|Sunday, 25 August 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 181, 98-09-18
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 181, 18 September 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 MESKHETIANS EXPELLED FROM GEORGIAGeorgian special police detachments on 17 September detained some 40 Meskhetian men, loaded them into buses, and deported them to the Russian Federation, Black Sea Press and Caucasus Press reported. The men were part of a delegation of some 80 Meskhetians who had arrived in Georgia from Russia and Azerbaijan the previous day in the hope of meeting with representatives of the Georgian leadership and securing permission to return to Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September). The other members of the delegation, all of whom are women, are still in Tbilisi. Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze told journalists on 17 September that he personally gave the order to deport the Meskhetians as they are aligned with opposition supporters of late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. The entire Meskhetian population was deported by Stalin from their homes in southwestern Georgia in November 1944. LF
 WHEREABOUTS OF ARRESTED BAKU DEMONSTRATORS UNKNOWNOpposition Musavat Party deputy chairman Ibragim Ibragimli told Turan on 17 September that the whereabouts of 27 people arrested when demonstrators clashed with police in Baku on 12 September remain unclear. Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar said that those persons who threw stones and bottles during the clashes were "agents-provocateurs," adding that their identity is known. On 15 September, Interior Minister Ramil Usubov accused Gambar and Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman Abulfaz Elchibey of planning the throwing of missiles. Meanwhile, the Coordinating Council of the Movement for Democratic Elections and Electoral Reform issued a statement on 17 September announcing mass protest actions in Sumgait unless the chairman of the Sumgait branch of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, who was one of those detained on 12 September, is released immediately. LF
 MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN IN STEPANAKERTNaira Melkumian, foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic, said that the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group presented new peace proposals during their 17 September talks in Stepanakert with the enclave's leadership, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. Melkumian said that the co-chairs "seemed to receive with greater understanding" Karabakh's insistence on a settlement based on a single framework accord settling all contentious issues. The Karabakh leadership last year rejected a "phased" OSCE plan for resolving the conflict. Also on 17 September, Azerbaijan's Central Electoral Commission issued a statement condemning as "illegal" the municipal elections in Nagorno- Karabakh scheduled for 27 September, Turan reported. LF
 NEW ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL APPOINTEDPresident Robert Kocharian has appointed Aghvan Hovsepian as prosecutor- general to succeed Henrik Khachatrian, who was murdered last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 1998). Hovsepian, who was born in 1953, graduated from the law faculty of Yerevan State University, after which he worked as an investigator in the Karelian ASSR and as a department head in the Nagorno- Karabakh Prosecutor-General's office. He has worked for the Armenian Procuracy since 1989. LF
 LUKOIL PLANS NEW TRANSCAUCASUS PROJECTSVisiting Baku this week, LUKoil chairman Vagit Alekperov held talks with President Heidar Aliev and Natik Aliev, president of the Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR. But he failed to sign the anticipated protocol on exploiting the on-shore Govsany and Zykh fields near Baku, Caucasus Press reported. Alekperov told journalists that LUKoil and SOCAR will conduct their own feasibility study on those fields, which have estimated residue reserves of 10-15 million tons and will require investment of up to $800 million. Meeting in Tbilisi on 17 September with President Eduard Shevardnadze, Alekperov said that LUKoil is interested in exporting oil via the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa. Alekperov also attended the formal opening of LUKoil's Tbilisi office. LF
 TURKMEN DEFENSE OFFICIALS FIREDPresident Saparmurat Niyazov dismissed Defense Minister Danatar Kopekov and Chief of General Staff Akmurad Mulkamanov on 17 September, Russian agencies reported. Niyazov also fired two prominent security officials. The dismissals followed an investigation into the 12 September incident in which five soldiers stole arms and ammunition and took seven villagers hostage, four of whom were killed in the ensuing rescue operation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1998). Niyazov appointed Interior Minister Kurbanmukhamed Kasymov as defense minister and promoted one of his deputies, Poran Berdiev, to interior minister. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ALBANIAN PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL OFFICIALS CALL FOR CALMAlbanian President Rexhep Mejdani has called on his countrymen to disregard opposition leader Sali Berisha's appeal for a nationwide protest on 18 September, Reuters reported. Mejdani made the public plea after a meeting with special EU envoy Herbert Grubmayr, OSCE ambassador to Albania Daan Everts, and Austrian ambassador to Tirana Arnold Riedel. Everts said the officials agreed that it would be good for "people to stay at home, so that they are not misused for political ends." The European Parliament in Strasbourg passed a resolution on 17 September calling on all political forces in the country to seek a peaceful settlement to the crisis. PB
 BERISHA REMAINS DEFIANT AS PARLIAMENT MOVES TO STRIP HIS IMMUNITYAfter another march involving a few thousand people in downtown Tirana on 17 September, former President Sali Berisha continued his attack on Prime Minister Fatos Nano and reiterated a call for a nationwide protest to take place the following day, dpa reported. Berisha called Nano the "champion of corruption in Europe" and accused him of leading the country toward civil conflict. Also on 17 September, a parliamentary commission voted to recommend that the parliament lift Berisha's immunity as a deputy. Berisha could face a sentence of life imprisonment if convicted of "incitement to armed rebellion." The commission voted to recommend that six other Democratic Party deputies not be stripped of their immunity. PB
 RUGOVA FINDS INTERIM AUTONOMY ACCORD UNACCEPTABLEA U.S.-backed plan to end the violence in Kosova has been declared unacceptable by Kosova "shadow state" President Ibrahim Rugova, BETA reported on 17 September. The proposed three-year accord, which was published in the daily "Koha Ditore," refers to Kosova as a territory with a sovereign parliament, executive, local police force, and judicial system. Kosova would be represented in the Serbian government and the Yugoslav parliament, although federal officials would not be allowed to interfere in Kosova politics. After a meeting between U.S. envoy Christopher Hill and Rugova in Prishtina, chief Kosova Albanian negotiator Fehmi Agani said his side has "serious complaints about the proposal and it will have to be changed." The Kosova Liberation Army has described the signing of any agreement with Belgrade short of complete independence for Kosova as "national treason." PB
 RUSSIA OBJECTS TO PROPOSED UN RESOLUTIONA Russian delegate voiced Moscow's opposition to a French- British resolution that calls for a global flight ban on Yugoslavia national airlines and other unspecified sanctions if Serbian forces continue their attacks on ethnic Albanians in Kosova, Reuters reported on 18 September. The disapproval came during a meeting of delegates from the Contact Group countries held in New York. The resolution would demand that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic call an immediate cease-fire in Kosova and allow humanitarian organizations unfettered access to displaced persons or face the ban on flights and other possible sanctions. PB
 SERBIAN FORCES CONTINUE ATTACK ON VILLAGESBacked by tanks, Serbian forces continued their assault on ethnic Albanian villages in northeastern Kosova on 17 September, AFP and Reuters reported. A spokesman for the UN refugee agency in Prishtina said some 10,000 refugees have fled their homes in the past three days to escape the shelling. The Serbian offensive is concentrated on the three towns of Kosovska Mitrovica, Vucitrn, and Podujevo, Serbian sources said. According to Kosova Albanian sources, six UCK fighters and one Serbian policeman died in the fighting, but those figures could not be confirmed. In Washington, the Defense Department said it is making plans to provide emergency food supplies, including air drops, in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster from occuring. Some 300,000 ethnic Albanians are reported to be displaced in Kosova without food or shelter. PB
 SERBIAN OFFICIALS BLAST GERMANY OVER REMARKSVojislav Seselj, the ultranationalist deputy prime minister of Serbia, slammed German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe for supporting ethnic Albanian "terrorists" and warned Germany of defeat if it participated in armed intervention in Kosova, AP reported on 17 September. The German Foreign Ministry in Bonn on 18 September rejected a formal protest by Belgrade the previous day. Ruehe said on 15 September that NATO military action against Kosova would be possible in a matter of weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1998). Seselj said "Germany and their allies must be defeated if they strike against our territory." Ivica Dacic, the spokesman for Serbia's ruling Socialist Party, said that apparently "two [German] genocides against the Serbian people were not enough, so they want to finish off the job." PB
 HARD-LINE SERBIAN CANDIDATE CLAIMS VICTORYNikola Poplasen, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party and a candidate for the presidency of the Republika Srpska, claimed on 17 September that he has an insurmountable lead over incumbent President Biljana Plavsic, AP reported. Many Poplasen supporters filled the streets in towns throughhout Republika Srpska, waving flags in celebration. Hanns Schumacher, a deputy to high representative Carlos Westendorp, admitted that Plavsic is trailing but that there are many absentee ballots that still need to be counted. Poplasen claimed he has a 7 percent lead over Plavsic and that there are too few uncounted ballots for his lead to be overcome. Poplasen is an ally of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. The OSCE has said final results will be issued next week. PB
 ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY 'BREAKS LINKS' WITH PRESIDENTThe Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 17 September announced it is "breaking all links" with President Emil Constantinescu, whom it accuses of "partisanship" and failure to fulfill his duty of "mediator" among social and political forces, Mediafax reported. The PDSR said that at a meeting with leaders of the ruling National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 15 September, Constantinescu advised the PNTCD to "attack the opposition, and above all the PDSR." In reaction, presidential counselor Zoe Petre said the PDSR is displaying "excessive political zeal" over alleged statements at a meeting where it was not present. She also said that the opposition has "clearly shown from the beginning" that it is not interested in taking part in consultations initiated by Constantinescu with parliamentary parties. Those consultations continued on 17 September, when Constantinescu met with leaders of the National Liberal Party. MS
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES JUDICIAL SYSTEMSpeaking at the inauguration ceremony of 10 new Supreme Court judges, President Constantinescu said that the Romanian public regards the country's judicial system "with a lack of trust." He added that he himself is "shocked" by judges who have condoned "clear acts of breaking the law" and let criminals go unpunished. Meanwhile, the government has scheduled elections for the mayoralty of Bucharest for 25 October. The election campaign will begin on 1 October. MS
 MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT POSTPONES DECISION ON 'NUCLEAR TRANSIT'The Constitutional Court on 17 September postponed until the next day its ruling on an appeal by a group of deputies from the Democratic Convention of Moldova against the parliament's decision to allow the transit to Russia of spent nuclear fuel from the Bulgarian reactor at Kozloduy, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. According to ITAR-TASS on 17 September, by the time the court rules on the appeal, the train transporting the fuel from Kozloduy may have already entered Moldovan territory. Also on 17 September, the parliament passed laws on electricity and gas, which provide for setting up a National Agency for Regulating Energy. The two laws are part of a package of legislation stipulated by international lending institutions as a condition for resuming loans to Moldova. MS
 MOLDOVAN POLITICIAN MURDEREDValentin Ciobanu, a prominent leader of the Christian Democratic Popular Front (now part of the Democratic Convention of Moldova, a member of the ruling coalition), died on 17 September of wounds sustained six days earlier when he was attacked by unidentified persons in front of his home. The police did not release news of the attack until after Ciobanu's death. Parliamentary deputy chairman Iurie Rosca told RFE/RL that there can be no doubt that Ciobanu died as a result of a "premeditated political murder." He ruled out robbery, explaining that "Ciobanu was so poor that only his soul could be stolen from him." Rosca commented that Moldova has started "emulating the Russian fashion of killing on orders" and that "other attempts may be under way right now in Chisinau." He also said that he is "bewildered" that the media did not report the attack until after Ciobanu's death. MS
[C] END NOTE
 TIGHTENING OF EASTERN BORDERS GIVES KYIV WESTERN CONTACTSby Jan de Weydenthal
Earlier this week, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek called on Ukraine to impose full control over its eastern borders as an important step toward preserving visa-free travel to Poland and providing for easier contacts with the West.
Speaking at the Kyiv Institute of International Relations on 16 September, Geremek said Poland intends to resist Western pressure to introduce visas for Ukrainians. But, he said, Ukraine must take firmer steps to counter the smuggling of weapons and drugs from the East across Polish territory.
Poland has been under pressure from the EU to tighten control over its eastern border. German Interior Minister Manfred Kanther told Polish officials during a visit to Warsaw last month that the government should bring its visa policies into line with those of the EU. He added that this is a condition of Poland's EU membership.
Warsaw has signed agreements on visa-free travel and on the re-admission of illegal migrants with Kyiv. But it has restricted entry for Russians and Belarusians, whose governments failed to reach similar accords.
Ukraine has been concerned that any restriction on travel to Poland would adversely affect its economy. Poland is an important source of trade and employment to thousands of Ukrainians. During a meeting with Geremek, Ukraine's Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko said that Kyiv might set up several free economic zones along the border with Poland to further promote economic contacts.
Polish-Ukrainian bilateral trade turnover reached almost $1.7 billion in 1997 and has grown rapidly so far this year.
Trade with Poland has become even more important for Ukraine since the onset of Russia's economic crisis. Russia is Ukraine's main trading partner, accounting for 40 percent of trade turnover, and Russia's financial crisis has disrupted those ties with Ukraine
Geremek emphasized in his speech that the Russian crisis provides a reminder of the need for speeding up reforms and expanding contacts with the West. He said that Poland would like to see Ukraine in all European institutions and is ready "to support Ukraine at this difficult moment."
The economic decline in Russia is certain to affect Ukraine's economy. In addition, the continuing political uncertainty in Moscow does not augur well for many unsolved problems in Ukrainian-Russian relations.
The Russian State Duma has failed to ratify a Ukrainian-Russian friendship treaty recognizing Ukraine's independence. And there is still no agreement on delimiting borders between the two states, seven years after Ukraine's declaration of independence. Influential Russian politicians still talk about what they call the "inherent" unity of the two countries within Russian- dominated Slavic nationhood.
This state of affairs has not been lost on Ukrainian leaders. During Geremek's visit to Ukraine, there were frequent mentions of a strategic partnership between Kyiv and Warsaw. Stricter control over Ukraine's borders with Russia and Belarus appears to be an important element in the future development of such a partnership.
Following talks with Geremek, Volodymyr Horbulin, head of Ukraine's Security and Defense Council, said that "we have to stop the smuggling of drugs, stop organized crime and illegal immigration through our eastern border."
Such a program would have important political implications in reinforcing Ukraine's national and territorial separateness from Russia.
Poland is to enter NATO next year and is currently in accession talks with the EU. Geremek said that Poland's membership in these institutions could benefit Ukraine. Currently, the main problem is the one of visas. And resolving that problem depends on how Ukraine seeks to tighten its eastern borders, he said.
Meanwhile, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski is to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, in Crimea next week. They are to discuss bilateral relations and the regional repercussions of the Russian crisis.
The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty