|Tuesday, 5 December 2023|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 137, 97-10-13
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 137, 13 October 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 KORZHAKOV IMPLICATED IN SHEVARDNADZE ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTGeorgian businessman Temur Maskhulia claims that Yeltsin's former bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov and former Russian Federal Security Service chief Mikhail Barsukov were involved in the August 1995 failed attempt to assassinate Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, according to Interfax. Maskhulia made the allegations during a conversation with Georgian intelligence service head Avtandil Ioseliani, a videotape of which was shown at a news conference in Tbilisi on 10 October. Maskhulia said he had been informed of Korzhakov's and Barsukov's role by Yevgenii Marusin, the former intelligence chief of the Group of Russian Forces in the Transcaucasus. Maskhulia also claimed that while under arrest earlier this year, he was pressured by Ioseliani to give false testimony implicating leading Georgian political figures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 1997). Speaking at the 10 October news conference, Ioseliani denied having pressured Maskhulia.
 ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS MEETLevon Ter-Petrossyan and Heidar Aliev, meeting in Strasbourg on 10 October on the sidelines of the Council of Europe summit and in their respective addresses to the meeting, reaffirmed their shared commitment to resolving the Karabakh conflict by peaceful means, Reuters reported. In a joint statement, they said they consider it necessary to facilitate talks between all three parties to the conflict within the framework of the Minsk Group. The previous day, Russian President Boris Yeltsin had proposed inviting Ter- Petrossyan and Aliev to Moscow for talks with himself and French President Jacques Chirac on resolving the conflict. Yeltsin, however, had not included, Arkadii Ghukasyan, the president of the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic, in the invitation to the proposed Moscow talks.
 NAGORNO-KARABAKH PROPOSES IRAN AS CO-GUARANTOR OF ITS SECURITYNaira Melkumyan, the permanent representative in Yerevan of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, told RFE/RL on 11 October that Karabakh has formally rejected the most recent peace plan proposed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group. Melkumyan said the "step-by-step" approach advocated by the Minsk Group is unacceptable because it fails to address the Karabakh Armenians' security concerns. She said Karabakh will continue to push for a "package" solution that would resolve all contentious issues within one framework document. She added that Karabakh is prepared to withdraw from six occupied districts of Azerbaijan in return for international guarantees of its security. Melkumyan also suggested that Armenia and other countries, including Iran, could act as guarantors.
 NEW PRO-GOVERNMENT BLOC IN AZERBAIJANEight pro-government political parties on 8 October aligned themselves with the New Azerbaijan party, which holds an overwhelming majority of seats in the parliament, Turan reported two days later. New Azerbaijan was founded in 1992 by President Aliev, who at that time was chairman of the Nakhichevan Supreme Soviet. The members of the new bloc, which is named Democratic Azerbaijan, agreed to propose joint candidates for the upcoming municipal elections.
 KAZAKH PRESIDENT ON ECONOMYAddressing the parliament on 10 October, Nursultan Nazarbaev outlined his concept for the country's development between now and 2030, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Nazarbaev proposed that Kazakhstan aim for intensive, rather than extensive, economic development and that it take as its model the "little tigers" of southeastern Asia with the aim of becoming "Central Asia's mountain lion." He said the number of ministers in Nurlan Balgimbaev's government will be reduced to 15 and that the cabinet will focus on implementation of the president's new economic strategy. Nazarbaev also announced that referenda will be held in the next few months on banning abortion and introducing the death penalty for drug-trafficking. He denied that the next presidential elections, due in 2000, will be held earlier.
 CHERNOMYRDIN IN BISHKEKRussian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, CIS Affairs Minister Anatolii Adamishin, and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev held talks with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev and Prime Minister Apas Djamagulov in Bishkek on 9-10 October, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Four agreements were signed: on cooperation in fighting drug-smuggling, on Moscow's leasing military facilities in Kyrgyzstan, on scientific-technical cooperation, and on creating a bilateral commission on trade and economic cooperation. Akaev told journalists on 9 October that bilateral relations are "strategic" and "developing well," according to Interfax. Chernomyrdin on 10 October said the two countries continue to seek "new forms of higher integration" but do not plan "in the near future" to conclude a union comparable to that of Russia with Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 BOSNIAN SERBS REFUSE TO SACK MEDIA CHIEFSRepublika Srpska Prime Minister Gojko Klickovic said in Pale on 11 October that his government rejects the "unreasonable demands" of the international community to fire the directors of hard-line Pale Radio and Television. Klickovic added that he hopes a negotiated solution can be found soon. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, says that Pale's media chiefs must go as a precondition for the return to Pale's control of four television transmitters under NATO control since 1 October. NATO took over the transmitters after Pale TV ignored repeated warnings not to air programs that depict the peacekeepers as an occupation force or the Hague-based war crimes tribunal as anti-Serbian.
 GERMANY WANTS NEW BOSNIA PEACEKEEPING FORCEDefense Minister Volker Ruhe told the latest issue of "Der Spiegel" that SFOR should be replaced by a smaller deterrence force, or DFOR, when SFOR's mandate runs out in June 1998. Ruhe added that "we have to be sure that there's no falling back to war and massacres," which, he continued, might occur if there were no peacekeepers present. Ruhe also said it is just a matter of time before Radovan Karadzic and other indicted war criminals are caught. Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel told "Bild am Sonntag" on 12 October that peacekeepers remaining in Bosnia after June 1998 must have a clear mandate to catch war criminals.
 EXPLOSION AT ROMAN CATHOLIC SCHOOL IN SARAJEVOBosnian police on 12 October said that a land mine caused an explosion the previous day at a Catholic school in the capital. The school and nearby flats were damaged, but there were no casualties. The police added that the device was most likely set by the same professionals who planted mines in other incidents earlier this year, including during Pope John Paul II's visit in May. Muslim, Croatian, and Sarajevo-based Serbian political leaders condemned the latest bombing, "Oslobodjenje" reported. Observers said that Muslim extremists most likely planted the mine.
 COUNCIL OF EUROPE GIVES CROATIA MIXED REVIEWRepresentatives of the Council of Europe told President Franjo Tudjman in Zagreb on 12 October that the council is pleased with developments in eastern Slavonia, which Croatia is reintegrating peacefully after six years of Serbian control. The representatives added, however, that the council is concerned about the extent of Croatian government control over radio and television throughout the country, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. On 11 October, Tudjman told the council's summit meeting in Strasbourg that Croatia has an excellent record of implementing the Dayton agreements and that it is "the only [Dayton signatory] that is actively cooperating with the Hague tribunal." He blasted what he called bias against his country in some unnamed foreign media. Tudjman stressed that Croatia has played an important role for centuries in Central European history and culture.
 CROATIA RECEIVES $80 MILLION LOAN TRANCHE FROM IMFIMF representatives said in Washington on 10 October that the fund has released $80 million of a $486 million three-year loan. The move came after the U.S. expressed approval of Croatia's recent decision to send 10 indicted war criminals to The Hague. Meanwhile in Zagreb, "Vecernji list," which is close to the government, reported on 13 October that the U.S. has proposed that Croatia lease part of the Adriatic port of Ploce to Bosnia for 30 years. Ploce is Bosnia's natural outlet to the sea, but Sarajevo and Zagreb have been unable to reach an agreement on the port's future despite years of talks. Many Croats fear that any agreement on shared use of the port might lead to Bosnia's annexation of Ploce.
 KOSOVO TALKS COLLAPSETalks in Pristina and Belgrade between ethnic Albanian leaders and Serbian officials ended in deadlock on 10 October. The negotiators sought to end the year-long impasse in implementing an agreement on restoring Albanian- language education in Kosovo. Observers in Pristina said that ethnic Albanian students are now likely to go ahead with a protest planned for 15 October to demand use of Pristina University buildings for classes run independently of the Serbian authorities. Serbian police broke up a student protest in Pristina on 1 October, in which at least 50 students were injured.
 GRENADE FOUND NEAR TIRANA CITY HALLPolice on 10 October removed a grenade that a passer-by had discovered outside Tirana's municipal building, Albanian Television reported. It is unclear who planted the grenade, but the Democratic Party issued a statement calling the incident "an attempt to murder" Mayor Albert Brojka, who is a member of the Democrats. The party also accused the Socialist-led government of planning to "physically eliminate [its] political opponents." In other news, "Koha Jone" on 12 October quoted Tirana police chief Pashk Tusha as saying police have evidence that Leka Zogu, the claimant to the throne, planned to stage a coup following a mass rally in early July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 July 1997). Tusha added that Zogu had set up a shadow cabinet and had planned to march to the presidential palace to proclaim a monarchy.
 ITALY BACKS ALBANIA DESPITE GOVERNMENT CRISISItalian Prime Minister Romano Prodi told his Albanian counterpart, Fatos Nano, by telephone on 11 October that Rome will continue its support for Tirana despite Italy's current government crisis. Prodi resigned on 9 October but is staying on in a caretaker capacity. Rome is expected to host a meeting of European foreign ministers later in October to discuss the situation in Albania.
 ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT, UNIONS AGREE ON NO STRIKESParty leaders of the ruling coalition and representatives of the country's two largest trade unions agreed in Tirana on 11 October to ban strikes until January 1998. The unions had threatened to strike following the recent decision to increase value-added tax to 20 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1997). To offset the hike, the government promised to raise monthly welfare payments to $4.20 and to increase pensions. The World Bank will support the move with $25 million. One union leader also stated that the government will create 55,000 new jobs in public works.
 ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER STRESSES INTENTION TO JOIN NATOAddressing the North Atlantic Assembly in Bucharest on 10 October, Defense Minister Victor Babiuc said his country is "not even considering the possibility" that it will not be admitted to NATO either before or by 1999, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. U.S. Senator William Roth, the chairman of the assembly's permanent commission, told President Emil Constantinescu on 12 October that the assembly "will not rest" until Romania is admitted into an expanded NATO, Radio Bucharest reported. In other news, Vasile Stan, a deputy from the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania, told a press conference in Bucharest on 10 October that he had been an informer for the Securitate. He said he had been forced to inform but had "never incriminated anybody."
 ROMANIAN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS DEMONSTRATESome 10,000 high school students demonstrated in Bucharest on 10 October against new regulations on matriculation examinations. Similar demonstrations were reported in many other towns to protest the decision to have exams in seven subjects--instead of four, as was the case until now. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea told demonstrators in Arad that the government is examining the possibility of having the 1997 matriculation exams in four subjects only, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The students are also protesting against the new regulation providing for all oral examinations to be held on one day.
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT IN STRASBOURGAddressing the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on 10 October, Petru Lucinschi asked the council to help find a solution to the Transdniestrian conflict, Radio Bucharest and Infotag reported. He expressed the hope that the CIS summit in Chisinau on 23-24 October will give "new impetus" to the search for a solution. According to RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau, it is possible that the summit will endorse a document that the two sides agreed to in Moscow on 9 October. Reports on the provisions of that document are contradictory. The private station Romanian Pro-TV reported on 10 October that the document provides for the "de facto federalization" of Moldova. According to Infotag, the separatist region will have its own constitution, state symbols, budget, and broad economic prerogatives.
 MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS REFERENDUM PROPOSALThe parliament on 10 October voted to reject the referenda proposed by the Socialist Unity-Edinstvo and the Communist faction on the sale and purchase of land and on raising the retirement age (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 1997). Communist leader Vladimir Voronin accused the legislature of "betraying the interests of the people." He also rejected allegations that his party had been able to collect the 250,000 signatures in support of the referendum by linking the two issues.
 BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER ON FORMER COLLABORATORSBogomil Bonev told a press conference in Sofia on 11 October that investigations have revealed that 25 high-ranking officials were former secret police informers. Bonev said names will be made public within two weeks if the officials do not resign before then, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. He added that some of the 25 whose names appeared on the list have tried to justify their past, claiming that they had no other choice. Bonev also said that President Petar Stoyanov and Vice President Todor Kavaldzhiev insisted that they themselves be screened, although such action is not required by the law. The investigation showed they had no links with the former secret services, the interior minister said.
 RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO SOFIA AGAIN REJECTS SPY ACCUSATIONSAt a press conference on 10 October, Leonid Kerestedzhiyants again rejected allegations that he is involved in attempts to set up a spy network (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1997), according to RFE/RL's Sofia bureau. Responding to media reports on his meetings with pro-Russian politicians and businessmen, Kerestedzhiyants said they are just "old friends" with whom he shares an "interest in the arts." He added that the "anti-Russia campaign" now under way in Bulgaria is reminiscent of "McCarthyism." Also on 10 October, ITAR-TASS reported that the Russian State Duma has instructed a number of its committees to prepare debates on Russian- Bulgarian relations. The directives were issued at the suggestion of Vladimir Gusev, chairman of the Committee on Industry, Construction, Transport, and Energy.
[C] END NOTE
 YABLOKO SEEN AS YELTSIN'S TOUGHEST OPPONENTby Floriana Fossato
The State Duma's recent debate on the 1998 budget shows that the reformist bloc Yabloko, rather than the Communists or the nationalists, is the most uncompromising opponent of the Russian government's spending plan.
On 9 October, the Duma voted against the draft budget in the first reading and pledged to soon hold a no confidence vote in the government. Communist Party legislators joined pro-government deputies to vote 326 to 13 to reject the draft but agreed to create a trilateral commission, composed of members of the cabinet and of both chambers of the parliament, to revise the budget proposal. Political analysts in Moscow say that in the budget debate, the Communists used tough rhetoric but backed off from some of their demands.
Analysts also say that the Yabloko faction, led by economist Grigorii Yavlinskii, is the only group to put up uncompromising opposition to President Boris Yeltsin and his government. Foreseeing the outcome of the budget debate, Yavlinskii on 8 October had questioned the logic of the Communists' strategy, which he called "absurd." Yavlinskii told RFE/RL that his faction opposes the 1998 budget because it is linked to the approval of a new tax code, which, he said, will not decrease the tax burden and therefore will not help collect revenues.
Yevgenii Yasin, an influential economist and a minister without portfolio, told RFE/RL that much of Yavlinskii's criticism of the government is fair, adding that "it is impossible to change the course of economic reform now." He said "if Yavlinskii had accepted to be part of the government, he would have realized this is the case."
Before the 9 October vote, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov also had tough words to describe his faction's stance on both the draft budget and the tax code. He said the Communists have no confidence in the "socio- economic course" taken by Yeltsin and his government, as it is "doomed to failure." He also said he does not fear Yeltsin's recent veiled threats to dissolve the uncooperative Duma and call new parliamentary elections. The previous day, the Duma had approved a non-binding resolution declaring the government's performance during the first nine months of this year unsatisfactory.
Also on 8 October, Communist legislators gave the first sign that they were ready to cooperate with the government by voting against a Yabloko motion to include a no confidence vote on the session's agenda. The move came before Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin addressed the Duma on the government's performance and pledged the cabinet is ready to compromise with deputies in order to avoid the draft budget's rejection and a no confidence vote.
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said after the vote on the budget draft that since the government and the parliament would now be working together on the budget, a no confidence vote is "unlikely." If approved, a no confidence vote would still be non-binding. But if the Duma voted no confidence twice within three months, Yeltsin would have to decide whether to dismiss his cabinet or the Duma. New parliamentary elections would follow if he disbanded the lower house.
Zyuganov stressed on 9 October that the decision on a no confidence vote had not been dropped altogether but simply postponed until the following week. In the past, the Communist faction has backed down from threats of a no confidence vote. Many commentators believe that behind-the-scenes compromises will lead to the same outcome this year.
Yeltsin and his government seemed triumphant after the vote. Speaking to journalists upon his arrival in Strasbourg for the Council of Europe summit, the president predicted that "now everything will be in order with the budget." Chubais called the outcome of the vote a "great victory for common sense and a defeat for extremism."
Rory McFarquhar, an analyst with the Russian-European center for Economic Policy, told RFE/RL that "everyone knows the Communists oppose Yeltsin and his government." He added that the Communists use threats of no confidence votes "to gain as much as they can" from the budget debate, out of the political necessity to stay afloat. But he also said Yabloko's position that slashing taxes will boost revenues is unrealistic at the moment. Such a move could raise inflation, McFarquhar commented.
Michael McFaul, a senior associate at the Moscow Carnegie Center, wrote recently that the Communist Party looks increasingly marginalized since last year's presidential election. He notes that, with its established network of grassroots regional organizations and its strong identification with democratic principles, Yabloko could benefit from the "end of polarized politics" and emerge as a powerful parliamentary opposition in the next elections.
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty