|Tuesday, 15 October 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 39, 99-02-26
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 39, 26 February 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIA PRESSES FOR MEMBERSHIP IN COUNCIL OF EUROPEArmenian parliamentary speaker Khosrov Harutiunian on 25 February met with the ambassadors of several Council of Europe member states to urge them to support Armenia's inclusion into that organization, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Responding to recent comments by a Council of Europe official that Armenia must conduct free and fair elections, Harutiunian said "it is obvious that our membership will depend on the upcoming parliamentary election." Last month, Georgia became the first southern Caucasus country to become a member of the council. Armenia and Azerbaijan retain "special guest" status. PG
 AZERBAIJAN TO GIVE HAGUE COURT DOCUMENTS ON 1992 MASSACREIdayet Orudshev, state secretary for nationality issues, has said Baku will present the international court at The Hague with documents on the massacre of 600 Azerbaijanis by Armenian forces in the city of Khojaly on 26 February 1992, Interfax reported. In addition, more than 500 Azerbaijanis were injured in the attack and some 1,200 taken prisoner. PG
 SHEVARDNADZE SAYS GEORGIA MAY LEAVE CIS SECURITY PACTIn an interview with Japanese journalists prior to his departure for Japan, President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 25 February that Tbilisi is still considering whether to continue in the CIS Collective Security pact but has no plans to leave the CIS as a whole, Russian agencies reported. A Japanese source earlier suggested that Georgia is planning to leave the CIS, sparking expressions of concern and denials by Georgian officials. Shevardnadze's spokesman Vakhtang Abshidze told journalists that "Georgia indeed has a negative attitude toward this treaty because of its uselessness, but the country will form its final position on this issue only at the CIS summit in Moscow in early March." PG
 YELTSIN ASKS CIS STATES FOR IDEAS ON ABKHAZIARussian President Boris Yeltsin has called on the members of the CIS to come up with suggestions for bringing peace to Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, Interfax reported on 25 February. The Russian leader reportedly has asked them to consider the question of continued peacekeeping operations there. Meanwhile, an Abkhaz official told ITAR-TASS that Abkhazia is prepared to guarantee the safety of refugees who return to Gali Raion. Ruslan Kishmaria said that a meeting attended by CIS peacekeepers, UN observers, Georgians, and Abkhazians had discussed disengagement of the contending forces as well. PG
 TAJIKISTAN ACCEPTED INTO CIS CUSTOMS UNIONTajikistan has been officially accepted as a member of the CIS Customs Union, Russian media reported on 26 February. The other members of the organization are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Belarus. The decision was made at the union's intergovernmental council session in Moscow, attended by those countries' presidents and prime ministers. Russian President Yeltsin told the session that "there is no alternative to integration and to the development of our cooperation." But Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenka said Kyrgyzstan's entry into the World Trade Organization will doubtless cause conflicts within the union. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev responded that his country is prepared to "participate actively" in the union, noting that other union members are negotiating to join the WTO. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev was named chairman of the union. BP
 TRIAL OF SUSPECTS IN UN MURDERS BEGINS IN TAJIKISTANThe trial of three men accused of killing four UN employees in Tajikistan last July began in the Tajik Supreme Court on 25 February, Reuters and AP reported. All three face the death penalty if found guilty. They initially confessed to the murders, but according to their lawyer, they have since recanted and now maintain they did not commit the crime. BP
 NEW COMMANDER FOR RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS IN TAJIKISTANRussian Colonel Aleksandr Markin on 26 February assumes his duties as commander of the Russian Border Guards serving in Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported. Makarin takes over from Lieutenant-General Nikolai Reznichenko. The previous day, a soldier from Russia's 201st division, stationed in Tajikistan, was shot and killed while trying to enter the Tajik presidential palace. The soldier disregarded warning shots. His motives are unclear. BP
 MORE ARRESTS MADE IN CONNECTION WITH UZBEK BOMBINGSRussian police have extradited to Uzbekistan a man suspected of involvement in the 16 February bombings in Tashkent, AP and Interfax reported, quoting Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin. Also, three Uzbek citizens were arrested on 24 February at the Gerzel check point on the Dagestani-Chechen border, according to Interfax. The three were in possession of weapons and reportedly said they had been receiving training at a special military facility run by a Chechen field commander. Uzbek President Islam Karimov has said that some of those involved in the Tashkent bombings were trained in Chechnya, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. Asia-Plus reported on 24 February that one suspect arrested in Tashkent in connection with the bombings is a citizen of Tajikistan. BP
 UZBEKISTAN CUTS OFF GAS SUPPLIES TO KYRGYZSTANUzbekistan has again cut natural gas supplies to northern Kyrgyzstan, including Bishkek, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 25 February. A special delegation left Kyrgyzstan for Tashkent on 25 February to negotiate the resumption of full supplies of gas. Uzbekistan halted deliveries last November pointing to the large Kyrgyz debt for supplies until that time. Kyrgyzstan owed Uzbekistan $3.3 million but, according to ITAR-TASS, has paid off $1.7 million of that amount. BP
 KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT LAUDS RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA...Nursultan Nazarbayev, arriving in Moscow on 25 February to attend the CIS Customs Union summit, told journalists there are no outstanding issues to be resolved between his country and Russia. He said Kazakhstan will renew its participation in the CIS Collective Security Treaty in April, noting that those countries opting not to do so are "within their rights, as independent states." He said he is pleased that part of his "Ten Simple Steps for Ordinary People" program is expected to be adopted at the Customs Union summit. BP
 ...COMMENTS ON REGIONAL ISSUESResponding to journalists' questions about the Caspian Sea, Nazarbayev said he hopes the sea's legal status will not become a bone of contention. He said its "vast resources" could greatly help the development of both his country and Russia in the next century. At the same time, he argued that legal clarity in the use of the sea's resources is essential and pointed to an agreement Kazakhstan signed with Russia last year on the division of the northern Caspian as an example of resolving the problem. Nazarbayev also denounced the bombings in Uzbekistan on 16 February, saying his country's security services are cooperating with their Uzbek counterparts. BP
 GROUP OF KAZAKHSTAN'S PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES SUPPORT PRESIDENTIAL RULEAn 25 February appeal by 20 parliamentary deputies and by members of the Kazakhstan-2030 Movement urged the country's leadership to reject proposed budget amendments and consider introducing direct presidential rule, Interfax reported. The appeal says the government-proposed budget cuts-- which foresee reducing social spending by 8 billion tenge (about $100 million) and unemployment funds by 3 billion tenge--will affect mainly those hit hardest by the current economic crisis in Kazakhstan. The authors of the appeal say the government has no "realistic program" for improving the living standards of those currently below the poverty line. They also argue that "the transition to direct presidential rule will help avoid duplication in the executive authority's work and make it more efficient." BP
 KYRGYZ FINANCE MINISTER REPORTS ON ECONOMY...Marat Sultanov told the government on 25 February that aggregate economic growth was 11.5 percent over the last three years, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. Sultanov said over the same period, agricultural output increased by 15.5 percent and industrial output by 7 percent, while inflation totaled 35 percent. Sultanov said that there is no expectation of industrial growth in 1999 but that the trade deficit will be reduced from 19.7 percent to 9.7 percent this year. Sultanov added that the 1 billion som ($33 million) deficit foreseen by the 1999 budget will be reduced. BP
 ...WHILE PRESS ACCUSES HIM OF CORRUPTIONAlso on 25 February, Sultanov revealed that he has asked the Prosecutor- General's Office to investigate allegations made in an article published in the Kyrgyz daily newspaper "Vecherny Bishkek" the previous day. The article, authored by former presidential press secretary Kabai Karabekov, alleged that when Sultanov was chairman of the National Bank, he had assured commercial banks that state treasury bonds issued by the Finance Ministry were guaranteed. The value of those bonds has since dropped significantly, and many commercial banks have extended loans totaling millions of dollars to bond holders. Shalkar Jaisanbaev the former head of the state oil and gas company, was granted loans worth $18 million but has vanished, along with those funds. The article noted that at the time the loans were granted, Sultanov was both chairman of the National Bank and chairman of the board of directors of the state oil and gas company. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 YUGOSLAV ARMY RESUMES ATTACKSOSCE verifier Beatrice Lacoste told AFP in Prishtina that Serbian police backed up by at least 15 Yugoslav army tanks and mortars attacked positions of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) in Bukoshi, near Vushtrri, on 25 February. The village has been the scene of heavy fighting in recent days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 February 1999). Lacoste said the OSCE does not have access to that zone, adding that "the Yugoslav army has told us that the gunfire is an 'exercise.'" Meanwhile, OSCE verifier Ferdinand Schafler told Reuters on 26 February that there have been many "attacks [and] provocations" as well as "assassinations of Serbs" in the area recently, adding that "it seems the [UCK] is responsible for these incidents." He noted that Serbs have left the area and that "the ethnic Albanians who remain make very good targets for Serbian forces." FS
 YUGOSLAVIA DENIES ENTRY TO OSCE VERIFIERSYugoslav border guards denied entry to three OSCE vehicles traveling from Macedonia on 25- 26 February. An OSCE official stressed that the blocking of the cars was in violation of the Geneva convention, since the OSCE representatives enjoy diplomatic immunity, Reuters reported. FS
 PENTAGON REPORTS FURTHER MILITARY BUILT-UPPentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said on 25 February in Washington that the Yugoslav military have moved about 4,500 troops, more than 60 tanks, some 50 armored personnel carriers and roughly 60 artillery pieces to Serbia's border with Kosova. Those troops are in addition to 1,500 border guards equipped with 70 tanks and another 3,000 troops inside the province. He stressed that "what is most important is that the troops show restraint," Reuters reported. FS
 ALBANIAN PREMIER WANTS NATO GROUND TROOPSPandeli Majko sent a letter to NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on 25 February saying that the massive build-up of troops is "a preparation for the start of a general offensive," Reuters reported. Majko stressed that "NATO is the only institution that can force Belgrade to reverse its course of violence. This is the reason that obliges me to ask for intervention of NATO [troops] on the ground." FS
 SOLANA THREATENS ACTIONSolana in Valencia on 25 February warned Belgrade not to try to use the interim period before new peace talks start on 15 March in order to crush the UCK. He stressed that NATO "will not tolerate that" and threatened military action, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. By the same token, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Walter Slocombe told the Senate's Armed Services Committee that Kosova's ethnic Albanians "have nothing to gain by planning new guerrilla activity against the Serbs." He stressed that the UCK "must show restraint or risk losing NATO support." FS
 SESELJ STRESSES DETERMINATION TO "REPRESS TERRORISM"Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said in Belgrade on 25 February that "Serbia is not preparing any kind of offensive in [Kosova], but we are determined to repress terrorism," AFP reported. Reuters quoted Seselj as saying that "one cannot speak about offensives. These are only police actions--sometimes bigger and sometimes smaller." He added that "the U.S. will think up new tricks to harm the Serbian people and take away from us what is ours." And he stressed that "the arrival of foreign troops [in Kosova] should not even be discussed." Seselj's federal Yugoslav counterpart, Vuk Draskovic, said in Belgrade, however, that "UN soldiers who would disarm the Albanian terrorists would not be considered occupiers, " AP reported. FS
 KOSOVAR DELEGATION PLEDGES TO SIGN RAMBOUILLET ACCORD...Kosovar delegates returning to Prishtina aboard a French military plane from Rambouillet on 25 February expressed their willingness to sign the Rambouillet accord. Shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova told Reuters that "we will have consultations...and then the agreement will be signed. This is a very important event because there will be a comprehensive political and military agreement." Rexhep Qosja of the United Democratic Movement told AFP that "we didn't have any illusions of coming back from Rambouillet with an independent Kosova....For us the talks provided a chance to obtain a kind of international protectorate." FS
 ...DISMISSES DEMACI'S CRITICISMKosovar delegation member and publisher Veton Surroi dismissed earlier criticism by UCK political representative Adem Demaci about the creation of a Kosovar interim government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1999). Surroi told AFP on 25 February that "Mr. Demaci is one of 2 million citizens of Kosova" and stressed that five UCK members in the Rambouillet delegation "were authorized by the fighters" and had the right to take decisions. A regional UCK commander, known as "Drini," told Reuters that the Rambouillet talks served to unite the guerrillas. RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported, however, that UCK commanders in the field maintain a "tougher line" than those in urban areas. FS
 CHINA VETOES EXTENSION OF UN FORCE'S MANDATE IN MACEDONIAQin Huasun, who is China's ambassador to the UN, said in New York on 26 February that Beijing feels that the UN's peacekeeping mission in Macedonia (UNPREDEP) has helped "stabilize" the situation there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 1999). But he added that the force is no longer needed and should begin "dismantling" on 1 March. Qin denied that Macedonia's recent recognition of Taiwan had anything to do with China's decision to veto the extension. Some 13 out of 15 Security Council members voted to extend UNPREDEP's mandate by six months, while Russia abstained. Danilo Turk, who is Slovenia's ambassador to the UN and holds a rotating European seat on the Security Council, said that the veto reduces the credibility of the UN and marks a "sad day for the Security Council." PM
 A NEW FORCE FOR MACEDONIA?UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in New York on 25 February that "a new approach" will be needed to help provide international guarantees for Macedonia's stability. He suggested that Macedonia and its neighbors consult "with the regional organizations that are also involved in the promotion of peace and stability" in the Balkans, by which he presumably meant NATO and the OSCE. In Skopje, government spokesmen on 26 February charged that Beijing was wrong to try to "punish" Macedonia for recognizing Taiwan. Opposition leaders argued that the government should not have recognized the island state in the first place. From Brussels, the independent Podgorica daily "Danas" reported that the first units of NATO peacekeepers for Kosova could begin arriving in Macedonia on 6 March, ahead of their eventual deployment to the Serbian province. PM
 CROATIAN JOURNALISTS BEATEN OUTSIDE GENERAL'S HOMEThe independent Zagreb daily "Jutarnji list" reported that on 25 February two unknown persons badly beat with wood and metal objects a reporter and a photographer from that newspaper. At the time of the attack, the two journalists were taking photos of the construction work on the new house of General Marinko Kresic on the island of Lopud near Dubrovnik. The daily reported that the journalists were investigating a story that Kresic, who is also assistant defense minister, was building a house without a permit. A military police spokesman denied that the assailants could have been members of that force. Local police later arrested two men as suspects in the beatings. Croatia's independent media frequently report on corruption, including at the highest levels of government. PM
 CROATIAN JUDGE WANTS SPY CHIEFS TO TESTIFY FOR JOURNALISTSZagreb County Court Judge Gordana Spoljaric-Matasic said on 25 February that she will call top intelligence officials Ivan Jarnjak and Miroslav Separovic to testify on behalf of five independent journalists. The five have charged the Interior Ministry with spying on them. Ivo Pukanic, who is chief editor of the weekly "Nacional," told Reuters that the judge's decision is "the most important judicial ruling since the creation of the Croatian state" in 1991. The Croatian judiciary is widely regarded as a tool of the governing Croatian Democratic Community. PM
 ROMANIAN PREMIER PLEASED WITH IMF TALKSRadu Vasile said on 25 February that "significant progress" has been made in the latest round of talks with the IMF, Reuters reported. Vasile, speaking during a visit to an aircraft factory in Bacau, said "without being overly optimistic," he believes Bucharest will sign a new agreement with the IMF at the end of March or beginning of April. Vasile said all major problems have been worked out. Romania urgently needs IMF credits to meet its debt obligations, reported to total $3 billion in 1999. PB
 COZMA CALLS NEW CHARGES 'MASQUERADE'A court in Plesi, some 120 kilometers north of Bucharest, has charged miners' leader Miron Cozma with disturbing public order during a bar fight in 1996 and the beating of a journalist two years earlier, Reuters reported on 25 February. Cozma, already sentenced to 18 years in prison for leading riots in Bucharest in 1991, asked the judge to "please take a decision that will end this masquerade." Costel Postolache, a senior miners' union official, said Cozma will remain the head of the union and "could even lead union affairs from jail." PB
 MOLDOVAN SPEAKER SAYS PREMIER-DESIGNATE TO BE APPROVEDDumitru Diacov said the center-right majority coalition in the parliament will approve the nomination of Ion Sturza as premier, Reuters reported. Diacov said the coalition has agreed with Sturza on a government program and on the makeup of the cabinet. Sturza, a businessman, headed the Ministry of Economy and Reform in the previous cabinet. PB
 GOVERNMENT APPROVES NATO TRANSIT OF BULGARIAThe Bulgarian government said on 25 February that it will allow NATO forces to transit the country and will provide logistical support to the alliance in such a case, BTA reported. Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev said no Bulgarian military bases will be made available to NATO troops in transit, however. The parliament must still approve the measure. Since Bulgaria does not border Kosova, the decision is seen as a gesture of support for NATO, which requested the action. In other news, visiting Greek Deputy Defense Minister Dimitrios Apostolakis said that Athens firmly supports Bulgaria's aim of joining NATO. PB
 BULGARIA SCRAPS SOVIET-MADE WARPLANESBulgaria has mothballed 100 aging warplanes in order to cut military spending and adhere to the terms of an international treaty on arms reduction, AP reported, citing the daily "Trud." Lieutenant-General Stefan Popov said the scrapped planes are MiG-17s, MiG-21s, and MiG-23s. He added that the air force still has 234 planes, although some 60 percent are grounded because of missing spare parts. PB
[C] END NOTE
 UKRAINE UNDER CORRUPTION SPOTLIGHTBy Robert Lyle
The detention in the U.S. of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who is wanted on corruption and money-laundering charges in Ukraine and Switzerland, has put the global spotlight on Ukraine, again drawing attention to the country's problems with corruption.
The editor of the publication "ERT" from the private Ukrainian Center for Independent Research, Inna Pidluska, told an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development conference in Washington earlier this week that corruption is "a painful" subject in Ukraine because it has been so broadly discussed since 1992 and more than 20 laws enacted on fighting the phenomenon.
The problem, Pidluska said, is that despite all those laws and seven government ministries and departments assigned the task of fighting corruption, no one is actually doing the fighting. Ukraine, she noted, is lagging behind many other post-communist states, both in economic performance and in dealing with corruption.
One of the reasons, Pidluska added, is the totalitarian attitude of the state toward business--the taxation system has not been reformed, nor has the criminal code. She noted that there is still a law on the books making "speculation" illegal. Speculation is defined as reselling something to gain profit, which is business activity, and in Ukraine that still is de facto outlawed. This means that businesses are pushed into bribing officials.
Part of the problem in Ukraine, said Pidluska, is that the average business owner spends 55 days registering his or her business and it is not unusual for that process to take 90 days. At the same time, there are 26 state bodies authorized to perform inspections in any business and impose fines on entrepreneurs for any infraction of the agency's rules.
But the rules are not published, and frequently the inspectors will not tell even the business owner what violations are being cited. Of course, Pidluska commented, there is a simple and fast way to get a license or pass an inspection--namely, bribery.
Without question, continued Pidluska, President Leonid Kuchma was right last year when he admitted that abuse of power, bribery, and extortion by bureaucrats were the main obstacles to economic development in Ukraine.
Ukraine, of course, is not alone in having to battle corruption.
The deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID), Harriet Babbitt, told the conference that in its role of promoting democracy around the world, the American aid agency helps fight corruption as well. She noted that in Armenia, for example, USAID supported 200 community development programs that stressed the importance of transparency and accountability in managing any funds, public or private. It backed judicial reform through ethics classes in schools and the creation of professional associations in law, business, and the media to endorse anti- corruption codes of ethics. And it also encouraged an independent media in Armenia and in the last elections provided the most balanced coverage in Armenia's history.
Additionally, she said, by helping Armenia privatize its energy sector, the U.S. aid agency helped the government reduce electric meter tampering and bribery through launching a computerized system that separates the metering, billing, and collection functions.
The vice president of the private group Transparency International, Frank Vogl, wrapped up the OECD conference saying that corruption is seen as a "massive problem" in more than half the countries of the world.
Petty corruption serves as a vicious tax on the poor, he said, while grand corruption hurts the economies of Central and Eastern Europe. Looting, which he described as the most outrageous form of corruption, has been perpetrated by leaders in Russia, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Kenya, among others. While fighting corruption has become a major global topic, Vogl said efforts so far have "only made a dent." He said the armor of protection surrounding the corrupt--in government and business-- remains largely in tact.
Businesses should be pro-active, said Vogl, by reforming themselves and being good corporate citizens everywhere.
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Washington.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty