|Wednesday, 22 May 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 186, 98-09-25
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 186, 25 September 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES TRY TO BAN DEMONSTRATION...Between 500 and 1,000 people met in a cinema in the city of Dzhalalabad on 25 September to formulate their opposition to the changes to the Kyrgyz Constitution proposed by President Askar Akayev, RFE/RL's correspondent in the city reported. The organizers of the meeting had been prevented from convening it on the city's central square by police, who also blocked all roads leading into the city. The constitutional changes legalize private land ownership, modify the structure of the parliament, and restrict the parliament's role in drafting key legislation, including the state budget. Those amendments are to be submitted to a nationwide referendum in mid- October. Three of the protest organizers were arrested on 22-23 September. Two of them have been tried and sentenced to 15 days in prison for violating public order, while the third, Nazarbek Nyshanov, chairman of the unregistered Patriotic Party of Kyrgyzstan, has been charged with large- scale embezzlement. LF
 ...AS OPPOSITION TO PROPOSED CHANGES MOUNTSInterfax on 23 September quoted Communist Party leader Absamat Masaliev, who was Kirghiz Communist Party first secretary from 1985-1991, as saying that 80 percent of Kyrgyz citizens oppose the idea of private land ownership, which he claimed was forced on Kyrgyzstan by the IMF. On 24 September, the Bishkek daily newspaper "Utro Bishkeka" predicted that a civil war comparable to those in Chechnya and Tajikistan may be imminent. The newspaper claimed that Masaliev and the chairmen of the Ata-Meken and Agrarian-Labor parties are planning to oust Prime Minister Kubanychbek Djumaliev. Meanwhile, the local council in Osh Oblast had to cancel an urgent session to discuss President Askar Akayev's proposed constitutional changes for lack of a quorum, according to RFE/RL's correspondent in the oblast capital. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN, VATICAN SIGN AGREEMENTVatican Secretary of State Cardinal Sodana and Kazakh Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev signed an agreement on 24 September regulating the legal status of the Roman Catholic Church in Kazakhstan, Reuters reported. The agreement, which grants the Church full religious freedom and access to the media, is the first of its kind signed between the Vatican and a former Soviet republic. Following the signing ceremony, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev had an audience with Pope John Paul II. LF
 TAJIK GOVERNMENT ACCUSES OPPOSITIONThe Tajik government On 24 September issued a statement accusing United Tajik Opposition field commanders of violating last year's peace agreement and committing terrorist acts, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement claimed that some opposition commanders engage in looting and hostage-taking. It also identified opposition detachments in the Darband region as being responsible for the murders of four members of the UN observer mission in July and of a leading customs official the following month. The chief of staff of the UTO armed forces, Mirzokhudja Nizomov, rejected the government's accusations. On 25 September, the U.S. embassy in Dushanbe announced it is suspending its work indefinitely because of insufficient security guarantees. LF
 TURKMENISTAN'S CLANS LOOKING AHEAD TO POST-NIYAZOV ERA?The 17 September sackings by President Saparmurat Niyazov of seven prominent military and security officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 1998) may have been intended to circumscribe the influence of former Interior Minister Gurban Kasymov, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 24 September. Niyazov has transferred Kasymov to the post of defense minister. The newspaper claims that after Niyazov's cardiac surgery one year ago, the various Turkmen clans began a covert struggle for power in which each faction tried to enlist Kasymov's support. The daily also claims that the country's inability since March 1997 to export natural gas has brought it to the verge of an economic catastrophe that can be averted only if Niyazov draws on his personal funds in Western banks, estimated at $3 billion. LF
 ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES BEGIN MANEUVERS...Armenian military units and Russian troops from the military base near Armenia's second-largest city, Giumri, began four-day joint maneuvers on 23 September at the Armavir training ground, west of Yerevan, Russian media reported. Infantry units backed by armor and aircraft will participate in the exercises, which will simulate defense actions in mountain conditions and a joint retaliatory strike, according to AP. Armenian Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 24 September that he hopes the Russian Defense Ministry will soon replace the obsolete equipment of its forces stationed in Armenia. LF
 ...AS DOES KARABAKHThe armed forces of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on 25 September began three weeks of maneuvers that coincide with the 27 September local elections in the disputed enclave and with the 11 October Azerbaijani presidential elections, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. Those maneuvers are aimed at monitoring coordination between various detachments of the Karabakh Defense Army, testing combat readiness, and honing the military skills of its personnel, according to a statement released by the Karabakh Defense Ministry. The statement affirmed that optimum combat readiness is an important safeguard against renewed hostilities with Azerbaijan for control of the enclave. LF
 TURKISH MILITARY INSPECT RUSSIAN BASES IN GEORGIATurkish defense experts have inspected Russian military bases in Georgia and established that the levels of equipment deployed there do not exceed those permitted under the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 September. An Italian contingent similarly inspected Russian military installations in Leningrad Military District and found no violations there. LF
 GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA CONDUCT MORE TALKSGeorgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze led a government delegation to Sukhumi on 24 September for talks with the Abkhaz leadership. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba said those talks focused on creating confidence-building measures and defusing tensions. As a first step toward achieving those aims, the Georgian and Abkhaz interior and security ministers signed a protocol on the disengagement of forces along the Inguri River, which forms the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. Abkhaz Prime Minister Sergei Bagapsh told journalists after the talks that a meeting between Arzdinba and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze will take place "in the nearest future," according to ITAR-TASS. Meanwhile, two Abkhaz local officials were shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion during the night from 23 to 24 September. LF
 GEORGIA, AZERBAIJAN INITIAL OIL PIPELINE PROTOCOLGeorgian and Azerbaijani representatives on 23 September initialed a protocol stipulating that if the Baku-Ceyhan route is selected for the Main Export Pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil, that pipeline will be routed through Georgia, Reuters and Interfax reported. The agreement is to be signed by the presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey on 9 October. The vice president of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company, which represents the first consortium created to exploit Azerbaijan's Caspian oil, told journalists in Baku on 22 September that the decision on the final route for the MEP will be made on schedule in late October, ANS Press reported. The Turkish newspaper "Yeni Yuzil" reported last week that the U.S. State Department has advised the AIOC to delay a decision on the final route until early 1999. LF
 AZERBAIJAN, UKRAINE DISCUSS OIL EXPORTAzerbaijani First Deputy Prime Minister Abbas Abbasov met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 24 September in Kyiv to discuss the prospects for exporting some of Azerbaijan's oil by tanker from the Georgian port of Supsa to Odessa and then via a pipeline to Brody in western Ukraine, AP reported. Ukrainian officials maintain that this is the shortest and cheapest route for transporting Caspian oil to Europe. Ukrainian First Deputy Premier Anatoliy Holubchenko said completion of the half-built pipeline will cost approximately $400 million and take some two years. The cost of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline is estimated at $3 billion. LF
 TENSION BEFORE AZERBAIJAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONSCentral Electoral Commission spokesman Arif Guseinov told Interfax on 24 September that preparations are almost complete for the 11 October presidential poll. But Turan reported that the opposition Movement for Democratic Elections and Electoral Reform is still demanding that the poll be postponed for three months. The Movement also demands that eight of the 24 seats on the Central Electoral Commission be allocated to opposition representatives. Some 100 members of the movement staged a picket on 24 September outside the Prosecutor-General's Office to demand the release of the remaining 12 persons held in custody since the 12 September clashes between police and opposition supporters in Baku. Musavat Party spokesman Arif Gadjiev said on 24 September that the opposition will proceed with plans for a march in Baku on 27 September along the route they have chosen rather than that proposed by Baku Mayor Rafael Allakhverdiev. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 WESTERN OFFICIALS WARN MILOSEVICThe U.S. and Germany on 24 September warned Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to comply with UN and NATO demands for a cease-fire in Kosova soon or face an ultimatum. U.S. Defense Minister William Cohen, speaking at the NATO meeting in Vilamoura, said that "time is of the essence" and that NATO's "credibility is on the line." His German counterpart, Volker Ruehe, said failure by Belgrade to end Serbian offensives could lead to NATO issuing an ultimatum in as soon as 10 days. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in New York that Milosevic must end the "tragedy in Kosova" or face military intervention. Russian officials argue that another UN mandate is needed before military action can take place. On 24 September, the Russian Foreign Ministry stressed its opposition to NATO air strikes in Kosova. But contact group countries U.S., Germany, and Britain argue that further UN approval is not needed for military strikes. PB
 MILOSEVIC SAYS THREATS WON'T SOLVE PROBLEMYugoslav President Milosevic said on 24 September that NATO threats "only feed the illusions" of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), AP reported. During a meeting with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, Milosevic said "pressure on Yugoslavia" did not help solve the problem. In a meeting of his ruling Socialist Party the same day, Milosevic said "Albanian separatism and terrorism" are to blame for the crisis, and he declared that "the rooting out of terrorism" is the country's top priority. UN spokesman Fernando del Mundo said in Prishtina that some 15,000 civilians have fled the latest Serbian offensive in the central Drenica region. Serbian forces are reportedly routing UCK resistance in the area. PB
 RUGOVA ALLY WOUNDED IN ATTACKA top aide to ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova, Sabri Hamiti, has been wounded by an unknown gunman in Prishtina, Reuters reported on 25 September. Hamiti was hit by three bullets, but his condition is reported not serious. Hamiti is a member of the General Council of Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova. A writer, Hamiti is also president of the Kosova chapter of PEN. In Tirana, hundreds of people attended the funeral of Ahmet Krasniqi, who was murdered earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 22 September 1998). Krasniqi was the top defense official of the Kosova government- in-exile's Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosova, a rival to the UCK. PB
 NANO REAFFIRMED BY PARTY...Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano was given the full support of his party's top leadership at a meeting of the Socialist Party in Tirana on 24 September. Nano said after the meeting that he is convinced he "has not lost the confidence" or trust of his party. The party leadership also approved the continuation of the coalition government. Nano called the meeting after being criticized by some members of his party for his handling of the uprising in the capital on 12 September. In other news, U.S. President Bill Clinton sent a letter to Albanian President Rexhep Mejdani urging him to mediate a dialogue between the government and the opposition to end "violence and polarization," which Clinton said is a "destructive force in Albania's development." PB
 ...ANNOUNCES STABILIZATION PLANNano also announced a plan that aims to help reduce tensions in Albania and restore stability, Reuters reported. Nano said the government will step up efforts to find those responsible for the killing of deputy Azem Hajdari, which sparked days of violence in the city. He added that the state will purge itself of police that took part in the violence or the demonstrations that followed. His three-month plan also targets economic stability and corruption, which he said will be tackled by reforming the justice system, customs, and tax collection. Interior Ministry spokesman Artan Bizhga said the leader of the Monarchy Party, Ekrem Spahia, has been arrested for his actions in the "armed uprising." PB
 EU OFFICIAL CONCERNED ABOUT ALBANIAHans van den Broek, EU commissioner responsible for Eastern and Central European affairs, said that no one in the EU supports the actions of former Albanian President Sali Berisha, ATA reported on 24 September. Van den Broek said "we continue to be concerned about the developments in Albania." He singled out the fact that "both the ruling parties and the opposition" are not cooperating to normalize the situation. Van den Broek made his comments to Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo at the UN in New York. PB
 NATO WILL MAINTAIN ROLE IN BOSNIANATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said on 24 September that the alliance "will not abandon Bosnia," AP reported. Solana, speaking after the NATO meeting in Portugal, said the international peacekeeping force in Bosnia- Herzegovina "will continue to play a pro-active role" in maintaining security in the country. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said that some NATO allies are hoping that "military forces and missions can shrink as civilian authorities play a larger role" in Bosnia. The peacekeeping operation is to be reviewed in December. PB
 BOSNIAN SERB MODERATES SIGN AGREEMENTThree top moderate Bosnian Serb politicians signed an agreement in Banja Luka on 24 September pledging to continue to advance democratic and economic reforms, dpa reported. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic, Premier Milorad Dodik, and Zivko Radisic, whose parties formed a coalition in the elections, signed the accord. While Plavsic has conceded defeat in her bid for re-election, many observers say that Radisic beat Serbian hard-liner Momcilo Krajisnik for the Serbian seat of the Bosnian presidency. PB
 MACEDONIAN POLICE ARREST SUSPECTED UCK MEMBERMacedonian police said on 24 September that they had arrested an ethnic Albanian suspected of carrying out bomb attacks in Macedonia, AFP reported. The man is part of a UCK squad arrested during a police operation on 17 September in which another man was killed. The police are seeking two others who escaped. Police suspect the group of eight bomb attacks at police and military installations in several Macedonian towns between December 1997 and July 1998. PB
[C] END NOTE
 LUZHKOV AND ZYUGANOV: FRIENDLIER THAN EVERby Floriana Fossato Not many Russian governors receive congratulations and presents from the Kremlin on their birthday The powerful mayor of Moscow, Yurii Luzhkov, does. And in the current times of political and financial uncertainty, that is not by chance.
Earlier this week, President Boris Yeltsin wished Luzhkov a happy 62nd birthday, and Russian television channels showed Yeltsin holding a large present wrapped in green paper. Hours later, Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov found time to go to Moscow City Hall and personally give Luzhkov his present.
Analysts in Moscow say that the Kremlin's show of consideration is also a sign of fear, as it comes precisely at the moment when populist, nationalist-leaning Luzhkov is openly sealing his ties with Yeltsin's communists foes. Yeltsin's comment that the Moscow mayor deserves a tribute on the occasion of his birthday seemed to disguise a last-minute attempt to make a "non-aggression pact" with Luzhkov, said one analyst who wished to remain unnamed.
Luzhkov has repeatedly denied having presidential ambitions, but many--both in Moscow and across Russia--see him as a likely presidential candidate in the year 2000, when the next presidential vote is scheduled. They also see him as a candidate in the event of early elections.
Luzhkov and communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov in the past week or so have revealed that their positions are growing closer. Echoing earlier communist demands, Luzhkov has urged Primakov to renationalize some former state companies, adding that the architects of privatization schemes, as well as officials involved in investment pyramid schemes, should be put on trial.
Zyuganov, for his part, has openly praised Luzhkov. He said he is pleased to see that "in the present crisis situation, Luzhkov has assumed positions aimed at strengthening order in the country." Using Soviet-era terminology, Zyuganov added that people like Luzhkov are considered by the Communists to "poputchiki" or fellow-travelers.
"Kommersant-Daily" reports that Luzhkov has agreed that his goals do, indeed, coincide with the Communists'. The daily quoted him as saying that "as a matter of fact this is a consolidation, aimed at implementing important principles that we share."
One of Luzhkov's closest allies, General Andrei Nikolaev, is reportedly working to broaden the political platform that could bring Luzhkov to power.
Fired by Yeltsin earlier this year from the post of Federal Borderguard Service, the ambitious general, reportedly with Luzhkov's backing, soon obtained a seat in the State Duma and created a political movement, the Union of People's Power and Labor. Within a matter of only a few months, the union has forged alliances with 12 centrist and leftist political organizations. Most recently, it signed a protocol aimed at coordinating its activities with those of the communist-led Popular and Patriotic Union.
Nikolaev has announced that his plans for the 1999 parliamentary elections include the creation of a wide bloc that would become the "party of the majority." If such a bloc emerges, he predicted, it is very likely that its common candidate for the presidential vote will be Luzhkov.
However, "Kommersant-Daily," quoting unnamed communist Duma deputies, said Nikolaev's predictions overlook the fact that most communists legislators would like to see their leader, Zyuganov, as the common candidate for the next presidential election. In the event of early elections, a struggle for power could easily break out among the new "fellow-travelers."
Until the financial crisis started biting hard in the capital, sweeping away savings and leaving the emerging middle- class jobless, Moscow had been the symbol of coming abundance. Having re-elected Luzhkov in 1996 with 90 percent of the vote, Muscovites are now anxious that the capital could end up resembling the deprived and neglected towns that abound in Russia. They would most likely support the Moscow mayor in a presidential ballot in the hope this would guarantee them a better future. Other Russians, who have been wary of Moscow's success so far, would have to be convinced that the mayor of the capital would be able to improve their situation to some degree.
Luzhkov has been criticized by human rights organizations and by many Russians for perpetuating Soviet-era practices, such as the Moscow residency permit, or "propiska." The Constitutional Court has twice instructed Moscow authorities to abolish the propiska, but Luzhkov responded by publicly telling officials to disregard the ruling.
Others underline that Luzhkov, far from being a politician who counts on businesses to finance his political initiatives, is himself a full-fledged member of Russia's "oligarchy" and would have trouble finding the support of other "oligarchs."
The English-language daily "Moscow Times" wrote last month that Luzhkov has never missed a chance to criticize privatization over the past years and its main architect, Anatolii Chubais. However, the daily noted that "few have benefited more from Chubais' privatization than Luzhkov himself."
Luzhkov's financial and industrial resources include telecommunications companies, television and printed media assets, car, electronics, and food- processing plants, refineries and dozens of filling stations. With such "incredible resources," writes the newspaper, Luzhkov can only be considered an oligarch who is "well ahead of the pack," as he is "the only oligarch who holds elected office."
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty