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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 231, 99-11-30

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 3, No. 231, 30 November 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN CENTRAL BANK WARNS OF INCREASE IN COUNTERFEITING
  • [02] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT LAYS CLAIM TO RUSSIAN MILITARY HARDWARE...
  • [03] ...RULES OUT JOINT PATROLS OF GEORGIAN-CHECHEN BORDER
  • [04] NO AMNESTY YET FOR IMPRISONED GEORGIAN WARLORD
  • [05] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS OPPOSITION CANDIDATE FOR DEPUTY
  • [06] KAZAKHSTAN SEEKS TO STEM INFLUX OF CHECHEN REFUGEES
  • [07] PROTEST DEMONSTRATIONS IN FORMER KAZAKH CAPITAL
  • [08] TAJIK ELECTION LAW TALKS SUSPENDED
  • [09] UZBEK OFFICIALS WIPE OUT TERRORIST GROUP

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [10] PRO-GOVERNMENT MEDIA SAY TUDJMAN'S DEATH NEAR
  • [11] BISHOPS URGE CROATS TO VOTE
  • [12] KOSOVA'S SERBIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL CONDEMNS VIOLENCE
  • [13] SERBIAN MAYORS WANT CONCRETE HELP
  • [14] INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SACKS 22 BOSNIAN OFFICIALS
  • [15] BOSNIAN SERB SENTENCED FOR WAR CRIMES
  • [16] MACEDONIAN ALBANIANS PROTEST COURT DECISION ON ELECTION
  • [17] ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY WANTS AMNESTY FOR 1989
  • [18] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT PROMOTES LAW ON CIVIL SERVICE
  • [19] MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS WANT PREMIERSHIP
  • [20] BULGARIA, EU AGREE ON ACCESSION TALKS 'WITHOUT PRE-
  • [21] FORMER BULGARIAN DEPUTY PREMIER CHARGED WITH OIL SMUGGLING TO

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [22] IMMUNITY FOR DEPUTIES BECOMES ELECTION ISSUE IN RUSSIA

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN CENTRAL BANK WARNS OF INCREASE IN COUNTERFEITING

    Senior Central Bank official Gevorg Tumanian told journalists

    in Yerevan on 25 November that an "unprecedented" 250 percent

    increase in forged banknotes has been registered since the

    beginning of November, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan

    bureau reported. Tumanian was unable to specify whether the

    forged notes are produced in Armenia or abroad, but he said

    they are easy to detect. He added the state will not

    compensate people who have sustained losses through the

    receipt of forged banknotes. New 500-dram ($1) and 5,000 dram

    banknotes that are less easy to forge are to be introduced

    into circulation next year. LF

    [02] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT LAYS CLAIM TO RUSSIAN MILITARY HARDWARE...

    In his traditional weekly radio interview on 29 November,

    Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that talks with

    Russia on the closure of two of the four Russian military

    bases in Georgia should begin without delay, Reuters and AP

    reported. Agreement on the closure was reached during the

    OSCE Istanbul summit (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2,

    No. 47, 25 November 1999). Shevardnadze said that the

    armaments currently deployed at those facilities can be

    regarded as Georgian property and should be left behind when

    the Russian troops withdraw. He added that Georgia would

    consider unspecified compromises to avoid a deterioration of

    relations with Russia if the Russian military leadership

    objects to the Georgian demand. LF

    [03] ...RULES OUT JOINT PATROLS OF GEORGIAN-CHECHEN BORDER

    Georgia will not agree to Georgian-Russian patrols of its

    border with Chechnya, nor to Russian border troops transiting

    Georgian territory in order to monitor the Russian side of

    that border, President Shevardnadze told journalists in

    Tbilisi on 29 November. He said that the latter course of

    action would inevitably draw Georgia into the Russian-Chechen

    conflict. But Shevardnadze nonetheless said he would agree to

    the stationing on the Georgian side of the border of Russian

    military observers and that he would welcome the deployment

    of Russian border guards on the Chechen side of the Georgian-

    Russian frontier. The Russian government representative to

    Chechnya, Nikolai Koshman, said two days earlier that Russian

    border guards will seal the Chechen-Georgian border on the

    Russian side in December. LF

    [04] NO AMNESTY YET FOR IMPRISONED GEORGIAN WARLORD

    Shevardnadze

    told journalists in Tbilisi on 29 November that the

    possibility of a pardon for convicted former Mkhedrioni

    leader Djaba Ioseliani has not been raised, Caucasus Press

    reported. Georgian media reported last week that Shevardnadze

    planned to amnesty Ioseliani after the presidential elections

    in April 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1999). But

    "Rezonansi" on 29 November quoted Elene Tevdoradze,

    chairwoman of the parliamentary commission for human rights,

    as saying that the committee on pardons approached

    Shevardnadze to request that Ioseliani be pardoned on grounds

    of his failing health. Ioseliani himself has said he will not

    request clemency as he believes his 11-year sentence for

    terrorism and planning to assassinate Shevardnadze in 1995

    was based on fabricated evidence. LF

    [05] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS OPPOSITION CANDIDATE FOR DEPUTY

    SPEAKER

    The newly elected Georgian parliament on 25 November

    elected four deputy speakers but rejected the fifth

    candidacy, Caucasus Press reported. Vakhtang Kolbaya was re-

    elected to represent Abkhazia, Rostom Djaparidze was elected

    to represent Adjaria, and Eldar Shengelaia and Eduard

    Surmanidze regained their positions as representatives of the

    majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK). But Vakhtang

    Rcheulishvili, who was proposed by the opposition, was not

    reconfirmed as the fifth deputy speaker. Adjar Supreme

    Council speaker Aslan Abashidze, who heads the opposition

    Union for Democratic Revival, told journalists in Batumi on

    29 November that the party will insist on Rcheulishvili's

    candidacy rather than propose an alternative, as suggested by

    the SMK. LF

    [06] KAZAKHSTAN SEEKS TO STEM INFLUX OF CHECHEN REFUGEES

    The

    Caspian ferry service between the Kazakh port of Aktau and

    Baku is to be suspended temporarily to prevent Chechen

    refugees from entering Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 29

    November, citing Kazakhstan's state-run Khabar TV. Regional

    border service head Aleskandr Sarsembekov said that Chechens

    who have acquired Azerbaijani passports are seeking to enter

    Kazakhstan via that route. Two senior Kazakh officials said

    last week that additional screening procedures would be

    introduced to preclude the entry of "Chechen terrorists" into

    Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1999). LF

    [07] PROTEST DEMONSTRATIONS IN FORMER KAZAKH CAPITAL

    Several

    hundred residents of the Shanyraq-2 district of Almaty took

    to the streets on 29 November to demand that the city

    authorities restore heating and electricity supplies to the

    district, RFE/RL's Almaty correspondent reported. Those

    supplies were discontinued in October. Local schools and

    hospitals have been closed for even longer. The following

    day, pensioners gathered outside the city mayor's office to

    demand the prompt payment of their pensions. They also

    protested the recent rise in utility rates imposed by the

    Kazakh-Belgian energy company that controls electricity

    supplies to all of Almaty Oblast. LF

    [08] TAJIK ELECTION LAW TALKS SUSPENDED

    Government and opposition

    representatives on the Commission for National Reconciliation

    have halted their attempt to resolve the disagreement over

    the number of deputies to be elected to each chamber of the

    new parliament, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 30 November (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 29 November 1999). The talks will

    resume after a meeting between the commission's chairman,

    United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri and his

    deputies, and President Imomali Rakhmonov. LF

    [09] UZBEK OFFICIALS WIPE OUT TERRORIST GROUP

    Uzbek Security and

    Interior Ministry troops on 29 November surrounded a group of

    14 militants who they claim were responsible for two shooting

    incidents in the town of Yangiabad last month, Russian

    agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1999).

    All the militants were reportedly killed outright during the

    ensuing shootout. Three Interior Ministry troops also died in

    the fighting. The militants had trained in Chechnya and

    participated in the hostage-taking in southern Kyrgyzstan in

    August-September, Interfax quoted Uzbek Interior Ministry

    officials as saying. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [10] PRO-GOVERNMENT MEDIA SAY TUDJMAN'S DEATH NEAR

    The mass-

    circulation "Vecernji list," which is close to the governing

    Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), reported on 30 November

    that President Franjo Tudjman's "vital functions--heart,

    lungs, kidney, and liver--are no longer responding to the

    highly professional intensive treatment carried out by top-

    level doctors." The newspaper added that Tudjman is in an

    "exceptionally serious, perhaps critical condition, which

    cannot last more than a few days." Observers note this is the

    first time that a pro-government daily has offered such a

    pessimistic assessment of the president's condition.

    Independent dailies have been more outspoken and have

    published opinion polls on the presidential succession. PM

    [11] BISHOPS URGE CROATS TO VOTE

    Members of the Croatian Bishops'

    Conference said in a statement issued in Zagreb on 29

    November that they hope the government's decision to hold

    parliamentary elections on 3 January will not lead to a

    "disturbance" of Christmas celebrations (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 29 November 1999). The bishops appealed to Roman

    Catholics to vote for candidates who represent "Christian

    values" and will work for the common good. The bishops called

    for "secret, fair, and democratic" elections, RFE/RL's South

    Slavic Service reported. Observers note that the Church is

    not closely identified with any one political party. It has

    opposed attempts by the HDZ to use it for political purposes

    and is mistrustful of the many former Communists in the HDZ

    and several other parties. PM

    [12] KOSOVA'S SERBIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL CONDEMNS VIOLENCE

    Representatives of Kosova's Serbian minority met at the

    Gracanica monastery on 29 November and condemned recent

    violence by ethnic Albanians against innocent Serbian

    civilians. They urged better protection for Serbs. The

    members of the Serbian National Council, which is headed by

    Momcilo Trajkovic, said they will "try to improve the

    security situation, together with the international

    community, because Serbs are still being kidnapped and

    killed" in the province. In Prizren, a spokesman for the

    Serbian Orthodox Church told the private Beta news agency

    that "Albanian extremists" there burned a 200-year-old

    Serbian church to the ground. PM

    [13] SERBIAN MAYORS WANT CONCRETE HELP

    "They came for help but

    only got applause." This is how the Frankfurt-based Serbian

    daily "Vijesti" on 30 November described the experience of

    Mayor Velimir Ilic of Cacak and his colleague from Kraljevo,

    Zvonko Obradovic, at a major international conference in

    Paris on the Balkans. Ilic appealed to the international

    community to help opposition-run Serbian municipalities

    "solve practical problems." Obradovic stressed that Kraljevo

    had serious difficulties even before the recent conflict,

    "with 21,000 pensioners and 12,000 unemployed. And the

    situation gets worse every day." He argued that his

    government faces additional difficulties because of the

    obstructionist policies of Yugoslav President Slobodan

    Milosevic toward opposition-run municipalities. Obradovic

    concluded that "we cannot solve our problems by ourselves."

    PM

    [14] INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SACKS 22 BOSNIAN OFFICIALS

    The

    international community's Wolfgang Petritsch and the OSCE's

    Robert Berry said in Sarajevo on 29 November that they have

    fired 22 officials for obstructing implementation of the 1995

    Dayton peace agreement. Those sacked include Serbs, Croats,

    and Muslims. Petritsch said the decision to fire the

    officials came only as a last resort. His spokeswoman added

    that the hard-line views of several ousted officials deterred

    outside investors from investing in the areas where those

    officials held office. Berry said that the appropriate

    government bodies must find replacements for the 22

    officials. One of those sacked, namely Banja Luka Mayor

    Djordje Umicevic, told a press conference that he does not

    accept his ouster. PM

    [15] BOSNIAN SERB SENTENCED FOR WAR CRIMES

    A court in

    Duesseldorf, Germany, has sentenced Maksim Sokolovic to nine

    year in jail for his role in war crimes during the 1992-1995

    Bosnian war. The court found him guilty of five counts of

    assault and 56 counts of deprivation of liberty while he was

    stationed at a detention camp in northern Bosnia in 1992.

    Sokolovic belonged to a Serbian paramilitary formation during

    the conflict. PM

    [16] MACEDONIAN ALBANIANS PROTEST COURT DECISION ON ELECTION

    Several political leaders of Macedonia's ethnic Albanian

    minority said on 29 November that the Supreme Court was wrong

    to call for the presidential election to be held again in

    many districts in western Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"

    29 November 1999). Arben Xhaferi, whose Democratic Party of

    Albanians belongs to the governing coalition, said that "the

    Supreme Court decision scorns the Albanians because it

    singles them out as the main culprits for the irregularity of

    the elections," AP reported. Xhaferi appealed to Albanians to

    cast their votes for Boris Trajkovski of the Internal

    Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, which heads the

    coalition. Trajkovski swept the ethnic Albanian regions in

    the 14 November presidential vote. Social Democrat Tito

    Petkovski alienated many ethnic Albanians by his statements

    on Kosova, Albanian-language education, and other issues. PM

    [17] ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY WANTS AMNESTY FOR 1989

    The

    opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) said

    on 29 November that it will ask the government to urgently

    introduce in the parliament a law granting amnesty to those

    who broke laws and military regulations valid at the time of

    the 1989 uprising against the communist regime, RFE/RL's

    Bucharest bureau reported. The PDSR says it is "keenly

    interested" in learning the truth about the 1989 events but

    rejects the use of the investigation into those events for

    "political and politicking purposes." On 24 November, the

    chief military prosecutor, Dan Voinea, told journalists that

    military prosecutors investigating those events have

    concluded that no "so-called terrorists" were involved and

    that the shooting of more than 1,000 people between 22 and 25

    December was the result of a "diversion." MS

    [18] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT PROMOTES LAW ON CIVIL SERVICE

    Premier

    Radu Vasile on 29 November submitted to the parliament a law

    on the civil service, which is one of the EU's membership

    conditions. The law stipulates that civil servants cannot be

    dismissed or promoted as a result of changes in the

    leadership of institutions and that promotion is dependent

    solely on competence. In order to facilitate quick passage,

    the cabinet used a procedure whereby the law is considered to

    have been passed if a no-confidence motion is not moved

    within three days. The Party of Romanian National Unity has

    said it will move such a motion, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau

    reported. MS

    [19] MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS WANT PREMIERSHIP

    The parliamentary group

    of the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) has proposed to

    President Petru Lucinschi that its leader, Vladimir Voronin,

    be appointed to the post of prime minister, RFE/RL's Chisinau

    bureau reported on 29 November. Andrei Neguta, PCM second

    secretary, said support for Voronin's candidacy is still

    three votes short of the required 51-vote majority, but he

    added that negotiations are under way to secure the necessary

    backing. Deputy Alexei Tulbure of the For a Democratic and

    Prosperous Moldova Bloc told RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau the

    same day that parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov has

    proposed that Lucinschi re-appoint Ion Sturza as premier.

    However, the president rejected that proposal, he added. MS

    [20] BULGARIA, EU AGREE ON ACCESSION TALKS 'WITHOUT PRE-

    CONDITIONS'

    Visiting European Commissioner in charge of

    enlargement Guenter Verheugen and Foreign Minister Nadezhda

    Mihailova signed in Sofia on 29 November a memorandum of

    understanding removing earlier conditions that the EU had set

    for beginning accession talks with Sofia, BTA reported.

    Mihailova said that the sides agreed on a "mutually

    acceptable timing for the closure of the first four reactors

    at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant" and that Verheugen

    "accepts Bulgaria's commitment to [develop] a market

    economy." Reuters reported that Sofia agreed to close two

    reactors in 2003, instead of in 2005-2006 as was earlier

    envisaged, and that a final decision on the other two

    reactors will be reached after more negotiations. The

    agreement followed talks earlier that day between Verheugen

    and Prime Minister Ivan Kostov. MS

    [21] FORMER BULGARIAN DEPUTY PREMIER CHARGED WITH OIL SMUGGLING TO

    SERBIA

    Neitcho Neev, who from 1992-1993 was deputy premier

    in the Socialist cabinet of Lyuben Berov, has been arrested

    and charged with smuggling oil into Yugoslavia in violation

    of the UN sanctions imposed during the Bosnian war, BTA

    reported on 29 November. If convicted, he faces up to six

    years in prison. A number of other former officials have also

    been charged as a result of the same investigation. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [22] IMMUNITY FOR DEPUTIES BECOMES ELECTION ISSUE IN RUSSIA

    by Sophie Lambroschini

    More and more candidates for the State Duma have found a

    way not only to look good in the eyes of the electorate but

    also to corroborate the widespread perception that the Duma

    is a refuge for law breakers. With several dubious candidates

    trying to get elected to the lower house, blocs across the

    political spectrum say they want to change Russia's generous

    immunity laws.

    Under current legislation, anyone elected to the Duma is

    immune from prosecution for any crime, even those allegedly

    committed before the election. The law is intended to protect

    government members from having to defend themselves against

    spurious, politically motivated charges. Many Western

    countries have similar laws to guard against political

    pressure on lawmakers.

    But critics say the lure of immunity from prosecution

    has drawn many criminals into the Duma race.

    The logic of the new, populist wave of criticism of

    immunity is that if deputies were not protected, the Duma

    would be less corrupt. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov says

    immunity is a "moral shield for breaking the law." And former

    Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko's Union of Right Forces is

    campaigning for a referendum on the issue.

    According to Russian law, parliamentary immunity can be

    lifted by a Duma vote at the request of the Prosecutor-

    General's Office when the latter wishes to indict a deputy

    for a crime unrelated to political activity. The Duma has

    lifted immunity only rarely, however, and a parliamentary

    seat is still seen as effective protection from prosecution.

    Nikolai Petrov, a political analyst with the Carnegie

    Fund in Moscow, told RFE/RL that politicians are

    oversimplifying the issue to appeal to voters.

    "[It's] similar to the question of [reducing]

    privileges," he commented. "It's a sure way to the heart of

    many [voters]. [The politicians] are displaying pure

    populism. It is clear that for them, it would not be

    beneficial to explain to voters that immunity is very much

    needed and very useful in today's Russia. But another bad

    thing is that in each concrete case of even murder, the Duma

    [hardly] handed one deputy over to law-enforcement agencies."

    The Constitutional Court has ruled that parliamentary

    immunity does not protect members from prosecution for

    offenses unconnected with parliamentary activities. But

    Petrov says the Duma has not applied the law on immunity

    properly since it has failed to permit the prosecution even

    of deputies against whom credible charges of non-political

    crimes have been brought.

    The first big scandal over immunity occurred in 1995,

    when Sergei Mavrodi, who had masterminded a financial pyramid

    scheme (MMM) that ruined thousands the year before, was

    elected. Although his immunity was lifted by a majority vote,

    the incident was the first of several to erode the house's

    reputation.

    Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of

    Russia (LDPR) added several scandals to the list. A few years

    ago, one of the party's members was about to be charged with

    double murder when he was shot in an apparent contract

    killing. Last year, an LDPR member in Saint Petersburg was

    shot. Some Duma deputies, including several former LDPR

    members, allege that Zhirinovsky sells spots on his party

    list to criminals. The LDPR's reputation is such that some

    suspect it of being a Kremlin plot to discredit the Duma.

    In the current race, many candidates are widely

    suspected to be seeking office only to avoid prison. Among

    them is Saint Petersburg politician Yurii Shutov. Charged

    with arranging the murders of several businessmen, he was

    freed on bail earlier this month only to be re-arrested in

    the courtroom minutes later.

    Another candidate under a cloud is wealthy tycoon Boris

    Berezovskii. Political observers say the only reason such an

    influential man would want to represent the North Caucasian

    republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia is to avoid future

    prosecution. Some of his business dealings are currently

    under investigation. For his part, Berezovskii says he is so

    rich that he is the only candidate who cannot be bought.

    Yet while politicians speak publicly about lifting

    deputies' immunity, some admit in private that the issue is

    in fact about curbing abuse of that privilege. Reformist

    Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko party, which presents itself as

    a "clean hands" advocate, has said the question of immunity

    should be considered very carefully. Yabloko spokeswoman

    Tatyana Morozova told RFE/RL that the high number of alleged

    crooks running for the Duma shows that there is a problem. At

    the same time, she says, any tinkering with the immunity laws

    would open up the legislature to political pressure.

    Boris Nadezhdin is a candidate for the Union of Right

    Forces and is organizing the bloc's proposed referendum. He

    says the idea is not to revoke immunity but to lift some of

    the restrictions on criminal investigations against deputies.

    Nikolai Shevshenko, a specialist in constitutional law,

    says the law on immunity fills a need in an atmosphere of

    political amorality. "It is clear that if immunity were even

    slightly lessened, simple political warfare would turn into

    political warfare through criminal prosecutions," he argued.

    A leading figure in the Communist Party, Anatolii

    Lukyanov, told RFE/RL that his understanding of immunity is

    the same as that of the Russian Constitutional Court. He

    noted that if the laws were properly applied, they would

    protect deputies from political pressure without providing

    cover for criminals.

    The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.

    30-11-99


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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