|Friday, 15 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 84, 98-05-04
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 84, 4 May 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 MEDIATION EFFORTS QUELL FIGHTING OUTSIDE TAJIK CAPITALFighting that broke out just east of Dushanbe on 29 April between government forces and a group nominally associated with the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) has ceased following intensive mediation efforts. President Imomali Rakhmonov on 2 May held talks with the deputy leader of the UTO, Khoja Akbar Turajonzoda, to mediate the dispute. The same day, UN observers and government and opposition representatives met with the rebel group in the village of Teppoi-Samarkandi, 12 kilometers east of the Dushanbe, and reached an agreement on a cease-fire. Road check-points were established on the highway from Dushanbe to Kofarnikhon with the help of both government and UTO troops. The situation in Dushanbe was calm on 4 May, RFE/RL correspondents in the Tajik capital reported. BP
 BACKGROUND TO FIGHTINGThe conflict began on 29 April after the Tajik government had issued an ultimatum to the UTO-affiliated group to withdraw to an area 12-15 kilometers outside Dushanbe by 16:00 local time. The deadline was extended by 90 minutes, but the group failed to comply with it. The government responded by ordering a military operation, with tanks and artillery, to clear the group from the capital's outskirts. Some members of the rebel group took up positions on hilltops in the capital and fired on the presidential palace and the Pakistani Embassy. No one was hurt at either location, though the embassy sustained some structural damage. Some 20 government soldiers, five rebel fighters, and 26 civilians are reported killed in the fighting. Those figures, however, are expected to rise as aid workers search for missing persons. BP
 UZBEKISTAN TIGHTENS CONTROLS OVER RELIGIOUS GROUPSThe parliament on 1 May passed a law imposing new restrictions on religious groups, Reuters and Interfax reported. The law requires all mosques and all religious groups with more than 100 members to register. Attending the parliamentary session, President Islam Karimov spoke out harshly against one such group, the Wahhabis, whom he accused of seeking to turn Uzbekistan into a second Tajikistan by "killing officials [and destroying] food factories, powers stations, and other strategic installations." Karimov added that "such people must be shot in the head. If necessary, I'll shoot them myself, if you lack the resolve." Wahhabis were blamed for violence that broke out in the city of Namangan last December in which several police officials were killed. BP
 KYRGYZSTAN ARRESTS UYGHUR SEPARATISTSITAR- TASS on 1 May reported that Kyrgyz authorities have arrested 20 Uyghurs who were allegedly involved in terrorist activities. According to Kyrgyz press reports cited by the Russian agency, those arrested belong to the organization "For Free Eastern Turkestan" and were in possession of weapons and Wahhabi training videos at the time of their arrest. "Vecherny Bishkek" reported the same day that many of the arrests took place in early April and began with an Uyghur citizen of China identified only as "Kasarli," who is alleged to have helped Kyrgyz youth travel abroad for Wahhabi training, mainly to Pakistan. The article claims Wahhabis have mosques not only in the Fergana Valley near Osh but also around Bishkek and in Kyrgyzstan's northern Chu Valley. It concludes by saying that the Kyrgyz Commission on Religious Affairs is unable "to resist the religious fundamentalist invasion." BP
 ARMENIA CLARIFIES POSITION ON BEREZOVSKII...President Robert Kocharian on 30 April said he does not oppose the appointment of Boris Berezovskii as CIS executive secretary but added that he has certain reservations about Berezovskii because of the constant "tension" surrounding him, ITAR-TASS reported. But Kocharian also said he had insisted that in compliance with the regulations on appointing CIS executives, Berezovskii's appointment should be reconfirmed within three months, Noyan Tapan reported. Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii had told Interfax the previous day that Berezovskii's appointment had been supported by all summit participants except Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 1998). LF
 ..AND CIS SUMMITKocharian positively assessed the 29 April summit, which he said "opened the possibility for new development" of the CIS. He advocated rotating the chairmanship of the various CIS bodies, arguing that this would provide an incentive for member states to put forward specific problems and seek a solution to them within a given period. Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian told "RFE/RL Newsline" on 1 May that the draft Declaration on Further Equal Partnership and Cooperation within the CIS was not "put for signature" but that a decision on its adoption was postponed at the suggestion of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev. Interfax had reported on 29 April that several summit participants had refused to sign that draft. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT OUTLINES MILITARY PRIORITIESEduard Shevardnadze on 30 April awarded newly appointed Defense Minister David Tevzadze the rank of major-general, calling the military leader "a brilliant specialist and a good warrior," Caucasus Press reported. Presenting Tevzadze to ministry staff the same day, the president argued that Georgia's national army must be "mobile, compact, and capable," according to Interfax. Shevardnadze said that Tevzadze's top priorities should be to improve living conditions for servicemen and to make military service "as safe as possible." Nodar Epremidze, president of the Society for the Rights of Soldiers, had told a 27 April news conference in Tbilisi that servicemen live in "elementary" conditions, exist on food that is extremely low in calories, and have ammunition and uniforms that do not meet required standards. LF
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION SLAMS ELECTION LEGISLATIONSeveral Azerbaijani opposition figures have harshly criticized the draft laws on the Central Electoral Commission and on presidential elections, Turan reported on 30 April. The bill on the commission stipulates that 12 of the body's 24 members are appointed by the president and the remaining 12 by the parliament. The bill on presidential elections, which was passed in the first reading on 30 April, restricts the right to propose presidential candidates to political parties that are legally registered with the Ministry of Justice six months before elections, according to ITAR- TASS. Azerbaijan Popular Front Deputy Chairman Ali Kerimov said the requirement that would-be presidential candidates collect 50,000 signatures in order to register, including a minimum of 400 from each raion, is "unfair." Musavat party chairman Isa Gambar said the draft laws deal not with electing but appointing the president. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 HEAVY FIGHTING NEAR KOSOVA-ALBANIA BORDERAlbanian military sources and observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported from the northern Albanian border town of Qafe e Morines near Bajram Curri on 3 May that they heard the fire of rifles, automatic weapons, mortars, and artillery from the Kosovar town of Ponoshec. "The Serbs said it was an attack on a police station," OSCE ambassador Daan Everts told Reuters. "There must have been heavy retaliation." Italian military attache Colonel Sergio Russo commented, adding that "things look dangerous in this part of the border. The Albanians report a build-up of Serbian military units." Other Albanian sources added that houses were on fire. Serbian police officials said that five of their men were wounded. Three Kosovars were killed and three wounded in the Drenica area the previous day. PM
 ALBANIA CALLS FOR ARMY VOLUNTEERSThe National Defense Council on 1 May announced it will recruit 1,000 volunteers into the army. The new troops will help border security units in northern Albania prevent arms smuggling and illegal border crossings, "Koha Jone" reported. The volunteers will receive monthly salaries of up to $220. The average Albanian monthly income is about $65. Meanwhile in Kukes, the OSCE unofficially opened an office on 3 May to help monitor that part of the border region. Last month, the organization opened an office in Bajram Curri, to the north of Kukes. FS
 STRONGER 'FIRE WALL' FOR MACEDONIAA British Defense Ministry spokesman on 2 May said that British troops will go to the Macedonian-Kosovar border as part of an international "fire wall" to prevent the Kosovar conflict from spilling over into Macedonia, "The Sunday Telegraph" reported. "We are interested in greater cooperation with Macedonia and Albania. This is our effort to contribute to increased security and stability in the region," the spokesman said. The British units will join U.S. and Scandinavian soldiers already serving with the UN forces there (UNPREDEP), which is the first mission in UN history aimed at conflict prevention rather than at peacekeeping after a war. Senior British army officials told the newspaper that they expect the enterprise will become a Bosnia-type NATO mission within one year. PM
 U.S. WARNS MILOSEVICA State Department spokesman on 30 April said that the latest sanctions against Serbia, including the freeze on foreign investments slated to take effect on 9 May, will have a "chilling effect" on Yugoslavia's economy. The spokesman added that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic may soon face the breakup of rump Yugoslavia as a result: "having successfully presided over the amputation of former Yugoslavia..., he's setting himself up for further successes of this nature unless he reverses course." The spokesman also said that the Contact Group's recent decisions affecting its relations with Belgrade contain incentives as well as punitive measures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 1998). PM
 MORE CRITICISM OF MILOSEVIC'S TELEVISION STATIONYugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vojin Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 1 May that he and federal Prime Minister Radoje Kontic have not received an official answer from the Belgrade authorities as to who is behind Milosevic's new Yugoslav Television (RTJ). Djukanovic added that RTJ is not a federal broadcasting station but "the project of one group of citizens," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The Montenegrin authorities refuse to rebroadcast the signals of the new station, which most observers regard as Milosevic's vehicle to bring his views to Montenegro (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 29 April 1998). PM
 WARNINGS FOR HERZEGOVINIAN CROATSBosnian Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic, a Croat, warned extreme nationalists in Drvar on 2 May to stop attacking Serbs and their property because "the Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot survive amid chaos." The previous day, the international community's Carlos Westendorp threatened the nationalists with unspecified measures to prevent further ethnic clashes. Kresimir Zubak, who is the Croatian member of the joint presidency, also recently warned the extremists in Drvar to end the violence (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report, 29 April 1998). PM
 CROATIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DIESGojko Susak has died aged 53 after a long battle with lung cancer, Hina reported on 4 May. Susak was the leader of the hard-line Herzegovinian Croats, who hold many key positions in Zagreb, and helped fund President Franjo Tudjman's rise to power in the late 1980s. Many observers regarded Susak as the second most powerful man in Croatia. During the war of 1991-1995, he helped mastermind the development of the army, which led to its eventual victory over Serbian rebels. It is unclear who will succeed him as leader of the Herzegovinians. PM
 TUDJMAN AIDE QUITSHrvoje Sarinic, until now the head of President Franjo Tudjman's office and one of the most influential men in Croatia, has quit his post at the presidential palace, "Jutarnji list" reported on 4 May. He gave no reason for his decision, but the Zagreb daily suggested it is in protest against the continued involvement of some of his colleagues from the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in an ongoing banking scandal. The daily added that the person most likely to benefit politically from Sarinic's resignation is Ivic Pasalic, who is Tudjman's chief domestic affairs adviser. Several leading opposition politicians told "Vecernji list" that the resignation is evidence of deep splits in the HDZ. PM
 ARGENTINE POLICE ARREST SAKICPolice in Buenos Aires on 1 May arrested Dinko Sakic, who was a commander at the World War II Croatian concentration camp at Jasenovac. Police spokesmen say he will be extradited to Croatia later this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 1998). Sakic, who is 76 and has lived in Argentina since the end of World War II, drew attention to himself by telling Argentine television last month that he was a commander at the camp and that he is proud of himself. He added that "all that we did in the war was in the interest of Croatia and the Christian world. My only regret is that we did not do all the things of which we have been accused," "Die Presse" reported on 27 April. The Serbian authorities say Sakic is a mass murderer. PM
 ACCUSED CIGARETTE-SMUGGLING RINGLEADER ARRESTED IN ROMANIAColonel Gheorghe Trutulescu has been arrested on suspicion of masterminding a lucrative cigarette smuggling scheme that has led to resignations in the government, AFP reported on 3 May. Trutulescu was detained in Arad, northwest of Bucharest, after becoming a fugitive. On 30 April, General Ion Dohotaru, the chief of military counter-intelligence, and General Mihai Marin Stan of the State Security Service became the latest military officials to be dismissed, Mediafax reported. President Emil Constantinescu said the two should be held accountable for the actions of persons under their command who are thought to be involved in the affair. PB
 MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT ACCEPTS CABINET'S RESIGNATIONIn accordance with constitutional provisions, Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc's cabinet formerly submitted its resignation to the new parliament on 30 April, RFE/RL reported. The legislature accepted the resignation. Valentin Dolganciuc, a member of the Christian Democratic Popular Front, is premier- designate and is awaiting approval from President Petru Lucinschi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 1998). The new cabinet is expected to be formed this week. Ciubuc said that despite the dreary economic situation in the country, his government can take the credit for some positive developments, including the halt in the decline of industrial output. PB
 BULGARIAN SOCIALIST LEADER CALLS FOR LEFTIST COALITIONGeorgi Parvanov, leader of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, said on 1 May that the party is in a "state of crisis" and should form a coalition with other leftist parties, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Parvanov, who was speaking at a Socialist congress, said the party's current state can largely be blamed on former Socialist Prime Minister Zhan Videnov's lack of "adequate and pragmatic policies." The Socialists hold the second- largest number of seats in the parliament, but the party's membership numbers and reputation severely suffered after it stepped down from power amid mass protests last year. PB
 BULGARIAN POLITICIANS TO GIVE UP BUSINESS POSTSPrime Minister Ivan Kostov has ordered politicians serving on the boards of state-owned firms to step down, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported on 2 May. Kostov's action comes on the heels of criticism by Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov, who said such boards have become "hidden sources of income" for politicians. The opposition has accused the governing Union of Democratic Forces of allowing relatives and party loyalists to serve on those boards. Kostov also ordered a special commission to find competent people to fill the positions vacated by politicians and their appointees. PB
[C] END NOTE
 RUBIK'S CUBE IN OSSETIAby Liz Fuller
It is unclear whether the draft document adopted at last week's CIS summit on resolving the conflict in Abkhazia will have the desired effect. But the January 1998 election of Aleksandr Dzasokhov as president of North Ossetia has given new impetus to the search for solutions to two other Caucasian conflicts--between North Ossetia and Ingushetia and between Georgia and South Ossetia.
Dzasokhov immediately established a cordial working relationship with his Ingushetian counterpart, Ruslan Aushev, who had had strained relations with Dzasokhov's predecessor, Akhsarbek Galazov. Dzasokhov also assumed the task of mediating between the leadership of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia and the Georgian government to reach a framework agreement for restoring formal relations between the two. (In late 1990, the nationalist Georgian leadership of Zviad Gamsakhurdia responded to South Ossetia's demands to secede from Georgia by abolishing the region's autonomous status within that country. The move triggered intensive fighting in South Ossetia between Georgian Interior Ministry forces and local Ossetian paramilitaries as well as a violent backlash against Ossetians living elsewhere in Georgia. In all, some 100,000 Ossetians fled north from Georgia to escape the threat of ethnic cleansing. ) It is unclear whether Dzasokhov can claim some of the credit for the recent rapprochement between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali. A planned meeting of Georgian and South Ossetian leaders in December 1997 was canceled, allegedly because of what the former considered to be the latter's unacceptable demands: a Georgian spokesman said at the time that Chibirov continued to insist on his unrecognized republic's independence from Georgia and unification with North Ossetia. In his annual address to the parliament in March of this year, however, Chibirov called for renewed talks with Tbilisi on establishing "equal and mutually beneficial relations" on condition that such relations do not infringe on South Ossetia's "sovereignty." He also listed as a priority "greater integration" with North Ossetia," including the creation of a "common economic space." The Georgian leadership, for its part, has signaled its readiness to begin contributing to the South Ossetian budget (since 1992 the region has been funded entirely by Moscow), and a working group has been set up to discuss restoring transportation links.
The one issue crucial to resolving both the Georgian- South Ossetia and the Ossetian-Ingush conflicts is the repatriation of those forced to flee their homes during the fighting. More than 40,000 Ossetians who fled Georgia from 1990-1992 settled in North Ossetia. Of those, some 16,000 occupied houses in North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi Raion after they were abandoned by ethnic Ingush during the fighting there in November 1992. Prigorodnyi Raion had originally been part of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR but was incorporated into North Ossetia following the deportation of both the Chechens and Ingush to Central Asia in 1944 and the ensuing abolition of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR as a territorial administrative unit. Following Secretary- General Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 "secret speech" to the 20th congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the deportees were allowed to return.
But latent tensions between Ossetians and Ingush repatriates rose to the surface in 1991-1992 when the Ingush demanded the return of Prigorodnyi Raion. In late October 1992, those tensions erupted into fighting between Ingush informal militias and North Ossetian security forces backed by Russian Interior Ministry and army troops. In six days of violence, up to 700 people were killed and thousands of homes, mostly belonging to Ingush, destroyed. Almost the entire Ingush population of the district-- estimates range from 34,000 to 64,000 people-- fled to Ingushetia.
Failure to expedite the return of those Ingush to North Ossetia was one of the factors that bedeviled relations between Galazov and Aushev. Vladimir Kalamanov, Russian President Boris Yeltsin's envoy to North Ossetia and Ingushetia, recently reasoned that the return of the Ingush to North Ossetia can neither be planned nor implemented in isolation but should be part of a broader effort that includes the repatriation to Georgia of the Ossetian refugees, some of whom are currently living in Ingush homes.
That undertaking, however, is likely to prove problematic, given that the majority of Ossetian refugees currently domiciled in Prigorodnyi Raion are not from South Ossetia but from elsewhere in Georgia and are convinced that their lives would be in danger if they returned there. (In contrast, 52 Ossetian families returned last year from Ingushetia to South Ossetia.) Over the past five years, the Ossetian refugees from Georgia have put down firm roots in Prigorodnyi Raion, taking over the role in trade (and, according to one commentator, in crime) that was once played by the Ingush. While agreement has been reached on providing funds to enable Ingush who wish to return to Prigorodnyi Raion to build new homes there, the returnees' prospects of finding employment are dismal in view of North Ossetia's 50 percent unemployment rate.
All the factors outlined above suggest that the large- scale, Rubik's Cube- type repatriation proposed by Kalamanov is utopian. Even the return of smaller numbers of Ingush to Prigorodnyi Raion might spark new tensions and rivalries with the recent Ossetian settlers, thereby undermining the chances for a lasting reconciliation between the two ethnic groups.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty