|Friday, 23 August 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 175, 98-09-10
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 175, 10 September 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 PRELIMINARY AGREEMENT ON ARMENIAN ELECTION LAW?The parliamentary parties on 8 September reached unanimous agreement that 101 seats in the future legislature are to be allocated by proportional representation and only 30 in single-mandate constituencies, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported, citing the 9 September "Aravot." That agreements ends months of disagreement between the majority Yerkrapah union of war veterans, the largest group within the parliament, and most other parties. Yerkrapah had insisted that most seats be allocated under the majority system. It was also agreed that electoral commissions will continue to be formed only on a partisan basis and that army personnel be entitled to vote only in the precincts where they were registered prior to entering the army. LF
 NAGORNO-KARABAKH TO ISSUE NEW PASSPORTSThe new passports to be issued in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will be virtually identical to those in use in Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 9 September. But the Karabakh passports will contain a special stamp designating the holder's place of residence in order to preclude Karabakh residents voting in elections in Armenia. Emma Gabrielian, deputy speaker of the Karabakh parliament, said the new passports are needed as the population of the disputed region finds it increasingly difficult to travel abroad with old Soviet passports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 1998). Her Armenian counterpart, Albert Bazeyan, denied that the move violates Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. LF
 GEORGIAN SECURITY MINISTER REFUTES RUMORS OF PLANNED ASSASSINATIONMeeting with journalists on 10 September, Djemal Gakhokidze denied that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his 9 September visit to Tbilisi for security reasons, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian media had speculated that an attempt would be made during that visit to assassinate both Netanyahu and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. Netanyahu's spokesmen said the prime minister is suffering from influenza. LF
 ABKHAZ GOVERNMENT RESPONDS TO RUSSIAN ECONOMIC CRISISThe Abkhaz cabinet on 9 September met to adopt urgent measures in response to the fall in value of the Russian ruble, which officially circulates in the region in place of the Georgian lari, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Prime Minister Sergei Bagapsh said that in order to stabilize the economic situation, budget funding for the state apparatus will be cut and prices for the most basic goods, such as bread, will be pegged at their present level. The average salary in Abkhazia is 80-100 rubles (some $5-7). LF
 RUSSIA, KAZAKHSTAN REACH NEW RENT AGREEMENT ON BAIKONUR COSMODROMEAn 8 September meeting of the Russian-Kazakh intergovernmental commission resulted in a new agreement on the rent Russia is to pay for the Baikonur cosmodrome, in central Kazakhstan, Interfax reported. Russia will pay $115 million annually for use of the facilities. That figure was agreed on in 1994, when Russia leased the site for 20 years. The rent, however, has not been paid for three years. "Russkii telegraf" reported on 9 September that under the new agreement, Russia's $345 million debt for 1995-1997 has been canceled and Moscow will be exempt from rent for Baikonur in 1998. Beginning next year, Russia will have to resume paying for use of Baikonur. BP
 KYRGYZSTAN TO HOST MEETING OF AFGHAN FACTIONS?Kyrgyz First Deputy Foreign Minister Alibek Jekshenkulov said on 9 September that representatives of Afghanistan's Taliban movement and the northern alliance opposing it have agreed to meet in Bishkek, ITAR- TASS reported. Jekshenkulov said the meeting will be held under the aegis of the UN. He added that his country does not rule out recognizing the Taliban government, "taking into consideration the real situation in Afghanistan" today. BP
 HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS PROTEST TREATMENT OF TURKMEN DISSIDENTThe U.S.-based Human Rights Watch and Moscow-based Central Asia Human Rights Society issued statements on 8 and 9 September, respectively, condemning the treatment of Turkmen opposition leader Durdymurat Khojamuhammedov. Both note that Khojamuhammedov was "incarcerated" in a psychiatric hospital from 1996 to April 1998, when he was let out "on the eve" of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's visit to Washington. On 4 September, Khojamuhammedov was abducted, driven to the outskirts of Ashgabat, and severely beaten. Khojamuhammedov remains in very poor physical condition. Human Rights Watch wrote: "In Turkmenistan, where public order is enforced with extreme vigilance, such an act of brutality could not be carried out without official sanction." BP
 KAZAKH PRESIDENT DISTANCES COUNTRY FROM 'UNSTABLE MARKETS'Nursultan Nazarbayev said on 8 September that "given the flight of capital from unstable markets," his country's "favorable investment climate is attractive to investors," Interfax reported. He added that during Kazakhstan's seven years of independence, the country has developed a financial system independent from Russia's financial system. He pointed out that Kazakhstan has received $1.6 billion in investment from January-July 1998 and has twice turned down an offer of a $450 million loan from the IMF. While wishing Russia a speedy economic recovery Nazarbayev noted that Kazakhstan has reaped "some benefit" from Russia's crisis as it is now cheaper to import Russian goods. Interfax, however, reported that the national currency, the tenge, which was trading at 77 to $1 in early August, traded unofficially at 95-120 to $1on 5 September. The National Bank is seeking to stabilize the official rate at 84 tenge to $1. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 THOUSANDS OF KOSOVARS FLEE SERBIAN SHELLINGAn estimated 25,000 ethnic Albanians have fled Serbian shelling of their villages in western Kosova and are trapped on a 12 kilometer stretch of road south of Peje/Pec, Reuters reported. Fenando del Mundo, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Prishtina, said the mostly women and children have abandoned several villages in the Decan, Reke e Keqe, and Dushkaje regions, which are the target of Serbian offensives. A UNHCR spokesman in Geneva warned of a massacre if a shell landed on the column of refugees on the road. Most of the people spent the night outdoors in and around the villages of Isniq and Strellc. Some Western observers estimated the refugees to number 40,000 people. Del Mundo said he visited a clinic in which 25 people have been treated for shrapnel wounds in two days. The Decan region was a Kosova Liberation Army stronghold and has been targeted several times by Serbian forces. PB
 MILOSEVIC REFUSES TO MEET BELGIAN FOREIGN MINISTERYugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic cancelled a meeting with Belgian Foreign Minister Erik Derycke on 9 September, Reuters reported. A Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman said he thought it was in reaction to the EU's decision to ban Yugoslav airlines (JAT) flights to EU countries. Derycke later met with Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic, who condemned the ban. Germany, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Austria have said they will honor the ban on JAT flights. Both Britain and Greece have said they cannot cancel flights without first giving advanced notice to the airline. Derycke went on to Kosova, where he met with Serbian leader Veljko Odalovic and with ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova. PB
 NATO CHIEF SAYS KOSOVA WOULD NEED 50,000 PEACEKEEPERSAdmiral Joseph Lopez, NATO's Southern European commander, said on 9 September that the alliance would need some 50,000 troops in order to monitor a cease-fire in the Serbian province of Kosova, AP reported. Lopez, speaking in Washington, emphasized that the figure was only an estimate. AP reported the same day that NATO has finished a contingency plan for military operations in and around Kosova. The plan reportedly involves three options, including a preventive deployment of troops along the border with Kosova, air raids inside Yugoslavia, and the deployment of ground troops in Kosova. PB
 NATO EXERCISES BEGIN IN MACEDONIASome 500 troops from 26 countries began military maneuvers in Macedonia on 10 September, AFP reported. The nine-day exercises are dubbed "Cooperative Best Effort" and are the first-ever in the Balkan country. Most of the countries taking part in the exercises are members of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. PB
 BOSNIA, CROATIA NEAR AGREEMENT ON USE OF PORTAlija Izetbegovic, the chairman of the Bosnian presidency, has approved an agreement whereby Bosnia would be able to use the Croatian port of Ploce, Radio Bosnia-Herzegovina reported on 9 September. Izetbegovic and Haris Silajdzic, the co-chairman of the Bosnian Council of Ministers, signed the agreement in a ceremony attended by Jacques Klein, the deputy to the high representative, and special U.S. envoy Richard Sklar. The document is to be sent to Zagreb for approval. PB
 WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL ASKS UN TO MAKE BELGRADE COMPLYThe War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague appealed to the Security Council on 9 September to force Yugoslavia to cooperate in apprehending three war crimes suspects, Reuters reported. Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, the president of the tribunal, said that Belgrade has disregarded the law by refusing to arrest Mile Mrksic, Miroslav Radic, and Veselin Slijvancanin. The three were indicted in 1995 for their alleged roles in the killing of unarmed men taken from a Vukovar hospital in 1991. She added that Yugoslavia is the only country in the region that does not cooperate with the tribunal. PB
 WESTENDORP SEES CONTINUED TROOP PRESENCE IN BOSNIACarlos Westendorp, the international community's high representative to Bosnia-Herzegovina, said on 9 September that foreign troops should be kept at their current numbers until at least 2000, Reuters reported. Westendorp said the military presence might be able to be reduced after scheduled elections in two years. But Ambassador Robert Barry, head of the OSCE mission in Bosnia, said he thought troop levels could be reduced after the 12-13 September elections. "We don't need a military presence with quite the strength and firepower that we have here now," he said. PB
 ALBANIAN FINANCE MINISTER THREATENS TO RESIGNArben Malaj said on 9 September that he will step down if Prime Minister Fatos Nano fails to give his support to the ministry, Reuters reported. Nano and Malaj clashed after the premier condemned the heads of the tax and customs departments for failing to collect budget revenues and allowing graft. Malaj supports the directors of those departments and says they are operating effectively. The daily "Gazeta Shqiptare" said Nano and President Rexhep Meidani are planning a government reshuffle. Nano is currently in Portugal and was unavailable for comment. PB
 ROMANIAN EDUCATION MINISTER PROPOSES 'DANUBE UNIVERSITY'Andrei Marga told the parliamentary groups of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) that a possible "compromise solution" to the dispute over setting up a Hungarian-language state university would be the creation of a Romanian-Hungarian "multicultural university." Such a university would be based on either side of the border and financed by both governments. Marga said the university must offer instruction in major international languages in addition to Romanian and Hungarian. PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu rejected the idea, pointing out that only several thousand Romanians live in Hungary. Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania chairman Marko Bela said no compromise is possible as long as the legislation does not ensure instruction in minority languages at all educational levels. MS
 ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO PROSECUTE ANTI-SEMITIC TABLOIDThe government on 9 September said legal action must be taken against the publishers of the anti-Semitic weekly "Atac la persoana." Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica the same day asked Prosecutor- General Mircea Cristea to bring charges against the publishers and identify the author of the article, who had expressed regret that Romania does not have "barbered wire and Cyclone-B gas" to deal with "potential soap," meaning Jews (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 1998). Stoica said the article constitutes "nationalist-chauvinist propaganda" punishable under the provisions of the Penal Code. MS
 ROMANIA REJECTS UKRAINIAN CRITICISMThe Romanian government on 9 September rejected recent accusations by the Ukrainian government that Bucharest has canceled subventions to "Vilne Slovo," the only newspaper in Ukrainian published in Romania. Government spokesman Razvan Popescu said the government does not subsidize any newspapers but grants aid to the Ukrainian National Union (UNU), the newspaper's publisher, via its Department for National Minorities. He said that the Ukrainian government's accusations are due to a "misunderstanding, " adding that Kyiv must direct its queries to the UNU, which bears "sole responsibility" for the difficulties encountered by "Vilne Slovo." Popescu also said he is confident that both Ukraine and Romania will "scrupulously respect" the provisions of the basic treaty concluded last year. MS
 MOLDOVAN CULTURAL ORGANIZATION CRITICIZES UKRAINEPetru Grozavu, chairman of the "Danube and the Sea" cultural organization, told journalists in Chisinau on 9 September that Ukraine is deliberately "driving a wedge" between Romanians and Moldovans, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Grozavu said that the Odessa Oblast authorities have forbidden the teaching of Romanian in the 18 Romanian-language schools and that teachers are now forced to tell children that their language is "Moldovan." Grozavu also said Ukrainian security forces are involved in "forcing Moldovanism" on teachers. He said the newly established Pro Moldova cultural organization in Chisinau and Moldovan Party in Romania are also serving the purpose of forging a "separate Moldovanism." MS
 LUXEMBOURG, BULGARIA CALL FOR 'EUROPEAN STRATEGY' ON RUSSIAVisiting Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and his Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Kostov, have called for a joint European strategy aimed at diminishing the impact of Russia's economic turmoil, AP reported on 9 September. Kostov said the Russian crisis could have an adverse effect on Bulgaria's balance of trade, and he urged "EU protection" for prospective members from Central and Eastern Europe "as a sign that those countries are different" from Russia and as "a response that would soothe foreign investors." In other news, BTA reported on 8 September that President Petar Stoyanov has appointed Atanas Atanasov, former secretary at the Interior Ministry, as the new chief of the National Security Service. MS
[C] END NOTE
 MOSCOW'S CRISIS AND RUSSIA'S REGIONSby Paul Goble
Political gridlock in Moscow is prompting ever more of Russia's farflung regions to make decisions on their own, a pattern likely to prove far more significant than any decision taken in the Russian capital.
There are three reasons for what may appear to be a rather sweeping conclusion: First, this effective decentralization of power will make it even more difficult for anyone in Moscow to regain authority for the central government anytime soon.
In the last several days, Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel has announced a 17-point anti-crisis program. Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed has introduced price controls. And in Siberia's Kemerovo region, Governor Aman Tuleev told officials to make decisions "without looking to Moscow." He accused federal authorities of abandoning the coal-mining region.
Any effort to re-impose central control over such regional officials will inevitably spark increasing resistance among leaders and regions who now have had the experience of making their own decisions.
Second, the increasing diversity of decisions by regional leaders will make it even more of a challenge for the central government to devise any single policy for the entire country. That diversity among the regions is even greater than their difference with Moscow. Some regional leaders such as Arkhangelsk Governor Nikolai Malakov are seeking to use market forces to ration increasingly scare goods.
But many others, including Omsk Governor Leonid Polezhayev, have turned to the administrative measures of the past, imposing price controls and sanctions against those who violate them.
And consequently, even if the Moscow government can decide on any approach, it is likely to find itself in a bind similar to the one that confronted Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
If Moscow tries to impose a common solution on the very different regions, it is likely to generate resistance. But if it tries to craft a policy that takes into account these differences, it is likely to radicalize some regions, which in turn may seek to gain the benefits others are receiving.
Third, both the decentralization and differentiation of the Russian Federation will force Western investors and even Western governments to deal with the regions individually even if they want to see Moscow's power and authority restored. While most Western governments and investors continue to focus on the Russian capital, there are indications that at least some of them may now be looking to the regions as a guide for their own decisions.
One such indication emerged in St. Petersburg on 8 September, when a German investment official said that Moscow might remain "the key to Russian problems" but that decisions by regional leaders could determine the investment climate in their areas.
Dieter Schubert, the director of the House of German Economics, added that foreign investors have been frightened away by the collapse of Moscow's credibility but that St. Petersburg leaders could regain creditiblity for their region through independent actions.
While Schubert repeated that much will depend on what happens in Moscow, his statement is the clearest indication yet that investors and the governments behind them are prepared to look beyond the Russian capital even as they hope the leaders in Moscow will recover.
To a remarkable extent, all three of these develoments recall what happened to the Soviet Union in 1991. But there are some important differences suggesting this analogy may not be exact.
Some of those differences suggest that Moscow may be able to regain control of the situation. Among them are Western opposition to any division of control over that country's nuclear arsenal, the unhappy experience of many former republics, and the power of Russian national identity.
But other deviations from the Soviet model suggest that the current decay of political authority in the Russian Federation may have even more far- reaching consequences. Such deviations include the inability of local leaders to build authority for themselves, the absence of control structures, and the ever deeper split between those few relatively well-off regions, which pay more in taxes than they receive, and those hoping to consume this surplus.
Which of these differences prove the more important remains to be seen, but they seem certain to play a major role in redefining the Russian Federation regardless of what decisions are taken by the Russian government or the Russian parliament in the coming days and weeks.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty