|Friday, 15 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 125, 98-07-01
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 125, 1 July 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 GEORGIA PREPARES TO BEGIN GUARDING FRONTIERS...Georgian border troops on 1 July began preparations to assume sole responsibility for guarding the country's land and sea borders, which since 1992 have been jointly patrolled by Georgian and Russian forces. Georgian Frontier Guard Commander Valerii Chkheidze told journalists in Tbilisi on 29 June that Georgia will assume responsibility for guarding its 12 km territorial waters on 16 July and its land border with Turkey in September. An agreement to this effect was initialed in Moscow on 27 June. LF
 ...AMID ABKHAZ, RUSSIAN RESERVATIONSAbkhaz Defense Minister Vladimir Mikanba on 30 June warned that "Abkhazia as a sovereign state will not allow patrol ships of a country with which it is in conflict enter its territorial waters," according to Interfax. Mikanba suggested that Russian border guards should continue to protect Abkhazia's sea borders until relations with Georgia are clarified. In Moscow, former Russian Federal Border Service director Andrei Nikolaev said the withdrawal of Russian border troops from Georgia is tantamount to the "loss of Russia's strategic position in the Caucasus." LF
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN BAKUEmil Constantinescu and President Heidar Aliev met for two hours in Baku on 30 June for talks focusing primarily on Romania's potential role as a transit country for exports of Azerbaijani Caspian oil. Constantinescu pointed out that existing terminal and refining facilities at Romania's Black Sea port of Constanta have a handling capacity of 31 million metric tons per year. Aliev agreed that the Baku-Supsa-Constanta route could function as one of several, together with the Baku- Novorossiisk and Baku- Ceyhan pipelines, according to Turan. The two presidents also discussed the potential for cooperation within the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization and the EU "Silk Road" project. A declaration on further cooperation and inter-governmental agreements on cargo traffic and exchange of information by the two countries' official news agencies were signed. LF
 DATE SET FOR AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONSThe newly elected Central Electoral Commission has scheduled the upcoming presidential elections for 11 October, Turan reported on 30 June The previous day, 17 of the 18 members already appointed to the commission elected Jafar Veliev as chairman. Veliev, who also chaired the previous commission, vowed that the body will do its best to ensure that the presidential elections are free and fair. He added that the commission will create all conditions necessary for the participation of international observers. The OSCE is expected to send 140 such observers. LF
 AZERBAIJANI EX-PRESIDENT INTERROGATEDFormer President and Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman Abulfaz Elchibey was questioned for three hours on 30 June by the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry's Department to Combat Organized Crime, Turan reported. A ministry spokesman said that the questions focused on Elchibey's aide Gabil Mamedov, who was arrested on 14 June on fabricated charges of illegal possession of arms, and on a document entitled "Meeting Tactics of the Opposition." That document was confiscated during a search of the premises of the opposition newspaper "Chag" on 16 June. LF
 IMPRISONED FORMER AZERBAIJANI DEFENSE MINISTER ON HUNGER STRIKERahim Gaziev, who was extradited from Russia to Baku in April 1996, embarked on a hunger strike on 22 June to demand a public retrial, Caucasus Press reported on 30 June. Gaziev was sentenced to death in absentia in 1994 on charges of embezzlement, illegal possession of arms, and surrendering the towns of Lachin and Shusha to Armenian forces in May 1992. LF
 ARGENTINEAN PRESIDENT IN YEREVANCarlos Menem and his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, discussed economic cooperation, regional issues, and cooperation within the framework of international organizations during Menem's one-day visit to Yerevan on 30 June, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The two presidents signed a joint declaration on the "fundamentals of friendly relations" and pledged their support for the Argentinean Bridas oil and gas company's participation in the planned construction of a gas pipeline from Iran to Armenia. Inter-ministerial agreements on cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, health care, culture, and education were also signed. Kocharian told journalists that the two presidents "understood each other correctly," having "very close or identical" views on all issues discussed. Kocharian visited Argentina in May 1996, while still president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. LF
 NAZARBAYEV ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT ON ECONOMYKazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev told a joint session of the parliament on 30 June that the country must become less dependent on the fluctuations of the world financial market, Interfax reported. Nazarbayev said small and medium-size businesses must be developed, the tax system made more flexible to benefit the internal market, and value-added tax revised. Nazarbayev also said industries producing consumer goods and all banks except the National Bank must be privatized. And he commented that the Asian financial crisis "has not left Kazakhstan unaffected," mentioning that prices for Kazakhstan's main exports--oil and nonferrous metals--have dropped on world markets. The Kazakh president said the government needs to take measures to support exporters through tariffs, adding that he favors diversifying exports. BP
 KYRGYZSTAN RECEIVES ANOTHER IMF LOANThe board of the IMF approved an economic structural adjustment facility (ESAF) loan for Kyrgyzstan, Interfax reported on 29 June. Kyrgyzstan will receive between $20-36 million annually for the next three years. Finance Minister Talaibek Koichumanov said the money will be used to support the national currency. An RFE/RL correspondent based in Washington describes an ESAF loan as "available to the poorest members of the IMF [and] given at a 0.5 percent interest rate with five-and-a half year grace period." BP
 LAST UTO FIGHTERS BEGIN TO RETURN TO TAJIKISTANA group of some 150 fighters from the United Tajik Opposition who had been stranded in Afghanistan crossed the lower Pyanj River into Tajikistan on 1 July, RFE/RL correspondents and ITAR-TASS reported. Their repatriation is being overseen by the UN observer mission to Tajikistan, Russian border guards, and the joint peace-keeping force. Some 500 fighters have been waiting for more than a year to return home, following the signing of the Tajik peace accord in Moscow last June. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SERBIA CLAIMS SUCCESS IN BELACEVAC OFFENSIVESerbian police officials on 30 June said they have retaken villages near the Belacevac coal mine that were previously controlled by the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). Yugoslav army tanks were used in the offensive, AP reported. Serbs have resumed operation of the strategic Belacevac mine as well, according to Reuters. The mine is just west of Prishtina and supplies two nearby power plants. Reports say at least three Albanians were killed and seven wounded in the battle, although most of the UCK fighters are reported to have escaped the area. Thousands of inhabitants have fled Belacevac and two nearby towns, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Elsewhere, five Albanians died in battles with Serbian forces near the Albanian border west of Djakovica, according to Serbian police. The UCK is reported to have launched an attack at the village of Drenoc, near Klina, and attacked a Serbian military convoy on the Prizren-Shtime road. FS
 SERBIAN OFFICIALS SAYS KIJEVA IS NEXT TARGETVeljko Odalovic, the Serbian governor of Kosova, said that the siege around the village of Kijeva will be lifted soon, Reuters reported on 30 June. Odalovic said that Serbs "cannot justify that in our own state we have people being held as hostages." There are some 220 Serbs in Kijeva, which has been encircled by UCK forces for more than a week. Serbian forces, in turn, have surrounded the UCK. Yugoslav army helicopters strafed the UCK troops on 29 June. Western officials have said Kijeva is a flash point and warned that an attempt by Serbian forces to secure the village will result in a blood bath. PB
 HOLBROOKE SAYS PEACE MISSION CONTINUESU.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke said that attempts to defuse the situation in Kosova continue, although it is "on the edge of becoming an emergency," Reuters reported. Holbrooke, speaking from Oslo, said diplomatic efforts are "intense and ongoing," pointing to the meeting by the U.S. ambassador to Macedonia, Christopher Hill, with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on 30 June. No details of the meeting are known. Hill is scheduled to meet with ethic Albanian leaders in Prishtina on 1 July. Holbrooke said no clear chain of command exists within the UCK, so it is difficult to negotiate a cease-fire. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said the UCK must not be involved in any peace talks. PB
 ANNAN PROPOSES TO EXTEND UN MANDATE FOR PREVLAKAUN Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed in New York on 29 June that the mandate of the UN monitoring mission for the Prevlaka peninsula (UNMOP) be extended for another six months. The UNMOP mandate runs out on 15 July. Annan has urged Belgrade and Zagreb to settle the border dispute (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1998). Croatia's ambassador to the UN, Ivan Simonovic, said that Zagreb will demand confirmation by the UN Security Council that Prevlaka is Croatian territory as a precondition for extending the mandate. FS
 YUGOSLAVIA BLAMES COURT FOR SERB'S SUICIDEThe Yugoslav Justice Ministry sent a formal protest on 30 June to the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague over the suicide of accused war criminal Slavko Dokmanovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 1998), Tanjug reported. The Justice Ministry said it holds the tribunal responsible for his death owing to negligence in his care and surveillance. Dokmanovic's attorney in Belgrade said his client had been severely depressed for several weeks and had received treatment for his condition. PB
 CROATIA'S SERBS APPROVE OF RETURNEE PROGRAMVojislav Stanimirovic, a leader of the Serbian community in Croatia, said in Vukovar on 30 June that he welcomes the program adopted by the Croatian parliament on 26 June that seeks to facilitate the return of Serbian refugees to Croatia, AFP reported. Stanimirovic said the program does not take into account all problems faced by returnees but that it is important to implement the plan quickly. He said he thinks conflicts may arise when Serbs return to Croatia to reclaim their pre-war homes. PB
 ALBANIAN SECRET SERVICE CHIEF SAYS HIS PREDECESSORS COMMITTED MURDERSecret Service (SHIK) chief Fatos Klosi told the parliament on 30 June that he has evidence proving that the SHIK was involved in illegal activities after former President Sali Berisha failed to push through a new constitution in 1994. Klosi said that SHIK executed people without trial and spied on almost all prominent opposition politicians as well as Supreme Court Chief Judge Zef Brozi, trade union activists, and the Albanian branch of the Soros Foundation. He added that his predecessor, Bashkim Gazidede, received his orders directly from Berisha, "Koha Jone" reported. FS
 WORLD BANK REPORT SHOWS ALBANIAN CORRUPTION RAMPANTAccording to a World Bank report presented to a conference in Tirana on 30 June, Albania is the most corrupt country in Europe. In a survey, more than 70 percent of entrepreneurs in Albania admitted bribing customs officials, while some 60 percent said they pay bribes for the installation of telephone lines. Just under 50 percent said they pay bribes for construction licenses or to the tax authorities. Thirty-three percent of those who have been tried admitted to having paid bribes to court clerks, 22 percent to defense lawyers, some 10 percent to judges and prosecutors, and 5 percent to prison officials, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. FS
 ROMANIA TO ACCELERATE REFORMSPrime Minister Radu Vasile, addressing a conference organized by "The Economist" in Bucharest on 30 June, said the "most dangerous adversary" of the reform process is the "trade unions-state managerial alliance." He said he is determined to accelerate the reform process "even if this means the end of my political career." Vasile said the state bureaucracy is "the mainspring of corruption" but is aided also by "ambiguous legislation" passed by successive governments, which, he said, leaves room for conflicting interpretation. He pledged to pass legislation encouraging foreign investments and said the inflation rate in 1999 will be 22 percent, about half of that forecast for this year, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The same day, the National Statistical Board said GDP in the first half of this year has declined by 9.4 percent compared with the same period last year. MS
 ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS HOMOSEXUAL DECRIMINALIZATIONThe Chamber of Deputies on 30 June rejected government-proposed amendments to the penal code to decriminalize homosexual relations. The amendment was five votes short of the required 172 majority, because some deputies representing the ruling coalition were not present during the vote. They had earlier spoken out against the amendment. Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica said that the coalition will discuss the "lack of discipline" that prompted the failure, adding that the draft will be resubmitted to the parliament in the fall. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which recently took Romania off its "special list" of countries it monitors, has been urging Bucharest to bring its legislation into line with European standards. MS
 BULGARIA TIGHTENS ANTI-DRUG LEGISLATIONThe government on 29 June approved amendments to the penal code that drastically step up punishment for the cultivation of narcotic plants, the production of narcotics, and the sale of drugs in schools, BTA reported. Ring leaders of groups engaged in narcotic cultivation and production will be liable to prison terms from 20 years to life and to fines ranging from 300 to 500 million leva ($167,000- $278,000). Selling drugs in schools and army bases will be punished by 15-20 years in prison and by fines of 300-500 million leva. MS
[C] END NOTE
 SHAKHRAI SEEMS UNFAZED BY DISMISSALby Floriana Fossato
Sergei Shakhrai, sacked by President Boris Yeltsin as presidential representative at the Constitutional Court, does not seem to regret losing his long-time job.
On the contrary, Shakhrai has given the impression to journalists that he is satisfied that his statements at the weekend have had the desired effect. He has suggested that he can now join a bloc of political forces preparing to support Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov in the 2000 presidential elections.
Shakhrai was long regarded in Moscow as one of Yeltsin's more loyal officials. Observers therefore were surprised when, at a weekend congress of his almost forgotten Party of Russian Unity and Accord, Shakhrai said that in preparation for the next parliamentary and presidential elections, the party should shift its political allegiances to Luzhkov's camp.
Shakhrai also criticized the presidential administration for underestimating the threat of presidential impeachment procedures that the State Duma is trying to initiate.
According to Shakhrai, deputies' demands for a parliamentary debate on Yeltsin's impeachment will garner the support of at least two-thirds of Duma deputies, as required by the constitution for the formal start of impeachment procedures. The Kremlin. meanwhile, has brushed off the Duma's threat of impeachment.
Sergei Markov, director of the Moscow Institute of Political Studies, told RFE/RL that because of the provisions of Russia's Constitution, the impeachment bid is "purely theoretical." Even if at least 300 of the Duma's 450 members support a formal indictment of Yeltsin, the charges against the president--including instigating the collapse of the USSR, launching the war in Chechnya, or ruining the Russian economy--are unlikely to be deemed valid by the Supreme Court.
Shakhrai, one of the main authors of the 1993 constitution, is well aware of the difficulties that Yeltsin's foes could face. The start of the impeachment commission "will become a reality when parliamentary work on the government anti-crisis project reaches a dead-end and only the dissolution of the Duma and early parliamentary elections will break the [deadlock]," he commented
According to the constitution, the president cannot disband the lower house of the parliament if the Duma has adopted a motion on impeachment.
Shakhrai also said that Yeltsin would be "unelectable" if he decided to run again in the year 2000. In an interview with "Russkii telegraf," he said the president "cannot announce his decision to run if he does not want everyone to laugh at him."
This fall, the Constitutional Court will examine the possibility that Yeltsin, taking advantage of a Constitutional loophole, will run again. According to Markov, "it is clear that Yeltsin has decided some time ago to run and that his decision is opposed by influential business and financial tycoons who are now trying to put pressure on him in different ways, including with the impeachment threat, in order to discourage him."
Shakhrai said that the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for December 1999, will "determine two leading candidates for the presidency: Luzhkov and Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed." The result, he said, will "help" the powerful oligarchs who backed Yeltsin's re- election bid in 1996" to take a final decision on the candidate they will support in the next election.
Shakhrai seems to have put his stakes on Luzhkov. According to "Russkii Telegraf," the "usually careful" Shakhrai may have decided "that the Kremlin boat is sinking and the moment has come to leave it."
Shakhrai told "Kommersant" that his party will most likely compete in the next parliamentary elections as part of a coalition of political movements close to Luzhkov. Luzhkov has repeatedly said he will not participate in the presidential election, but few observers are inclined to believe him.
"Russkii Telegraf" argued that Luzhkov is unlikely to express gratitude to Shakhrai. In 1993, Shakrai's party gained some 6.7 percent of the vote in Duma elections. But in the 1995 parliamentary elections, it gained just 0.36 percent and did not make it to the Duma.
So far, the Moscow mayor has not commented on Shakhrai's announcement.
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty