|Thursday, 9 April 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 97, 00-05-19
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 4, No. 97, 19 May 2000
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 KOCHARIAN SAYS NEW ARMENIAN PREMIER WILL BE IN OFFICE 'FOR A LONG TIME'Armenian President Robert Kocharian told the Snark agency on 18 May that Prime Minister Andranik Markaryan will remain in office "for a long time." Markaryan continued his consultations with various parties in order to put together his government, promising to complete its formation in a few days, Interfax reported. The 20-strong Kaynutyun (Stability) parliamentary group is expected to obtain two ministerial posts in that government, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. PG
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT DENIES AGREEING TO LAND SWAP WITH BAKUPresidential spokesman Vage Gabriyelyan on 18 May denied reports in the Armenian press that President Kocharian has agreed with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev to a landswap as the basis for a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, the Snark agency reported. There has been no such agreement, Gabriyelyan said. PG
 ARMENIAN COMMUNISTS SAY 'NOT UNITING WITH RUSSIA' BUT 'FORMING ALLIANCE'Communist faction representatives Norik Petrossian and Khoren Sargssian told Noyan Tapan on 18 May that their plans for having Armenia join the Russia-Belarus Union would strengthen Armenia's security. But they noted that "we are not uniting with Russia; we are making an alliance," and they insisted that the new union will not resemble the former USSR. PG
 ARMENIA CRACKS DOWN ON DRAFT DODGERSOfficials at the office of the Armenian Prosecutor-General told Armenpress news agency on 18 May that they will press criminal charges against those who dodged the draft in the fall 1999 call-up. PG
 AZERBAIJAN'S ALIEV SAYS NEW WAR IN KARABAKH WOULD BE 'INSANE'President Aliev said on 18 May that "it would be insane to resume military actions in Karabakh," Caucasus Press reported. Aliev made his comment during an international conference on refugees and development. In other remarks, he lashed out at Azerbaijani officials who were blocking the distribution of humanitarian aid to refugees. PG
 ALIEV, YAROV DISCUSS FREE TRADE, TERRORISMAzerbaijani President Aliev received CIS Executive Secretary Yurii Yarov on 18 May to discuss free trade and the setting up of a CIS counterterrorism center, Turan reported. During their talks, Yarov said that the staff of the CIS will be cut by about 16 percent and its budget reduced. PG
 AZERBAIJANI POLICE SALARIES INCREASEDPresident Aliev on 18 May ordered a 50 percent increase in the salaries of employees of the Interior Ministry, including the police, Turan reported. PG
 OPPOSITION AGREES TO AUTHORIZED MARCH ROUTEThe Azerbaijani opposition on 18 May agreed to accept the march route proposed by the Baku authorities for the 20 May demonstration calling for the creation of democratic conditions in Azerbaijan, Turan reported. Meanwhile, police broke up an opposition demonstration in the Msally district of Azerbaijan, "Azadlyg" reported the same day. And the staff of the "Monitor Weekly" and "Bakinskiy bulvar" appealed to President Aliev to overturn the illegal actions of the tax authorities, which have closed both publications, Turan said. PG
 CHECHENS PLEASED WITH TREATMENT IN AZERBAIJANAccording to the 18 May issue of "Zerkalo," the approximately 100 Chechens being treated in Azerbaijani hospitals are happy with conditions there. The newspaper stressed that all of them were there legally, thus rejecting recent Russian claims to the contrary. One of them told the newspaper that many of the Chechens there are unhappy only that "the most serious crimes against humanity are interpreted as the internal affairs of a criminal state." PG
 GEORGIA TO BLOCK CHECHENS FROM USING ITS TERRITORYGeorgian Minister of State Security Vakhtang Kutateladze told the parliament on 18 May that there is "a danger" that some Chechen groups may try to pass from Azerbaijan to Chechnya via Georgian territory and that some Chechen refugees already in Georgia may join them, the Kontakt news agency reported. Kutateladze said that Tbilisi is taking steps to prevent this from happening. PG
 RUSSIAN BASE CLOSURES PREDICTED TO IMPROVE GEORGIAN-RUSSIAN TIESPaata Gaprindashvili, the head of the treaties and legal issues department of the Georgian Defense Ministry, told Caucasus press on 18 May that Georgian-Russian relations will improve "considerably" after Moscow closes two of its four bases in Georgia by the end of 2000. The Russian military will shut down the bases at Gudauta and Vaziani between August and December; after that, Russian bases will remain only at Batumi and Akhalkalaki. Meanwhile, Georgia ended its military cooperation with Israel because Tbilisi does not have the money to pay for Israeli equipment, the Agentstvo Voennykh Novostei website reported on 18 May. PG
 KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA AGREE TO JOINT GAS VENTUREAstana and Moscow have agreed to set up a Russian-Kazakh joint venture in gas exploitation and transportation, Interfax reported on 18 May. The arrangement means that Gazprom will replace the Belgian company Tractebel as the exporter of Kazakhstan's gas. Kazakhstan Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev suggested that the new arrangement will allow that country to increase its gas exports to Europe. PG
 KAZAKHSTAN CALLS FOR CASPIAN DELIMITATION TALKSKazakhstan Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev told the Russian ambassador to Kazakhstan, Yurii Merzlyakov, on 18 May that Astana would like to see the talks with Moscow on delimiting the Caspian Sea speed up, Interfax- Kazakhstan reported. Tokayev said that the drawing of such a median line would benefit Russia as well as Kazakhstan. PG
 KAZAKHSTAN WANTS RUSSIA TO END WEAPONS TESTS AT KAPUSTIN YAR, ASHULUKKazakhstan Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev said that Astana hopes the Russian authorities will stop their tests at the Kapustin Yar and Ashuluk military proving grounds in Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 May. The prime minister said he was making that request because several recent tests had sent missiles off course into civilian areas. PG
 KAZAKHSTAN TO INCREASE DEFENSE BUDGETKazakhstan plans to increase its defense budget from the current 0.5 percent of GDP to 1 percent in 2001, Khabar television reported on 18 May. Meanwhile, CIS Air Defense Coordinating Committee chairman, General Anatolii Kornukov, visited Kazakhstan to promote the integration of the air defense systems of the two countries, the station reported. PG
 KAZAKHSTAN TO RECEIVE $400 MILLION LOANThe Asian Development Bank plans to provide Kazakhstan with $400 million in loans and another $16 million between 2000 and 2003, Interfax reported on 18 May. Some of the funds will be used to fight locusts, some to restructure agriculture, and some to improve the highway between Almaty and Bishkek. PG
 KYRGYZSTAN'S KULOV TO BE TRIED BEHIND CLOSED DOORSThe Kyrgyzstan National Security Ministry told Interfax on 18 May that it will insist on a closed trial for opposition leader Feliks Kulov. In a related development, human rights groups in that country said that those held in Kyrgyzstan's prisons and detention facilities are subjected to torture, the Russian news agency said. Meanwhile, five people told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that they are prepared to set themselves alight as part of their effort to secure Kulov's release. PG
 TAJIK-CHINA HIGHWAY TO OPEN THIS FALLKyrgyzstan's highway building directorate told Asia-Plus on 18 May that the second phase of the Tajikistan-China highway will open this fall. That deadline will be met, however, only if finances and building materials become available on time, officials said. PG
 PUTIN VISITS UZBEKISTANRussian President Vladimir Putin was in Tashkent on 18 May to discuss military and energy cooperation with Uzbek President Islam Karimov, Russian agencies reported. The two sides reached agreement on the dispatch to Russia of 5 billion cubic meters of gas, Gazprom chairman Arem Vyakhirev told ITAR-TASS. Putin and Karimov also discussed Afghanistan and security issues. But Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov cast doubt on some of the accords by pointedly calling for implementation "in practice" of bilateral accords, ITAR-TASS reported. On 19 May, Putin is scheduled to visit Turkmenistan before returning to Moscow. PG
 UZBEKISTAN TO SELL 49 PERCENT OF PETROCOMPANY TO FOREIGNERSUzbekneftegaz Chairman Ibrat Zainutdinov told Interfax on 19 May that Uzbekistan will sell 49 percent of the shares of that company to foreign investors. The government will also sell stock in its other petroleum companies--Uzneftegazdobycha, Uzneftepererabotka, and Uzburneftegaz, he said. PG
 U.S. GIVES UZBEKISTAN CREDIT FOR GRAIN PURCHASESThe U.S. government has given Uzbekistan a $10 million credit to permit Tashkent to purchase American grain, Interfax reported on 18 May. Uzbekistan will purchase 52,000 tons of grain under the terms of the 30- year loan. PG
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SERBIAN POLICE CHARGE PROTESTERSPolice wielding truncheons and firing tear gas charged some of the 10,000 mainly young demonstrators who had gathered in Belgrade to protest the regime's latest action against the non-state media (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 May 2000). The police attacked after the rally had ended and protesters broke up into smaller groups, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. At least 17 demonstrators and four police were hospitalized. News agencies report numerous cases of demonstrators with blood streaming down their faces and young women bruised by batons. The Interior Ministry has not announced how many people police detained during the crackdown, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 19 May. Several thousand people took part in protests the previous evening in Novi Sad, Kraljevo, Kragujevac, and in unspecified other towns, the private Beta news agency reported. PM
 STUDENTS PLAN NEW PROTESTSA spokesman for the Otpor (Resistance) student movement told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 19 May that the students plan fresh demonstrations later in the day. "We have to react in some way. [We want] people to come--in the first place students from Belgrade University--and talk about what we are going to do, because this calls for decisive action, or rather reaction, to all of these arrests and also this media shutdown, to the beating of our fellow citizens yesterday evening, and to the other forms of repression," the spokesman said. PM
 OPPOSITION: REGIME IS IN 'PANIC'Some of the protesters chanted on 18 May: "Kill yourself Slobodan and save Serbia." This is an allusion to the fact that both parents of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic committed suicide and that his wife is believed to have tried to kill herself on more than one occasion. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told AP that "the disproportional use of force tonight shows that Milosevic's fascist-communist coalition is in panic." Djindjic told Reuters that "no dictatorship was removed without victims.... That's the price we have to pay." Alliance for Change leader Vladan Batic said in Moscow that the regime has "declared war on the people, " "Vesti" reported. PM
 ROBERTSON: REGIME 'NEARING END'NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said in Helsinki on 18 May that "this is the time for democratic change in Serbia. The Serbian people are not going to take these totalitarian tactics lying down and they are clearly speaking out for freedom. This crackdown on the press is an act of panic by somebody who is cornered. Milosevic is indicted for war crimes...and he has inflicted enormous misery on the region and on the people of his own country. It may well be that he is coming to the end of his regime. This clampdown on the press is the classic way that tottering dictators seek to prop themselves up," AP reported. PM
 SESELJ: 'NO MORE WAITING'Referring to the crackdown, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said in Belgrade on 18 May that "the state has waited too long to face the evil, and there is no more waiting. We won't allow American agents to come to power." He stressed that Otpor is organized and financed by the West, "Politika" reported. Spokesmen of Milosevic's Socialists told a press conference that Studio B Television "was in the service of NATO" and that Western media are waging an orchestrated campaign to discredit the Serbian authorities. PM
 SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH APPEALS FOR CALMThe Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church said in a statement in Belgrade on 18 May that state authorities should "immediately stop the violent shutting down of non-state media centers," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The bishops also called on all political organizations and citizens "to refrain from all kinds of violence and appeals for a civil war." PM
 'BELGRADE WITHOUT EYES, EARS'Is how the weekly "NIN" on 19 May described the current electronic media scene in the capital following the clampdown. Radio B2-92 is nonetheless still available on the Internet at: http://www.ituner.com/perl/display.pl?file=ituner/station.html&key=793. Staff of the daily "Blic" returned to their offices on 18 May, but police continue to bar employees of Studio B, Radio Index, and B2-92 from going back to their work places, Reuters reported. PM
 DRASKOVIC, MILOSEVIC SUPPORTERS JOIN TOGETHER IN VALJEVOValjevo town council deputies from Milosevic's Socialists and Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement joined forces to pass a motion calling for local elections, "Danas" reported on 19 May. Deputies from the Alliance for Change walked out of the chamber after their resolution calling for an end to political violence failed to pass. PM
 BIG ANTI-GOVERNMENT DEMONSTRATIONS IN SKOPJESome 40,000 people turned out on 18 May to hear former Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski call for the government to resign. He said that the authorities are corrupt and that they have not delivered on their election promises to raise the standard of living. Crvenkovski added that the government has lost the confidence of the international community, Reuters reported. His Social Democrats have also accused the authorities of failing to extract benefits from NATO in return for Macedonia's support of the alliance in the 1999 Kosova conflict, AP reported. PM
 CROATIAN NCO'S DISCHARGEDThe Defense Ministry said in a statement on 18 May that it has discharged five non-commissioned officers who recently took part in the destruction of a World War II monument (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 2000). Their superiors were also disciplined, AP reported. The statement provided no further details. PM
 CROATIAN GOVERNMENT BACKTRACKS ON TAX CUTThe government has cancelled plans to cut valued-added tax from 22 to 19 percent, dpa reported from Zagreb on 18 May. The government concluded that the cut will adversely affect the state budget. The VAT is extremely unpopular in Croatia, where many people have difficulties making ends meet. PM
 REFUGEES PROTEST ORDER TO LEAVE CROATIAN HOTELSSeveral hundred Croatian displaced persons and refugees demonstrated in Zagreb on 18 May to protest a recent government decision that they must leave the hotels where they have been housed for several years and move to cheaper quarters. Some protesters said that their new quarters are "fit only for animals," dpa reported. Other protesters accused the government of turning its back on Croats while earmarking funds for the resettlement of Serbs, "Jutarnji list" noted. PM
 SLOVENIA'S KUCAN WANTS EU TO CONSIDER CANDIDATES INDIVIDUALLYPresident Milan Kucan said in Strasbourg on 17 May that the EU should admit candidates individually on their own merits rather than in groups, Reuters reported. He charged that the group approach could keep well-prepared candidates like Slovenia waiting for a long time for others to catch up. He raised the question of whether "perhaps once again...the special interests of individual member states are rising to the surface" in switching to a group approach from one that takes each country on its own merits. PM
 CZECH PRESIDENT BACKS ROMANIAN REFORMSVaclav Havel met with his Romanian counterpart, Emil Constantinescu, during an eight-hour visit to Bucharest on 18 May, Mediafax reported. The two discussed increasing bilateral trade and cooperation within the Central European Free Trade Area. They also agreed to intensify joint efforts in the fight against organized crime. Constantinescu said he appreciates the Czech Republic's decision not to impose visa requirements on Romanian citizens. Havel, for his part, said his country "fully supports" Romanian efforts of democratization and economic reforms--"processes that are taking place in the period since President Constantinescu came to power." He also said that he backs Romania's bid to join NATO. ZsM
 NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN ROMANIAN MONEY-LAUNDERING AFFAIRAdrian Costea, the chief suspect in the money-laundering affair being investigated by French and Romanian prosecutors, denied on 16 May all charges against him and even accused the Romanian authorities of not fulfilling contractual provisions related to a gasoline delivery business. Costea's comments were made in a long interview aired by ProTV on 16-17 May. He admitted to planning former President Ion Iliescu's election campaign in 1996 and printing election materials, but he said he was not paid for that work. In an interview with Deutsche Welle on 18 May, Iliescu said the election materials were produced by Costea on his own initiative, stressing there was no contractual agreement. French prosecutors are continuing their investigation. Two of the most important witnesses in the affair, Iliescu's campaign manager, Iosif Boda, and former government general-secretary Viorel Hrebenciuc, did not show up for questioning. ZsM
 ROMANIAN CHEMICAL PLANT EMITS NOXIOUS CLOUDOfficials in northern Bulgaria reported massive air pollution coming from Romania on 18 May, AP reported. Environmental officials said a giant cloud of ammonia--emitted from a chemical plant in the Romanian town of Turnu Magurele--blanketed the Bulgarian river port of Nikopol. It was reportedly five times more concentrated than accepted levels and was the third such incident in the past two months. Residents of Nikopol are reported to keep gas masks in their homes because of the frequent incidents of pollution emanating from Romania. PB
 PREMIER URGES BULGARIANS TO BE PATIENTBulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov asked his countrymen on 18 May to "be patient...[and] show understanding for the period we are in," AP reported. Kostov said on state television that the government is "in a difficult period," but he added that massive closures of loss-making companies and the privatization of others should "stimulate economic growth...improve people's lives and restore their trust [in the government]." The average monthly salary in Bulgaria is about $100 and unemployment is nearly 19 percent. Allegations by former Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev that Kostov knew about intelligence reports naming top government officials as being involved in corruption has sunk the government's approval rating to an all- time low since it came to power in 1997. Three of his aids have quit and are under investigation for corruption. PB
[C] END NOTE
 WHERE ARE BELARUS'S DISAPPEARED OPPOSITIONISTS?By Jan Maksymiuk
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on 9 May urged the Belarusian authorities to account for the disappearances of Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar, and Anatol Krasouski. Boucher's pronouncement testifies to the fact that the international community remembers what some might consider the most sinister aspect of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's rule--namely, unaccountable disappearances of prominent public figures who were opposed to the regime.
Yury Zakharanka was interior minister under Lukashenka from July 1994 to October 1996. He later switched to the opposition and become one of the most active and popular opposition figures. He disappeared while walking home on 7 May 1999 and has not been heard from since. According to some commentators, Zakharanka sealed his fate in 1998 when he started developing the idea of creating an independent union of police and army officers. The regime, the same commentators argue, could not remain indifferent to someone who was trying to foment dissent among the groups widely considered to be the pillars of Lukashenka's authoritarian rule.
Viktar Hanchar was one of the most active members of Lukashenka's electoral team in 1994 and a deputy premier for a short time following Lukashenka's election as president. After his dismissal, Hanchar joined the opposition. He was elected a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the 13th convocation and appointed head of the Central Electoral Commission. Hanchar refused to recognize the results of the 1996 controversial referendum. In 1999, Hanchar, in his capacity as head of the legitimate Central Electoral Commission, supervised the organization of the opposition presidential elections. He disappeared with his friend Anatol Krasouski on his way home on 16 September 1999, following Lukashenka's fierce appeal to his power ministries earlier the same day to deal harshly with domestic "extremists" who "destabilize" the situation in Belarus.
Official probes into these disappearances have brought no results to date. Widespread rumors in Belarus ascribe the disappearances of Zakharanka and Hanchar to some secret "death squadron" acting on an order from top officials or even from Lukashenka himself. According to the most horrific rumor, both Zakharanka and Hanchar were dropped from a helicopter into the Prypyat marshes in southern Belarus and thus will remain unaccounted for. Regardless of whether these rumors are true, they demonstrate that few people in Belarus, if anyone at all, believes that Zakharanka and Hanchar are still alive.
In December last year, when former National Bank Chairwoman Tamara Vinnikava reappeared--presumably in the West (she telephoned to Belarus from an unknown location)--after her mysterious disappearance from house arrest in Minsk six months earlier, the official media suggested that Zakharanka and Hanchar may one day resurface in the same way. Such a possibility, however, does not seem very likely to independent commentators. Even if it remains unclear what Vinnikava did to offend Lukashenka and provoke her arrest, she has never challenged that regime, as both Zakharanka and Hanchar did. Therefore, her situation was rather different from theirs.
In the 11 May "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta," Iryna Khalip wrote a commentary on Zakharanka's disappearance under the title "General Who Was Betrayed." (Zakharanka had the rank of general but was demoted by Lukashenka to that of a colonel after he joined the opposition.) Khalip wrote the following:
"Yury Zakharanka has been betrayed by his own people. Cops. Those who showed respect to this man. I understand: All of them knew perfectly well that the task [of removing him] was accomplished professionally and that it would be impossible to find him. But some traces always remain....
"Yury Sivakou, while he was still interior minister, declared that to find Zakharanka was a question of honor for the police. However, no policeman has responded to these words, perhaps because long ago they hopelessly forgot about the notion of 'honor' or dismissed it owing to its total uselessness.
"Traces, incidentally, were left. One needed only to follow them. According to an official version, the last person who saw Zakharanka was a barman in the "Tsyniya" cafe.... But there was also a witness who saw how Zakharanka was forced into a Zhiguli car.... However, when district police officers reported this to their superiors in the city directorate, the latter advised the former to shove this testimony you know where and never mention the existence of such a witness."
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty