|Friday, 24 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 8, 99-01-14
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 8, 14 January 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 KAZAKHSTAN TO HAVE NEW PRO-GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION PARTIESFormer Prime Minister Sergei Tereshchenko, who headed President Nursultan Nazarbayev's recent successful campaign for re- election, told journalists on 13 January that his campaign team intends to create a new political party, called Otan [Fatherland], which Nazarbayev will be invited to head, Reuters reported. Tereshchenko said the new party will adhere to "democratic and parliamentarian principles" and will contend the local and parliamentary elections later this year. The new group will propose Nazarbayev as its candidate for the presidential elections in 2006, he added, according to Interfax. Also on 13 January, Hasen Qozhakhmet, one of the leaders of the opposition AZAT movement, told journalists in Almaty that he intends to found a new political party called Otanshildar [Lovers of the Fatherland], which will unite patriots and intellectuals, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported the following day. LF
 KYRGYZ PREMIER MEETS WITH PRIMAKOV, LUZHKOV...Jumabek Ibraimov held separate talks with Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov in Moscow on 13 January, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Ibraimov and Primakov focused on the prospects for expanding bilateral economic cooperation and on rescheduling Kyrgyzstan's $132 million debt to Moscow. Primakov characterized bilateral relations as "warm and friendly" and expressed confidence that the "few outstanding problems" can be resolved. (Ibraimov told Interfax on 11 January that Moscow had failed to deliver on earlier promises of industrial and technological cooperation.) Ibraimov said after his talks with the Russian premier that he does not exclude the possibility of Kyrgyzstan concluding an economic and political alliance with Russia, but he added that he did not discuss that possibility with Primakov, Interfax reported. LF
 ...AND SERGEEVMeeting with Ibraimov and his Kyrgyz Defense Minister Murzakan Subanov the previous day, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev described bilateral military cooperation as "long-term and stable." He said that Russia will continue to render military assistance to Kyrgyzstan and that the two countries will sign a military cooperation agreement later this year, ITAR- TASS reported. LF
 FAMINE IMMINENT IN EASTERN TAJIKISTAN?The Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, eastern Tajikistan, may soon face a famine as a result of the significantly reduced deliveries of humanitarian aid in recent months, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 January. The population of the region, one of the poorest in the entire former USSR, is Ismaili and has relied heavily on humanitarian aid from the Aga Khan's foundation and international agencies. LF
 TAJIK BORDER GUARDS RELEASEDThree Tajik border guards taken hostage on 10 January after an armed clash with an Afghan border patrol were released on 13 January, ITAR TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1999). LF
 UZBEKISTAN HALTS BBC MEDIUM-WAVE TRANSMISSIONSA BBC editor told Reuters in Tashkent on 13 January that the Uzbek government has curtailed BBC medium-wave broadcasts in Uzbek, Russian, and English, switching those programs to a waveband inaccessible to many listeners. The BBC continues to broadcast on short-wave to Uzbekistan. LF
 UZBEKISTAN UPGRADES RAIL LINKSThe Asian Development Bank will extend a $120 million loan to Uzbekistan to upgrade its rail system, Interfax reported on 13 January. A recent session of the Uzbek-Chinese intergovernmental commission in Beijing also discussed the expansion of rail links between the two countries. LF
 ARMENIA CONCERNED THAT OSCE MAY AMEND KARABAKH PEACE PLANArmenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, speaking to journalists in Yerevan on 13 January, urged that the U.S, French, and Russian co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group not to amend their latest draft Karabakh peace plan to accommodate Azerbaijan's objections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Azerbaijani leadership has rejected that plan, which advocates the creation of a "common state" composed of Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1998). Oskanian said he has conveyed his concerns to the Russian and U.S. co-chairmen in recent meetings. He also expressed concern that Azerbaijan and Turkey might conclude a defense agreement, which he said would undermine stability in the region, according to Interfax. Turkish media have quoted Azerbaijani Presidential adviser Vafa Guluzade as advocating such a pact (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 8 January 1999). LF
 ARMENIAN DASHNAKS ANNOUNCED PLANNED COOPERATION WITH LUZHKOV'S OTECHESTVOLeaders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-- Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) told journalists in Yerevan on 13 January that the party reached an agreement on "comprehensive cooperation" with Moscow Mayor Luzhkov's Otechestvo [Fatherland] political alliance during talks in Moscow last month, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Dashnak presidential adviser Vahan Hovannisian said the HHD and Otechestvo have the same "social democratic" ideology, and he praised Luzhkov for what he termed his rejection of "inter- ethnic hatred in Russia." He said his party will help Otechestvo become a member of the Socialist International, which the Dashnaks joined in 1907. LF
 RUSSIA WELCOMES ABKHAZ REPATRIATION OFFERThe Russian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement expressing cautious approval of Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba's unilateral offer to permit Georgian displaced persons to return to Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion beginning 1 March, Interfax reported on 13 January. But the statement also queried whether such repatriation is feasible without the agreement of the Georgian leadership and the overall stabilization of the region. Georgian leaders have dismissed Ardzinba's offer as populism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 1999). LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 UCK FREES SERBIAN PRISONERSOfficials of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) turned over eight Yugoslav army prisoners to the OSCE's William Walker, U.S. special envoy Chris Hill, and the EU's Wolfgang Petritsch in Likov in northern Kosova on 13 January. The UCK's release of the prisoners ended a five-day standoff that observers feared would have resulted in a full- scale resumption of fighting had the Serbs attempted to free the men by force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 1999). The eight men returned to a welcome from family members and fellow soldiers at their barracks in Mitrovica. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minster Nikola Sainovic told the Tanjug news agency that the UCK "terrorists remain terrorists even after the release of hostages. The battle against terrorism continues." The Yugoslav authorities have repeatedly said they will not make deals with the UCK over the release of prisoners. PM
 MEDIATORS HINT AT DEALPetritsch said after the prisoners' release in northern Kosova on 13 January that the international mediators promised the UCK "nothing except that the Yugoslav side would also make a contribution in this process of trust-building. These were confidential discussions and I am not at liberty to divulge the content." Walker added that the UCK received "guarantees" as part of a "fair and balanced" agreement, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Prishtina. Walker did not elaborate. Elsewhere, the VOA's Croatian Service reported that British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook warned the UCK not to take any more hostages in the future. PM
 UCK EXPECTS SERBS TO RECIPROCATEThe UCK's Kosova Press news agency said in a statement in Prishtina on 13 January that "representatives of the international community have given guarantees that the Serbian side will free nine UCK soldiers detained a month ago near the border with Albania. An agreement on the exchange of prisoners of war has been concluded between the UCK and the Yugoslav army as equal partners, with the guarantee of international mediators." UCK spokesman Jakup Krasniqi added that "a time deadline was set for the release of [UCK] soldiers, and their number was decided. We wish to believe the promises made to us will soon become reality, based on the agreement." He suggested that the UCK will publish the text of the agreement if the Serbian side does not implement it. PM
 GELBARD BLASTS SERBIAN CRITICSRobert Gelbard, who is U.S. special envoy for the former Yugoslavia, said in Podgorica on 13 January that those Serbian government ministers who recently criticized U.S. support for democracy in Serbia are themselves people with a "fascist" or "Stalinist" background (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 1999). Gelbard also announced that the U.S. is ending those sanctions against Yugoslavia that would prohibit foreign investments in Montenegro. He added that direct air links will soon be set up between his country and the mountainous republic. PM
 PEACEFUL NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS IN PODGORICASome 2,000 people gathered in heavy rain in the streets of the Montenegrin capital on 13 January to see in the New Year according to the Julian calendar, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Large numbers of police were present amid fears that supporters of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic would launch renewed street violence, which Belgrade would then use as an excuse for declaring a state of emergency in Montenegro and toppling the Djukanovic government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1998). PM
 BALKAN PEACE FORCE AGREEMENT SIGNEDDefense ministers from Italy, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Romania signed an agreement in Athens on 12 January to finalize arrangements regarding a joint regional peacekeeping force. Turkey, which is also a full member, was represented by its ambassador to Greece because of the recent government change in Ankara. The U.S. and Slovenia sent observers. Participating countries agreed in Skopje in September to set up the force, but disputes over where the group's headquarters will be located and over the roles of rivals Greece and Turkey held up the signing of the final document. The headquarters will be in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, for four years and then rotate among other member states. A Turk will be the initial commanding officer, and a Greek will be the first head of the Political Secretariat. Both positions will subsequently rotate among the member states. PM
 SFOR TO RETURN WEAPONS TO HVOA spokeswoman for SFOR said in Sarajevo that the peacekeepers and the Herzegovinian Croat military (HVO) have settled a dispute over the promotion of several HVO generals by Herzegovinian leaders without the prior approval of either the Sarajevo authorities or NATO (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 1999). She added that the HVO has agreed to clear the promotions through the proper channels, Reuters reported. The spokeswoman noted that the peacekeepers will soon return weapons that they confiscated from the HVO in conjunction with the row over the promotions. PM
 TRUTH COMMISSION FOR BOSNIA?Richard Goldstone, who is a South African judge and former chief prosecutor of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said in London on 13 January that he supports calls by some Bosnians for the setting up of a "truth and reconciliation commission" to look into "ethnic cleansing" and other war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 war. He said that such a commission, like the one in South Africa, would allow people to put the past behind them and get on with their lives. His successor in The Hague, Canada's Louise Arbour, has said that setting up a truth commission would unnecessarily complicate the tribunal's work, Reuters reported. PM
 ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS CALL FOR CONTINUING DIALOGUEDeputy parliamentary speaker Jozefina Topalli told a Tirana press conference on 13 January that the Democrats are ready to continue their dialogue with the Socialist-dominated government. She said that the Democrats are currently working on a draft law to launch an independent investigation into the killing of Democratic Party legislator Azem Hajdari. She urged the Socialists not only to support the bill but to consider the creation of a multi-party government and early elections, ATSH reported. Topalli did not say when the Democrats' boycott of the parliament would end. FS
 ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT RESTRICTS USE OF BOATSThe parliament on 13 January passed a law banning the use of small motor- boats more than two miles off the coast without a special permit. Speedboats with engines exceeding 70 horsepower are also subject to restrictions. The law is designed to stem illegal migration and smuggling to Italy. Police have the right to impound boats if the owners violate the new law. Legislator Neritan Ceka told dpa that "this law will save more human lives" by helping to deter boat operators from trying to smuggle people into Italy. FS
 PROSECUTOR SAYS ALBANIA FLOODED WITH STOLEN CARSAn unnamed prosecutor told "Zeri I Popullit" of 13 January that an estimated 17,000 cars stolen abroad are in use in Albania. A total of 300,000 cars are registered in Albania, of which 80,000 are made by Mercedes Benz. The prosecutor added that corrupt customs and police officials usually supply cars with false documents. The trade in stolen cars has led to $10 million losses in customs duties since 1991. Public Order Minister Petro Koci has ordered the creation of a special police unit to check the documentation of all cars on Albanian roads, dpa reported. FS
 ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT, MINERS FAIL TO REACH COMPROMISEMiron Cozma, leader of the Jiu valley striking miners, said on 14 January that negotiations held in Bucharest the previous day between a miners' delegation and Industry and Trade Minister Radu Berceanu failed to yield results, Romanian Radio reported. The two sides agreed to set up a joint commission to examine ways to halt loss-making coal extraction in the valley by the end of this year. That commission was to have presented its recommendations by 15 February. Berceanu said that if the commission implements a successful program, the debts of the Jiu valley mining company to the state budget will be written off. But he added that the decision to immediately close down two loss-making mines is final. On 13 January, Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu met with commanders of police forces in the valley to discuss preparations for preventing the miners from travelling to Bucharest. MS
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT RETURNS LOCAL ADMINISTRATION LAW TO PARLIAMENTPresident Petru Lucinschi has again returned to the parliament the law on local administration, Flux reported on 13 January. The legislation was passed by the legislature on 6 November. In a letter to the parliament, Lucinschi said he objects to the provision stipulating that prefects are to be appointed by the government and must resign if the government does so. Lucinschi wants prefects to be appointed for four years by the president at the recommendation of the government. He also said the law does not properly reflect the special autonomous status of the Gagauz-Yeri region and does not take into consideration the possibility of granting of such a status to the breakaway region of Transdniester. MS
 BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY IN SOFIAGeorge Robertson on 13 January praised Bulgaria's contribution to strengthening security in the Balkans through joint initiatives with neighboring states, Reuters and dpa reported. He said Britain will support Bulgaria's bid to join NATO in future rounds of enlargement. In an address to the military academy in Sofia, Robertson said the question was not "whether" but "when" Bulgaria will join NATO. With regard to Russia's opposition to NATO expansion, he said that no one outside the alliance has the right to veto any decision to expand, adding that the expansion poses no threat to Russia. MS
 ALARM AT KOZLODUY OVER DANUBE OIL POLLUTIONBulgarian civil defense officials said on 13 January that a large oil slick, 55 kilometers long and 300 meters wide, is moving along the Danube River toward the Black Sea, AP reported citing BTA. Coast guards and army soldiers are building dams near the Kozloduy nuclear power plant to divert the oil slick away from the facility. Reuters said that the spill occurred outside Bulgarian territory and that the authorities were not warned about it. MS
[C] END NOTE
 SLOVAK POLITICS UNSETTLED BY FORMER MINISTER'S MURDERBy Jolyon Naegele
The murder of a former Slovak government minister earlier this week is sending shock waves through the country's political leadership.
No arrests have been made, and no motive has been established in the shooting in Bratislava on 11 January of Jan Ducky. Recently dismissed as head of the Slovak gas distribution monopoly (SPP), Ducky served as economy minister until mid-1996 in the government of former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. He was killed in the lobby of his apartment house in Bratislava shortly after noon. Police say an autopsy showed he was hit by four bullets, three to the head and one to his right hand.
Ducky was closely connected with Russian gas interests in Slovakia as well as with Czech gas and petrochemical interests. During an April 1997 visit to Bratislava by then Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Ducky signed a controversial contract with Russia's Gazprom on forming a joint venture to import and distribute Russian gas "outside the framework of existing contracts." According to Czech media, Ducky was a member of a group of entrepreneurs who last year acquired a majority share in the now bankrupt Chemapol Group as well as substantial shares in several regional Czech gas distributors.
Ducky was a deputy industry minister of the Slovak Socialist Republic from 1985 until the collapse of communist power. He was then promoted to industry minister, a post he held for six months until the first free elections in June 1990. He returned to government after the fall 1993 parliamentary elections as economy minister in Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) cabinet. He remained faithful to Meciar the following year when several HZDS cabinet members revolted and formed a government with the opposition.
The HZDS holds the current government indirectly responsible for Ducky's death, particularly Economy Minister Ludovit Cernak. The HZDS says the murder was the outcome of political intolerance. It was Cernak who fired Ducky from his post as director of SPP in early November and ordered an extensive audit of the firm, Slovakia's most profitable enterprise. The Slovak press says SPP had pretax profits totaling $252 million in 1997 and an estimated $240 million pretax profit last year.
Deputy Prime Minister Pavol Hamzik rejects the HZDS's allegations and says the blame for Ducky's death lies with the financial machinations that occurred during Meciar's final term in office, which ended after his electoral defeat last September. Last week, Slovak authorities filed charges against Ducky involving gross financial mismanagement at SPP and illegal property transfers.
Slovak Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner says it is possible that someone decided Ducky had to be killed in order to prevent his becoming a witness regarding alleged financial improprieties under Meciar's government. Pittner suggests former employees of the Slovak intelligence service may have been involved. "For the past several months, I have been saying that we have indications that after the [September 1998] elections, a parallel secret service was established which is in some way linked to the underworld."
Pittner says the investigation into Ducky's death may help clarify whether a parallel secret service exists. Key leaders of the Slovak Information Service quit in October just before Meciar left office.
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda says if Ducky's murder was an attempt to frighten the government or end audits, then it will prove a failure. He also vows a full investigation: "The Slovak government is committed to use all means to clarify matters and track down the perpetrators of this criminal offense."
Parliamentary speaker Jozef Migas says Ducky's death should result in the strengthening of the fight against organized crime. "It is a call for the struggle with organized crime to be a matter of principle," he commented. "Not even this act should be allowed to divert us if the motive proves to have been a settling of accounts or a cover-up linked with Mr. Ducky's activities, about which someone wanted to prevent any more from being said or divulged and simply took his life."
Ducky's death also may become a catalyst to restrict travel to Slovakia by Russians and Ukrainians. Slovak parliamentary deputy and former Czechoslovak Interior Minister Jan Langos has suggested an eastern connection in the killing. He has called for strengthening visa regulations for Russian and Ukrainian citizens as a way of protecting Slovak citizens against what he terms "further acts of terrorism."
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty