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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 61, 00-03-27

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. 4, No. 61, 27 March 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] KARABAKH PRESIDENT'S ATTACKERS UNDER ARREST
  • [02] AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION TAKES ISSUE WITH PRESIDENT
  • [03] NEW AZERBAIJANI RAID REPULSED
  • [04] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT OUTLINES ELECTION PROGRAM
  • [05] FORMER GEORGIAN MINISTER ON HUNGER STRIKE
  • [06] TURKISH DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS GEORGIA
  • [07] ARRESTED KYRGYZ OPPOSITIONIST BEGINS HUNGER-STRIKE...
  • [08] ...AS DEFAMATION CAMPAIGN CONTINUES...
  • [09] ...AND SUPPORTERS DEMAND HIS RELEASE
  • [10] LOCAL PROTESTERS IN KYRGYZSTAN TRIED, SENTENCED
  • [11] TAJIKISTAN'S NATIONAL RECONCILIATION COMMISSION DISSOLVED

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [12] MACEDONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER BLAMES MILOSEVIC FOR BOMB
  • [13] KFOR SEARCHES FOR WEAPONS IN MITROVICA
  • [14] OGATA URGES BETTER SECURITY FOR KOSOVA'S MINORITIES
  • [15] YUGOSLAVIA, MONTENEGRO SET UP JOINT KOSOVA BORDER POST
  • [16] SERBIAN AUTHORITIES GIVE BACK TV TRANSMITTER
  • [17] THREE BALKAN STATES AGREE ON JOINT STRATEGY
  • [18] ROMANIAN OPPOSITION LEADER SLAMS U.S. CONGRESSMEN
  • [19] TWO ROMANIAN PARTIES AGREE ON DATE OF LOCAL ELECTIONS
  • [20] ROMANIAN PREMIER: WE DON'T HAVE A FUNCTIONAL MARKET ECONOMY
  • [21] ROMANIA, MOLDOVA TO SIGN CITIZENSHIP ACCORD
  • [22] BULGARIA'S UNEMPLOYMENT RATE SOARS
  • [23] BULGARIA JOINS ANTI-CORRUPTION INITIATIVE

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [24] A VICTORY NOT A MANDATE

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] KARABAKH PRESIDENT'S ATTACKERS UNDER ARREST

    The Prosecutor-

    General's Office of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh

    Republic issued a statement on 27 March saying that three of

    five men arrested in connection with the 22 March attempt to

    assassinate the enclave's president, Arkadii Ghukasian, are

    bodyguards of former Karabakh Defense Minister General Samvel

    Babayan, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. The

    previous day, the Prosecutor-General's Office had said that

    the attackers had confessed, but did not identify them. On 25

    March, the Karabakh government press service had criticized

    representatives of two Armenian parliamentary factions,

    Miasnutiun and the "Right and Accord," for expressing doubt

    that Babayan was involved in the attack. On 24 March,

    supporters of Babayan, who was also taken into custody on 22

    March, called for his release, RFE/RL's Stepanakert

    correspondent reported. Two Karabakh parliamentary deputies

    said the same day that the attack on Ghukasian was intended

    to remove both him and Babayan from the political arena and

    thus destabilize the political situation in the enclave. LF

    [02] AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION TAKES ISSUE WITH PRESIDENT

    Opposition

    party leaders have condemned as "incorrect" Heidar Aliev's 22

    March comment that the attempt to assassinate Ghukasian was

    "Armenia's internal affair," according to ANS TV on 23 March,

    as cited by Groong. Azerbaijan Popular Front First Deputy

    Chairman Ali Kerimov said that no issue related to Karabakh

    can be termed Armenia's internal affair. In an interview

    published in "Noratert" on 24 March, the unrecognized

    enclave's foreign minister, Naira Melkumian, commented that

    "Azerbaijan is gradually recognizing that Karabakh is an

    independent country, over which it has no influence." LF

    [03] NEW AZERBAIJANI RAID REPULSED

    More than 10 Azerbaijan

    servicemen were killed in a 21 March pre-dawn attempt to

    break through the northern section of the Line of Contact,

    which demarcates Armenian-controlled Azerbaijani territory,

    Snark reported on 25 March. Servicemen of the Defense Army of

    the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic drove back the

    attackers without incurring any losses. LF

    [04] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT OUTLINES ELECTION PROGRAM

    Eduard

    Shevardnadze on 24 March unveiled his program for re-election

    under the motto "From Stability to Prosperity," Caucasus

    Press reported. The program prioritizes overcoming poverty,

    reducing unemployment, ensuring the timely payment of wages

    and pensions, reforming the education system, combating

    corruption, and strengthening a market economy and Georgian

    statehood. The primary foreign-policy focus is on

    "integration into the political, economic, social and

    security system of a united Europe," according to AP. "Alia"

    on 27 March quoted Tbilisi Mayor Ivane Zodelava as

    forecasting that Shevardnadze will receive 77-78 percent of

    the vote in the capital. Zodelava also predicted that wide-

    ranging personnel changes will take effect after the poll,

    together with a reduction in the number of government

    ministries. LF

    [05] FORMER GEORGIAN MINISTER ON HUNGER STRIKE

    Former Georgian

    Finance Minister Guram Absandze, who is being tried on

    charges of involvement in the February 1998 assassination

    attempt against Shevardnadze, has embarked on a hunger strike

    to demand the release of all political prisoners in Georgia

    and to protest what he termed the "biased" approach of the

    court, Caucasus Press reported on 25 March. The Central

    Electoral Commission last month rejected Absandze's bid to

    register as a candidate for the 9 April presidential

    election. On 27 March, "Kviris palitra" quoted arrested

    Chechen field commander Salman Raduev as having implicated

    Georgian opposition parliamentary deputies Djemal Gamakharia

    and Vakhtang Bochorishvili in that attack. Raduev said both

    men, together with Manana Archvadze-gamsakhurdia, widow of

    the late Georgian president, attended a meeting in Grozny two

    years before the assassination bid of the Confederation of

    Peoples of the Caucasus at which the assassination plans were

    discussed. LF

    [06] TURKISH DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS GEORGIA

    Sabahattin

    Cakmakoglu held talks in Tbilisi on 25 March with his

    Georgian counterpart, Davit Tevzadze, and Georgian Foreign

    Minister Irakli Menagharishvili, AP and Caucasus Press

    reported. Describing Georgia as "an important partner" for

    Turkey, Cakmakoglu said his country is helping Georgia to

    bring its armed forces in line with NATO standards. Tevzadze,

    for his part, said that goal will be attained by 2004,

    according to ITAR-TASS. In recent years Turkey has provided

    training for Georgian military personnel and almost $10

    million to Georgia for financing construction of a military

    hospital and firing range and the purchase of communications

    and computer equipment. LF

    [07] ARRESTED KYRGYZ OPPOSITIONIST BEGINS HUNGER-STRIKE...

    Ar-

    Namys Chairman Feliks Kulov declared a hunger strike on 23

    March to demand his release from custody on condition that he

    does not leave Bishkek, Reuters and RFE/RL's bureau in the

    Kyrgyz capital reported. Kulov was detained on 22 March and

    charged with abusing his former position as national security

    minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 March 2000). On 24 March,

    the U.S. State Department issued a statement saying that

    Kulov's arrest appears to be "politically motivated," and "a

    continuation of the Kyrgyz government's use of judicial

    proceedings to prevent prominent opposition candidates from

    participating in and/or winning office in the just-completed

    parliamentary elections." LF

    [08] ...AS DEFAMATION CAMPAIGN CONTINUES...

    On 24 March, a 25-

    minute documentary film on Kulov's alleged crimes was

    screened in Bishkek. "Vremya novostei" suggested in its 24

    March issue that the rationale for Kulov's arrest is that the

    Kyrgyz authorities are planning to bring forward the

    presidential poll from December 2000 to May and might propose

    to the parliament amending the constitution so that the

    president is elected by parliamentary deputies, not by

    universal ballot . "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the same day quoted

    investigator Ikram Aitkulov as saying that Kulov will be

    tried by a closed military court. Also on 24 March,

    presidential press spokesman Osmonkun Ibraimov told

    journalists in Bishkek that President Askar Akaev tried to

    delay Kulov's arrest in order to enable him and other

    opposition politicians to contend the poll, Interfax

    reported. LF

    [09] ...AND SUPPORTERS DEMAND HIS RELEASE

    Several hundred people

    continued to demonstrate in Bishkek on 24-26 March to demand

    Kulov's release and the annulment of the 12 March

    parliamentary runoff in Kara-Buura, in which Kulov was

    defeated, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kyrgyz Security

    Council Secretary Bolot Djanuzakov met with the demonstrators

    on 25 March and proposed creating a commission, which he

    would chair, to discuss their demands, but the protesters

    rejected that suggestion. Kyrgyz Human Rights Movement

    Chairman Tursunbek Akunov, however, told RFE/RL that he and

    several other members of his movement have agreed to sit on

    the commission. On 26 March, the protest participants

    rejected an invitation by Talas Oblast Governor Kengesh

    Karachalov to discuss their grievances. LF

    [10] LOCAL PROTESTERS IN KYRGYZSTAN TRIED, SENTENCED

    In a one-day

    hearing on 24 March, a local court in Kara-Buura sentenced 11

    participants in the local protest against Kulov's apparent

    election defeat to between seven and 15 days imprisonment,

    RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The same day the court

    rejected a legal action brought by Kulov against former Kara-

    Buura district administration head Ilimbek Murzaliev, whom

    Kulov accused of falsifying the poll outcome. The reason

    given for the rejection was Kulov's failure to appear

    personally in court. Kulov's lawyer Nina Zotova told RFE/RL

    that she will appeal the Kara-Buura court's ruling in the

    Supreme Court. Murzaliev, meanwhile, has tendered his

    resignation. LF

    [11] TAJIKISTAN'S NATIONAL RECONCILIATION COMMISSION DISSOLVED

    The National Reconciliation Commission, which was established

    in the summer of 1997 to implement the provisions of the

    peace agreement that ended the civil war, held its final

    session on 26 March, Reuters and dpa reported. The final

    provision of that peace agreement was holding parliamentary

    elections, which took place on 27 February and 23 March.

    Commission chairman and opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri

    told the 26 March session that while the commission has

    fulfilled its mandate, some problems remain unresolved. He

    pointed to the repatriation of an estimated 108,000 Tajik

    refugees, the integration into the Tajik armed forces of

    Tajik opposition fighters, and the allocation to opposition

    politicians of 30 percent of the posts in national and local

    government bodies, according to Interfax. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [12] MACEDONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER BLAMES MILOSEVIC FOR BOMB

    ATTACKS

    Dosta Dimovska said in Skopje on 25 March that

    Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's secret police are

    responsible for three separate bomb attacks on Macedonian

    police stations since the beginning of January. She added

    that Milosevic's secret "services are trying to destroy one

    of Macedonia's foundations--good ethnic relations," AP

    reported. She did not provide details. Ethnic Albanians make

    up about 23 percent of Macedonia's population. Meanwhile in

    Rome, NATO's Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark

    warned that Milosevic is preparing new tensions and conflicts

    in the Balkans, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 26

    March. PM

    [13] KFOR SEARCHES FOR WEAPONS IN MITROVICA

    French peacekeepers

    blocked off the ethnically mixed Little Bosnia section of

    Serb-controlled northern Mitrovica on 27 March to search for

    weapons. The previous evening, a grenade exploded in the

    area, following which KFOR detained two ethnic Albanians and

    four Serbs, AP reported. An unnamed French officer said that

    the weapons search did not constitute an extension of the

    "security zone" that KFOR has established in the center of

    Mitrovica (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 2000). Local Serbs

    told Reuters that they fear the arms search is a prelude to

    extending the zone, a move they equate with a loss of Serbian

    control. PM

    [14] OGATA URGES BETTER SECURITY FOR KOSOVA'S MINORITIES

    The

    UNHCR's Sagato Ogata said in Prishtina on 26 March that KFOR

    and Kosova's majority ethnic Albanians should do more to

    protect the security of the province's minorities. She noted

    that "especially with regard to some communities--the Roma

    communities and the Serb communities--I do not think the

    security is solid. I'm not saying that KFOR is not making all

    the efforts. But the end result is that people are leaving,

    and sometimes fleeing," Reuters reported. She warned against

    creating "new enclaves" inhabited by only one ethnic group.

    The Japanese diplomat also urged Western European governments

    not to force all 100,000 Kosovars still abroad to return at

    once, lest the returnees put too much strain on local basic

    services, AP reported. PM

    [15] YUGOSLAVIA, MONTENEGRO SET UP JOINT KOSOVA BORDER POST

    Officials of the Yugoslav Army and the Montenegrin police

    said in a joint statement in Podgorica on 25 March that they

    will soon set up a joint checkpoint on the Pec-Rozaje road to

    help prevent smuggling and "terrorism" from Kosova. PM

    [16] SERBIAN AUTHORITIES GIVE BACK TV TRANSMITTER

    Officials of

    the federal Telecommunications Ministry and the city of

    Kraljevo have reached an agreement whereby the ministry will

    return a transmitter to a local television station (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March 2000), "Danas" reported on 27

    March. The agreement followed seven days of protests,

    involving some 10,000 people, against the seizure of the

    transmitter. PM

    [17] THREE BALKAN STATES AGREE ON JOINT STRATEGY

    The finance

    ministers of Albania, Bulgaria, and Macedonia agreed in

    Tirana on 25 March to support one another's requests for

    money to support infrastructure projects. An EU Balkan

    donors' conference is slated for 29-30 March in Brussels. The

    three ministers agreed that they will be more successful

    working together than if they act independently of each

    other. "With this mutual support, the chances of gaining

    financing...will be much greater," Macedonian Finance

    Minister Nikola Gruevski told Reuters. One key project

    involving all three countries is an east-west highway linking

    Albania's Durres with Istanbul via Macedonia and Bulgaria. PM

    [18] ROMANIAN OPPOSITION LEADER SLAMS U.S. CONGRESSMEN

    Party of

    Social Democracy in Romania First Deputy Chairman Adrian

    Nastase said on 24 March that Congressmen Frank Wolf and

    Christopher Smith are "notorious electoral agents" of

    President Emil Constantinescu and that the Romanian people

    are "fed up with commissars, either Soviet or American,"

    RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase was responding to

    the 23 March statements made by the two congressmen to the

    U.S. Congress Helsinki Commission. Wolf said a return to

    power of former President Ion Iliescu would "send the wrong

    signal" to the West and that he would resign his membership

    on the Helsinki Commission rather than see an Iliescu-led

    Romania take over the OSCE rotating chairmanship in 2000.

    Smith said that a return to power of the "old communist

    guard" would hinder the process of combating corruption that

    has been successfully launched by Constantinescu. MS

    [19] TWO ROMANIAN PARTIES AGREE ON DATE OF LOCAL ELECTIONS

    The

    president of the National Peasants' Party Christian

    Democratic (PNTCD), Ion Diaconescu, said on 24 March that he

    has reached an agreement with the leadership of the National

    Liberal Party on confirming that local elections will take

    place on 4 and 16 June, Mediafax reported. The two parties

    also agreed that the first round of the local elections would

    not be repeated if the turnout is less than 50 percent. PNTCD

    General Secretary Remus Opris said the two parties will

    compete in the elections "in the spirit of non-aggression"

    and that the best candidate will be supported in the second

    round. In other news, Hungarian Democratic Federation of

    Romania Chairman Bela Marko complained on 26 March that

    parties in the Romanian governing coalition are not on equal

    terms because his party is not represented in the Interior

    Ministry or the Romanian intelligence service, Hungarian

    Radio reported. VG

    [20] ROMANIAN PREMIER: WE DON'T HAVE A FUNCTIONAL MARKET ECONOMY

    Mugur Isarescu said on 24 March at a general meeting of the

    National Association of Exporters and Importers that Romania

    does not have a functional market economy but rather a

    "substitute with many malfunctions," Mediafax reported. He

    said a functioning market economy requires institutions and a

    flow of information. "We have neither," he said. Isarescu

    said it will take patience to "undo" laws passed by previous

    governments. He said the country has too many laws related to

    taxes and duties and too many government agencies. VG

    [21] ROMANIA, MOLDOVA TO SIGN CITIZENSHIP ACCORD

    Romanian Foreign

    Minister Petre Roman and his visiting Moldovan counterpart,

    Nicolae Tabacaru, said in Bucharest on 24 March that their

    countries will draft an agreement on dual citizenship,

    Rompres reported. The number of Moldovans applying for

    Romanian citizenship has increased dramatically since Romania

    was invited to start accession negotiations for membership in

    the EU. At present, Romanian law allows dual citizenship, but

    Moldovan law does not. Roman said Romania will not refuse to

    allow Moldovans to enter the country after it becomes a

    member of the EU. He also said Bucharest does not plan to

    introduce visa restrictions for Moldovans. Roman added that

    both countries agreed to increase border security. VG

    [22] BULGARIA'S UNEMPLOYMENT RATE SOARS

    Bulgaria's unemployment

    rate increased by 5 percent from January to February to reach

    18.14 percent, BTA reported on 24 March. The news agency said

    the increase resulted from the closing down of loss-making

    state firms, staff reductions in the state administration,

    and fewer jobs in the seasonal sector. VG

    [23] BULGARIA JOINS ANTI-CORRUPTION INITIATIVE

    Bulgaria's

    national coordinator for the Stability Pact, Nikola

    Karadimov, met with representatives of the Council of Europe

    and the Stability Pact on 24 March to discuss an anti-

    corruption initiative related to the pact, BTA reported.

    Karadimov said Bulgaria will implement the initiative that

    includes commitments to work on preventing the misuse of

    foreign aid. It will also review public procurement laws and

    increase the transparency of public spending. The Council of

    Europe's Alexander Segar said the purpose of the initiative

    is to give guarantees to donors that foreign aid will not be

    misused. VG


    [C] END NOTE

    [24] A VICTORY NOT A MANDATE

    By Paul Goble

    Vladimir Putin narrowly gained a first-round victory in

    the 26 March Russian presidential election, but his initial

    comments suggest he recognizes that he did not get the kind

    of mandate that might have led him to act without taking into

    account other political forces in the country. If that proves

    to be the case, then this sobering result of the electoral

    process may prove to be the most important consequence of

    what has been anything but an ordinary democratic election.

    Speaking at his campaign headquarters in Moscow late on

    26 March, Putin noted that the Communist Party and its

    leader, Gennadii Zyuganov, had done far better than the polls

    had predicted, "even though--let us be direct and honest

    about this--they did not have many opportunities in the

    media, especially the electronic media." And he added "there

    are many people in the country who are not satisfied with the

    state of things. People are tired, things are tough for them,

    and they expect better things from me. But, of course,

    miracles don't occur."

    On the one hand, Putin's remarks highlight how the

    election to succeed Boris Yeltsin was substantively

    undemocratic--even though the actual voting appears to have

    been more or less procedurally correct. But on the other,

    Putin's open acknowledgement of the continuing strength of

    his opponents may lead to a new and different relationship

    between the executive and legislative branches of the Russian

    government, one that may not generate more reform but could

    in the end contribute to the institutionalization of

    democracy in Russia.

    Many people both in Russia and the West had expected the

    Russian presidential vote in 2000 to complete not only the

    demise of communism but also the institutionalization of

    democracy. It has done neither. The Communists remain the

    largest opposition party, entirely capable of playing a major

    role in the life of the Russian Federation well into the

    future. And democracy remains far from fully

    institutionalized as well.

    Instead of proving to be the first genuinely democratic

    transfer of power in the history of Russia, the handover from

    Yeltsin to Putin guaranteed that the 2000 vote would be

    anything but that. First, Yeltsin's timely resignation

    allowed Putin to exploit the powers of incumbency and the

    popularity of the campaign in Chechnya without his opponents

    being able to rally their forces against him.

    Second, as Putin himself implicitly acknowledged late on

    26 March, the government's ability to control the still

    largely state-owned electronic media, from which most

    Russians get their news and information, allowed him to

    define the terms on which the election would be contested.

    And third, despite his occasional swipes at regional

    leaders, the oligarchs, and other members of the party of

    power, Putin has been able to use the powers of incumbency in

    ways that have led most of those individuals to back him

    largely out of a sense on their part that they have no choice

    to do otherwise.

    All of which suggests that there are still far too few

    ccmpetitively available political resources in the Russian

    political system for it to be called an institutionalized

    democracy, even though this vote, like others since 1991,

    could come to represent a step in that direction.

    The reason for such relative optimism in the end is also

    contained in Putin's remarks, in his acceptance of the fact

    that there are other political forces in Russia that he must

    attend to and work with.

    Because he referred in the first instance to the

    Communists, Putin's words may simply presage a further

    rapprochement between him and the Communists. Putin has

    already shown himself prepared to move in that direction, for

    example, when he backed the election in January of a

    Communist as State Duma speaker. And at least one defeated

    presidential candidate, Grigorii Yavlinskii, suggested that

    there is no significant difference between Putin and

    Communist leader Zyuganov.

    Such an alliance almost certainly would presage a

    backing away from some aspects of economic reform. But it

    would not necessarily mean a retreat from democracy, given

    that almost 80 percent of the electorate voted for either

    Putin or Zyuganov. Indeed, it might become the basis for a

    new and more cooperative relationship between the legislative

    and executive branches, albeit one that few of those

    committed to reforms would find attractive.

    At the same time, however, Putin's newly founded

    recognition of the power of those who oppose him--nearly 50

    percent of the total electorate--could lead him to try to

    build the kind of coalitions that are the very essence of the

    process of democratic government, rather than ignoring and

    isolating those who oppose him, as his predecessor Boris

    Yeltsin often did.

    If either of these developments does take place, then

    the Russian presidential election of 2000 may prove to be a

    breakthrough, even though so many aspects of it were anything

    but.

    27-03-00


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


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