|Sunday, 19 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 140, 98-07-23
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 140, 23 July 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS INJURED ON EVE OF ABKHAZ TALKSNine members of the Russian peacekeeping force currently deployed in Abkhazia under CIS auspices were seriously injured on 22 July when their armored personnel carrier hit a land mine, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Tbilisi. Speaking to journalists on 22 July, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili said that Tbilisi will ask neither for the peacekeepers' mandate to be extended when it expires on 31 July nor for their immediate withdrawal. Menagharishvili said that at the upcoming UN-mediated talks in Geneva on resolving on the Abkhaz conflict, he will demand that the May fighting in Gali Raion be condemned as genocide against the Georgian civilian population. He will also demand that the Abkhaz side be censored for its alleged failure to comply with the 25 May protocol on a cease-fire and the repatriation of displaced persons forced to flee during the Gali fighting. LF
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ASSESSES FIRST 100 DAYS IN OFFICESpeaking at a press conference in Yerevan on 22 July, Robert Kocharian noted positive economic trends during the first six months of 1998 but conceded that these will lead to an improvement in living standards only in two or three years, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian predicted that political stability and popular trust will enable him to achieve a major improvement in the country's political and economic situation over that period. He added that Armenia's position on negotiating a peaceful solution to the Karabakh conflict has become clearer and "more constructive" since his election as president in March, but he denied that it is tougher than that of Azerbaijan. And he said that the sole remaining obstacle to Armenia's admission to full membership in the Council of Europe is the fact that the death penalty has not yet been abolished. LF
 POPULAR SUPPORT FOR GEORGIAN PRESIDENT BELOW 50 PERCENT?The results of a recent opinion poll conducted in Tbilisi and summarized by Caucasus Press on 22 July suggest that if presidential elections were held in Georgia tomorrow, incumbent Eduard Shevardnadze would not receive the required 50 percent plus one vote to secure reelection in the first round. Of those questioned, 41.4 percent named Shevardnadze as the most popular political figure in the country, while 9 percent opted for parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania and 8.5 percent for opposition National Democratic Party of Georgia leader Irina Sarishvili-Chantura. (The last two are both under 35 and therefore too young to run for president.) Support for Shevardnadze is lower in rural areas than in the capital. Union of Traditionalists chairman and potential presidential candidate Akaki Asatiani has reaffirmed his intention to collect signatures to demand Shevardnadze's resignation. LF
 GEORGIAN JOURNALIST INTERVIEWS WANTED TERRORISTValerii Kvaratskhelia has been summoned to the Georgian Prosecutor- General's Office after publishing an interview with former Georgian National Security Minister Igor Giorgadze, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Georgian capital reported on 22 July. Kvaratskhelia will be questioned about the venue of his meeting with Giorgadze, who fled Georgia in 1995. Russian officials have consistently denied that he is residing in Russia. Giorgadze is wanted for questioning in connection with the failed car bomb attack on then Georgian parliamentary chairman Eduard Shevardnadze on 25 August 1995 as well as for the killings of a prominent opposition politician and a close associate of Shevardnadze. In the recent interview, Giorgadze again denies any involvement in those crimes. He also accuses Shevardnadze of imposing a dictatorship. LF
 TAJIK GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATES UN MURDERSThe Tajik government has set up a special commission charged with investigating the murders of four UN employees, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported. The commission must report their findings to Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov within 10 days. Rakhmonov has also ordered additional protection for workers of foreign organizations in Tajikistan. BP
 ANOTHER CHEMICAL SPILL IN KYRGYZSTANA tanker truck belonging to the Kumtor Mining Company spilled some 70 liters of nitric acid along the road from Tokmak (outside Bishkek) to Issyk Kul, on 22 July, ITAR-TASS reported. A statement from Kyrgyzstan's Ministry of Emergencies claims there is no environmental damage. A truck belonging to the same company spilled 1.7 tons of sodium cyanide into the Barskoon River, near Issyk Kul, in late May. BP
 KAZAKH LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES AT ODDS AGAINKazakh National Security Committee agents on 22 July met with armed resistance from police in the Jetysu District of Almaty when they attempted to arrest a policeman caught in the act of taking a bribe, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The agents were conducting an undercover operation, but the policeman's colleagues came his aid and shooting ensued. There are no reports of casualties. This was the second clash between Kazakh law enforcement agencies since President Nursultan Nazarbayev declared war on corruption earlier this month. BP
 UKRAINIAN REFORM PROPOSALS COULD SCUPPER CISThe Ukrainian delegation to the working group that is preparing proposals for a fundamental reform of CIS structures has advocated drastically reducing areas of cooperation between CIS member states, "Izvestiya" reported on 23 July. It proposes excluding from such cooperation political, military, border protection, military-technical, humanitarian, legal, exchange of information, ecology, and collective security issues. Instead, the Ukrainian representation wants to transform the CIS into a mechanism for economic cooperation, provided that its structures do not duplicate those of other European and international bodies and hinder the integration of CIS member countries into those bodies. Fundamental disagreements have also arisen between the various CIS member states over the best approach to reforming and redefining the duties of the CIS Inter- State Economic Committee and the Executive Secretariat. LF
 RUSSIAN REGION COOPERATES WITH BELARUSRussia's Primorskii Krai has formed a team to coordinate cooperation between the region and Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 July. The Russian region plans to supply Belarus with fish and other sea products as well as products from its defense plants. In return, Belarus is ready to supply agricultural machinery, tractors and trucks, textiles, and footwear. Primorskii Krai and Belarus are also considering introducing weekly flights between Vladivostok and Minsk. JM
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SERBS SAY RAHOVEC 'SECURE.'Serbian forces consolidated their control over central Rahovec on 22 July as fighters of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) retreated northward. Euronews Television said on 23 July that Rahovec is almost deserted except for Serbian troops. A police official told reporters the previous day that "security was established in the town from Tuesday night." In Prishtina, spokesmen for shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova called on international humanitarian organizations to persuade the Serbian authorities to open a corridor to Rahovec so that the Kosovars can evacuate their wounded. PM
 KOSOVARS CLAIM 'MASSACRES' IN RAHOVECRugova said in Prishtina on 22 July that the Serbian forces recently carried out "massacres" on civilians in Rahovec, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Spokesmen for the Kosovar Committee for the Defense of Human Rights charged that "eyewitnesses talk of huge massacres conducted by the army, the police, and paramilitary units.... The situation in Rahovec is catastrophic." Two eyewitnesses said that, when they emerged from several days of hiding, they saw 10 tractors removing bodies, AP wrote. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" also reported Kosovar claims of massacres and of public executions but noted that the charges have not been independently confirmed. PM
 MORE INCIDENTS ON ALBANIAN-KOSOVA BORDER...Serbian soldiers on 22 July fired on the house of the village elder of Dobrun, which is located in the Has Mountains, on the Albanian side of the border. The attack was carried out with heavy machine guns and lasted for about an hour, "Koha Jone" reported. Meanwhile near Padesh, on the Yugoslav side of the frontier, Serbian forces fired several mortar shells into Albanian territory. No one was injured. The same day, the Serbian authorities declined to attend a meeting of the bilateral border commission that the Albanian authorities had requested after Serbian forces recently fired shells into Albanian territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 20 July 1998). Serbian officials argued that the proposed meeting place along the border is not safe, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. In Kukes, Albanian border police said that Serbian forces have begun laying anti-personnel mines along the border to prevent refugees from entering Albania. FS
 ...AS SERBIA WIDENS SECURITY ZONEYugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic said on 22 July in Belgrade that the authorities have extended the border security zone from a few hundred yards to 3 miles. Bulatovic added that "Albania must be moved farther away" from Kosova because, he charged, the Albanian authorities have not prevented the UCK from infiltrating fighters and guns into Yugoslavia. He added: "I am sorry for the state of Albania. They have so many economic, political and social problems that you cannot take anything they say seriously. It sounds pretty funny when [the Albanian authorities] say they do not know anything about 1,000 armed men crossing their territory and about the existence of terrorist training camps, yet they managed to calculate exactly that three shells [recently] fell on their territory," Reuters reported. PM
 OSCE WARNS OF 'HUMANITARIAN DISASTER' IN KOSOVAGerman diplomat Hans-Jorg Eiff said in Belgrade on 22 July that major humanitarian problems could arise if the fighting does not end soon. Eiff had just returned from leading a 12-member OSCE delegation on a seven-day trip through Kosova. He added that he foresees "a great risk of major problems of the humanitarian kind and that the crisis might really escalate in winter." Eiff stressed that the two sides "are obviously no longer capable of finding the solution alone... [and that] the focus of attention of international efforts must be to alleviate the misery of the people" of all ethnic groups. PM
 ALBANIAN LOCAL DEMOCRATS LIMIT TIES TO CENTRAL GOVERNMENTLeaders of the Union for Democracy coalition, whose principal member is the Democratic Party, announced on 22 July in Tirana that local government leaders belonging to their parties will communicate with the Socialist-led central government only in writing. Democratic leader Sali Berisha said that no party official will attend any more meetings with appointees of the Tirana-based government, including regional prefects. The Democrats govern 48 out of Albania's 64 municipalities. Berisha said that "this is a government of enemies and has to be treated accordingly." He added that those Democratic officials who do not accept the decision should leave the party, "Shekulli" reported. FS
 NATO ARRESTS BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMES SUSPECTSNATO peacekeepers arrested the brothers Predrag and Nenad Banovic in Prijedor on 22 July, a spokeswoman for SFOR said in Sarajevo the next day. She declined to identify the nationality of the soldiers, BBC Television noted. The two men were flown immediately to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, where they are wanted for grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, torture or inhumane treatment, unlawful confinement, and other crimes at the Keraterm concentration camp near Prijedor, where they were guards during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. PM
 WESTENDORP DECREES PRIVATIZATION LAWCarlos Westendorp, who is the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, announced in Sarajevo on 22 July that the law on privatization prepared by his office has taken effect. The move came shortly after the joint parliament rejected the draft. Bosnian Serb legislators boycotted the vote, saying that privatization is a prerogative of each of the two entities and not of joint institutions. Elsewhere, city authorities have processed only 600 out of 7,000 requests by former residents of Sarajevo to return to their old homes, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 ALBRIGHT GIVES CROATIA TERMS FOR PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACESecretary of State Madeleine Albright told Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic in Washington on 22 July that his country could be admitted to NATO's Partnership for Peace program by the end of 1998 if it carries out a series of measures aimed at promoting democratization in a multi-ethnic society. These include allowing the return of refugees, ensuring the freedom of electronic and other media, promoting the rule of law and a civil society, and guaranteeing free elections, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the U.S. capital. She also insisted that Zagreb meet its obligations under the Dayton agreement. PM
 WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN ON ROMANIA'S NATO BIDWhite House spokesman Michael McCurry on 22 July said the U.S. "judges very optimistically" Romania's "potential" for NATO membership but added that "we have not reached the stage where we can move towards granting membership at this point," an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. McCurry said that during recent meetings with President Emil Constantinescu, U.S. officials said that Washington is prepared to do "everything we can" to "help prepare Romania for membership" and that the door "is open" to Romania's eventual membership. MS
 FORMER ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER INDICTED FOR FRAUDGeorge Danielescu, who was finance minister and represented the national Liberal Party (PNL) in Theodor Stolojan's cabinet in 1991-1992, has been indicted for fraud and embezzlement, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 21 July. The Prosecutor-General's Office said Danielescu used money from an investment fund that he managed in order to promote his own interests or the interests of companies in which he had a stake. The SAFI investment fund was closed down in March 1996 and investors suffered large losses. Meanwhile, PNL deputy chairman Valeriu Stoica on 22 July said after a meeting of the party's Steering Bureau that the PNL opposes incumbent Finance Minister Daniel Daianu's intention to raise taxes in August and his plans to raise property taxes next year. Stoica said the bureau has not discussed Daianu's threat to resign "since we do not discuss intentions." MS
 MOLDOVAN DEPUTY PREMIER ON GAZPROM DEBTIon Sturdza on 21 July said Moldova will pay its share of the country's debt to Gazprom by means of government bonds and shares in a joint venture to be set up with the Russian gas company, ITAR-TASS reported. The debt for the past five years exceeds $600 million, of which Chisinau owes $209 million and Tiraspol the remainder. Sturdza said the bonds, which have a nominal value of $80-90 million, will carry a 7.5 percent interest rate. In 1995, Moldova paid off part of its debt to Gazprom by transferring 50 percent of its shares in the Gaztranzit joint venture (which transports Russian gas to the Balkans) and through bonds worth $140 with a 7.5 percent interest rate. Sturdza was speaking on his return from Moscow, where he held talks with the Gazprom management. MS
 MOLDOVA TO APPOINT NEW CHIEF NEGOTIATOR WITH TIRASPOLIon Lesan, who is currently ambassador to Belarus, will be appointed chief Moldovan negotiator in the parleys under way with Tiraspol over a settlement of the conflict between Moldova and the Transdniester, Infotag reported on 22 July. The appointment was agreed to by the separatists during the meeting between President Petru Lucinschi and Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov earlier this week. Anatol Taranu, who formerly headed the Moldovan delegation at the negotiations, unsuccessfully ran for a parliamentary seat in the March elections. MS
[C] END NOTE
 NEW STAGE IN KOSOVAR CONFLICT?by Patrick Moore
International media frequently portrayed then Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's wars in Croatia from 1991- 1995 and in Bosnia from 1992-1995 as the "inevitable result of ancient ethnic hatreds" and as a continuation of World War II. Experts on Balkan affairs subsequently debunked both of those ideas, showing that Serbs, Croats, and Muslims have lived together in relative harmony throughout the centuries and frequently intermarried. They also noted that the battle lines in World War II were not neatly drawn and that members of the three ethnic groups fought on all sides at various times and places during the conflict.
Kosova, however, is a different matter, although international media rarely report on its long history of inter-ethnic conflict. While the three Slavic peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina are of the same ethnic stock and share a common language, the Serbs and ethnic Albanians of Kosova are of different origins and literally--as well as figuratively--do not speak the same language. Historically, the two communities have tended to live apart rather than intermix, as is often the case in Bosnia.
Atrocities and counter-atrocities were committed by Serbs and Albanians alike during the Balkan Wars of 1912- 1913 as well as World Wars I and II. Tensions ran high between the two groups even in peacetime, during the short life of the Yugoslav kingdom from 1918-1941, when the Serbs sought to tighten control over the Albanian population. In Marshal Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavia, the Serbs held sway in Kosova until 1966; after that, the Albanians enjoyed a wide measure of home rule until Milosevic put an end to it in 1990.
The legacy of mutual atrocities has reemerged in the course of the current conflict. In June, Western dailies reported that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) had ended its policy of attacking only Serbian officials and Kosovars whom it regarded as collaborators and had begun targeting villages of innocent Serbian civilians as well. The Serbs of Kosova are a frightened minority, many of whom believe Milosevic has already sold them out, much as he did the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia in 1995. By attacking Serbian peasant villages, the UCK lost its claim to be a purely defensive organization.
In recent weeks, the "New York Times" and some other Western dailies have written that the Serbian forces in Kosova have introduced a policy of reprisal killings and abductions in response to UCK violence against Serbian paramilitary police. That development has accompanied the introduction of ethnic-cleansing techniques that Milosevic's forces honed in Croatia and Bosnia.
Three other developments also give ground for concern that the Kosovar conflict has possibly entered a new stage-- one that might herald the spread of the war to Macedonia and Albania.
First, the UCK has shown new self-confidence by launching an attack on the Serbian-held but mainly ethnic Albanian town of Rahovec (Orahovac in Serbo- Croatian) from 17-19 July. This is the first time that the UCK has departed from hit-and-run guerrilla tactics in mainly rural areas and has taken on the more heavily-armed Serbs in a conventional battle for a town. A UCK spokesman said bluntly that Rahovec was the "beginning of a war that will end in Prishtina."
Second, three powerful explosions took place in three different places in Macedonia in the early hours of 21 July. The blasts shook the capital Skopje as well as Kumanovo and Tabanovce, near the Yugoslav border. No one immediately claimed responsibility, but journalists were quick to suggest that the UCK were behind the attacks. Although UCK spokesmen have denied that they want to extend the conflict to Macedonia, many observers have long feared that militant UCK supporters among Macedonia's Albanian minority could turn to violence. Relations are tense between the Macedonians and the local Albanians, who make up some 25 percent of the population and who live primarily in western Macedonia. Third, the war of words between Belgrade and Tirana has heated up since early July. The Serbian authorities continue to say that the Albanian authorities allow the UCK to train and arm "terrorists" on Albanian territory. Recently, they have begun to claim that as many as 300 uniformed Albanian soldiers have entered Kosova to fight on the side of the UCK.
Tirana denied the charge, just as Belgrade rebuffed a claim made by Albania and confirmed by representatives of the OSCE that Serbian forces shelled Albanian territory on 18 July. But Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano went one step further on 21 July, when he openly called for international air strikes on Serbia in order to halt "Milosevic's war machine." Albania has not recovered from the anarchy that erupted in spring 1997 and its army is in no state of readiness to defend its borders against the more numerous as well as better-equipped and -trained Serbs. Nano's blunt public statement may reflect a real fear that his country will soon face an attack that it will be unable to fight off alone.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty