|Thursday, 21 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 92, 97-08-11
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 92, 11 August 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 RENEWED FIGHTING IN TAJIKISTANFighting erupted in northern Dushanbe on 9 August between Interior Ministry forces headed by Col. Sukhrob Kasymov and some 200 supporters of Yakub Salimov, former interior minister and current customs committee chairman. Salimov withdrew westward from Dushanbe to Gissar after several dozen of his men were killed, according to AFP. Also on 9 August, maverick military commander Makhmud Khudoiberdiev, who since January 1996 has twice launched unsuccessful attempts to overthrow Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, threatened to advance on Dushanbe from his base near Kurgan-Tyube to the south unless Kasymov left the capital, according to Reuters. Presidential guard commander Gafar Mirzoev told AFP on 10 August that Khudoiberdiev's forces were advancing on the capital in order to oust Rakhmonov. Khudoiberdiev issued a denial, claiming his forces were attacked by the presidential guard. He also pledged his loyalty to the president.
 TAJIK SECURITY COUNCIL CONVENESAddressing a session of the Tajik Security Council on 10 August, Rakhmonov blamed the renewed violence on "destructive forces" intent on undermining the peace agreement signed between the Tajik government and opposition in late June. The council issued a statement claiming that the fighting was initiated by "the economic and drugs mafia and the criminal world." It also called on the warring parties to surrender their arms within three days, according to Reuters. Sporadic clashes between Kasymov's and Salimov's forces continued west of Dushanbe throughout the night of 10-11 August. ITAR-TASS on 11 August reported that the situation in Dushanbe is calm, public transport is running, and some shops are open. It is unclear whether fighting is continuing in the Fakhrabad mountain pass, some 40 kilometers south of Dushanbe, where Khudoiberdiev's forces clashed with the presidential guard on 10 August, according to dpa.
 ARMENIA, RUSSIA AGREE ON CFE QUOTAThe Russian and Armenian Foreign Ministries have exchanged notes affirming that Armenia will maintain the present weapons allocations stipulated by the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 8 August, quoting Foreign Ministry spokesman Armen Gasparyan. Armenia had ceded part of its arms allocations in tanks, personnel carriers, and artillery to the Russian troops stationed on its territory. The Foreign Ministry opposed that move, arguing it could damage Armenia' s national security vis-a-vis Azerbaijan. Gasparyan did not specify whether the exchange of notes meant Russia would reduce the amount of arms at its bases in Armenia to enable Yerevan to increase its holdings.
 DETAINED GEORGIAN WARLORD DECLARES HUNGER STRIKEDjaba Ioseliani, leader of the banned Mkhedrioni paramilitary formation, has declared a hunger strike to demand his release from detention and a meeting with UN and Council of Europe representatives, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 August, citing the Georgian press. Ioseliani was instrumental in forcing the 1992 ouster of President Zviad Gamsakhurdia and in bringing back former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze to his native Georgia. Ioseliani was arrested in November 1995, and has been charged with high treason, murder, banditry, and terrorism, including the unsuccessful car bomb attack on Shevardnadze in August 1995. Ioseliani's trial is scheduled to begin in September. Meanwhile, the Georgian presidential press service on 8 August said the Interior Ministry has evidence that another terrorist act against Shevardnadze is being prepared in an unnamed foreign country, ITAR-TASS reported.
 RAIL TRAFFIC RESUMES BETWEEN MOSCOW, TBILISIFollowing an interruption of nearly three years, a train left Tbilisi bound for Moscow at midnight on 7 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The Tbilisi-Moscow service will run once a week and will be protected by armed guards, "Rezonansi" reported on 7 August.
 EXPLOSION NEAR U.S. EMBASSY IN BAKUA small explosion was reported near the U.S. embassy in Baku on 8 August, Interfax reported. No one was injured, nor was the building damaged. Turan the next day cited a district police official as saying the explosion occurred when teenagers set fire to an old TV set. Earlier the same day, President Heidar Aliev returned from a state visit to the U.S., which Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov characterized as a "breakthrough" in bilateral relations. He added that relations between Washington and Baku have reached the stage of a "strategic partnership," ITAR-TASS reported on 9 August.
 DISPUTE OVER KYAPAZ OIL FIELD CONTINUESAliev told journalists on 8 August that he is not concerned about the withdrawal of Russian oil companies from the July agreement on joint exploitation and development of the Kyapaz oil field, Interfax and Turan reported. The Russian government had announced three days earlier that Rosneft and LUKoil would withdraw from the deal after the Turkmen Foreign Ministry protested that Kyapaz lies in Turkmenistan's sector of the Caspian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7-8 July and 6 August, 1997). Aliev said the agreement signed was one of intent and therefore cannot be annulled. A senior official of the Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR told AFP on 8 August that Azerbaijan's claims to Kyapaz are indisputable. Prime minister Artur Rasizade said in an interview with Turan the same day that Azerbaijan has not yet been officially informed of the Russian withdrawal. He proposed that Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan jointly develop Kyapaz.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 CRACKDOWN ON CRIME CONTINUES IN ALBANIADeputy Defense Minister Ndre Legisi said in Tirana on 10 August that more than 100 people were arrested the previous week as part of the new government's crackdown on the gangs that continue to terrorize much of the country. Some 46 people were killed that week in the ongoing violence, down from 61 the week before. Some 1,500 criminals escaped from prisons during the anarchy in February and March and are still on the run, news agencies reported. Spokesmen for the government and opposition alike have recently called for the enforcement of the death penalty, which Albania suspended in 1996 at the request of the Council of Europe.
 ALBANIAN UPDATEIn Berat on 9 August, unidentified persons stole 18 icons that Orthodox Church officials had sent to a warehouse next to a police station for safe- keeping. Two of the icons date from the sixth century, while most of the others are from the18th century. In Tirana on 10 August, officials of the State Prosecutor's Office and the Justice Ministry said that Leka Zogu, the claimant to the throne, and his aide Abedin Mulosmani face arrest if they return to Albania. They are wanted for "organizing an armed rally" that took place in the capital on 3 July. Leka was armed during the rally, which he and his supporters called to protest what they said was fraud in counting the votes in the 29 June referendum on reestablishing the monarchy.
 SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER TO TAKE PART IN SEPTEMBER ELECTIONSVuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), told BK TV in Belgrade on 10 August that his party will participate in the Serbian parliamentary and presidential elections slated for 21 September. He said the SPO must take part so that the voters have a choice. Zoran Djindjic's Democratic Party and several smaller opposition groups have said they will not participate. Opposition leader Vesna Pesic said in Belgrade on 10 August that she will not run because the elections will be neither free nor fair owing to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's control over the media and the recent increase in the number of electoral districts, which favors Milosevic's party.
 HOLBROOKE RECEIVES ANOTHER PROMISE FROM KARADZICU.S. envoys Richard Holbrooke and Robert Gelbard ended their latest mission to the Balkans in Belgrade on 9 August. Following talks with Milosevic and with Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, Holbrooke said that Krajisnik "offered a unilateral undertaking that the agreement reached on 18 July last year [for indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic to stay out of politics] will be respected... This [is] a unilateral offer from Krajisnik...and we will watch carefully if it will be implemented. We gave nothing in return." Holbrooke said Washington's policy remains that Karadzic must be tried at the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. The envoy added that, on frequent occasions, Karadzic has "dramatically violated...every term of the agreement," which, he added, Krajisnik and Milosevic acknowledged.
 U.S. TO CRACK DOWN ON BOSNIAN PARAMILITARIESHolbrooke also said in Belgrade on 9 August that implementation of the Dayton agreement is running approximately one year behind schedule. He noted that two key problems are the absence of freedom of movement and the fact that key war criminals are still free. On 10 August in Pale, U.S. Gen. Eric Shinseki, the new commander of SFOR, told Krajisnik that Washington insists that police and other paramilitary forces in Bosnia be placed under NATO control. All three nationalist groups have such forces but the Serbian paramilitaries provide personal security for Karadzic and other indicted war criminals. Many observers consider neutralizing those private armies as a first step toward catching the indicted individuals and sending them to The Hague.
 EU ENDS BOYCOTT OF BOSNIAN DIPLOMATSThe EU presidency on 9 August called on member states to end their six-day boycott of Bosnian diplomats (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1997). Germany and Italy said they would comply, while France had restored diplomatic ties on 8 August. The presidency's decision follows an agreement between the Muslims, Serbs, and Croats on 7 August to divide ambassadorships among themselves (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 1997). Meanwhile in Sarajevo, Britain's Princess Diana on 10 August ended a three- day visit to Bosnia to promote aid for land-mine victims.
 NEWS FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIAU.S. Gen. Jacques Klein said in Osijek on 9 August that he is proud of his achievements during his 20-month mission as the UN's chief administrator in eastern Slavonia, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from that Slavonian town. Klein said his mission "made history." He now becomes deputy to Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia. Many observers regard Klein's work in Slavonia as one of the international community's few success stories in the former Yugoslavia. In Novi Pazar, Muslim leaders said in a declaration they are satisfied with the talks that one of their representatives held with Holbrooke and Gelbard in Belgrade the previous day. The statement said Holbrooke pledged to speak to Milosevic about discrimination against Sandzak's Muslims, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Novi Pazar.
 ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER ON LAYOFFSPrime Minister Victor Ciorbea, in an interview with Romanian Television on 8 August, said the government is determined to abide by its decision to liquidate 17 loss-making enterprises (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 1997). Ciorbea said some parts of the enterprises slated for liquidation may be saved through privatization if suitable offers are made, but he added that there is no chance for any of the loss-making giants to survive. He said dismissed workers can begin collecting compensation payments as of 11 August. In a press release on 8 August, the Ministry of Interior warned against the repetition of violent protests, saying it has instructed its forces to intervene if necessary.
 UPDATE ON ROMANIAN WORKERS' PROTESTSFour policemen were injured on 8 August in clashes with demonstrators in Ploiesti. Twelve demonstrators were fined. Rail traffic has resumed following police intervention at Valea Calugareasca (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 1997). In Bacau, protesters temporarily held hostage the deputy prefect and State Property Fund representatives. Protest actions have been reported in Braila and Cluj, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The opposition Party of Socialist Democracy in Romania on 8 August accused the cabinet of having negotiated with the IMF "on its knees." Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor said his formation wants Romania to cut off all links with the IMF and the World Bank. He said their "stingy loans" would be more than offset by the "billions of dollars" Romania is losing by following their policies.
 FLOODS IN ROMANIA, MOLDOVAOne person died and dozens of households were damaged as a result of heavy rains in Romania's Salaj, Giurgiu, and Olt Counties on 10 August, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Several days earlier, rains and floods caused heavy damage to houses and roads in Bacau and Hunedoara Counties. Environment Minister Ion Olteanu estimated on 8 August that the damage caused by the recent floods will total $150 million. He said 20 people died and some 25,000 homes, 625 kilometers of roads, 334 bridges, and 43 dams were either damaged or destroyed. In neighboring Moldova, torrential rains on 7-8 August destroyed several kilometers of roads and two bridges. Many homes in the districts of Soldanesti, Calarasi, and Camenca were damaged, Infotag reported.
 BULGARIAN OPPOSITION CHALLENGES LAW ON SECRET POLICE FILESThe opposition Socialist Party, the Alliance for National Salvation, and the Bulgarian Business Bloc on 8 August appealed to the Constitutional Court against the recently adopted law on opening communist-era secret police files (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 1997). The 52 signatories to the appeal said the law places the government above the legislative and judicial branches because the commission that is to examine the files of high-ranking officials is headed by the interior minister, BTA reported. The signatories say that if the files of the country's president were to indicate that he collaborated with the former communist security services, both national security -- which he oversees -- and the normal functioning of the state would be jeopardized.
[C] END NOTE
 MOSCOW'S OSTRICH POLICY IN NORTH CAUCASUSby Liz Fuller
Until recently, the 1994-96 war in Chechnya and the uneasy peace that followed have eclipsed the unresolved conflict between Chechnya's western neighbor, Ingushetia, and the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania. The leaders of the two republics, Ruslan Aushev and Akhsarbek Galazov, met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow on 8 August in an attempt to forestall new violence in North Ossetia's disputed Prigodonyi Raion.
The conflict there, like so many on the territory of the former Soviet Union, is the consequence of Stalin's nationality policy. When the North Ossetian and Ingush autonomous oblasts were created in 1924, Prigorodnyi Raion formed the westernmost district of Ingushetia. In 1936, Moscow merged Ingushetia with Chechnya to form the Checheno-Ingush Autonomous Republic. This formation was abolished following the 1944 mass deportation of both the Chechens and the Ingush to Central Asia under suspicion of collaborating with Nazi Germany. At the same time, Prigorodnyi Raion was incorporated into North Ossetia. Following Secretary-General Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 "secret speech" to the 20th congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, a green light was given for the repatriation of the exiled peoples and for the reformation of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic, albeit within different borders. Prigorodnyi Raion, however, remained part of North Ossetia.
The return of the deported Ingush to Prigorodnyi Raion inevitably created tensions between the Ossetians and the repatriates, many of whose homes had been occupied by settlers from elsewhere in the North Caucasus. The Ingush claim that they were routinely subjected to discrimination on ethnic grounds. But with the exception of fighting in the North Ossetian capital in late1981, tensions did not escalate into violence.
In the late 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost created the illusion that the Soviet leadership was prepared to redress the most egregious injustices inflicted by Stalin on the non-Russian peoples. Beginning in 1991, the Ingush staged repeated demonstrations to demand that Checheno-Ingushetia again be divided into its two constituent parts and Prigorodnyi Raion returned to Ingushetia. (In March 1991, Boris Yeltsin, then chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet, endorsed the first of those Ingush demands.) The Ossetian population, for their part, rallied to protest the proposal to hand over the raion to Ingushetia. In April 1991, the RSFSR Supreme Soviet adopted a law on the rehabilitation of repressed peoples that implicitly promised territorial reparations, thereby fueling Ingush hopes. But the Ossetians succeeded in pressuring Moscow to impose a five-year moratorium on implementing the legislation. Checheno-Ingushetia was finally divided into two republics in July 1992.
Several months later, in October 1992, the accumulated tensions erupted into fighting in Prigorodnyi Raion between Ingush informal militias and North Ossetian security forces backed by Russian Interior Ministry and army troops. In six days of violence, up to 700 people were killed, hundreds of hostages taken by both sides, and thousands of homes (mostly belonging to Ingush families) destroyed. Almost the entire Ingush population of the district (estimates range from 34,000 to 64,000 people) were forced to flee.
The Russian leadership responded by imposing a state of emergency in Prigorodnyi Raion and adjacent areas of both North Ossetia and Ingushetia, which remained in force until February1995. But direct rule by Moscow has failed to contribute significantly to defusing tensions and creating conditions for the return of the Ingush. Most Ingush fugitives are living in temporary accommodation in Ingushetia. Only an estimated 2,000 have returned to Prigorodnyi Raion.
Since early July, interethnic clashes in Prigorodnyi Raion have risen dramatically, prompting Aushev to appeal to President Boris Yeltsin to impose presidential rule there. Galazov, however, rejected that proposal as potentially counterproductive, arguing instead for increased funding to rebuild destroyed homes and create new jobs for both Ossetians and returning Ingush. Yeltsin rejected presidential rule as unconstitutional and "contrary to the direction in which Russian federalism should develop."
Meeting with the two republican presidents on 8 August, Yeltsin proposed tension-defusing measures similar to those agreed on last year in Chechnya. Those measures include a moratorium of 15-20 years on territorial claims and the creation of Ossetian-Ingush militia patrols to maintain the peace. Moscow will allocate 200 billion rubles ($34.5 million) annually for the next two years toward reconstruction in Prigorodnyi Raion. Galazov expressed satisfaction with those measures, but Aushev warned the moratorium is tantamount to "burying one's head in the sand."
Nor do Yeltsin's proposals address two factors that Russian observers identify as contributing to the recent upsurge in violence. First, presidential elections are scheduled for April 1998 in North Ossetia and Ingushetia, which means both the incumbents and their prospective rivals risk alienating potential voters if they appear too conciliatory. Second, the Russian government in early July abolished the special economic status granted to Ingushetia in June 1994, whereby the republic is exempt from federal taxes. That move threatens to undermine the republic's economy and thus create new tensions.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty