabinet session on 22 April to assess implementation of presidential decrees and government measures aimed at combating corruption, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. One city deputy mayor and two regional Interior Ministry chiefs were arrested this week for financial irregularities. Last week, Deputy Finance Minister Zhomart Muqashev was detained on charges of abuse of his official position. LF
KAZAKHSTAN HALTS RAIL CARGO TRAFFIC FROM UZBEKISTAN
Kazakhstan has barred Uzbek freight trains from transiting its territory until Tashkent pays an $8 million transit debt, AFP reported on 21 April, quoting an unnamed Kazakh transport official. But Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan reached an agreement the same day whereby Kyrgyzstan will pay its $3.8 million transit debt to Kazakhstan by 1 May. Kazakhstan had stopped the transit across its territory of Kyrgyz rail traffic one week earlier. LF
CZECH PREMIER VISITS KYRGYZSTAN
Milos Zeman and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Amangeldi Muraliev, met in Bishkek on 22 April and signed a declaration on the development of the interstate relations and a protocol on intergovernmental cooperation, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Zeman later noted the potential for expanded cooperation in food processing and transportation. He proposed that Kyrgyzstan adopt legislation on giving government guarantees for foreign investments in order to attract investments from the Czech Republic. According to Muraliev, an agreement between the two states on avoiding double taxation will be concluded soon. A number of cooperation agreements between Kyrgyz and Czech enterprises were also signed. Zeman also met with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev to discuss bilateral relations. LF
UN ENVOY CALLS FOR LEGALIZATION OF TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTIES
UN Special Representative in Tajikistan Jan Kubis and the leader of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), Said Abdullo Nuri, met in Dushanbe on 21 April to assess implementation of the political and military protocols to the 1997 peace agreement, AP-Blitz reported the following day. While noting that 22 representatives of the UTO have been appointed to government posts, they expressed concern that no progress has been made to date in nominating opposition representatives to serve on regional and district councils. They agreed that the Committee for National Reconciliation, on which both government and UTO are represented, must complete new draft proposals on amending the constitution. President Imomali Rakhmonov had rejected most of the amendments proposed earlier. Kubis advocated that those opposition parties belonging to the UTO be legalized, together with their official publications. LF
TURKMEN PRESIDENT SAYS WESTERN-STYLE DEMOCRACY INAPPROPRIATE
Addressing Turkmenistan's National Institute for Democracy and Human Rights on 21 April, Saparmurat Niyazov said that Western-style democracy is incompatible with the Turkmen national mentality and with the Asian model of democracy, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported the following day. He added that press censorship in Turkmenistan is necessary to preclude the publication of articles inciting interethnic hatred. Niyazov also said that he will not invite international observers to monitor elections in Turkmenistan, but nor will he prevent them from being monitoring the ballot. Also on 21 April, Niyazov ruled out the privatization of the country's major enterprises and said he will reject pressure from the EBRD to raise domestic prices for gasoline and diesel fuel, according to Reuters. LF
UKRAINIAN COMMUNIST DEPUTIES WALK OUT TO PROTEST PRESIDENTIAL VETO
Communist lawmakers walked out of the Supreme Council on 22 April to protest its failure to override President Leonid Kuchma's veto on two bills increasing subsidies for the elderly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999), AP reported. Communist Party Chairman Petro Symonenko said his 122-strong caucus will refuse to vote on any other legislation until other lawmakers join them in overriding the veto. In rejecting the bills, Kuchma argued that the cash- strapped government does not have enough revenues to increase social payments. JM
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST MEETS STROBE TALBOTT
Andrey Sannikau, international coordinator for the Charter 97 civic initiative and a former Belarusian deputy foreign minister, met with U.S. State Department Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott in Washington on 22 April to discuss the situation in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Sannikau told RFE/RL that he is glad the U.S. has not changed its position vis-a-vis the Lukashenka regime and remains committed to restoring democratic principles in Belarus. Sannikau told Talbott that the U.S. should send its ambassador back to Belarus because of the "very tense situation in Belarus's current economic and political life." The U.S. recalled its ambassador to Washington last year following the eviction of Western diplomats from the Drazdy residential area. JM
BELARUSIAN OFFICIAL URGES OPPOSITION TO GIVE FUNDS TO NEEDY
Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Zamyatalin appealed on Belarusian Television on 21 April to the Belarusian opposition to contribute its "many millions intended for the illegitimate, phony elections in mid-May" to a children's home. The appeal appeared in connection with the nationwide "subbotnik" (a Soviet-time practice of voluntary unpaid work on Saturdays) now under way in Belarus. JM
BALTIC PRESIDENTS MEET WITH ALBRIGHT
Lennart Meri (Estonia), Guntis Ulmanis (Latvia), and Valdas Adamkus (Lithuania) met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Washington on 22 April and reaffirmed their desire to join NATO, an RFE/RL correspondent in the U.S. capital reported. Meri said after the meeting that Albright assured all three countries they will be mentioned in the summit's final declaration, while Ulmanis said she stressed the Kosova crisis will not interfere in the three's quest to join the alliance. In a statement, Albright thanked the Baltic States for supporting NATO action in Kosova and offering humanitarian assistance to refugees. She also encouraged them to continue providing such assistance, according to LETA. JC
ESTONIAN FINANCE MINISTRY REVEALS DETAILS OF SUPPLEMENTARY BUDGET
The Finance Ministry on 22 April revealed that it has drawn up a negative supplementary budget providing for cuts of 1 billion kroons ($71.4 million) in expenditures, ETA reported. Of that sum, 370 million kroons is to be saved by reducing investments, while another 330 million kroons will be slashed from subsidies to the private sector. The draft budget is to be discussed by the government next week. Speaking to journalists, Finance Minister Siim Kallas said that although revenues from excises are considerably below forecasts, the government does not intend to lower duties on tobacco, alcohol, or gasoline for the time being. Kallas added that to improve excise collection, the government should instead exercise increased control over the black market. JC
EC WANTS LATVIAN LANGUAGE LAW TO COMPLY WITH INTERNATIONAL NORMS
Meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans in Brussels on 23 April, European Commission President Jacques Santer and Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek Latvia urged Riga to ensure that Latvia's state language bill meets international requirements, BNS reported. The law has provoked criticism, not least because of its provisions regulating the use of the state language in the private sector (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 April 1999). JC
LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS LUSTRATION LAW
Lawmakers on 22 April voted by 61 to zero with two abstentions to amend the lustration law so that it complies with a ruling by the Constitutional Court earlier this year, ELTA reported. The law bans former KGB agents from holding government office and a wide variety of private-sector jobs. While the court ruled that the legislation does not violate the basic law, it deemed unconstitutional the provision establishing a presidential commission that would decide whether to lift restrictions in individual cases (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 1999). JC
POLISH OPPOSITION WANTS TO AMEND LUSTRATION LAW
The opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has prepared a draft amendment to the lustration law, arguing that the lustration process now under way in Poland is defective, PAP reported on 22 April. The SLD wants to introduce a "precise definition of collaboration with the communist-era secret services" and to make the lustration procedures confidential. Meanwhile, lustration prosecutor Boguslaw Nizienski has said his requests for the lustration court to check individuals' statements on whether they collaborated will be kept secret. Nizienski also said he has no evidence supporting the recent allegation that Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek collaborated with the communist secret services (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999). JM
POLISH UPPER HOUSE AMENDS BILL ON FORMER CONCENTRATION CAMPS
The upper house of the parliament on 22 April amended the bill on the preservation of eight former Nazi concentration camp sites in Poland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 1999), Polish media reported. Under those amendments, the protection zones around the camps may maintain only those religious symbols approved by the Roman Catholic Church or other Churches in Poland. Thus, the bill is in line with the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church, which wants to maintain the so-called papal cross at the Auschwitz camp site and re-locate some 240 crosses erected by radical Catholics. The bill must still be approved by the lower house. JM
CZECH SOCIALISTS TO VISIT BELGRADE TO SHOW SOLIDARITY
A group of parliamentary deputies from the ruling Social Democrats will travel to Belgrade on a "solidarity mission," the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 23 April. The group is led by Jaroslav Foldyna, who said he wants "to know what we can do for the people who suffer most due to the war." He added that he is ashamed of Czech President Vaclav Havel's strong support for NATO's campaign in Yugoslavia. The Czech government has shown only lukewarm support for the NATO air strikes. In other news, Czech historians and politicians are informally debating the validity of the Little Entente treaty. Signed in the 1920s, it grouped the former Czechoslovakia, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (renamed Yugoslavia in 1929), and Romania in one military- political alliance. PB
FORMER DEPUTY CALLS LEXA MASTERMIND OF KOVAC JR. ABDUCTION
Jaroslav Ivor, the chief investigator in the 1995 kidnapping case of former Slovak President Michal Kovac's son, said on 22 April that testimony has been given implicating former Slovak counterintelligence (SIS) head Ivan Lexa as the mastermind behind the abduction, CTK reported, citing Slovak Television. Ivor said that Lexa's deputy, Jaroslav Svechota, has identified Lexa as such. Ivor said nine other members of the SIS are in custody for their roles in the kidnapping. Ivor added that a "parallel secret service" exists that is "trying to influence the investigation." Lexa was stripped of his parliamentary immunity and is in detention. PB
FINANCE MINISTER NOTICES INCREASED INVESTOR INTEREST IN SLOVAKIA
Brigita Schmognerova said in Bratislava on 22 April that there is a heightened interest among foreign investors in entering the Slovak market, TASR reported. Schmognerova spoke after returning from the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London. She added that the fact that Slovakia still has no president and Premier Vladimir Meciar's intention to run for that post in next month's elections are viewed unfavorably. In other news, Premier Mikulas Dzurinda said in New York that he expects Slovakia to be among the candidates for the next round of NATO expansion after this weekend's alliance summit in Washington. PB
CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS MILOSEVIC 'READY FOR PEACE'
Russian special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin told Reuters in Moscow on 23 April that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is willing to allow an "international presence" into Kosova. Before returning from Belgrade the previous day, Chernomyrdin outlined his peace plan to ITAR-TASS. That plan foresees the safe return of displaced persons and refugees, the implementation of a humanitarian aid program, the resumption of negotiations on autonomy for Kosova, the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosova and NATO forces from the border of Yugoslavia, an international economic reconstruction program for Yugoslavia, and an international presence in Kosova with the participation of Russian forces under the auspices of the UN. Chernomyrdin said that "what international organizations these will be remains to be discussed." He called his eight-hour long talks with Milosevic "not easy" but claimed he had achieved a "breakthrough." FS
NATO COUNTRIES REMAIN SKEPTICAL...
U.S. President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have rejected Milosevic's offer, saying it falls short of NATO demands, Reuters reported on 23 April. Chernomyrdin said in Moscow he will meet NATO leaders in Washington on 24 April. "The Guardian" quotes a French government spokesman as saying that the alliance must stick to its air campaign and not send in ground troops. Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema said in Rome that "the nature of [the proposed international] force is not clear, whether it would be military or civilian, and that's the point on which there is no agreement." German Deputy Foreign Minister Ludger Volmer told Germany's ARD television on 22 April that "when Milosevic appears to be making a concession in negotiations, it can be ambiguous.... It could be that this is one of the numerous feints that Milosevic has often used in the past." FS
...WHILE ANNAN 'ENCOURAGED'
UN spokesman Fred Eckard said on 22 April in New York that Secretary-General Kofi Annan is "encouraged" by Chernomyrdin's initiative and "eagerly awaits the details of what was agreed." He stressed that he has no details beyond Chernomyrdin's statement but added that Annan will travel to Moscow next week "to explore these ideas further with the Russian authorities." Observers noted that Milosevic proved particularly difficult and duplicitous in negotiations on practical details during the Croatian and Bosnian wars. Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 23 April that Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze offered to act as a mediator between NATO and Moscow, following an earlier request by Russian officials. FS
NATO TAKES 'MILOSEVISION' OFF THE AIR
A NATO missile struck the main offices of Serbian state-run television (RTS) in Belgrade in the early hours of 23 April, killing at least10 people. At the moment of the attack, RTS was broadcasting an anti-NATO speech by Milosevic. The station went off the air for several hours and then broadcast a limited fare of news and patriotic videos. The BBC reported from the scene that RTS staff members believed that NATO would attack only transmitters and not the main studio complex. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic called the attack "an act of barbarity." RTS is nicknamed "Milosevision" because it has long been the main vehicle for disseminating the president's views. Many observers believe that RTS and other nationalistic television broadcasters in the former Yugoslavia played a key role in fomenting ethnic hatred and fueling the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova. PM
SERBIAN MINISTER VOWS REVENGE
Serbian Information Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who was a key figure behind the highly restrictive 1998 media law, told journalists at the RTS building that he holds Western leaders responsible for the attack on 23 April. Vucic said that "such criminals as Clinton and Blair could not have been born by any mother. Just punishment will reach them. They are the biggest criminals and beasts. By comparison, even [German dictator Adolf] Hitler was but a little child," AP quoted him as saying. PM
BELGRADE HOLDS GERMAN JOURNALIST AS 'SPY'
Germany's SAT-1 television reported on 23 April that Serbian authorities are holding SAT-1 journalist Pit Schnitzler on suspicion of espionage. Joerg Howe, who is Schnitzler's supervisor, called the charge "utter nonsense." He added that "this is a blatant attempt to quash independent critical reporting," dpa reported from Berlin. Schnitzler was last heard from on 16 April, when he traveled from Belgrade to the Serbian frontier with Croatia. PM
PENTAGON SAYS AIR STRIKES HAVING EFFECT
Rear Admiral Thomas Wilson, who is the director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Washington on 22 April that the air strikes have impaired Milosevic's ability to move or supply his troops. Wilson added that NATO's air "campaign is having an impact on the morale" of Yugoslav soldiers.... Desertion rates...are on the climb." Elsewhere in Washington, British Premier Blair said that "this is a just war based on good, decent values" and directed at stopping ethnic cleansing. PM
WHAT ARE KOSOVA'S 'MYSTERIOUS TRAINS'?
Kris Janowski, who is a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), said in Geneva on 22 April that there have recently been what he dubbed "puzzling" movements of refugees along the border between Kosova and Macedonia. "Mysterious trains" of refugees have arrived from Ferizaj, with some being allowed to proceed into Macedonia and others turned back. "We don't understand what kind of game [the Serbian authorities] are playing," Janowski added. He called Kosova a "black hole," where the fate of thousands of displaced persons is unknown, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. PM
UN: FORCED LABOR IN KOSOVA
Mary Robinson, who is the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in Geneva on 22 April that Serbian forces are using "thousands" of displaced Kosovars as forced labor in the area between Mitrovica and Gjakova. She quoted refugees as saying that Serbian forces killed those who refused to leave their homes in Gjakova. PM
RELIEF WORKERS REACH STRANDED REFUGEES
Macedonian police allowed officials of the UNHCR into the remote village of Malina on 22 April after UN officials "lobbied the Macedonian authorities at the highest level," Reuters reported. Macedonian police had already begun evacuating some of the several thousand Kosovars to nearby villages when the aid workers arrived. Up to 100 refugees had been living in each home in Malina, while some Kosovars slept in the open or with farm animals in sheds. A BBC reporter called the conditions in the village "medieval." Macedonian police barred aid convoys from the village for several days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999). They said that the path into Malina is not safe because it runs through 50 yards of Serbian territory. Refugees told UNHCR officials that they came illegally to Malina because Macedonian police refused to let them enter at a nearby border crossing and because Serbian troops threatened to shoot them if they returned to Kosova. PM
MORE FIGHTING ALONG ALBANIA-KOSOVA BORDER
Officials at Albania's Public Order Ministry told an RFE/RL correspondent in Tirana that Yugoslav soldiers opened fire on the border post in Dobruna on 22 April, injuring an Albanian officer. An OSCE spokesman in Tirana told Reuters that a senior commander of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) was killed and four rebel soldiers wounded near Tropoja. Meanwhile in Washington, Albanian President Rexhep Meidani and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright agreed that Kosova must not be partitioned but placed under the control of an international protection force that can "guarantee the region's multi-ethnicity," Reuters reported. FS
ALBANIA EVACUATES REFUGEES FROM BORDER REGION
Information Minister Musa Ulqini told an RFE/RL correspondent in Tirana on 22 April that the authorities have evacuated 6,200 refugees from Kukes to other parts of Albania and will evacuate another 50,000 in the coming days. The total number of refugees in Albania has reached 360,000, of whom 110,000 are currently in Kukes. About 1,000 refugees arrived at the Morina border crossing on 22 April, saying they were on the road for eight days and beaten and robbed by Serbian police. Most of the refugees were from Mitrovica and Drenica. Some of them said that tens of thousands of Kosovars are trying to reach Albania but that Serbian forces have sent most of them back into the interior. They are now hiding in the hills. FS
SLOVENIA OPEN TO NATO GROUND TROOPS
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said in Ljubljana on 22 April that Slovenia will allow passage to NATO ground troops if asked. He stressed that it is Slovenia's duty as a member of the alliance's Partnership for Peace Program to permit transit. In Washington, Bosnian Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic said that the "NATO operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina is proof of the ability of the international community to make and keep peace." He added that "it is up to the international community to decide what kind of operation" it wants to use in Kosova, AP reported. PM
TENSIONS EASE AROUND PREVLAKA...
Yugoslav Admiral Milan Zec and Montenegrin Interior Minister Vukasin Maras reached an agreement according to which Yugoslav troops and Montenegrin police will jointly man checkpoints inside Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Podgorica on 22 April. At Debeli Brijeg, UN monitors said that some Yugoslav troops remain in the demilitarized zone but not on the border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999).The monitors added that tensions have eased in the Prevlaka area. PM
...BUT NOT ELSEWHERE IN MONTENEGRO
Yugoslav officials said in Belgrade on 22 April that foreign humanitarian aid cannot transit the Montenegrin port of Bar because the Montenegrin authorities have refused either to accept Belgrade's authority in the matter or to meet with Belgrade officials to set a policy. In Podgorica, Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic told a rally of some 10,000 supporters that the Montenegrin police must submit to the authority of the federal army. Elsewhere, Luigi Juncaj, who is minister for minority affairs, told Reuters that he wants members of ethnic minorities to stay put in Montenegro and not allow Belgrade to intimidate them into fleeing. PM
TURKEY SAYS ROMANIA EXTRADITING SUSPECTED PKK MEMBERS
The semi-official Anatolia news agency reported on 22 April that Romania has extradited more than 30 people suspected of being members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the last four months. According to the news agency, the PKK is extremely active in Romania. PB
MOLDOVAN TEACHERS ON STRIKE
Teachers at some 700 Moldovan schools went on strike on 22 April to demand the payment of back wages, ITAR-TASS reported. The leader of a teachers' union, Dmitri Ivanov, said the average teacher's salary in the country is 180 lei ($20) per month. He said some teachers have not been paid in eight or 10 months. Teachers have vowed to stay on strike until all wage arrears have been paid. The government owes about 100 million lei to teachers and has begun talks with union officials. In other news, Russian First Deputy Premier Vadim Gustov criticized Transdniestrian separatist leader Igor Smirnov after he refused to meet with Gustov by saying "the demeanor of [Smirnov] does not contribute to his reputation and is giving Russia the opportunity to take tougher and more decisive measures to solve [the Transdniestrian] problem," Russian Television reported on 22 April. PB
BULGARIAN HIGH COURT RULES FAVORABLY ON NATO REQUEST
The Bulgarian Constitutional Court ruled on 22 April that parliamentary approval was not needed for every instance of a NATO plane overflying Bulgaria, Reuters reported. The 12- judge panel was unanimous in its decision. Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov said the parliament may vote next week on his offer to grant NATO a 110-140 kilometer zone along Bulgaria's western border for NATO overflights (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999). Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the parliament building on 22 April to protest plans to grant an air corridor to NATO. And a NATO missile inadvertently landed near the village of Babitsa, near the Yugoslav border, early on 23 April. No injuries were reported. PB
EU TO DEVELOP TIES WITH ALBANIA, MACEDONIA
By Breffni O'Rourke
The EU is moving to develop special relationships with Albania and Macedonia to help protect those countries against the instability generated by the Kosova crisis.
Dirk Buda, a senior EU official in Brussels, told RFE/RL that proposals should be formalized by next month, with the prospect--for Albania at least--of adoption by the EU before the end of the summer.
His comments follow pleas for swift EU support for those two countries following the inflow of hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said earlier this week that Tirana will request a formal association agreement with Brussels as a step toward full EU membership. He said normal criteria should not be applied and a faster route should be found to integrate Albania into Europe. Officials from Macedonia have expressed similar sentiments.
Brussels however, has its own ideas on the issue. One of its considerations is that the existing list of 10 candidate members from Central and East Europe should not be upset by hasty preferential treatment for "newcomer" countries like Albania and Macedonia. The 10 candidates are now undergoing difficult negotiations or a detailed screening process. Some- -notably Bulgaria--have already expressed impatience at the slow rate of progress toward membership.
With regard to Albania, Buda, said that forging an association agreement with Albania now would do more harm than good, because the country's economy and institutions would be unable to cope. He said a formal association agreement is a complicated document and must be ratified by all EU member states. It imposes rights and obligations on both sides, including economic ones. "Albania is basically not ready for a kind of association with the union," he argued. "This would, for instance, mean the prospect of free trade [and] the reduction of customs duties."
Buda says the EU already has a comprehensive aid package for Albania in place since 1997 and has developed it further since the Kosova crisis. He says the underdeveloped infrastructure of the country can hardly absorb more aid. Nevertheless, he says the EU is working on a so-called autonomous measure for Albania, "meaning that we are preparing a council regulation which would be adopted and would grant Albania trade preference for instance. The idea for the time being is to upgrade the trade regime."
Buda says that the existing EU-Albania cooperation agreement is sparse in its provisions on trade, and Albania does not receive the preferential economic treatment accorded Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose products receive almost duty-free entry into the EU. An envisaged regulation would grant similar trade preferences to Albania and permit duty- free access to the entire EU market for Albanian industrial products and textiles (the Albanian textile industry is considered to have reasonable prospects within the EU). That regulation is to be prepared by May, for subsequent adoption by the EU, and could be ready for implementation by August.
Turning to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Buda sees it as more able to cope with some type of association with the EU. Macedonia, he argues, "is comparable with Bulgaria at the time [the latter] got the Europe [association] agreement, so there is certainly an economic ground, a sound basis for an association with FYROM, independent of the political arguing."
Buda says Macedonia faces the "classical" transition problems found in the region and is also disadvantaged by heavy dependence on trade and transport links with Serbia, which are now being disrupted. That makes Macedonia harder hit economically than Albania, although it has better organized industrial and agricultural sectors.
Buda expects rapid forward movement on some form of association for Macedonia. But he cautioned that this agreement might fall short of the association agreement, known as Europe agreement, currently enjoyed by countries like Bulgaria and Romania. The EU, he stresses, is aware of the impatience among existing candidate countries, which already have been waiting years for membership and doubtless have more years to wait. He argues that "to accept more and more people in the waiting room would create frustration.
Buda says current thinking in the EU Executive Commission is that it would be better to create a type of technical association for newcomers, without the perspective of accession as EU members. The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Prague.