STEPASHIN FORMS ECONOMIC TEAM...
Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 25 May appointed Aleksandr Zhukov first deputy prime minister with responsibility for the economy and reappointed Mikhail Zadornov finance minister, NTV reported. Zhukov, who is a member of the Russian Regions faction in the State Duma and chairman of the Budget Committee, had earlier turned down an offer of the post of deputy prime minister, insisting that he be given a higher rank and that the country's economic policy-making team be composed of "like- minded" individuals. "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 25 May that the price Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin had to pay to persuade Yeltsin to upgrade his offer to Zhukov is the ceding of control over natural monopolies, such as Gazprom, to the other first deputy prime minister, Nikolai Aksenenko. JAC
...AS ZHUKOV SUGGESTS DEBT, BANK RESTRUCTURING TOP PRIORITIES
In an interview carried on NTV on 24 May, Zhukov said that if he accepts the position, he will focus on solving the country's foreign-debt problem and restructuring its banking system. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 18 May, Zhukov spent 10 years at the Finance Ministry and graduated from Harvard Business School. During his career in the Duma, which began in 1993, he "never presumed to criticize the government severely in public, while not entirely hiding his entirely liberal economic views." According to the daily, fellow deputies liked Zhukov's ability to seek compromise, allowing him to usher the budgets of three successive governments through the Duma. JAC
ZADORNOV TO KEEP CV READY?
In its May issue, "Kontinent" examined the record of dismissals of deputy prime ministers and ministers from the federal government over the last seven years and concluded that finance ministers have little job security. The journal found that the posts of finance ministers and chairman of the State Property Committee experienced the highest turnover, with a total of nine persons holding each of those posts from 1992-1999. Also vulnerable were ministers of the economy, health, and fuel and energy. Meanwhile, Nikolai Bordyuzha, former presidential administration head, may be out of work again. Citing unidentified sources," Kommersant-Daily" and Interfax reported on 22 and 24 May, respectively, that Bordyuzha has been dismissed from the post he only recently took over, namely head of the State Customs Committee. JAC
CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS "NO CONSENSUS" OVER KOSOVA...
Russian special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin told Russian Television on 24 May that none of the international negotiators on the Kosova crisis has made public details of their talks last week because those negotiators "have not reached a consensus yet and have nothing to show for all their efforts." Chernomyrdin stressed that his negotiations with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Finnish President Marti Ahtisaari were "complicated." He told ITAR-TASS that the main stumbling blocks continue to be the withdrawal of Serbian troops and the composition of an international peace-keeping force. Chernomyrdin told AP later that he persuaded Ahtisaari and Talbott last week to allow Yugoslavia to leave some troops in Kosova to guard Serbian "historical sites." Neither Talbott nor Ahtisaari has mentioned any such agreement. The three are scheduled to continue negotiations in Moscow on 26 May. FS
...CHARGES NATO WITH ARMING UCK
Chernomyrdin told ITAR-TASS in Moscow on 24 May that NATO countries are arming the Kosova Liberation Army. He also charged that the UCK has made $3 billion by selling illegal drugs. He offered neither proof nor details. FS
IVANOV SAYS NATO BOMBING CAUSED $100 BILLION IN DAMAGE
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Interfax in Moscow on 24 May that the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia has so far caused material damage totaling $100 billion and has left 1,200 civilians dead and more than 5,000 injured. He added that more than 500,000 people have lost their jobs because of damage to Serbia's economy. Meanwhile, Colonel- General Anatolii Kornukov, the commander in chief of the Russian Air Force, said the Yugoslav crisis has prompted Russia's leadership to consider an increase in air-defense spending, AP reported. FS
RUSSIAN STEEL EXPORTS PLUMMET, AS TALKS WITH U.S INTERRUPTED
Russian steel exports to the U.S. plunged 40.8 percent in April, compared with the previous month, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 24 May. Meanwhile, U.S. and Russian trade negotiators interrupted talks on steel trade in London on 21 May to study proposals, according to the Russian Trade Ministry's press service, Interfax reported. An unidentified source in the Russian company Severstal told the agency that talks so far have brought some progress, such as on the documents Russian enterprises will be required to present to the U.S. to export hot-rolled steel. Severstal faces a 73 percent duty on its exports to the U.S. if no agreement is reached between the two countries before 10 June, while Novolipetsk and Magnitogorsk steel plants face 218 percent and 150 percent duties, respectively, according to Interfax. JAC
FOREIGN MINISTRY AGAIN URGES END TO UN SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ
Responding to the UN Security Council resolution prolonging humanitarian aid to Iraq for another six months, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 24 May stating that "only the lifting of [UN] sanctions, instead of the palliative of [again extending aid]," will resolve Iraq's "humanitarian and socio-economic crisis," Interfax reported. The statement added that Russia will "work toward that end" and will also draw up a "new mechanism for monitoring Iraq's non-manufacture of banned types of arms." JC
MORE GOVERNMENT STAKES IN ENERGY COMPANIES UP FOR SALE
Prime Minister Stepashin signed a government decree authorizing the sale of federally owned shares in the Khakassia Coal Company (Khakasugol) and Krasnoyarsk Coal Company (Krasugol), ITAR- TASS reported on 24 May. The government will sell 75.6 percent of its 51 percent stake in Krasugol and 81.7 percent of its 51 percent stake in Khakasugol in single blocks at a commercial tender. Two days earlier, Gazprom Deputy Chairman Petr Rodionov told reporters that a 1.5 percent stake in Gazprom owned by the government will be sold in the near future. Rodionov said that Gazprom would like to acquire the stake itself through one of its joint ventures formed by its subsidiary Gazexport and Germany's Ruhrgas. However, Gazprom official Sergei Dubinin said on 24 May that the joint venture has already finalized a complex deal allowing it to acquire 1 percent of Gazprom shares in the form of ADRs (American Depository Receipts), Reuters reported. JAC
RUSSIANS DIVORCING LESS, MARRYING LESS
The number of divorces in Russia fell by almost 10 percent in 1998, according to the State Statistics Committee, "Rossiya" reported in its May issue. In 1998, there were 591 divorces per 1,000 marriages. In addition, almost every third divorce is requested by a couple that has been married for less than five years. Data also show that the number of marriages is declining and the number of single mothers increasing. In 1997, 25 percent of all mothers were single, compared with 20 percent in 1994. JAC
CENTRAL BANK CLEARED OF WRONG-DOING?
Auditor Eleanora Mitrofanova told Interfax on 24 May that the Audit Chamber did not find any violations during its audit of the Central Bank's Russian accounts. On 21 May, the Audit Chamber's board approved the results of the audit and sent them to the Central Bank and to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which is conducting the Central Bank's 1998 audit. On 20 May, Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko claimed that the auditors found no violations in the Central Bank's dealings with the Jersey Island firm FIMACO, ITAR-TASS reported. "The Moscow Times" predicted on 25 May that since the overall audit is being carried out by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which is one of the bank's own contracted auditors, the firm is unlikely to find any evidence of wrongdoing by its client. JAC
RUSSIA CONSIDERING APPOINTING ITS OWN KEN STARR?
ITAR-TASS reported on 24 May that the Federation Council's committee on constitutional legislation and judicial problems is examining a proposal to introduce the use of an independent prosecutor. According to the agency, Russian legal experts have examined the U.S.'s "law on government ethics," which is reportedly designed to restrict the control of the U.S. presidential administration over the investigation into abuses by its officials. Some of the experts told the agency that the Federation Council has the power to appoint an independent prosecutor who could conduct investigations into high officials without coming under undue pressure from those officials. Speaking on the subject of embattled Prosecutor- General Yurii Skuratov, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said on 18 May that the Skuratov scandal "does not benefit the country or the prosecutor's office" and "I can only say that the Federation Council is gradually moving toward strengthening the prosecutor's powers." JAC
TAX MINISTRY CALLS ZHIRINOVSKII A DEADBEAT
Less than a week before the gubernatorial elections scheduled to take place in Belgorod Oblast, in which he is a key contender, Vladimir Zhirinovskii has been accused of owing the federal government 3.9 million rubles ($159,000) in back taxes, Interfax reported on 24 May. The federal Tax Ministry accused the Liberal Democratic Party leader of owing taxes on a large number of assets such as apartments, houses, and other buildings throughout the country that are used by his party. Previously, Zhirinovskii had claimed that the houses belong to the party and not to him. JAC
STUDENTS, PROFESSORS, TRASH HAULERS DEMAND PAYMENT ARREARS
More than 1,000 professors and students at the Gorno-Altaisk Pedagogical College in Altai Republic picketed the college's administration building on 25 May to demand an eight-month backlog of salaries and student grants, ITAR-TASS reported. The total debt amounts to 1.1 million rubles ($45,000). Meanwhile, in the city of Artem in Primorskii Krai, a strike by more than 200 workers at a trash removal firm entered its eighth day. The workers called the strike to protest nine months of back wages, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 24 May. According to the agency, large piles of trash are growing in various neighborhoods around the city. JAC
STEPASHIN MOVES TO DEFUSE KARACHEVO-CHERKESS TENSIONS
Russian Prime Minister Stepashin met in Cherkessk on 24 May with the outgoing president of the Republic of Karachaevo- Cherkessia, Vladimir Khubiev, Russian presidential envoy Ivan Golubev, and the two rival candidates for the presidency, Vladimir Semenov and Stanislav Derev, Russian agencies reported. Stepashin announced after the meeting that Khubiev and Cabinet of Ministers chairman Anatolii Ozov have resigned voluntarily and that the chairman of the republic's parliament, Igor Ivanov, will head a provisional government. President Yeltsin has confirmed Ivanov's appointment. The provisional government will remain in power until the Russian Central Electoral Commission and Supreme Court rule on the validity of the outcome of the disputed 16 May presidential runoff election. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev expressed his approval of Stepashin's "sensible" approach to defusing tensions, according to Interfax. LF
MOSCOW, GROZNY PREPARE FOR YELTSIN-MASKHADOV MEETING
Russian Premier Stepashin has instructed the Nationalities Ministry to continue its preparations for the anticipated meeting between President Yeltsin and his Chechen counterpart, Aslan Maskhadov, Interfax reported on 24 May, quoting acting Nationalities Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov. Abdulatipov added that the talks will address "all aspects of political and economic relations and the entire negotiating process." In Grozny, Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Kazbek Makhashev told Interfax the same day that the Chechen commission set up to prepare draft documents for consideration at the Yeltsin- Maskhadov meeting has completed its work. LF
ARMENIAN PRESIDENT PREDICTS LIKELY OUTCOME OF PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
Speaking in the northern town on Dilijan, Robert Kocharian said that depending on the results of the 30 May parliamentary elections, he will invite representatives of the Miasnutyun bloc and the Dashnak Party to form a new government, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 24 May. Most observers believe those two groups will be the largest factions within the new parliament. Kocharian stressed that the next government must reflect the balance of political forces within the parliament. He added the new cabinet should pursue a more forceful economic policy rather than "engage in empty debates." Kocharian had earlier expressed his support for both Miasnutyun and the Dashnaks, and he suggested that he is seeking to defuse tensions between them. He also denied that the popularity of Miasnutyun's two leaders, Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian and former Armenian Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchian, constitutes a threat to his own position. LF
AZERBAIJAN SAYS U.S. KNEW OF CHINESE ROCKET SALE TO ARMENIA
State Foreign Policy Adviser Vafa Guluzade was quoted by AzadInform on 24 May as rejecting the denials by Armenian Defense Minister Sargsian and his Russian counterpart, Igor Sergeev, of Guluzade's allegations that Armenia has acquired eight Typhoon rocket systems from China (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 21 May1999). Guluzade added that the Chinese ambassador in Baku has confirmed that the sale took place and that U.S. envoy Stephen Sestanovich, who visited Baku on 22 May, said that the U.S. has information about the deal. Members of Azerbaijan's Turkic Nationalist Party and that party's youth organization picketed the Chinese embassy in Baku on 24 May to protest both the reported rocket sales and Beijing's oppression of its Uighur minority, Turan reported. The opposition Democratic Bloc, formed by 17 parliamentary deputies, has also demanded that Armenia return the rockets to China, Turan reported on 21 May. LF
DATE OF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S RETURN HOME UNCLEAR
Heidar Aliyev arrived in Ankara on the evening of 20 May to undergo a further medical examination at the military hospital where he was treated for bronchitis in January, ITAR-TASS reported. On 23 May, Aliyev traveled to the resort of Antalya to recuperate from recent heart by-pass surgery, where he will remain for some 10 days, Reuters reported on 24 May, quoting presidential administration member Ali Hasanov. On 22 May, Reuters had quoted an unnamed presidential aide as saying that Aliyev hopes to return to Baku for Azerbaijan's Independence Day, on 28 May. LF
GEORGIAN OFFICIALS IDENTIFY MORE SUSPECTS IN FOILED ASSASSINATION BID
Interior Minister Kahka Targamadze on 24 May said that "several dozen" parliamentary deputies and members of the Defense and National Security Ministries were involved in the foiled plot to kill President Eduard Shevardnadze and seize power in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Prosecutor-General Djamlet Babilashvili named former National Security Minister Igor Giorgadze as having masterminded the plot. Giorgadze fled Georgia after having been accused of an attempt to kill Shevardnadze in August 1995. His whereabouts are unknown. Intelligence Department head Avtandil Ioseliani said that the Georgian authorities were aware late last year that a new coup was being planned, but he denied that the CIA was the source of that information. LF
KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTY REPORTS REPRISALS AGAINST HUNGER- STRIKERS
Unnamed leaders of the Orleu Party said after visiting the southern city of Taraz that 12 employees of the town's phosphorus plant who launched a hunger strike to demand the payment of back wages were dismissed from their jobs on 20 May, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 25 May. Two of the strikers were fined, one jailed for five days, and the remainder reprimanded by the local court. In Karaganda, 10 inmates of a local prison stabbed themselves in the stomach in a protest at allegedly intolerable conditions, AP reported. LF
KAZAKH PRESIDENTIAL PARTY LOBBIES FOR ALLIES
Former Prime Minister Sergei Tereshchenko, who now heads the OTAN party, which serves a support base for President Nursultan Nazarbaev, has repeatedly tried to persuade the leadership of the Pokolenie (Generation) movement, which seeks to defend the interests of the elderly, to join a bloc that would contend the parliamentary elections later this year, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Pokolenie leader Irina Savostina said she declined the invitation as the movement does not wish to participate in elections. LF
KYRGYZSTAN CUTS WATER SUPPLY TO KAZAKHSTAN
First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Silaev announced in Bishkek on 24 May that the water supply to the Jambyl and Chimkent regions of neighboring Kazakhstan from the Kara-Bura reservoir in Kyrgyzstan was halted a week ago, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. According to Silaev, the governments of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan agreed last year that Kazakhstan would supply Kyrgyzstan with 560,00 metric tons of coal in 1999 in return for water from the Kara-Bura reservoir, but Kazakhstan has not sent any coal to Kyrgyzstan so far this year. Nor has the Kazakh leadership informed Kyrgyzstan when those deliveries will be made. Kazakhstan cut gas deliveries to Kyrgyzstan for several days last week to protest Kyrgyzstan's failure to pay outstanding debts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). LF
DEATH TOLL IN KYRGYZ ECOLOGICAL DISASTER HIGHER THAN ORIGINALLY REPORTED?
Jengish Jylkybaeva, a physician at the National Hospital in Bishkek, told RFE/RL last week that she recently visited Barskoon, the site of the spill of toxic chemicals in May 1998. Jylkylbaeva said that local records indicate that 22 people have died in the village over the past year, compared with a total of 40 deaths in the preceding four years. In two cases, the cause of death was given as cyanide poisoning. The Kyrgyz authorities say that only four people died as a result of the disaster. Speaking at a press conference in Bishkek on 24 May, First Deputy Premier Silaev defended as "adequate" the compensation agreement signed in January 1999 bu the Kyrgyz government and the Canadian Cameco Corporation, whose Kumtor subsidiary was responsible for the spill of chemicals. Parliamentary deputy Jypar Jeksheev argued last week that $3 million was insufficient to compensate all victims (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). LF
TAJIK OPPOSITION THREATENS TO SUSPEND PARTICIPATION IN PEACE PROCESS
In a statement issued on 24 May, the United Tajik Opposition said that its further participation in the Commission for National Reconciliation "is meaningless" unless the Tajik leadership immediately meets several key demands, ITAR-TASS and AP-Blitz reported. One of those demands is to increase the UTO's share of posts in national and local government bodies to the 30 percent provided for in the 1997 peace accord. The UTO is also demanding 30 percent representation in banks and foreign embassies; naming UTO commander Mirzo Zioev as defense minister; legalizing opposition political parties and media outlets; and releasing 93 jailed opposition fighters. Several of those demands were contained in an earlier ultimatum to President Imomali Rakhmonov by UTO chairman Said Abdullo Nuri, who returned to Dushanbe from Iran on 21 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 1999). The UTO also proposed a timetable for compliance with its demands by mid-July. LF
TURKMEN PRESIDENT RESHUFFLES CABINET
Saparmurat Niyazov named a civilian, Batyr Sardjaev, as defense minister on 24 May, replacing General Gurban Kasymov, who has been appointed minister of justice, ITAR-TASS reported. Sardjaev oversaw the military and law enforcement agencies from 1994-1996, when he was placed in charge of the oil and gas sector. Niyazov termed the Turkmen army one of the best armed in the entire CIS, but he added that the quality of training of its troops requires improvement. Niyazov also named Deputy Premier Yelly Kurbanmuradov to take over Sardjaev's former duties overseeing the oil and gas sector and former Central Bank chairman Khudaiberdy Orazov as deputy premier with responsibility for the banking system, according to Interfax. LF
BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION DEMANDS RELEASE OF FORMER PREMIER...
Some 1,000 people rallied in the Belarusian capital on 24 May to demand the release of former Prime Minister Mikhail Chyhir and "all political opponents of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka," Interfax reported. The Belarusian opposition believes that Chyhir was arrested on trumped-up charges. He was taken into custody after he had registered as a candidate in the unauthorized presidential elections. Meanwhile, Prosecutor-General Aleh Bazhelka recently said that in his former capacity as bank head, Chyhir is suspected of having issued not only a "dubious $1 million credit to a Canadian firm but also unjustifiable credits to various limited liability companies," RFE/RL's Belarusian service reported on 24 May. JM
...APPRAISES SHADOW PRESIDENTIAL POLL
The opposition Supreme Soviet Presidium devoted its 24 May session to assessing the alternative Belarusian presidential poll, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. According to the presidium, the shadow elections showed that Belarusians are against Lukashenka's staying in power until 2001, as stipulated by the basic law adopted in the 1996 controversial referendum. JM
CRIMEAN TATARS END PROTEST IN SIMFEROPOL
Crimean Tatars on 24 May dismantled a tent camp outside the Crimean government building after Crimean Premier Serhiy Kunitsyn had promised that the government will meet some of their key demands, Interfax reported. Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev told the agency that the protesters' main achievement was to obtain permission to set up a council to represent Crimean Tatars' interests in the Crimean government. Kunitsyn also gave permission to Tatar repatriates in the peninsula to own land and open their own schools. "What was do-able within the framework of the [Crimean government] has been done," Dzhemilev commented. JM
METHANE BLAST IN DONETSK KILLS 39 MINERS
A methane gas explosion in the Zasyadko mine in Donetsk on 24 May killed 39 miners, AP reported. Forty-eight miners were hospitalized with burns and suffering from trauma. Last year in April, a methane gas explosion in the nearby Skochinskyy mine killed 63. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma declared 25 May a day of national mourning. According to official data, a total of 358 Ukrainian miners lost their lives in mining accidents in 1998, while the figure for this year, before the 24 May blast in Donetsk, is 80. JM
ESTONIAN PRESIDENT IN GREECE
At the beginning of his state visit to Greece on 24 May, Lennart Meri met with his Greek counterpart, Konstantinos Stephanopoulos, to discuss, among other issues, EU and NATO enlargement, ETA reported. Greek and Estonian officials signed agreements on maritime transport, culture, and tourism. Later the same day, Meri officially opened a consulate in the port city of Piraeus. MH
ESTONIAN SPECIAL GROUP COMMAND CONSIDERED SOUND
Estonian Defense Forces Chief-of-Staff Ants Laaneots has submitted documents on the Special Operations Group (SOG) that detail the chain of command. In his presentation to the parliamentary National Defense Committee on 24 May, Laaneots described the status, operations, and structure of the elite unit. The submitted documents list the activities of the SOG as training military police, guarding military VIPs, participating in special military police and rescue operations, but the SOG can also be assigned other "special tasks," according to "Postimees." Committee Chairman Tiit Tammsalu said that "on paper, the management is in order," but with regard to the group's functions and status, he noted it is unknown "how some intertwine," "Eesti Paevaleht" reported. MH
CHARGES FILED AGAINST LATVIAN FORMER MILITARY HEAD
The Prosecutor-General's Office has filed charges of abuse of power against Juris Eihmanis, the former head of the Latvian military. The charges stem from the use of 43,000 lats ($73,000) earmarked for the Home Guards to refurbish an apartment in Riga. The former commander denies the charge. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison. Eihmanis currently holds a position at the Baltic Defense College in Tartu, Estonia, according to LETA. MH
VAN DER STOEL IN LATVIA
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel is in Latvia to assess the debate over the draft language law. In discussions with the parliamentary Education Committee, Van der Stoel noted that the language law must conform with international norms. Committee chairman Dzintars Abikis said the OSCE recommendations were "narrowed," LETA reported. The OSCE's chief concern is the bill's regulation of language use in the private sector, according to BNS. MH
LITHUANIA'S MAZEIKIAI OIL REFINERY SHUTS DOWN
The Mazeikiai Oil Refinery shut down completely on 24 May owing to a lack of crude from Russia, BNS reported. Company officials stated that the shutdown, which began on 21 May, will cost 300,000 litas ($75,000) a day. Russian oil transit authorities said domestic shortages are the cause of the crude shipment stoppage. Parliamentary Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis speculated that the stoppage is a political decision by the Russian government. MH
FIRST QUESTIONABLE LUSTRATION STATEMENTS TO BE EXAMINED IN POLAND
The Lustration Court has decided to launch lustration proceedings against four public figures whose lustration statements have been questioned by Lustration Prosecutor Boguslaw Nizienski, Polish media reported. The first officials to undergo lustration are a Peasant Party (PSL) deputy, a Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) senator, and two lawyers. SLD spokesman Andrzej Urbanczyk noted that the four people "represent" the former SLD-PSL coalition, adding that he does not believe that this is a coincidence. According to Bogdan Pek of the PSL, any parliamentary caucus can have "problems" with lustration. In his opinion, the lustration process has been carried out correctly. JM
POLISH MINERS CONTINUE PROTEST OVER RESTRUCTURING PLAN
Some 50 miners on 24 May occupied the Labor Industry building to protest social benefit packages included in Poland's coal mining restructuring plan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). Another group is blocking access to the Finance Ministry. "We are prepared even for a one-month blockade," "Gazeta Wyborcza" quoted miners as saying. Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski said the protest should be suspended and the government should start negotiations as soon as possible. He added that even though the money for severance payments to laid-off miners has been used up, the government could find other funds for that purpose. JM
CZECH LABOR, INDUSTRY LEADERS CRITICIZE GOVERNMENT
Czech labor and industry leaders on 24 May said the government is not doing enough to deal with the current economic crisis, Czech media reported. Both labor leader Richard Falbr and industry representative Stepan Popovic called on the government to pass a law on insolvencies and create the proper conditions for economic development. Prime Minister Milos Zeman said the two representatives should engage in tri-partite discussions involving the government, rather than making "cheap appeals," "Hospodarske noviny" reported on 25 May. The meeting between Falbr and Popovic came as some 800 workers at the CKD plant, who are on leave without pay because of the plant's financial problems, demonstrated outside company headquarters. Falbr warned that a "hot autumn" lies ahead for the Czech Republic as more and more companies can be expected to get into financial trouble. VG
SCHUSTER LEADS MECIAR IN SLOVAK POLLS
The latest poll on the Slovak presidential elections found that 55.9 percent of respondents support Kosice Mayor Rudolf Schuster, while 39.6 percent say they will vote for former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar in the second round of voting, scheduled for 29 May, TASR reported on 25 May. The poll was conducted from 21-24 May by the Institute of Public Opinion. In other news, Slovak Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner and his Czech counterpart, Vaclav Grulich, signed an agreement in Bratislava on 24 May on easing customs controls for Czech and Slovak citizens, TASR reported. VG
HUNGARIAN STATE SECRETARY INVOLVED IN LETTER SCANDAL DIES
FIDESZ parliamentary deputy Bela Gyuricza, one of the three state secretaries who had signed a letter lobbying for the appointment of the next U.S. ambassador to Hungary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 1999), died in hospital on 24 May after weeks of treatment. Gyuricza, aged 60, headed the security and defense secretariat of the Prime Minister's Office. Several FIDESZ members confirmed that they had signed the letter at Gyuricza's request. In other news, Spanish Foreign Minister Abel Matutes told his visiting Hungarian counterpart, Janos Martonyi, that Hungary's aspirations to join the EU are "all the more justified as Hungary has made the best progress of all countries seeking admission," Hungarian media reported on 24 May. MSZ
SERBIAN POLICE ARREST ANTI-WAR PROTESTERS
Police in Cacak arrested at least four members of the self-proclaimed Citizens' Parliament on 24 May and took them to police headquarters for an "informative conversation," which is the official term in Serbia for an interrogation. The four have been charged with taking part in an "illegal meeting," Reuters reported. Cacak Mayor Velimir Ilic has gone into hiding and is being sought by the police. In Krusevac, where anti-war protests have also taken place in recent days, tension remains high, "The Guardian" noted. Police there have refrained from breaking up demonstrations and arresting protesters "for fear of igniting a bigger revolt," the London-based daily added. "The New York Times" quoted one resident of Aleksandrovac as saying: "This is not a political protest. It is simply people who are trying to save their necks." PM
MORE SERBIAN TROOPS SENT TO KOSOVA
NATO officials said in Brussels and Washington on 24 May that the Yugoslav army has sent 10,000 additional troops into Kosova since NATO air strikes began in late March. The officials added that Belgrade may be seeking to improve its defensive position should NATO ground troops invade Kosova or to strengthen its negotiating position during eventual peace talks. In Washington, State Department spokesman James Rubin noted that Serbian forces are increasingly taking up stationary positions. Major-General Charles Wald, whom AP describes as a "senior U.S. military planner," noted that stationary troops cannot easily battle a guerrilla force such as the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). He added that the Serbian forces "don't have good places to go to sleep. They're living in the field." PM
SERBS SHELL UCK SUPPLY ROUTE IN ALBANIA
Serbian forces fired about 50 artillery shells into Albanian territory near Tropoja on 24 May in an apparent attempt to close a supply corridor used by the UCK. The route links Tropoja with the UCK-held Kosovar village of Koshare, which overlooks the plains of Junik and Decani. Elsewhere, Kosovapress reported that the UCK was involved in heavy fighting around Junik. In Tirana, Albanian Defense Minister Luan Hajdaraga said the Albanian army has begun reinforcing its borders with tanks and heavy weapons. FS
NATO SPEEDS UP KUKES EVACUATIONS
NATO forces began evacuating some 30,000 refugees from camps in Kukes on 24 May. NATO spokesman Helge Eriksen said that the Atlantic alliance plans to move out up to 1,000 refugees a day. Meanwhile, 1,239 refugees have arrived in Albania via the Morina border crossing. Most were women and children who had been walking for days, but the arrivals also included 164 men whom Serbian forces had held hostage at the prison in Smrekonica, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees told Reuters in Kukes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). He said some of the men who arrived that day were in "appalling" condition, with black eyes, damaged ribs, and injured feet as a result of what they said were beatings with rifle butts. FS
KOSOVA'S QOSJA URGES UNITY
Rexhep Qosja, who is a nationalist writer and leader of the United Democratic Movement of Kosova, told RFE/RL on 24 May that he welcomes the creation of a Kosovar "National Security Council" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). He said that the body "will not sideline the provisional government" of UCK leader Hashim Thaci as Kosova's executive body. He added that the council will function as a legislature and "thus give us the possibility to flesh out our institutional structures until we hold free elections." He stressed that all organizations represented in the Kosovar delegation at Rambouillet must have a place in the council. Qosja suggested that the council be open to other Kosovar organizations as well. He urged all rival Kosovar politicians to bury their differences, saying that: "I call upon everybody to meet, talk and agree. Our people demand that we stay together. Kosova has many big problems to solve." FS
BELGRADE: NATO HAS 'NO MORAL RIGHT' IN KOSOVA
Vladislav Jovanovic, who is Yugoslavia's representative to the UN, said in New York on 24 May that NATO countries have discredited themselves "both morally and politically in the eyes of the whole international community" by carrying out air strikes against Yugoslav targets. He added that NATO countries will not have "the necessary moral authority" to participate in any peacekeeping operations in the foreseeable future, AP reported. Jovanovic stressed that "it would be really unthinkable for one sovereign country to allow its own destroyers to play the role of peacemakers or peacekeepers." PM
UN REPORT DETAILS SERBIAN RAPE PRACTICES
French psychologist Dominique Serrano-Fitamant has completed a report for the UN Population Fund on the "extensive rapes" of Kosovar women from at least three villages at the hands of Serbian forces, Reuters reported from New York on 24 May. She noted that many of the women were beaten and that the rapes lasted "even for days." The Serbs systematically killed many of their victims, Serrano-Fitamant noted, adding that "any resistance is met with threats of being burned alive." She said that some women told her that they could identify their torturers as followers of "a certain well-known leader." She did not elaborate. Serrano-Fitamant wrote that some of the torturers cut off the ears and noses of young boys before slitting their throats. She also noted: "The torturers sharpened their knives in front of the women. They then cut open the stomachs of many pregnant women and skewed the fetus on their blades." PM
U.S. SENATE PASSES RESOLUTION ON WAR CRIMES
The Senate on 24 May approved a text calling for the "vigorous prosecution" of war crimes. Supporters of the resolution stressed that war criminals must be punished even if they are high-ranking Serbian officials. The text's backers added that the international community must not conclude any agreement with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that would grant him immunity from prosecution for war crimes. PM
YUGOSLAV ARMY WARNS MONTENEGRIN AUTHORITIES
The command of the Yugoslav armed forces stationed in Montenegro issued a statement accusing the Montenegrin authorities and media of making "baseless and malicious attacks" on the army, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 24 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). The text added that the military stationed in Montenegro are carrying out their duties "in a professional manner...under wartime conditions." PM
SLOVENIA READY FOR 'STABILIZATION PACT'
A government spokesman said in Ljubljana on 24 May that Slovenia is ready to participate in the international community's proposed "stabilization pact" for southeastern Europe once the Kosova crisis is over. The spokesman stressed, however, that Slovenia's role will not be that of an aid recipient but that of a provider of advice and economic assistance, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
LOW PARTICIPATION IN ROMANIAN GENERAL STRIKE
Fewer union members than had been expected took part in a 24-hour work stoppage in Romania on 24 May. Union leader Pavel Tudoran said the turnout had been "below expectations" and that the impact on public services had been limited, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. In other news, the fifth round of talks between Ukraine and Romania on border issues, which was scheduled to begin on 24 May, has been postponed at the request of the Romanian side, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 May. VG
ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS MOLDOVA
Radu Vasile on 24 May called on international organizations to include Moldova in any regional reconstruction effort following the resolution of the Kosova conflict. Vasile, who is on a two-day visit to Moldova, said his country has agreed to increase electricity supplies to Moldova and to open a new border crossing between the two countries at Costesti, according to a 24 May Romanian Radio report cited by the BBC. Vasile and his Moldovan counterpart, Ion Sturza, agreed to hold regular meetings in the future. The Romanian leader praised Moldova's "clear and categorical" openness to European values. VG
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SATISFIED WITH REFERENDUM
Petru Lucinschi is satisfied with the results of the non-binding referendum on expanding presidential powers, despite the low turnout, his spokesman Anatol Golea told Infotag on 24 May. With just 55 percent of voters taking part, the referendum was short of the 60 percent required to be considered valid. Nevertheless, Golea said that some 60 percent of those who cast ballots supported Lucinschi's initiative to increase presidential powers. He refused to comment on the fact that 20 percent of the ballots cast in the referendum had been declared invalid. Another 20 percent voted against Lucinschi's initiative. Golea said the president would use this "clear signal" of support to press on with reform. He said a constitutional commission will be set up to draft a law on amending the constitution. And he did not rule out the possibility of a second referendum on the proposed constitutional changes in the fall. VG
MOLDOVAN LOCAL ELECTIONS REQUIRE SECOND ROUND IN MANY MUNICIPALITIES
Many of the municipal and regional elections that took place in Moldova on 23 May will have to be repeated because no candidate won the necessary 50 percent of the vote, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 24 May. In the capital, Chisinau, acting Mayor Serafim Urecheanu won 47 percent of the vote, compared with 24 percent for Communist candidate Vasili Ivov, BASA-Press reported on 24 May. The two candidates will face each other in a runoff. The Interior Ministry reported that the elections took place without any major violations of the electoral law. However, a Council of Europe observation group noted that uniformed police were present in many voting areas and that a "great number" of ballots were declared illegal, BASA-Press reported. VG
BULGARIAN, MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTERS MEET AT ST. CYRIL'S GRAVE
Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and his Macedonian counterpart, Ljubco Georgievski, jointly attended a ceremony at the grave of St. Cyril in Rome on 24 May to mark the Day of Slavic Letters, according to a BTA report cited by the BBC. Kostov described the meeting as "historic" since it was the first time that leaders from Bulgaria and Macedonia had attended a joint ceremony on the holiday, which is recognized in both countries. In previous years, delegations from the two countries had kept apart. Kostov added that it would have been "ridiculous" for the two sides to continue past arguments in the face of the current conflict in the Balkans. Georgievski said the ceremony would promote friendship between the two countries. VG
NEW ARMS AGREEMENT AIMS TO EASE RUSSIAN FEARS
By Roland Eggleston
The U.S., Russia, and 28 other countries are putting the finishing touches on a new European security agreement intended to limit the possibility of a surprise military attack with conventional weapons.
The basic agreement, reached in Vienna on 30 March after years of negotiations, places restrictions on the deployment of battle tanks, artillery, and armored vehicles in individual European countries from the Atlantic to the Urals. The final text is expected to be signed in Istanbul in November by heads of government attending an OSCE summit meeting.
A senior U.S. negotiator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that one of the main goals of the new agreement is to defuse Russian concerns about a possible concentration of Western tanks, artillery, and armored vehicles in the three new NATO member states: Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. "NATO has made several concessions to ease Russian fears", he said, adding that "there are special restrictions on the number of both national and foreign forces which can be deployed in these countries on a permanent basis."
On the other hand, the new agreement also prevents Russia from increasing its permanent forces in Kaliningrad Oblast, which borders Poland and Lithuania, or in Pskov Oblast, which borders Estonia. Belarus also accepted restrictions on the military forces that may be deployed on its territory.
Another part of the agreement allows Kazakhstan to station a limited number of tanks, artillery, and armored vehicles at the northern end of the Caspian Sea to protect its oil installations. Kazakhstan is the only Central Asian country that is a signatory to the treaty, and the area around the north of the Caspian is the only part of the country covered by the document.
In legal terms, the new agreement is an update of the 1990 Paris Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, which cut the number of battle tanks, artillery, and armored vehicles held by NATO and the former Warsaw Pact.
Much of the 1990 treaty remains unchanged in the new agreement. But amendments were necessary because it sought to balance NATO and the now defunct Warsaw Pact. The new agreement focuses on individual countries and the number of tanks, artillery. and armored vehicles that may be deployed in them by either national or foreign forces.
The agreements allow each country both a national ceiling and a so-called "regional" ceiling. The former is the total number of its own forces. The latter is the maximum number of foreign forces that may be deployed on a permanent basis. The same system applies to artillery pieces and armored vehicles.
Part of the special arrangements made to reassure Russia about the new NATO members is that the "regional" total in these countries will be the same as the "national" total. This restricts the possibilities for deploying foreign NATO forces on their territory. Belarus has accepted a similar restriction, which NATO negotiators believe will prevent a build-up of Russian forces there.
In addition, the three new NATO members have agreed to reduce the size of their national forces in the next few years.. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic were in any case planning such reductions. A European negotiator told RFE/RL: "The structure of the armed forces in these countries was based on their being units of the Warsaw Pact. As members of NATO, the call is for smaller, more mobile forces."
NATO, however, insisted on flexibility in these arrangements to allow for rapid assistance in times of crisis. This part of the agreement allows reinforcements to be sent to another country under threat. In most cases, the initial reinforcement would be limited to a single brigade, which, in NATO terms, means about 150 tanks, 100 artillery pieces, and 250 armored vehicles. If the situation worsens, two brigades may be sent.
The ceiling on the deployment of foreign forces may also be temporarily increased in certain other situations, including joint military exercises under the Partnership for Peace program. In these cases some equipment may be moved from one country to another.
Restrictions on the number of foreign forces deployed in a single country may also be lifted temporarily for military exercises that are not part of the Partnership for Peace program. But this exception is surrounded by restrictions to ensure that the exercises cannot be turned into a threat against another country.
The negotiators have also agreed that the normal limits can be exceeded when military forces are supporting peacekeeping operations with a mandate from the UN or the OSCE. In such cases, the size of the forces deployed is determined by the mandate. Finally, the negotiators in Vienna agreed on the thorny issue of the size of the forces that can be deployed in the so- called "flank" areas: St. Petersburg Military District and the Caucasus. Ten countries are affected by the agreement on the flanks.
Initially, Russia wanted all restrictions lifted on its deployment of forces in these flank regions, particularly the Caucasus. Under the final agreement, in certain circumstances the "territorial" limit of national and foreign forces in these regions can be exceeded by the temporary deployment of one brigade in the region.
The agreement also allows for temporary arrangements allowing countries in the flank region to amend the limits in favor of another country. Negotiators say that in certain circumstances, this would allow Russia to increase the size of its forces in the flank region but only if other countries reduced their own numbers.
The author is a senior RFE/RL correspondent based in Munich.