|Friday, 22 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 19, 99-01-29
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 19, 29 January 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ASSESSES IMPACT OF CONTROVERSIAL VOTEThe Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) issued a statement on 28 January urging President Robert Kocharian to dissolve the parliament following the rejection of Prosecutor- General Aghvan Hovsepian's request to strip former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian of his parliamentary immunity. The statement said the 1995 parliamentary elections, in which the HHD was banned from participating, were rigged and the parliament is continuing the previous regime's policy, which it characterized as "directed against the vital interests of the Armenian people." Also on 28 January, Albert Bazeyan, leader of the largest Yerkrapah parliamentary group, denied rumors of a split within that group over whether Siradeghian should be brought to trial, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Meanwhile, several leading politicians have expressed doubts that former President Levon Ter-Petrossian's 26 January statement condemning the attempt to indict Siradeghian heralds Ter-Petrossian's imminent return to mainstream politics. Ter-Petrossian has lived in seclusion since his forced resignation one year ago. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT AMBIVALENT ON QUESTION OF NATO BASESIn an interview published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 28 January, Heidar Aliev avoided a direct answer to the question whether Azerbaijan might host either a Turkish or a NATO military base on its territory. ITAR- TASS quoted "a well-informed NATO source in Moscow" as similarly avoiding a direct answer to that question. That source went on to quote Turkish President Suleyman Demirel as dismissing reports of such a base in Azerbaijan as "pure speculation." Also on 28 January, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman interviewed by ITAR-TASS pointed to the contradiction between Aliev's statements and those of his adviser Vafa Guluzade, who has repeatedly argued openly in favor of such bases in Azerbaijan. LF
 UN SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR POLITICAL SOLUTION IN ABKHAZIAIn a 28 January resolution, the UN Security Council called for "an early and comprehensive political settlement [to the Abkhaz conflict], which includes a settlement on the political status of Abkhazia within the state of Georgia," Reuters reported. The resolution also urged immediate measures to expedite the return to Abkhazia of ethnic Georgian displaced persons forced to flee during the conflict, and it condemned the failure to halt guerrilla activities in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. The Council extended for another six months the mandate of the UN Observer Force in western Georgia. LF
 ...WHILE GEORGIAN MINISTERS CALL ON UN TO PLAY GREATER ROLEAddressing the council, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili said the UN should be more active in promoting not only a settlement of the conflict but also the repatriation of Georgian displaced persons, according to AP. He argued that the 140-strong observer force is "too small" to control the area in question. Menagharishvili also called for the creation of a local administration in Gali under UN control to create secure conditions for the displaced persons' return. The Abkhaz have rejected that option. Speaking on Georgian Television on 27 January, Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze similarly called for "more resolute" UN moves to resolve the conflict, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. LF
 KAZAKH MILITARY PROCURATOR DISCUSSES MILITARY DISCIPLINESpeaking at a press conference in Almaty on 29 January, Zharmakhan Tuyaqbayev expressed concern over the increase in the number of deserters last year and over unspecified instances of abuse of power by senior officers, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Senior Defense Ministry officials denied Russian media reports that four SU-27 fighter aircraft given to Kazakhstan by Russia earlier this week were intended as part payment of the rent for the Baikonur Space Complex (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). They said the aircraft were in payment of Soviet military equipment withdrawn from Kazakhstan in 1993. LF
 KYRGYZ PRESIDENT IN VIENNAAskar Akayev met with his Austrian counterpart, Thomas Klestil, in Vienna on 27 January to discuss strengthening bilateral relations and developing new forms of cooperation, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported the following day. Akayev also met separately with Austrian businessmen to solicit investments, particularly in Kyrgyzstan's mining, light, and textile industries as well as in agriculture, according to ITAR- TASS. Akayev underscored that Austria's experience in developing its business sector, in particular by supporting small and medium-sized businesses, is of special relevance for his country. A memorandum on cooperation between the Interior Ministries of Austria and Kyrgyzstan was signed during his visit. LF
 KYRGYZSTAN SEEKS TO BREAK PENSIONS DEADLOCK...The Legislative Assembly on 28 January approved amendments to the pension law, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The changes provide for raising the retirement age for both men and women by four months annually over the next nine years, from 60 to 63 for men and from 55 to 58 for women by 2007. Last month, the Constitutional Court rejected as unconstitutional amendments passed by the Legislative Assembly in June 1998 that would have raised the pension age by six months each year. The government then formed a conciliation commission to work together with the parliament on drafting alternative amendments. The parliament remained opposed to the prospect of amending the law, but the government insisted that raising the retirement age is one of the conditions for a $36 million World Bank loan. LF
 ...WITHOUT BREAKING BANKAlso on 28 January, the Legislative Assembly approved the 1999 draft state budget with only one vote against, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The dissenter, Alevtina Pronenko, told RFE/RL that there is next to nothing allocated in that draft for social needs. She said the government plans to allot $50 million for pensioners in 1999 but that sum is not enough even to pay back pensions for 1998. Pronenko added that the $40.5 million to be given to Kyrgyzstan by international finance organizations in 1999 will all be used to repay the country's foreign debt. Pension Fund chairwoman Roza Uchkempirova had warned on 20 January that if the retirement age is not raised, the number of pensioners will increase this year from 32,000 to 41, 000, and the fund's deficit would reach 310 million som (about $10 million). LF
 TAJIK PARLIAMENT DEPUTY ESCAPES ASSASSINATIONKhudja Karimov escaped unharmed when 10 masked assailants opened fire on his home in Gazimalik early on 28 January, but his brother was killed in the attack, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. A former member of the Tajikistan National Front, which opposed the Islamic opposition, Khudja Karimov was elected to the parliament in 1994 and wounded in an assassination attempt the following year. He was later sentenced to a one-year prison term for embezzlement. On 28 January, city administration official Dustamamad Mukhamadiev was gunned down outside his home in Leninabad. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NATO ISSUES 'FINAL WARNING' TO SERBS, KOSOVARSNATO Secretary- General Javier Solana said in Brussels on 28 January that "the appropriate authorities in Belgrade and representatives of the [Kosovar] leadership must agree to the proposals to be issued by the [international] Contact Group for completing an interim political settlement within the time frame to be established." He added that the foreign ministers of the six Contact Group countries--the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Russia-- will issue a "political ultimatum" to the Serbs and Kosovars at a meeting in London on 29 January. One day later, NATO ambassadors in Brussels will discuss what the alliance will do next. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told Deutsche Welle that the Serbs and Kosovars must comply with the ultimatum "within one week." If the Serbs do not comply, NATO is expected to launch air strikes. If the Kosovars do not agree, the alliance is expected to intercept their arms supplies that arrive via Albania. PM
 CONTACT GROUP PREPARES ULTIMATUMBritish Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the BBC on 29 January that "the objective of today's meeting [of the Contact Group] is to summon both sides together and to do it on a tight deadline, saying 'We want you to meet next week, we want you to conclude [an interim political settlement] very shortly after that.'" Observers noted that the U.S. has agreed to the Contact Group's taking the lead in pursuing a settlement that gives a greater role to France, Russia and other European powers resentful of the preeminence of U.S. diplomacy in the former Yugoslavia. PM
 WHAT KIND OF SETTLEMENT WILL CONTACT GROUP PROPOSE?The Contact Group is expected to call for "proximity peace talks" in Paris or Geneva on the model of the Dayton talks, which ended the war in Bosnia in 1995. Under that model, international diplomats would shuttle between Serbian and Kosovar delegations seated in different rooms. The two delegations would not meet together formally until an agreement was ready. The Contact Group is likely to call for broad autonomy for Kosova within the frontiers of Serbia and Yugoslavia. Belgrade, however, would retain little authority in the province other than for defense and customs. The ethnic composition of the local police forces would reflect the ethnic makeup of the local population. The settlement would last for three years, after which a permanent solution would be sought. PM
 BLAIR, CHIRAC OFFER GROUND TROOPSBritish Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac said in London on 28 January that they are "ready to envisage, along with their core NATO partners, any military action, including sending ground troops necessary to accompany the implementation of a negotiated settlement" in Kosova. Germany and, to a lesser extent, Italy have previously said they will provide ground troops if asked. In Washington, President Bill Clinton's national security spokesman noted on 28 January that the U.S. "would not deploy ground troops in a hostile environmentbut in the event of a settlement, we will consider U.S. participation in full consultation with Congress and our allies." Euronews Television reported on 29 January that NATO may send the troops already in Macedonia into Kosova in the event that a settlement emerges. The broadcast added that Serbian officials have warned of "dangerous consequences" should foreign ground troops enter the province. PM
 SERBS, KOSOVARS COOL ON TALKSSerbian Deputy Prime Ministers Vojislav Seselj, Ratko Markovic and Milovan Bojic said in Belgrade on 28 January that the Serbian government is willing to hold direct talks with Kosovar representatives but will not attend an international conference on Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Ljubljana, Adem Demaci, who is the political representative of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said the UCK is opposed to talks as long as Serbian forces continue to attack Kosovars. PM
 BULATOVIC GOVERNMENT SLAMS MONTENEGROThe Yugoslav federal government, which is headed by Montenegrin opposition leader Momir Bulatovic, said in a statement on 28 January that the Montenegrin government's recent agreement with Croatia on opening border crossings is "unconstitutional, illegal, and harmful to the interests ofYugoslavia," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 1999). In a veiled warning to Croatia, the statement added that the agreement "is against international law and the principles of cooperation between internationally recognized and sovereign states." PM
 COUNCIL OF EUROPE REPRIMANDS CROATIAThe Council of Europe's Monitoring Committee passed a resolution in Strasbourg on 28 January saying that the Croatian government "has not accepted a single one" of the Council's recommendations in favor of restricting the voting rights of Croats living abroad. Croatian law allows ethnic Croats living or born in Bosnia-Herzegovina to receive Croatian passports and to vote. Domestic and foreign critics say that such legislation undermines the sovereignty of Bosnia-Herzegovina. They also note that it ensures a large bloc of nationalist votes from Herzegovina for President Franjo Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). PM
 CROATIAN NEWSPAPERS COLLECT DEBTSOfficials of the pro-HDZ "Tisak" company, which has a monopoly on the distribution of newspapers, said in Zagreb that they have begun to pay their debts to individual newspapers from past sales. Editors of several independent publications had charged that "Tisak" was deliberately withholding payments to them in order to bankrupt the independent periodicals. PM
 HERZEGOVINIAN POLICE 'PUT ON PROBATION'A spokeswoman for the UN police force in Herzegovina said in Mostar on 28 January that UN has put the entire ethnic Croatian police force of Stolac "on probation" for three months. Members of the 50-strong force failed on numerous occasions to come to the aid of returning Muslim refugees when Croatian nationalists attacked the Muslims. The police also failed to catch or punish the attackers. Stolac was predominantly Muslim before the Croatian-Muslim war of 1993- 1994. PM
 ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT CREATES OMBUDSMAN'S OFFICELegislators voted on 28 January to set up an ombudsman's office to investigate frequent complaints from the public against the government and administration. The ombudsman is also expected to help protect citizens' rights. Elsewhere, Justice Minister Thimio Kondi signed the European convention on corruption, ATSH reported. FS
 TIRANA ISSUES ULTIMATUM TO REMOVE 'KIOSKS'The municipal authorities on 28 January ordered all owners of numerous illegal buildings in Tirana's central Youth Park to remove them within six month or face expulsion, "Albanian Daily News" reported. The large park, which since communism has become a symbol of Tirana's uncontrolled urban development, is now filled with cafes and restaurants. The ultimatum is part of a broader move by the city to stop unlicensed construction activity. Police began removing illegal buildings on central Skanderbeg Square in early January. FS
 ROMANIAN EXTREMIST PARTY EXPELS MINERS' LEADERThe right-wing Greater Romania Party announced on 28 January that it has expelled miners' leader Miron Cozma for bringing the party "into disrepute, " AFP reported. Cozma had declared at the beginning of the strike that he would temporarily withdraw from the party so that the protest would not be seen as political. Cozma and the miners received moral public support from Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who was suspended from the Senate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 1999). Meanwhile, Nicolae Staiculescu, the state secretary of the Industry Ministry, said the same day that the miners will not receive a pay raise as part of their settlement with the government. PB
 ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER IN BONNRadu Vasile said on 28 January that he notices a new German attitude toward Romania, Rompres reported. Vasile, speaking after a meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, said Germany, in its capacity as rotating chair of the EU, could "greatly contribute to the EU's support of Romania." He said Romania "counted on support" from Bonn and added that democracy in Romania was "fragile." PB
 BULGARIA PRAISED FOR UPGRADES AT NUKE PLANTThe International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on 28 January that the controversial Kozloduy nuclear energy plant has made "considerable progress in the areas of safety," AP reported. IAEA deputy chief Zygmund Domaratzki said the main challenge is to maintain that level of safety. The Bulgarian government has refused requests from the West to close any of the four older reactors at the plant before their 30-year lifespans are over. The plant is Soviet-designed but has been upgraded by such Western companies as Siemens and Westinghouse. PB
[C] END NOTE
 THE CORRUPTION INVESTIGATION INTO LAZARENKOby Lily Hyde
Despite an ongoing investigation into former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who is suspected of corruption, the political party he created has nominated him to run for president in the October elections. Lazarenko was an ally of President Leonid Kuchma until the latter fired him in July 1997. Since then, he has grown increasingly critical of Kuchma, who is expected to run for re-election in the fall.
At last week's congress, Lazarenko won the backing of his Hromoda party by a vote of 258 to one. The party also gave Lazarenko permission to negotiate a coalition deal with other opposition parties ahead of the election.
Meanwhile, the corruption case against Lazarenko continues. It garnered international headlines early last month when Lazarenko was detained by Swiss police as he attempted to cross the border from France using a Panama passport issued to a "Mr. Lopez."
In early December, he was charged with laundering $20 million but was released two weeks later when an unknown benefactor put up $3 million in bail. If convicted of money laundering under Swiss law, he faces up to five years in prison.
Swiss authorities confirmed earlier this month that they would also continue helping Ukraine with its inquiries about Lazarenko's Swiss bank accounts. Lazarenko is accused by the Ukrainian authorities of taking millions of dollars out of Ukraine and channeling them to his private Swiss accounts via Russia's United Energy Systems (EES). That company was granted exclusive contracts to distribute natural gas to one-third of Ukraine during Lazarenko's term in office, from June 1996 to July 1997. In 1996, EES made a profit totaling $1 billion but paid less than $6,000 in taxes.
Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Mykhailo Potebenko has repeatedly said his office has enough evidence to charge the former prime minister, but he has declined to release details while Lazarenko is protected by parliamentary immunity. The parliament is due to consider lifting his immunity next month. That debate is expected to be heated.
Lazarenko has denied any wrongdoing and claims the allegations against him-- both in Switzerland and at home--are part of a plot to discredit him and his party ahead of the election. Meanwhile, the investigators continue to spread their net still further. Police in The Netherlands confirmed earlier this month that at Ukraine's request, they have made inquiries into a Dutch company involved in a cattle-for-metal deal. Under that deal, put together by Lazarenko's close ally and fellow Hromada party member Mykola Agofonov in 1995, large amounts of money allegedly ended up in Lazarenko's accounts.
There is widespread speculation that some of Lazarenko's political opponents continue to profit from the very gas monopolies that Lazarenko allegedly exploited. There has also been speculation that if Lazarenko is formally indicted, he may seek to bring down with him many of his former allies still in government.
Many political analysts consider the investigation into Lazarenko not as a concerted effort to expose corruption but rather as a power struggle within the so-called Dnipropetrovsk "clan," which still dominates the government. President Kuchma, former boss of the Dnipropetrovsk rocket plant Yuzhmash, has surrounded himself with colleagues from the eastern Ukrainian city.
In 1996, Kuchma asked Lazarenko to leave his post of governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region to become deputy prime minister. Lazarenko remained in government until Kuchma fired him. He then established his Hromada party and built it up into a significant political force with more than 40 seats in the parliament. Its political platform barely differs from that of the People's Democratic Party, the group most closely allied with Kuchma.
At his Kyiv press conference last month, Lazarenko insisted that he has not broken any Swiss laws. But he acknowledged he was a participant in a "dirty war" in which each side had overstepped a predetermined line.
According to Vyacheslav Pikhovshek, an analyst at Kyiv's Independent Center for Political Research, "this means that there was a deal" between Lazarenko and those still in power. He says the parties to the deal "agreed that they would not break specific rules--and these rules have nothing in common with the law."
So far, however, nothing has been proven in a court of law. It is therefore difficult for an observer to draw conclusions about the Lazarenko affair. But two things are clear. The investigation is adding to the perception abroad that corruption plays a large role in business dealings in Ukraine, a perception widely seen as a key factor in frightening off foreign investors. Second, it is adding to the cynicism with which many ordinary Ukrainians view their country's political leaders.
The author is a Kyiv-based contributor to RFE/RL.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty