|Thursday, 14 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 32, 97-05-16
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 32, 16 May 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN PREMIER RAISES POSSIBILITY OF ANNEXING NAGORNO-KARABAKHRobert Kocharyan, former president of the self-proclaimed Nagorno- Karabakh Republic, told the Armenian parliament yesterday that "serious discussion" could be given to the possibility of the enclave's incorporation into Armenia if the government of the NKR made a formal request to that effect, according to Interfax. Foreign Minister Aleksandr Arzoumanian, however, told the parliament that the question of Nagorno- Karabakh's future status should be resolved by the OSCE Minsk Group. Representatives of the group met in Washington yesterday, RFE/RL reported.
 NEW DEAL SIGNED ON CASPIAN PIPELINE CONSORTIUMMembers of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium met in Moscow today to sign a new agreement on dividing shares in the project, Interfax reported. Representatives of the governments of Russia, Kazakstan, and Oman as well the oil companies involved in the project took part in the signing ceremony. Russia owns 24% of the shares, Kazakstan 19%, Oman 7%, Chevron Oil 15%, Mobil Oil 7.5%, Oryx 1.75%, the LukArco joint venture 12.5%, Russian-British company Rosneft-Shell 7.5%, British Gas and Agip 2% each, and Kazakstan Pipeline 1.75%.
 NAZARBAYEV WANTS RUSSIAN PRESS TO PROMOTE RELATIONS WITH KAZAKSTANKazak President Nursultan Nazarbayev today told visiting Russian journalists they should promote broadening cooperation between Kazakstan and Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. He said he wanted Russian media to help create a "mutually advantageous atmosphere" for the development of bilateral relations. He added they also should help "break the resistance" of certain forces in Russia who oppose Kazak-Russian cooperation on a new "equal" level. The delegation of Russian journalists is led by Russian presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii.
 KYRGYZSTAN ADOPTS ANTI-INFLATION MEASURESThe government has approved measures designed to cut inflation to 17% this year, according to Interfax. The prices of goods and services are to be controlled and value- added tax on utilities slashed. The government will "tightly regulate" the money supply and float the rate of the national currency. It also plans to ask Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia not to increase the price of energy supplies. In April, the EBRD predicted inflation in Kyrgyzstan would exceed 20% by year's end.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ALBANIA FACES RENEWED POLITICAL DEADLOCK...A spokesman for the Socialist Party said in Tirana today that his party is meeting with other opposition groups to discuss a possible boycott of the 29 June elections. The parliament, which President Sali Berisha's Democratic Party controls, passed an election law yesterday that seems to be the same as the one it adopted earlier this week. The Democrats promised OSCE envoy Franz Vranitzky to change the law to make it more acceptable to the opposition. Vranitzky had threatened to cut off international aid to Albania unless the elections go ahead.
 ...AND AN EARTHQUAKEA quake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale hit 25 miles east of Tirana this morning, West European seismic institutes reported. The epicenter was near the Albanian-Macedonian border, and the jolt affected northwestern Greece as well. In other news, an explosion at an ammunition dump killed at least three near Gjirokaster yesterday. Unconfirmed reports said the Albanian army was attempting to transfer ammunition when the blast occurred.
 ALBRIGHT BLASTS CROATIA OVER SERBIAN REFUGEESU.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright sharply criticized Croatia's policies toward returning Serb refugees at her meeting in Washington yesterday with Foreign Minister Mate Granic. She stressed that Croatia will not be accepted into Western political and other institutions unless it fulfills its obligations under the Dayton accord. Her spokesman, Nicholas Burns, said he could not remember a "tougher meeting" between Albright and a visiting foreign minister. U.S. officials described the Croats' remarks as defensive and added that Albright did not receive a satisfactory answer to her questions about mob violence against Serbs and about why the Serbs cannot go home. Jacques Klein, the UN chief administrator for eastern Slavonia, presented the Croats with concrete examples of discrimination against Serbs.
 CROATIAN SERBS EXPELLED FROM HOMESThe Croatian Helsinki Committee said in Zagreb yesterday that more than 100 Serbs were recently thrown out of their homes and that crowds attacked several Serbs this week. The incidents took place around Hrvatska Kostajnica in the Banija region of central Croatia and involved returning Serb refugees and some of the 1,500 Bosnian Croats who had moved into the area. Local Croatian officials denied that there is systematic violence against the Serbs, who had allegedly returned in an unorganized fashion and evicted Bosnian Croats living in the Serbs' homes. Croatian Serb legislator Milorad Pupovac said in Zagreb, however, that the matter is serious and that he will raise it in parliament. Pupovac added that the incidents do not bode well for the smooth reintegration of eastern Slavonia.
 NEWS FROM SERBIASome 3,000 health workers demonstrated in Belgrade yesterday to demand payment of their March wages, an RFE/RL correspondent there reported. Elsewhere in the capital, opposition leader Vuk Draskovic promised to lead Bosnian and Croatian Serbs back to their homes if he becomes Serbian president. After meeting with Krajina Serbs, Draskovic said that "the Serbian banner will flutter in Knin again," Nasa Borba reported today. Still in Belgrade, federal customs director Mihalj Kertes charged yesterday that domestic cigarette companies are heavily involved in the black market trading of their products. In Pristina, army commander Gen. Momcilo Perisic stated that extra security measures along the Albanian border have proven effective and that there are fewer incidents now than there were before anarchy erupted in Albania.
 OPPOSITION STAGES BIG RALLY IN SKOPJESome 30,000 people attended a protest rally in Skopje yesterday organized by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE). The party sent a letter to President Kiro Gligorov demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, a caretaker government of "technocrats," and new elections in three months. The VMRO-DPMNE wants to use popular anger over a collapsed pyramid scheme to force new parliamentary elections. The party boycotted the last ballot and thereby shut itself out of much of public life. Elsewhere in Skopje, the authorities said they are closing the border with Albania to stop an influx of refugees. In New York, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for a six-month extension (until 30 November) of the mandate for UN peacekeepers in Macedonia.
 LABOR PROTESTS IN BUCHARESTThousands of workers converged on the Romanian capital yesterday to protest government policies that are forcing living standards to plummet. The demonstrators marched past government headquarters calling Victor Ciorbea's cabinet a group of "liars" and "thieves." The Fratia trade union, which organized the march, says the demonstrations will continue daily until the government issues what it deems "a reasonable welfare program," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Labor unrest was also reported elsewhere in the country.
 FORMER ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER OFFICIALLY CHARGEDGen. Victor Athanasie Stanculescu, who was minister of defense in 1990-1991, has been formally charged with abusing public office, conspiring to commit fraud, and damaging the country's economy. The military section of the Prosecutor-General's Office says Stanculescu and seven other persons, one of whom is also a general, were responsible for the illegal acquisition of mobile phones for the Defense Ministry at a loss to the state of some $8 million. They are suspected of having shared among themselves the difference between the producer's price and the price paid for the phones to intermediaries. If found guilty, Stanculescu faces between five and 15 years in prison, Radio Bucharest reported yesterday.
 MOLDOVAN PREMIER IN ROMANIAIon Ciubuc, on his first visit abroad as premier, met with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Ciorbea, in Bucharest yesterday, RFE/RL's Bucharest Bureau reported. Ciorbea said Romania should be Moldova's gateway to the EU and Moldova Romania's gateway to the CIS. Ciubic noted that Moldova placed much hope on the future Romanian-Moldovan- Ukrainian "Euroregions" (see RFE/RL Newsline, 29 April 1997). The two sides signed treaties on cooperation between their ministries of justice and culture and a number of commercial agreements. Ciubuc is scheduled to visit today the Cernavoda nuclear plant and the Constanta port. Romania has proposed that Moldova invest in the construction of a second reactor at Cernavoda in exchange for electricity supplies.
 BULGARIAN PREMIER-DESIGNATE WANTS TO PEG LEV TO GERMAN MARKIvan Kostov says the Bulgarian national currency should be pegged to the German mark. He was speaking yesterday upon his return from a visit to Germany, where he met with Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Last week, Kostov had been quoted as saying it would be better for the Bulgarian lev to be linked to the U.S. dollar rather than the German mark. Caretaker Premier Stefan Sofiyanski, who traveled with Kostov, said officials from the Deutsche Bank indicated that Kostov's announcement would greatly encourage German investments in Bulgaria, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Bulgarian Radio reported that Kohl praised Bulgarian efforts to push ahead with reform.
 BULGARIAN CARETAKER INTERIOR MINISTER WANTS FORMER PREMIER TRIEDBogomil Bonev says former Premier Zhan Videnov should be put on trial and sentenced for his role in the country's grain crisis. An RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported yesterday that Videnov was questioned by a prosecutor about the export of state grain reserves by several private firms in 1995 and 1996. The firms, which were closely linked to Videnov, made large profits because the Socialist government allowed them to make the exports. This resulted in the depletion of state grain reserves, and the country has since suffered severe bread shortages. Vasil Chichibaba, a former agriculture minister under Videnov, and three of his deputies, were charged in March with economic crime. Bonev, who is expected to retain his portfolio in the new government, said there is evidence that Videnov was "categorically responsible" for Bulgaria's grain shortages.
[C] END NOTE
 Yeltsin and Parliament Continue to Battle over Trophy Artby Jan Cleave
The duel between President Boris Yeltsin and the parliament over trophy art peaked again earlier this week. Overwhelmingly rejecting a presidential veto, the Federation Council voted on 14 May to declare that cultural valuables seized by Soviet troops from Germany at the end of World War II are Russian property and "just compensation" for the losses and injustices inflicted by the Nazis. Yeltsin claims the trophy art law contravenes both the constitution and international legislation. He will now appeal to the Constitutional Court to quash the controversial bill.
The trophy art law has long been a thorn in the president's flesh. An initial version was passed by the Duma at its very first session following Yeltsin's re-election as president last summer. Negotiations between post- Soviet Russia and unified Germany on the return of the artworks had deadlocked, and the communist-dominated Duma seemed intent on forcing the hand of the newly re-elected president, who, from time to time, had resorted to nationalist patriotic rhetoric during his election campaign.
But the Duma's bid was foiled by the Federation Council, which rejected the bill and thereby saved Yeltsin from having to impose a veto and face the inevitable accusations of false patriotism. By the time the Duma passed a mildly revised form of the law, gubernatorial elections had increased the independence of the Council. The legislation was approved by the upper house in March and then swiftly vetoed by an unyielding Yelstin.
Last month, the Federation Council spared Yeltsin another potential embarrassment -- this time abroad and on German soil, to boot. On the eve of the 17 April meeting between the Russian president and Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Baden-Baden, the upper house opted for a postal ballot on whether to override the presidential veto, thereby postponing a final decision for several weeks. Yeltsin departed for Germany secure in the knowledge that German newspapers the next morning would not run angry headlines about Russia's laying claim to the disputed treasures.
It was also fortunate for Yeltsin that the official results of the mail vote were released on the same day that Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana agreed on the Russia- NATO Founding Act. International media thus focused on post-Cold War detente rather than on Russian squabbling over war booty. And later that day, German media turned its attention to a trophy art issue on home turf, as reports began to emerge that a mosaic fragment from the legendary Amber Room -- dismantled and hauled away from Tsarskoe Selo by the Nazis during World War II -- had been found in northern Germany.
In opposing the trophy art law, Yelstin has repeatedly raised legalistic objections echoing those of Germany, which is Russia's largest lender and perceived by many as its closest ally in the West. When he vetoed the law in mid- March, he argued that the unilateral declaration of the trophy art as Russian property breached international legislation, a position frequently stressed by German officials (who also point to the provision for the return of all war booty in the 1992 friendship treaty between Moscow and Bonn).
Yeltsin also stressed the law's potential negative impact on relations not only with Germany but also with countries such as Holland and Italy, which claim some of the trophy art was removed from their territory before the Soviets carted it off to Moscow. And, in an apparent bid to somewhat appease the nationalists -- without unduly upsetting the Germans -- the Russian president noted that the law would hinder efforts to retrieve artworks seized from the Soviet Union during the war.
But legalistic arguments and warnings about foreign- policy blunders have had little impact in the face of nationalist outpourings in the parliament. The law's proponents have struck a chord among Russians by frequently reminding them of the 27 million Soviet citizens claimed to have perished in the Great Patriotic War. They say that the 200,000 works of art, 2 million books, and 3 kilometers of archival material that Germany wants returned are minimal compensation for Russian loss of life and the widespread destruction of artworks and monuments. Museum curators in Moscow and St. Petersburg have reinforced this emotive pressure by organizing exhibitions of trophy art with such seemingly benign titles as "Twice Saved" (once from the Nazis and then from Soviet neglect).
Yeltsin's representative at the Constitutional Court has said that the president will appeal to the court to reject the law. The same day the Federation Council overruled his veto, Nezavisimaya gazeta quoted the constitutional provision stating that in cases where international law and Russian federal law are at odds, international law will be applied. If Yeltsin wins on this and other points, he will have gained time before the parliament makes another legislative bid to secure ownership of the trophy art. He is likely to use that time to seek a solution with Germany that, in both his and Kohl's words, is fair to each side.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty