|Tuesday, 22 October 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 30, 99-02-12
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 30, 12 February 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 LUZHKOV IN YEREVANDuring a one-day visit to Yerevan on 11 February at the head of a delegation of city officials and businessmen, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov signed several agreements with Armenian government officials aimed at expanding economic cooperation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Luzhkov held talks with Prime Minister Armen Darpinian and President Robert Kocharian. Characterizing Armenia as "Russia's strategic partner," Luzhkov said his Otechestvo movement is interested in strengthening cooperation with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation - Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) and other Armenian political parties. Otechestvo and the HHD concluded a cooperation agreement in December 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1999). LF
 MURDERED ARMENIAN OFFICIAL BURIEDGeneral Artsrun Markarian was buried at the Yerablur military cemetery on 11 February, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Markarian's body was discovered late on 9 February with bullet wounds in the chest and head. Two of his bodyguards who were arrested on suspicion of murder have denied killing him, saying that he threatened them shortly before leaving his car late on the night of 8 February. A senior Armenian official at the Prosecutor-General's Office told ITAR- TASS on 10 February that the possibility of suicide cannot be ruled out. But Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian, who attended the funeral on 11 February, told Armenian Television that he categorically rejects the theory that Markarian killed himself. LF
 CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CLOSEDActing on a 10 February proposal by President Heidar Aliev, a Baku City court has closed the criminal case against Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman Abulfaz Elchibey, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported the following day. Elchibey had been accused of insulting the honor and dignity of President Aliev by claiming he was instrumental in creating the Kurdistan Workers' Party. Elchibey said the charges against him have been dropped because he committed no crime, but an unidentified Western diplomat told Reuters that the decision was the result of international diplomatic pressure on the Azerbaijani leadership. Elchibey has appealed to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, and former acting Premier Shamil Basaev to seek ways of overcoming their differences in order not to jeopardize Chechnya's independence, Turan reported on 11 February. LF
 AZERBAIJANI DEFENSE MINISTER DISCUSSES MILITARY COOPERATION WITH TURKEY"Obshchaya gazeta" on 11 February quoted Safar Abiev as saying that among the topics of discussion during his official visit to Turkey last December was the possibility of a bilateral military alliance similar to that signed in 1997 by Russia and Armenia, AFP and Interfax reported. Abiev said that Yerevan is helping to train Kurdish terrorists and that "all the Russian military equipment supplied to Armenia will be used in Nagorno- Karabakh if Armenia resumes military actions against Azerbaijan." At the time of Abiev's visit to Turkey, Turan quoted an unnamed source within the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry as saying that Turkey is ready to provide "aid to Azerbaijan" to resolve the Karabakh conflict. LF
 COORDINATING COUNCIL DISCUSSES ABKHAZ REPATRIATIONAn Abkhaz government delegation headed by Prime Minister Sergei Shamba traveled to Tbilisi on 11 February for a one-day meeting of the UN- sponsored Coordinating Council, which was set up created in November 1997 to address practical aspects of resolving the Abkhaz conflict. Russian Foreign Ministry and OSCE representatives as well as several Western ambassadors also attended the five-hour session. The talks focused on the plan proposed last month by Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba to allow Georgian displaced persons to return to their homes in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. Also on the agenda was the question of how to halt repeated violations of the cease-fire regime in Gali. Bagapsh, who met separately with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, told journalists that the repatriation process will begin on 1 March and that the Abkhaz and Georgian sides hope to reach agreement on the necessary logistical arrangements by 25 February. He said that 18,000 displaced persons have already applied to return and that a special 120-strong militia composed of both Georgians and Abkhaz will be created to protect them. LF
 GEORGIAN WARLORD'S LAWYER LODGES APPEALGogmar Gabunia on 11 February appealed to the Georgian Supreme Court to annul the verdict handed down in the trial of Djaba Ioseliani, leader of the Mkhedrioni paramilitary formation, Caucasus Press reported. Ioseliani was sentenced in November 1998 to 11 years in prison on charges treason, robbery, and of attempting to assassinate Georgian head of state Eduard Shevardnadze in August 1995 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 1998). Gabunia argues that Ioseliani's trial was illegal, since at the time of his arrest, in November 1995, he was a parliamentary deputy and thus immune from prosecution. He said if the Supreme Court rejects his plea, he will appeal to the International Human Rights court in Strasbourg. In September 1998, Tornike Berishvili, Mkhedrioni's political secretary, quoted the presiding judge at the trial as admitting that the case against Ioseliani is flawed (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 29, 22 September 1998). LF
 JAILED GEORGIAN EX-MINISTER URGED TO ABANDON HUNGER STRIKEDoctors have appealed to former Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani to abandon the hunger strike he began on 3 February, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February. Kitovani was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment in 1996 for allegedly attempting to launch an insurrection. He is demanding that the case against him be reopened and that he be formally acquitted (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 6, 10 February 1999). Many observers consider that case to have been fabricated. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN TO RAISE TARIFF ON KYRGYZ, UZBEK GOODS...Kazakhstan's Ministry of Energy, Industry, and Trade has announced that foodstuffs and other goods imported from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan will be subject to a 200 percent tariff beginning 11 March, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 11 February. Two days earlier, Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev had announced import quotas on cooking oil, butter, vegetable oil, cigarettes, and alcoholic and soft drinks from Uzbekistan as well as on margarine, mayonnaise, yeast, and other products from Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan says the quotas will protect domestic producers from lower- priced products from neighboring countries. BP
 ...DRAWING COMPLAINTS FROM KYRGYZSTANKyrgyz President Askar Akayev has responded angrily to the import quotas, saying they are another example of an attempt by other CIS countries to isolate his country, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. "The countries of the CIS are sparing no effort to organize an economic blockade against us," Akayev said. He claimed these countries are put out by Kyrgyzstan's entry into the World Trade Organization last year, arguing that the import quotas are an example of the "traditional habit of punishing anybody who moves forward." Akayev added that Uzbekistan is drawing up similar measures. RFE/RL correspondents in both Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have reported recently that Uzbek customs officials are already charging $16 for every $100 worth of goods crossing into Uzbekistan from Kyrgyzstan. BP
 WORLD BANK APPROVES $100 MILLION LOAN FOR KAZAKHSTANThe board of directors of the World Bank has approved a $100 million loan to Kazakhstan for the reconstruction and maintenance of roads, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February. World Bank experts estimate that only 37 percent of the country's roads are currently in good condition. They also emphasized the importance of an adequate transportation network for domestic and international trade. BP
 KARIMOV SAYS HE'LL DEFEND UZBEK INTERESTS AT UPCOMING CIS SUMMITSpeaking about his 11 February meeting with Uzbek President Islam Karimov, Russian Federal Council chairman Yegor Stroev said they "talked openly and eye to eye" and added "we may not agree with [the Uzbek representatives] but we must respect them," ITAR-TASS reported. Stroev spoke highly of Uzbekistan as "the sole country inside the former Soviet Union that has not allowed its industrial production to fall from the 1990 level." He also praised Uzbekistan for combating Islamic fundamentalism, which he described as "a dangerous political phenomenon." Karimov confirmed he will attend the CIS summit on 26 February but warned "it does not mean that I won't insist on the interests of the state that I govern." BP
 U.S. COMPANIES AWARDED CONTRACTS IN TURKMEN DEALTurkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov said on 11 February that President Saparmurat Niyazov has selected the companies that will take part in building the Trans-Caspian pipeline, Reuters reported. He also named the U.S. companies Bechtel and General Electric Capital to head the consortium. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 RAMBOUILLET TALKS TO GO INTO SECOND WEEKBritish Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in Rambouillet on 11 February that the talks aimed at reaching a political settlement for Kosova will continue for another week. Cook charged that the Serbs are "blocking progress" by insisting that the Kosovars formally sign a 10-point statement of basic principles, according to which Kosova would remain part of Yugoslavia, the "Financial Times" reported. Cook wants both sides to concentrate on discussion of a 24-page draft plan for an overall settlement. The Serbs signed the declaration on 11 February. The Kosovars fear that signing the document at this stage could prejudice the outcome of the final settlement, particularly regarding eventual independence for the province, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 SERBS REMAIN FIRM...Serbian President Milan Milutinovic said in Paris on 12 February that the 10-point declaration represents a "minimum" acceptable program for Belgrade. He denied Cook's assertion that the Serbian side is holding up the talks. Milutinovic blamed the Albanians' refusal to sign the declaration for the lack of progress. PM
 ...WHILE BUILDING UP THEIR FORCES?Xhemail Mustafa, who is a spokesman for shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova, said in Prishtina on 12 February that the Serbian authorities have been bringing in additional security forces to the province during the Rambouillet talks. The previous day, the Kosovars' KIC news agency reported that 18 busses carrying paramilitary police arrived in the province. There has been no independent confirmation of the alleged buildup. PM
 KOSOVARS BURY RECAK VICTIMSSome 10,000 Kosovars attended the funeral in Recak of some 40 ethnic Albanians killed by Serbian forces in January. Spokesmen for the local Kosovars, who fled the village after the massacre, said that they came home only for the funeral and left again afterward because Serbian forces are stationed nearby. PM
 U.S. MARINES TO KOSOVA?The "Washington Post" reported on 12 February that about 2,200 marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who are now on ships in the Mediterranean, will be the advance party for a larger U.S. contingent of ground troops to help enforce any settlement in Kosova that emerges from the Rambouillet talks. In London, British Secretary of State for Defense George Robertson told parliament that an unspecified number of tanks and other armored vehicles, as well as up to 8,000 troops, "have been put on alert" for possible rapid deployment to Kosova, "The Independent" reported. Robertson said the move reflects "prudent military contingency planning and in no way does it prejudge any decision" to send a force to the province. Observers note that the force is expected to be mainly European and under a European commander. PM
 ITALIAN POLICE SEIZE ARMS BOUND FOR ALBANIAPolice in Trieste found around 50 weapons--including guns, rifles, a mortar, and a crossbow--and 5,000 rounds of ammunition hidden in a truck from Switzerland that was waiting for a ferry bound for Albania, AP reported on 11 February. Police investigators said that they believe that the arms were ultimately destined for Kosova. Most observers believe that the headquarters of the Kosova Liberation Army is located in Switzerland. PM
 DRASKOVIC CHARGES KOSOVARS WITH 'NAZI' PROGRAMYugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic said in Paris on 11 February that "in Rambouillet, [the Serbian delegation is] fighting for the concept of a multi-ethnic, democratic [Kosova]. The Albanian delegation represents the concept of an ethnically pure, ethnically clean Albanian...[province that will become] part of greater Albania tomorrow. That's a concept very close to the Nazi concept." The following day, he charged that "some hope for a failure of the conference. I am not thinking of the Europeans. Some oppose a favorable outcome in order to impose their own solution," he added. Draskovic accused the U.S. and NATO of supporting ethnic Albanian "terrorists." Draskovic is a long- standing nationalist opposition leader who recently joined the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. PM
 MILO DENIES 'GREATER ALBANIAN' AGENDAAlbanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said in Warsaw on 11 February that there is no "greater Albanian" political program that aims at uniting all Balkan territories where Albanians form a large part of the population. He added that the concept of a greater Albania "comes from Serb propaganda and is not our political idea." Observers note that many Albanian nationalists have espoused a greater Albanian political program since the mid-19th century. A greater Albanian state existed briefly under Italian occupation during World War II. Establishing a greater Albania is not a primary goal of any mainstream party in Kosova, Macedonia or Albania. PM
 MACEDONIA SAYS CHINA WILL NOT BLOCK UN MANDATEMacedonian Information Minister Rexhep Zlatku said in Taipei on 12 February that his country's decision to recognize Taiwan "was the result of a long period of study" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report, 3 February 1999). He added that China will not demean itself by blocking the renewal of the mandate of UN peacekeepers in Macedonia because "China is big and we are small" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1999). Zlatku heads a large Macedonian delegation visiting Taiwan. PM
 ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LAW ON STATE SECRETSLegislators on 11 February passed a law classifying various state documents as secret. The act is based on U.S. legislation. The final version does not include a paragraph from an earlier draft banning the press from publishing secret documents. In deleting that paragraph, legislators argued that it is the sole responsibility of state officials to ensure state secrets are not leaked, "Shekulli" reported. The penal code of 1995 includes two paragraphs specifying penalties for breach of state secrets but does not specify what a state secret is. FS
 ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER DENIES KNOWLEDGE OF PHONE TAPPINGPandeli Majko said on 11 February in Tirana that he knows nothing about the tapping of Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha's telephone (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 1999). Majko stressed that under the new constitution, the Prosecutor- General's Office, which has bugged Berisha's phone, is no longer subordinated to him. He has nonetheless asked Justice Minister Thimio Kondi to explain to him the procedure that led to a court decision to tap Berisha's telephone. Kondi told "Shekulli" that the tapping is legal and denied that the authorities have political motives for taking that action. Kondi said that unnamed judges have violated the new law on state secrets by leaking the story about the tapping to the press. Democratic Party Secretary Fatos Beja responded that the parliament adopted the law on state secrets only after the story about the tapping broke. FS
 EXTREMIST ROMANIAN SENATOR TO LOSE PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY?The Senate's Judicial Commission on 11 February voted to allow the lifting of parliamentary immunity by a simple majority of Senate members instead of the two-thirds majority required until now, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The opposition boycotted the meeting. The Senate must now approve the change, which is aimed mainly at lifting the immunity of Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor. On 10 February, the Chamber of Deputies' Judiciary Commission adopted a similar decision, paving the way for lifting the immunity of Gabriel Bivolaru, a deputy of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania who is accused of forgery and fraud. MS
 MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN SAYS MOSCOW VISIT 'PRODUCTIVE'Dumitru Diacov, returning from Moscow on 11 February, told journalists that an agreement has been reached whereby Moldova will deliver goods worth $70 million in partial payment of its debt to Gazprom, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Agreement has also been reached on convening a meeting in Odessa in April or May to discuss the Transdniester conflict. Representatives of Chisinau, Tiraspol, the Russian State Duma, the Ukrainian parliament, and the OSCE will attend the meeting. Diacov said his hosts assured him that a new version of the Russian-Moldovan basic treaty is currently being drafted to replace the 1990 treaty, which President Boris Yeltsin withdrew from the Duma. He added that the new version will be ready for signing in 1999, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. But he added that meetings with members of Duma committees were "tense" and revealed support for "Transdniester separatism." MS
 FURTHER PROGRESS IN NEGOTIATIONS ON NEW MOLDOVAN CABINETFollowing the latest round of negotiations between the ruling Alliance for Democracy and Reforms leaders and Premier-designate Serafim Urecheanu, Diacov told journalists that another "step forward" has been taken and that the names of the new ministers will be made public within the next few days. He said some differences of opinion still exist, which, he added, is "normal when negotiations are on-going." Diacov also said that Urecheanu is no longer considering the participation of the Party of Moldovan Communists in the new cabinet, but he noted that the participation of extra- parliamentary formations in the government is possible, "provided the legislature agrees to it," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS
 COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIAL URGES BULGARIANS TO FORGET 'PAST DIVISIONS'David Atkinson, a British lawmaker who is a member of a Council of Europe team monitoring Bulgaria's democratic progress, has urged Bulgarians to ignore political divisions stemming from the communist past in order to make quicker progress toward democracy, AP reported on 10 February. Responding to a journalist's allegation that the opposition Socialist Party has not yet broken with its Stalinist past, Atkinson said countries such as Cyprus, Yugoslavia, and the Caucasus states fail "to move forward" because they "continue to recall the past, and this condemns the future." MS
[C] END NOTE
 COUNTING TROUBLE IN THE FORMER SOVIET UNIONBy Paul Goble
The population census just completed in Azerbaijan and the one about to held in Kazakhstan open a new era for the post- Soviet states, one in which they are likely to discover just how political population statistics inevitably are.
Yuri Shokamanov, the deputy chairman of Kazakhstan's statistical administration, announced earlier this week that on 25 February, his agency will conduct its first census since the 1989 USSR count. Azerbaijan has just completed taking its first post-Soviet population census, and several other former Soviet republics will follow suit over the next two years. (Armenia and Kyrgyzstan intended to conduct censuses this year but have postponed them for financial reasons.)
But in making this announcement, Shokamanov did not call attention to just how dramatic a step his government's action really is or just how much controversy such undertaking are almost certain to generate.
For three reasons, these first post-Soviet censuses are likely to be especially controversial. First, there will be heated debates over just which questions to ask and equally which questions not to ask. Should the census-takers ask questions about ethnicity and nationality or only about citizenship? If they ask about ethnicity, the censuses in several of these countries are likely to reveal major shifts in the percentage of various national groups.
In Ukraine, for example, surveys suggest that the percentage of the population that will declare itself ethnically Russian is likely to be far smaller than the percentage that identified itself that way in the last Soviet census of 1989.
Such shifts would almost certainly have major and immediate political consequences, and thus there will be some who are likely to advocate that the census-takers avoid such questions. But if the census does not ask questions about ethnicity, there will similarly be consequences. Some ethnic minorities will undoubtedly conclude that they are going to be "swallowed up" or at least ignored by the dominant group. Thus, these minorities almost certainly will fight to include questions about ethnicity as a way to help preserve their status in the post-Soviet states.
Second, there are going to be political battles over which information to release and when. Because many people in the post- Soviet states retain their Soviet-era reluctance to provide full and accurate information to officials who ask for it, at least some of them are going to be concerned about the release of any information from the census. Some will undoubtedly argue that census data should be kept extremely confidential, lest their declarations come back to haunt them.
But at the same time, any efforts by officialdom to impose controls over the release of information from the census almost certainly will increase suspicions that the results have been distorted to benefit officials at the expense of the citizenry as a whole.
And third, there are going to be even more intense struggles over how the information gathered is used for political redistricting or for budgetary allocations. These last struggles are likely to continue well after the censuses are completed.
If the data gathered are used to change the size of electoral districts or to change the allocation of funds, those who would benefit will press for its release, while those who would lose will almost certainly oppose it. And if, as seems certain, these censuses prove to be incomplete-- journalists can be counted on to highlight cases where the census-takers have missed someone--then many people in this region are likely to look at any use of the numbers gathered as a political plot.
None of these fights is unusual. In the U.S., for example, questions about how to conduct the census in the year 2000 have already divided the Congress and sparked a series of closely- contested court cases--just as they did before earlier counts.
But because the post-Soviet states will be conducting these surveys for the first time and will almost certainly want to establish precedents that break from past and not always satisfactory Soviet practice, all these controversies are likely to be even greater. And thus something that on the face of it seems quite neutral--the counting of the population--could become one of the most contentious political issues across this region over the next two years.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty