|Thursday, 14 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 15, 99-01-22
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 15, 22 January 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT TASKS PREMIER WITH FORMING NEW GOVERNMENTThe parliament of Kazakhstan voted by 100 to two with one abstention on 21 January in favor of President Nursultan Nazarbayev's proposal that Nurlan Balghymbayev form a new government, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. In accordance with the constitution, Balghymbayev and his cabinet resigned after the 10 January presidential election, as did all regional governors. Outlining his new program to the parliament, Balghymbayev vowed to concentrate on increasing domestic production in order to reduce imports, preserving a stable exchange rate, and seeking more foreign investment in the chemical and petrochemical sectors and light industry. LF
 EU REGISTERS CONCERN OVER PRESIDENTIAL POLL IN KAZAKHSTANIn a statement issued on 21 January, Germany, which holds the EU rotating presidency, termed the 10 January presidential elections "a setback for democratization" and for the rule of law in Kazakhstan, dpa reported. The statement expressed concern that the election date was brought forward at short notice and that contrary to the country's constitution, potential candidates were barred from running on the grounds that they had been convicted of minor offenses. LF
 FOOD SHORTAGES IN BAIKONURAn 11 January government directive imposing quotas on Russian imports has resulted in serious food shortages in the town of Baikonur, home to the thousands of ethnic Russian employees of the space launch complex, which Russia leases from Kazakhstan. Traditionally, Baikonur imported all its goods from the Russian Federation and local markets accepted only Russian rubles, not Kazakhstan tenges. After visiting Baikonur town on 22 January, Kazakhstan's Deputy Prime Minister Baltash Tursynbayev told journalists that food prices there are now three times higher than in Qyzyl-Orda City and twice as high as in Moscow, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. LF
 KYRGYZSTAN, BELARUS SEEK TO INCREASE TRADEKyrgyzstan's Prime Minister Jumabek Ibraimov and Belarusian charge d'affaires Alyaksandr Tumor held talks in Bishkek on 21 January on Kyrgystan's possible purchase of Belarusian farm machinery and deliveries of Kyrgyz wool and other agricultural products to Belarus, Interfax reported. Up to one dozen draft bilateral agreements, including on creating an inter-governmental trade commission and on protecting mutual investments, were prepared for signature. Trade in 1998 between the two countries, which are both members of the CIS Customs Union, exceeded $18 million. LF
 ECONOMIC CRIME ON INCREASE IN KYRGYZSTANAddressing a 21 January session of the government commission for combating economic crime, Ibraimov said such offenses doubled in 1998 compared with the previous year, according to Interfax. Ibraimov told the meeting that law enforcement bodies returned to the 1998 state budget about 33 million som ($1 million) that had been either embezzled or misappropriated. He called for stronger measures to combat tax evasion, smuggling, and corruption, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF
 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH CONCERNED ABOUT ARMENIAN DEATHSIn a 15 January letter to Armenian President Robert Kocharian, Human Rights Watch enumerates instances of reprisals, beatings, and resulting deaths among conscripts serving in the Armenian armed forces. It estimates the average annual number of such deaths over the past three years at 200. The letter also draws attention to similar reprisals against detainees at the hands of police officers and expresses concern over restrictions on religious freedom and attempts to falsify the outcome of the 1998 presidential elections. Human Rights Watch concludes that such abuses disqualify Armenia from full membership in the Council of Europe. LF
 GENERAL MOTORS TO MANUFACTURE VEHICLES IN ARMENIAThe Armenian government announced on 21 January that General Motors has decided to launch production operations in Armenia in conjunction with the Armenian Ministry of Industry and Trade, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Visiting Yerevan last October, General Motors' vice president for the former Soviet republics said the company was considering assembling minibuses, small tractors, and trucks in Armenia and selling them throughout the region (see "RFE/RL Armenia Report," 26 October 1998). He said research conducted by General Motors had revealed a "favorable investment climate" in Armenia. LF
 ARMENIAN WAR VETERANS DISAGREE OVER IDEOLOGYDeputy parliamentary speaker Albert Bazeyan, who is also deputy chairman of the Yerkrapah union of veterans of the Karabakh war, has taken issue with statements by Razmik Vasilian, a Yerkrapah member and former commander of the volunteer Armenian National Army, which was set up to fight in Karabakh and dissolved by the Armenian parliament in August 1990. In an interview with Noyan Tapan on 20 January, Vasilian called for the creation of a "national ideology" and of "a union of national and nationalist forces" that would "promote the establishment of a powerful state through ideology and courage." Bazeyan said that as an employee of the Armenian Defense Ministry, Vasilian has no right to make political statements. He also denied that Yerkrapah had discussed aligning with Vasilian's planned new organization. LF
 OFFICIAL SAYS PROGRESS ON AZERBAIJAN OIL EXPORT PIPELINE...Speaking in Washington on 21 January, U.S. adviser on Caspian issues Richard Morningstar predicted that the ongoing talks between Turkish, Azerbaijani, U.S., and international oil company representatives could result in "a clear agreement" within the next 12 months to proceed with construction of the planned Baku- Ceyhan pipeline, AP reported. Last month, the president of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company said that a decision on whether to opt for the Baku-Ceyhan route would be taken in mid-1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 1998). Morningstar downplayed the failure of trial wells drilled by two international consortia in 1998 to yield oil in commercially viable quantities. One of those consortia formally announced on 21 January that it will cease Caspian operations in February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1998). LF
 ...SUSTAINING KAZAKHSTAN'S INTERESTKazakhstan's Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbayev met with visiting Turkish Energy Minister Ziya Aktas in Astana on 21 January, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. Balghymbayev said the overall assessment of proposed export routes for Kazakhstan's oil will be completed within seven or eight months. He noted that the possible use of the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline to transport Kazakh crude to international markets is among his government's "top priorities." LF
 GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION SEEK TO IMPROVE MEDICAL CAREHealth Minister Avtandil Djorbenadze has instructed local administrators to pay greater attention to the health of the population and to increase to 15- 20 percent the percentage of local budget expenditures on health care, Caucasus Press reported on 21 January. Meanwhile Shalva Natelashvili, head of the Labor Party, which garnered some 20 percent of the vote in the November 1998 municipal elections, told journalists on 21 January that the city councils of Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Rustavi, and other towns where the party has a majority on local councils are making good on the party's pre- election promise to reintroduce free medical care and to reinstate sacked nursery staff and teachers. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN KICKS OFFNational Democratic Party chairwoman Irina Sarisgvili-Chanturia told journalists on 22 January that her party intends to nominate her as its candidate for the presidential elections in 2000, ITAR- TASS reported. She will be the first woman to run for the post of president, which was reinstated in 1995. LF
 GEORGIAN POLICE TRY TO PERSUADE REBEL LEADER TO SURRENDERGeorgian police have located Colonel Akaki Eliava, who has been in hiding since mounting an unsuccessful insurgency in October 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1998 and 20 January 1999), Interfax reported on 21 January. Deputy Interior Minister Temur Murghulia is currently negotiating with Eliava, who may surrender if the charges of treason against him are dropped, Caucasus Press reported on 21 January. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MILOSEVIC BACKS DOWN ON WALKER EXPULSION...The Yugoslav government announced late on 21 January that it will suspend its order on the expulsion of William Walker, the head of the OSCE's verification mission in Kosova. In a statement, Belgrade said that decision was influenced in particular by appeals from Russian President Boris Yeltsin and UN Secretary-General Koffi Annan. Walker had said he would not leave the province, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned that the entire OSCE monitoring team, numbering more than 800 people, would leave Kosova if Walker were expelled. Knut Vollebaek, Norwegian foreign minister and chairman of the OSCE, said that despite the suspension, the threat of NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia remains. "The NATO activation order is still thereŠand I think President [Slobodan] Milosevic understands that very well." Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev said in London that "it is impossible to solve national, ethnic problems and regional conflicts by means of force" (see also Part I). PB
 ...BUT REMAINS UNCOMPROMISING ON OTHER ISSUESU.S. special envoy for Kosova James Pardew and U.S. mediator Christopher Hill said after a four-hour meeting with Milosevic on 21 January that the Yugoslav president "remains inflexible on all key compliance issues," Reuters reported. Hill added that "we had lengthy, difficult discussionsŠwe are going through a rather tense period." Pardew said Milosevic denies that Serbs were involved in the killings of the 45 ethnic Albanians found dead in the village of Recak on 15 January. OSCE chairman Vollbaek also met with Milosevic in an effort to get Belgrade to comply with the October cease- fire agreement, which calls for a reduction in Serbian security forces in Kosova and for war crimes investigators to be allowed to probe sites of alleged massacres. PB
 CONTACT GROUP OFFERS NEW STRATEGY TO SOLVE CRISISBritish Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said on 21 January in London that the West has new proposals for a settlement of the Kosova crisis, although it will still act militarily if Serbian attacks on ethnic Albanians do not stop, Reuters reported. Cook, speaking before a meeting of the six-nation Contact Group for Yugoslavia, said the group has developed a detailed plan that would give Kosova its own internal government and police force, and would allow for free elections. The province's status would be reviewed after three years. Cook said if the Contact Group approved the document, "we would invite both sides to meet in the next week, challenging them to get down to negotiate." Cook said any military action by NATO "must be in support of a clear political demand and a clear political process." PB
 FINNISH TEAM IN PRISHTINA FOR AUTOPSIESSeveral members of a Finnish forensics team arrived in Prishtina on 21 January to join Yugoslav and Belarusian pathologists in conducting autopsies on the bodies of the 45 ethnic Albanians believed to have been massacred at Recak, Radio B-92 reported. Finnish team head Helena Ranta said they have begun X-raying some of the bodies already examined by the Yugoslav team. She said it could take 10 days to complete the work. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook agreed with the opinion of OSCE mission head Walker, saying that "these people were executed. Serbia cannot simultaneously claim that they [the Serbs] were not responsible but also refuse to let in the international criminal tribunal (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 21 January 1999). PB
 UCK ADMITS TO FIRING ON OSCE MONITORSThe OSCE demanded on 21 January that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) identify and punish those responsible for shooting at and injuring two OSCE verifiers, AFP reported. The OSCE reported the same day that the UCK commander in the Decani region admitted that his men were responsible for an incident last week in which two OSCE monitors were wounded. The UCK said the action was a "misunderstanding." PB
 UN DEMANDS DISMISSAL OF SERBIAN POLICEMENThe UN mission in Bosnia demanded on 21 January that Bosnian Serb officials sack two senior policemen alleged to have taken part in the torture of suspects and witnesses in a murder investigation, Reuters reported. The UN made the demand after publishing a report on the "interrogation techniques" used during the probe into the August murder of Srdjan Knezevic, the deputy police chief in Pale. The UN policing office in Bosnia disqualified the two officers last month but said they continue to "exercise influence." PB
 BOSNIAN SERB PLEADS INNOCENT AT THE HAGUEStevan Todorovic, a former Bosnian Serb police chief, pleaded innocent on 21 January to charges of murder, torture, and rape during a campaign to ethnically cleanse the northern Bosnian town of Bosanski Samac in 1992-93, Reuters reported. Todorovic is being tried along with three others, who have also pleaded innocent. He was detained by NATO troops in September. PB
 SLOVENIAN DEBT RISESSlovenia's foreign debt increased to nearly $5 billion by the beginning of December, the news agency STA reported on 20 January. That figure represents an increase of nearly $800 million from the previous year. Ljubljana, however, has sharply decreased its debt to international financial organizations, to $78 million in 1998 from $223 million at the end of 1997. In other news, Slovenia's Economic Relations and Development Minister Marjan Senjur signed an economic cooperation pact with his South Korean counterpart, Hong Sun-yong, in Seoul on 21 January, Yonhap news agency reported. The agreement will allow both countries to receive most- favored-nation status. PB
 FORMER ALBANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS COUNTRY RUN BY MAFIAPerikli Teta said in Tirana on 22 January that "smugglers and mafiaŠhave ruled the country for the past 16 months and continue to rule it today," dpa reported. Teta, who resigned in October following riots in Tirana, said early general elections are needed to save the country. He added that the Socialist Party and its coalition allies came to power "through the barrel of a gun" and "thanks to the financial support of organizations of smugglers and mafiosi." Teta was one of the leaders of the Democratic Alliance, a small party that is a member of the ruling coalition of Premier Pandeli Majko. He resigned from his party post last month. PB
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT POSTPONES STATE OF EMERGENCY...President Emil Constantinescu announced on 22 January that he is postponing a decision to impose a "state of emergency" pending the outcome of talks between Prime Minister Radu Vasile and the striking Jiu Valley miners. The previous day, the government approved special regulations providing for the declaration of either a "state of emergency' or a "state of siege," under both of which some constitutional rights could be curbed. Such a move would have to be approved by the parliament within five days. The decision followed a meeting of the country's Supreme Defense Council and consultations with the main political parties, excluding the Greater Romania Party. All the participating parties urged the president to declare a "state of emergency." At the same time, they called on the government to draw up a series of measures aimed at alleviating the country's economic situation and called on Premier Vasile to meet with the striking miners. MS
 ...WHILE PREMIER LEAVES CAPITAL TO MEET MINERSVasile left Bucharest on 22 January to meet with the leaders of the striking miners in Cozia, a village west of the capital. The parliament is scheduled to convene the same day for an emergency debate. On 21 January, Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu tendered his resignation, assuming responsibility for the failure of police and gendarmerie to stop the miners' march on Bucharest. Constantin Dudu Ionescu, a former deputy defense minister, has been sworn in as Dejeu's successor, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Ionescu fired two Interior Ministry officials with the rank of general for failing to stop the miners and appointed General Anghel Andreescu, until now head of the Protection and Guard Service, as commander of the gendarmerie. MS
 HEAVY CLASHES BETWEEN MINERS, POLICE FORCESBreaking through a barricade set up by police forces at Costinesti, the miners took hostages from among the police forces and temporarily held the prefect of Valcea County, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. From Costinesti, they proceeded to Ramnicu Valcea, some 170 kilometers northwest of Bucharest. More than 120 police officers were injured in the clashes, and two are in a critical condition. Nine miners have been hospitalized. Many cars, especially those with Bucharest license plates, were damaged. Several cars belonging to Romanian Television sustained damage, too. Reports say the local population cheered the rampaging miners, who were later joined by colleagues from Transylvania. MS
 MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT RESUMES TALKS WITH PROTESTERSIon Godonoga, chairman of the Moldovan Trade Union Federation, says the government has agreed to resume negotiations with the unions over the payment of wage arrears. In Chisinau, thousands of demonstrators continued their protest on 21 January, picketing the government building. They were joined by the parliamentary group of the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) and its leader, Vladimir Voronin, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Meanwhile, the PCM parliamentary group has sent a message to the Romanian government expressing support for the Jiu Valley striking miners. MS
 BULGARIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT INVALIDATES LUSTRATION PROVISIONSThe Constitutional Court on 21 January ruled that several provisions in the law on state administration banning former top communist officials and secret service agents from holding civil service positions for five years are unconstitutional, Reuters and AP reported. The law was passed in October 1998 and appealed by the opposition Socialist Party. The court said that the ban violates the constitutional principle that responsibility is individual, not collective, as well as the constitutional guarantees of civil rights and the prohibition of persecution on the basis of political opinion. The court also ruled that the ban contravenes international agreements on human rights to which Bulgaria is a signatory. MS
[C] END NOTE
 WHY DON'T RUSSIANS REBEL?By Paul Goble Russia's enormous economic and political difficulties over the past several years have prompted many there and elsewhere to ask why more Russians do not go on strike or engage in political demonstrations.
A new U.S. Information Agency report, "Who Protests in Russia," reveals how few Russians have taken part in such protests and provides at least part of the answer as to why.
Based on extensive polling in Russia over the last few years, the report says that only 7 percent of Russians claim they have taken part in any political rally or demonstration and only 4 percent have gone on strike. It asserts that the number of Russians prepared to engage in such protests has been declining. And it explains these figures by suggesting that overwhelming majorities of Russians do not take part in such protests because they do not believe that either economic actions or political demonstrations will benefit them in any way.
But the report's focus on those who do protest calls attention to three factors that could signal this trend will be reversed, leading more Russians to take part in strikes and demonstrations over the next few year and thus to challenge existing power relations in Russian economic and political life.
First, as the report shows, those Russians who feel their personal situations are desperate, who have not been paid for extensive periods, and who lack alternative sources of support are far more likely to protest than those whose situations are not as desperate. Until now, many Russians have refrained from doing so either because they did not think protests would work, because they still felt they had something to lose, or because they could turn to family and friends for support. But if conditions deteriorate, as now seems likely, and if people learn about strike actions or public protests, then ever more Russians will fall into this "personal desperation" and may take to the streets.
Second, according to the USIA report, Russians who are members of a trade union or are active supporters of one or another political party are far more likely to participate in demonstrations than those who do not fall into this category. Based on surveys over the last three years, the presence of a trade union at the workplace "more than doubles" the likelihood that those employed there will participate in strikes or other forms of protest. And those who report "a great deal" of interest in politics are almost eight times as likely to participate in strikes or protests than those who say they have "no interest at all."
On the one hand, this pattern suggests that strikes may become more likely as political parties try to use trade unions in order to reach more voters. So far that has not happened very often: the report notes that only 6 percent of employed Russians now say that a member of the Russian Communist Party member has asked them to join a protest. And on the other, it implies that as more Russians focus on politics during the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, an increasing number of them are likely to participate in public demonstrations.
That will be particularly likely, the USIA study suggests, if Russian political parties run campaigns that seek to identify who is to blame for Russia's current predicament. Russians who think they know "who is to blame" are far more likely to protest than those who do not. Moreover, because of the overlap, the USIA polls found that between those who protest for economic reasons and those who do so for political ones, any increase in economic protests could spark an increase in political protests, and vice versa.
And third, as the USIA report notes, the roughly 7.5 million Russians who have participated in protests over the last several years may see their numbers grow if more Russians working in jobs they consider strategically important are able to successfully challenge the authorities and win concessions or at least back pay.
Consequently, as the Russian government and Russian firms attempt to live up to their promises to pay back wages, workers who have not yet received them may seek to use strikes to catch up with those who have. And that, in turn, could lead to a cycle that the authorities might find difficult to contain.
None of this is to say that Russia is about to face a tidal wave of strikes and political demonstrations. Rather, it is to note that the passivity many Russians have displayed up to now is the product of specific experiences and calculations, just as it reflects some underlying national culture. And it is also to suggest that as in the past, the quiescence the Russians now display could end more abruptly and explosively than many observers now predict.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty