Accessibility links

Breaking News

Newsline - July 28, 1999


Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin and U.S. Vice President Al Gore on 27 July agreed to begin talks on the START III and ABM treaties in Moscow in August. According to "The Washington Post" the next day, Gore said that the U.S. will not conclude a START III agreement until the Russian legislature approves START II, while Stepashin said the Russian government will try to bring the treaty to the State Duma again in the fall. Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich (Our Home Is Russia) told Interfax on 28 July that the treaty might be ratified sometime in October or November, but "deputies will proceed to ratification only under certain conditions--the international situation should be favorable." U.S. and Russian leaders also discussed cooperation on technology for missile defense systems or on intelligence to alert each other about missile threats from third countries, according to "The Washington Post." JAC


During a joint news conference after their discussion, Stepashin revealed that the two leaders had discussed the issue of spying. The same day, when asked to comment on a "Washington Times" article alleging that the Clinton administration asked Russia to voluntarily reduce its number of intelligence officer operating on U.S. soil, a Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) spokeswoman said that "if the Russian intelligence presence in the U.S. is compared with the presence of U.S. intelligence [operatives] in Russia, Washington has far surpassed Moscow." Another unidentified SVR official told Interfax that the appearance of the "Washington Times" article "was timed to coincide with Stepashin's visit to the U.S." and that both sides "might discuss mutual reductions in intelligence presence, but wealthy Uncle Sam's demands to what it thinks is a poor, and for that matter, weak Russia are inadmissible." JAC


Unidentified U.S. government officials told the "Journal of Commerce" on 27 July that a new program of food aid to Russia will start before December elections to the State Duma. The officials cite poor harvest forecasts and the requests to the U.S. Embassy by some Russian officials in regions south of Moscow to consider a new grain program. The previous day, Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Vladimir Shcherbak said that despite a revision in official predictions for this year's grain harvest from 70 million tons to 60 million tons, the country is not planning any large-scale centralized grain imports this year. He added, however, that Russia does intend to ask the U.S. to donate 2- 3 million tons of high-protein animal feed this year to ease the consequences of the poor harvest, Interfax reported. Shcherbak also conceded that the government might purchase a small amount of grain to assist remote regions in the Far East and North. JAC


One of the movement of governors and republic presidents, Vsya Rossiya (All Russia), will hold its second congress on 21 August in Ufa, Bashkortostan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 28 July. According to the bureau, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who heads Otechestvo (Fatherland), met on 27 July to discuss cooperation in the upcoming Duma elections. Shaimiev told Tatar Radio that discussions on an alliance between the two groups is continuing but that such a matter is not easily accomplished (see "Endnote" below). He added that he is not the only leader of Vsya Rossiya and therefore would not like to make statements on its behalf. According to "Vremya MN" on 26 July, Shaimiev and other Vsya Rossiya leaders consider former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov the ideal leader of a Otechestvo-Vsya Rossiya tandem because this would give both parties and their leaders equal status. JAC


Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced plans on 27 July for a new bloc of left forces called Za Pobedu (For Victory), Russian Public Television reported. According to "Kommersant- Daily" on 28 July, Tula Governor Vasilii Starodubtsev, Krasnodar Governor Nikolai Kondratenko, and leaders of the People's Power and Agrarian factions in the State Duma, Nikolai Ryzhkov and Nikolai Kharitonov, have all signed an appeal distributed by State Duma Deputy Valentin Varennikov calling on all patriots to joint the Za Pobedu bloc. According to the newspaper, consultations that Zyuganov is conducting with the Agrarians, Spiritual Heritage, and Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev, the leader of Rebirth and Unity, are continuing. However, Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that day that if his party were to join the KPRF list, then it would cease to exist. Movement in Support of the Army leader Viktor Ilyukhin also confirmed that his group will remain independent of the new bloc. JAC


Speaking to reporters on the last day of the annual meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Singapore, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov proposed that Russia and the association establish a barter trade mechanism in order to avoid mutual foreign-exchange constraints, AP reported on 28 July. By way of example, he proposed that ASEAN countries offer food supplies to Russia's Far East regions in exchange for Russian machinery and equipment. Ivanov also called for boosting cooperation in science, technology, and space exploration. "Russia possesses a number of cutting-edge technologies in the area of peaceful use of nuclear power, which could be widely applied in the ASEAN countries," the agency quoted him as saying. JC


A Russian Foreign Ministry statement released on 27 July noted that Russia and Iran have confirmed their support for the initiative to create a nuclear free zone in the Middle East, Russian agencies and Reuters reported. The statement, which was issued after a meeting in Moscow the previous day between senior officials from the Russian and Iranian Foreign Ministries, reaffirmed plans to broaden cooperation in disarmament, nonproliferation, and export control. Meanwhile, First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko told reporters on 28 July that Russia and Iran are negotiating a series of trade agreements worth $8 billion and that a number of bilateral scientific and trade agreements will be signed during a visit to Teheran by Foreign Minister Ivanov in the coming weeks, according to Interfax. JC/JAC


Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told reporters on 27 July that Russia will make foreign debt payments totaling $4.15 billion before year's end, excluding any payments to members of the London or Paris Clubs of creditors. Zadornov added that a recent vote by London Club members showed that only 3 percent favor declaring Russia in default on its Soviet-era debt. If the IMF board approves new loans for Russia at its meeting on 28 July, Russia should receive $1.9 billion before the end of year, according to Mikhail Zadornov, presidential envoy to international financial institutions. In an interview with "Segodnya" on 23 July, Zadornov concluded that Russia made a "deadly mistake which cannot be corrected" when it assumed responsibility for the debts of the former Soviet Union. JAC


Aslan Maskhadov has named Ruslan Gelaev first deputy premier with responsibility for law enforcement structures, Interfax reported on 27 July. Gelaev, together with former acting Premier Shamil Basaev and radical field commander Khottab, heads the domestic opposition to Maskhadov. The president told cabinet members he hopes that Gelaev's appointment will lead to a drop in crime, abductions and oil thefts. Also on 27 July, Chechnya's National Guard and Presidential Guard deployed forces to protect the section of the Baku- Novorossiisk oil export pipeline between Grozny and the border between Chechnya and Dagestan. It was the first time that those agencies were charged with guarding the pipeline. New presidential spokesman Said Abulmuslimov told Interfax that Chechnya must prove it is capable of abiding by the 1997 tripartite agreement with Russia's Transneft and the Azerbaijani authorities on ensuring the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1997). LF


In an interview with "Moskovskie novosti" cited by Noyan Tapan on 27 July, Robert Kocharian expressed satisfaction at the domestic political stability resulting from the 31 May parliamentary elections. Kocharian stressed his respect for parliamentary speaker Karen Demirchian and noted the willingness of the Miasnutyun faction, of which Demirchian is co-leader, to cooperate with other political forces. Kocharian said he anticipates that Armenia will be admitted to full membership in the Council of Europe in late 1999 or early next year. He expressed doubt that NATO will accept Baku's invitation to establish a military base in Azerbaijan and declined to comment on the possibility of routing a Caspian oil pipeline via Armenia, stressing that the oil export should not be linked to the search for a solution to the Karabakh conflict. Kocharian also stressed Armenia's readiness to establish diplomatic relations with Turkey. LF


President Heidar Aliyev signed a decree on 27 July scheduling the country's long-overdue municipal elections for 12 December, ITAR-TASS reported. Aliyev also signed into law the bill on municipal elections passed by the parliament on 2 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999). The local elections to between 3,500-4,000 municipal councils will be conducted under the majoritarian system. Speaking at a news conference in Baku on 25 July, parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov dismissed as "slanderous" claims made two days earlier by National Independence Party of Azerbaijan chairman Etibar Mamedov that changes recommended by the Council of Europe were made to 14 articles of the bill after it had been passed by the parliament. LF


Representatives of residents of the town of Sadarak, on the border between Azerbaijan's exclave of Nakhichevan and Turkey, told journalists on 27 July that tensions in the district remain high following the 12 July disturbances in which one person was killed and dozens injured, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1999). The villagers claimed that residents are being arbitrarily detained by police for questioning, and they demanded the dismissal of the local customs official they believe is responsible for the fighting. They also demanded that Azerbaijani President Aliyev take control of the investigation into the incident. The official originally appointed to conduct the investigation has been dismissed, according to Turan. LF


Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev told a cabinet session on 27 July that in the first six months of 1999, Astana and 10 of the country's 14 oblasts registered a decline in output, compared with the same period in 1998, Interfax reported. Budget revenues amounted to 86 percent of the planned amount, and the total taxes collected are inadequate to fund all state programs. On the plus side, Finance Minister Uraz Dzhandosov told the cabinet meeting that Kazakhstan earned almost $190 million from privatization during the first half of the year. He said the government's share in another 10 major companies, mostly in the oil and mining sector, will also be sold off. Oil and production during the first six months totaled 14.2 million tons, which was 5.5 percent above the figure for 1998 but still short of the planned 14.27 million tons. LF


Balghymbaev also told his cabinet colleagues on 27 July that the majority of the country's population is neither morally nor financially ready for the privatization of land, which he said will therefore be implemented "stage by stage," according to Interfax. He hinted that the new law on privatization of land will favor those engaged in the agricultural sector and bar the sale of land for other purposes, including "the burying of poisonous waste." LF


First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Silaev outlined Kyrgyzstan's national food program at an international conference in Bishkek on 27 July, Interfax reported. The program, for which the EU has provided a grant of 8.5 million euros [$8.55 million], is intended to ensure uninterrupted supplies of basic foods to all regions of the country. Silaev noted that the present problems and delays in doing so could negatively affect political stability. LF


Kyrgyzstan owes the UN $1 million in membership fees and will be stripped of its voting right unless it pays at least half that sum by September, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 27 July. UN representative Zamira Eshmambetova told journalists in the Kyrgyz capital that the country has no funds to pay the debt. Georgia had its UN voting right restored last week after paying its annual $200,000 membership dues but still has outstanding debts to the UN totaling $7.2 million, according to Interfax on 22 July. LF


At a cabinet session on 27 July, Saparmurat Niyazov approved Turkmenistan's development program for 2001-2010, Russian agencies reported. That program entails massive increases in the extraction of oil and natural gas, with production of the former slated to rise from 6.3 million tons to 27-30 million tons. The increase in gas production is presumably predicated on implementation of the planed Trans-Caspian gas pipeline project, for which the Georgian government expressed support on 27 July. More moderate increases are anticipated in cotton and grain production. The country's population is expected to increase from the present 5 million to 6.5 million in 2005. LF


Some 4,000 demonstrators marched through Minsk on 27 July to mark Belarus's old Independence Day. In 1996, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka moved the holiday from 27 July--the day on which Belarus declared its sovereignty in 1990--to 3 July, which marks the Soviet liberation of Belarus from German troops in World War II. The march was sanctioned by the authorities, but organizers changed its route and protesters clashed with the police some 500 meters from the presidential administration building. According to Belapan, police arrested several dozen people, including Mikalay Statkevich, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party. JM


Kaliningrad Oblast Governor Leonid Gorbenko said in Minsk on 27 July that Russian regional leaders support the unification of Russia and Belarus, Belarusian Television reported. Gorbenko added that he fully shares the position of Lukashenka with regard to creating a union state and opposes "any transition stages and half-steps that delay the resolution of the issue." Lukashenka stressed he is interested in developing close ties with the Russian exclave, including the use of the Kaliningrad port for shipping Belarusian goods abroad. JM


Supreme Soviet Chairman Syamyon Sharetski, who fled last week to Vilnius, met on 27 July with Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis. Sharetski informed Landsbergis about the situation in Belarus, stressing that Lukashenka's legitimate term has expired. According to BNS, Landsbergis praised the Belarusian opposition for its moderate tactics aimed at restoring democracy in Belarus and later predicted that relations between Vilnius and Minsk will not suffer because of Sharetski's visit. "We act in a moderate, restrained way," ELTA quoted Landsbergis as saying. Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas said that Lithuania, though recognizing the legitimacy of the Belarusian Supreme Soviet, must be guided in its relations with Lukashenka by a "pragmatic approach and the need to safeguard national interests through friendly economic and political relations," according to BNS. JM


Hryhoriy Omelchenko, head of the parliamentary anti-corruption investigation commission, told journalists on 27 July that President Leonid Kuchma ordered him killed, AP reported. "The [assassination] order was made personally by the president or with his tacit agreement," Omelchenko said, adding that two groups of killers were organized in Russia and received a contract worth $500,000 to dispose of him. According to Omelchenko, the assassination plan was linked to his investigation into foreign bank accounts held by Ukrainian high-ranking officials. Omelchenko was involved in the investigation into alleged money laundering by former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko and Oleksandr Volkov, the head of Kuchma's election team. JM


The Estonian government on 27 July issued the regulations on implementing the language law, passed in February. Under the law's provisions to be implemented, stricter language requirements will be needed in the public sector. The government is examining all the ramifications before implementing those parts of the law dealing with the private sector. However, implementation will also affect the medical profession, with regard to which Prime Minister Mart Laar commented "otherwise the ramifications for people may be very serious or even life-threatening," ETA reported. MH


The Latvian government on 27 July sacked head of the State Real Estate Agency (VNIA) Janis Motte. The five-man board of the VNIA was also dismissed, LETA reported. Earlier this week, acting Prosecutor-General Edvins Ziedins asked the government to investigate the activities of VNIA and to remove Motte. Ziedins accused Motte of violating the anti-corruption law by assigning state-owned apartments to people it had selected, including its own employees. In early July, the Constitutional Court rescinded the VNIA regulation on giving out apartments. Ziedins suggested that at least 60 were illegally distributed. MH


The government on 27 July approved the long-awaited bill on compensating people whose property was seized by the communist authorities. The so-called reprivatization law stipulates that the state compensate those former owners or their heirs who are unable to regain their property in kind. Compensation will amount to 60 percent of the value of that property and will apply to possessions confiscated from 1944- 1962. Miroslaw Szypowski, head of the Polish Union of Property Owners (PUWN), criticized the draft law, saying it should extend to confiscations dating from 1939-1943 as well and to property owned not only by the State Treasury but also by local communities. The PUWN supports a class action filed in New York in June by 11 Jews who demand restitution of their property in Poland. JM


A record number of Czech Roma requested political asylum in the U.K. last month, despite the British authorities' repeated refusal to grant that status to any of them, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 28 July. In the first half of 1999, more Czech Roma (588) requested political asylum in the U.K. than in the whole of the previous year (512). In June alone, there were 143 requests, but the daily said that the actual number is three times higher, since only family heads are registered for the purpose of official statistics. MS


Ludovit Kanik, head of the National Property Fund, on 26 July told Radio Twist that the "Ukrainian Mafia" operating in Slovakia has started threatening him in connection with "the uncompromising stand I took in the Nafta Gbely sale case." Kanik said he has written to the Interior Ministry asking for protection for himself and his family. Mikulas Dzurinda's government has asked the parliament to dismiss Kanik and his deputy for failing to prevent businessman Vladimir Poor from selling Nafta Gbely's subsidiary, Nafta Trade, to the U.S. Cinergy Company. Nafta Gbely was privatized under Vladimir Meciar's government and bought by Poor, who is close to Meciar. During the election campaign, Dzurinda promised to return the company to state ownership. MS


A plan for modernizing the air force envisages the purchase of fighter planes as well as upgrading the existing air fleet, the daily "Napi Magyarorszag" reported on 26 July. The plan calls for the purchase of 30-32 Western-made combat aircraft to replace MiG-21s and says that AN-26s transport planes must be replaced with four to six Western-made medium-size transport aircraft "within a few years." Meanwhile, air force command, which drafted the plan, expects NATO members to donate to Hungary aircraft held in reserve owing to military cuts or to sell them for a symbolic sum. MS


Former Foreign Minister Geza Jeszenszky, who is now ambassador to the U.S., told MTI on 27 July that the U.S. government is "fully aware" of the situation of ethnic Hungarians in Vojvodina but believes that raising the issue of autonomy now will make things difficult for the opposition in Yugoslavia. Jeszenszky said it "has been clear throughout the [Kosova] conflict that U.S. policy is to concentrate on one problem at one time." He also said that the Serbian opposition is not against the idea of an autonomous Vojvodina where ethnic Hungarians would be granted "adequate rights." MS


Justice Minister Zvonimir Separovic said in Zagreb on 27 July that the Hague-based war crimes tribunal has become a "means of political pressure against a sovereign Croatia by those who stand behind" the court, "Jutarnji list" reported. He did not elaborate. Separovic was responding to comments by a court prosecutor that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman is ultimately responsible for the actions of the Herzegovinian Croat military in Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 July 1999). Major Zagreb dailies quote several other Tudjman supporters as also accusing the court of playing politics. According to the same newspapers, several opposition politicians and journalists stress that the court is a politically neutral institution and that justice must be allowed to take its course. PM


Stjepan Kljuic, who was the moderate political leader of the republic's ethnic Croats until he resigned in February 1992, told the tribunal in The Hague on 27 July that the hard-line leadership of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) carried out Zagreb's policies during the 1992-1995 war. These polices included seeking a deal with the Bosnian Serb leadership to partition the republic between the Croats and Serbs at the expense of the Muslims, Kljuic added. He said that Zagreb's top representatives in the Herzegovinian HDZ were Dario Kordic and the late Mate Boban. PM


Ante Jelavic, Alija Izetbegovic, and Zivko Radisic, who are the three members of the joint presidency, said in Sarajevo on 27 July that preparations are complete for the 29-30 July summit on Balkan reconstruction and stability. Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic noted that representatives from the Balkan countries participating in the summit have agreed on a final declaration, which stresses democratization and human rights. The only point in the text on which the participants have yet to agree is that dealing with Serbia and the war in Kosova. Prlic added that he expects the participants to reach agreement on that point by the time the conference opens, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Some 4,000 SFOR troops will provide security for the gathering, a NATO spokesman said. PM


Both houses of the Bosnian parliament passed a resolution on 27 July calling on all government bodies to do everything possible to fulfill the conditions necessary for Bosnia's admission to the Council of Europe. The lower house passed a resolution urging the presidency to negotiate agreements on dual citizenship with Zagreb and Belgrade as soon as diplomatic relations are established with Yugoslavia. The lower house also approved a law on Bosnian citizenship, which the international community's Carlos Westendorp previously issued as a decree. PM


The international community's Carlos Westendorp said at the UN in New York on 27 July that there will soon be "social unrest" in Bosnia unless the more than 40 percent unemployment rate is cut. He stressed that privatization and foreign investment are the keys to creating jobs, AP reported. Westendorp noted that the authorities have done little to promote free enterprise and that Bosnia suffers from a lack of entrepreneurs. PM


Dragoslav Avramovic, who stopped hyperinflation during his tenure as National Bank director in 1994, told the "Berliner Zeitung" of 28 July that continuing economic isolation of Serbia will lead to a worsening of social conditions. That development, in turn, will not necessarily bring about the overthrow of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic but will certainly contribute to growing anti-foreign sentiments among the population. Avramovic stressed that Serbia needs hard currency to buy fuel and raw materials for its industries. He argued that expanded industrial output is the key to reviving Serbia's economy. Many observers believe that the prestigious and popular elderly banker will head the first post-Milosevic government. Avramovic will attend the Balkan summit as the guest of Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. PM


Some 17 economists, opposition leaders, intellectuals, and representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church announced in Belgrade on 27 July that they have drafted a stability plan for Serbia, Reuters reported. The text calls for a package of political and economic reforms. The first step would be to set up a transitional government with a one-year mandate to create the legal and political conditions for free and democratic elections. A spokesman for the group stressed that Serbia must avoid what he called a "Bucharest scenario," a reference to the violent overthrow of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in December 1989. PM


Biljana Kovacevic-Vuco, who heads the Yugoslav Human Rights Lawyers' Committee, said in Belgrade on 27 July that the authorities are preparing legal proceedings against up to 28,000 men for having refused to answer their military call-up notices during the war in Kosova. She stressed that the authorities plan to use legal measures to punish members of the opposition. On 28 July, Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic appeared before the Supreme Military Court to answer charges of draft-dodging. He told reporters that he hopes that the publicity from his trial will serve to hasten the end of the Milosevic regime. The previous day, he said on Montenegrin Television that "the army must urgently do everything it can to remove Milosevic from power if it wants to defend the country." PM


A UNHCR spokesman said in Belgrade on 27 July that his agency urgently needs $20 million to obtain food and shelter for some 173,000 Serbian and Roma refugees from Kosova. He added that the UNCHR does not know where all the refugees are or what needs they have. He added that the Serbian government "has made no preparation" for helping the refugees through the winter. The spokesman said that most refugees are housed in schools and will need new quarters once the school year begins, Reuters reported. PM


The New York-based organization Human Rights Watch published a 25-page report on 27 July confirming earlier reports that Serbian forces killed 47 ethnic Albanian civilians on 17 April near Gllogovc. The dead included 23 children under 15 years of age. The Serbs threw a grenade into the room where they were holding the civilians and then shot those who tried to escape. PM


A spokesman for NATO peacekeepers said in Prishtina on 27 July that KFOR soldiers on 24 July found an unguarded arms cache near Prizren "large...enough to support a platoon." Representatives of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) told NATO that the illegal cache was theirs, Reuters reported. PM


Albanian Democratic Party chairman Sali Berisha told party leaders in Tirana on 27 July that the party needs more "democratization and openness" in its internal discussions. He added that the Democrats should also work to "reach a consensus with other political forces on major problems facing the country," dpa reported. Berisha has taken several steps recently to reduce the polarization that bedevils the country's political life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 1999). PM


Rexhep Meidani said in Tirana on 27 July that the authorities should legalize the booming shadow economy, Reuters reported. He stressed that legalizing wealth regardless of its origin would encourage entrepreneurs to reinvest their gains in Albania and discourage cash outflow. The daily "Gazeta Shqiptare" wrote that Meidani's suggestion makes a mockery of the legal system. PM


Party of Social Democracy in Romania first deputy chairman Adrian Nastase told journalists in Turnu Severin on 27 July that Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu "never understood the stakes" of the Kosova conflict and that Romania "placed all its bets on one card, and lost." He said that during the conflict, Romania followed a policy of "passivity and servility" and "supported decisions that backed the interests of other countries" instead of "having the courage to stand up for its own interests," Romanian Radio reported. MS


Visiting Armenian Defense Minister General Vagharshak Arutiunian and his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, on 26 July signed a framework cooperation agreement between their ministries, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest reported. The agreement focuses on collaboration in the defense industry, military training, and the protection of military information. Also on 26 July, Foreign Minister Plesu met with visiting Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz and discussed bilateral relations and the Kashmir crisis. The following day, Aziz and Finance Minister Decebal Train Remes signed an agreement on avoiding double taxation. MS


In a 27 July declaration cited by Flux, the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) said the recent abduction of Kurdish leader Cevat Soysal (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 22 July 1999) "is a continuation of the plot against President Abdullah Ocalan," adding that the PKK and its allies have "every right to respond to international terrorism and abductions." The declaration said that "sooner or later, Moldova, Kenya, and other forces that allied themselves with Turkey will account for their deeds." Presidential spokesman Anatol Golea said on 26 July that it "cannot be ruled out" that leaks to the media on Moldova's alleged involvement were purposefully misleading. Golea said that during a visit to Turkey on 22-23 July, National Security Minister Valeriu Pasat "demanded explanations" from Ankara. The government of Bulent Ecevit later denied any Moldovan involvement in the affair. MS


President Petru Lucinschi has canceled a planned vacation in Turkey, ITAR- TASS reported on 28 July, citing Moldpres. Presidential spokesman Golea said "vacationing in Turkey is now risky for Moldovans," adding that in view of the Kurdish threats, security in Moldova itself has been tightened. MS


In a letter to Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on 27 July, Al Gore said that "the Bulgarian experience...on ways to grapple with a number of issues can be of great value to other states in the region and to Kosova in particular," AP reported. Gore said the successes of the Bulgarian cabinet "in promoting and implementing necessary economic and political reforms in the past two years have been well matched by your government's work to combat organized crime and corruption." MS


Prosecutor General Nikola Filchev on 27 July asked the parliament to strip Euroleft deputy Tsvetelin Kanchev of his immunity on suspicion of involvement in "serious crimes," AP reported, citing state radio. An official from the Prosecutor-General's Office said the precise nature of the charges will be announced to the legislature later, while Filchev said that if the house lifts Kanchev's immunity, he will order his arrest. MS


by Julie A. Corwin

In coming weeks, the unexpected announcement on 23 July that leaders of the self-proclaimed right-center groups have formed a coalition may seem a little less surprising. After all, Anatolii Chubais, leader of Pravoe Delo (Right Cause), Sergei Kirienko, leader of Novaya Sila (New Force), and Konstantin Titov, informal leader of Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia), have agreed only to a "Declaration of a Union" and its theses. They have not yet approved something more substantial--a common party list and platform. As a result, the new and as yet unnamed coalition consists primarily of an agreement to agree sometime later.

Indeed, on Russian soil, just the opposite of Neil Sedaka's song appears to be true: breaking up is NOT hard to do. If any general rule applies, it may be the law of entropy--that organized systems tend to become disorganized. As the date of the election approaches, fears of smaller groups that they may not overcome the 5 percent barrier could drive them together, but until that happens, personal ambition and conflicting philosophies appear more likely to cause fragile alliances to fall apart.

In recent weeks, for example, the Democratic Party of Russia opted to leave Golos Rossii, and both the Agrarian Party and the Movement to Support the Army have declared their intention this time around to run independently of the Communist Party in upcoming State Duma elections. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov pooh-poohed these announcements, hinting at that time that he had some mysterious plan to somehow unite all left forces. With the announcement on 27 July of the new coalition called Za Pobedu (For Victory), Zyuganov appears to be putting a new label on an old package since leaders of both the Agrarian Party and Movement to Support the Army continue to insist that they will participate in the election separately.

Regardless of how these moves work out, the right- center's announcement of a new union might have a galvanizing effect on the efforts of Otechestvo and Vsya Rossiya (VR) to unite. At their next meeting, leaders of those two groups may be tempted to issue their own press release declaring a meeting of minds similar to that supposedly experienced by the right-center groups. They may also want to counter increasing skepticism in the Russian media and among political analysts about an Otechestvo-VR alliance.

On 23 July, "Izvestiya" declared that the situation around the proposed coalition had become "more tense," noting that numerous negotiations between the two blocs have not yet yielded any noticeable results. The previous day, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" argued that Otechestvo "is the only realistic partner" left for VR, since the VR governors cannot find points of agreement with Golos Rossii or former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home is Russia (NDR). However, according to the daily, many governors "dislike" Luzhkov and display a certain envy of Luzhkov's successes in Moscow. Of course, "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which receives financial backing from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, may not have the most objective view of either Luzhkov, an enemy of Berezovskii, or Luzhkov's potential allies. But even more disinterested sources, such as "EWI's Russian Regional Report," have concluded that Luzhkov's current battle with the Kremlin could put him at odds with Shaimiev, who is more supportive of President Boris Yeltsin.

At the level of policy, the two so-called governors' groupings, VR and Golos Rossii, appear to have more in common with each other than with any of the other established political movements such as Otechestvo or NDR. Both groups are seeking increased power for the regions. In the most recent example of this aim, Golos Rossii leader Titov at a recent meeting in Khabarovsk suggested that an amendment to the law on presidential elections be adopted that would require the country's leader to win the popular vote in at least 45 of Russia's 89 regions in order to become president. VR members made a similar suggestion in May at their founding congress in May, proposing that all deputies from the State Duma be elected on the basis of the country's 450 electoral districts--rather than half by party lists, as under the current system.

On economic policy, the view of the two groups tend to diverge, with VR favoring "state capitalism" and Golos Rossii hewing to a more liberal economic line. But the real bloc- breaker is more likely personality and/or personal ambition. Shaimiev is only VR's de facto leader; officially, the group has no head and claims that its ranks are free of members with higher political ambitions or claims to top Kremlin posts. However, Titov, like Luzhkov, is believed to be a presidential contender.

Because the forces driving the politicians apart appear stronger than those driving them together, announcements of new unions are likely to be more frequent than the actual formation of genuine new parties or even electoral coalitions. But the fact that various groups are talking to one another highlights the growing power of elections in and of themselves: As every politician knows, it is usually better to be on the winning side even if one has to change his label or even his positions in order to be there.