|Thursday, 5 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 16, 99-01-25
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 16, 25 January 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 NEW GOVERNMENT APPROVED IN KAZAKHSTANPresident Nursultan Nazarbayev on 22 January endorsed all 14 cabinet nominations by Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbayev. Most of the 14 were members of the previous cabinet, which resigned following Nazarbayev's inauguration on 20 January. The most significant change, however, is the appointment of former First Deputy Premier Uraz Djandosov as finance minister. Reuters quoted financial analysts in Astana as characterizing Djandosov as "honest, committed, bold" and a convinced reformist. Speaking after the new government was sworn in, Nazarbayev pledged to continue with privatization and economic reform, Interfax reported. LF
 TAJIK GOVERNMENT NEUTRALIZES WARLORDSGovernment forces killed Saidmukhtor Yorov and three of his bodyguards in a shoot-out on the outskirts of Dushanbe on 24 January, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. A second warlord, Ravshan Gafurov, and five of his supporters were arrested. The Tajik government said the men were not aligned with the United Tajik Opposition and that they had engaged in kidnapping civilians for ransom. On 22 January, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that Tajik prosecutors have concluded the preliminary investigation into the November 1998 insurrection in Leninabad Oblast. The trial of 162 insurgents on charges of treason will begin shortly. LF
 IMF DELEGATION IN KYRGYZSTANTanas Katsambas, head of an IMF delegation to Kyrgyzstan, told journalists in Bishkek on 23 January that the country's government has taken the "necessary measures" in order to minimize the impact of last autumn's Russian financial crisis, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Earlier, Katsambas met with President Askar Akayev, Finance Minister Marat Sultanov, and National Bank acting Chairman Ulan Sarbanov. LF
 POLICE GENERAL APPOINTED HEAD OF KYRGYZSTAN'S STATE OIL COMPANYPresident Akayev has named General Bakirdin Subanbekov, former head of the Chu Oblast police, as director-general of the Kyrgyzgazmunaizat state joint- stock company, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 24 January. Subanbekov replaces Shalkar Jaisanbaev, for whom an arrest warrant has been issued on charges of large-scale embezzlement and suspected involvement in murder (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1999). LF
 U.S. OIL COMPANY EMPLOYEE MURDERED IN TURKMENISTANTurkmen police are investigating the death by strangulation of a 45-year- old U.S. oil company employee in the Caspian city of Turkmenbashi, AP reported on 22 January, citing Interfax. The man's body was discovered on 11 January in his apartment, which had been burgled. LF
 ARREST OF FORMER ARMENIAN INTERIOR MINISTER SOUGHTArmenian parliamentary speaker Khosrov Harutiunian told RFE/RL on 25 January that state prosecutors will ask the parliament to lift the immunity of former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian in order to facilitate his immediate arrest. He did not specify, however, what charges would be brought against Siradeghian. A close associate of former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, Siradeghian is currently chairman of the board of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement. Last year, Siradeghian was twice interrogated by law-enforcement agencies in connection with a group of men arrested on murder charges in January 1998. LF
 ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REVIEWS TELECOM MONOPOLYThe Armenian Constitutional Court on 23 January began examining an appeal by 72 parliament deputies that the 1998 telecommunications law is unconstitutional, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That law granted the ArmenTel company exclusive rights to operate the country's telecommunications network. The Greek telecommunications giant OTE paid $142 million in late 1997 to acquire an 80 percent stake in ArmenTel and 15-year exclusive rights. ArmenTel's recent decision to increase the monthly telephone fixed fee by 50 percent sparked mass protests and prompted some smaller pro- government parties to appeal to the population not to pay their telephone bills. A presidential spokesman told journalists on 22 January that Robert Kocharian has not yet agreed to a demand by opposition parliamentary deputies to convene an emergency debate on ArmenTel's privatization. LF
 ARMENIAN PRIVATE TV, RADIO STATIONS PROTEST FEES RISEOwners of more than one dozen private television channels and radio stations have strongly protested the government's recent decision to increase the monthly fee for use of air frequencies from $40 to $1,000, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 22 January. One radio station owner conceded that those rates are not high by international standards but said they are "inappropriate" under Armenian economic conditions. LF
 IRAN, RUSSIA UNHAPPY OVER POSSIBLE U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE IN TRANSCAUCASUSSpeaking in Tehran on 23 January, the chief of Iran's armed forces joint staff, Major-General Hassan Firuzabadi, warned that the opening of a U.S. military base in neighboring Azerbaijan would have undesirable consequences, ITAR-TASS and Xinhua reported. Azerbaijan's ambassador to Iran, Abbasali Hassanov, has denied Turkish media reports that the U.S. and Azerbaijani leaderships are currently discussing such a base. On 22 January, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning claims by Azerbaijani politicians that Russia plays a destabilizing role in the Transcaucasus, and that a U.S. military base in Azerbaijan is necessary to counter the Russian presence in the region, Russian agencies reported. The statement said such claims are aimed at undermining Russian-Azerbaijani relations. LF
 GEORGIA, AZERBAIJAN, UKRAINE TO CREATE JOINT PEACEKEEPING FORCEMeeting in Baku on 21-22 January, the defense ministers of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine discussed the creation of a joint peacekeeping force that, according to an Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman, could be deployed to guard the proposed oil export pipeline from Azerbaijan through Georgia, Reuters reported. Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze had proposed such a force last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 December 1998). The three ministers also signed a joint communique on coordinating their relations with NATO and the UN and on holding joint maneuvers. The defense minister of Moldova, the fourth country in the GUAM alignment, had been scheduled to attend the meeting. No explanation was offered for his failure to do so. LF
 RETURN OF GEORGIANS TO ABKHAZIA DISCUSSEDUN special envoy Liviu Bota and senior Western diplomats met with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba in Sukhumi on 23 January to discuss the latter's unilateral proposal to allow ethnic Georgia displaced persons to return to Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion beginning 1 March. The French and Russian representatives at the talks expressed satisfactions with that offer but questioned how it could be implemented without Georgian approval and support, ITAR- TASS and Caucasus Press reported. On 22 January, a delegation representing the Georgian displaced persons flew to the U.S. to participate in a 31 January session of the UN Security Council that is to discuss the Abkhaz conflict. The delegation will seek to persuade the Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning the alleged policy of genocide conducted by the Abkhaz against the Georgians during the 1992-1993 war. It will also demand the replacement of the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia by a multilateral UN force. LF
 ADJAR LEADER SETS CONDITIONS FOR PARTICIPATION IN GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTDeputies elected from constituencies in the Adjar Autonomous Republic will resume their participation in the work of the Georgian parliament only after that body finally enacts legislation on creating free economic zones in Georgia and elects a representative of the Adjar leadership as a deputy speaker, according to Adjar Supreme Council chairman Aslan Abashidze. The Adjar deputies suspended their participation in the work of the Georgian legislature last summer. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 22 January quoted Abashidze as accusing Georgian border guards of engaging in espionage activities in Adjaria with the aim of destabilizing the political situation there. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 DIPLOMATIC 'OFFENSIVE' UNDER WAY FOR KOSOVAWestern diplomats have launched a "tough new take-it-or-leave-it" initiative, which they hope will secure Russian backing and force the Serbs and Kosovars to comply, Reuters reported from Brussels on 24 January. The plan is to offer the Serbs the choice of granting autonomy to Kosova or facing NATO air strikes, while Kosovars will have to choose between accepting something less than independence or risk losing Western support. Diplomats from the international Contact Group agreed in London late last week to press the Serbs and Kosovars to take part in a peace conference in the near future (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1999). EU foreign ministers will discuss the new diplomatic efforts at their meeting in Brussels on 25 January. Kosova is also on the agenda in talks between U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, in Moscow. The Contact Group is slated to meet again on 30 January to finalize the plan. PM
 NATO CONTINUES TO STAND BY...NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said in Rome on 24 January that the alliance remains prepared to take military action "in order to support a political solution" in Kosova. He added that "at this very moment...there is the determination of the international community to have a political agreement work. For that, NATO will be prepared to do its job.Š I hope very much that there will be a new impulse, a new dynamic, that we are ready to support." PM
 ...WITH GROUND TROOPS?Veton Surroi, who is Kosova's leading journalist, wrote in "Koha Ditore" of 24 January that "military action [by NATO] can lead to a solution" in the troubled province. He added that ground troops will be necessary "to ensure that violence [by Serbian forces against civilians] is not repeated." An unnamed senior U.S. government official told the "Washington Post" of 23 January that "a serious discussion [on ending the crisis in Kosova] must explore all options, including American participation on the ground. It's just a fact of life that our allies are reluctant to support air power against the Serbs in the absence of a clear strategy for what happens next on the ground." Secretary of Defense William Cohen is strongly opposed to sending U.S. ground troops into Kosova. PM
 GERMANY PREPARED TO SEND GROUND TROOPSChancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, and Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping agreed in Bonn on 22 January that Germany is prepared to send ground troops to Kosova to help ensure the safety of OSCE monitors, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Germany has already made aircraft available for possible NATO air strikes against Serbia. A German government spokesman said that Belgrade must understand that "this is not a game" and that the Atlantic alliance is serious about ending the violence in Kosova. Scharping noted that "we will not just sit by idly while people are being butchered. This is not like in Bosnia, where we sat back and watched while the most grisly kind of massacres took place." PM
 HOLBROOKE DEMANDS 'FULL COMPLIANCE' BY SERBIAU.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke, who negotiated an agreement on Kosova with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in October, said on 22 January in Washington that the agreement has "eroded" because it "didn't have teeth." He warned Belgrade that its recent decision to suspend its expulsion order against William Walker, who is the chief OSCE monitor in Kosova, is not sufficient to avoid NATO air strikes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1999). Holbrooke stressed that Milosevic must show "full compliance" with the October agreement. PM
 HOSTAGES FREED IN KOSOVASerbian forces freed nine Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) fighters in Likoc on 23 January as part of a secret agreement with OSCE diplomats under which the UCK freed eight Yugoslav soldiers 10 days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 14 January 1999). Some of the freed guerrillas told AP that their captors had beaten them and that they want to return to the front lines. Also on 23 January, the UCK freed five elderly Serbian civilians, whom guerrillas captured near Vushtrri the previous day. The Serbs said they had been well treated, but one noted that their captors took "some money, a video recorder, and some of [her] son's clothes..., adding that the guerrillas warned them not to mention this," Reuters reported. Spokesmen for the UCK said that the guerrillas had "arrested" the five because they were armed. In Prishtina, Walker said that "it was a very unwise and uncivilized thing for the [UCK] to do to kidnap civilians and I want to condemn it." PM
 WALKER SAYS RECAK WAS 'MASSACRE'Walker wrote in "Newsweek" that he stands by his view that Serbian forces "massacred" 45 Kosovar civilians in Recak on 15 January, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 24 January. He added that "neither I nor any of those who accompanied me saw any signs of a two-sided battle." Serbian spokesmen say that the Kosovars, who included women, children, and pensioners, were UCK fighters who died in battle. Belgrade recently ordered Walker's expulsion after he charged that Serbian forces massacred innocent civilians. On 22 January, AP in Vienna obtained a confidential OSCE report in which monitors concluded that armed Serbs killed the Kosovars and "mutilated some of them." Also in the Austrian capital, "Die Presse" quoted Sadako Ogata, who is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as saying that at least three Kosovar children recently froze to death when several hundred Kosovars fled their homes following the Recak killings. PM
 GLIGOROV VETOES AMNESTY LAWMacedonian President Kiro Gligorov on 22 January refused to sign a draft amnesty law that would end the jail terms of some 800 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, who were convicted for violating the 1997 law on the public display of national symbols (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1999). Among the 800 are the mayors of Gostivar and Tetovo. The bill will be returned to the parliament, where the pro-government majority is expected to override Gligorov's veto without difficulty. It is the first time that Gligorov has refused to sign a law passed by the parliament. Observers suggested that his refusal was intended as a snub to the government of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. Georgievski sought the amnesty in order to guarantee the support of his ethnic Albanian coalition partners and to reduce inter-ethnic tensions. PM
 MACEDONIA, ALBANIA AGREE ON KOSOVAGeorgievski and his Albanian counterpart, Pandeli Majko, said in Tirana on 22 January that they support increased international political pressure directed at ending the crisis in Kosova. Majko added that "if the Serbs continue their massacres in Kosova, there could be large waves of refugees heading for both Albania and Macedonia." He and Georgievski agreed that current relations between Skopje and Tirana are "an example of how new relationships can be built in the new Balkans." PM
 ARMED CIVILIANS PROTEST BANDITS IN ALBANIAMore than 400 armed civilians blocked the main road linking Gjirokaster to Greece to protest the inability of the police to control bandits operating from the nearby mountain village of Lazarat. The inhabitants of Lazarat, which was a leper colony in Ottoman times, have a tradition of behaving as a law unto themselves. Meanwhile in Vlora, gangsters kidnapped the police chief on 23 January and held him until police returned six impounded speedboats belonging to the smugglers. The incident "shocked Italy," Reuters reported the next day. Defense Minister Carlo Scognamiglio said that Rome is prepared to double the strength of its 630 military, police, and customs officials in Albania. PM
 STRIKE, VIOLENCE ENDS AFTER ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS MINERSSome 10,000 coal miners interrupted their march to Bucharest and returned to the Jiu Valley after a deal was reached by Premier Radu Vasile and miners' leaders on 22 January, RFE/RL's Romanian Service reported. Vasile announced the end of the strike after four hours of talks with Miron Cozma at an Orthodox monastery near Ramnicu Valcea, 170 kilometers west of Bucharest. Vasile said "neither the miners nor the government won. Only the country won, because there will be peace." Some 170 people, mostly policemen, were injured in several clashes as the miners overran barricades and police cordons set up to prevent them reaching Bucharest. Vasile agreed to increase miners' wages by 35 percent and to allow two mines slated for closure to remain open. Vasile added, however, that the wage hike is dependent on miners' eliminating losses at heavily subsidized mines over the next five years. Further rounds of talks between the government and mining officials are to take place in the coming weeks. Most of the 20,000 miners in the region already make nearly twice the national average salary. PB
 ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT WANTS AGREEMENT MADE PUBLICBoth chambers of the parliament, meeting in an extraordinary session on 22 January, approved a declaration affirming their support for the actions of Vasile in his defense of "state institutions, the constitution, and all democratic values," Rompres reported. The resolution condemned the violent actions of the miners and called on state officials to ensure that the crisis not be repeated. It also urged the government to present by 15 March an economic and social program intended to stop the economic decline in the country. In addition, lawmakers want the government to detail how it plans to pay for the concessions made to the miners. The leader of the ethnic Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania, Bela Marko, criticized the agreement between Vasile and the miners and called for the protesters to be detained and prosecuted. Marko, whose party is a member of the ruling coalition, said the government will lose credibility if it does not prosecute those involved in violence. PB
 BULGARIA NOT TO SHUT DOWN REACTORS EARLYBulgarian Deputy Premier Evgenyi Bakardzhiev said on 22 January that his government will not shut down four controversial nuclear reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant earlier than scheduled, AP reported. Bakardzhiev said the two oldest reactors will stop operating in 2005, as planned, and the other two will shut down in 2010. Bakardzhiev said Sofia has invested some $140 million to improve safety at the plant, which some Western organizations say is unsafe. The facility provides about 40 percent of Bulgaria's electricity needs. PB
 BULGARIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR UNITYPetar Stoyanov said on 22 January that increased internal discord could weaken Bulgaria's credibility, AP reported. Stoyanov, in his annual address to the nation, urged the government and the opposition to cooperate over reform. He said this is the only way Bulgaria can make a "dignified accession to the EU and NATO." Stoyanov also noted that the country cannot secure the West's trust "unless government and opposition guarantee that whoever comes to power will stick to all basic rules of a market economy." PB
[C] END NOTE
 MESSAGES SENT, MESSAGES RECEIVEDby Paul Goble
The statements of Russian politicians notwithstanding, the Russian military has sent a message that suggests many in Moscow are coming to terms with the idea that the three Baltic States will eventually become members of NATO.
But just as in 1990, when Moscow's military commanders indicated that they did not expect Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to be part of the USSR by the year 2000, the Russian generals are giving out signals that some in both the region and the West appear likely to misinterpret.
On 29 December, Lieutenant-General Pavel Labutin, the chief of the Leningrad Military District, told ITAR-TASS that he has re-established a Russian army group "in the Baltic direction" as a result of "NATO expansion to the East and the prospect of admitting the Baltics into this bloc."
Labutin's remarks suggest that he and his officers have been planning the reorganization of their forces not so much to prevent the expansion of NATO but rather on the assumption that the Western alliance will sometime in the near future include the three Baltic countries. In taking that position, General Labutin appears to be out in front of, if not out of step with, the Russian political elite. But precisely because his remarks suggest such is the case, Labutin's actions have been interpreted in a very different way not only by some in the region but also by a few analysts in NATO capitals.
Not surprisingly, some Baltic officials see the restoration of this army group in the same way as they viewed last summer's Russian military exercise "Operation Return" near their borders: as a direct threat to themselves and as an effort to intimidate the West.
Some observers in NATO capitals have drawn a similar conclusion. They have argued that this Leningrad Military District reorganization is a direct challenge to NATO and that the Western alliance must take notice of it. Moreover, they have argued that this latest shift may represent a potential violation of the Conventional Forces in Europe agreement.
Such Baltic and Western comments may lead some in NATO capitals to draw exactly the opposite conclusion from the one that Labutin's words and actions suggest. And they may thus lead some in those cities to argue for putting off the inclusion of the Baltic States into the Western alliance.
If that happens, there will be a repetition of events that took place nine years ago. One day after the Lithuanian government declared the restoration of its independence, a Washington newspaper published a map showing how Soviet generals perceived the security architecture of Europe in the year 2000. That map, the product of extensive interviews with these generals by a U.S. Defense Department analyst, showed that the generals did not believe that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania would be part of the Soviet Union by that time.
But to a remarkable degree, the publication of that map had a very different impact on U.S. thinking about the Baltic pursuit of independence than the most obvious reading of it would appear to have suggested. Instead of leading more people in the West to conclude that Russian acceptance of eventual Baltic independence could allow the West to increase its support for the Balts, the appearance of this map led some writers to conclude that the West should be even more circumspect lest it exacerbate divisions in Moscow.
As subsequent events proved, the Soviet military's assessment of the facts on the ground was far closer to reality than the one given out by the Soviet political establishment. And had that been more widely understood at the time, all the parties might have avoided some of the difficulties they subsequently faced.
Labutin's action, one he almost certainly did not undertake on his own, appears to be yet another such message about the Russian military's understanding of the situation. And just as in 1990, how it is received is likely to have a major influence on the fate of the Baltic countries over the next several years.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty