|Wednesday, 13 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 90, 97-08-07
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 90, 7 August 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 GEORGIAN BORDER GUARD COMMANDER DENIES CHECHEN INCURSIONOn 6 August Major General Valeri Chkheidze denied Georgian television reports earlier in the day that several dozen Chechen militants had advanced into Georgia, according to ITAR-TASS. The Chechens allegedly intended to thwart a proposed meeting between Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and his Chechen counterpart Aslan Maskhadov. Maskhadov's representative Akhmed Zakayev left for Tbilisi on 6 August to coordinate a date for that meeting, Interfax reported. In a written address to the Georgian parliament and people, Maskhadov on 6 August repeated his support for Shevardnadze's efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Abkhaz conflict.
 PROBLEMS REMAIN ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDERRussian border guards, late on 5 August, repelled an attempt by two armed groups of drug couriers to cross the Tajik-Afghan border, ITAR-TASS reported. During one of the attempted crossings, a Russian border guard and two of the drug runners were killed in the exchange of fire. Meanwhile, border guard deputy director Aleksei Kozhevnikov inspected border posts and voiced alarm at a buildup of armed groups near the border in Afghanistan. Kozhevnikov said the group is part of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). A UTO representative in Dushanbe, Dawlat Usmon, said the opposition would discourage anyone from breaking the recently signed peace accord. Kozhevnikov also said that the process of repatriation of refugees continues and that 500 people cross into Tajikistan from Afghanistan at the Nizhnii Pyanj checkpoint every day.
 BIGGEST GRAIN HARVEST REGISTERED IN KYRGYZSTANIndications early in the Kyrgyz harvest show the country will increase its grain production this year to 1.4 million tons, according to RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek. Wheat and barley crops account for the increase. The Russian newspaper "Pravda-5" on 6 August claimed the reason for the increase is due to a switch in the use of land. According to the paper, 14 percent more land was given over to wheat and barley at the expense of Kyrgyzstan's cotton and tobacco crop, but the actual figure for land under cultivation is continuing to shrink.
 AZERBAIJAN GAS OUTPUT DOWNAzerbaijan's State Oil Company SOCAR produced 5.2 million metric tons of oil and 3.5 billion cubic meters of gas during the first seven months of this year, Interfax reported. Of the total, 4.3 million metric tons of oil and 3.4 billion cubic meters of gas were produced offshore. Gas output declined by 3.3 per cent compared with the corresponding period for 1996. The CIPCO consortium representing Pennzoil, Russia's Lukoil, the Russian- Italian joint venture LUKAgip and SOCAR began drilling its first exploratory well in Azerbaijan's Caspian Karabakh field in early August, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported on 6 August. The Karabakh deposit has estimated reserves of 80 million metric tons.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 IMF SETS DOWN TERMS FOR ALBANIAN AIDThe IMF will provide emergency assistance for Albania, but long-term aid will depend on whether the Albanian government meets certain conditions, news agencies reported from Washington on 6 August. The IMF insists that the authorities restore security, consolidate their control over all parts of the country, close down the pyramid schemes, establish satisfactory tax records, and cut the budget deficit. An IMF spokesman said that plans to help Albania have been worked out and that an IMF delegation will go to Tirana in the coming weeks. In the Albanian capital, Finance Minister Arben Malaj expressed appreciation for the proposed package. He added that "after Bosnia and Georgia, we are the third country in IMF history to benefit from such a program, and it is vital to convince foreign investors to invest in Albania."
 POLITICAL HOUSE-CLEANING IN ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT...President Rexhep Mejdani sacked Ilir Zhilla as head of the state-run ATA news agency on 5 August and replaced him with independent journalist Frrok Cupi. The next day, however, Cupi refused the political appointment. Justice Minister Thimio Kondi told department chiefs in his ministry to resign voluntarily or be fired, "Albania" reported on 6 August. On 4 August, Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj had similarly warned unnamed top-ranking officers appointed by the previous government to resign lest they be fired and put on trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1997). But on 5 August, army Chief-of-Staff General Adem Copani held talks in Tirana with visiting Greek officials and concluded an agreement on Greek aid to the Albanian military. Copani was appointed by former President Sali Berisha.
 ...AND IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTYThe National Council of the Democratic Party met in Tirana on 5 August to fire some leaders as scapegoats for the party's disastrous defeat in the June vote. Victims include former party Chairman Tritan Shehu and former Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Meksi blasted the decisions of the secret meeting and compared the National Council's methods to those of the late communist dictator Enver Hoxha's Party of Labor. Meksi was a founding member of the Democrats in 1991. Most of the other founders also have since parted ways from Berisha.
 ALBANIAN POLICE REPORT SUCCESS IN TIGHTENING SECURITYPolice officials in the southern town of Saranda, opposite the Greek island of Corfu, told ATA on 6 April that they have secured two important roads leading out of the town.. Police said they were able to break the power of armed gangs along the Saranda-Muzina road toward the seashore and the Saranda-Borsh toward Vlora despite the fact that the police lack basic equipment and vehicles. Buses left Saranda for Tirana and elsewhere for the first time in four months. And in Vlora, police reported a limited but growing number of phone calls from citizens wanting to turn in illegally held weapons. The police reported that callers say they do not need guns if the police can restore order. Weapons collections depots are now operating around the clock.
 HOLBROOKE CONFERS WITH TOP MILITARY IN BOSNIARichard Holbrooke, the former U.S. envoy who hammered out the Dayton peace agreement in 1995, began the second day of his latest Balkan trip by meeting on 7 August in Tuzla with U.S. Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and U.S. General Wesley Clark, NATO's supreme military commander. There were no official reports of what the men discussed, but Holbrooke wants to arrest indicted war criminals such as Radovan Karadzic. The NATO troops, for their part, would be an essential part of any operation to catch Karadzic and send him to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. After his meeting in Tuzla, Holbrooke went on to Sarajevo to meet with the members of the three-man joint presidency. A U.S. spokesman said that "bad flying weather" forced Holbrooke to postpone a meeting with Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic in Banja Luka.
 BOSNIAN AND CROATIAN PRESIDENTS PLEDGE TO ENFORCE DAYTON AGREEMENTHolbrooke met in Split on 6 August with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and his Bosnian counterpart Alija Izetbegovic. The U.S. diplomat secured pledges from the two presidents to allow all refugees from the Jajce area to go home by 12 August and to bring to justice by 17 August those responsible for recent incidents against Muslim refugees (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 6 August 1997). More border crossings are to be opened, while proper frontier checks will be set up on the often uncontrolled border between Croatia and Herzegovinian Croat territory. Meeting alone, the presidents also agreed to launch talks on Bosnia's use of the Croatian port of Ploce and on Croatia's transit rights through Bosnia's tiny stretch of the Adriatic coast. The future agreement also will cover property rights and dual citizenship, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Split. The two sides have been trying to solve these questions for years.
 MORE TORCHINGS NEAR JAJCESpokesmen for NATO peacekeepers said in Sarajevo on 6 August that seven more Muslim-owned homes were burned near Jajce the previous night. Meanwhile in Banja Luka, Plavsic announced on 7 August that elections to the Republika Srpska parliament will take place on 10-12 October. Her political rivals do not recognize her recent dissolution of the existing parliament, however. And in Munich, the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" reported that Karadzic told that paper that he is ready to stand trial for war crimes provided the trial is held in the Republika Srpska. Western officials said, however, that Karadzic must go to The Hague. According to an agreement Karadzic reached with international mediators last year, he is not supposed to take any part in public life, which includes giving interviews. His latest remarks appear to be a response to Holbrooke's demands for Karadzic's arrest.
 MONTENEGRO SAYS SERBIA HAS IMPOSED "ECONOMIC BLOCKADE"Montenegrin Trade Minister Branko Vujovic said in Podgorica on 7 August that Serbia has put the mountainous republic under an "economic blockade." Vujovic added that this is Serbia's way of "punishing" the Montenegrin leadership for its increasing independence vis-a-vis Belgrade. Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and other top officials have in recent months slammed Belgrade's policies as harmful to Montenegro's interests. The small republic is dependent on shipping and tourism, and has accordingly suffered because of federal Yugoslavia's international isolation. On 6 August, supporters of pro-Belgrade President Momir Bulatovic held a break-away party congress of the governing Democratic Socialist Party in Kolasin. The meeting underscored the growing split in the party, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from that town. The main party organization backs Djukanovic and has removed Bulatovic from the party presidency. In Belgrade, the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement criticized the government's attempts to "pressure" Montenegro.
 IMF PRAISES ROMANIA'S REVISED BUDGETThe chief IMF negotiator for Romania, Poul Thomsen, is praising the restructured Romanian budget but adds that more effort is necessary to liquidate loss-making industries and state farms, Reuters reported. While announcing an agreement to extend the country's external debt ceiling by $500 million to $3.7 billion, Thomsen sidestepped questions on whether he would recommend to the IMF board to release the second $86 million installment of the standby credit agreed to last April. On the same day, Thomsen met Premier Victor Ciorbea, who then headed another meeting of the government on the budget and postponed a scheduled press conference for one day. Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara met with representatives of the World Bank. In an interview with RFE/RL, Minister of Reforms Ulm Spineanu said he had submitted a "blank resignation" to Ciorbea. He said he intends to activate the resignation if his program for reforms is not implemented.
 ROYAL VISIT MARRED BY BOMB THREATAn anonymous telephone call caused the cancellation of a scheduled visit by Romania's former king to a market in the Transylvanian town of Oradea, Mediafax reported on 6 August. The anonymous caller threatened to blow up the city hall and a local church unless the former king's visit to the town was cancelled. The mayoralty decided to go on with the visit plans, but cancelled the visit to the market. King Michael is on a private visit to western Romania. The trip began on 3 August in Timisoara.
 OSCE MISSION TO MOLDOVA PROPOSES SHRINKING SECURITY ZONEThe head of the OSCE mission to Moldova, Donald Johnson, says the security zone dividing the two conflicting sides should be shrunk, transforming its northern and southern sectors into demilitarized zones. In an article published in "Mirotvorets," Johnson says checkpoints in the zone should be reduced to enhance mutual confidence. He said the presence of pro-Chisinau "border guards" and pro-Tiraspol "Cossacks" in the demilitarized zone violated the 1992 agreement on setting up the zone and they should leave, BASA-press reported. In other news, the deputy commander of the Russian "Operative Group" in the Transdniester, Col. Aleksandr Baranov, denied a report on the delay of the evacuation of Russian equipment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1997). He said no decision on the evacuation has yet been taken, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported.
 MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT READY TO RECOGNIZE BESSARABIAN CHURCHA representative of the government on 6 August told the Chisinau Court of Appeals that the government was now ready to extend official recognition to the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church (BMB), which is subordinated to the Bucharest Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate. The government had refused recognition of the church for five years, recognizing only the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which is subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate. The court was about to rule on litigation between the government and the BMB and the government had appealed against a decision of the Chisinau Tribunal recognizing the BMB. The government representative said official recognition would be extended on 13 August, BASA-press reported.
 BULGARIA'S SOCIALISTS TO APPEAL AGAINST OPENING OF FILESBulgaria's main opposition Socialist Party plans to appeal to the Constitutional Court against the new law on the opening of communist era secret police files, Reuters reported on 6 August. A spokeswoman for the Socialists said the law contravenes the constitution, violates citizens' rights and harms national security.
 BULGARIA'S RIVAL MOSLEM COUNCILS PLAN UNIFICATIONNadim Gendzhev and Fikri Sali, the heads of the two rival Moslem Councils (the High Moslem Council and the High Spiritual Council), on 6 August signed a declaration agreeing to hold a joint conference and unify the councils, Reuters reported. In March 1995, more than 1,000 Moslems at a special national conference voted to restore Sali as Chief Mufti, a position he held from 1992 to November 1994, when Gendzhev (first appointed Chief Mufti in 1988, under the Todor Zhivkov regime) replaced him. The vote followed allegations that Gendzhev had worked for the communist secret services. The Socialist government, however, refused registration on grounds that a registered Moslem council already existed. Sali has repeatedly urged the country's new rulers to reverse that decision.
[C] END NOTE
 A PAST TOO MUCH WITH USBy Paul Goble
Russian President Boris Yeltsin's decree reclosing a city in his country to all outsiders reflects both how little has changed in his country since Soviet times -- and also how much.
On the one hand, Yeltsin's action simply extends the Soviet practice of using this administrative device to hide things Moscow does not want anyone to find out about. But more disturbingly, it calls attention to both the large number of Russian cities that remain "closed" from Soviet times and Yeltsin's willingness to close some opened more recently.
On the other hand, the Russian president's actions have sparked a lively public discussion in the Russian press about both Yeltsin's motives in this particular case and the implications of using this administrative device in a country that seeks to be a democratic one.
At the end of July, Yeltsin issued a decree declaring that Shikhana, an urban center some 130 kilometers north of Samara, was once again a "closed city." This decree means that no one -- Russian or foreigner -- can enter it without special permission from the Russian defense or interior ministries.
A closed city in Soviet times known as Volzhk 18, Shikhana is home to some 15,000 civilians, an unknown number of military personnel, and one of the Russian military's largest chemical weapons manufacturing and testing facilities.
The Soviet authorities routinely closed such military industry centers both to enhance the army's control of their populations and to block efforts by foreign intelligence services to gain access to their secrets.
But at the end of the Soviet era and in the beginning of post-Soviet Russian history, Moscow ended such restrictions in many cases. Sometimes this was done because of a sense that the end of the Cold War made such restrictions obsolete.
Sometimes, these restrictions were lifted in response to local civilian pressures for greater democratization. And sometimes, Moscow took this step in order to give Russian military industries located in these areas the ability to market their goods abroad.
Not surprisingly, many Russian reformers are deeply concerned about both Yeltsin's motives in this particular case and his willingness to use Soviet- style methods to deal with some fundamental political, economic, and ecological problems.
One Moscow paper has suggested that Yeltsin's motives were anything but encouraging. It quoted the conclusion of an ecological group based in Samara that "the closing of Shikhana is nothing less than the sabotage of the process of destroying chemical weapons according to the agreements Russia has signed and which it is prepared to sign."
As a result, the leader of the group Vladimir Petrenko told "Obshchaya gazeta," Yeltsin "has given back total secrecy to the manufacture and testing of chemical weapons."
Another environmental group from the region told the Moscow press that the closing of the city might in fact be the result of reform rather than a means of blocking it. The"Ecology and Legal Defense" group said that the Russian army has set up a private commercial firm in Shikhana to produce and sell highly-toxic arsenic.
The group said that one of the founders of this company is Stanislav Petrov, the head of Russia's chemical weapons troops. And the group's spokesman implied that Petrov had used his influence to get Yeltsin to take a step that will make it difficult for anyone to monitor what he is doing or to prevent his company from continuing to poison the environment there.
What is most striking about all this, of course, is not the existence of closed cities in a country long used to their existence or the willingness of officials and entrepreneurs there to use this method to advance their own interests, however selfish or duplicitous.
Instead, what is striking is that Yeltsin's actions have sparked discussions in Moscow but they have not prompted widespread protests from the West, both from human rights activists concerned about progress toward the rule of law there and from governments concerned that Russia live up to its promises to destroy chemical weapons.
At a time when the United States has allowed the Russian air force to overfly American territory -- as it did this week under the provisions of the "open skies" agreement -- Yeltsin's decision to reclose a city is a particularly disturbing reminder that some unfortunate features of the past remain very much with us.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty