|Sunday, 4 December 2022|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 21, 01-01-31
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 21, 31 January 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 FORMER ARMENIAN DISSIDENT INTERCEDES FOR DETAINED BUSINESSMANParuyr Hairikian said on 30 January that the presidential human rights commission of which he is chairman has concluded that detained businessman Arkadii Vartanian should be released, Noyan Tapan reported. Vartanian was taken into custody on 30 October following a march by his supporters to the presidential palace in Yerevan and subsequently charged with calling for the overthrow of the Armenian leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October and 13 November 2000). According to Hairikian, as other participants in the march have already been released, there is no reason to detain Vartanian any longer. LF
 PROSECUTORS INSIST FORMER KARABAKH DEFENSE MINISTER ORDERED ASSASSINATION BIDSenior prosecutor Vahram Avagian told the Supreme Court of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on 30 January that the attempt last March to assassinate the enclave's president, Arkadii Ghukasian, was ordered by former Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan and carried out "directly or indirectly" by the other 15 defendants, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. Babayan has denied masterminding the attack, while his former bodyguard, Sasun Aghadjanian, had admitted planning to open fire on Ghukasian's motorcade to "intimidate" the president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 29 December 2000). LF
 AZERBAIJANI POLICE MOVE AGAINST HUNGER-STRIKING WAR INVALIDS...Azerbaijani special police used force on 31 January to break up groups of hunger-striking Karabakh war invalids in Baku and several other towns across Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported. Hundreds of police also surrounded the Baku building housing the headquarters of the society representing the war invalids. Turan reported on 30 January that the number of participants in the hunger-strike has risen to over 1,000. The invalids are demanding a threefold increase in their pensions and other benefits (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 January 2001). LF
 ...AFTER INTERIOR MINISTER ACCUSES THEM OF PLANNING COUPSpeaking in Baku on 30 January, Ramil Usubov accused Etimad Asadov, who heads the organization representing Azerbaijan's estimated 7,000 Karabakh war invalids, of attempting to destabilize the political situation with the aim of overthrowing the leadership, Turan reported. Usubov compared Asadov to rebel Colonel Suret Huseinov, who toppled President Abulfaz Elchibey in 1993, and the Djavadov brothers, who were accused of attempting to stage a coup in March 1995. Usubov rejected the invalids' demands for increased pensions and benefits, arguing that the invalids and their families already receive adequate state support. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ENDS TURKEY VISITEduard Shevardnadze held talks in Ankara on 30 January with Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli, and with former President Suleyman Demirel, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 31 January. Ecevit characterized bilateral relations as "special," adding "Georgia's problems are our problems. Georgia's security is our security." Shevardnadze also addressed the Foreign Economic Relations Council, inviting Turkish businessmen to invest more in Georgia. Turkey is already Georgia's most important trade partner. In addition, Shevardnadze met in Ankara with representatives of Turkey's Abkhaz minority. He explained to the Abkhaz Georgia's offer of broad autonomy to the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia and invited them to visit Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. LF
 SECOND GEORGIAN SECURITY OFFICIAL DIES FROM PARCEL BOMB INJURIESThe Georgian security official injured in a parcel bomb explosion on 30 January at a Tbilisi post office has since died of his injuries, Caucasus Press reported on 31 January. One of his colleagues was killed by that explosion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January 2001). LF
 KAZAKH PRESIDENT ENUMERATES PRIORITIESNursultan Nazarbaev told a meeting of regional officials in Astana on 30 January that although Kazakhstan has succeeded in building a "powerful government" and in completing economic reforms, numerous problems must still be addressed, Interfax and Reuters reported. Nazarbaev singled out the fight against poverty and unemployment and more stringent measures to eradicate corruption and combat religious extremism. He called especially for local officials and police in the south and east of the country to monitor observation of the law on religious groups in order to preclude the distribution of proscribed religious propaganda and the unsanctioned construction of churches and mosques. Nazarbaev listed the Tengiz- Novorossiisk oil export pipeline and the 180-kilometer Aksu-Konechnaya railroad as major construction projects that must be completed before the celebration later this year of the 10th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence. LF
 KYRGYZ PRESIDENT STOPS OVER IN MOSCOW TO DISCUSS TERRORISMEn route from Davos to Bishkek on 30 January, Askar Akaev made a stopover in Moscow for talks with Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov, Russian agencies reported. The two men discussed the threat posed to Central Asia by terrorism and religious extremism. LF
 KYRGYZ OFFICIAL DENIES REPORTS OF LAWSUIT AGAINST TOBACCO GIANTAskerbek Ermatov, director-general of Kyrgyzstan's state tobacco company, told journalists in Bishkek on 30 January that Russian media reports that Kyrgyzstan has brought a lawsuit against the U.S. tobacco company Philip Morris are untrue, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 2001). LF
 TAJIKISTAN AGAIN DEPORTS UZBEK ISLAMISTSThe Tajik Security Services have flown some 250 members of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) from Tajikistan's eastern Tavildara region to Afghanistan, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 January, quoting the Tajik Ministry for Emergency Situations. That ministry is headed by former Tajik opposition field commander Mirzo Zieev, who is said to be a personal friend of IMU leader Djuma Namangani. Following a Tajik government commission inspection of the Tavildara region earlier this month, officials had denied the presence of any IMU activists there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 17 January 2001). LF
 TURKMEN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES JOURNALISTSAddressing an expanded cabinet session, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyzaov has again complained that journalists devote too much time and energy to praising his person and achievements, while neglecting serious problems, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 January. LF
 TURKMENISTAN POSTPONES PLANNED OIL AND GAS EXHIBITIONAn oil and gas exhibition scheduled for mid-March has been postponed to mid- October to give potential foreign investors in that sector more time to acquaint themselves with the relevant Turkmen legislation, Interfax reported on 30 January, quoting the Turkmen Oil, Gas, and Mineral Resources Ministry. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NATO'S ROBERTSON WANTS SERBS TO END CAUSE OF VIOLENCENATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said in Brussels on 30 January that Belgrade must do more to remove the sources of tensions in the Presevo region. "We will continue to take robust action to prevent [the guerrillas] from getting the provocation they seek... I hope that the Yugoslav and the Serbian authorities will start putting in place some of the confidence- building measures" that Belgrade recently promised. "A greater degree of participation of the ethnic Albanian majority population in southern Serbia in their own administration and indeed in their own local police" would help to defuse tensions, Reuters reported. PM
 SECURITY COUNCIL CONDEMNS PRESEVO VIOLENCEFollowing an "informal session" called at Belgrade's request, the UN Security Council said in a statement on 30 January that "members of the council strongly condemned the attacks by ethnic Albanian extremist groups and in particular the killing over the weekend of a [Yugoslav] soldier. Members of the Council stressed the need to bring the perpetrators to justice," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The statement added that the council members want "to make clear to Kosovo Albanian leaders that extremism in and around the Presevo Valley is unacceptable. [The council also] called on Kosovo Albanian leaders to contribute to the stability of the situation." (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2001). PM
 SERBIAN MINISTER OUTLINES PLAN FOR PRESEVODeputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic presented a plan in Belgrade on 30 January aimed at ending guerrilla activity in the demilitarized buffer zone along Serbia's border with Kosova in the Presevo region. Covic envisions a peaceful end to the tensions in the area but did not rule out using the Yugoslav army or Serbian police to "carry out anti-terrorist action," Reuters reported. Covic ruled out changing borders or introducing autonomy. He nonetheless called for "European standards" in human rights to be introduced and for the integration of the local ethnic Albanians into the Serbian "social system." The government also plans to affect an "economic, political, and social revitalization of the area." It is not clear whether the plan will meet basic Albanian demands for the thinning out of Serbian security forces and a greater political role for the Albanian parties. PM
 TENSIONS MOUNT IN KOSOVAKFOR troops fired tear gas canisters at protesters on 30 January following continuing violence in Mitrovica that has left two ethnic Albanians dead, Reuters reported. At one point peacekeepers intervened to prevent ethnic Albanians from attacking five local Serbs and a Bosnian Muslim. KFOR also blocked a crowd of some 1,000 Albanians from crossing into Serbian-held northern Mitrovica. The violence came in response to the killing of an Albanian teenager in clashes with Serbs the previous day. A curfew is in force from 10 pm to 6 am. London's the "Guardian" said that the latest violence is some of the worst Mitrovica has seen "for several months." The daily quoted local Albanians as saying that the protests are directed against French KFOR, whom many Albanians regard as pro-Serbian. On 31 January, peacekeepers fired teargas canisters to break-up a crowd of 1,000 ethnic Albanian protesters in Mitrovica, Reuters reported. PM
 SERBIAN JUSTICE MINISTER: MILOSEVIC TO THE HAGUEVladan Batic said in Belgrade on 30 January that "it is only a matter of time and whether [former President Slobodan Milosevic] will surrender or be extradited by the new authorities" to The Hague, Reuters reported. Batic added that Yugoslav laws will be changed "within the next three months" to permit his extradition, "The Wall Street Journal" added. Batic noted that chief tribunal prosecutor Carla Del Ponte did not "insist on rapid moves" to extradite Milosevic during her recent visit to Belgrade. Instead, she stressed that those indicted must at some point go to The Hague. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus told "Glas javnosti" of 30 January that Milosevic should turn himself in to the tribunal, adding that "this is his last chance to do something useful for his country." Labus stressed that Yugoslavia "will pay a high economic price" unless Milosevic leaves the political scene by 1 April. On that date, the U.S. government will decide whether to grant extensive aid to Serbia. PM
 CROATIAN PRESIDENT: TRILATERAL SUMMIT DEPENDS ON EXTRADITIONStipe Mesic told the Sarajevo daily "Dnevni avaz" of 31 January that calls for a summit of Yugoslav, Croatian, and Bosnian leaders are premature before Belgrade extradites indicted war criminals. PM
 TWO MORE SERBIAN POLICE BOSSES SACKEDSerbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 30 January that the government has fired Vlastimir Djordjevic and Obrad Stevanovic as deputies to the minister of the interior for police affairs, "Danas" reported. Sreten Lukic takes their place. The previous day, Djindjic repeated his long-standing position that the government is determined to uproot organized crime and to depoliticize the police (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 29 January 2001). PM
 MONTENEGRIN AUTHORITIES GIVE YUGOSLAV OFFICE NO WELCOMEMunicipal officials in Podgorica removed the sign on the building of the federal Yugoslav government's new office in the Montenegrin capital, Beta reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2001). City officials said they carried out the move "at the request of citizens." The Montenegrin authorities previously called the opening of the bureau unlawful. PM
 MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT TAKES CASE TO U.S.Milo Djukanovic leaves for a six-day visit to Washington on 31 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January 2001). He will present the case for Montenegrin self-determination to President George W. Bush, top government officials, and members of the policy community, "Pobjeda" reported. PM
 CROATIAN FOOD COMPANY TO OPEN SERBIAN BRANCHIn yet another case of a former Yugoslav company seeking to reclaim its old markets in other republics, the Croatian food giant Podravka announced in Zagreb on 30 January that it plans to open a branch in Belgrade later in the year, AP reported. "Yugoslavia is Podravka's natural market," said Damir Polancec, a company executive. Yugoslav consumers "are looking forward to see our products returning to their stores," he added. Podravka makes soups, baby foods, and seasonings. PM
 BOSNIA BARS U.S. GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CORNThe U.S. embassy in Sarajevo said in a statement on 30 January that it is "disappointed that Bosnian officials did not accept 40,000 metric tons of corn for animal feed being donated by the United States... The corn that was offered...met U.S. government standards for human and animal consumption. The inclusion of genetically-modified corn is not unusual," dpa reported. The Sarajevo authorities say that more research is needed into the effects of genetically-modified foods. Officials in the Republika Srpska originally appealed for donations of animal feed after last summer's drought, but Banja Luka is no more enthusiastic than Sarajevo about accepting the corn. PM
 OSCE PROTESTS POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST ALBANIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIANThe OSCE issued a statement in Tirana on 30 January in which it condemned the physical mistreatment of Democratic Party activist Azgan Haklaj while in police custody, dpa reported. The statement added that "the OSCE is able to confirm that Haklaj has received injuries, bruising, and lacerations, which are consistent with his allegation of police assault while in police custody." The OSCE called on the police to behave in a more professional manner. Haklaj was arrested in conjunction with an attack by opposition supporters on the police station in Bajram Curri, where he heads the local branch of the Democratic Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 2000). He is charged with helping organize attacks on state institutions, which could lead to up to 15 years imprisonment. His trial is slated to begin shortly. PM
 STATUE OF MARSHAL ANTONESCU TO BE ERECTED IN ROMANIALocal officials in Bacau said on 30 January that a statue of pro-Nazi leader Marshal Ion Antonescu will be erected in their eastern Romanian city, AP reported. Antonescu, who came to power in 1940 and was ousted four years later, is blamed for the deaths of some 250,000 Jews. He was executed by the communist government in 1946. Some Romanians consider him a hero for his opposition to the USSR and communism, and want him rehabilitated. Bacau Mayor Dumitru Sechelariu said "whatever the criticism, his merits in the fight for the country cannot be denied." PB
 ROMANIA AND ISRAEL SIGN TRADE TREATYIsraeli officials signed a trade treaty in Bucharest on 30 January aimed at increasing joint ventures between the two countries, AP reported. Romanian Foreign Trade official Cristian Colteneau said companies in both countries will benefit from tariff exemptions under the agreement. Some 600,000 Romanian Jews live in Israel. PB
 BRAGHIS ALLIANCE DENIES ACCUSATIONS OF IMPROPER CAMPAIGNINGThe Braghis Alliance rejected accusations of improper campaigning from three of its opponents in the 25 February parliamentary elections, Infotag reported 30 January. A day earlier, leaders of the Communist Party (MCP), Party of Revival and Accord (PRAM), and Democratic Party (DPM) complained to the Central Electoral Commission, demanding it force state officials to temporarily resign, "as they utilize the entire executive power system for the Alliance's benefit." In response, the Braghis Alliance said that the election campaign involves "not the entire executive power system but only candidates and their proxies," and that all of them have resigned, in conformity with the law. DW
 MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER TELLS RUSSIANSTRANSDNIESTER WEAPONS GO TO CHECHNYA Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicolae Cernomaz told Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov during his recent visit to Moscow that "the weapons manufactured in Transdniester have begun shooting in Chechnya," Basa-Press reported 30 January. Cernomaz said that credible experts had produced evidence demonstrating that the breakaway region of Transdniester sells weapons to parties involved in armed conflicts. The Transdniester administration does not deny producing weapons, but denies having ever sold weapons to Chechen fighters. DW
 BULGARIA'S POLICE CHIEF RESIGNSGeneral Vasil Vasilev submitted his resignation as national police chief on 31 January after one of his officers was arrested and charged with the shooting death of a teenage girl, AP reported. Vasilev said on national radio that he must take responsibility for action of his officers. His resignation must be accepted by President Petar Stoyanov. Lieutenant Kalin Kisyov was arrested on 30 January after confessing to the murder (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January 2001), which apparently occurred when he accidentally shot his gun while in a restaurant. The killing led Stoyanov to hold an emergency meeting with the interior minister and other officials over a spate of recent killings and other violent crime occurring in the country. PB
[C] END NOTE
 GAIDAR OFFERS MOSTLY POSITIVE VIEW OF PUTINBy Julie Corwin
Russia's former acting premier, Yegor Gaidar, has offered a largely positive assessment of President Vladimir Putin's first year in office.
Gaidar, now a State Duma deputy with the Union of Rightist Forces faction, spoke on Monday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think-tank.
He said: "Last year in Russia we evidently had very serious political stabilization. We left the period of long-term economic and political instability which followed the collapse of the totalitarian system of the Soviet Union."
Gaidar expressed disagreement with presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov, who has charged that the government led by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has squandered the opportunity to conduct serious reforms afforded by last year's run of high oil prices.
"I do not agree that economic reform agenda of 2000 was weak and unfulfilled," Gaidar said. "I think the government was able to choose quite a few important priorities and got important results, one being the tax reform. It's very difficult to push through a radical tax reform."
However, interspersed between his praise for what the government achieved last year was criticism about an "evident slowdown" in economic reforms so far this year, and the danger of going too far with other reforms, such as the strengthening of the central government vis a vis the regions. "As in everything in Russia, you can overdo, and you can overcentralize," he cautioned.
Noting that there has been talk about rewriting the Russian Constitution, Gaidar said this would be the "craziest idea" since it would subsume the government's entire agenda.
Asked about the current controversy over the independent media outlet NTV, Gaidar was careful to make a distinction between the government and the presidential administration. Gaidar said that the pressure against Vladimir Gusinsky's Media-MOST Group has come from the Kremlin, not the government. However, Gaidar said even from the Kremlin "the message is mixed."
In Putin's meeting with journalists, Gaidar declared that Putin "said all the right things." Nevertheless, "most Russians" -- including his own political group the Union of Rightist Forces -- "do not believe that NTV's problems are mostly financial." In a statement that contradicts President Putin's own stance, Gaidar declared that "it is impossible to divide financial problems and the press's freedom."
In Moscow, meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly said Monday that he does not plan to alter the status of private television channel NTV.
NTV General-Director and leading anchorman Yevgeny Kiselyov, who met with Putin along with 10 other NTV broadcasters and reporters, quoted the Russian president as saying that the channel should remain "in its present state."
"The president says that he is for the preservation of NTV's journalistic staff and for keeping the company out of state hands. I want to stress it. He said this."
The meeting took place in the Kremlin amid growing fears that state prosecutors are targeting the private channel as part of Putin's bitter feud with NTV owner Gusinsky. Gusinsky, founder and chairman of NTV's parent company Media-MOST, is currently under house arrest in Spain and is awaiting possible extradition on fraud charges brought by Russian prosecutors.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty