|Monday, 26 October 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 6, 99-01-11
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 6, 11 January 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 NAZARBAYEV WINS MORE THAN EIGHTY PERCENT OF VOTE...Nursultan Nazarbayev was re-elected president of Kazakhstan in the 10 January elections, gaining 81.75 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results. With most votes counted, Serikbolsyn Abdildin of the Communist Party received 12.08 percent, Customs Committee chairman Gani Kasymov 4.72 percent, and parliamentary deputy Engels Gabbasov 0.78 percent. The Central Elections Commission reports that 86.28 percent of the electorate turned out to vote in the country's first "alternative presidential elections." Observers have so far reported no serious violation at the polls, although Central Elections Commission chairwoman Zagipa Baliyeva admitted there were instances in which one person attempted to vote for other family members. BP
 ...DECLARES HIMSELF 'SATISFIED' WITH OUTCOMEAt a press conference in Astana on 11 January, Nazarbayev said he is satisfied with the preliminary results of the election, RFE/RL correspondents in the capital reported. Nazarbayev commented that of the approximately 20 percent that voted against him, "10 percent is the result of my opponents' activities, [while] the other 10 percent are people who are in poverty now." He noted that he will retain Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev in that post and that the government will remain essentially the same, although he added that there will be some changes. When leaving the voting booth in Astana the previous day, Nazarbayev had said he will continue his reform program, but he rejected the suggestion that Kazakhstan will join the Russian-Belarusian union (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1999). BP
 FIVE MORE 'WAHHABIS' SENTENCED IN UZBEKISTANA Tashkent court on 8 January found five men guilty of trying to overthrow the government and sentenced them to jail terms ranging from two to 12 years, AFP reported. The five are reported to be members of an Islamic sect, the Wahhabis, and to have links to Obidkhan Nazarov, the former Imam of Tashkent's Tokhtoboy Mosque, who has been in hiding for nearly one year. All five pleaded innocence, and the head of the Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan, Mikhail Ardzinov, said the charges were "a fabrication." BP
 KULIK IN TASHKENTRussian Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik was in Tashkent on 8-9 January for a meeting of the Russian-Uzbek intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation and for talks with various Uzbek officials, including President Islam Karimov. ITAR-TASS reported. Karimov noted that "both sides are interested in deepening mutually advantageous economic relations," while Kulik said "Russia attaches special attention to the development of long term ties with Uzbekistan. BP
 KARIMOV MEETS WITH TAJIK PREMIERThe Uzbek president and Tajik Prime Minister Yahye Azimov met in Tashkent on 8 January to discuss trade and economic cooperation. The two sides agreed on a formula to resume natural gas supplies from Uzbekistan to Tajikistan. It was the first official meeting between Tajik and Uzbek officials since Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov accused Uzbekistan of harboring mutineers who had tried to seize territory in northern Tajikistan in early November. BP
 UZBEKISTAN, TURKMENISTAN HOLD TALKSAn Uzbek delegation was in Turkmenistan on 8 January to discuss rail tariffs, the use of land in border areas, and payment for the transit of Turkmen electricity via Uzbek territory, ITAR-TASS reported. The two sides also discussed a schedule for the payment of goods and services already delivered but were unable to reach agreement on that issue. BP
 TURKMEN PRESIDENT DISMISSES DEPUTY PREMIERSaparmurat Niyazov dismissed Boris Shikhmuradov as deputy prime minister on 8 January because of Shikhmuradov's involvement in leasing a book store to companies that do not sell books, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. RFE/RL corespondents in Ashgabat reported that Shikhmuradov had been criticized in the country's state-owned press in December. Shikhmuradov retains his post as foreign minister, however. BP
 ARMENIAN CURRENCY AGAIN DROPS IN VALUEThe dram lost 3 percent of its value against the dollar on 8 January, falling from 525 to 550 against the U.S. currency, but stabilized at 545 after intervention by the Central Bank, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Senior Central Bank official Aram Vartanian attributed the dram's weakening to commercial banks' short-term needs and "shadow [currency] circulation." A spokesman for the Armenian Prime Minister told Noyan Tapan the same day that the rise in the dollar rate falls within the framework of the government's credit and monetary policy and does not constitute grounds for concern. But two leading Armenian businessmen predicted that the dram's depreciation will hurt both the business community and the population at large. LF
 AZERBAIJAN LINKS PRISON REVOLT WITH COUP ATTEMPTAzerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov told a news conference in Baku on 10 January that the uprising two days earlier at a maximum security prison south of Baku was the continuation of attempts three years ago to oust President Heidar Aliev, Reuters reported. Usubov claimed that the revolt was masterminded by former army General Vakhid Musaev and Faig Bakhshaliev, a close associate of special police commander Rovshan Djavadov. He suggested that unnamed foreign intelligence services may have been involved. But Usubov also said that the insurgents possessed weapons and means of transportation and had demanded safe passage out of the country, either by air or through a land corridor to Nagorno- Karabakh, according to Interfax. Musaev and Bakhshaliev were serving prison sentences for having allegedly planned to assassinate Aliev in 1995. They were among 11 prisoners killed during the insurrection. Two prison guards also died in that incident. LF
 CASPIAN OIL STARTS FLOWING THROUGH GEORGIASenior officials and diplomats from Azerbaijan and Georgia attended a 8 January ceremony near the frontier between the two countries to mark the pumping of the first Azerbaijani Caspian oil into the Georgian section of the Baku-Supsa export pipeline. Giorgi Chanturia, chairman of the Georgian International Oil Corporation, told journalists that more than 2.5 million metric tons of oil will be exported through the pipeline in 1999, as a result of which the Georgian budget will receive between $2-3 million in transit fees. LF
 GEORGIA ISSUES ANOTHER ULTIMATUM OVER CIS PEACEKEEPERSGeorgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 8 January that Georgia will consent to the extension of the expired mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia only if that mandate is altered to reflect Georgia's demands, Russian agencies reported. Tbilisi wants those peacekeepers to be given broader powers to protect ethnic Georgians in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. On 10 January, Russian President Yeltsin approved unspecified proposals by Security Council secretary Colonel Nikolai Bordyuzha to increase the effectiveness of the peacekeepers' role. On the night of 10-11 January, Abkhaz- Georgian police detachments began patrolling the security zone on the border between Gali Raion and the rest of Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. No incidents were reported. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 STANDOFF CONTINUES OVER PRISONERS IN KOSOVASpokesmen for OSCE monitors said in Prishtina on 11 January that they are hopeful they will be able to persuade representatives of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) to free eight Yugoslav soldiers whom the UCK captured on 8 January. The UCK wants to exchange the men for an unspecified number of Kosovars held by the Serbs, but Belgrade refuses to make any deals with the UCK, whom the Serbian authorities call "terrorists." Observers believe that the guerrillas are holding the eight soldiers in the Stari Targ area in the mountains near Mitrovica. The Yugoslav army has concentrated troops and armor in the area as well as along the Prishtina-Podujeva road. Army spokesmen have repeatedly said they will use force to free the eight men if the negotiations fail. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic added in Belgrade on 11 January that "the patience of the authorities of Yugoslavia and Serbia has its limits." In Prishtina, the Kosovar news agency KIC reported that Serbian forces shelled several ethnic Albanian villages in the Llap area on 9 January. PM
 MONITORS, MOSCOW PRAISE SERBS, SLAM UCKOSCE monitors issued a statement in Prishtina on 9 January commending the Yugoslav military authorities for being "very restrained." The monitors hailed the military's "willingness to cooperate in the present situation" and criticized the UCK for engaging in "irresponsible actions." In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 10 January demanding that the UCK release the hostages and called their capture an "outrageous act of terrorism,Ša challenge thrown down to the international community and a direct violation of commitments formulated by the UN Security Council" in its resolutions on Kosova. The text noted that "ongoing provocative actions by Albanian commandos are causing us extremely serious concern," Interfax reported. The ministry appealed to the Serbian authorities "to show maximum restraint in this difficult situation, something they have been able to do until now despite provocations." PM
 OSCE URGES ALBANIA TO HELP IN HOSTAGE CRISIS...Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek, who holds the chair of the rotating OSCE presidency, asked the Albanian government on 9 January to use its influence with the guerrillas to help end the hostage crisis. Vollebaek, who was speaking in Tirana, said he "urged the Albanian government to use its good offices to try to convince the UCK...to release the hostages as soon as possible," dpa reported. He described hostage- taking in general as "unacceptable and...a threat to the stability in the region." He added "that the Yugoslav [military] build-up is out of proportion" to the threat posed by the UCK, and he appealed to the Yugoslav authorities to show their utmost restraint." Vollebaek also told journalists he had urged Kosovar academic Rexhep Qosja, who was visiting Tirana, to use his possible influence on the UCK to secure the release of the hostages. FS
 ...WHILE ALBANIA PROMISES ITS SUPPORTForeign Minister Paskal Milo said in Tirana on 9 January that he will try to use his influence over the UCK to have the hostages released. Milo, however, blamed Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for the Kosova crisis, adding that the world must be prepared "to use all pressure and force...because time has shown Milosevic responds to such pressure." FS
 MORE YUGOSLAV-ALBANIAN BORDER INCIDENTSA "large" group of UCK fighters failed to cross into Kosova from Albania on 8 January, the state-run Serbian news agency Tanjug reported. Yugoslav forces and insurgents exchanged fire using small guns and grenades. The agency also noted that no Yugoslav soldiers were killed, but it gave no further details on the clash. The same day, the Albanian ATSH news agency reported that Yugoslav army planes and helicopters violated Albanian airspace in the Has region and near Kukes. FS
 SFOR TROOPS KILL SERBIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECTFrench SFOR soldiers killed Dragan Gagovic near Foca on 9 January as they were attempting to arrest him for the rape and torture of Muslim women in 1992-1993. A SFOR spokesman said that the French fired on Gagovic when he tried to run them down with his car. The spokesman added that Gagovic put the lives of five children in his car in danger by driving into the French soldiers instead of heeding their calls to stop. One 10-year-old girl who was in the car told Bosnian Serb television that Gagovic was the young people's karate teacher and that the French opened fire on him when he swerved to avoid hitting a roadblock. In 1996, the Hague- based war crimes tribunal indicted Gagovic, who is Foca's former police chief. PM
 SERBS STORM UN POLICE STATIONBetween 100 and 200 angry Bosnian Serbs attacked the UN police station in Foca on 9 January in response to the killing of Gagovic. Some five members of the UN staff were slightly injured in the attack. The moderate Bosnian Serb government issued a statement in Banja Luka saying "it is inexplicable and incomprehensible that SFOR soldiers neglected the fact that there were five children in the car when they fired at it, thus seriously endangering [the young people's] lives." The hard-line Serbian Democratic Party appealed to SFOR in a declaration "to stop killing Serbs." PM
 NATO BEGINS DESTROYING HERZEGOVINIAN WEAPONSSFOR peacekeepers on 10 January began destroying an unspecified quantity of weapons, including tanks, artillery, and small arms, that they had seized the previous day from the Herzegovinian Croat military (HVO), SFOR spokesmen said in Sarajevo. The peacekeepers confiscated the weapons after Ante Jelavic, who is the hard-line Croatian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, promoted eight HVO generals on 7 January without the prior approval of the Bosnian government or NATO, which he is obliged to obtain under the provisions of the Dayton agreement. The HVO is formally part of the mainly Croatian and Muslim Bosnian federal army but in practice retains its own structures and close links to the armed forces of Croatia. PM
 BOSNIA ISSUES ARREST WARRANT FOR ABDICThe Bosnian federal Interior Ministry said in a statement on 10 January that it has issued a warrant for the arrest of renegade Muslim warlord Fikret Abdic for war crimes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1999). Interior Minister Mehmed Zilic called on his Croatian counterpart, Ivan Penic, to extradite Abdic, who lives in Rijeka, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 DID ALBANIAN POLICE ARREST BIN LADEN AGENT?Albanian police have arrested a suspected agent of Islamist terrorist Osama Bin Laden in Tirana, "Koha Jone" reported on 10 January. The daily added that the man, whom it identified as Maksim Ciciku, was spying on U.S. embassy staff, including Ambassador Marisa Lino. Ciciku was an employee of a private security firm. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency assisted Albania's secret service in identifying the suspect, Reuters reported. No one at the Interior Ministry or the U.S. embassy was available for comment. The U.S. has accused Bin Laden of masterminding embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, in which more than 260 people were killed in August 1998. FS
 ROMANIAN MINERS STAGE MARCH, CALL FOR UNITYSeveral thousand miners in Romania's southwestern Jiu Valley marched through Petrosani on 8 January after the government announced it will continue with plans to close some 37 unprofitable mines, AP reported. The leader of the miners, Miron Cozma, said the five- day strike was to be suspended over the weekend but would continue on 11 January. He said some 16,000 miners are taking part in the strike. Cozma also renewed a call for miners across the country to join the strike. No mines in the Jiu Valley are scheduled for closure. PB
 ROMANIA'S PRIVATIZATION MINISTER OUTLINES PROGRESSRadu Sarbu, the president of the State Ownership Fund, gave a progress report on Romania's privatization drive, Rompres reported on 9 January. Sarbu said that of 49 companies slated for liquidation, 14 have started bankruptcy proceedings, 11 have closed and are seeking reorganization, and 16 have been shut down by their debtors. The other eight firms are being considered for privatization. Sarbu said that all lay-offs associated with the closures will have been completed by the end of this month. He did not say how many workers will be involved. PB
 BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS DENOUNCE GOVERNMENT AT RALLYSocialist leader Georgi Parvanov denounced government reforms at a rally in Sofia on 10 January and called for Prime Minister Ivan Kostov to be dismissed by the parliament, Reuters reported. Addressing several thousand people on the second anniversary of the storming of the parliament by those opposed to then Socialist Premier Zhan Videnov, Kostov said the day "remains a symbol of violence, political terrorism, and confrontation which drove us to the edge of a civil conflict." He called on the Socialist Party to overcome internal differences and to more strongly oppose Kostov's ruling Union of Democratic Forces (UDF). National Assembly speaker Yordan Sokolov, a UDF member, said on Bulgarian Radio that "if the Socialist Party, in the person of its then leadership, had not shirked its responsibility, there would not have been a 10 January." PB
 BULGARIAN GDP FALLS, UNEMPLOYMENT UPBulgaria's GDP contracted 5.9 percent in the third quarter of 1998, compared with the previous year, the National Statistics Institute reported on 7 January. The institute also reported that unemployment in November reached 16 percent of the workforce, up slightly from the previous month. PB
[C] END NOTE
 BIG BROTHER WATCHES INTERNET IN BELGRADEby Julie Moffett A Serbian expert on electronic media says efforts by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to censor electronic media in his country have been largely a failure.
Drazen Pantic, director of the Internet Department of the independent Serbian station Radio B-92, made the comment last week in Washington during a press briefing on Serbian media issues.
The briefing, entitled "Preserving the Free Flow of Information Using the Internet: Serbs Thwart Milosevic's Censorship," was sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace--a non-profit organization established by the U.S. Congress. The institute focuses on promoting peaceful resolutions of international conflicts.
Pantic also founded and directs OpenNet, which was the first Internet service provider in Serbia. He says that despite a severely restrictive media law passed last October, the Serbian government has been unable to stop the flow of uncensored information and news via the Internet and electronic mail.
Radio B-92 was the first media outlet in Serbia to use the Internet to provide an alternative source for uncensored news. It began doing so in December 1996, during anti-government demonstrations in Serbia, when thousands protested the government's annulment of municipal elections. Radio B92 broadcasts were sporadically jammed and the radio's transmitter eventually shut off.
In an interview with RFE/RL in April 1997, Veran Matic, editor-in-chief of Radio B-92, said that during this turbulent time, Radio B-92 turned to the Internet. He said B-92 posted print versions of its newscasts on its web site and also began using RealAudio, which allows users to listen to on- line broadcasts over the Internet.
Matic said Radio B-92 was so successful with its Internet experiment that the station was able to quickly secure agreements with RFE/RL, Voice of America, and Deutsche Welle to rebroadcast B-92 programs back into Serbia via their airwaves. Matic said that two days after the B-92 transmitter was turned off, the government--apparently realizing it could not stop the dissemination of information and programming via the Internet-- turned it back on.
Matic said the students, who were the mainstay of the demonstrations, were energized by B-92's victory and began referring to it as their "Internet Revolution."
Speaking in Washington last week, Pantic said that it was B- 92's success that unleashed the power of the Internet for all independent media in Serbia. He added that its effect and potential also greatly alarmed the Serbian government.
For example, Pantic said that the new media law in Serbia includes attempts to try and control the Internet. One such attempt, he says, is to impose a large tax on owners of satellite dishes and Internet users. But Pantic said the government has not figured out a way to determine who exactly Internet users are, so it has been unable to levy this charge.
Pantic also said the Serbian government has put filters on independent media web sites, including B-92's, thereby preventing Internet users in Serbia from accessing those sites. For example, officials put filters on the Serbian Academic Network, blocking access to B-92's web site. Pantic noted that there was no official announcement about the filter and that the move was simply done "overnight." But he added that B-92 was easily able to get around the filters by setting up "mirror pages," which are alternative Internet sites that provide the same information as on the home page. "The government can't filter every mirror site," he explained with a smile.
Pantic said that within a few weeks of setting up the filters on the Serbian Academic Network, the government partly lifted them. Officials finally realized they were unable to block the mirror sites and stop the information from being disseminated, he added.
But perhaps the biggest irony of the situation, says Pantic, is that the government has been unable to prevent the electronic mail distribution of B- 92 news. He says the station currently has a subscriber list of about 30, 000 people.
Gene Mater, a retired broadcast journalist and adviser to the U.S.-based Freedom Forum also spoke at last week's briefing, saying that Serbia's new media law dashes any hope for a free press in Serbia. Mater said he had the Serbian law analyzed by a Washington law firm that has extensive experience in dealing with Central and East European media laws. According to Mater, the law firm determined that the Serbian media law is a "blatantly unconstitutional exercise in media censorship, intimidation, and punishment that cannot stand under either Serbian or international law."
Mater says the firm also determined that the law wrongfully deprives Serbian citizens of their constitutionally guaranteed rights to an independent and free press and freedom of thought and conscience. The law "makes clear that freedom of the press [in Serbia] is a concept of the past, " he commented.
Rob Timm, director of the Balkans Independent Radio Project, agreed with Mater, adding that government intimidation and harassment of independent journalists in Serbia is outrageous. "Big brother is, in fact, alive and well and living in Belgrade," according to Timm. He went on to comment that "B-92 is extremely important. If it wasn't, the Milosevic regime wouldn't be paying any attention to it. If what B-92 does and what it does through the Internet didn't matter, the Milosevic regime wouldn't care about it."
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Washington.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty