|Tuesday, 12 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 108, 97-09-02
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 108, 2 September 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN NAGORNO-KARABAKHArkadii Ghukasyan, the 40-year-old foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, was elected president on 1 September with some 85 percent of the vote, defeating two rival candidates. Voter turnout was estimated at 84.7 percent of the region's 89,000 eligible voters, according to RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent. Some 40 international monitors, including a group of Russian State Duma deputies, monitored the poll. No procedural violations were reported, but a Karabakh army officer was shot dead in a clash with Azerbaijani forces near the front-line town of Agdam, east of Karabakh. Ghukasyan, a philologist and former journalist, was appointed foreign minister in July 1993. His candidacy was endorsed by the Armenian leadership. Robert Kocharyan, former Karabakh president and now Armenian prime minister, told Noyan Tapan on 1 September that he would vote for Ghukasyan.
 PEACE TALKS TO RESUME SOON?Armenian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told Armenian State Television on 1 September that talks on resolving the Karabakh conflict will resume only after the formation of a new government in the Nagorno- Karabakh Republic, Interfax reported. Ghukasyan advocates direct talks with the Azerbaijani leadership on a settlement of that includes security guarantees for Nagorno-Karabakh but rules out autonomous status for the enclave within Azerbaijan, saying he is committed to the enclave's independence. Noyan Tapan on 1 September quoted Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan as saying he raised the Karabakh issue at all his meetings with Russian officials in Moscow on 29-30 August. Armenpress quoted Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin as affirming that the 29 August Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, signed by Ter-Petrossyan and Russian President Yeltsin, will contribute to the peaceful solution of the conflict.
 AZERBAIJAN "CONCERNED" ABOUT RUSSIAN-ARMENIAN TREATYDuring his 1 September meeting with Russian ambassador to Baku Aleksandr Blokhin, Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov expressed his "concern" and "bewilderment" at the provisions of the Russian-Armenian treaty, Interfax reported. The signatories pledge to assist each other in the case of armed aggression by a third state.
 RUSSIA MAY GRANT NEW LOAN TO YEREVANRussia may extend a further 249 billion ruble ($42.7 million) loan to Armenia by the end of 1997, provided Yerevan fulfills its commitments on repaying earlier credits, Interfax reported on 1 September. The loan will finance additional safety measures at the Medzamor nuclear power station. As collateral, Armenia will give Russia a 10 percent share in the Nairit chemical plant and a 7 percent stake in Medzamor. In 1994, Armenia pledged a 15 percent share in Medzamor, Nairit, the Yerevan cognac distillery, and the Armelektromash electrical engineering plant as collateral for a 110 billion ruble credit.
 KIDNAPPED TAJIK MUFTI RELEASEDTajik security forces on 2 September freed Amonullo Negmatzoda, the spiritual leader of the country's Muslims, as well as his younger brother and two other people, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. The two men were taken hostage on 27 August by field commander Rezvon Sadirov, who is demanding the release of his brother Bakhrom, currently in custody for his role in the kidnapping of eight UN and three Red Cross representatives in February. Sadirov is still holding hostage two of Negmatzoda's sons, whom he seized on 31 July. Also on 2 September, Said Abdullo Nuri, the leader of the United Tajik Opposition, agreed during a telephone conversation with President Imomali Rakhmonov to be in Dushanbe by 9 September for celebrations marking the anniversary of Tajikistan's independence, ITAR- TASS reported.
 TURKMEN PRESIDENT UNDERGOES CARDIAC SURGERYSaparmurad Niyazov underwent a five-hour operation at a clinic near Munich, Germany, on 1 September to repair vessels supplying blood to the heart, Western agencies reported. A presidential spokesman said the operation had gone according to plan and that surgeons considered the 57-year-old president's condition satisfactory.
 CORRECTION:"RFE/RL Newsline" on 29 August incorrectly reported that the Russian and Armenian presidents had signed an agreement on the transit of oil via Armenia. For information on the agreements signed, see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 1997.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 BOSNIAN SERBS STONE U.S. TROOPSSome 300 Bosnian Serb civilians on 1 September surrounded and stoned SFOR soldiers who had taken control of a television transmitter at Udrigovo, near Bijeljina, in northeastern Bosnia. A NATO spokesman called the attack "orchestrated." Momcilo Krajisnik, Radovan Karadzic's spokesman, said in Pale on 2 September that SFOR will return the transmitter to Karadzic's TV Pale in the course of the day. News agencies added that Pale agreed to tone down its anti-NATO broadcasts if the transmitter is returned. SFOR spokesmen said that the Serbian crowds had withdrawn from the transmitter after reaching an agreement with the peacekeepers. The agreement provides for the state-owned transmitter to be used by rival stations.
 FRANCE WARNS PALE NOT TO USE FORCEThe French Foreign Ministry warned the hard-line Bosnian Serbs on 1 September that future attacks on NATO personnel will be met with force. The U.S. has already issued similar warnings. In Belgrade, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic repeated his proposal that early elections be held in the Republika Srpska. He argued that such a vote is the only way to solve the ongoing Bosnian Serb political crisis. Western officials have said that the proposal is not acceptable. And in Tuzla, victims of land mines mourned Princess Diana, who recently visited that city and Sarajevo to draw public attention to the plight of those injured by mines. NATO experts have said that there are tens of thousands of mines still buried across Bosnia and that the devices will pose a danger for generations to come.
 MASS GRAVE DISCOVERED IN NORTHWESTERN BOSNIABosnian government officials began excavating a mass grave near Bihac on 1 September. Spokesmen said the pit may contain up to 300 bodies of Muslim civilians killed by Serbian troops during the war. Officials added that if that estimate proves accurate, the site would be one of the largest mass graves found in Bosnia to date. Meanwhile in Mostar, Vladimir Soljic, the president of the Croatian-Muslim Federation, protested the recent killing of two Croats in central Bosnia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 1997). Soljic said that the murders were only the latest of several incidents directed against Croatian refugees who have returned to the Muslim- controlled area near Travnik, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Mostar. The Croatian government has also protested the killings and demanded that the murderers be found and punished.
 CROATIA ARRESTS EX-POLICEMAN FOR WAR CRIMESThe Croatian authorities on 1 September arrested Miro Bajramovic after he told a newspaper that he had personally killed 72 Serbs in the Gospic and Pakrac areas during the war. Bajramovic added that his victims included nine women. He stated that he and the other members of a special police unit were under orders to kill all Serbs they could find, including civilians, as part of an "ethnic cleansing" campaign. Bajramovic's commanding officer was Tomislav Mercep, who is now a politician in eastern Slavonia. Meanwhile, UN troops completed their mandate in eastern Slavonia on 1 September and began turning over their monitoring positions between Serbian and Croatian lines to UN police forces.
 YUGOSLAV UPDATEIn Podgorica, the Montenegrin government and opposition parties reached an agreement on 1 September to hold parliamentary elections by May 1998. The pact guarantees all parties access to the state-run media. In Kosovo, ethnic Albanian children and students began the school year by attending private schools run by the Kosovar shadow state. The private schools came into being several years ago to protest Belgrade's taking control of public schools from local authorities. On 1 September 1996, shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova and his Serbian counterpart, Slobodan Milosevic, agreed to return autonomy to Kosovo's public schools and close the private ones, but the pact has remained a dead letter. And in Belgrade, the local authorities, which are opposed to Milosevic, protested that customs officials are holding up delivery of 10 buses given to Belgrade by the city of Berlin. Improving public transportation was one of Mayor Zoran Djindjic's key campaign promises in the 1996 elections.
 ALBANIA TO CLOSE PYRAMID SCHEMESFollowing two weeks of negotiations, Albania and the IMF have drawn up a six-month economic recovery program, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 2 September. The Albanian government will close down pyramid investment companies, raise value-added tax from 12.5 percent to 22 percent, improve collection of customs duties, and guarantee the independence of the banking system. In exchange, the IMF will give the green light to an international donors conference and provide assistance to establish a social security net and rebuild the economy. A three-year agreement will be signed next March if Albania fulfills its obligations under the current plan. In related news, President Rexhep Meidani appointed Socialist Shkelqim Cani as the new governor of the National Bank, Cani replaces Qamil Tusha, whom former President Sali Berisha had appointed.
 ALBANIAN OFFICIAL SACKED AFTER FREEING "DANGEROUS CRIMINAL"Elbasan prosecutor Niko Duro was fired on 1 September for having released from prison a man whose subsequent behavior led to a series of violent incidents several days earlier, "Dita Informacion" reported. Following his release, the unnamed man killed one member of a family in Elbasan, whose murder the family then avenged by killing the freed criminal. Police surrounded the apartment house in which the family lived but were met with heavy armed resistance. During the subsequent shoot-out, police used anti- tank weapons. Three family members were killed and five policemen wounded in the incident. The Albanian media subsequently criticized the State Prosecutor's Office for having freed a man whom the press called a dangerous criminal.
 BUCHAREST HOSTS DEMOCRACY CONFERENCERepresentatives from some 75 countries have arrived in Bucharest for a three-day conference on "New and Restored Democracies," RFE/RL's Romanian service reported on 1 September. The conference, organized by the Romanian Foreign Ministry and conducted with technical and financial support from the United Nations Development Program, will focus on connections between a country's style of government and its democratic development. Among those attending are the foreign ministers from some 30 emerging democracies in central and eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia.
 MIXED ECONOMIC INDICATORS IN ROMANIARomania's consumer price index rose by 0.7 percent in July, according to information released by the State Statistics Office on 29 August. The data show a marked decrease in the growth of prices since February and March, when monthly inflation reached 30 percent. The average net wage rose in July by 7 percent to 721,728 lei (about $88). But analysts say the full benefits of structural change have yet to be felt, as loss-making state firms are still a burden on the state budget. Industrial output in July was 10.7 percent below the July 1996 level.
 BULGARIAN MINERS BLAME DIRECTOR FOR COAL MINE DEATHSWorkers at the Bobov Dol coal mine, some 70 kilometers southwest of Sofia, have accused the director for the deaths of seven miners in a methane gas explosion on 1 September, BTA reported. The miners say a chamber adjacent to the explosion site was not adequately ventilated when workers were sent to work after a month-long shutdown for the summer vacation. More than 20 miners have been killed at Bobov Dol in the past eight years. The National Security Council and a special government commission are scheduled on 2 September to discuss whether the mine should be closed. Konstantin Trenchev, head of the Podkrepa trade union, told RFE/RL's Sofia bureau that technological improvements are needed at mines across the country. He said working conditions for Bulgarian miners are similar to those in the Middle Ages.
 BULGARIANS REQUEST TO SEE SECRET POLICE FILESMore than 1,000 Bulgarians registered on 1 September to find out whether the Communist-era state security service kept secret files on them, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. Requests to see those files began to be accepted that day. Andrei Raichev, a sociologist and close ally of the late former Communist Prime Minster Andrei Lukanov, was among the first 100 people to register in Sofia. In July, the parliament passed legislation allowing citizens to see files compiled about them and their families during the communist era. Information is expected to be released after 22 September.
[C] END NOTE
 A STATE OUTSIDE A BLOCby Paul Goble
Some fundamental shifts in the balance of power in Eastern Europe have made it possible for Ukraine to become a "state outside a bloc," as Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma recently put it.
Speaking in Kyiv on 28 August following a meeting with visiting Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, Kuchma announced two major changes in the direction of Ukraine's security policy. He said that "Ukraine does not intend to join NATO structures," even though he would not rule out future cooperation with the Western alliance. At the same time, he made clear that Kyiv no longer intends to be bound by the provisions of the collective security treaty signed in 1992 by seven members of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Instead, he said, Ukraine will seek to improve relations with individual countries, including Russia, as a means of promoting its security and well-being.
Kuchma's announcement that his country will not seek NATO membership undercuts earlier statements by Ukrainian officials that Kyiv's strategic objective is to join the Western alliance at some point in the future. But, just like his declaration about the CIS, his remarks about NATO reflect three broader changes across the region.
First, Ukraine's shift represents a triumph, rather than a defeat, for NATO's policy of expansion. It was no coincidence that Kuchma's remarks came only one day after U.S. troops landed in Crimea as part of a NATO- sponsored Partnership for Peace joint exercise. Much criticized by Moscow, those maneuvers have reaffirmed Western support for Ukraine but have also prompted the Russian government to shift its position both rhetorically and in practice.
Russian criticism of the maneuvers and of Ukraine's participation have softened since the exercises began, and Russian relations with Ukraine have continued to improve, with the two sides announcing that Kuchma will make an official visit to Moscow early next year. That shift, in turn. has allowed the Ukrainians to stake out a position -- closer ties with NATO but no ultimate membership -- that allows them to seek to boost ties with Moscow without giving up continuing support from the West.
Second, Ukraine's shift reflects the collapse of the CIS as an organization relevant to the security needs of Eastern Europe. On the same day that Russian foreign policy expert Sergei Karaganov declared the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is "dead" because of its failures in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kuchma took a step toward demonstrating that the CIS is close to its grave. He did so not by withdrawing from the organization as a whole but rather by underscoring that Ukraine will give preference to bilateral ties with Russia rather than multilateral arrangements with other former Soviet republics. Moscow will hardly object to improved relations with Kyiv -- indeed, Sergeev welcomed them -- but Kyiv is the winner in this round because its stance undermines Russian pretensions to domination over the entire territory of a country that no longer exists.
Third, Ukraine's shift reflects a normalization of relations between Kyiv and Moscow. It also highlights a growing willingness on the part of the Russians to view Ukraine as an independent country and on the part of Ukrainians to see Russia as something other than an enemy.
By staking out a position outside of any bloc, Ukraine is reaffirming its position as an important country within Eastern Europe, one that will act on its own interests rather than at the behest of any other country. And as ever more Russian officials accept Ukraine's new status -- something NATO's Partnership for Peace program has helped promote -- Ukrainians will find it easier to accept Russia as a potential partner rather than the inevitable enemy.
Obviously, a single speech, even one as important as Kuchma's on 28 August, does not guarantee that the geopolitics of the region will develop without serious problems. But as an indication of fundamental shifts, Kuchma's remarks are an important milepost on the road to a better future for Ukrainians, for Russians, and for the region in which they live.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty