|Wednesday, 22 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 32, 99-02-16
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 32, 16 February 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN KURDS TAKE UN OFFICIALS HOSTAGESeveral Armenian Kurds briefly occupied the UN mission in Yerevan on 16 February and took its personnel hostage, threatening to immolate themselves and their hostages unless Kurdistan Workers' Party leader Ocalan was released and granted political asylum, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The hostage-takers left the building after releasing their prisoners. It is not known whether charges will be brought against them. A group of some 100 Kurds who had gathered outside the building marched to the Interior Ministry after receiving reports that police had arrested several ethnic Kurds during a demonstration outside the Greek embassy earlier the same day. They were dispersed by police. LF
 ARMENIAN PREMIER PROPOSES NEW TAX SYSTEM FOR BUSINESSESMeeting on 13 February with leading businessmen, Armen Darpininan proposed a system whereby taxes for companies would be set on the basis of anticipated turnover and the companies freed from systematic checks by tax officials, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 15 February, citing the government's press service. "The most superficial estimates show that 50 percent of the economy is not being taxed," Darpinian was quoted as saying. "The government's task is to prevent an increase in the tax burden on those taxpayers who work [honestly] and pay taxes." The government intends to boost its tax revenues by 47 billion drams ($87 million), in line with 1999 budget targets. On 15 February, the opposition Hanrapetutiun parliamentary faction harshly criticized Darpinian's proposal. LF
 GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN REJECTS IMF EVALUATIONZurab Zhvania has criticized as "unsubstantiated" a statement by Hunter Munroe, the IMF representative in Tbilisi, that the volume of the 1999 draft budget is $100 million larger that the total agreed on with the IMF. Zhvania said the discrepancy between the two figures is only $40 million. In a statement issued by the IMF on 12 February, Hunter called on the Georgian government to implement a strong economic program and to raise tax revenues, an RFE/RL financial correspondent in Washington reported. Hunter said government expenditure increased in December and tax revenues dipped the following month. He praised the Georgian government's decision not to intervene to prevent a fall in the value of the lari in December, but he said that falling tax revenues are pushing the value of the lari down and fuelling inflation. On 16 February, the lari was trading at 2.285 to the U.S. dollar, Caucasus Press reported. LF
 MORE FATALITIES IN ABKHAZIASix Abkhaz policemen were shot dead in two separate incidents in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion on 13-14 February, Caucasus Press reported. Those deaths bring the number of police killed since late May 1998 to at least 24. An Abkhaz Interior Ministry official blamed the shootings on Georgian guerrillas. LF
 AZERBAIJANI EX-PREMIER'S LAWYERS SLAM 'POLITICAL' VERDICTVladislav Tsimbal, a defense lawyer for former Prime Minister Suret Huseinov, told Reuters on 15 February that the sentence of life imprisonment handed down earlier that day by the Azerbaijan Supreme Court was politically motivated. Tsimbal said he will appeal that sentence at the European Court of Human Rights. Huseinov was found guilty on charges of attempting a coup d'etat, treason, and drug smuggling. LF
 FIVE BOMBS EXPLODE IN TASHKENT...Five bombs went off in the Uzbek capital on 16 February. Four explosions occurred at 11:15 a.m. local time, two inside the Interior Ministry building, one near the Uzbek National Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs, and one on Independence Square, where the government's headquarters are located. Another went off 45 minutes later in the vicinity of the airport. Uzbek Television reported that terrorists had tried to kill President Islam Karimov, who had just been arriving at government headquarters for a scheduled meeting of the Council of Ministers when the bombs began exploding. Prior to his arrival, a car smashed through barricades around the square and a shoot-out ensued between the occupants of the car and Uzbek police. Casualties have been reported, but no figures are available to date. BP
 ...WHILE KARIMOV VOWS TO PUNISH THOSE RESPONSIBLEShortly after the explosions, Karimov appeared on national television appealing for calm among the citizens of the capital, ITAR-TASS reported. The president said the bombings were "aimed against our system, our independent policy, the independence of our state," adding that they constituted an "attempt on my life." He stressed that "no one will intimidate us" and promised to "eliminate the scoundrels" who organized the bombings. BP
 EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS TO BE HELD IN KAZAKHSTAN?The chairman of the lower house of the parliament, Marat Ospanov, told journalists in Astana on 13 February that a dispute between the government and parliament over amendments to the budget could lead to a crisis of confidence and early elections to the parliament, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The leader of Kazakhstan's Communist Party, Serikbolsyn Abdildin, told RFE/RL correspondents that Ospanov was expressing the opinion of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. BP
 OSCE DELEGATION MEETS WITH KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENTA delegation from the OSCE headed by Haly Dine met with Nazarbayev on 13-14 February, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Dine told Nazarbayev that last month's presidential elections fell "far short" of international standards and that the OSCE hopes this year's parliamentary elections will come closer to conforming with international norms. BP
 JAILED FOREIGNERS AMNESTIED IN TURKMENISTANMore than 250 foreign citizens currently imprisoned in Turkmenistan will be set free under Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's latest amnesty, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 15 February. Among those to be freed are citizens of Afghanistan (129), Russia (85), and Iran (40). BP
 TAJIK, RUSSIAN MUFTIATS SIGN AGREEMENTA delegation from Tajikistan's Muftiat met with representatives of Russia's Muftiat in Moscow on 15 February and signed an agreement on cooperation in several areas, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement provides for regular conferences on spiritual matters, the opening of new medressahs and mosques, and regular meetings between delegations from the two countries. The Russian Muftiat has already concluded similar agreements with the Muslim spiritual boards in Belarus, Latvia, Ukraine, and Crimea. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 WESTERNERS PREPARE TO EVACUATE KOSOVAForeign aid workers, OSCE monitors, and Western diplomats are preparing to evacuate the province if the Rambouillet talks fail and NATO launches air strikes against Serbia, Reuters reported from Prishtina on 16 February. An unnamed diplomat said that "one of my tasks today is to get packed up and ready for an evacuation. Given the reports from the peace talks, it seems very likely to me that we'll get to the point of an evacuation at least, even if not actual bombing, before there's any deal." Unnamed Western diplomats in Belgrade told the news agency that they have received no orders to evacuate. They added, however, that they "always have contingency plans" to leave at short notice. PM
 MILUTINOVIC REJECTS FOREIGN TROOPS IN KOSOVASerbian President Milan Milutinovic said in Paris on 15 February that Serbia rejects any military solution to the crisis in Kosova. He stressed that the West is threatening Serbia with air strikes "only because we defend the sovereignty of our country. We told [Western diplomats] that such threats in fact amount to support for terrorism and for terrorists," by which he meant the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). If Serbia is attacked, Milutinovic continued, "we shall fight. There is no other answer." He did not elaborate. Turning to the question of foreign troop deployment as part of an eventual settlement, he argued that "if the agreement is so good and accepted by the majority of people in [the province], why would we need foreign troops except for chasing terrorists? And we don't need them for that." He stressed that the question of foreign troop deployment is the main obstacle to a settlement. PM
 RUSSIA EASING SUPPORT FOR SERBIA?Unnamed Western diplomatic sources told AP on 16 February that Russian diplomats have agreed not to oppose the stationing of a NATO force in Kosova, even if Moscow continues not to endorse the plan. The previous day, Milutinovic said that he "would not be surprised" if Russia ended its support for Belgrade's position "under Western pressure." PM
 ALBRIGHT OUTLINES THREE OPTIONS FOR KOSOVADuring her recent visit to Rambouillet, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told negotiators that there are three possible outcomes of the talks, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 15 February. The first is that the Kosovars refuse to sign a comprehensive agreement. In such a case, the U.S. would cease all diplomatic support for them and seal their borders with Albania and Macedonia. The second scenario is one in which the ethnic Albanians agree to a settlement but the Serbs do not. The result would be air strikes against the Serbs and increased U.S. diplomatic backing for the Kosovars. In the third case, both sides would sign. NATO would then deploy troops in Kosova to enforce the pact. PM
 BRITISH MARINES ON WAY TO BALKANSA spokesman for the Defense Ministry said in London on 15 February that a ship carrying 200 marines for possible deployment in Kosova has left the U.K. for Thessaloniki. A second ship is expected to leave for the Greek port on 16 February. An additional 8,000 British troops are on alert for quick transfer to the Balkans. PM
 SERBS RETURN THREE UNIVERSITY BUILDINGS TO KOSOVARSSerbian authorities returned the keys to three buildings of Prishtina University to ethnic Albanian university officials on 15 February. The move was provided for in a March 1998 agreement between representatives of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and shadow-state President Rugova. The pact restores Albanian- language education in government school buildings in stages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1998). A Kosovar spokesman told "RFE/RL Newsline" after the agreement was signed that its implementation quickly became a low priority for the Kosovar leadership in the wake of the crackdown by Serbian security forces. PM
 'TRADE WAR' BETWEEN SERBIA, MONTENEGROMontenegrin authorities have charged that Serbia is carrying on a "trade war" against the mountainous republic, the "Financial Times" reported on 16 February. Serbian officials have prevented more than 100 trucks, many of which contain bananas and other perishables, from crossing the border. PM
 DEMONSTRATION BY CROATIAN SUPERMARKET WORKERSSome 2,000 employees of the Diona supermarket chain, which is Croatia's largest, staged a protest in Zagreb on 15 February to call attention to the impending dissolution of the bankrupt firm. Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa promised the workers, who want to take over the company to prevent its closure, that he will seek a quick solution to the problem. Diona's owner is Miroslav Kutle, who has accumulated some $200 million in debts. He has close links to the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). PM
 CALL FOR CROATIAN TELEVISION BOYCOTTZlatko Tomcic, who heads the small Croatian Peasants' Party, has called on citizens not to pay their television license fees to protest HDZ control over state-run television. He said in Zagreb on 15 February that his suggestion amounts to a call to civil disobedience. At the same time, he stressed that citizens are not obliged to finance political advertising, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 ALBANIA' S LEKA FREED ON BAILA Johannesburg court has freed Leka Zogu, who is the claimant to the Albanian throne, on $25,000 bail, AP reported on 15 February. Four of his supporters were also released on bail ranging from $170 to $340. Police arrested the five last week on charges of illegal arms possession (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 1999). FS
 ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS AGREE TO REWRITE HAJDARI BILLDemocratic Party officials told the "Albanian Daily News" of 16 February that they have agreed to rewrite a bill providing for an "independent investigation" into the 1998 killing of Democratic leader Azem Hajdari. OSCE experts have said the draft contravenes the constitution and have recommended specific changes to the bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 1999). Government lawyers also criticized the draft, saying it undermines the independence of the judiciary by creating a body that would duplicate the functions of the Prosecutor-General. FS
 ALBANIAN SECRET SERVICE WARNS OF POLITICAL VIOLENCESecret service (SHIK) officials told "Koha Jone" of 16 February that they have evidence that two armed gangs are especially dangerous. One of the gangs is allegedly based in Thumana, near Fushe-Kruja, and includes former SHIK employees and dismissed policemen. A SHIK official told "Koha Jone" that the group has political ambitions and may try to stage a coup. Another armed group allegedly has its center in the southern city of Vlora and is led by an unnamed criminal who recently escaped from prison. The group, whose specialties are reportedly blackmail and extortion, seeks to infiltrate local government structures in order to protect its operations, according to the "Albanian Daily News." FS
 ROMANIAN MINERS' LEADER SENTENCED TO 18 YEARS IN PRISONThe Supreme Court on 15 February sentenced Miron Cozma, leader of the Jiu Valley miners, to 18 years in prison for his role in the riots that brought down the government headed by Petre Roman in September 1991. He did not attend the trial and said later that he will not surrender to the authorities, calling the sentence "illegal" and "absurd," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Supreme Court overturned a lower court's ruling that had handed down an 18-month prison sentence for "disturbing public order." It also changed the charge against Cozma to "undermining state authority, illegal possession of fire arms and jeopardizing rail traffic." In addition, Cozma is forbidden to enter Bucharest or Petrosani for five years after his release. MS
 ...WHILE MINERS THREATEN TO MARCH ON BUCHAREST AGAINMediafax reported on 16 February that several hundred miners from the Jiu Valley have begun a new march on Bucharest. Earlier, Radio Bucharest reported that on hearing the news of Cozma's sentence, several shifts refused to descend to the pits. In the early hours of 16 February, the miners were reported gathering in Petrosani to prevent Cozma's arrest. According to other reports, busses are bringing protesters to Petrosani from other towns in the valley. The trade union headed by Cozma announced that he will remain its leader. MS
 BULGARIA DEMANDS RELEASE OF MEDICS IN LIBYAThe Foreign Ministry on 15 February called on Libya to "immediately release" 19 Bulgarian doctors and nurses detained last week for questioning over the reported increase in AIDS cases in their wards at a Benghazi hospital, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. The ministry called Libya's actions "contrary to international norms and practices." The Libyan embassy in Sofia said the investigation of the detained medics is "routine." Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov has summoned Libyan diplomats in Sofia to demand information about the incident. He said there is "no legal justification" for the detentions and criticized Libya for withholding information and the names of the medics detained. MS
[C] END NOTE
 LEAVING AFGHANISTAN, TRANSFORMING THE WORLDby Paul Goble
Ten years ago, the last Soviet army units left Afghanistan, closing a chapter on Moscow's disastrous military intervention there and opening the way to the disintegration of the Soviet system as a whole.
But as dramatic as those changes were, the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan continues to affect that country, the post- Soviet states, and the Western world in ways that may ultimately prove to be even more dramatic. That is because the withdrawal called into question many of the assumptions that had governed the international system during the Cold War and thus opened the way not only to a post-Soviet but also to a post-Cold War world.
That process began on 15 February 1989, when General Boris Gromov led approximately 400 Soviet soldiers across the Afghan border into the USSR, just five minutes before the deadline set for their withdrawal by the U.N.- sponsored Geneva accords of April 1988. In addition to the impact of the event itself--the first Soviet withdrawal from any territory since the Austrian State Treaty more than 30 years earlier--its larger implications for the Soviet Union were suggested by two articles that appeared in the Moscow press on the same day.
In a front-page commentary, the Communist Party newspaper "Pravda" argued that any future commitment of Soviet troops must "not be decided in secrecy, " as had been the case when Moscow decided to intervene in Afghanistan in December 1979, but only "with the approval of the country's parliament."
The Moscow weekly "Literaturnaya gazeta," for its part, published one of the first detailed accounts of Soviet atrocities in the Afghan war, which many Soviet citizens had known about but which the Soviet authorities until then had consistently refused to acknowledge. All three of these events-- the withdrawal itself, the acknowledgement that the Soviet intervention lacked popular support, and the description of the atrocities--had the effect of further delegitimizing the Soviet system. Thus, they played a key role in its ultimate destruction.
But precisely because this withdrawal proved to be so pivotal in the history of the region, it has generated a set of images that continue to mold opinions not only in Afghanistan but also in the post-Soviet states and the Western world. These opinions appear likely to reshape the future even as the withdrawal itself already has reshaped the past.
In Afghanistan, the Soviet withdrawal had much the same effect as Russia's defeat in the Russo-Japanese War more than 80 years earlier. It encouraged Afghans, other Muslims, and indeed many non-Europeans to think that they could take on a major power and win, something few had assumed until then. That shift in assumptions helped power the Taliban in Afghanistan itself, and many other challenges to European and U.S. dominance of international affairs.
Indeed, much of the current terrorist challenge to the West has its roots in the Soviet withdrawal not only because the Mujaheddin demonstrated that a European power could be defeated on the field of battle but also because it showed that a great power would be willing to withdraw rather than continue to fight.
In the post-Soviet states--and particularly in Central Asia and the Caucasus--Moscow's withdrawal from Afghanistan has led many to conclude that political power is fragile and that popular groups inspired by Islam can successfully challenge it. Some groups in Tajikistan and elsewhere have challenged the authorities, while many of those in power have sought to justify repressive policies in the name of preventing the kind of societal and political chaos that Afghanistan suffered in the wake of the Soviet occupation.
And on a global scale, the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan continues to serve as a reminder that however strong a state may appear to outsiders, it can be defeated and even destroyed if it loses all popular legitimacy.
Before the Soviet withdrawal, many in both the Soviet Union and the West assumed that the Soviet Union would continue forever. After that event, many in both places recognized that the days of the Soviet power were numbered.
Such prophecies not only proved to be self-fulfilling, but they also have led people in other countries, far different and far removed from the USSR, to think about changing structures that many had assumed could never be dislodged.
In 1975, four years before Moscow invaded Afghanistan and 14 years before it withdrew, the yearbook of the "Kabul Times" claimed that Afghanistan was "the beginning of the end of everything." To a larger extent than the editors of that newspaper knew, their claim has proved true, first by the Soviet withdrawal and then by the impact of that withdrawal on the world.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty