|Monday, 13 July 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 21, 99-02-02
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 21, 2 February 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIA PASSES LAW ON NUCLEAR ENERGYThe Armenian parliament on 1 February passed a law outlining procedures for the safe use of nuclear energy, including the import, export, and storage of nuclear and radioactive materials, Interfax reported. Ashot Martirosian, head of the Armenian nuclear supervision agency, said the law could serve as the basis for a future nuclear code. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S BROTHER ACCUSES OPPOSITION OF ESPIONAGEAddressing the parliament on 1 February, Jalal Aliev described opposition politicians, including Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar, as "traitors," "spies of foreign states," and "enemies," Turan reported. Aliev demanded legal action against those politicians and against media outlets that provided what he termed inappropriate coverage to President Heidar Aliev's recent illness. Information Minister Siruz Tabrizli tried to persuade Jalal Aliev to refrain from statements inappropriate for a member of the presidential family, but speaker Murtuz Alesqerov repeated the charge that unnamed deputies are agents of foreign intelligence. He added that newspapers printing "non-objective" information should be barred from covering parliamentary proceedings. Gambar told Turan he is considering legal action against Aliev. On 2 February, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" claimed that the U.S. is increasing its intelligence gathering operations in Azerbaijan, including contacts with opposition political parties. LF
 WESTERN CONSORTIUM TO CUT OIL EXPORTS VIA RUSSIA?The Azerbaijan International Operating Company, the first international consortium to export Azerbaijani Caspian oil to international markets, may cut exports through the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline in 1999 as the tariffs are far higher than for the alternative route via Georgia, Reuters and Turan reported on 1 February. Speaking at a press conference in Baku, AIOC President David Woodward said that the company's budget has been slashed by 20 percent as a result of the slump in world oil prices, necessitating cuts in production and operating costs. He said that the AIOC may ask Transneft, the operator of the Russian segment of the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline, to reduce its tariffs from the present rate of $15.67 per metric ton. The total tariffs for the Baku-Supsa route are $3.10 per metric ton. By mid- 1999, the throughput capacity of that pipeline is expected to rise from 100,000 to 130,000 barrels per day. LF
 GEORGIA ASPIRES TO EU MEMBERSHIPIn his weekly radio broadcast on 1 February, President Eduard Shevardnadze said that the 28 January decision to admit Georgia to full membership of the Council of Europe is not the final stage in the process of the country's integration into European structures, Interfax reported. Arguing that "we are in fact Europeans," Shevardnadze said that "the main task" is Georgian membership in the EU. But he conceded that it will take years to achieve that objective. Shevardnadze again said that Georgia's admission to the Council of Europe will be a key factor in promoting stability in the Caucasus. LF
 NAZARBAYEV ORDERS CUTS IN GOVERNMENT COSTSPresident of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev has taken measures aimed at cutting the government's administrative expenses, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 February. A presidential decree bans government officials from buying vehicles or expensive office equipment, renovating offices, or holding conferences in the former capital, Almaty, without the president's consent. The decree also limits the number of officials authorized to use cellular phones. Nazarbayev has ordered the government to inventory administrative offices and official vehicles and to reduce their number. The measures are expected to save the government $120 million this year. BP
 KAZAKHSTAN CONSIDERS MORE IMPORT QUOTASKazakhstan's Minister of Energy, Industry, and Trade Mukhtar Ablyazov has said his country may impose limits on imports from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, Interfax reported on 1 February. Ablyazov said such steps are necessary to protect domestic producers but would not be as far- reaching as those imposed on some Russian imports on 11 January. Ablyazov said that a committee will be formed to review the prices of imported goods and that duties of 100-200 percent will be imposed to stop dumping. Ablyazov claimed the measures will not damage the CIS Customs Union (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Russia) as Russia already "discriminates against Kazakh goods." Moscow has separate tariff systems for producers from Russia and Kazakhstan. He warned that his country's industry "may grind to a halt [under] the currency devaluations of nearly all our CIS neighbors" but added that Kazakhstan will not devalue its currency. President Nazarbayev had said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on 29 January that his country will introduce measures to protect domestic manufacturers. BP
 TURKMEN SECURITY FORCES BREAK UP JOURNALISTS' MEETINGOfficers of Turkmenistan's National Security Committee broke up a gathering of journalists in Ashgabat on 29 January at which the participants were expected to announce the formation of an Independent Journalists' Association, RFE/RL correspondents in Ashgabat reported. The officers took down the names of those in attendance at the meeting and detained five people who had organized the meeting. One journalist present, Galina Shipotkina of the state-owned newspaper "Neitralny Turkmenistan," was dismissed, but no reason for her dismissal has been given. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 BELGRADE APPEALS TO UNThe state-run news agency Tanjug carried a statement by the Yugoslav government on 1 February calling on the UN Security Council to prevent NATO from carrying out possible air strikes against Serbia. The government argued that "NATO's open threats jeopardize the chief principles of international relations, international peace and security, and the very foundations of international legal order. This is why the federal cabinet decided to call for a UN Security Council session to take adequate measures...to prevent armed aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." Reuters quoted political analysts in Belgrade as saying that the government of President Slobodan Milosevic issued the appeal in order to "make a mess, to buy some time." The Contact Group has set a 6 February deadline for Belgrade and the Kosovars to reply to its ultimatum to attend talks or face military action. The Security Council has endorsed the Contact Group's position (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 1999). PM
 SERBS, UCK DELAY RESPONSE TO ULTIMATUMSerbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said in Belgrade on 1 February that only the parliament, which meets on 4 February, has the authority to respond to the Contact Group. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Milovan Bojic charged that "NATO is the weapon in the hands of one or two states, to whom the [NATO member states] are bowing." Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic argued that Serbia runs the risk of increased international isolation if it rejects the ultimatum. In Prishtina, Adem Demaci, who is the political spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said that the guerrillas will respond to the Contact Group on 3 February, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Nationalist politician Rexhep Qosja has agreed to attend the talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 1999). PM
 HILL WARNS OF 'MAXIMUM STRAIN'U.S. envoy for Kosova Chris Hill told Reuters in Prishtina on 2 February that the coming days and weeks are "going to be a period of maximum strain" regarding the crisis in Kosova. "There will be people on the ground trying to disrupt the talks.Š There has [also] been considerable concern, especially among the Europeans, about whether we have sufficient leverage on the [guerrillas], and there's been a lot of effort made to try to figure out what that leverage might be. Obviously it's going to be different from the leverage on the Serbs, and appropriately so. The Serbs have been threatened with punitive air strikes, and obviously that's not in the cards for the [UCK]. Other things can be done. Enough said." Hill nonetheless added: "I never like to use 'optimism' and 'Balkans' in the same sentence, but I believe we have a very good process ahead." PM
 CLINTON MEETS ADVISERS OVER KOSOVAU.S. President Bill Clinton discussed Kosova with his top political and military advisers on 1 February. White House officials gave no comment as to whether Clinton and his aides decided whether to commit U.S. ground troops as part of an eventual settlement in the province. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, who opposes deployment, said that a final decision will depend on the final settlement and on the role that the European allies are willing to assume for themselves. He stressed that the Europeans must "bear a substantial burden" of any military presence on the ground. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's spokesman said that "there is a need and an urgency for American leadership and determination" in Kosova. He added that the U.S. has "significant national interests at stake" in ending the crisis. PM
 ANNAN WARNS OF SPREADING CONFLICTNATO Secretary-General Javier Solana noted in Berlin on 1 February that up to 30,000 ground troops might be required as part of an eventual settlement, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. In New York, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report to the Security Council that the Kosova conflict could become "an all-out civil war...that might have unpredictable repercussions" across the Balkans. PM
 CROATIA FREES NADA SAKICState Attorney Radovan Santek said in Zagreb on 1 February that he has stopped proceedings against 76- year-old Nada Sakic for war crimes in connection with her activities at concentration camps run by the pro-Axis Ustasha regime during World War II (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 1998). He said that none of the 26 witnesses who have testified against her during the past three months could prove the charges against her. Sakic told reporters as she left prison that "justice has won." Serbian and Jewish spokesmen said her release proves that the Croatian government is not serious about prosecuting Ustasha war criminals. Sakic was extradited in November from Argentina, where she and her husband had lived since the end of World War II. Dinko Sakic still faces trial for war crimes in Croatia, to which Argentina extradited him last June. PM
 ALBANIAN PYRAMID MONEY IN SWISS BANKSAlbanian anti-mafia investigator Bujar Himci told "Shekulli" on 2 February that the Swiss authorities have discovered bank accounts belonging to the Albanian pyramid scheme owner Vehbi Alimucaj. Himci did not say how much is in the accounts but noted that the Swiss authorities last week handed over "a large file...that sheds light on Alimucaj's activities and transfers." He also commented that Ajdin Sejdia, a Kosovar Albanian businessman, was involved in Alimucaj's money laundering schemes. German police arrested Sejdia in November 1998 under a Swiss arrest warrant. A Swiss court had earlier sentenced Sejdia in absentia for fraud in connection with a failed hotel project in central Tirana. The construction of that hotel, which began in 1991, resulted only in a huge crater, which locals say epitomizes shady Kosovar business practices. FS
 ROUND-TABLE IN SOUTHERN ALBANIAN REBEL TOWNDeputy Minister for Local Government Taulant Dedja and OSCE Ambassador to Albania Daan Everts met with local officials in Lazarat on 1 February to discuss problems in developing infrastructure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999). Everts told "Koha Jone" of 2 February that he is "quite convinced" that the government is resolved to bring the town out of its isolation. Everts stressed the need to install telephones and improve water supply there. Local residents have repeatedly blocked the road linking Gjirokastra with Greece and have held up and robbed trucks. The town, which is a stronghold of the Democratic Party, became a no- go area for police last year following several armed clashes. FS
 ROMANIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR BETTER PROTECTION FOR THOSE LAID OFFOn the first day of the parliament's new session, 56 deputies from the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, the main opposition force, moved a non-binding motion calling for improved social protection for employees laid off because of industrial restructuring, Romanian media reported on 1 February. A spokesman for the party singled out the case of the Jiu Valley miners. In a separate development, the Hunedoara County court has retroactively declared the miners' strike from 4-22 January "illegal." It noted that the coal company could ask for damages. DI
 NO END TO ROMANIAN ECONOMIC WOESAccording to data released by the National Statistical Board on 1 February, industrial production dropped by 17 percent in 1998 compared with the previous year. Grain production sank by slightly more than 30 percent. Inflation in December 1998 was up 40.6 percent on the December 1997 level. At the end of last year, the trade deficit exceeded $3 billion, while unemployment reached a new peak of some 1.3 million (10.3 percent of the work force). The average net wage in December 1998 was 1.36 million lei (some $115). DI
 MOLDOVAN OFFICIAL DIFFER OVER REASONS FOR CABINET CRISISPremier Ion Ciubuc, who handed in his resignation on 1 February, said he was unable to consolidate his cabinet because of its diverse composition. But one of the leaders of the Democratic Convention of Moldova, Iurie Rosca, said that the cabinet's malfunctioning had been the result of Ciubuc's "incompetence." The same day, President Petru Lucinschi announced that he has started consultations on appointing a new premier and hopes that the new cabinet can be formed in the next two weeks. The leader of the Party of Moldovan Communists, Vladimir Voronin, said his party is willing to participate in the new government provided it is based on "communist principles." DI
 GAZPROM HALVES GAS DELIVERIES TO MOLDOVAThe Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom has carried out its threats to halve its deliveries to Moldova because of the country's large debts to the company. According to the Flux agency on 1 February, that debt had reached $439 million by the beginning of the year, of which $304 million were owed by the Transdniester. Gazprom has insisted on hard currency payments and refused to accept Moldovan state bonds instead. DI
[C] END NOTE
 PRIMAKOV'S AMBITIONSBy Floriana Fossato
Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov may or may not want to be a presidential candidate, but at the very least he seems to view himself as the kingmaker of Russian politics.
Since his appointment as premier last September, Primakov has studiously avoided showing any enthusiasm for the idea of becoming a presidential candidate. However, shortly after his appointment, Primakov, a former diplomat and spymaster, started promoting former security officials to sensitive media and government jobs.
Among those ex-security officials is Grigorii Rapota, a career spy and former deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council. Last November, Rapota was named head of Russia's state- owned arms exporter, Rosvooruzhenie. He replaced Yevgenii Ananev, considered an associate of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.
Rapota has worked closely with Primakov in the past. He was the deputy head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). Before his 1996 appointment as foreign minister, Primakov had headed that agency. According to Russian media reports, control over the lucrative Rosvooruzhenie has been the subject of bitter rivalry among senior politicians.
In a rare interview, published in "Kommersant-Daily" last week, Rapota said Rosvooruzhenie does not expect to earn more than $2 billion in arms sales abroad this year, owing to Russia's economic crisis and increased competition in the world arms markets. The figure, he said, is the same as that in 1998. (Before the August financial meltdown, exports of Russian arms had been estimated to earn some $3.5 billion this year.) That helps explain the fierce competition for control over the company, which in the past was reported to be an important source of financing during election campaigns.
Recent unsuccessful moves to appoint a retiring counter- intelligence general to a senior position at the All-Russian State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) also drew attention. General Yurii Kobaladze is a former public relations head at SVR, where he also served under Primakov. His appointment had initially appeared to be certain. But last week, he was named first deputy director of the ITAR-TASS news agency. He filled the post left vacant after Leonid Nevzlin, close to the Rosprom-Yukos industrial group, quit in the wake of the August financial meltdown.
Before any decision had been formalized, Kobaladze himself said that VGTRK chairman Mikhail Shvydkoi had offered him the job. However, Shvydkoi's deputy, Mikhail Lesin, had ruled out that possibility. Lesin is one of the founders of Video International. That company has a monopoly on advertising at VGTRK, which is the latter's main source of revenue.
VGTRK includes the second nationwide channel of Russian Television, the channel Kultura, Radio Russia, the RIA news agency, a network of radio and television stations across Russia, as well as the national transmission network. Despite serious financial difficulties, VGTRK and other media holdings are expected to play a key role in influencing the outcome of presidential and parliamentary elections.
Even if Kobaladze did not achieve his goal, other former security service officials already working at VGTRK now reportedly hold top jobs. In December, Lev Koshlyakov, who until 1994 worked for the counter- intelligence service, was named to head the news program "Vesti." He coordinates the network of correspondents both for the program and for the RIA news agency.
Judging from a number of recent government appointments, other officials who--unlike Rapota and Kobaladze--never worked with Primakov but made their careers in security organs have been promoted to top positions in government agencies considered potential key sources of campaign financing.
In October, former First Deputy Interior Minister Mikhail Yegorov was appointed first deputy head of the Customs Committee. The same month, Aleksei Shestaperov, formerly deputy head of the Federal Agency of Government Communications and Information (FAPSI) was chosen to head the state-owned company Rostek, which reportedly has links with the Customs Committee since it deals with customs payments.
In November, a Defense Ministry officer, General Vladimir Kovalev, became deputy transport minister. The Transport Ministry, together with the power grid Unified Energy Systems and the gas monopoly Gazprom, is one of Russia's so-called natural monopolies. Most analysts in Moscow expect those monopolies to be a source of patronage and financing ahead of parliamentary elections in December and presidential elections scheduled for June 2000.
This trend indicates that even if he does not become a presidential candidate, Primakov, with his extensive political and economic influence, will be one of the country's most powerful kingmakers.
The author is a Moscow-based RFE/RL correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty