|Friday, 10 July 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 193, 98-01-12
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 193, 12 January 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 KARABAKH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS PRESSURE "INADMISSIBLE"Meeting with visiting U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone on 9 January in Stepanakert , Naira Melkumian said that attempts to impose an "unacceptable" solution to the Karabakh conflict on the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic are "inadmissible," Noyan Tapan reported. She called for direct talks between Stepanakert and Baku and for the signing of a tripartite cease-fire agreement, which, she said, would expedite the peace process. Affirming that a "strategy to isolate Karabakh is counterproductive and will not work," Pallone pledged to try to convince Congress that supporting self- determination for Karabakh is not detrimental to U.S. Caspian oil interests, according to a 10 January press release by the Armenian Assembly of America. LF
 ARMENIAN SECURITY COUNCIL MEETING UPDATEArmenian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told "RFE/RL Newsline" on 9 January that despite extensive discussions, Armenian and Karabakh leaders failed to reach a "definite common position" on resolving the conflict at the 7-8 January Armenian Security Council session. But he added that they will continue talks to that end. Yerevan has accepted "phased" peace plan proposed by the co- chairmen of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group as a basis for future talks, but Stepanakert continues to insists on a "package" solution that would resolve all contentious issues, including the enclave's future status and international security guarantees, in a single framework document. LF
 JAPAN TO BUILD OIL REFINERY IN GEORGIAJapan's Itochu Corporation will sign a $300 million contract in Tbilisi later this month to build an oil refinery at the Black Sea port of Supsa, Interfax reported on 10 January, quoting Georgian International Oil Company President Giorgi Chanturia. The refinery will be located close to the terminal of the Baku-Supsa export pipeline, which is currently under construction, and will have an annual capacity of 3 million metric tons. It will produce fuel oil for electric power stations, diesel fuel, gasoline, and petrochemicals for both domestic consumption and export to Ukraine and Turkey. Itochu signed a memorandum of understanding with Georgia in September 1997, which covers investment in and modernization of hydro- electric power stations in Georgia. LF
 GEORGIA, GREECE SIGN DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENTVisiting Athens on 8-10 January, Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze met with Greek President Constantinos Stephanopoulos and Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, Russian media reported. Nadibaidze and his Greek counterpart, Apostolos Tsochatzopoulos, signed a cooperation agreement on exchanging information, joint maneuvers, and the transfer next month of a Greek patrol boot to the Georgian coast guard. Tsochatzopoulos stressed that Georgia and Greece are located in the same geo-political region and that greater interaction between them will contribute to countering regional instability. Greece signed a similar defense cooperation agreement with Armenia in July 1997. LF
 U.S.-AZERBAIJANI MINING AGREEMENT IN QUESTION?Vasif Halilzade, the deputy head of Azerbaijan's State Precious Metals Institute, has hinted that the Azerbaijani government may cancel a $500 million contract with a U.S. consortium to explore and develop the country's gold, silver, and copper deposits, AFP reported on 9 January citing Turan. Halilzade said RV Investment Group Services LLS has taken no steps to date to implement the contract , which was signed last summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 25 August 1997). LF
 HOSTAGE CRISIS RESOLVED IN TAJIKISTAN...Rahmon Sanginov and his followers on 10 January freed five hostages after securing freedom for three of their compatriots held by the Tajik government, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported. Three days earlier, Tajik militia had detained three of Sanginov's men for carrying arms, prompting Sanginov to set up a road block outside eastern Dushanbe. As representatives of the Tajik government and National Reconciliation Commission were negotiating the men's release on 10 January, Sanginov's group took five hostages in downtown Dushanbe, one of whom was the city's deputy mayor. The exchange of hostages for prisoners was made on the evening of 10 January. BP
 ...WHILE NURI SAYS NO MORE HELP FROM HIS GROUPSChairman of the National Reconciliation Commission Said Abdullo Nuri warned on 12 January neither the commission nor the United Tajik Opposition, which Nuri also heads, will intervene again to resolve a hostage crisis, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported. Members of the commission and the UTO have taken part in negotiations with hostage takers and/or kidnappers on several occasions.. Nuri said anyone engaging in such illegal activities will be on their own in the future. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MONTENEGRO'S BULATOVIC REFUSES TO YIELD POWEROutgoing President Momir Bulatovic on 11 January told Belgrade media loyal to his mentor, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, that he will not give up his office to reform-minded President-elect Milo Djukanovic on 15 January as scheduled. Bulatovic called for mass demonstrations to begin in Podgorica on 12 January: "As we have exhausted all other means, we decided, in the interests of defending the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, democracy, and rule of law in Montenegro, to call on citizens for a peaceful and dignified civic resistance." Bulatovic and his backers have repeatedly hinted that their mass protests, which are a Milosevic trademark, could become violent. On 10 January, Bulatovic supporters demanded the formation of an "interim government" that would not include Djukanovic's backers, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Podgorica. PM
 STATE OF EMERGENCY IN MONTENEGRO?Blagota Mitric, the president of the Montenegrin Constitutional Court, said in Podgorica on 10 January that President Bulatovic might use the mass protests as an excuse to declare a state of emergency and prolong his own rule. Meanwhile, Yugoslav Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic told Montenegrin media that the army will not intervene in the growing political crisis. Minister Bulatovic stressed that the conflict must be solved in peaceful and democratic way. PM
 YUGOSLAV ARMY WANTS LINKS TO NATOChief-of- Staff General Momcilo Perisic said that "if Yugoslavia insists on staying outside [NATO's] Partnership for Peace [program], it will remain isolated, which will certainly have a negative impact on its future prosperity.... If Yugoslavia follows new world trends, it will acquire the means to be integrated into Europe." The pro-Milosevic Belgrade daily "Vecernje Novosti" on 12 January quoted Perisic's remarks, which appear in the new book "Silence is Criminal, Too," by Svetlana Petrusic. PM
 NEW YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTERPrime Minister Radoje Kontic on 9 January named Milosevic loyalist Zivadin Jovanovic to succeed Milan Milutinovic, the new Serbian president, as Yugoslav foreign minister. PM
 KOSOVO SERBS DEMAND "PROTECTION"Serbs in Drenica, west of Pristina, demonstrated on 9 January to demand that President Milosevic protect them against the growing strength of the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January 1998). It is unclear if the protest is a spontaneous act by worried citizens or part of an orchestrated campaign--like those Milosevic used in Croatia in 1991 and in Bosnia in 1992--to provide an excuse for intervention by Serbian troops and paramilitaries. Meanwhile in Pristina, leaders of the Bozur Society of Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo announced on 11 January that Bozur will stage rallies "to help make Milosevic aware of the situation in Kosovo." Bozur also plans to send a delegation to talk to Milosevic. And near Klina on 9 January, unidentified gunmen killed a Serb. PM
 WESTENDORP BACKS PLAVSIC'S PRIME MINISTERCarlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Banja Luka on 11 January that the international community urges the Bosnian Serbs to support Mladen Ivanic, who is Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic's nominee for prime minister (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 7 January 1998). Westendorp added that "We wish [Ivanic] good luck in forming a new government and we will help him.... The absence of a government is harmful to the interests of the people." The hard-liners based in Pale have repeatedly rejected Ivanic's candidacy. PM
 MUSLIMS DISMISS ZUBAK'S CHARGESMirza Hajric, a spokesman for Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic, said in Sarajevo that recent anti-Muslim remarks by Bosnian Croat leader Kresimir Zubak are aimed at promoting Zubak's standing with the top leadership in Zagreb, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 11 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1998). Hajric argues that Zubak is echoing the anti- Muslim views of the Zagreb leadership in order to ensure his own election as head of the governing Bosnian Croat party, the Croatian Democratic Community, which is in practice a branch of the governing Croatian party of the same name. PM
 CROATIA'S UNIONS THREATEN STRIKERepresentatives of Croatia's leading labor unions said in Zagreb on 9 January that they will urge their members to launch street protests if the government does not act to alleviate the effects of the 22 percent value- added tax, which took effect on 1 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1998). Also in Zagreb, a government spokesman said that the authorities will take steps to ensure that merchants do not take advantage of VAT to raise their prices independent of the tax, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. PM
 WHO OWNS CROATIA'S BIGGEST DAILY?An unidentified bidder bought a majority share in the pro-government Zagreb daily "Vecernji list" on 9 January. Spokesmen for independent journalists said they suspect that government supporters are behind the sale in an effort to allow the government to keep control of the paper while appearing to be encouraging privatization. PM
 POLICE CHIEF KILLS COLLEAGUE IN NORTHERN ALBANIATropoja police chief Fatmir Haklaj on 9 January shot and killed Shaqir Hoxha, his counterpart at the local border police post. Officials at the local state prosecutor's office said Haklaj was avenging the killing of his brother earlier in the week in a blood feud between the two influential families, "Shekulli" reported. Local policemen, however, denied there is a blood feud between the Haklaj and Hoxha families, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 11 January. The same day, Interior Minister Neritan Ceka, speaking on state-run television, denied opposition charges that a recent wave of killings in Tropoja is politically motivated (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 8 January 1998). Tropoja and other northern regions are centers of the ancient Albanian custom of the blood feud. FS
 ALBANIANS HAVE ELECTRICITY DEBTS TOTALING $52 MILLIONThe Albanian Energy Corporation (KESH) said that by the end of last year, customer debts for electric energy reached $52 million, "Dita Informacion" reported on 11 January. The largest debtors are state-owned companies and private households. KESH lacks funds to develop its power grid, and Albania is currently subject to frequent power shortages. FS
 SOLUTION TO ROMANIAN COALITION CRISIS IN SIGHT?After a 11 January meeting of the coalition leaders, Razvan Popescu, the chief of the government's Department for Public Information, said things are "moving in the direction desired by the government, meaning that the Democratic Party will remain in the coalition." The meeting was called after the National Liberal Party (PNL) offered to mediate between the Democrats and the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNLCD). Popescu dismissed media speculation that the meeting discussed replacing Premier Victor Ciorbea. Later on 11 January, President Emil Constantinescu met with the leaders of the PNL and PNLCD. The president's office also denied that Ciorbea's replacement has been discussed, saying the focus of the discussions was on speeding up reform. MS
 ROMANIAN NATIONAL CURRENCY DROPSThe value of the national currency dropped by 4.2 percent during the past week. On 9 January, dealers ended up exchanging the leu at a rate of 8, 650-8,800 to $1. Some observers attribute the sharp drop to the looming government crisis. Also on 9 January, the National Board for Statistics announced that the inflation rate in 1997 was 151.4 percent, while the value of the national currency dropped by 84.4 percent, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 MOLDOVAN RIGHTISTS LAUNCH ELECTION CAMPAIGNSome 2,000 people attended the launching of the election campaign of the Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM) in Chisinau on 10 January, RFE/RL's bureau in the Moldovan capital reported. The CDM was set up on 19 June 1997 by the Moldovan Party of Rebirth and Conciliation, led by former President Mircea Snegur, and by the Christian Democratic Popular Front, headed by Iurie Rosca. The CDM was later joined by the Moldovan Ecologist Party, the Christian Democratic Women's League and by a wing of the National Peasant Party of Moldova. Snegur, who like Rosca is a CDM co-chairman, told the gathering that Moldova has yet to change its regime, because at present it is ruled by a "neo-communist government." Rosca said that only "a rightist political force can be an alternative to the current rule of the left." MS
 RUSSIAN OFFICIAL SAYS NO WITHDRAWAL FROM TRANSDNIESTER YETVasilii Kravtsov, Russian deputy minister for CIS affairs, said in Tiraspol on 10 January that his country will not withdraw its forces from the Transdniester before the conflict between the separatists and Chisinau is fully settled, BASA-press reported. Kravtsov, who visited the Russian troops stationed in the region, said he doubted any one could predict when that would happen. Also on 10 January, Stefan Kitsak, military counselor to separatist leader Igor Smirnov, said on Transdniestrian television that "nationalist forces" in Chisinau are "preparing an invasion" of the Transdniester and that only a strong Transdniestrian army can forestall those intentions. His speech marked the sixth anniversary of the passage by the Transdniester Supreme Soviet of a law on setting up a separatist military force, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS
 RIVAL RALLIES MARK ANNIVERSARY IN BULGARIAGovernment and opposition rallies on 10 January marked the first anniversary of the storming of the parliament by demonstrators protesting the rule of the Socialist Party, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. No violent incidents were reported. Earlier the same day, the building of the parliament was opened to the public on the order of parliamentary chairman Yordan Sokolov. On 9 January, Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev ordered an investigation into allegations that former Premier Zhan Videnov personally ordered police forces to beat up demonstrators in January 1997. At a press conference in Sofia, Videnov did not deny the allegations, saying he was "not running away from responsibility." MS
[C] END NOTE
 WHO CONTROLS CHECHNYA?by Liz Fuller
On 1 January 1998, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov acquiesced to maverick field commander Salman Raduev's repeated demands that he dismiss his cabinet. Acting Prime Minister Shamil Basaev, notorious for his leading role in the June1995 Budennovsk hostage- taking, was charged with forming a new government. That move will inevitably fuel the ongoing debate in the Russian media about the extent of Maskhadov's control over his unruly countrymen and the alignment of domestic forces opposed to him.
A former Soviet army colonel who served as chief of staff to President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Maskhadov won the adulation of the forces serving under his command during the 20-month war against Russia. Meeting with then Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed in August 1996, Maskhadov signed the agreements that in effect ended hostilities and paved the way for extended talks on Chechnya's future status vis-a-vis Moscow. Many Russian politicians made no secret of their desire to see Maskhadov, whom they considered pragmatic and open to reason, elected president of Chechnya rather than one of the more radical and unpredictable former field commanders, such as Basaev.
But since his presidential election triumph in January 1997, Maskhadov has become increasingly perceived as having only limited authority. The real power, most observers agree, lies with the 18-strong Field Commanders' Council headed by Vice President Vakha Arsanov. By contrast, neither the parliament, the government, nor most political parties exercise significant influence on political developments.
The former field commanders, each of whom established control over a specific district of Chechnya during the war, have thus emerged as a counterbalance and complement to the "teyps" (clans) that until late1994 were the single most important social and political entity. (There is a strict hierarchy among the more than 150 Chechen teyps, the most numerous and powerful of which, the "benoy," is one of the 20 or so oldest and most respected such groups.)
This is not to assert that the power of the teyps has been totally eclipsed or that teyp membership carries no clout. Various teyps still control foreign policy and the oil sector, for example. Maskhadov's own faction is supported by Chechen businessmen from the smaller teyps who made their fortunes in Russia during the war. And two other groups jockeying for power are likewise teyp-oriented: the former Dudaev faction, which also includes representatives of some Ingush teyps; and that of Dudaev's deputy president, writer Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, and former chairman of the Chechen Oil Company, Khozh-Akhmet Yarikhanov, both of whom reportedly enjoy the support of the richest and noblest teyps.
This latter faction also includes radical field commander Raduev and First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov, who, lacking teyp support, is engaged in building an alternative power base in the form of the Islamic Path party, which he heads. In August 1997, Yandarbiev and Raduev founded the Warriors of Freedom movement, which is composed of some 1,000 war veterans and opposes any compromise approach to securing Chechnya's formal independence from the Russian Federation. The visible erosion of Maskhadov's authority dates from May 1997, when he and Russian President Boris Yeltsin met in Moscow to sign a formal treaty on peace and bilateral relations. That move reportedly so outraged the Field Commanders' Council that its members contemplated a coup to depose Maskhadov. In early July, Shamil Basaev, at that time perceived as Maskhadov's most influential supporter within the council, resigned from his post as deputy premier. Basaev himself declined to comment on his motives, but one observer has claimed that Basaev's directives were routinely ignored and that he was not consulted when decisions were taken on matters within his competence.
In late September, Vice President Arsanov, described by one Russian journalist as "unpredictable, single-minded, and ruthless," spontaneously ordered the expulsion of the entire Russian mission in Grozny. That move highlighted his role as what Ivan Rybkin, Lebed's successor as Security Council secretary, termed "the tail that controls the fox." One month later, in a possible bid to preclude further destabilizing moves by Arsanov, Maskhadov named Basaev first deputy prime minister and empowered him to act as premier during Maskhadov's private visits to Turkey and the U.S.
It is unclear whether Maskhadov will continue to combine the posts of president and prime minister as he has done until now, despite objections from the Field Commanders' Council. Since Arsanov reportedly exercises full control over domestic political and economic issues, Basaev may find himself frustrated and side-lined if Maskhadov appoints him prime minister. Moreover, Basaev would be unable to prevent the further erosion of Maskhadov's dwindling authority.
Meanwhile, Yandarbiev, Raduev and Udugov, united by their pathological antipathy to Russia, await an opportune moment to realize their shared objective of establishing an Islamic state in the North Caucasus. Maskhadov's avowed commitment to dialogue with Moscow is the single largest impediment to that objective.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty