|Tuesday, 31 March 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 89, 98-05-12
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 89, 12 May 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN OPPOSITIONIST OFFERED KEY POSITIONPresident Robert Kocharian has offered David Vartanian, a senior member of the opposition National Democratic Union (AZhM), the post of head of the oversight service within the presidential administration, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 11 May, quoting a member of the AZhM board. The presidential press service has declined to confirm or deny that report. The AZhM protested that the March presidential elections, in which its chairman Vazgen Manukian polled 12 percent of the vote in the first round, were neither free nor fair. LF
 AZERBAIJANIS PROTEST MOSCOW MURDERAzerbaijani police on 11 May dispersed some 50 people who planned to stage a protest outside the Russian embassy in Baku following the 7 May murder of an Azerbaijani trader at Moscow's Luzhniki stadium market, Turan reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 12 May that Azerbaijani traders at the market are being stripped of their licenses. LF
 KYRGYZ SECURITY MINISTRY REPORTS ON WAHHABISMisir Ashirkulov said at a 11 May press briefing that his ministry has discovered evidence that Islamic fundamentalists are working in Kyrgyzstan, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Ashirkulov confirmed reports by the newspaper "Vecherny Bishkek" that raids by the ministry's special forces have uncovered materials connected to Wahhabis and to an Uyghur separatist movement called For Free Eastern Turkestan. The Ittipak Uyghur group told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz service on 5 May that they have no knowledge of the existence in Kyrgyzstan of For Free Eastern Turkestan. ITAR-TASS and Interfax quoted Ashirkulov as saying Kyrgyzstan will cooperate with Russia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in fighting fundamentalism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 1998). However, RFE/RL correspondents present at the briefing were unable to confirm that statement. BP
 ECONOMIC COOPERATION ORGANIZATION CONVENES IN ALMATYAt the end of the 10-member Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) summit in Almaty on 11 May, the member nations released a declaration calling for the establishment of a bank of commerce and trade and a joint air company as well as the abolition of tariffs on trade between ECO members, RFE/RL correspondents, ITAR- TASS, and IRNA reported. The declaration also said the member nations will intensify efforts to combat illegal narcotics smuggling. The rotating presidency of the ECO was passed from Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The member states are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. BP
 ECO LEADERS HIGHLIGHT PRIORITIESKazakh President Nazarbayev said his country's trade with other ECO member states amounted to $1.12 billion in 1997, down on the previous year, and argued that most-favored nation status should be granted to those states, Interfax reported. At a meeting of four out of the five Caspian littoral states, Nazarbayev maintained his country's position on dividing the Caspian into sectors, while Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said the sea should serve the interests of peace and cooperation. Ousted Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani called for support from the ECO in restarting the Afghan peace talks. Referring to oil and gas pipeline projects and improved transportation links between the countries, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said the ECO "has not reached a level where all of its projects can be put into practice." BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NATO TO REVIEW ALL OPTIONS ON KOSOVANATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said at a meeting of the West European Union on Rhodes on 11 May that representatives of the Atlantic alliance will decide on 13 May whether to take a more active role in containing the crisis in Kosova. He added that "we have not ruled out any possibility." Solana said that so far "the only thing we have done is to ask our military authorities to do preliminary planning of potential help to [Macedonia] and Albania in order to help them control their borders and.. prevent any spillover" of the low-intensity conflict. German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe added that possible options include establishing a no-fly zone over Kosova and sending observers to the area. Ruehe said that there is no need to send a large force to patrol the Kosova-Albania border because there is no evidence of major arms smuggling. PM
 WESTENDORP WARNS THAT CONFLICT MAY SPREADCarlos Westendorp, who is the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said at the UN in New York on 11 May that the conflict in Kosova could spread elsewhere in the region, which, he added, "may have a very negative influence on Bosnia." Westendorp suggested that any intensification of the fighting could lead to an exodus of refugees, many of whom might head for Bosnia. The Spanish diplomat added that NATO troops in Bosnia and elsewhere may find themselves involved in the fighting if a full-fledged war breaks out in Kosova. Westendorp noted that Bosnia itself is entering "a turbulent period" because of efforts by the international community to help refugees return to their homes in areas under the control of another ethnic group. PM
 HOLBROOKE STILL EMPTY-HANDEDRichard Holbrooke, the previous U.S. special envoy to the former Yugoslavia, and his successor, Robert Gelbard obtained no results from their talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on 11 May, which was their second meeting with him in three days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 May 1998). Holbrooke noted that "the distance between the two sides is very great" but added that "we will continue on the instructions and with the encouragement of Secretary of State [Madeleine] Albright and President Bill Clinton to try to fill in the gaps." In a statement, Milosevic slammed the outside "interference" and "pressure" being applied to his country. PM
 ILIESCU BACKS MILOSEVICRomanian former President Ion Iliescu said in Belgrade on 11 May that Milosevic's policy toward Kosova is "fair." The Romanian opposition leader added that Kosova is "an internal problem for Serbia and Yugoslavia, " and that the international community has no right to intervene unless Belgrade asks it to do so. In recent months, Romanian businessmen have gone on trial for smuggling gasoline to Serbia during the time that Iliescu was president and sanctions were in force against Belgrade. It has emerged at the trials that the government knew about the smuggling. PM
 KOSOVAR KILLED IN PRISHTINAPolice deliberately shot an elderly Kosovar onlooker during an early morning raid on a neighboring house on 12 May, Reuters reported, quoting the man's family. Serbian police refused to comment on the story. The previous day, the key road linking Prishtina and Peja remained closed for the fourth straight day because of fighting in the area, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Mitrovica, police spokesmen said that the police have arrested seven Kosovars wanted for "terrorism" in conjunction with recent clashes between the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and the paramilitary police. In Peja, the prosecutor's office launched proceedings against 13 Kosovars on similar charges in conjunction with an attack on the police station in Ponoshec. PM
 MONTENEGRO TO TRY TO UNSEAT MILOSEVICSvetozar Marovic, who is speaker of the Montenegrin parliament and a member of the governing Democratic Socialist Party, said in Budva on 11 May that Montenegrin deputies to the federal parliament will lodge a motion after the 31 May Montenegrin parliamentary elections to remove Milosevic from office. Marovic stressed that Milosevic treats the army like "his private property" and is ruining Yugoslavia internationally through his "xenophobic policies." The speaker added that Montenegrins "will not go to war for Kosova" but also that Montenegro "will not give it up," the Belgrade daily "Novosti" reported. In Podgorica, election officials announced that 10 parties have qualified for a place on the ballot and that 458,340 voters are registered, which is 3,000 voters fewer than in the second round of last year's presidential vote, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 CROATIAN DIPLOMAT BLASTS RULING IDEOLOGYDavor Bekic, who is ambassador to the UN in Geneva and one of Croatia's leading diplomats, told "Vecernji list" of 9 May that Croatia must adopt a clear policy toward Bosnia and support the unity of that country if Zagreb hopes to avoid problems with the Muslims and with the international community. Without mentioning President Franjo Tudjman or the governing Croatian Democratic Community by name, Bekic charged that the country's political culture is backward and that prominent politicians whitewash Croatia's fascist past. He added that such politicians follow an ideology that attempts to be both socially radical and staunchly nationalist "and that, in other words, is national- socialist, or Nazi." PM
 NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE AGAINST CROATIAN GOVERNORThe legislature of Dubrovnik-Neretva county approved a vote of no confidence in Governor Jure Buric in Dubrovnik on 11 May in connection with his role in the ongoing scandal surrounding the Dubrovacka Banka. In the Sarengradska Ada area near Ilok, Yugoslav soldiers briefly detained two Croatian citizens. The area is one of several pockets belonging to Croatia but now on the northern, or Serbian, side of the Danube following a change in the river's course. Serbia treats the pockets as disputed territory and has periodically sent army patrols into the areas, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. And in Osijek, Croatian police arrested a Serb suspected of involvement in three murders in Vukovar following the fall of that town to Serbian forces in November 1991. PM
 BOMB ATTACK ON ALBANIAN JOURNALISTA bomb slightly injured four children on 10 May at the Vlora home of "Koha Jone" correspondent Zenepe Luka. Local police Chief Rebani Memsuhi said that the 5 kilogram bomb was the largest explosive device used in the southern city since the unrest ended in the second half of 1997. He added that "the attack, which aimed at physically eliminating Zenepe Luka's family, was also directed at the free press." The explosion occurred just hours after the Democratic Party officials had refused to admit her to a party rally but had relented following an appeal by Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe ambassador Daan Everts. Addressing the rally, Democratic legislator Azem Hajdari called Luka a "slut" and an associate of gang leader Zani Caushi. Luka became well known during the 1997 revolt, when she was one of only a handful of reporters in the city. FS
 ROMANIA DECRIMINALIZES HOMOSEXUALITYThe government on 7 May approved a draft law decriminalizing homosexual relations. The draft, which has yet to be approved by the parliament, states that homosexual relations are punishable only if minors under the age of 14 are involved or if rape takes place. Under the existing penal code, homosexual relations are punishable if they constitute a "public offense" and can carry a sentence of up to seven years. Romania has been repeatedly criticized by international human rights organizations and the Council of Europe for classifying homosexuality as a criminal offense. The Romanian Orthodox Church and extreme nationalists parties and public organizations are opposed to decriminalizing homosexual relations. MS
 MOLDOVAN SECRET SERVICES PREVENTED MIG DEAL LEAKMoldova's secret services have prevented an attempt by a former Defense Ministry official to smuggle classified documents out of the country. The documents contained details of contracts to sell MiG fighters to the U.S. and South Yemen. Last year, Moldova sold 21 MiG-29 fighters to the U.S; in 1994, it sold four fighters to South Yemen. The official tried to get the documents to a country whose name has not been revealed "in the interests of the investigation," ITAR-TASS reported on 11 May, citing the press service of the Moldovan Ministry for State Security. MS
 BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN CHINAPresident Petar Stoyanov and his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, met in Beijing on 11 May and signed a declaration on strengthening bilateral relations, dpa reported. They also signed agreements on cooperation in telecommunications, culture, science, and education. Stoyanov said Bulgaria will remain faithful to its "one China policy" and will not establish formal relations with Taiwan. Accompanied by a large delegation of businessmen, Stoyanov is scheduled to meet with Premier Zhu Rongji and parliamentary chairman Li Peng on 12 May. MS
 'OPEN WAR' BETWEEN CRIME-FIGHTING CHIEFS IN BULGARIAThe shooting of a policeman in Sofia last weekend has exacerbated what the Bulgarian media call an "open war" between Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev and Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev. Tatarchev recently released a special report criticizing widespread police brutality toward suspects in detention. The ministry said the report was "exaggerated" and Bonev demanded Tatarchev's resignation, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Meanwhile on 11 May, a journalist for "Trud" who specializes in investigating organized crime was seriously hurt when acid was thrown in her face at a bus stop in Sofia. Ana Zaharova was hospitalized, while the attacker managed to escape in a car that was waiting for him, Bulgarian Radio reported. MS
[C] END NOTE
 YOUNG RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT FACES SAME OLD PROBLEMSby Laura Belin
With the formation of Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko's government nearly complete, it is clear that President Boris Yeltsin has made good on his promise to promote a new generation of politicians. In the process, he has handed a stunning victory to the group informally known as the "young reformers."
Yeltsin resisted demands from powerful businessmen such as Boris Berezovskii to exclude Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov from the new government. Oleg Sysuev (at 45, the eldest of the deputy prime ministers) is ideologically close to Nemtsov, and Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko left his native Chelyabinsk Oblast for a Finance Ministry post last July, when that ministry was headed by then First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais. With Yeltsin's blessing, Chubais became chief executive of Russia's electricity monopoly, Unified Energy System.
Supporters of Chubais and Nemtsov have predicted that at last the Russian government will give economic reform a decisive push. But Kirienko's team will face major obstacles in implementing its policy initiatives.
The government's most urgent task is a familiar one. Owing to poor tax collection and revenue shortfalls caused by the slump in oil prices, the government continues to have trouble meeting its basic obligations. Last summer, pension arrears were settled with much fanfare. But early this year, those arrears began to pile up again--even though the government used questionable statistical techniques to keep pensions lower than the level apparently required by a new law.
The Finance Ministry has already proposed cutting 1998 budget expenditures by more than 12 percent. Kirienko has pledged to boost revenues as well, but making up for lost revenues will be more difficult for his government than it was for his predecessor's. In 1997, the government plugged some budget holes by expanding its privatization program. The biggest sale, that of a 25 percent stake in the telecommunications giant Svyazinvest, brought in nearly $1.9 billion.
The State Property Ministry has already raised its privatization revenue targets for 1998 by more than 80 percent. The first major sale is scheduled for late May, when a 75 percent stake in the oil company Rosneft goes on the auction block. The minimum bid has been set at some $2.1 billion.
The government may never see that money, however. Since last November, an auction for a stake in the oil company Slavneft and two attempts to sell a stake in the Eastern Oil Company have all failed because fewer than two bids were submitted. (Russian law requires at least two bids for a privatization auction to be valid.)
History could well repeat itself in the Rosneft auction. Two of the three major potential investment consortia have suggested they will not take part in the auction because of the high price tag. If the Rosneft sale falls through, the government is unlikely to meet its targets for proceeds from other major privatization deals, such as the planned sale of a 24 percent stake in Svyazinvest.
In the meantime, the government is seeking other sources of cash. Russia floated a DM 1.25 billion ($682 million) Eurobond in March and a 750 billion lira ($425 million) Eurobond in April. Finance Ministry officials have said another Eurobond may be issued in June. The ministry also recently signed an agreement on a $1.5 billion loan from the Export-Import Bank of Japan.
Those efforts will help pay pensions and wages to state employees, but not without substantial costs in the future. Unlike tax revenues or proceeds from privatization sales, loans must eventually be paid back with interest.
Even if the government manages to improve tax collection and meet its budgetary obligations, far-reaching economic reforms will require changes in Russian legislation. Kirienko's cabinet is not well positioned to persuade the State Duma to back such changes.
The Communist Party, which along with allied groups holds a near majority in the Duma, will likely be in no mood to compromise. The showdown over Kirienko's confirmation embarrassed party leaders, who appeared either unable to enforce party discipline or insincere in their opposition to Kirienko's candidacy. Several dozen deputies elected to the Duma as Communists supported the prime minister in the third and decisive vote. But Yeltsin rewarded neither them nor their preferred "experienced managers" with senior economic posts. To add insult to injury, the president handed a plum job to Chubais, probably the politician most hated by the leftist opposition.
Furthermore, Kirienko's team may not be able to count on the once reliable allies of Viktor Chernomyrdin's government. Aleksandr Shokhin, the leader of the Our Home Is Russia Duma faction, told Interfax on 7 May that his faction no longer considers itself responsible for the government's actions. Yeltsin did not heed any of the faction's recommendations on cabinet appointments. Nor did he appoint any ministers representing Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, which, like Our Home Is Russia, backed Kirienko's confirmation unanimously in the final Duma vote.
Yeltsin has the power to ignore the Duma's wishes when appointing the government. But the constitution gives him no such luxury when it comes to adopting legislation. Resentment over the composition of the new cabinet will further complicate efforts to pass a new tax code by the end of the year. Yeltsin's appointment of Ilya Yuzhanov as land policy minister suggests that the standoff between the legislature and the executive over the land code will continue. And Sysuev, who failed twice in 1997 to persuade the Duma to approve reductions in social benefits, is unlikely to improve on that record this year.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty