|Thursday, 21 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 99, 97-08-20
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 99, 20 August 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 REBEL TAJIK FORCES SURRENDERThe fighting between followers of Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev and forces loyal to the Tajik government is over. Prosecutor-General Salomiddin Sharipov said on national television on 19 August that "Khudaberdiyev's rebellious brigade failed in their attempt at a military coup." More than 50 of Khudaberdiyev's 1,500 troops were killed in the fighting; and an estimated 700 have since surrendered. Khudaberdiyev and some 40-70 of his followers are reported to have taken refuge in the mountains near the Uzbek border, while others have gone into hiding into southwestern Tajikistan. The Tajik government has launched a helicopter and airplane search for them. The Uzbek government repeated its promise to hand over any of Khudaberdiyev's followers who try to cross into Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, Tashkent denied reports that Khudaberdiyev was already in Uzbekistan.
 KYRGYZ PROSECUTOR-GENERAL INVESTIGATES NEWSPAPERSThe Prosecutor-General's Office has launched an investigation into "Asaba," "Nasha Gazeta," and "Vecherny Bishkek," according to RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek. All three newspapers have printed articles on corruption among parliamentary deputies. Deputy Dosbol Nur Uluu said comments in "Nasha Gazeta" that all chairmen of parliamentary committees were from Kyrgyzstan's southern regions were disinformation. The Prosecutor-General's Office in July requested permission from the parliament to initiate lawsuits against seven deputies, but the parliament denied the request and formed its own investigative committee.
 KAZAKH GOVERNMENT IN NEW CAPITAL BY MID-OCTOBER?President Nursultan Nazarbayev told the government on 19 August that the administration will move from Almaty to the new capital, Akmola, by 10 October, Interfax reported on 19 August. Nazarbayev had said earlier that he would be in the new capital to greet the New Year, but there is speculation that the reluctance of most ministries to move to Akmola has prompted Nazarbayev to bring forward the relocation schedule. Of the 28 ministries, only two have moved so far, together with the National Agency for Press and Mass Media. Moreover, of the 45 embassies accredited in Kazakhstan, only nine have bought plots of land in Akmola for their new buildings.
 RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS ABDUCTED IN WESTERN GEORGIAThree Russians serving with the CIS peacekeeping force deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia were abducted by armed Georgians on 16 August, Russian media reported three days later. ITAR-TASS quoted Tamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile in Tbilisi, as saying the kidnappers will release their hostages in return for the bodies of two Georgians killed by Abkhaz militants in Abkhazia's Gali Raion one week earlier. The Russian Embassy in Tbilisi has expressed concern at the incident. Georgian First Deputy Minister of National Security Avtandil Ioseliani has requested Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba's assistance in securing the peacekeepers' release. Forty-two peacekeepers have been killed since the force was sent to Georgia in July 1994.
 CONTINUED PROTEST AGAINST SHEVARDNADZE-ARDZINBA DECLARATIONNadareishvili announced on 19 August that he is resigning as chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile to protest the Georgian authorities policy toward Abkhazia, according to RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau. He again argued that the use of military force is the only way to resolve the conflict. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 August quoted Georgian parliamentary deputy speaker Germane Patsatsia, who heads the Apkhazeti faction in the legislature, as saying that the faction's 12 members will resign their mandates to protest the agreement signed by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and his Abkhaz counterpart, Vladislav Ardzinba, on 15 August. Patsatsia said the agreement is tantamount to Georgian recognition of Abkhaz independence.
 SHEVARDNADZE-MASKHADOV MEETING POSTPONED INDEFINITELYA meeting between the Georgian and Chechen presidents scheduled to take place in Tbilisi before 20 August has been postponed indefinitely, ITAR- TASS reported on 19 August, quoting a Chechen representative in the Georgian capital. Arrangements for the meeting were discussed during three visits to Tbilisi in late July and early August by Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Akhmed Zakaev.
 SOUTH OSSETIA REIMPOSES CURFEWPresident Lyudwig Chibirov issued a decree on 16 August reimposing a night- time curfew in the would-be secessionist north Georgian region. Reuters on19 August quoted a local official in the capital, Tskhinvali, as saying the decision was prompted by an upsurge in "acts of banditry", but Interfax and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 August quoted a South Ossetian government spokesman as saying that the crime figures have remained stable for the past several months. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" suggests that the curfew is intended to counter the traffic in illegal alcohol from Georgia to the Russian Federation.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 UN POLICE SEAL OFF BANJA LUKA POLICE STATIONSThe International Police Task Force (IPTF) and SFOR took charge of six police stations in Banja Luka on 20 August. IPTF spokesmen said that the UN police believe the buildings may have been the site of human rights violations. The stations belong to the police loyal to Pale-based Interior Minister Dragan Kijac, an arch-rival of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic (see also "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 20 August 1997). On 18 August, Plavsic said that her police found large quantities of incriminating evidence in one of the stations. She added that one document referred to a secret political command called "Jedinstvo [Unity] 97," of which she had not previously known. She called this and other revelations "frightening."
 WESTENDORP, GELBARD BACK PLAVSIC'S CALL FOR NEW ELECTIONSCarlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, underscored Plavsic's demand that Kijac be fired. The Spanish diplomat and U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard called for new elections in the Republika Srpska following their meeting with Plavsic in Banja Luka on 19 August. The diplomats said a new vote is the best way to solve the leadership crisis among the Bosnian Serbs. Plavsic plans to head a new party in parliamentary elections she has called for October. In the past week, Deputy Prime Ministers Ostoja Kremenovic and Djuradj Banjac have signaled their support for her and her party. Meanwhile in Pale, Dragan Kalinic, the president of the parliament, said there should be new presidential elections if Plavsic insists on going ahead with a legislative vote.
 PLAVSIC CALLS FOR DAILY DEMONSTRATIONSPresident Plavsic told 2,000 of her supporters in Banja Luka on 19 August that they should assemble every evening to protest against the Pale-based "hawks" and their policy of "terror." She said that Kijac's police "are bugging your homes and tapping your telephones. You have no privacy. They are using the instruments of black terror.... Don't give your town to tyrants. We want freedom." But Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, warned that "if Mrs. Plavsic continues to heed her so-called advisers, she risks being isolated.... There is no force in the world that can save her."
 OTHER NEWS FROM BOSNIAAn SFOR spokesman in Banja Luka said on 19 August that peacekeepers there have received reinforcements, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the northwestern town. Republika Srpska Finance Minister Ranko Travar handed in his resignation to Plavsic, saying he can no longer deal with the current crisis. In Sarajevo, Gelbard read out a statement from U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke, who stressed Washington's long-term commitment to Bosnia.
 CROATIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR PARTY CONGRESSDrazen Budisa, one of the two main protagonists for the leadership of the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS), said in Zagreb on 19 August that a "special party assembly" is the only way out of the deadlock between him and former presidential candidate Vlado Gotovac. Budisa added that the meeting's main task will be to set up new elections for the party leadership, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. Budisa charged that Gotovac and his loyalists have hijacked the leadership.
 UN ENDS WEAPONS BUY-UP IN EASTERN SLAVONIASpokesmen for the UN administration in eastern Slavonia said in Vukovar on 19 August that the policy of buying up weapons has come to an end, and that as of 20 August anyone found in possession of illegal weapons will face prosecution. The spokesmen added that the buy-up program yielded 6,370 rocket or mine launchers, 14,000 grenades and bombs, and 2 million pieces of ammunition, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Vukovar. Critics charge that the UN paid for obsolete weapons and that some of the sellers bought better weapons with the money they received.
 NEWS FROM KOSOVO, MACEDONIAThe Kosovo Information Center on 19 August said that unknown persons shot and wounded Elez Miftari near Djakovica the previous night. The center is close to the Democratic League of Kosovo of shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova. In Skopje, the Foreign Ministry said it opposes any reduction in the number of UN peacekeepers in Macedonia. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended cutting the force from 1,000 to 300 troops. BETA news agency says the government fears that Annan's proposal reflects a loss of confidence in the executive's willingness to reach a lasting settlement with the large ethnic Albanian minority. Also in Skopje, Transportation Minister Abdulmenaf Bedzeti said that a French firm has offered to help finance the proposed east-west railroad line across Macedonia. That railroad would greatly reduce Macedonia's economic and political dependence on Greece and Serbia, which control the existing north-south routes.
 ALBANIAN PRESIDENT SACKS ARMY CHIEFPresident Rexhep Mejdani sacked army commander Gen. Adem Copani on 19 August and replaced him with Aleks Andoni. Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj recently called for the resignation or dismissal of officers whom he claimed the previous government had used to suppress demonstrations against President Sali Berisha. The Socialist-led government says it is trying to rid the judiciary, security forces, and military of incompetent political appointees and replace them with what it calls "experienced" personnel. The opposition Democrats charge that the Socialists are carrying out a political purge. Some observers feel that the Socialists are reverting to the practice in which the party in power appoints its loyalists to all government jobs (see "End Note" in "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1997).
 ALBANIAN UPDATEA shoot-out near Erseka, close to the Macedonian and Greek borders, left two gangsters dead and three other gangsters and two policemen wounded on 19 August. Meanwhile in Gjirokastra, parliamentary speaker Skender Gjinushi said the government's "intention is to provide the country with a [new] constitution. And this intention will be realized at the beginning of next year, by mid-February." He added that a committee is already working on the document, which the government will then submit to a popular referendum. Berisha failed in a 1994 referendum to win approval for his proposed basic law.
 ROMANIA CREATES NEW STATE OIL COMPANYThe government on 19 August abolished the Romanian Petroleum Company, set up by Nicolae Vacaroiu's cabinet last year, and replaced it with the National Petroleum Society (SNP). The new company merges two refineries and the state-owned Peco gas stations, which account for some 43 percent of the country's retail gasoline sales. The two refineries will have an annual capacity of some 6 millions tons; the other five million tons needed to cover country's total needs will be imported, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The government intends to privatize the SNP in the second half of 1998. In other news, Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara told RFE/RL on 19 August that the ministry will be reorganized to improve control over tax control and customs, in particular.
 UPDATE ON TRIAL OF ROMANIAN MINERS' LEADERSenate Chairman Petre Roman on 19 August told a Bucharest court that in September 1991, when he was prime minister, he had approved the arrival of the Jiu valley miners in the capital after he was informed that they were threatening train attendants with knives. Roman said he had agreed with former President Ion Iliescu that the government would "return its mandate" and be reshuffled to include other political forces. Instead, Iliescu had announced that he was accepting Roman's resignation. Roman also noted that the miners had been "manipulated." Miners leader Miron Cozma, who is charged with undermining state authority and breaking firearms laws, said his trial was "political" Romanian media reported. He also agreed with members of the public who shouted that Iliescu should join Cozma in the dock.
 ROMANIAN ULTRA-NATIONALIST INVITES LE PEN, LEBEDCorneliu Vadim Tudor, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM), has invited French National Front chairman Jean-Marie Le Pen and former Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed to attend the PRM congress in November. Le Pen canceled a visit in May owing to the early French elections. At that time, Tudor announced the "imminent birth of a Nationalist International" (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 1 and 11 April 1997). After visiting Bucharest earlier this year, front deputy chairman Dominique Chaboche said the PRM and the front were "ideologically tied" in the struggle against a United Europe and the idea of "globalization dictated by the U.S." Tudor said he invited Lebed because he has a good chance of becoming the next Russian president and is among those with whom Tudor can discuss the reunification of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina (now part of Moldova and Ukraine) with Romania.
 MOLDOVAN COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF BESSARABIAN CHURCHThe Chisinau Court of Appeal on 19 August ruled that the government must recognize the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 14 August 1997). RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported that the government can appeal the decision within 15 days. The government has refused to recognize the Bessarabian Church, which is subordinated to the Bucharest patriarchate. It recognizes only the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which is subordinated to the Moscow patriarchate. The Bessarabian Church claims some 400,000 believers.
 MOLDOVAN DEPUTY PREMIER PREDICTS ECONOMIC GROWTHIon Gucu told ITAR-TASS on 19 August that Moldova will have to wait until the second decade of the next century to achieve economic growth comparable to the level 10 years ago. He said his forecast was based on calculations made by government experts. He added that he believes 1997 will be a turning point in the Moldovan economy, bringing to an end several years of decline. Gucu said the slight rise in production registered in the second quarter of 1997 was due to the resumption of economic reforms following the halt caused by the 1996 presidential campaign. Moldovan Academy of Sciences experts, on the other hand, believe without major foreign investments, the economy will continue to stagnate in the near future.
 TURKEY WANTS PLANT IN BULGARIA REOPENEDTurkey is trying to persuade the Bulgarian authorities to reopen an electronic components plant that was closed in July, Turkish media reported on 20 August. Osman Ak, chairman of the Turkish company that has a majority share in the Mikroark plant in the Bulgarian city of Botevgrad, says the plant's closure is threatening to discourage foreign investment in Bulgaria and is straining ties between Ankara and Sofia, A Bulgarian court ordered Mikroark shut down on 18 July, after a government-appointed trustee found that the agreement to establish the factory in 1992 was signed by the deputy minister of industry rather than the minister. Under Bulgarian law, the minister must sign such an agreement. Ak said the trustee was a member of the former communist establishment, which, he added, wants to torpedo foreign investments in Bulgaria.
[C] END NOTE
 YELTSIN PLEDGES FAIR PRIVATIZATIONby Floriana Fossato, Stephanie Baker, and Laura Belin
President Boris Yeltsin on 15 August commented directly for the first time on the continuing scandal over Russian privatization policy. The president insisted that his government will not favor any bank and will limit the influence of financial groups on privatization auctions. Future privatization deals should be "fair, based on strict legislative rules, and allowing no [procedural] deviations," he said.
Yeltsin also indicated that the recent departure of Alfred Kokh as deputy prime minister and State Property Committee head was linked to controversial sales of state property. Kokh, who had overseen privatization deals since September 1996, officially resigned last week, but many Russian commentators believe he was forced out. Although an earlier statement issued by Yeltsin's office had expressed satisfaction with Kokh's work, Yeltsin noted that "some banks are apparently closer [than others] to the heart of Alfred Kokh, and this is not proper." Yeltsin added that economist Maksim Boiko was appointed to replace Kokh largely in the expectation that Boiko will be even-handed toward all banks.
The sale of substantial shares in the telecommunications monopoly Svyazinvest set off a financial and media war in late July, dividing Russia's previously allied financial elite. The scandal intensified following the 5 August sale of a government stake in the metals giant Norilsk Nickel. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had called for the Norilsk auction to be postponed on 4 August. But the next day, following meetings with Oneksimbank President Vladimir Potanin (who was a first deputy prime minister from August 1996 until March 1997) and several government officials, the prime minister agreed that the sale should take place on schedule.
Influential news media charged that the auctions had been unfair. Kokh and other government officials were accused of having close ties to Oneksimbank, which led the consortium that won the Svyazinvest auction and is affiliated with the company that acquired Norilsk Nickel.
Financial analysts, for their part, sharply criticized the sale of the 38 percent stake in Norilsk Nickel as an "insider deal" rigged in favor of Oneksimbank. They noted that the outcome was the logical conclusion of the loans-for-shares privatization scheme drawn up in 1995. Potanin is believed to have been one of the main architects of that scheme, which was implemented by both Kokh and Chubais.
Critics of the loans-for-shares deals say the government allowed favored banks to acquire management rights over major state-owned stakes in Russia's biggest oil and industrial companies. In return, the banks extended loans to the government, but those loans were far below the market value of the shares. In addition, banks that participated in the loans-for- shares scheme were authorized to organize future auctions of the shares, giving them an important advantage over potential competitors in those auctions. The scheme effectively allowed banks to turn management control of state-owned shares into ownership. (A new privatization law that went into effect on 2 August prohibited loans-for-shares deals.)
In the case of the 25 percent stake in Svyazinvest, Western financial analysts said the government, which organized the tender, may have appeared to favor Oneksimbank. But they pointed out that the auction was conducted more fairly than were previous deals. Russian government officials have said all future auctions will be modeled on the Svyazinvest tender: state property will be sold to the highest bidder. The Oneksimbank-led consortium -- which also involved Deutsche Bank's Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, Morgan Stanley Asset Management, and U.S. financier George Soros's Quantum Fund -- bid $1.875 billion. The government plans to use its share of that sum to help pay its huge debt to the army and the state sector.
Igor Lipkin, chairman of the Russian Federal Property Fund, on 14 August said the Svyazinvest deal has already brought nearly $700 million to federal coffers. While Chernomyrdin ordered an investigation into the legality of the Svyazinvest sale, he has warned against "jumping to conclusions or making hasty allegations" about privatization auctions.
First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov has acknowledged that the Norilsk Nickel sale was controversial. But in an interview with RFE/RL in Sochi, where he has been vacationing, he noted that such scandals were inevitable, given the regulations governing loans-for-shares deals. In addition, Nemtsov turned the tables on the man believed to be behind much of the recent criticism of the privatization deals: business magnate and Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii. Nemtsov told RFE/RL that whatever its flaws, the Norilsk auction was conducted "more democratically and openly" than the May sale of a stake in the Sibneft oil company. (Financial structures linked to Berezovskii won the Sibneft tender.)
In addition, Nemtsov said the state should establish control over both the finances and the "ideological foundations" of Russian Public Television (ORT). Berezovskii wields considerable influence at ORT, which sharply criticized the Svyazinvest sale. He is also believed to have participated in the losing consortium in that auction, although he denies any involvement in the bidding.
Floriana Fossato is an RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow, and Stephanie Baker is a freelance writer in the Russian capital.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty