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Newsline - July 14, 1999


Twenty-year old university student Nikita Krivchun repeatedly stabbed the director of the Jewish Cultural Center in Moscow, Leopold Kaimovskii, in his stomach and face on 13 July, according to Interfax. Krivchun, who reportedly had a swastika drawn on his chest, told NTV that he acted alone and that the attack was "political" and part of his "struggle with evil, that is, with Judaism." Vladimir Gusinskii, president of Media Most group and the Russian Jewish Congress, called the attack a "consequence of the anti-Semitic hysteria provoked by a whole series of provocative statements made publicly by several prominent Communist leaders and their allies from the left wing and Nazi extremist organizations." Kaimovskii's condition is serious, Interfax reported. JAC


Meanwhile, "Novye Izvestiya" reported the same day that emigration to Israel from Russia and other CIS countries is rapidly increasing, with the number of people departing from Russia rising by 128 percent during the first half of the year. Almost one-third of the 1,054 Russian Jews interviewed after emigrating during the first quarter of the year cited rising anti-Semitism as the reason behind their move, according to an informal poll (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 1999). JAC


After weeks of negotiations, U.S. and Russian trade officials on 13 July signed agreements limiting Russian imports of steel to the U.S. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said the agreements "do not fully meet the interests of Russia's metallurgical industry" but they guarantee access to the U.S. steel market, ITAR-TASS reported. One document limits Russian imports of hot-rolled steel for the period 2000-2003, while a second sets quotas for 15 types of metal products over five years, according to the agency. Prior to the signing, Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin telephoned U.S. Vice President Al Gore to discuss steel trade. JAC


"Kommersant-Daily" concluded that Russian membership in the World Trade Organization is crucial to avoiding having to sign similar agreements in the future. It reported that according to Trade Ministry sources, terms for the delivery of commodities will be fully coordinated with the organization by the end of 2000, but negotiations over the services market will take much longer. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said the same day that the next round of talks on WTO admission, scheduled for December, will be decisive in enabling Russia to obtain the same rights as full-fledged members of the organization. JAC


After a series of unexpected delays, Russian Prime Minister Stepashin and Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko on 14 July signed a joint statement of the government and Central Bank on economic policy for 1999. Mikhail Zadornov, presidential envoy to international financial institutions, claimed that the document signed is "basically the same one agreed upon in April." He noted, however, that the budget deficit will be less than was agreed two months ago, Interfax reported. The document reduces the number of goods eligible for value-added tax relief and contains new clauses on restructuring the banking sector. According to Zadornov, the signing of the statement clears the way for Russia to receive credits from the IMF worth about $4.5 billion, to be realeased in seven tranches of roughly $630 million each, after the fund's board of directors takes up the issue on 28 July. JAC


An unidentified Russian negotiator in talks with the World Bank told Interfax on 13 July that the bank is dissatisfied with the government's efforts to restructure the country's commercial banks. According to the source, the bank is also unhappy with work on the law on production-sharing agreements and planned price control agreements. The source claimed that the bank's management has reached an internal decision to disburse the next tranche of Russia's structural adjustment loan "only in the fall, most likely in October," after the release of an IMF tranche. A confidential World Bank report on banking reform harshly criticizes the Central Bank's supervision of the banking sector and its practice of extending credits to weak banks, such as SBS-Agro, "The Moscow Times" reported on 14 July. JAC


Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told NTV's "Hero of the Day" program on 13 July that "there have not been and there will not be any attempts [to partition Kosova], these are rumors." He said "I want to stress once again: it is a unified peacemaking operation where servicemen of different countries fulfill one and the same tasks and shall act in close coordination.... We are trying to prevent the separation of local residents" along ethnic lines. Ivanov nonetheless accused NATO of committing "endless mistakes." He said that its bombing campaign was "insane," saying the alliance helped build up the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), ITAR-TASS reported. Asked about the future of Yugoslavia, Ivanov predicted that the Yugoslav people will decide the country's leadership "through democratic elections." FS


Foreign Ministry spokesman Rakhmanin told Interfax on 13 July that "the NATO contingents in the international peacekeeping forces in Kosova are obviously not doing everything they could" to demilitarize the UCK. He stressed that "the Russian peacekeepers stand for the interests of an interethnic, peaceful, and stable Kosova." Meanwhile, 460 Russian peacekeepers with 100 armored vehicles and 99.5 tons of cargo began to disembark from five navy vessels in Thessaloniki on 14 July, ITAR-TASS reported. They are expected to arrive in Kosova later this week. FS


In an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 14 July, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov declined to clear up the mystery surrounding his future political plans. Asked whether he will run in the State Duma elections, Primakov said "it depends a lot on circumstances" and "the most important condition is whether there is a real base created for the unification of [politically] sound centrist forces." Primakov did speak out in favor of the proposed union between Vsya Rossiya (All Russia) and Otechestvo (Fatherland), calling it a "very good idea." Primakov also expressed his support for amending the Russian Constitution to create the post of vice president and to require the next president to cede "part" of his authority to the government. JAC


Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" reported on 14 July that at their 12 July meeting, leaders of Pravoe Delo (Right Cause), Novaya Sila (New Force), and Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia) "seemed to agree" to create a single ideological and economic platform but did not even discuss the creation of a uniform election list. The leadership of Our Home Is Russia (NDR) still has to decide whether it will join the potential right-center formation. According to the newspaper, it is rumored that "a number of governors who are members of [NDR] and Golos Rossii say that they will never be on a list with [Pravoe Delo members] Boris Nemtsov and Boris Fedorov." One governor who is a member of both NDR and Golos Rossii is Tyumen Oblast head Leonid Roketskii. Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, who has flirted with the idea of joining a number of different groups, is so far formally only a member of NDR. JAC


Federal Security Service (FSB) agents in Primorskii Krai searched the apartment of prominent physicist Vladimir Soifer on 13 July, confiscating documents and letters. According to Russian agencies, the agents presented a search warrant claiming that Soifer's activities "pose a threat to the Russian state and its military security." Accusing the FSB of "persecuting those who care about Russia's ecological safety," the Socio-Ecological Union linked scrutiny of Soifer with another case in the region, the espionage and treason trial of military reporter Grigorii Pasko, who exposed the environmentally hazardous practices of the Pacific Fleet. "Izvestiya" reported the next day that Soifer is suspected of criminal negligence in his handling of classified information. According to the daily, Soifer's passport has been declared void and the laboratory he runs has been sealed. JAC


Speaking at a press conference on 13 July, former St Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak said he may run for president in 2000, Russian agencies reported. He said he will make a final decision following the upcoming State Duma elections, in which he intends to participate. Meanwhile, citing sources within the law enforcement agencies, Interfax reported the same day that at a meeting in Paris last week, Sobchak had received guarantees from a high- ranking official at the Prosecutor-General's Office of his personal immunity. During that meeting, Sobchak was reportedly interrogated in his capacity as a witness in the criminal case opened against him last September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 1999). JC


Meeting in Kazan on 13 July, leaders of 10 opposition parties and movements vowed to begin a hunger strike on 19 July to protest what they term infringements of voters' rights in the election legislation of the Republic of Tatarstan, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. In an open letter addressed to President Mintimer Shaimiev and parliamentary speaker Farid Mukhametshin, the opposition leaders said that the recently adopted amendments to the constitution and the election law provide the authorities with "huge possibilities" for manipulating the outcome of the poll and preventing the election to the republic's parliament of candidates who oppose Shaimiev's policies. They demand that between one- third and half of all deputies to the new parliament be elected under the proportional system and that the voting be conducted openly in accordance with "the democratic principles set down in the new Russian [election] laws." LF


The Chechen government issued a decree on 12 July shutting down all the republic's gas stations after none of those facilities was able to provide documentation proving it had acquired the gasoline on sale legally, ITAR-TASS reported. The move is the latest in a series intended to crack down on the illegal extraction and refining of oil in Chechnya, which has reportedly caused irreversible ecological damage to large areas. It is also intended to halt thefts of crude oil from the Chechen sector of the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk oil export pipeline, which prompted the Russian pipeline operating company Transneft to halt the export of Azerbaijani oil via that pipeline. On 13 July, Transneft President Dmitrii Savelev said his company has been unable to reach an agreement with its Chechen counterpart on a resumption of shipments of Azerbaijani oil, as Chechenneft cannot provide security guarantees. LF


Zhirayr Poghosian, who was arrested in Stepanakert on 9 July on charges of illegal weapons possession, has been released but will face trial in the next few months, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported on 13 July, quoting an unnamed senior prosecutor. He has also been charged with the "loss of documents containing state secrets." ITAR-TASS quoted the unrecognized republic's prosecutor-general, Mavrik Ghukasian, as denying rumors that a large sum of money was confiscated from Poghosian after his arrest. LF


Archbishop Garegin Nersisian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 13 July that the Armenian Apostolic Church has decided to convene a pan-Armenian National Ecclesiastical Assembly from 26-31 October to elect a successor to Catholicos Garegin I, who died of cancer late last month. The assembly will be composed of hundreds of elected clerical and secular delegates from the Republic of Armenia and all Diaspora communities. The Church statutes stipulate that the new catholicos should be chosen no earlier than six months after the death of his predecessor, but Archbishop Nersisian said the Church wants to enter the 21st century with a new leader. He also argued that the next Catholicos will have the urgent task of preparing for the celebrations of the 1700th anniversary in 2001 of Armenia's adoption of Christianity as the state religion. LF


One man was shot dead and four injured on 12 July in a confrontation between local Azerbaijanis and customs officials at the Sadarak border crossing between the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan and Turkey, Turan reported. The following day, some 200 Azerbaijani police forcibly dispersed a crowd of local residents who had congregated at the site of the shooting to pay their last respects to the dead man. Some 15 people, including some police officers, were injured in the incident, during which some 50 mourners were detained by police, according to the agency. ITAR-TASS on 14 July reported that senior Azerbaijani officials are travelling to Sadarak to investigate the incident and that journalists have been banned from visiting the site. LF


Two Abkhaz police officers were shot dead during an ambush in the breakaway republic's southernmost Gali Raion on 13 July, Interfax and AP reported. Two people were killed and one abducted two days earlier in a similar incident in the village of Pakuash in Ochamchira Raion, north of Gali. In the Abkhaz capital, Sukhumi, three bombs exploded in an abandoned building on the night of 8-9 July, and a further blast blew out the windows of the Gali Raion administration building on 12 July. LF


Following a telephone call on 13 July from Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev said a decision on whether to allow the planned launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome of a supply rocket bound for the orbiting "Mir" space station can be taken only after Moscow meets specific conditions, Reuters reported. Those conditions include a start to payment of Moscow's $300 million debt for rent of the Baikonur launch site. Kazakhstan's Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Pavlov, who heads the state commission to investigate the aftermath of the 5 July rocket explosion, repeated those conditions on 14 July to his Russian counterpart, Ilya Klebanov, whom Stepashin had sent to Astana to try to persuade the Kazakh leadership to allow the launch on 16 or 18 July of the "Mir" supply ship, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. LF


Speaking to journalists in Kyiv on 13 July, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said he cannot comprehend Kazakhstan's decision to block the launch, originally planned for 12 July, of a Ukrainian rocket that is to release a Ukrainian-Russian research satellite into orbit, Reuters reported (see also Part II). Kuchma added that Ukraine is incurring huge economic losses because of the delay. He noted that the Ukrainian rocket does not use the same highly toxic heptyl fuel as Proton rockets. Kazakhstan claims that spills of heptyl fuel have contaminated large swathes of its territory, a claim Russian experts have rejected. The head of Ukraine's space agency, Oleksandr Nehoda, told Reuters earlier on 13 July that Ukrainian Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko had appealed to his Kazakh counterpart, Nurlan Balghymbaev, not to penalize Ukraine for the 5 July Russian proton rocket disaster. LF


The Almaty authorities have reduced to 10 tenges (less than $0.10) the cost of using public transport for pensioners and invalids beginning 14 July, RFE/RL correspondents there reported. Pensioners had staged demonstrations in the city earlier this month to protest the abolition beginning 1 June of their right to free travel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 1999). LF


Some 50 mostly elderly residents of Naryn Oblast picketed the oblast administration building on 13 July to protest worsening standards of living and demand the resignation of President Askar Akaev, RFE/RL's Naryn correspondent reported. Two local senior officials met with the protesters. LF


At a special session on 12 July, the Bishkek City Council appointed Medetbek Kerimkulov as mayor, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. Kerimkulov had served as acting mayor since the resignation in late April of Feliks Kulov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 1999). Kerimkulov had previously been mayor of the cities of Tokmok and Osh. LF


The local security chief in Khovaling district, Abdullo Boboradjabov, was shot dead by unknown assailants on the night of 12 July, ITAR-TASS reported the following day. Security Ministry officials have declined to comment on the killing, saying only that an investigation is under way. LF


National Bank Chairman Pyotr Prakapovich said after meeting with Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 13 July that the president instructed him to take "immediate measures to strengthen the national currency as a basis for the unification of the currencies of Belarus and Russia." At the same time, Prakapovich noted that the adoption of a single currency is a complex process that is currently only at the "conceptual" stage. "For several more years we will be receiving our salaries, pensions, and allowances only in Belarusian rubles," Belarusian Television quoted him as saying. Former National Bank head Stanislau Bahdankevich told Belapan that the introduction of the Russian ruble in Belarus without economic reforms will immediately result in economic collapse, mass bankruptcies, and soaring unemployment. JM


Opposition parties intend to celebrate the end of Lukashenka's five-year term in office by organizing public protest actions, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 13 July. The United Civic Party will stage "popular festivities" in Minsk and other cities on 20 July. The next day, the Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) plans a "popular holiday" on a square near the presidential administration building in Minsk. "The crowd will simply ask President Lukashenka what he has done for Belarus during his five-year rule," BNF Secretary Vyachaslau Siuchyk told RFE/RL. The Belarusian opposition does not recognize the 1996 constitutional referendum, which extended Lukashenka's presidency to 2001. It is demanding that he step down on 20 July. JM


"There is and can be no alternative to the development of friendly, equal, and partner relations between Ukraine and Russia," Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told an annual officers' gathering in Kyiv on 13 July. In his opinion, the two countries' mutual understanding is proved by the continued presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet on Ukrainian territory and the nearly complete delimitation of the state border. Meanwhile, Moscow's "Segodnya" has suggested that the Kremlin will publicly question whether the Crimean port of Sevastopol belongs to Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 1999). According to the newspaper, this is a propaganda move intended to make political capital out of Russian sentiments toward Sevastopol and to undercut Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who is a staunch campaigner for returning Sevastopol to Russia. JM


The Ukrainian president has spoken by telephone with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, urging him to allow the launch of a Ukrainian-made Zenit rocket with a Ukrainian-Russian research satellite from the Baikonur cosmodrome, Reuters reported on 13 July. Last week, Kazakhstan banned space launches from Baikonur after a Russian rocket crashed, supposedly polluting soil and water with toxic fuel. "Each launch of Zenit rockets is a big political issue for us," Reuters quoted Kuchma as saying. Ukraine badly needs a successful launch after a Zenit crashed last September, destroying 12 satellites of the Globalstar consortium. Globalstar has said it wants to see at least one successful Zenit launch before it resumes cooperation with Ukraine. JM


Ukraine's foreign trade from January to May 1999 totaled $8.8 billion, down by 26 percent on the same period last year, Interfax reported on 13 July, citing Ukraine's State Statistics Committee. The negative trade balance amounted to $236 million or 21.7 percent of the level in the same period last year. The committee attributes this reduction largely to lower prices of Russian gas supplied to pay for gas transit across Ukraine. Russia accounted for 49.3 percent of Ukrainian imports, followed by Turkmenistan (10.5 percent), Germany (6.9 percent), Belarus (2.8 percent), and the U.S. (2.7 percent). JM


Farmers held a one-day protest action on 13 July, blocking roads in 20 districts, ELTA reported. Parliamentary deputy Ramunas Karbaskis of the Peasants Party said the farmers will continue to protest until the government adopts a rural strategy and satisfies key demands. Sugar beet farmers have been blocking roads for several days in the Marijampole region, and both dairy farmers and fishermen have hinted at protest action. Government leaders criticized the protest and blamed local governments for allowing the legally questionable roadblocks. Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas called on the farmers to negotiate so that the dispute can be solved "in a responsible and civilized manner." MH


Visiting Vilnius on 11-13 July, Irakli Menagharishvili held talks with his Lithuanian counterpart, Algirdas Saudargas, and with parliamentary speaker Vitautas Landsbergis, ITAR-TASS reported. Menagharishvili also met with President Valdas Adamkus to discuss bilateral relations, expanding trade and economic ties, and the prospects for increased cooperation, including in the transportation and communications sectors, between the Baltic and Black Sea regions. Menagharishvili told journalists that Lithuania and Georgia have identical views on world events and share the aspiration for integration into European and North Atlantic structures. In particular, he noted Lithuania's support for Georgia's recent entry into the Council of Europe. LF


Poland is to ask the EU to allow curbs on land purchases to remain in force after the country joins the union, Reuters and "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported on 13 July. Jan Kulakowski, Poland's chief EU membership negotiator, will inform Brussels that Warsaw wants a five-year transition period before permitting the free sale of land for investment purposes and an 18-year transition period for both agricultural land and housing plots. Many in Poland are afraid that rich Europeans, especially Germans, will buy up land in attractive regions, pushing its price beyond that the average Polish citizen could afford. Commentators say that in exchange for transition periods on land sales, Poland will have to accept a temporary ban on Poles' seeking employment in EU countries. JM


Roma from the north Bohemian town of Most are "seriously concerned about their security" and may start a "mass exodus abroad," the Association of Romany Regional Leaders said in a 13 July statement, CTK reported. The association said that the Romany population's security is being "seriously jeopardized by violent attacks by skinheads" who "increasingly terrorize them and attack their homes at night." It added that 20 Romany families have already left the country." MS


The European Commission on 13 July said it expects Slovakia to be included in the "fast track" group by the end of 1999, Reuters and CTK reported. Outgoing EU Foreign Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek said after meeting with Slovak President Rudolf Schuster in Brussels that he expects an October progress report on Slovakia's application to confirm that the country is ready to start admission talks. Van den Broek said that the new Slovak minority language law is an important step toward Slovakia's accession but noted that the commission will wait for the law to be evaluated by OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel. Earlier on 13 July, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told Schuster that the further expansion plan approved by NATO at its April Washington summit should be applied to Slovakia to allow its rapid integration into the alliance. MS


Vladimir Meciar, leader of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), on 13 July called for the resignation of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet, which he accused of condoning corruption in connection with the privatization of the Nafta Gbely gas storage company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 1999). Meciar said the cabinet is endangering the credibility and functioning of state institutions. He told journalists that members of the Party of Civic Understanding and the Democratic Left Party have proposed that their formations leave the ruling coalition and form with the HZDS a new cabinet also backed by the Slovak National Party. He said, however, that the HZDS has rejected the offer "for now." Both parties denied that claim, and Dzurinda said Meciar's demand for his cabinet's resignation was "irresponsible and ridiculous." MS


The Immigration Office in Helsinki on 13 July turned down the first 150 applications for political asylum by Slovak Roma who arrived in Finland with the recent wave of exodus from their country. A Finnish official told CTK that none of the 150 applications examined so far has been approved (see also "End Note" below). MS


A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Washington is "certainly not keen" to have Defense Secretary William Cohen's recent talks in Budapest expanded to include the issue of Vojvodina's autonomy, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 14 July, citing an AP report. "The last thing that the U.S. needs is yet another attempt at autonomy," he said. The daily also quotes a European Foreign Ministry official as saying "the Vojvodina issue will be at the bottom of the list of priorities" in talks aimed at achieving regional stability. MS


Representatives of the Montenegrin government and leading Serbian political parties began discussions in Belgrade on 14 July that are to focus on Montenegrin proposals to turn the federation into a loose confederation of two equal members. Zeljko Sturanovic, who heads the Montenegrin team, told AP that "we came here to feel the pulse of the Serbian parties." The previous day, Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan warned his coalition partners that his Social Democratic Party will leave the cabinet unless the government reformulates its proposals to the Serbs in what he called a less ambiguous fashion. Burzan's party favors independence. Observers suggest that most Serbian parties will be unwilling to recognize Montenegro as an equal, if only because it has less than one-tenth of Serbia's population. Montenegrin officials have suggested that they will call a referendum on independence if Belgrade does not meet their demands. PM


Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic did not invite representatives of the Yugoslav army to ceremonies near Podgorica on 13 July to mark the anniversary of the Montenegrin uprising against the Italian and German occupation forces in World War II. The army held its own ceremony one hour prior to Djukanovic's. AP reported that this was the first time since the end of World War II that the civilian authorities did not invite the army to participate in the annual ceremony. PM


The finance ministers of the G-7 countries--together with several representatives from the EU, the World Bank, the IMF, the European Investment Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development--agreed on 13 July in Brussels to organize an international donors' conference in the Belgian capital on 28 July. The EU earlier announced that it will invest $500 million for the reconstruction of the Balkans. The World Bank pledged an initial contribution of $60 million, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. The conference will take place at the same time as a Sarajevo summit of governments participating in the Balkan stability pact. FS


The participants at the Brussels meeting agreed that they will not grant any reconstruction and development aid to Serbia as long as Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and other indicted war criminals are in power. World Bank Director James Wolfensohn said Serbia will receive support only once it has a democratic government that "respects the international norms and standards," an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported from the Belgian capital. Wolfensohn made clear, however, that Montenegro is eligible for international aid. He added that experts are examining the details of how to make aid available to Podgorica. The participants agreed, moreover, that humanitarian aid can be given to Serbia. Wolfensohn stressed that rebuilding Kosova must not be funded at the expense of humanitarian and development aid programs in Asia, Africa, the Caucasus, and elsewhere, AP reported. FS


Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic said on 13 July in Jagodina, south of Belgrade, that "in 10 to 15 days, when the first round of rallies [in various Serbian towns] ends, we will embark on the biggest march in the history of the world. Some 1,000 people will start out for Belgrade from each of about 20 cities in Serbia. Each column will be headed by one opposition leader. We will give Milosevic five days until we reach Belgrade. We will tell him: Don't wait for us in Belgrade," Reuters quoted Djindjic as saying. He also told the crowd of some 4,000 people: "Get your shoes ready! See you on the squares of Belgrade." Police had tried to disrupt the rally by cutting off mobile phone links and diverting traffic through the center of town, where the protesters planned to congregate. Demonstrators responded by blocking traffic, and the rally went ahead. PM


Zoran Zivkovic, who is a Democratic Party leader and mayor of Nis, led a march of about 1,000 through Leskovac to the jail where police are holding television broadcaster Ivan Novkovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1999). The good-natured crowd chanted "We're going to jail" and "We're going to visit our friend in prison," Reuters reported. Police finally stopped the protesters near the prison. In Vranje, some 300 reservists continued their demonstrations to demand back pay. General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who commands troops in southern Serbia, visited the town but did not meet with representatives of the reservists, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM


The Association of Free and Independent Trade Unions issued a statement to all other Serbian unions on 13 July calling on them to join in launching a general strike to force Milosevic to resign, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Belgrade. The private Beta news agency quoted representatives of farmers' unions as saying they will begin blocking roads and bridges in Vojvodina next week and continue their protest until Milosevic stands down. PM


The VOA on 14 July quoted an NBC television broadcast as saying that a lawyer for indicted Serbian war criminal Zeljko Raznatovic "Arkan" contacted Belgian police on 25 June with the message that his client wanted to turn himself in. Belgian police could not, however, find Interpol's warrant for Arkan's arrest. Police contacted the Hague-based war crimes tribunal only to find that top officials there had already left town for the weekend. The court's 1997 warrant for Arkan's arrest was issued for Yugoslavia, not for Belgium. Its text is in English, which is not valid under Belgian law. A court spokesman refused to comment on the story, adding that the court does not make statements about "rumors." PM


UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented a five-point plan to the Security Council in New York on 13 July. According to his proposal, the world body will soon take over "full authority" in Kosova and later devolve power to a local civilian administration, AP reported. He stressed that a crucial moment will come later this year, when a UN police force is slated to take over police functions from KFOR. Annan also pointed out the importance of setting up a new and impartial judiciary. Observers note that a major weakness of the Bosnian peace settlement was that it left police and judicial functions in the hands of the three leading nationalist parties. PM


UN spokesman Kevin Kennedy on 12 July said that the UN will not allow Radio Prishtina to resume full operations unless Serbian and Albanian journalists there agree to create "a mixed work environment," AFP reported. He said that Albanians returning to the station's building and Serbs already working there failed to agree on a "common platform" for broadcasting. He added that the station will resume work only after the UN has established a "media board" following consultations with the OSCE. Kennedy added that until then, the UN staff will start to prepare "some very, very limited programming, which should not be confused with bringing Radio Prishtina back on the air." Kennedy argued that "if we rushed too quickly to fill this vacuum, we may in fact be creating bigger problems down the road." Only private radio stations have so far resumed broadcasting in Prishtina, some of those with international assistance. FS


Vladislav Jovanovic, who heads the Yugoslav delegation at the UN, presented a letter to the Security Council on 13 July arguing that Croatia's Prevlaka Peninsula is an integral part of Montenegro's Kotor Bay area and hence Yugoslav territory. Ivan Simonovic, who is Croatia's ambassador to the UN, responded that Jovanovic's letter constitutes an attempt at changing internationally recognized frontiers, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Prevlaka has been under UN administration for seven years. Annan recently recommended that the UN mandate be extended for another six months. At that time, Simonovic called Annan's proposal "nothing new" and stressed that Prevlaka must return to Croatian control. PM


Foreign Minister Boris Frlec said in Ljubljana on 13 July that his government will soon require visas for citizens of countries who currently need such documents to enter EU-member states. The measure will take effect on 1 January 2000 and will affect citizens of Macedonia, Turkey, Russia, Romania, and Bulgaria, among others. PM


President Emil Constantinescu told a 13 July meeting of the U.S.- Romania Action Committee that the West is treating his country unfairly, despite Romania's support for NATO during the Kosova crisis. "Every day an individual from NATO or the EU comes to Bucharest to congratulate us for the way we acted...but we have neither the security nor the advantages of NATO countries." The reward for such support, he said, is that Romania is suffering the consequences of the ongoing embargo on oil exports to Yugoslavia. In related news, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen, in an interview with the Hungarian daily "Nepszabadsag" on 13 July, said the process of NATO expansion "will not be accelerated," despite the help extended to the organization by Romania and Bulgaria during the Kosova crisis. MS/MSZ


Ion Iliescu told Reuters on 13 July that his country needs a "New Deal," like that launched by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt to overcome the Great Depression of the 1930s. He pledged to launch a "social market" of the kind the Germans had in the late 1950s and early 1960s if his Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) returns to power. At the same time, he said he has not yet decided whether to run for another presidential term. MS


PDSR first deputy chairman Adrian Nastase on 13 July told journalists in Cluj that an "explosive situation" might develop in Transylvania in the fall against the background of the country's "increasing economic, political, and social vulnerability." Nastase said he has "information" on the "strategy" planned by "Magyar revisionists" to create such a situation, but he declined to elaborate, Mediafax reported. MS


Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania chairman Bela Marko on 12 July demanded an urgent investigation of an incident in Odorheiul Secuiesc two days earlier in which participants leaving a meeting in the town's city hall discovered they were being filmed from a van belonging to the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI). The driver was surrounded by some 30-50 ethnic Hungarians and prevented from driving off. The local SRI head, who was summoned to the scene by the driver, admitted that the van belonged to his organization but refused to open up a locked compartment, claiming it contained military secrets. SRI director Mircea Gheordunescu July denied that the ethnic Hungarians were being filmed and said the van was there on another mission. MS


A meeting between Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and separatist leader Igor Smirnov in Chisinau on 13 July failed to bridge the gap between the two sides over the status of the Transdniester, Infotag reports on 14 July. A Tirsapol- drafted declaration on the "common state" amounts to a recognition of the Transdniester as a separate republic within a joint state, which is unacceptable to Chisinau. The two sides also failed to agree on ways of solving the problem of the $20 million debt owed by Chisinau for electricity supplies. However, they did sign several agreements on cultural cooperation, combating organized crime, and health. Lucinschi and Smirnov will meet again in Kyiv on 16 July at a summit also attended by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin. MS


Leaders of four opposition parties on 13 July presented to journalists in Sofia an "alternative program" to that of the present government, BTA reported. Georgi Parvanov (Socialist Party), Alexandar Tomov (Euro-Left), Kristo Petkov (United Labor Bloc), and Petar Dertliev (Social Democratic Party) said the program envisages the decentralization of power, cutting red tape and reducing the size of the administrative apparatus, slashing central administration budget expenditures, and introducing tax cuts. A fifth opposition party, the Liberal Democratic Union, contributed to the program a chapter on ethnic relations, but no representative of that party attended the presentation. The chapter was drafted in collaboration with the ethnic Turkish Movements for Rights and Freedom. MS


by Jolyon Naegele

Last week, Finland began requiring all visitors from Slovakia to have visas. The move came in response to the growing number of Roma asylum seekers from Slovakia who have been arriving in Finland since March, particularly over the past several weeks. They now number more than 1,100.

Slovak President Rudolf Schuster has welcomed the Finnish move. He said in Prague on 7 July that he has suggested to Czech President Vaclav Havel "a common conceptual proposal for resolving the Roma question in the Czech and Slovak Republics".

Schuster said that despite a visit by Slovak Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jan Figel to Helsinki in a bid to stave off the imposition of visa restrictions on Slovakia, the Finns "did not wait for days but rather just hours" before deciding to impose visas. He added that Helsinki made the right decision, noting that "time will confirm how these Roma were organized, in what manner, and why they were chosen."

On returning to Bratislava, Figel said that the Finnish move is temporary and that other signatory states to the Schengen Agreement are not considering requiring Slovak citizens to have visas. He said the exodus was "organized and had a speculative background". Schuster has also said he does not believe that the sudden exodus was spontaneous.

Similarly, Bela Bugar, the deputy speaker of the Slovak parliament and head of the ethnic Hungarians in the ruling coalition, says he suspects "anti-state activities" are behind the Roma exodus in a bid to harm Slovakia's chances of being belatedly invited to open membership talks with the EU. Moreover, he said the exodus is "an example of the total failure" of the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS).

The deputy chairwoman of former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), Olga Keltosova, said the SIS failed because it was too busy "constructing accusations against representatives of the previous government." She remarked that she fully expects the government to claim that "dark forces of the former coalition and the former secret police leadership are behind the Roma exodus."

The Slovak government's designated official for resolving the problems of the Roma minority, Vincent Danihel, visited Slovak Roma asylum seekers in Finland last week. He said their uniform explanations for why they left bore striking similarities to comments by two deputies from Meciar's HZDS during a 6 July parliamentary debate on the Roma exodus. According to Danihel, "it is not possible that this occurred by chance."

The independent Bratislava daily "Sme" quotes the head of passport control at Helsinki airport, Olli Kunnala, as saying many of the recent arrivals had previously unused passports issued six months ago with very similar identification numbers. He says the last batch of Slovak Roma to arrive was a group of 63 asylum seekers who flew in from Budapest on 6 July, seven hours before the visa requirement took effect.

Deputy Prime Minister for Minorities Pal Csaky also suspects a plot. He noted that the cabinet last week discussed materials provided by the Interior Ministry concerning specific individuals and two Kosice travel agencies that helped arrange the departure of the Roma. He rejected the possibility of an economic motive for the Roma's decision to go to Finland.

After the first meeting in Bratislava of the Coordination Committee for Resolving the Departure of Roma Abroad, Csaky announced last week that a group of Slovak civil servants will travel to Finland to meet with the asylum seekers. The deputy premier said the Slovak government is willing to provide them with new passports and charter flights home.

Csaky added that the Interior Ministry is investigating the Roma Intelligentsia for Common Identity group, which appears to be behind the exodus and has defended it publicly. He accuses the group's chairman, Alexander Patkolo, of deceiving the news media and the public.

Patkolo told reporters last week that Roma are leaving Slovakia owing to what he alleged is the country's poor economic and political situation, which, he argued, does not offer equal opportunities to all its citizens. He accused the government of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda of failing to resolve the build-up of problems involving the Roma community.

Csaky denies Patkolo's claims, saying that never has so much attention been devoted to the Roma question as over the last eight months. "I approached Roma leaders, held round- table meetings," he said. "We are implementing a pilot program in the Spis region, we have put into effect a project costing 1.8 million euros."

This is by no means the first outflow of Slovak Roma in the post-communist era. Two years ago, more than 1,000 Slovak and Czech Roma applied for asylum in Canada before that country reimposed visas. In the fall of 1997, Slovak and Czech Roma began applying for asylum in Great Britain, which responded by imposing visas for Slovak citizens. In March of last year, members of the Czech Roma Civic Initiative from Ostrava requested collective asylum in the U.S. for all Czech Roma. The U.S. State Department turned down their request.

In the nearly 10 years since the collapse of Communist rule, numerous Roma organizations have sprouted at the local and national level. But Roma have become the frequent targets of wanton acts of violence and even murder, largely by skinheads. Observers of the Czech Republic and Slovakia often argue that many Czechs and Slovaks are racist in their attitude toward Roma, convinced that virtually all members of the Roma community are criminally inclined and mentally impaired. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.