|Tuesday, 12 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 101, 97-08-22
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 101, 22 August 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMED GROUP ATTACKS TAJIK POLICE STATIONAn armed group loyal to former opposition field commander Mansur Muakhalov attacked a police station in the town of Kofarnikhon, 20 kilometers east of Dushanbe, on 21 August, RFE/RL corespondents reported. The incident occurred after a stolen vehicle containing two of Muakhalov's supporters was discovered during a routine police check on the road between Kofarnikhon and the capital. After the men were detained in the local police station, some 50-70 Muakhalov supporters surrounded the station and demanded their release. Fighting broke out when the police refused to meet their demand. There are unofficial reports of casualties. Muakhalov has been linked to the United Tajik Opposition, which, however, has denounced the attack. UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri said any UTO member who takes such unilateral action will be punished by the combined forces of the UTO and the government.
 CRIME RISING IN TAJIK CAPITALAccording to reports from RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe, crime is rising sharply in the Tajik capital. Sporadic gunfire can be heard daily, and the number of robberies is increasing. The house of a foreign worker for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was burgled on 21 August.
 UZBEK GRAIN HARVEST FAILS TO MEET TARGETThe 1997 grain harvest totals 2.86 million tons, or slightly more than two- thirds of the target figure of 4 million tons, Reuters reported on 21 August. This is the third consecutive year that Uzbekistan has failed to meet its quotas. Recently, Uzbek authorities introduced "centralized purchasing," whereby sales of flour, sugar, edible oil, and butter are controlled.
 RUSSIANS IN KAZAKHSTAN PROTEST LANGUAGE LAWAt a 21 August press conference organized by the Society of Ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan, leaders of the country's Russian community "harshly criticized" Kazakhstan's new language policy, RFE/RL correspondents in the Kazakh capital reported. Members of the society urged the Russian State Duma to take "concrete measures" to protect the rights of Russian-speakers in Kazakhstan, who, they said, account for more than half the population. Under Kazakhstan's language laws, 50 percent of all broadcasting must be in Kazakh and all ethnic Russian state officials must be proficient in that language by 2006.
 GEORGIAN GUERRILLAS STILL HOLD CIS PEACEKEEPERSThe White Legion said on 21 August that it will release the three CIS peacekeepers it abducted on 16 August only if the bodies of two Georgians recently killed in Abkhazia are returned, ITAR-TASS reported. Georgian First Deputy Security Minister Avtandil Ioseliani traveled to Zugdidi, in western Georgia, on 21 August in an attempt to locate the hostages and secure their release by non-violent means. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin expressed Russia's "indignation" that the abduction took place on territory controlled by Georgia. He said the Georgian Foreign Ministry has been asked to secure the men's immediate and unconditional release.
 FORMER ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER PREDICTS "DRAMATIC TIMES"Speaking at a new conference in Yerevan on 21 August, Hrant Bagratyan said that Armenia's international reputation has suffered in the wake of the 1996 disputed presidential elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Bagratyan predicted that this fall will be "one of the most dramatic times" in Armenia's history, given anticipated concessions by the Armenian leadership over Nagorno-Karabakh. He criticized his successor, Armen Sargssian, who, he claimed, had undermined the achievements of Bagratyan's government during its three-year term. But Bagratyan praised current Premier Robert Kocharyan and said he hoped Kocharyan would continue strict economic reforms. Bagratyan is currently an adviser to the IMF. He founded the liberal opposition party Azatutyun in April 1997.
 KARABAKH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION UPDATEArkadii Ghukasyan, foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, said on 21 August that the region should aim for outright independence, an RFE/RL correspondent in Stepanakert reported. Ghukasyan, the favorite among three registered candidates for the 1 September Karabakh presidential elections, was addressing supporters in Stepanakert. He said that if elected, he will seek international guarantees for Karabakh's security, in which, he said, Armenia should play a key role. Ghukasyan also said that one of his priorities would be to strengthen the Karabakh armed forces, already acknowledged to be among the most professional in the CIS. Meeting on 21 August with Germany's representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, Frank Lambach, acting Karabakh President Leonard Petrossyan said that Karabakh will never again become part of Azerbaijan, Interfax reported.
 ARMENIAN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP DEMANDS REOPENING OF LIBRARYArmenian human rights groups on 20 August appealed to the international community to urge the Armenian government to reopen a human rights library in the city of Vanadzor, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Armenian Helsinki Association and the Armenian Center for Constitutional Rights said that on 29 July, a group of uniformed men belonging to the defense ministry's volunteer militia [yergrapah] burst into the library's office, forcibly ousting its personnel and removing its equipment. The library's director, Gevorg Manukyan, said that despite numerous protests, the local authorities have taken no action to "restore law and justice." The Vanadzor human rights library was established in September 1996 with the help of a leading Armenian-U.S. organization to foster public awareness of human rights issues.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 KARADZIC ALLY CALLS ON POLICE TO DISOBEY PLAVSICMomcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, appealed to police throughout the Republika Srpska not to follow orders from President Biljana Plavsic. He said on Pale Radio on 21 August that the police should obey only Interior Minister Dragan Kijac, whom Plavsic fired in June. Krajisnik called Plavsic's recent appointment of new police officials "illegal." He added that "the people will not allow [Plavsic] to destabilize the state." Meanwhile in Sarajevo, officials from Pale did not attend a meeting to sign an agreement on civil aviation. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative, threatened the Serbs with sanctions if they continue to hold up the signing of joint agreements on transportation and on joint citizenship, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital.
 NATO CONSOLIDATES HOLD ON BANJA LUKA POLICE STATIONSSFOR spokesmen said in Banja Luka on 21 August that they and police loyal to Plavsic are in complete control of five key police installations in the northwestern Bosnian town (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 1997). SFOR has accordingly reduced its armed presence outside the stations but will remain in the area in case Kijac's men try to retake the buildings. The peacekeepers have also sealed off the base of the Sixth Battalion of special police near Banja Luka. A spokesman added that some 80 percent of the city's police force has pledged loyalty to officials appointed by Plavsic. NATO commander Gen. Eric Shinseki warned Krajisnik that SFOR will hold him personally responsible for any attacks on NATO troops or the UN police.
 BOSNIAN SERB JUDGE SAYS KARADZIC'S POLICE BEAT HIMConstitutional Court Judge Jovo Rosic said in Banja Luka on 21 August that Kijac's men badly beat him on 14 August near Sarajevo. They ordered him not to support Plavsic in a key court decision and threatened "to liquidate" him if he did not obey them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1997). Rosic subsequently was taken to the hospital in Banja Luka where Plavsic's police guarded him. The court later ruled against her.
 GERMANY REJECTS MILOSEVIC'S CONDITIONS FOR BOSNIAN SERB ELECTIONSWolfgang Ischinger, the political director of the German Foreign Ministry, said in Belgrade on 21 August that Bonn backs Plavsic and that Germany will insist more strongly in the future that the Dayton agreement be implemented. He told Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to use his influence to end the Bosnian Serb political crisis. Milosevic replied that he is willing to support Plavsic's call for a vote in October, provided that presidential as well as legislative elections take place. Ischinger called Milosevic's condition "unacceptable." Plavsic has more than a year to serve in her two-year term, to which she was elected with 59 percent support. In Vienna, officials of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that Russia and Western countries have reached broad agreement on providing OSCE supervision for the October elections.
 NEWS FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIAThe Hungarian Defense Ministry announced in Budapest on 21 August that 30 soldiers have left for Mostar, where they will reconstruct the 16th century Turkish stone bridge that Croatian gunners destroyed in 1993 during the Croat-Muslim war. The soldiers will first retrieve as much of the original bridge as possible from the bottom of the Neretva River. In Zagreb, Croatian and Israeli officials agreed to establish full diplomatic relations after the Croatia fully condemned and apologized for atrocities committed against Jews by Croatia's fascist government during World War II. In Belgrade, the army issued a statement denying press reports that the military is preparing to introduce a state of emergency. The text added that the army supports the constitution and the democratic process and denounced what it called attempts to drag the military into day-to-day politics.
 ALBANIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW SECRET SERVICE CHIEFRexhep Meidani has appointed Fatos Klosi head of the secret service (SHIK), "Dita Informacion" reported on 21 August. Klosi, a professor of education, is not a member of the Socialist Party, but the Socialists nominated him to the last Central Election Commission, of which he was deputy chair. The outgoing SHIK director is Arben Karkini, a lawyer from the Republican Party, who was appointed on 30 May by the multi-party reconciliation government. "Dita Informacion" pointed out that Karkini had a mandate to make "gradual changes" in the structure and leadership of SHIK, which was widely accused of using violence against opposition figures under the previous Democratic Party government. The daily charged, however, that Karkini has not fired any personnel and has failed to make SHIK a "truly independent institution." The Republican Party daily "Republika," defended Karkini and called SHIK a "bastion of communist spies."
 ALBANIA'S DEMOCRATS ACCUSE POLICE OF MANIPULATING INVESTIGATION IN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTDemocratic Party spokesman Genc Pollo on 21 August accused "the ruling clique" of being behind an assassination attempt on "Rilindja Demokratike" journalist Muje Bucpapaj the previous day. He also charged the police with manipulating the investigation, "Albania" reported. Bucpapaj was shot while driving in Tirana, but reports on the incident are contradictory. Pollo claims that the shots were fired from a car with a police license plate. He added that Bucpapaj, who was seriously injured, had received anonymous telephone threats before. Meanwhile, a bomb went off in a park in central Vlora on 21 August and injured one person, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported.
 ROMANIAN CABINET RAISES WAGESThe cabinet on 21 August announced that wages will be raised by 15 percent in August and September and by an additional 14 percent beginning 1 October. That move is in line with an agreement reached recently with the main trade unions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 1997). Pensions are to be raised by 16 percent for August and September and by 15 percent for the remainder of the year. The government also decided that women living in mining areas will be able to opt for early retirement. In other news, the cabinet froze the retail price of edible oil at 7,800 lei (roughly $1) per bottled liter in response to the crisis on the market (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 21 August 1997).
 NORTH KOREAN AMBASSADOR'S RESIDENCE TO BECOME CASINOThe residence of the North Korean ambassador to Romania is to be turned into a casino and a restaurant, Mediafax reported on 20 August. The casino will be run by a Lebanese who is also involved in business in Russia. Citing "confidential sources," Mediafax said the embassy will charge $2,000 a month for the lease of the premises, which are owned by North Korea. It also said the embassy is facing a "serious financial crisis" reflecting that of North Korea as a whole.
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON PARLEYS WITH TRANSDNIESTERPetru Lucinschi, in an interview with the Ukrainian newspaper "Nezavissimosti" on 21 August, says that granting the Transdniester region a "special status" is not a "concession" on Moldova's part, since it reflects the region's "peculiarities, and one must be naive not to take them into account." Lucinschi also said separatist leader Igor Smirnov is unable to understand that Russia and Ukraine have commitments not only to the breakaway region but also to the international community. "Both Russia and Ukraine recognize the Transdniester as part of Moldova and there is no way they could recognize Transdniester's independence," Lucinschi said. He added that "nobody is trying to change those rules," BASA-press reported.
 PRO-PRESIDENTIAL FORCES IN MOLDOVA LAUNCH PUBLICATIONThe first issue of "Dialog," published by the pro-presidential Movement for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova, appeared on 21 August, BASA-press reported. A commentary in the inaugural issue maintains that relations between the legislature and the cabinet are deteriorating and that there may be a repeat of the 1995-1996 crisis. It argued that the president's opponents are deliberately trying to compromise the cabinet's "centrist doctrine" and to "preserve the present deplorable economic and political situation" in order to prevent Lucinschi's supporters from gaining representation in the parliament in the 1998 elections.
 BULGARIA READY TO DISCUSS SS-23 MISSILES WITH U.S.Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova, in a departure from previously expressed positions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 1997), has said Sofia is ready to hold talks with the U.S. administration on the fate of the SS- 23 Soviet-made missiles deployed in Bulgaria, ITAR-TASS reported.
 BULGARIA RAISES PRIME RATEThe National Bank on 21 August announced it is raising the prime interest rate in response to continued inflation. Beginning on 25 August, the prime rate will increase by 0.16 percentage point to 5.86 percent annually, BTA reported. The National Statistics Institute said prices rose by 505.6 percent since the beginning of 1997. The daily "Standard" reported the same day that a new 100,000 leva bank note will soon be introduced.
 BULGARIAN ABANDONED URANIUM PITS UNSAFEAccording to "Standard" on 21 August, the abandoned Buhovo uranium mine, northeast of Sofia, is unsafe and threatens to contaminate the nearby River Iskar, which flows into the Danube. Citing Environment Ministry experts, the daily said that the Eleshnitsa mine, some 160 kilometers south of Sofia, is also a source of contamination and is endangering rivers flowing to Greece, in addition to posing the threat of landslides.
[C] END NOTE
 A Decree That Changed the Worldby Paul Goble
On 24 August 1991, Boris Yeltsin, then president of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, issued a decree recognizing the independence of Estonia, thus ending 50 years of Soviet occupation of that Baltic country. If the consequences of that decree were momentous for Estonia, they were, if anything, even greater for the Soviet Union, for Russia, and for the international community as a whole. In many respects, Yeltsin's decree was the death certificate for the Soviet Union, even though that state continued to appear in the world arena for another four months.
By recognizing the independence of Estonia, Yeltsin set the stage for his subsequent recognition of the independence of Latvia and Lithuania, the two other Baltic republics occupied by Stalin in 1940 as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. But because Yeltsin was unwilling to acknowledge that the status of the Baltic countries was fundamentally different from that of the 12 union republics, the Russian president failed to erect a firewall between them and thus paved the way for their independence as well.
Yeltsin's decision to issue a decree on Estonian independence guaranteed that the dissolution of the Soviet Union would be quick, because it foreshadowed the notion that the borders of the union republics should become the borders of the post-Soviet states. It meant that the dissolution process would be peaceful, precisely because independence would result not from struggle or long negotiation but rather from unilateral Russian action. And it created in the minds of Yeltsin and many other Russian leaders an expectation that the Balts and other non-Russians would be grateful and thus remain friendly to Moscow. (That hope was inevitably misplaced, at least in the case of the Baltic States; but its existence helps explain why Moscow has acted and continues to act in the way that it does.)
The decree had equally fateful consequences for Yeltsin and Russia. While many around the world had cheered Yeltsin's heroism during the failed coup only a few days earlier, few world leaders were willing to view him as the president of an independent country. His recognition of Estonian independence changed all that. Many countries around the world hurried to recognize Estonia -- in the next 10 days alone, more than 40 did so. But in doing that, they were implicitly recognizing Russia as an independent state as well. That was not well understood by many diplomats and politicians at the time, although there was widespread understanding that such steps constituted some kind of recognition of Yeltsin's right to act as the predominant leader in Moscow.
Given the attachment many Western leaders felt to then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev because of the changes he had brought about both inside the USSR and in Moscow's relations with the outside world, many world leaders were reluctant to recognize Estonia. But by acting on the Estonian demand for independence, Yeltsin effectively forced their hand, thereby gaining just as much for himself and his country as the Estonians had gained for theirs.
In the longer term, Yeltsin's action may have an even greater impact. By righting an historical wrong, it contributed to the moral renewal of the Russian people, who also had suffered under Soviet power. Even more important, it was a significant step in Russia's retreat from empire, which has given many hope that the Russia of the future may become a country living at peace with its neighbors rather than a cause threatening their existence.
Yeltsin's decree also helped transform the international system, posing a set of challenges to world leaders that all of them are still grappling with. It ushered in a post-Soviet and not just post-Cold War world. In addition to pushing aside Gorbachev and the USSR, it destroyed many of the landmarks of the bipolar world that had guided the foreign policies of the great powers since the end of World War II.
Most immediately, Yeltsin's decree helped to recreate what had been a major security challenge in Europe prior to 1939: coping with the zone of weak states caught between Moscow and Berlin and between the Baltic and Black Seas. Indeed, much of the current debate about the eastward expansion of NATO and the EU and about Russia's role in this region can be seen as the working out of the consequences of the August 1991 decree.
Finally, Yeltsin's recognition of Estonia six years ago served as a reminder that, despite the hopes of some and the fears of others, history has not ended and that individuals and nations can transform the world, regardless of the forces arrayed against them.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty