|Thursday, 22 October 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 18, 99-01-28
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 18, 28 January 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENTLeading members of the Communist Party of Armenia and the Union for Constitutional Rights have deplored the parliament's 26 January rejection of Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian's demand that former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian be stripped of his deputy's immunity to facilitate his arrest for suspected incitement to murder (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). Communist Party leader Sergei Badalian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that his party's seven deputies may boycott parliamentary proceedings. Haig Baboukhanian told Noyan Tapan that the parliament should be dissolved. Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun) party leader Vahan Hovanessian had told the party's newspaper "Hayots ashkhar" before the 26 January vote that President Robert Kocharian should dissolve the parliament if it failed to lift Siradeghian's immunity. LF
 RETIRED U.S. DIPLOMATS SEEK TO KICKSTART KARABAKH MEDIATIONTwo former senior U.S. diplomats have held talks in Baku and Yerevan with leading officials from Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic on the prospects for resuming negotiations on a solution to the Karabakh conflict. They told journalists in Yerevan on 25 January that their mission is intended to support the OSCE Minsk Group's ongoing mediation effort, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But their talks in Baku and Yerevan did not focus on the most recent OSCE draft peace proposal, which Azerbaijan has rejected. Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasian told the U.S. diplomats that their country should play "a decisive role" in resolving the conflict, ITAR- TASS reported on 27 January. He said the mediators have made "new proposals" with "very serious prospects" but declined to disclose those proposals on the grounds that they have not yet been presented to Azerbaijan's President Aliev. LF
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT OPPOSES INCREASE IN BROADCASTING TARIFFSPresident Kocharian has asked the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications to reconsider its decision to raises the fees for use of broadcast frequencies by private television and radio stations from 1 January, according to Snark on 25 January, as monitored by the BBC and reported by Groong on 27 January. The ministry has increased the monthly fees from $40 to $1,000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999). Kocharian termed the new rates "unrealistic." LF
 IMF APPROVES NEW LOAN FOR AZERBAIJANThe IMF has approved a $79 million loan for Azerbaijan to help counter the impact of the Russian financial crisis and falling oil prices, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 27 January. In addition, the fund will release $33 million under a three-year ESAF program. The IMF noted that while Azerbaijan's projected 1999 budget deficit is equal to only 3.1 percent of GDP, compared with 10 percent last year, it is still larger than planned. LF
 FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S TRIAL AGAIN ADJOURNEDThe trial of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman Abulfaz Elchibey resumed on 27 January but was adjourned until 2 February at the request of the defense lawyers, who object that the preliminary investigation was not objective and that the prosecution's case contains numerous irregularities, AP and Turan reported. Elchibey is charged with insulting the honor and dignity of President Aliev by claiming that he was instrumental in establishing the Kurdistan Workers' Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 1998 and 26 January 1999). On 26 January, a Baku district court handed down two-year suspended sentences on five members of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party for participating in an unsanctioned demonstration in Baku on 12 September and for resisting arrest. Some police witnesses for the prosecution failed positively to identify the accused as having participated in the demonstration, while others denied that the men had resisted arrest. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S RETURN HOME AGAIN DELAYEDAides to President Aliev told journalists in Ankara on 27 January that the president is well and will return to Baku no later than 31 January, Reuters reported. Aliev was flown to a military hospital on 17 January, reportedly suffering from bronchitis and/or influenza. On 19 January, a member of the presidential administration told Interfax that Aliev would return to Baku "by the weekend," that is, on 23 or 24 January. But on 25 January, the Azerbaijani consul in Istanbul had told Turan that the president would return "on Tuesday or Wednesday," that is, 26 or 27 January. LF
 GEORGIA TO BECOME FULL MEMBER OF COUNCIL OF EUROPEThe Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 27 January voted unanimously to admit Georgia to full membership within three to six months. That decision is conditional on implementation of judicial reform, a tougher crackdown on corruption, and progress in repatriating to Georgia the Meskhetians deported by Stalin to Central Asia in 1944, according to Interfax. In addition, Tbilisi must draw up within two years a constitutional framework that allows autonomy for Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Addressing the assembly in Strasbourg, Georgian parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania urged its members also to admit Armenia and Azerbaijan to full membership in order to promote closer regional cooperation. LF
 KYRGYZSTAN REGISTERS DISAPPOINTING ECONOMIC GROWTH IN 1998National Statistical Board head Zarylbek Kudabayev told journalists in Bishkek on 27 January that GDP in 1998 increased by 1.8 percent, compared with 1997, but that the increase was due almost entirely to the Kyrgyz- Canadian gold joint-venture, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kudabayev said that industrial output amounted to 21.05 billion som (about $700 million), which is equal to a 4.6 percent increase over the previous year. Agricultural output remained at the 1997 level. Annual inflation was 18.4 percent, and the average monthly salary was 825 som ($28). The country's foreign trade deficit increased sharply last year to $290 million. LF
 TAJIK PRESIDENT, UN REPRESENTATIVE DISCUSS PEACE PROCESSAt a meeting in Dushanbe on 27 January, Jan Kubis and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov agreed on the need to expedite implementation of the 1997 Tajik peace accords, which Kubis termed "painfully slow," Russian agencies reported. Kubis expressed concern at the delay in implementing agreements reached between Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri and in disarming opposition and maverick armed formations. He also noted that no headway has been made on drafting amendments to the country's constitution, which the Commission for National Reconciliation has just begun discussing, according to Asia- Plus-Blitz on 27 January. Kubis briefed Rakhmonov on his recent talks in Moscow with Russian Foreign Ministry officials about the situation in Tajikistan. LF
 TURKMEN PRESIDENT FIRES AGRICULTURE MINISTERTurkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov sacked Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Kurban Velmuradov during a cabinet meeting on 26 January, Interfax reported on 27 January. Velmuradov's deputy, Kurbanmurad Rozyev, has been named to succeed him. Niyazov criticized unnamed officials in the agricultural sector who, he claimed, "do not understand...the tasks given them" and still act according to "obsolete" and "Soviet-era" methods. Niyazov's claims that the country's agriculture is in crisis are difficult to reconcile with official statistics showing a 20 percent increase in agricultural output last year. Interfax reported on 18 January that the Turkmen government has adopted a six-year program for the partial privatization of farms and industrial and construction companies belonging to the agro-industrial complex. Initially, the government will retain a 51 percent stake in those companies. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ANNAN SAYS WORLD MUST HEED 'LESSONS OF BOSNIA'UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in Brussels on 28 January that the international community must note the "lessons of Bosnia" and not allow the issue of state sovereignty to deter it from intervening to prevent "horror." Annan told NATO officials that the international community should have "no illusions about the need to use force when all other means have failed. We may be reaching that point once again in the former Yugoslavia. We're horror-threatened," Reuters quoted him as saying. After meeting with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, Annan told reporters that he is "pushing very hard for a political settlement. If force becomes necessary we will need to look at that. The threat is essential." NATO is expected to issue an ultimatum to Belgrade on Kosova on 28 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). The international Contact Group will meet in London on 29 January. PM
 SERBS LAUNCH ASSAULT IN NORTHERN KOSOVASerbian tanks and artillery shelled positions of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) in the hills along the road connecting Prishtina and Podujeva on 27 January. "There was fierce fighting in the same area around Podujeva as at Christmas time," a spokesman for the UCK told "RFE/RL Newsline." Serbian sources in Prishtina said that the assault was in response to an attack on a Serbian police station, but UCK spokesmen denied any knowledge of such an incident. A U.S. member of the OSCE monitoring team told Reuters that the Serbs used "heavy stuff," including tanks and armored personnel carriers, before withdrawing to their bases before nightfall. PM
 DID BELGRADE LAUNCH COVER-UP OF RECAK MASSACRE?The "Washington Post" reported on 28 January that "Western governments" recently intercepted telephone calls between two top Serbian officials responsible for Kosova, namely Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic and Interior Ministry General Sreten Lukic. The two men's conversations indicated that officials "at the highest levels of the Yugoslav government" ordered security forces to "go in heavy" into Recak and launch a "search-and-destroy mission" in response to the killing of three Serbs. The top officials then "systematically sought to cover up the assault," the Washington daily added. Sainovic and Lukic tried to make the killings look like the result of a battle in order to blunt outrage from abroad in response to the massacre. PM
 BELGRADE SAYS 'NO'An unnamed senior official of the Clinton administration told the "Washington Post" of 28 January: "We have to have a full, independent investigation of [the report of a massacre and cover-up] to get to the bottom of it. Those responsible have to be brought to justice." In Belgrade, an unnamed Yugoslav official told Reuters that the "Washington Post" story "is a big manipulation by the CIA, who are preparing to put in NATO troops and eventually [start] bombing. We are completely aware of the circumstances in which we live and to give such an order [for a massacre and cover-up] would be completely idiotic. So it's a pure invention of the intelligence services in America who want at any price to find excuses and pretextsto continue with pressure and threats" against Serbia. PM
 KOSOVARS NON-COMMITTAL ON CONFERENCEUCK official Jakup Krasniqi said in Dragobilj on 27 January that his talks with U.S. envoy Chris Hill and his EU counterpart, Wolfgang Petritsch, on a possible Kosova peace conference were "useful" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 1999). Krasniqi declined to commit the UCK to negotiations or to elaborate. Hill told AP that "frankly speaking, we do not have much more patience with this. The international community wants to see the process move quickly and we need the participation of all parties." In Belgrade, Serbian officials repeated their position that the Kosovars must negotiate directly with Serbian authorities without international mediation. PM
 ALBANIAN PRESIDENT CLAIMS KOSOVAR MEDIATION SUCCESSPresidential public relations secretary Sotiraq Hroni told dpa on 27 January that President Rexhep Meidani convinced visiting Kosovar leaders earlier this month that they should "set up a body representing them all in negotiations with the international community and Yugoslav authorities." Hroni added that the Kosovars "have all agreed in principle to meet and establish an institution to represent all of them." He predicted that several shadow-state and UCK representatives will meet "possibly this month" in Vienna or Frankfurt to set up "an executive board" representing all Kosovar groups. FS
 IMBROGLIO OVER MACEDONIAN RECOGNITION OF TAIWANA Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said in Beijing on 28 January that her government will "firmly oppose any country that has established diplomatic relations with China to have any official contacts with Taiwan." She urged the Macedonian authorities to "wisely choose not to recognize the so-called communiqué" that the Taiwanese and Macedonian foreign ministers signed in Taipei the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 1999). In Skopje, President Kiro Gligorov said that he did not know anything about Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's plans to recognize Taiwan and that he opposes such a move. It is unclear what Gligorov may legally do, if anything, to counter Georgievski's move. Taiwan's Vice Foreign Minister David Lee said in Taipei that Taiwanese officials have been negotiating with Georgievski and his political allies for over a year. Lee added that the talks were kept secret from Gligorov and Beijing, AP reported. PM
 GRANIC HAILS AGREEMENT WITH MONTENEGROCroatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said in Zagreb on 27 January that the recent agreement with Montenegro to reopen two border crossings is a first step toward ending the dispute with Belgrade over the Prevlaka peninsula (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). In Strasbourg, the Council of Europe will soon approve a "tough resolution" condemning Croatia for its poor cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, "Jutarnji list" wrote on 28 January. The council is also expected to be critical of Croatia's electoral law. PM
 WESTENDORP WANTS PROGRESS ON PRIVATIZATIONThe international community's Carlos Westendorp told members of the international Privatization Monitoring Commission in Sarajevo on 27 January that they should quickly propose measures aimed at speeding up privatization of state- owned assets in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Foreign experts have frequently criticized the slow pace of privatization as a major obstacle to economic redevelopment of the war-torn country. PM
 ALBANIAN DISARMAMENT PROGRAM BEGINSThe UN Development Program (UNDP) on 27 January launched its voluntary disarmament project in the central Albanian town of Gramsh (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 1999). As a first step, villagers in Tunja, a remote village near Gramsh, handed over about 120 weapons, 100,000 cartridges, and 120 grenades. The UNDP project aims at the voluntary handover of weapons in exchange for the improvement of local infrastructure. The population of Gramsh is estimated to possess some 100,000 weapons, "Albanian Daily News" reported. FS
 ROMANIAN DEFENSE COUNCIL URGES POLICY CHANGESThe country's Supreme Defense Council on 27 January said that the country risks another outbreak of unrest similar to the violent miners' strike last week unless economic efficiency and the social security net are improved, AP reported. The council said that the government's policy changes should be in line with the council's recommendations. The council was summoned by Constantinescu earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999) to review why Interior Ministry troops failed to stop the coal miners' march on Bucharest. PB
 MINISTER RESIGNS, SENATOR SUSPENDED IN ROMANIAGyorgy Tokay, the minister for ethnic minorities, resigned for personal reasons on 27 January, AP reported. Tokay is a member of Romania's ethnic- Hungarian minority and had been minister since 1996. Leaders of the Hungarian Democratic Party nominated Senator Peter Eckstein to replace Tokay. The same day, Romania's upper house voted to suspend ultranationalist Senator Corneliu Vadim Tudor for urging coal miners to strike last week. A Senate committee voted by six to four to ban him from Senate sessions for 30 days for "not respecting the professional code of the Senate." Tudor is the leader of the Greater Romania Party. PB
 BULGARIAN OFFICIAL OPTIMISTIC AFTER TALKS IN SKOPJEBulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Marin Raykov said in Skopje on 27 January that there was renewed confidence in Bulgarian-Macedonian relations, BTA reported. Raykov, speaking after a meeting with officials from the Macedonian Foreign Ministry, said "we took the first step in the process of stepping up our dialogue and meetings." Relations between the two countries have been strained, and numerous bilateral agreements cannot be implemented because of a disagreement over which language should be used for those accords. Sofia does not recognize Macedonian as a separate language but as a Bulgarian dialect. Skopje insists that each document be in Macedonian and Bulgarian. PB
 BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES CURRENCY REVALUATIONLawmakers passed a law on 27 January that will revalue the national currency on 1 July, dpa reported. The lev will be revalued by 1,000 percent. Opposition deputies voted against the measure. In other news, the IMF said it will continue to support the Bulgarian government's reform package, BTA reported. A deputy director with the IMF said in Sofia after meeting with Finance Minister Muravey Radev that he is impressed with Bulgaria's accomplishments in 1998. PB
[C] END NOTE
 SLOVAKIA TO REOPEN INVESTIGATION INTO DUBCEK'S FATAL CRASH?by Jolyon Naegele
Slovak authorities are considering reopening the investigation into Alexander Dubcek's fatal car crash in 1992. Dubcek was best known for introducing "socialism with a human face" while Czechoslovak Communist Party leader in 1968.
Late last year, Jaroslav Volf, the former head of Dubcek's Social Democratic Party of Slovakia (SDSS) and a member of parliament, received a commitment from Czech officials to assist Slovakia in reopening the investigation into Dubcek's car crash. The two sides discussed setting up a joint investigative commission and handing over the findings of the Czech investigation into the crash.
SDSS spokesman Miroslav Spejl told RFE/RL last week that the time has come to clear up uncertainties. He notes too many questions remain unanswered in the Dubcek case. If a political element is confirmed, investigators must determine who was behind Dubcek's death, he argues.
Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's government is currently reopening investigations into nearly a dozen cases in which the previous government of Vladimir Meciar may have been implicated. These include the 1995 abduction to Austria of Michal Kovac Jr., the son of Slovakia's president at the time, and the murder of a key witness to the abduction, Robert Remias, who some say knew too much about the alleged involvement of the Slovak intelligence service. The recent murder in Bratislava of former Economy and Industry Minister Jan Ducky, who also served under Meciar as head of the Slovak gas monopoly, has thrust the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General's Office into the spotlight.
The Slovak and foreign media have portrayed Ducky's murder as the first of a top Slovak politician since the fall of communism. However, such an assertion assumes Dubcek died as the result of an accident in which no foul play was involved. At the time of the crash, Dubcek was in political limbo, having had to give up the post of speaker of the Czechoslovak parliament following the June 1992 general elections. He remained a parliamentary deputy and headed the tiny Social Democratic Party, coming under increasing criticism from among those who had won the elections: the Czech center- right, led by Vaclav Klaus, and the Slovak populists, led by Vladimir Meciar. Talks that summer between Klaus and Meciar on loosening the bonds between Prague and Bratislava resulted in an agreement to dissolve the Czechoslovak state. Dubcek, though on the sidelines and apprehensive about the split, began to appear as the most logical choice to become first president of an independent Slovakia.
Dubcek's chauffeur-driven BMW skidded off the Bratislava-Prague highway in heavy rain on 1 September 1992. Dubcek's driver was a Czechoslovak Federal Interior Ministry warrant officer named Jan Reznik. Dubcek said later in the hospital that he had sensed something was wrong and had laid down on the rear seat well before the crash. Reznik suffered relatively minor injuries. But Dubcek was found lying 20 meters in front of the car.
A study conducted by the Brno Forensic Institute determined that Reznik must have been driving at between 114 km and 131 km per hour at the time the car went off the road and that Dubcek apparently was catapulted out of the rear window as the car spun out of control. Dubcek was flown to a Prague hospital, where he died on 7 November 1992.
Today, rumors persist that Dubcek may have been the victim of a plot, although a strong motive is lacking. Jan Langos, Czechoslovakia's last federal interior minister and currently a Slovak parliamentary deputy with the ruling coalition, told RFE/RL in 1997 that he remains convinced Dubcek died as the result of an accident. He said the only mistake made in the investigation was to permit the BMW to be destroyed following examination by investigators.
But a lawyer for the Dubcek family and the Slovak Social Democratic Party, Liboslav Leksa, is virtually convinced foul play was involved. Last year, he published a book containing various documents from the investigation as well as his own list of unanswered questions. Leksa also said he possesses documents which he was unable to make public at that time. He now lives in the Czech Republic and remains cautious about voicing suspicions.
Leksa's study suggests that if anyone knows whether or not Dubcek's car crash was simply an accident, it would be the driver, Reznik, who refused to cooperate with investigators. Leksa says Reznik had worked for the Communist secret police and did not enjoy Dubcek's trust.
After the car crash, Reznik, though an Interior Ministry officer, refused to cooperate with investigators. A Czech military court in Ceske Budejovice in March 1993 convicted him for having caused bodily injury and for failing to reduce his speed to conform to conditions. He was sentenced to one year in prison and banned from driving for two-and-a-half years. The conviction was later confirmed by an appeals court. But an amnesty declared in the newly independent Slovakia saved Reznik from having to serve time.
The full story of what happened to Dubcek may well remain a mystery, just like the death in March 1948 of Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk, the son of the country's founder and first president, Tomas Masaryk. Dressed in his pajamas, Masaryk plunged to his death from a high bathroom ledge into a courtyard at the Foreign Ministry in Prague late at night. At the time, Masaryk's death was labeled a suicide, but in later investigations, no definitive answer has been found to the question: Did Jan Masaryk jump or fall or was he pushed?
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty