|Friday, 18 September 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 33, 99-02-17
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 33, 17 February 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN AUTHORITIES DENY MURDER SUSPECTS TORTUREDInterior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian on 16 February explicitly denied allegations by a member of the Armenian Helsinki Association that two of Deputy Interior Minister Artsrun Markarian's bodyguards have been subjected to torture during the investigation into Markarian's death, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The human rights monitor and the mothers of the two bodyguards told journalists earlier that day that the two men have been severely beaten. They also said no charges have yet been brought against the two, who were arrested on 10 February on suspicion of murdering Markarian. Under Armenian law, a suspect may be detained for no longer that 96 hours before being charged with a crime. LF
 EXPORT OF AZERBAIJANI OIL VIA RUSSIA AGAIN HALTEDThe export of oil via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline was interrupted on 16 February for the third time in two weeks, Turan and Dow Jones Newswires reported. Transneft, which operates the Russian leg of that pipeline, attributed the disruption to "technical problems." Chechen officials in Baku told AFP on 12 February that an earlier stoppage was the result of arson (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 1999). They complained that Transneft was failing to pay the guards detailed to protect the pipeline. LF
 MISTREATMENT OF AZERBAIJANIS WIDESPREAD IN GEORGIAN ARMED FORCESKamil Kireji, chairman of the Ozan society, formed in 1998 to protect the interests of Georgia's 250,000 strong ethnic Azerbaijani minority, told journalists in Baku on 16 February that hazing and gratuitous violence against ethnic Azeris serving in the Georgian armed forces have increased dramatically since 1998, Turan and ANS-Press reported. As a result, 70 Azeris serving in Tbilisi deserted from their unit earlier this month. Kireji said that repeated protests to the Georgian president and defense minister have failed to elicit any response to date. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT...In his annual address to the parliament on 16 February, Eduard Shevardnadze advocated amending the Georgian Constitution to provide for the reintroduction of the post of prime minister, which was abolished in 1995, Reuters and Interfax reported. But he said this change will not affect the existing principle of "strong president-- strong parliament." Shevardnadze said that his administration's priorities are establishing "mutual respect, good neighborly relations and cooperation with Russia." He also called on the UN Security Council to undertake unspecified "decisive measures envisaged by UN rules" to resolve the conflict in Abkhazia, arguing that failure to do so will reflect adversely not only on the UN but also on Georgia's international prestige. LF
 ...LEAVING DEPUTIES UNIMPRESSEDShevardnadze's remarks received a hostile reception, particularly from opposition deputies, prompting the president to comment that "I had the feeling of attending a pre-election meeting," Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze rejected accusations that he is autocratic, adding that "if they were true, I could change many things." Mamuka Giorgadze of the Popular faction compared Shevardnadze's address with a Soviet-era report that omitted any mention of the most serious problems. National-Democratic Party chairwoman Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia observed that the anti- corruption campaign promulgated by Shevardnadze last year has yielded no results. And Socialist Party leader Vakhtang Rcheulishvili said Shevardnadze "is either misinformed or concealing the truth" when he claims it is possible to revive dormant industrial enterprises in the towns of Chiatura and Tkibuli. LF
 GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS LAUNCH PROTESTBearing placards calling for Georgia to leave the CIS and urging a "Croatian model" in resolving the Abkhaz conflict, some 500 Georgian displaced persons blocked the bridge linking Abkhazia with the rest of Georgia on 16 February, according to Caucasus Press and "Rezonansi." They were protesting the proposal by Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba to allow the return of Georgians to Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion beginning 1 March. In particular, the displaced persons object to Abkhazia's insistence on compliance with the provision of the April 1994 agreement on repatriation that empowers Abkhazia to screen the applications of would-be returnees in order to exclude persons suspected of committing war crimes. LF
 INVESTIGATION INTO TASHKENT BOMBING BEGINS...Following the bombings in Tashkent on 16 February, President Islam Karimov, the ministers of defense and the interior, as well as officials from the border guards and security service met to discuss the incident, Uzbek Television reported. National Security Service chief Rustam Inoyatov said "we know who organized these incidents" and claimed that "foreign extremist and terrorist organizations and people who have relations with them" were behind the bombings. While he stopped short of naming any particular group, Interior Minister Zohirjon Almatov said that "Uzbek citizens" were responsible but that "their mentors are from elsewhere." He then mentioned in this context "the trends of Wahhabism and Hezbe Tahriri Islomiya, Islamic movements set up in Pakistan." Interfax on 16 February quoted Inoyatov as saying "the republic's borders have been sealed and the capital is surrounded by law-enforcement personnel. Police are conducting raids and searches. All investigations will be completed soon." BP
 ...WHILE 15 REPORTED DEAD AS SEARCH FOR VICTIMS CONTINUESITAR- TASS reported on 17 February that 15 people died in the bombings and 150 were injured. Workers are still trying to remove rubble in areas where the bombs were planted. Some 50 buildings were either razed or damaged by the explosions. Schools have been closed for the remainder of the week. BP
 UYGHURS DEPORTED FROM KAZAKHSTAN...Three ethnic Uyghurs are being returned to China by the authorities in Kazakhstan. According to a statement issued by Amnesty International on 15 February, the three fled China's western Xinjiang Province late last year and were arrested as they crossed into Kazakhstan's territory. All three are wanted by the Chinese authorities for political activities. BP
 ...WHILE KYRGYZSTAN KEEPS ANOTHER UYGHUR IN JAILKyrgyzstan's Supreme Court on 16 February upheld a ruling by a district court whereby Jalal Kasarji was sentenced to 14 years in prison, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. In December, Kasarji, an ethnic Uyghur and a citizen of Turkey, was found guilty of illegal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest. He and two other Uyghurs were originally charged with possession and distribution of Wahhabi literature, training terrorists, and inciting inter-ethnic hatred. However, none of those charges was made against them in court, and the other two Uyghurs were freed. BP
 TURKMEN PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON FUTURE GAS EXPORTSAt a ceremony opening a new natural gas compression facility in Kaakhka on 16 February, Saparmurat Niyazov said his country will export 120 billion cubic meters of natural gas by the year 2005, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Niyazov said that by then, the Trans- Caspian and Trans-Iranian pipelines are expected to be functioning, along with the Trans-Russian one. Niyazov said the new compression facility will ensure "stable operation" of the gas turbine at the Bezmenin power plant, installed by the U.S. company General Electric, and ensure "more reliable"supplies of gas to Ashgabat. The Kaakhka facility was built by the Ukrainian company Ukrgazstroi in part payment of that country's debt for Turkmen gas supplies. Niyazov noted that a deal has been struck whereby Ukraine will receive 20 billion cubic meters of gas this year. BP
 RUSSIA TO REVIEW CONDITIONS FOR TURKMEN-UKRAINE GAS DEALThe Russian State Duma has invited Minister for CIS Affairs Boris Pastukhov and chairman of Gazprom Rem Vyakhirev to attend a 5 March government session, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 February. The deputies want to find out what the conditions are for Turkmen gas transiting Russian territory en route to Ukraine. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MILOSEVIC RULES OUT NATO TROOPS IN KOSOVAYugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic told U.S. envoy Christopher Hill in Belgrade on 16 February that he opposes the stationing of NATO peacekeepers in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1999). The state-run news agency Tanjug said in a statement that "people from the left and right of the political spectrum" agree with Milosevic's position, adding that "our negative stand on the presence of foreign troops is not only the attitude of the leadership but also of all citizens of our country." The statement noted that the Belgrade authorities have "demonstrated through their behavior their firm commitment to a peaceful solution [in the province]." Tanjug concluded that the international community must choose between "a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious approach" (which is how Belgrade describes its position) and the "nationalist approach of the separatist movement," by which it means the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). PM
 ALBRIGHT WARNS MILOSEVICSecretary of State Madeleine Albright told Milosevic in a telephone conversation before Hill's arrival on 16 February that Milosevic must agree to NATO deployment or face air strikes. She described any Serbian ban on the stationing of peacekeepers as a "deal breaker," adding that the Kosovar delegation is ready to sign an agreement. In Washington, Defense Department spokesman Ken Bacon said that some 400 aircraft, including 260 from the U.S., are ready to strike at targets in Serbia on 48 hours' notice. PM
 UCK WARY OF DISARMAMENTUCK commanders in the Llap region told William Walker, who heads the OSCE monitoring mission in Kosova, that they are not willing to commit themselves to give up their weapons, even if the Rambouillet agreement requires them to do so. UCK spokesman Albin Kurti said on 16 February that "the UCK is an army with a developed military structure. The UCK is going to exist. The UCK is going to liberate Kosova. Other possibilities are out of the question." Kurti stressed NATO should concentrate on "demolishing the Serbian military complex," AP reported. Elsewhere, an unnamed British military expert told Reuters that the UCK is "very disciplined and very obedient." He added the top command will be able to order local units to disarm if it truly wants to. Problems would lie only with some rogue units that wear UCK uniforms but are not part of its command structure, he noted. PM
 SLOVENIAN MINISTER LOSES VOTE OF CONFIDENCELiberal Democratic Interior Minister Mirko Bandelj lost a vote of confidence in the parliament on 16 February. The vote was 49 to 41. Critics accused him of trying to take away unspecified powers from several parliamentary committees. PM
 POPE TO VISIT SLOVENIAPope John Paul II will visit Slovenia in September to beatify Bishop Anton Martin Slomsek (1800-1862), the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 16 February. The pontiff last visited the Alpine republic in 1996, which was also his first trip there. Relations between Ljubljana and the Vatican are overshadowed by a dispute over the return of Church property confiscated by the Communists, which is the main issue preventing the conclusion of a Church-state agreement. Many Slovenes suspect that the Church's ultimate goal is to regain the predominant role in politics that it enjoyed in pre-communist times. PM
 DID ALBANIAN-ITALIAN COMPANY BUILD BOATS FOR SMUGGLERS?The Italian owner of the Rogolo boat-building company in Shkozet, near Durres, has denied press reports that his company produces high- powered speedboats for smugglers. Graziano Padini told "Gazeta Shqiptare" of 16 February that his company has been producing a wide range of vessels, including yachts and fishing boats, for six years. He did not rule out, however, that some of the boats produced by Rogolo end up in the hands of smugglers. Unnamed officials from the Durres tax collection office and the Chamber of Commerce told the daily that the company is legally registered, pays its taxes, and has "always respected the law." FS
 ALBANIAN POLICE ARREST MORE ISLAMISTSInterior Minister Petro Koci told Reuters on 16 February that police have arrested two suspected Islamic terrorists. Koci said "we suspect they set up a network of extremists [in Albania] a long time ago," but he declined further comment. "Koha Jone" reported that police found "bombs, grenades, and Kalashnikov [assault rifles]...during a raid" on the suspects' homes. It added that the two are suspected of having spied on the U.S. embassy in Tirana and may be accomplices of Maksim Ciciku, an Albanian who is charged with spying on U.S. Ambassador to Albania Marisa Lino and is suspected of having links with Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden. Ciciku is in detention awaiting trial, following his arrest last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 1999). FS
 ROMANIAN MINERS' LEADER ARRESTED AFTER RENEWED CLASHES...Miron Cozma, the leader of the Jiu Valley miners, was arrested in the town of Caracal, some 150 kilometers southwest of Bucharest, on 17 February, Romanian Radio reported. Two of his deputies were also detained, as were some 300 of his supporters. Two days earlier, Cozma was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in the September 1991 riots (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1999). He may now face an additional sentence of 15 years in prison, having been declared a fugitive on 16 February. His arrest follows clashes between police forces and the miners early on 17 February in the village of Stoenesti, not far from Caracal. Police used force to disperse the miners. One miner died as a result of injuries sustained during the police action and scores of people have been hospitalized, including 35 police officers. Several thousand miners had been on their way to Bucharest. MS
 ...AS HIS LAWYER DEMANDS PRESIDENTIAL PARDONThe attorney representing Cozma on 16 February said he will appeal to President Emil Constantinescu to grant his client a presidential pardon. He said he will also ask for the postponement of Cozma's sentence because the presence of the miners' leader is necessary to ensure implementation of the agreements reached last month by Cozma and Premier Radu Vasile, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 1999 BUDGETThe parliament on 16 February approved the 1999 austerity budget, which provides for a deficit of 2 percent of GDP, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The vote was 200 to seven with six abstentions. The votes against were cast by the opposition Romanian Alternative Party, while all other opposition parties boycotted the vote to protest the legislature's rejection of their proposed amendments. The same day, Finance Minister Decebal Train Remes met with the new chief IMF negotiator for Romania, Emmanuel Zervoudakis, to discuss the pending memorandum with the IMF on a new stand-by agreement. If the fund does not agree to such an arrangement, Romania risks defaulting on its foreign debt. MS
 MOLDOVAN COALITION TALKS STILL STALLEDIurie Rosca, leader of the Christian Democratic Popular Front (FPCD), said after another round of multi-party negotiations with Premier-designate Serafim Urecheanu on 16 February that "under no circumstances" will his party vote for a cabinet headed by Urecheanu, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Without the support of the FPCD, a member of the outgoing coalition, the cabinet will be short of a majority in the legislature. Rosca said Urecheanu is not fit to be premier. Party of Democratic Forces leader Valeriu Matei said after the talks that President Petru Lucinschi, after consulting with the parliamentary majority, must propose another candidate for the premiership. MS
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT 'CONCERNED' ABOUT COALITION NEGOTIATIONSPresidential spokesman Anatol Golea on 15 February said President Lucinschi is "concerned" that the negotiations on the new cabinet are progressing "with much difficulty" and are focused on the cabinet's lineup rather than its program, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Golea denied that Urecheanu was "the president's man," noting that Lucinschi had been promoting only Moldova's interests when he proposed Urecheanu's candidacy. Golea also said the president hopes the parliament will "seriously discuss" Lucinschi's legislative initiative to increase the government's prerogatives. MS
 BULGARIA READY TO SUPPORT NATO GROUND TROOPS IN KOSOVADeputy Defense Minister Velizar Shalamanov told participants at an international seminar in Sofia on 16 February that Bulgaria is ready to place its military infrastructure at NATO's disposal to support any ground operation in Kosova, if the organization decides to launch such action, AP reported. In October 1998, the parliament voted to allow NATO planes to use Bulgarian airspace if the alliance launches air strikes against neighboring Yugoslavia. MS
[C] END NOTE
 EBRD PLANS TO FUND CONTROVERSIAL REACTORS IN UKRAINEBy Tony Wesolowsky
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is moving ahead with controversial plans to fund completion of two nuclear reactors in Ukraine.
The bank has given provisional approval to a loan worth up to $190 million to complete construction of the Khmelnitsky 2 and Rivne 4 nuclear reactors in southern Ukraine. William Franks, the EBRD official overseeing the loan project, told RFE/RL that the bank's Board of Directors will likely reach a decision on the loan by the end of April.
In 1995, Ukraine said it would close Chornobyl only if the two reactors at Khmelnitsky and Rivne, known as K2/R4, were completed to replace the lost capacity at Chornobyl, which in 1986 became the site of the worst-ever civilian nuclear accident. The two reactors are about 80 percent finished, according to Ukraine's Energoatom. Additional funding from the EU's Nuclear Energy Agency to cover up to 50 percent of the project's cost hinges on approval of the EBRD loan.
A study commissioned and later rejected by the EBRD questioned whether Ukraine needs to add to its already operating 11 nuclear power plants. Environmentalists and others, including the Austrian government, have asked the same question. They note that Ukraine's economic collapse since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union has meant a sharp drop in energy demand. Critics of the project contend that demand will not exceed earlier peak levels until 2010.
For loan approval, the EBRD requires that a project meet four conditions: be financially viable, meet environmental requirements and be subject to public debate, satisfy Western nuclear safety principles, and be part of a least-cost option. But some experts question whether the project satisfies these conditions.
Steve Thomas, a professor at Sussex University in England, took part in a 1996 study commissioned by the EBRD to determine whether financing K2/R4 met the bank's "least-cost" criteria. "It became very clear that the case for completing the reactors was much weaker than had been suspected," he told RFE/RL. "One very strong element was that there didn't seem any reason to replace Chornobyl. Electricity demand had fallen so steeply after the fall of the Soviet Union that Ukraine had twice the generating capacity to meet peak demand. A big problem that Ukraine electricity had was that it had no money, basically because most consumers in Ukraine do not pay their bills in cash."
Having rejected the findings of the Sussex University group, the EBRD hired the U.S. firm Stone and Webster to collect what Franks called "better data." He told RFE/RL that "if you used the assumptions in the Sussex report in the model Stone and Webster developed you came to the same conclusions that the Sussex report did. If you used the better data, you came to a different set of conclusions."
But Thomas says that the so-called better data are suspect. He explains that "the problem with the Stone and Webster report was that the assumptions going into the model were all determined either by the EBRD or by the Ukrainian company Energoatom, which wants to build the nuclear power plants. So the report was far from independent."
As regards whether it makes banking sense to loan to a business that receives an estimated 90 percent of its payments through barter, Franks says "the loans to K2/R4 will be conditioned on very concrete programs on the part of the Ukrainians to improve the performance of the power sector, and in fact, there are several initiatives, the most recently initiated by the bank, to address that issue."
Ukraine may face other problems with spiraling costs. In the Czech Republic, for example, Westinghouse has run into huge cost overruns and delays retrofitting the nuclear power reactors at Temelin. Both Temelin and K2/R4 are equipped with the same Soviet-type VVER-1000 reactors. But as International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman David Kyd explains, the Czech Republic, unlike Ukraine, is spending hefty sums to completely refit Temelin in what is a unique graft of Western technology onto the body of an Soviet-type reactor.
"In the case of the Ukrainian reactors, they are not looking to do something that ambitious at all," Kyd comments. "What they are looking to do is to stick with the Russian designers, largely with Ukrainian and Russian companies, to complete the standard VVER-1000 megawatt design, as basically put together from the start. They are not looking to revamp the entire reactor along Western lines and still such an effort will cost more than a billion dollars."
Kyd said such reactors would never be licensed in the West. Germany concluded that the upgrade costs were so exorbitant that it scrapped plans to retrofit two VVER 1000 reactors at Stendal, eastern Germany after the German nuclear safety agency estimated the project would cost between $2.3 billion and $2.9 billion.
So why would Ukraine pursue a project that Germany found too costly, especially given the legacy of Chornobyl? Thomas explains that in 1995 Ukraine proposed building a gas-power plant to replace Chornobyl, but the West reportedly rejected that plan, fearing Kyiv would become dependent on Russian gas. He also notes that Western powers with a strong nuclear industry, especially Germany, France, and the U.S., have all backed the project to complete K2/R4. Ukraine, moreover, also has a strong nuclear lobby--one that retains strong ties with its Russian counterpart.
The author is an RFE/RL editor based in Prague.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty