ANOTHER SYNAGOGUE TARGETED
The only synagogue in Birobidzhan, the capital of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, has been attacked twice in the last five days, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 4 May. On 2 May, a menorah in the synagogue yard was broken, and the next day, a window was smashed, metallic Stars of David torn off the outer walls and 10 swastikas formed out of stones in the synagogue's yard. Meanwhile in Moscow, law enforcement officers told Interfax that the bombs that exploded near two synagogues in the city on 2 May were identical. Both devices were homemade and consisted of about 400 grams of TNT. JAC
CHERNOMYRDIN AGREES WITH ANNAN ON KEY DEMANDS FOR KOSOVA...
Following a meeting with Russian special envoy for Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin in New York on 4 May, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said there was "general agreement" between them over key NATO demands on Kosova. He said both sides agreed on the need for a withdrawal of Serbian forces and the return of refugees under the supervision of an international force. Annan, however, added that obstacles remain and there is still "quite a bit of ground to cover." He pointed out that the discussion focused on "how we get Belgrade to accept" some of those demands. OSCE Chairman Knut Vollebaek, who also met with Chernomyrdin, said that now "there seems to be more of a willingness from [Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic] to have an international component, an international force" in Kosova, AFP reported. He gave no further details. FS
...WANTS STRONGER ROLE FOR G-8
Chernomyrdin met with Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi in Washington on 4 May and discussed the possible role of the G-8 countries in solving the Kosova crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. In Bonn, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev said that high-ranking officials of the G-8 countries have developed a draft peace plan, which they will submit to a foreign ministers' meeting there on 6 May. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer insisted on the "robust participation of NATO" to protect returning refugees. Chernomyrdin met in Washington with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, and National Security Adviser Samuel Berger and later with Vice President Al Gore. White House officials reported no breakthrough, AFP reported. In Moscow, Russian Public Television said Chernomyrdin suggested a peacekeeping force that included heavily armed troops from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and "other countries that Milosevic can trust" and lightly armed NATO troops. FS
PRIMAKOV SAYS ECONOMY OVER THE HUMP...
In an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" published on 5 May, Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov said "Russia has passed the most acute phase" of its financial crisis. "There may still be some zigzags but we prevented inflation from becoming hyperinflation and even reduced it..., and other macro indices have improved as well," he said. Primakov repeated the refrain that he has "neither the ambition nor the desire to run for president in the next elections" and described his attitude toward the alliance of Otechestvo and Vsya Rossiya as "positive." At the same, he commented that he does not think it "appropriate to participate in any political movement" while in government. JAC
...AND CHANGES IN GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL 'NATURAL'
On the issue of whether more cabinet officials might be dismissed, Primakov said he "never stated that I would be against any changes in the government. On the contrary, the government is a living organism, and naturally changes must and will take place." Referring to rumors about the imminent dismissal of First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov and Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik, he said "we would lose not only professionals but also important opportunities in our relations with legislators." Mikhail Lapshin, leader of the Agrarian Party, of which Kulik is a member, told Interfax on 4 May that the party would oppose Kulik's removal from his post. Leader of the union of agricultural workers Aleksandr Davydov said that Kulik's departure at the height of the spring sowing season would be disastrous since only Kulik managed to arrange deliveries of goods crucial for this year's harvest. JAC
ANOTHER REGION NEARING DEFAULT
Credit agency Fitch ICBA has withdrawn its rating for Leningrad oblast, "The Moscow Times" reported on 5 May. According to a Fitch official, the withdrawal came at the request of regional officials and was not related to the oblast's looming default on $50 million in foreign loans (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 5 May 1999). The region had been rated at CC, indicating it was very close to default. The next region facing default may be the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, which will soon have to make a $100 million principal payment on a syndicated loan, the daily reported. Some analysts fear that one region's experiencing a default could have a domino effect, according to the newspaper. Citing Finance Ministry sources, "Kommersant-Daily" predicted earlier that nearly half of Russia's regions may default on debt owed to foreign creditors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 1999). JAC
YELTSIN ENCOURAGES PUBLIC TO CELEBRATE CHRISTIANITY...
Speaking at the opening of the first session of the Organizing Committee for the Celebration of the Approaching Millennium and the 2000th anniversary of Christianity, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said that the religious occasion "should be observed in every Russian family," ITAR-TASS reported on 5 May. JAC
...AS MILITARY REACHES EXCLUSIVE ARRANGEMENT WITH ORTHODOX CHURCH
Meanwhile, "The Moscow Times" reported the same day that more than 100 Russian Orthodox churches and chapels are operating on military bases throughout the country. Head of Russia's Council of Muftis Ravil Gainutdin has responded to that development by saying that the construction of churches in military garrisons is "discrimination" against Muslim soldiers, who make up 20 percent of all servicemen, the daily reported. The Orthodox Church's work in the military is based on priests' contacts with individual commanders and on a vague agreement between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Defense Ministry, the newspaper reported. According to Gainutdin, the Defense and Interior Ministries refused to sign a similar agreement with Muslim authorities. Archpriest Aleksii Zotov, deputy chairman of the Patriarchate's Department for Contacts with the Military, questioned the need for Catholic priests in the Russian army. "If there is a Catholic soldier, our priest, if he is not an idiot, will find a Catholic priest for him," he commented. JAC
RNE MEMBERS HOPING TO BECOME SECURITY GUARDS?
In an interview with "Ekho Moskvy" on 4 May, Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov confirmed that the neo-Nazi group Russian National Unity (RNE) could participate in parliamentary elections in 1999 as long as it forms a bloc with organizations that have already registered with the ministry. "Argumenty i Fakty" reported in its April issue that "30 or 40" industrial enterprises in Moscow Oblast are currently sponsoring the RNE, despite the recent court ban of its Moscow chapter. A director of a security firm told the journal that criminal groups are forming alliances with RNE and other extremist movements so that these groups can be deployed during showdowns with competitors or law enforcement officials. In addition, the source said that RNE members and other groups are trying to gain entry to the security business as a legal means of acquiring weapons. JAC
CRIME RATE RISING, LED BY THEFTS
The number of crimes reported in Russia in the first quarter of 1999 increased by 20 percent compared with the same period last year, according to Interior Ministry figures, Interfax reported on 4 May. Thefts accounted for almost half of the total figure of about 752,000, while the number of economic crimes jumped by 17.6 percent. JAC
PROFESSIONALS FACING HIGHER RISK OF UNEMPLOYMENT
The rate of unemployment in Russia--now at 12 percent--is increasing at a faster rate, according to the April edition of "Novoe Vremya." According to the journal, the chief source of the increase are dismissals, while the process of reorganizing small to medium-sized enterprises, which provide two-thirds of jobs, has turned out to be slow. Among highly-qualified workers, "jobs are being lost most rapidly." Twenty percent of the unemployed are professionals and only 10 percent have no qualifications whatsoever. JAC
NORTH OSSETIA RELEASES FINAL ELECTION RESULTS
The Russian Communist Party (KPRF) has the largest number of deputies--13--in North Ossetia's 75-member parliament elected on 25 April, Caucasus Press reported on 5 May, quoting Central Electoral Commission chairman Aslanbek Kairov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 1999). Seven deputies are ethnic Russians, while one is Armenian and one Kumyk. There are three women deputies. LF
DETAINED FORMER ARMENIAN MINISTER REFUSES TO COOPERATE
Former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian is refusing to answer investigators' questions, claiming his detention threatens the freedom and fairness of the parliamentary elections scheduled for 30 May, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 4 May. Siradeghian was detained at Yerevan airport earlier this week on returning to Armenia after a three-month absence in connection with a series of killings he is suspected to have ordered in his capacity as interior minister from 1992-1996 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 1999). Members of the opposition Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), of which Siradeghian is chairman, issued a statement on 4 May accusing the Armenian leadership of being unable to guarantee free and fair elections and of trying to exclude the HHSh from the election campaign. HHSh leaders also told reporters that they have lodged a protest with the OSCE election monitoring mission and are considering boycotting the poll. LF
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION URGED TO RETURN TO PARLIAMENT
Parliamentary first deputy speaker Arif Ragimzade has met with Yusif Bagirzade, one of the 17 opposition parliamentary deputies aligned in the Democratic Bloc, Turan reported on 4 May. Ragimzade urged those deputies to resume participation in the work of the legislature. The Democratic Bloc is refusing to take part in parliamentary proceedings until a debate is convened on the work of the parliament and of speaker Murtuz Alesqerov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April and 3 May 1999). Also on 4 May, the parliament passed in the first reading legislation on municipal councils and the conduct of municipal elections. LF
U.S. SEEKS TO REASSURE GEORGIA OVER ANTIQUITIES
The president of the International Arts and Education Fund has informed Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze that the fund takes full responsibility for the Georgian icons and other antiquities to be exhibited in four U.S. cities later this year, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian students and clergymen launched a hunger strike in Tbilisi last week to protest the planned exhibit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 1999). Some of the hunger strikers fear the artifacts may be clandestinely sold to private collectors, while others told RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau that "God's grace will abandon Georgia" if the icons and other religious objects are allowed to leave the country. LF
KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT CALLS FOR GREATER MEDIA FREEDOM
In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL correspondents in Astana on 4 May, Nursultan Nazarbaev said that Kazakhstan needs further democratic reforms, including the expansion of freedom of speech and the press. One day earlier, journalists had complained that the new draft media law currently under discussion would have the opposite effect. Marat Ospanov, chairman of the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament, similarly told the private television station "31" that censorship exists in Kazakhstan, although it is illegal, Interfax reported on 4 May. Ospanov said he himself is subject to censorship, which he blamed on the owners of unspecified media outlets. LF
FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER SUES JUSTICE MINISTRY...
A district court in Almaty on 5 May started hearing a case that former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin has brought against the Ministry of Justice for its refusal to register the "Respublika" newspaper, which is published by Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Amirzhan Qosanov, who is a member of the party's executive board, told journalists that all the necessary documents for the official registration of "Respublika" were submitted to the Ministry of Justice last August. LF
...CLARIFIES FUTURE PLANS
Speaking in London two days earlier, Kazhegeldin said he will not contend the parliamentary elections to be held in Kazakhstan in October, although other members of his party may do so, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Kazhegeldin hinted that he will not return to Kazakhstan until after the publication later this year of his new book, "Economic Modeling." LF
SLOVAK GOVERNMENT DELEGATION VISITS KYRGYZSTAN, KAZAKHSTAN
Deputy Foreign Minister Frantisek Dlouhopolcek headed a Slovak government delegation that visited Bishkek on 3 May and Astana the following day, RFE/RL correspondents in the two capitals reported. Dlouhopolcek met with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Muratbek ImanAliyev and representatives of the presidential administration to discuss inter-governmental cooperation. In Astana, he and Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev reviewed bilateral relations, economic and cultural cooperation, and the Kosova conflict. LF
TWELVE TERRORIST SUSPECTS DETAINED IN KYRGYZSTAN
The Ministry of National Security announced in Bishkek on 4 May that 12 people suspected of preparing terrorist acts at railroad and bus terminals in Bishkek were detained over the previous three days, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Weapons, cartridges, and drugs were reportedly also seized. An investigation is under way. LF
UN ENVOY DISCUSSES PEACE PROCESS WITH TAJIK PRESIDENT
Jan Kubis told journalists after meeting with President Imomali Rakhmonov on 4 May that he informed the latter about unspecified proposals drafted by the Contact Group for Tajikistan to expedite the peace process, AP-Blitz reported. Kubis also condemned opposition commander Mansur Muakalov's seizure last week of six police officers but expressed approval at the creation of a government commission to negotiate their release. AP on 30 April had quoted Kubis as blaming those abductions on the Tajik government's failure to implement agreements granting amnesty to opposition members. In a letter addressed to the Committee for National Reconciliation, Muakalov described the kidnappings as "a forced measure" in response to the "indifference" of the government and United Tajik Opposition leaders. LF
TURKMENISTAN TO OPEN MORE EMBASSIES
President Saparmurat Niyazov has issued a decree on opening embassies in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Tajikistan, Interfax reported on 4 May. That move is a follow-up to Turkmenistan's decision earlier this year to introduce a visa requirement for visitors from most CIS states (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"18 March 1999). LF
JAPANESE FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS UZBEKISTAN
Masahiko Komura met in Tashkent on 4 May with his Uzbek counterpart, Abdulaziz Kamilov, President Islam Karimov, and Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov, Interfax reported. Their talks focused on regional security and bilateral cooperation. Komura also attended the opening of the first Japanese International Cooperation Agency office in Central Asia. That body provides technical assistance in the transition to a market economy, environmental protection, and the development of transport, communications, and public health facilities. LF
INFLATION IN UKRAINE EXCEEDS 2 PERCENT
Ukraine's monthly inflation rate reached 2.3 percent in April, up from 1 percent in March and February, AP reported on 4 May, citing the State Statistics Committee. The hike was triggered by the government's April resolution increasing the price of electricity and gas, in compliance with the IMF requirements. Ukraine's planned inflation rate in 1999 is 19 percent, but many analysts see this figure as overly optimistic, arguing that the government is likely to print money to pay off wage and pension arrears before the 31 October presidential elections. JM
BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE BACKS YUGOSLAVIA'S ADMISSION TO UNION WITH RUSSIA
The Chamber of Representatives, the lower house of the Belarusian legislature, on 5 May supported the Yugoslav parliament's decision on the accession of Yugoslavia to the Union of Belarus and Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian Duma adopted a similar resolution on 16 April. JM
BELARUSIAN EARLY PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION PROCEDURE CONFIRMED
The opposition Supreme Soviet Presidium on 4 May confirmed the legality of the Central Electoral Commission's resolution stipulating that presidential elections in Belarus will take place over 10 days, from 6-16 May, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The resolution was questioned by Zyanon Paznyak, one of the two candidates in the elections (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 4 April 1999). The presidium said that early voting at voters' homes--given the "impossibility of organizing the ballot at specially assigned and equipped facilities"--is in full accordance with the law on presidential elections The presidium also adopted an appeal urging voters to participate in the elections. JM
SPECKHARD ADVISES AGAINST ANY ATTEMPT TO PREVENT OPPOSITION ELECTIONS
U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Daniel Speckhard told "Naviny" on 4 May that the Belarusian authorities should regard the opposition presidential elections as an expression of the political will of a part of the Belarusian people and should not use force to prevent the vote, Belapan reported. Speckhard added that the authorities' attempts to suppress opposition protests by force do not meet Belarus' long-term interests. Speckhard, who is currently on a short visit to Minsk, said certain progress has been made in his talks on the U.S. ambassador's new residence, but he did not specify when he will resume working in Belarus. JM
BELARUS DELIVERS HUMANITARIAN AID TO BELGRADE
A convoy of 30 trucks has delivered humanitarian aid to Belgrade and headed back for Minsk, Belapan reported on 4 May. The trucks carried food, tents, clothing, and blankets. Meanwhile, Belarusian Television quoted President Alyaksandr Lukashenka as saying that Belarus is ready to participate in the reconstruction of facilities destroyed by NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia. JM
ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT ENDORSES AUSTERITY BUDGET
The cabinet on 4 May approved a negative supplementary budget that reduces the volume of this year's budget by 1.03 billion kroons (some $70 million), ETA reported. Subsidies to farmers, which were to have been cut by almost one-sixth, have been left intact, while the biggest reductions were made in the reserve fund and in administrative costs. Budget expenditures currently exceed revenues by some 900 million kroons and less than one quarter of targeted annual revenues has been collected. Prime Minister Mart Laar warned that it may be necessary to make further cuts later this year. Under Estonian law, the budget must be balanced. JC
LATVIA ISSUES EUROBONDS
Latvian eurobonds worth 150 million euros (some $160,000) were issued on 4 May, LETA reported. The bonds have an annual interest rate of 6.25 percent. Credit Suisse First Boston organized the issue. Roberts Grava, the head of the Currencies Department at the Bank of Latvia, commented that "it is less risky and more profitable to take out loans abroad than within the Latvian domestic market at the current time." JC
LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT OPPOSED TO EARLY ELECTIONS
A statement issued by Valdas Adamkus's office on 4 May said the president is opposed to holding early parliamentary elections as a way of solving the situation that resulted from the resignation the previous day of Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 1999). Following Adamkus's meeting with representatives of the opposition Social Democrats, the office issued a statement saying that "the participants of the meeting agreed that early Seimas elections would be extreme and the least desirable measure to solve the current situation," Reuters reported. The next parliamentary elections are due in 18 months. The previous day, Adamkus had praised the Christian Democrats, the junior coalition partner of the Conservatives, for their position that the next government should be formed on the basis of the ruling coalition's majority in the parliament. The coalition is due to meet on 5 May to discuss the current situation. JC
POLISH PREMIER SUGGESTS REFERENDUM ON EU ENTRY
Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said on 4 May that in late 2002 or early 2003 Poland is likely to hold a referendum on joining the EU, AP reported. Buzek added that the government will prepare Poles for the ballot by launching a comprehensive information campaign on the EU entry process. "All citizens should be informed of the benefits and problems related to the integration," the agency quoted Buzek as saying. JM
SPY CASE INVESTIGATION BEGINS IN POLAND
The Warsaw Military District Prosecutor's Office has launched an investigation into two Polish Army officers suspected of spying for the former Soviet Union and Russia, Polish Radio reported on 4 May. State Protection Office (UOP) spokeswoman Magdalena Kluczynska declined to explain why the military prosecutor was notified about the case only now, even though the UOP had been "handling the case" since 1991. JM
DIENSTBIER SLAMS NATO
Jiri Dienstbier, the UN human rights commissioner for the Balkans and a former Czechoslovak foreign minister, said on 4 May in Prague that NATO should immediately stop its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, CTK reported. Dienstbier said the bombs are killing not only people but also local economies and the last vestiges of democratic development in Serbia. Dienstbier added that NATO underestimated Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's resistance and was unprepared for the ethnic purge and vast numbers of refugees. Finally, Dienstbier accused the West of applying double standards over the lives of "their" people and those of the Kosovars. He said a massive operation is used to retrieve one downed NATO pilot, but there were no air drops for tens of thousands of Kosovar Albanians because "some low-flying aircraft might be hit." PB
CZECH ARMY TO USE SLOVAK FIRMS TO MODERNIZE
Czech Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy said on 4 May in Brno that some Slovak firms will be contracted to help upgrade the country's military equipment, CTK reported. Vetchy did not mention which firms but said they will be involved in the modernization of T-72 tanks, combat helicopters, and ammunition. He added that about 25 percent of the defense budget has been allocated toward modernization. In other news, doctors announced that a bone marrow donor has been found for Josef Lux, the former head of the Christian Democrats, who was stricken with leukemia last year. PB
SLOVAK PREMIER UPBEAT ON WESTERN INTEGRATION
Saying that his government has made great progress in "de- Meciarizing" the country, Mikulas Dzurinda expressed optimism on 4 May about Slovakia's chances to join NATO, the EU, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, CTK reported, citing the daily "Le Monde." Dzurinda, who is in France for a two-day visit, said Slovakia will fulfill the requirements for OECD membership by the end of the year. Dzurinda and French Defense Minister Alain Richard unveiled a statue of Milan Rastislav Stefanik in Meudon, where the Slovak co-founder of Czechoslovakia worked. It was the 80th anniversary of his controversial death, and Czech President Vaclav Havel paid tribute to Stefanik at a statue of him in Prague the same day. PB
SLOVAK LANGUAGE LAW MAKING PROGRESS
The Slovak cabinet met on 4 May to discuss a proposed law on the use of minority languages, according to the daily "Novy Cas." Progress was reported to have been made during the session, which was chaired by Premier Dzurinda. The government hopes the bill can be approved by mid-July. Pavol Hamzik, the deputy premier for European integration, said a special session of the parliament might be held to expedite the law, which provides for a return to the pre-1995 situation. The EU is pressuring Bratislava to pass a language law as one of the conditions for joining the "fast track" countries in EU accession talks. PB
NATO TRANSPORT PLANES ARRIVE IN BUDAPEST
Five NATO transport planes carrying technical and small transport vehicles arrived at Budapest airport on 4 May, Hungarian media reported. U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Peter Tufo said it is probable that NATO will officially ask the cabinet to allow allied fighters to use Hungarian airports in launching attacks against Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, the opposition Free Democrats have withdrawn their support for a Socialist Party motion demanding that no attack be launched on Serbia from Hungarian territory. MSZ
HUNGARY ALLOWS TRANSIT OF POLISH TROOPS TO ALBANIA
The Hungarian parliament on 4 May voted to allow 140 Polish troops headed for Albania to transit Hungary by railway, MTI reported. The Polish military contingent, intended to protect NATO command posts and to assist in delivering humanitarian aid, was ready to set off for Albania last week (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 30 April 1999). JM
REFUGEES CONTINUE TO FLOOD MACEDONIA
Two trains brought more than 5,000 Kosovars to the Blace border crossing on 4 May. A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that in recent days, refugees have been arriving faster than the UNHCR can process previous arrivals and send them on to other camps (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 1999). He added that work in Blace has "turned into an exercise of trying to juggle and shuffle people." A spokeswoman for the UNHCR noted that some refugees reported that Serbian forces separated young men from the rest of the expellees at Prishtina train station. She added that other refugees "showed signs of heavy beatings." According to UNHCR statistics, there are 110,700 Kosovars in camps in Macedonia and an additional 93,370 staying in private homes there. PM
UNHCR TO SEND REFUGEES TO ALBANIA?
UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said in Geneva on 4 May that the UN body will soon move several thousand refugees from Macedonia to Albania in order to reduce the overcrowding in Macedonian camps. He added that "taking people out of Macedonia...is designed to allay fears of the Macedonian government and keep them on board," Reuters reported. Janowski described sending Kosovars to Albania as a "last resort," because that country is already "swamped" with some 400,000 refugees. He noted that refugees who go from Macedonia to Albania will be volunteers and that they will still be eligible for transfer to third countries. In Skopje, some 248 Kosovars left on a flight to Canada. The following day, an additional 453 refugees flew from Skopje to New Jersey. The two flights are the first taking Kosovars to new homes in North America. PM
UNHCR TO CLOSE KUKES REFUGEE CAMPS
Ray Wilkinson, who is the UNHCR's spokesman in Tirana, told AP on 4 May that his agency plans to move a refugee camp from Kukes to another location in Albania, farther away from the frontier. That camp accommodates some 30,000 people. Altogether the UNHCR plans to evacuate 100,000 people in several camps from the northern town. Wilkinson said that the UNHCR is concerned about security in the border region, where villages are a frequent target of Serbian artillery. A UN World Food Program spokeswoman said her agency turned down a request to improve the quality of the basic food relief it supplies in Kukes, arguing that "we don't want to seduce [the refugees] or increase the comfort level." Many refugees prefer to stay in Kukes rather than go elsewhere in Albania in the hope of an early return to Kosova or of finding relatives among new arrivals. FS
THOUSANDS MORE REFUGEES ARRIVE IN ALBANIA
Some 7,000 additional refugees arrived in Kukes on 4 May. Many told stories of a new wave of killings and robberies and of men being separated from women and children in several regions of Kosova in recent days, AP and Reuters reported. One refugee, who had been hit by a bullet, said he saw 20 to 30 people shot dead in Studime, near Vushtrri. Others said they saw at least 100 dead bodies along the road in that village. The Kosova Liberation Army's (UCK) news agency, Kosovapress, also said that Serbian forces killed about 100 civilians there, adding that the Serbs subsequently dumped the bodies into a mass grave. FS
SERBIAN SHELLS KILL ALBANIAN VILLAGER
One villager was killed in a Serbian artillery attack at Letaj, in the Has Mountains, on 4 May, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. Elsewhere, Allied Commander Europe General Wesley Clark told journalists that NATO is determined to destroy Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's war machine. He said that NATO takes seriously repeated border violations by Serbian forces and noted that the Apache helicopters in Albania are ready to go into battle. He did not give details of the planned operations. Meanwhile, two U.S. Army pilots were killed north of Tirana when an Apache helicopter crashed during a training mission. They were the first U.S. fatalities in the current Balkan campaign. It was the second crash of an Apache in Albania. FS
NAUMANN SAYS NATO SHOULD HAVE BEEN 'MORE ROBUST'
German General Klaus Naumann, who heads NATO's Military Affairs Committee, said in his farewell speech in Brussels on 4 May that the Atlantic alliance would have been more successful in its campaign against Milosevic if it had used "surprise and overwhelming force" from the very start. Naumann added that the alliance's credibility will ultimately depend on whether it can adapt its strategy to make "credible preparations" for a ground war, the "Financial Times" reported. He noted that it is more difficult for a coalition of countries, such as NATO, to take firm and decisive action than it is for a single state to do so. Naumann added that, unless NATO changes its tactics, it is likely that Milosevic will succeed in his "mass deportation campaign." Italian Admiral Guido Venturoni succeeds Naumann in the powerful Brussels military post. PM
SHEA: SERBS USING SLAVE LABOR TO BUILD 'MAGINOT LINE'
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said in Brussels on 4 May that reports from refugees suggest that Serbian forces have "virtually emptied" Prizren of its 180,000 inhabitants, including some 50,000 expelled in recent days. He added that the Serbs are "holding back" many men and using them...as human shields [and] to build a kind of Maginot Line" [of trenches] around Prizren." Shea said that the alliance is "very concerned about [the Kosovars] condition." He also presented a "macabre tally of this chamber of horrors" since Milosevic launched his crackdown in early 1998: 800,000 Kosovars have fled the province, 650,000 are internally displaced, 100,000 men of military age are missing, and 4,000 men are known to have been executed. Shea added that NATO has reports of mass killings in some 65 towns and villages and of mass graves in at least seven locations, Reuters reported. PM
NATO ATTACKS SERBIAN FORCES...
NATO's General Walter Jertz said in Brussels on 4 May that aircraft of the Atlantic alliance made an "especially strong" attack on the Yugoslav army's 125th motorized brigade in western Kosova and its 233rd brigade in the east of the province, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman noted that a U.S. F-16 fighter shot down a Yugoslav MiG-29 jet, the sixth plane of that type that NATO has downed since the air campaign began in late March. In Belgrade, Milosevic congratulated "the army and police for preventing the biggest aggressor in the world from capturing an inch of our territory." He added that the Serbian forces have "prevented incursions by terrorist gangs and fully destroyed units, headquarters, and infrastructure" of the UCK. PM
...USES PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE
Shea said on 4 May in Brussels that NATO has begun temporarily cutting off electricity to Serbian communities in an effort to "turn the lights on in the heads and minds of the Belgrade leadership" and persuade them to seek a settlement on NATO's terms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 1999). In Croatia, state-run television reported that the authorities turned down a request by the Serbian government to "urgently supply it with electricity." The broadcast noted that Croatian officials made their reply "following urgent diplomatic consultations with the U.S. [government] and the NATO high command.... The Croatian government said that its decision is in accord with its support for NATO forces." PM
COHEN: U.S. TO FREE TWO SERBIAN SOLDIERS
Secretary of Defense William Cohen said at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany on 5 May that he plans to recommend to President Bill Clinton that he release two Serbian soldiers captured by the UCK in Kosova and being held by the U.S. in Germany. Clinton is visiting Spangdahlem, where many of NATO's aircraft for Operation Allied Force are based. He will also visit Ramstein Air Base, from which many of the humanitarian relief missions depart for the Balkans. Before leaving Washington for Europe, Clinton stressed that any peace negotiations with Belgrade must lead to the "safe and secure" return home of the refugees (see also Part I). PM
MONTENEGRIN BUSINESSMEN TELL MILOSEVIC TO SETTLE OR QUIT
The Montenegrin Chamber of Commerce said in a statement on 4 May in Podgorica that Milosevic should either negotiate a solution to the crisis in Kosova soon or resign. The businessmen added that "the country will collapse completely" if the crisis continues much longer. PM
BLAIR ADDRESSES ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT
British Prime Minister Tony Blair called Yugoslav President Milosevic a "pariah in his own region" and said Romania's stability is threatened by the Kosova crisis, AP reported on 4 May. Blair thanked legislators for supporting NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia and said his government will formally support Romania's accession to the EU. Blair said that "Milosevic and his hideous racial genocide will be defeated." He said Serbia could "rejoin the world community" when the "dictatorship is cast out and real democracy returns." PB
FRENCH DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS ROMANIA COULD JOIN NATO IN THREE YEARS
Alain Richard told his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, in Paris on 4 May that Romania could become a NATO member by 2002, Romanian Radio reported. The greatest obstacle to Romania's accession to NATO is the state of the country's economy, Richard commented. Babiuc said the two also discussed compensation to Bucharest for the losses it is incurring as a result of the conflict in Yugoslavia. PB
POPE SENDS MESSAGE TO ROMANIANS
Pope John Paul II sent a message to Romanians ahead of his visit to the country on 7 May, Mediafax reported. The pope said he will bring "no sterile polemics over the worldly powers" but the "one and only God." The visit will be the first by a pope to a mostly Orthodox country. Airport officials announced the same day that journalists will have to pay special fees for access to the airport. An official said it will cost "billions of lei" (hundreds of thousands of dollars) to spruce up the airport for the papal visit. PB
LUCINSCHI WORRIED ABOUT DELAY IN WITHDRAWAL OF RUSSIAN ARMS
Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi said on 4 May that he is concerned that the second postponement of the scheduled Kyiv summit will delay the withdrawal of Russian weapons and military equipment from the separatist Transdniester region, Basapress reported. Lucinschi, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Russian Premier Yevgenii Primakov, and Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov were to meet in Kyiv on 30 April, but the meeting was canceled due to Primakov's back ailment. Some 12 trainloads of Russian arms are to return to Russia this month under an agreement signed by Moldovan Premier Ion Sturza and then Russian First Deputy Premier Vadim Gustov on 21 April. Gustov was sacked one week after his Moldovan visit. PB
BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NATO ACCORD
After nearly five hours of debate, the Bulgarian parliament voted on 4 May to approve the NATO accord granting the alliance limited use of the country's air space, AP reported. The vote was 154 to 83 with one abstention. After the vote, Premier Ivan Kostov said "this is a good day for Bulgarian democracy, which draws us closer to Europe." Hundreds of riot police were called in to keep apart pro- and anti-NATO protesters. Police said several thousand people took part in each of those demonstrations. Before the debate, the parliament unanimously approved a deal sending 94 tanks and 108 howitzers to Macedonia. In other news, Bulgarian Deputy Premier Aleksander Bozhkov said the U.S. has removed Bulgaria from its blacklist of countries that severely violate copyright laws. He said the U.S. ruled that the Bulgarian government has shown a commitment to enforcing such laws. PB
THE CRIMINALIZATION OF POLITICS
By Paul Goble
Several post-Soviet leaders are seeking to defeat their opponents in the courtroom rather than at the ballot box, an abuse of still fragile legal systems that threatens not only to poison political life but to further limit the chances that these countries will move toward democracy.
The latest example of such an effort and its consequences appear to be taking place in Kazakhstan. Late last month, Yuri Khitrin, Kazakhstan's chief prosecutor, announced that he has reopened an investigation into the affairs of Akezhan Kazhegeldin, a former prime minister who now leads the opposition to President Nursultan Nazarbaev.
Khitrin said that he is again looking into charges that Kazhegeldin and his wife engaged in money laundering and failed to pay taxes on their earnings. In Washington during a speaking tour of the U.S., Kazhegeldin proclaimed his innocence, vowed to fight the charges in court, and suggested that this legal move is intended to intimidate him.
Whatever the merits of these specific charges against Kazhegeldin, his suggestion that the Nazarbaev government is using the veneer of legality to drive him from political life appears credible, given the ways in which the authorities have deployed the legal system against him.
Earlier this year, officials in Nazarbaev's entourage prevented Kazhegeldin from running against the incumbent president in the 10 January poll. And they clearly hope that this latest charge will prevent him from taking part in parliamentary elections slated for this fall. Indeed, even if he is able to demonstrate his innocence in court, the charges themselves may be enough to prevent him from participating.
Using the legal system to block political challengers is hardly unique to Kazakhstan. Legal maneuvering against serious political challengers has taken place in Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation. And most recently, the Belarusian authorities arrested Mikhail Chyhir, also a former premier and a candidate in the opposition presidential elections scheduled for this month, on charges of "grand larceny" and abuse of office in his former capacity as a top bank official.
The advantages of such a strategy to incumbents are obvious. A legal challenge has the effect of discrediting opponents they do not want to face both at home and abroad. Many people in these countries hear such charges and assume that there must be some truth to them. And many abroad find the charges plausible enough to cause them to back away from supporting opponents of the current regimes.
But this misuse of the legal system does far more than exclude opponents from taking part in elections. First, it sends a chilling message to all citizens of these countries. If the regime is prepared to go after a former prime minister like Kazhegeldin, it will certainly be willing to go after anyone, from the highest official to the most ordinary citizen.
While no one is above the law, this use of legal proceeding suggests that there can be no certainty that the authorities in these post-communist countries will employ such measures in a lawful manner. And that reduces the chances that these countries will be able to become democratic and law-based societies.
Second, it undoubtedly limits the number of people who will think about going into political life and challenging incumbents. Anyone who sees what the authorities can do to someone who challenges their power is likely to think twice before trying to get involved.
Such fears narrow the politically engaged class and make it more likely that future political change will come in a ratchet-like rather than evolutionary manner, a pattern that could throw some of these countries into chaos when the current incumbents inevitably pass from the scene.
And third, such actions increase the value of incumbency. Many officials will do what they can to remain in office lest they find themselves subject to legal challenges following their departure. Not only will such efforts tend to further restrict the possibilities of political evolution, but they almost certainly will reduce the opportunities for the development of another generation of active political leaders.
Moreover, such legal actions against political opponents have the effect of increasing the importance of the immunity from prosecution that members of most of the parliaments in this region now enjoy. Few current members will want to give that protection up by leaving office, and thus many of them may be willing to vote for measures that extend their terms or guarantee their reelections.
At the same time, many may try to become deputies precisely to gain that advantage. But such efforts have another and perhaps more insidious consequence: they tend to isolate the political class from the population and thus reinforce the Soviet-era notion that the elite is permitted to do things that the citizenry cannot.
It is a fundamental principle of democratic governance that no one should stand above the law. But it is equally important that no one should be victimized by the political misuse of legal norms.