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The NIS Obvserved: An Analytical Review
Volume IV Number 13 (4 August 1999)

Russian Federation

Executive Branch by Susan J. Cavan
Foreign Relations by Chandler Rosenberger and Sarah K. Miller
Domestic Issues & Legislative Branch by Michael DeMar Thurman

Newly Independent States

CIS by Sarah K. Miller
Western Region by Tammy Lynch
Transcaucasus by Miriam Lanskoy
Central Asia by Monika Shepherd
Baltic States by Kate Martin

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Volume IV
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Volume II
No. 22 (4 December 1997)
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No. 1 (22 January 1997)

Volume I
No. 4 (18 December 1996)
No. 3 (4 December 1996)
No. 2 (20 November 1996)
No. 1 (6 November 1996)

Does the 'family' trust the president?

An analysis by Obshchaya gazeta (8 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0709, via World News Connection) delves into the heavy-handed editing of an interview with President Yel'tsin, which appeared in Izvestiya on 6 July. While Obshchaya gazeta used the story of overt apparat intervention in and "correction" of the president's comments to highlight policy differences within the Kremlin, specifically the "family's" obsession with modifying presidential statements about the Communist Party, the real concern may be that there is yet further proof that Yel'tsin's closest advisers do not trust him to conduct capably even a short, coherent interview.

This isn't breaking news, but it is disturbing. While an analyst is obviously cautious when attributing decision-making powers to shadow advisors, Yel'tsin's inner circle has become almost shamelessly overt in their control over the once independent-minded president. Yel'tsin's well-known idiosyncratic approach to personnel and policy decisions exacerbates the situation. One is accustomed to rumors of the undue influence and self-interest of presidential friends on Yel'tsin's decisions. What has changed since the 1996 elections, and is accelerating now, is the perception that the delicate presidential balancing act of interests is no longer within Yel'tsin's control. Now, policy appears as so many smashed plates on the floor.

Russia after Yel'tsin
Leading political scientists and intellectuals gathered recently for a conference to consider the post-Yel'tsin Russian political scene. President Yel'tsin, surprisingly gracefully, sent his greetings to the attendees. (ITAR-TASS, 23 Jul 99; via Johnson's Russia List) Consensus was reached at the conference over the need to ensure the democratic transfer of power in the year 2000. Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Politika Foundation, pointed out his concerns of a possible roadblock to that goal: "The Kremlin Administration is the most destabilizing thing in the state...." I doubt many dissented from that view.

Chaika appointment confusion
It now appears that one can say with some confidence that former acting Procurator-General Yuri Chaika has been appointed a deputy secretary of the Security Council. (NOVYE IZVESTIYA, 30 Jul 99; Agency WPS, via nexis) This follows a period of confusion when dueling Interfax (29 Jul 99; via nexis) reports, among others, first announced the appointment, made after a meeting between Chaika and the president, and then carried denials by Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin that any meeting with Yel'tsin had occurred or any appointment signed.

The appointment is predicated upon an acceptance of Chaika's resignation by the Federation Council. As it is widely assumed that Chaika's removal from the procurator's office is tied to his announced intention to continue investigations into Berezovsky- and Borodin-linked firms, Federation Council members may seek assurances from Chaika's named successor, former North Caucasus-based Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov, that he will not discontinue these high-profile investigations. (MOSCOW TIMES, 30 Jul 99; Independent Press, via nexis)

The candid prime minister
What do you do as a hard-edged top police official when you suddenly find yourself appointed prime minister, amid one of the most rumor-heavy moments of elite influence pedaling in recent Russian history? Sergei Stepashin's choice has been to eschew political niceties, except the pro forma nods of loyalty to Yel'tsin, and plainly state his partisan view of society.

In an interview with Argumenty i fakty (14 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0715, via World News Connection), Stepashin responds to a question about his role in finding a "balance in society" by remarking, "One cannot maintain [balance] constantly by spending all one's time seeking agreement with idiots, enemies and scum...."

On the subject of rising fuel prices, the former MVD chief was equally candid, suggesting that "we might...put a policeman on every petrol pump. (...) [T]he bad boys must be punished."

Stepashin further claimed that the president has authorized him to conduct "mini-security council sessions" on a weekly basis. This may explain the confusion in recent reports of Security Council membership and meeting times. It appears entirely plausible that there are two parallel Security Council structures at work. It is unclear which wields greater influence.

Whatever the strength of Stepashin's conviction, backbone or intentions, one overwhelming political factor may sink him if the Berezovsky-influenced "family" continues to exert pressure on the government: Stepashin retains ties to the ambitious, popular former prime minister, Yevgeni Primakov. Despite disclaimers by Stepashin that Primakov, were he to re-enter politics, would not "engage in games designed to hurt the President", his actions as prime minister certainly suggested a willingness to strike close to the president and it is unlikely the Kremlin has so soon forgotten. Primakov remains a potentially dangerous force, as evidenced in the attempts by various political movements to court him, and the "family" is consequently cautious in its relationship with him.

by Susan J. Cavan

Using the 'Kosovo precedent'...

In trips to the United States, Britain and Southeast Asia, Russian officials portrayed themselves as defenders of international institutions and state sovereignty in contrast to the American government, with its penchant for aggressive acts in the name of human rights. Although by turns hostile and friendly to the United States, the campaigns were carefully tailored to further long-standing Russian interests. Asia...
During his visit to the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov used the case of Kosovo as an example of what might happen in other parts of the world if the United States were allowed to found a "unipolar" international order. The bombing of Yugoslavia was a "relapse into a position-of-strength policy" that ignored "the fundamental norms and principles of international law," Ivanov said. (ITAR-TASS, 26 Jul 99; via nexis)

Portraying the United States as an aggressive and destabilizing force suited Ivanov's main objective at the summit -- to muster opposition to a proposed joint US-Japanese antiballistic missile system. In interviews and in his talk, Ivanov consistently contrasted two visions of the "new world order." On the one hand, Ivanov said, Russia and China adhere to their "special responsibility in safeguarding peace and international security" and "firmly safeguard the UN Charter and international law, and closely coordinate our stand on resolving regional conflicts and other practical issues." (GUANGMING RIBAO (internet version), 26 Jul 99; FBIS-CHI-1999-0728, via World News Connection) On the other hand, the Japanese and Americans were pursuing a project that risked "the inevitably ensuing polarization of forces" and that was "fraught with the creation of dividing lines in the Asia-Pacific region." (ITAR-TASS, 26 Jul 99; via nexis)

...and in Europe
Meanwhile, Russian representatives returned to the Russian-NATO Permanent Joint Council on 23 July, ending a four-month boycott in protest of attacks on Yugoslavia. Even in returning to talks with the alliance, the Russian foreign ministry attempted to gain favor among the alliance's European members at the expense of the United States. Although the organization had been established in 1997 at Russian insistence, Ivanov portrayed the decision to resume talks as a concession, and expressed hope that the alliance would now meet its obligation, as Moscow portrayed it, not to act without consulting Russia. "It is essential," Ivanov said, "to agree fully to comply with the terms of the Founding Act so that there are no surprises on either side." (INTERFAX, 1541 GMT, 22 Jul 99; FBIS-WEU-1999-0722, via World News Connection)

During talks in London, Ivanov stressed that the US had spoiled negotiations preceding NATO's attacks by surprising the Serbs with threats to act on military plans in preparation for more than a year. (ITAR-TASS, 2120 GMT, 18 Jul 99; via nexis) The Russians then delayed their return by a further four days in protest of draft declarations that US representatives had prepared. The move apparently worked, as at least one non-American diplomat in Brussels complained that "the other Alliance members are furious at the Americans," insisting Russia had "really made a gesture." (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 23 Jul 99; via nexis)

When repeated during Ivanov's visit to Britain, the Russian position appeared to move British Foreign Minister Robin Cook to poetry and generosity. "The future will not be facing each other as opponents across a chess board, but across a bridge which we want to make wider and stronger," Cook said, as he promised Britain would take a "positive and constructive approach" on loans to Russia from the International Monetary Fund. (PRESS ASSOCIATION NEWSFILE, 22 Jul 99; via nexis)

Friends again?
While Ivanov was promoting the Russian and Chinese variant of international relations to receptive audiences, Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin was painting a far different picture for American business leaders and government officials. In contrast to Ivanov's pessimism about the United States' role in the world, Stepashin insisted that America still had a part to play in the Russian economy, especially in "the supply of credit and cooperation in the space and aviation fields" and in "the removal of trade barriers." (ITAR-TASS, 29 Jul 99; via nexis)

Stepashin's insistence that the Russian government and economy had not been taken over by criminal elements was somewhat undercut by his choice of traveling companions. Washington businessmen attending a dinner for Stepashin in Seattle were disturbed to find among them Yevgeni Nazdratenko, the governor of Primorsky Krai frequently accused of extorting funds from international businesses. David Gens, director of finance of Far East Maritime Services, a Seattle company, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that his business partner in Russia had been asked to contribute 10 percent of the firm's revenues to Nazdratenko's re-election campaign. (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 24 Jul 99; via nexis)

Stepashin may not have known of his colleague's means of seeking elected office, but he was clearly capable of offering his own form of quid pro quo. Talk of the American-Japanese missile defense system appears to have prompted him to promise again to seek passage of START-II and START-III treaties in the Russian legislature. Although opposition in the Duma to the treaties virtually ensures that they will not be passed, the Russian government may calculate that it can play on Asian fears of a destabilizing West to portray the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and disarmament talks as the best means of pursuing security. In exploiting Asian concerns for control of territory in the face of a West determined to liberate ethnic groups, Moscow continues to try to squeeze influence around the globe from its opposition to the Kosovo campaign.

by Chandler Rosenberger

* * * * *

Ivanov milks multipolarism in ASEAN forum
The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) -- held in Singapore from 25-27 July -- could have gone unnoticed amid the foreign policy ruckus created by Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin's first visit to the US and the first NATO Permanent Joint Council (PJC) session since the bombings began in Yugoslavia. Not surprisingly, the bilateral meeting held on the ARF sidelines between Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright received more attention than the forum itself, which addressed regional and international issues including the Taiwan Straits, the Korean peninsula, and US Theater Missile Defense (TMD) development. Although the Russian-US talks stole the limelight, the forum also gave clues about the shape of Russia's post-Kosovo policy.

The ARF was established in 1994 as a forum to address issues of regional and international security. In 1999, ARF remains the only security-focused international organization for the Pan-Pacific region. Currently, 22 members compose ARF, including 10 ASEAN member states and 10 dialogue partners, plus Mongolia and Papau New Guinea. (KYODO, 0241 GMT, 26 Jul 99; FBIS-EAS-0726-1999, via World News Connection) The US, Russia, China and the EU are represented as dialogue partners.

On the sidelines of the forum, Ivanov and Albright held their first talks since their early summer meeting in Helsinki. Although little of substance was achieved at the bilateral talks beyond the establishment of another Russia-US "hotline" to facilitate communications, when viewed in conjunction with the Stepashin visit and PJC meeting, Russia's effort to renew relations -- albeit cautiously -- with the US becomes apparent. Within the forum itself, Ivanov and Albright's convergent views on possible North Korean ARF membership suggested that at least they were able to look beyond Kosovo to agree on other areas of concern.

Despite the success of the bilateral talks, Russia still took advantage of the opportunity to use Kosovo's "lessons" to its political advantage within ARF. With so many "major powers" present and numerous issues of international interest steaming throughout Southeast Asia, there was abundant reason for the "lessons of Kosovo" to take the lead at the meeting. The ARF chairman's summary contained an implicit criticism of the US-led NATO actions in Kosovo. Kosovo raises important concerns about "stable relations among the major powers" and "respect for the basic principles of international law." (XINHUA, 26 Jul 99; via This summary paralleled Ivanov's more explicit speech to the forum, in which he placed heavy emphasis on the Russian policy of multipolarism, correlating it with "international stability and sustainable democratic development." Ivanov specifically used scenarios of US unilateralism -- such as Kosovo and TMD efforts in Japan -- to drive his point home. (ITAR-TASS, 0923 GMT, 26 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-0726-1999, via World News Connection) In effect, Ivanov singled out NATO's faulty course in Kosovo and the United States' headstrong pursuit of TMD in Japan as evidence of unilateralism gone bad.

The multipolar message that Ivanov brought to the forum is not new; former Prime Minister Primakov pursued the same policy throughout his tenures as foreign and prime minister. Under this policy, Russia has reached out to Asian countries that share Russian suspicions of NATO and the US to attract new strategic and economic "partners." (See The NIS Observed, 14 Jul 99.) The simultaneous emphasis on cautiously rebuilding bilateral US relations and continuing the Asian "constructive dialogue" displayed at the ARF meeting reveals the substance of Russia's post-Kosovo policy for Asia and the world. Russia has used the Kosovo example to exploit weaknesses in US policy and is now mending fences with the US even as it criticizes the US leadership. Some of the Asian participants at the ARF seemed receptive to this message. Luckily, as Ivanov made apparent at the forum, these realities fit nicely into the rhetoric of multipolarism.

by Sarah K. Miller


Yel'tsin's office becomes campaign headquarters
In most democracies a strict separation is held between party politics and the affairs of state, if only in form. In Russia, the power of the president's office clearly is being harnessed to aid the fortunes of one side in the upcoming Duma elections.

President Boris Yel'tsin, Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, presidential Chief of Staff Aleksander Voloshin and regional leaders met to discuss the possible unification of reformist movements. This much is acceptable. But when Yel'tsin suggested that the cabinet ministers should become "a drawing center," that is, the center of the reformist parties, the executive branch of the Russian government ceased to represent the needs of every Russian regardless of political affiliation and became another partisan political organization. This can only lead to increased tensions between branches of the federal government and cause different political factions to take control of their respective institutions and openly use them as party platforms. (INTERFAX, 1157 GMT, 9 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0709, via World News Connection)

On one hand, Yel'tsin's open request to turn his office into a politburo for his reformist cause is a refreshing admission of what has been in fact the case for a very long time. But form or image is very important in a democracy where the integrity of the system is the currency of legitimacy, and integrity is built upon the premise that the political system is essentially open to everyone and is evenhanded in its dealings.

Yel'tsin's stated purpose is to prevent the Communists from controlling the Duma after the December elections, so he plans to use his position to unite all non-Communist parties. To this end, Yel'tsin invited Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov to attend the meeting, though the invitation was declined. It is, therefore, confusing as to why the president, or his henchmen, have initiated a fight with Luzhkov in the country's major media outlets with attacks on the mayor's wife and other members of his family. More on this below. (INTERFAX, 1157 GMT, 9 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0709, via World News Connection)

Battles between media empires emerge
When Russian media barons draw lines in the sand and launch particularly nasty invective at each other, it must be election season. The two participants in this particular sumo wresting match are business mogul and presidential insider Boris Berezovsky and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. At a time when both sides should stand united to minimize the Communists' chances in the upcoming election, they have instead decided to take their disagreements to a public weary yet always intrigued by the presumed machinations of the powerful.

It is difficult to determine when the battle actually began. Berezovsky and Luzhkov do not particularly like each other, and in the very personalized atmosphere of Russian politics, the personal dislikes of the powerful automatically become affairs of public concern. This recent flare-up seems to be a response to a Federal Security Service (FSB) investigation of Luzhkov's wife, Yelena Baturina, for which Luzhkov holds Berezovsky responsible. The Vladimir regional branch of the FSB is reported to have raided the offices of Inteko, a plastic manufacturer headed by Ms. Baturina, and seized the firm's bank accounts. The raids were made in connection with an investigation into a number of Moscow-based companies and a local Vladimir bank allegedly involved in a plan to ship money illegally to the Pacific Island of Nauru, a well-known tax haven. Over the course of the same investigation, the FSB has reportedly also investigated firms belonging to Viktor Baturin, Luzhkov's brother-in-law. The mayor claims that his wife's company does not have an office in Vladimir and he stands by his wife. (NTV, 18 Jul 99; via Jamestown Foundation Monitor)

The real reason for the conflict between Berezovsky and Luzhkov is a struggle for power and over who will influence the upcoming elections. Berezovsky has said that he would not mind if Luzhkov's Fatherland party were to be seated in the new Duma, but that Luzhkov would make a disastrous president of the federation. It also does not help that Luzhkov is on friendly terms with the country's most popular politician, ex-prime minister Yevgeny Primakov, an old foe of Berezovsky.

But it is now widely understood by the Russian elite that control over the means of information is the way to power. Yel'tsin's amazing comeback in the 1996 presidential election was clearly the result of the heavy support given to his candidacy by the country's media. (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 13 Jul 99)

There are at least two interesting points here. The first is that this battle is occurring on the right, that is, without the Communists and their allies, the Agrarians. This might be an indication of creeping irrelevance of the Communists in Russian politics. Of course the Communists remain important, but it looks like the new Russian political landscape might be shifting from discussions of left-right, or Communist-democrat, to discussions of how to make the market economy work. This would leave the Communists as a much diminished, though still sizable, anti-establishment party. Whether this opposition would by "loyal" remains to be seen. The results of the upcoming Duma elections might provide some indication of whether this is in fact happening.

The second, and potentially more important point, is that if the powerful forces on the right spend the next four or five months slinging mud at each other, they may end up turning the electorate off and handing a victory over to the Communists and friends again. Divide and conquer is an old method of defeating the undefeatable, and it seems that the right side of the political spectrum is divided and thus conquering itself. That said, the left is no more organized, so who knows?

by Michael DeMar Thurman

GUUAM grows up

Two months ago, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev de-emphasized the strategic importance of the GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) group, saying that its existence didn't imply "the formation of an alternative military mini-bloc on CIS territory." (SNARK, 1505 GMT, 20 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0520, via World News Connection) At the time of Sergeev's remarks, GUUAM still publicly maintained that it was an economic grouping of like-minded nations, not a military bloc. By July, however, events in the CIS led Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to assess that the group had become a political-military bloc. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 26 Jul 99) Although it might appear that a seismic shift of GUUAM's focus occurred this summer, in reality, the group's strategic component is neither new nor surprising.

A look at GUUAM's formation reveals its strategic heritage. Although the group didn't really begin to solidify until its Fall 1997 meeting on the sidelines of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, its members have been working together within the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Flank Agreement dialogue since 1996. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 1 Dec 97) Drawn together by strategic and economic concerns, the then three-member group distrusted Russia's domination in energy and internal territorial issues. Together, they lobbied for the CFE Flank Agreement and opened a subregional dialogue that slowly matured over the next three years. However, from the beginning the alliance downplayed its strategic aspect, arguing that it was primarily an economic-based organization.

Recently, GUUAM began to show its true, strategic colors by using its leverage within the Russian-led CIS. In April, three GUUAM members (Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan) withdrew from the CIS Collective Security Treaty, and at the June CIS Heads of Government meeting, members of the group reportedly worked together to stymie Russian-led initiatives on CIS economic integration and restructuring. (BELORUSSKAYA DELOVAYA, 7 Jun 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0607, via World News Connection) (See The NIS Observed, 26 Apr 99.) Through these efforts, the group has established a name for itself as the "anti-Russian" bloc within the CIS.

While CIS relations have trudged along at a snail's pace, inter-GUUAM relations have gained momentum. At recent bilateral meetings, Georgia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan signed NATO-GUUAM cooperation agreements which will only feed Russian paranoia over NATO influence in the region. (See The NIS Observed, 14 Jul 99.) In a mid-May press report, Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Grigola Katamadze unsurprisingly said that military cooperation element within GUUAM comes from coinciding strategic interests. (INTERFAX, 0809 GMT, 11 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0511, via World News Connection) Most recently, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk revealed specific measures meant to "institutionalize" GUUAM's economic and strategic cooperation efforts -- all of which, inevitably, will be unsatisfactory to the Russians. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 7 Jul 99) Among the foreign minister's suggestions were a jointly administered Caspian-Central European oil transportation project, a joint Abkhazian peacekeeping operation under the aegis of the OSCE or the UN, and the continuation and expansion of joint military education and supply projects. The first would compete with Russia's preexisting energy markets, the second -- although already partially underway -- would only heighten Russian concerns about Western influence, and the third would give Georgia -- with which Russia has had particularly bad relations -- access to naval technology and hardware through Ukraine.

All signs point to GUUAM's ascendance within the region. Although it is not yet a direct competitor with the CIS, it certainly constitutes a dissident voice within it. GUUAM's recent successes only draw attention to the practically moribund state of affairs within the CIS. Furthermore, despite the muted Russian response thus far, Ivanov's remarks indicate that Russia is taking note of the situation. Russia continues to view the entire CIS in territorial terms and has placed an emphasis in the past on maintaining influence throughout CIS "territory." In an election year, it seems unlikely that this policy will change, but it also seems unlikely, given Russian commitments elsewhere, that Russia is in a position to challenge GUUAM's ascendance.

by Sarah K. Miller

How many Ukrainians does it take to screw in the plutonium?
There may be no quicksand in Ukraine, but its leaders undoubtedly know what it feels like. Ukraine continued fighting energy shortages this week, while at the same time reiterating its demands that the G-7 fulfill its agreement to fund replacement nuclear reactors for Chernobyl. The country met with little success on either front. In fact, the situation worsened. Gazprom announced plans to cut gas supplies further; seven of Ukraine's 14 nuclear reactors were, or will soon be, temporarily shut down for repairs; almost two thousand miners and their wives began long-term protest marches over wage arrears; Ukraine agreed to write off most Russian debt related to the Black Sea Fleet as partial repayment of its $1 billion debt for gas; agricultural experts suggested that Ukraine's grain harvest would be the lowest in five years largely due to fuel shortages; villagers began blocking the border to Poland at Medyka after their electricity was cut off; and both the G-7 and EU took no final action on funding Ukraine's two new nuclear reactors.

Last but not least, three workers at the Chernobyl plant were exposed to "high levels" of radiation. The workers were exposed to "between one and nine rems of radiation" while they were checking the welds on Chernobyl's one functioning reactor, according to spokesman Oleg Goloskokov. The maximum yearly allowable dose is five rems. (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 1227 GMT, 19 Jul 99; via nexis) The reactor is temporarily closed for repairs.

According to another spokesperson, Nadiya Shumak, the accident happened when "the source of radiation fell out of the monitoring device." (REUTERS, 20 Jul 99; via Russia Today) Just a few days earlier, a 3mm thick and 80mm long pipe was destroyed when a worker failed to notice that it was attached to the loading vehicle he was driving. (ITAR-TASS, 0553 GMT, 16 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0716, via World News Connection)

Meanwhile, the head of Energoatom, which runs Ukraine's nuclear industry, was issued a reprimand for not completing repairs to the country's largest reactors on time. (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 2013 GMT, 28 Jul 99; via nexis) However, the accidents at Chernobyl had nothing to do with the safety of the plant, according to Vitaly Tolstonogov, the plant's managing director. "We can say that the personnel are guilty," he explained, blaming low morale resulting from wage arrears stretching back months. No doubt, this explanation was comforting to those living in the area of Chernobyl.

In the one slightly positive energy development recently, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development released a $116 million tranche to Ukraine to assist in "urgent" repairs on the sarcophagus over Chernobyl's reactor 4. The EBRD has now distributed just over $260 million of the promised $760 million to build a new sarcophagus, known as Sarcophagus 2. (REUTERS, 21 Jul 99; via Russia Today) During German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's visit to Kyiv in early July, he spoke for the EU when he said, "The sarcophagus is really a time bomb, but we only have half the funds needed to carry out repairs." (AGENE FRANCE-PRESSE, 23 Jul 99; via Russia Today) Not to worry -- like the funds for Ukraine's nuclear reactors, there is probably plenty of time. Only 10 percent of the sarcophagus is cracked, after all. And, Ukraine still has 60 percent of the energy production it needs. There's plenty of time.

A trip through the election funhouse
Like an amusement park funhouse, the election season in Ukraine has become a game of figuring out what is real, what is really happening, and who is really telling the truth. It is a case of heightened paranoia -- perhaps realistic, perhaps not.

From television stations being closed by the state, to purported investigations by the Secret Service, to accusations of rigged polls, to one candidate being pelted with tomatoes, this election season has gone into full swing. First, Communist presidential candidate Petro Symonenko charged that "a recurrent provocation is being prepared against me .... To compromise me, it is planned to open an account abroad in the name of my son." Symonenko then went on to deny ever having a bank account abroad. (KIEVSKIYE VEDOMOSTI, 21 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0722, via World News Connection) Of course, if an account is found, it will have been planted. Right?

Next, the Ukrainian government rescinded the broadcast licenses for four television stations in the Crimean Republic. The Association of Free Journalists quickly protested that "the only TV companies left operating ... are those that support the same candidate." (ITAR-TASS, 1547 GMT, 26 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0726, via World News Connection)

Shortly thereafter, Socialist Party leader and presidential candidate Oleksandr Moroz claimed that a Russian-language television station, Inter Television, was announcing rigged poll numbers, the head of the Central Election Commission, Mykhaylo Ryabets, said that "some people" have tried to blackmail him, and former Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk accused the tax administration of punishing candidates, while suggesting that all candidates need armed guards.

Meanwhile, Deputy (but not presidential candidate) Hryhoriy Omelchenko claimed that a "top secret" document showed a pattern of investigating local media by the Ukrainian Secret Service (SSS). The document, which may have been real, would have had more weight if Omelchenko had not also claimed that the SSS was planning to assassinate him. (INTELNEWS, 0600 GMT, 29 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0729, via World News Connection)

And finally, Moroz was pelted with tomatoes during a campaign stop, and Speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko took the high road at another event when he explained, "I do not want to say anything bad about [presidential candidate] Natalya Vitrenko because she is a woman. Had she not been a woman, I would have put it differently. We treat women well." (UT-1 TELEVISION NETWORK, 1800 GMT, 25 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0726, via World News Connection)

Thank goodness that Tkachenko, Moroz and Marchuk have decided to put this behavior aside by signing a "Fair Elections Agreement." The agreement includes calls for equal access to the media, an end to "crude agitation and propaganda," and elimination of "violence, threats and bribes." (UNIAN, 1030 GMT, 28 Jul 99; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, via nexis) Curiously missing is a call to discuss the actual issues facing the country. But, for those who worry that this agreement might lead to peace, love, and a boring election, don't be concerned. When asked to sign the document, President Kuchma responded, "I think those guys weren't feeling too well when they were saying these things. ... Well, my dear people, I've had mud slung at me by some of these people and it keeps coming. I will never put my signature next to his (sic)." (UT THIRD PROGRAM, 1700 GMT, 31 Jul 99; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, via nexis)

Takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'
On 29 January 1999, following large-scale protests against the Russia-Belarus Union Declaration, Semyon Sharetsky, speaker of the disbanded 1996 parliament, said, "Favorable conditions have now developed in Belarus for overthrowing Aleksandr Lukashenka's anti-people dictatorial regime, and this chance should not be missed." (BELAPAN, 1605 GMT, 29 Jan 99; FBIS-SOV-99-030, via World News Connection) (For further background, see Editorial Digest, 15 Feb 99.)

On 20 July, Sharetsky and his fellow opposition members tried their best, but failed. That date marked the official, internationally accepted end of President Aleksandr Lukashenka's term. It also marked the beginning of the week celebrating Belarus' Independence Day on 27 July. That commemoration was abolished by Lukashenka in 1996 -- the same year that he abolished the elected parliament.

Between 3,500-5000 protesters converged on Minsk on 21 July, the first day of Lukashenka's "new term." The protesters held a four-hour demonstration outside the president's headquarters, while Sharetsky announced that he had signed a decree declaring himself the president of Belarus. (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 2356 GMT, 22 Jul 99; via nexis) The legitimate constitution of Belarus names the speaker of parliament as acting president in the event of a vacancy in the office of the president. A large number of persons were arrested, although figures listed by media sources range from 10 to 70.

On 27 July, another 3,000 protesters gathered to celebrate Independence Day. Ten demonstrators were reportedly arrested during the protest, while its organizers were to be arrested later. Their heinous crime? Trying to enter Independence Square. (INTERFAX, 28 Jul 99; via nexis)

Even before the Independence Day rally, however, Semyon Sharetsky had fled to Lithuania. It is surprising, actually, that Sharetsky waited as long as he did to leave. Sharetsky has watched as former prime minister and popular opposition leader Mikhail Chigir has remained in state custody since April, charged with "embezzlement." The arrest preceded Chigir's participation in May's "shadow" presidential elections.

While Chigir is the most high-profile activist in detention, Amnesty International has compiled a list of others currently under arrest in Belarus that includes most of the prominent public figures opposed to Lukashenka: Vyacheslav Sivchik, leader of the Popular Party; Andrey Klimov, a (disbanded) 13th Supreme Soviet deputy; Valery Shchukin, 13th Supreme Soviet deputy; Anatoly Grikhytik, Yury Ostrovsky and Ivan Suntsov, activists; Pavel Znavets, 13th Supreme Soviet deputy and leader of the Charter 97 human rights group; Oleg Volchek, Minsk City Council deputy; and Irina Halip, editor of the newspaper Imya. Halip was released recently. (AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, 23 Jul 99; M2 Presswire, via nexis) Several other prominent activists and independent journalists have also been repeatedly arrested, questioned, had their property confiscated and then been released.

Add to this the lukewarm support given to him by Western countries and institutions, and it is no wonder that Sharetsky fled the country. While the OSCE, EU and United States all released statements calling for free, democratic elections, and recognizing that Lukashenka's term ended on 20 July, the statements were also careful not to lend any overt support to Sharetsky and his fellow Supreme Soviet deputies. The EU statement said, for example, "The Union recalls that it does not recognize governments, and even less political personalities, but States, according to the most common international practice." (European Union, DECLARATION BY THE PRESIDENCY ON BEHALF OF THE EUROPEAN UNION ON BELARUS, 20 Jul 99)

The United States Department of State, meanwhile, marked the "end of ... Lukashenka's legal term of office," and called on him to restore his "legitimacy" by holding free elections. It also recognized the 13th Supreme Soviet "as Belarus' sole legitimate parliament." But, the statement then called on "the government of Belarus to enter into a dialogue with the opposition ...." (US Department of State, PRESS STATEMENT by James P. Rubin, 20 Jul 99; via No doubt, Sharetsky grasped the significance of that sentence, and understood that his Western support was limited.

He will, he said, continue to lead the opposition from Vilnius. It remains to be seen, however, whether an opposition can actually oppose from jail cells and foreign countries.

The spotlight shines
Moldova found itself in an unusual position recently as the world's media focused on the country's role in the capture of Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) rebel Cevat Soysal. The government, however, quickly realized that this was not the type of attention that it needed.

Although the role played by Moldova in Soysal's capture is still being debated, the fact is that Soysal was taken from Moldova by Turkish forces to Turkey to stand trial on charges of treason. He was probably arrested by the Moldovan security service, although the government officially denies this. Soysal likely arrived in Moldova in early July.

Soysal was named during an interrogation by Abdullah Ocalan as being in charge of training rebels abroad -- particularly in Romania. The PKK, of course, denies this charge, and points out that Soysal was given political asylum by Germany recently. (ASSOCIATED PRESS, AM Cycle, 21 Jul 99; via nexis)

Moldova's role in this affair has been highlighted by PKK members, which has led to much worry by government officials. It turned out that their concern was warranted -- at least on the surface. On 22 July, PKK leadership released a statement saying Moldova, Kenya and any other countries assisting Turkey would be "made to pay the bill sooner or later." (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 1135 GMT, 22 Jul 99; via nexis)

by Tammy Lynch

Compromise in sight?
Presidents Heidar Aliev of Azerbaijan and Robert Kocharian of Armenia met in seclusion in Geneva on 16 July to discuss possible solutions to the deadlock over Nagorno-Karabakh. Each president gave positive assessments of the talks and of his counterpart, and suggested that the meeting may have inaugurated a new peace process.

If these summits replace the OSCE Minsk Group, that would indeed be a positive development. Ongoing negotiations, conducted on a bilateral basis, would lessen Russian influence over the outcome and shed the cumbersome bureaucracy of the OSCE process. The parties may still enlist the aid of a neutral facilitator, such as Switzerland or Poland, whose president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, recently offered his good offices to Kocharian. (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 16 Jul 99)

The planning of the meeting originated on the sidelines of the NATO summit in April, where Madeleine Albright hosted a discussion between the two presidents. The process was delayed by Aliev's heart surgery and recuperation in May and June.

In mid-June the Armenian side attacked Azerbaijani positions to the north of Nagorno-Karabakh. The fighting on 14 June lasted for several hours and left two Azeri servicemen dead and several injured. Although the Armenian gains are minor (OSCE officials certified that the Armenian side moved the line of contact forward only a few hundred yards), Azerbaijani generals fear that the attack represented an attempt to isolate the city Gyandzha from the rest of Azerbaijan. (NEZAVIVIMAYA GAZETA, 18 Jun 99) Perhaps this incident, the most serious fighting since 1997, represented an Armenian attempt to obtain an even more forceful position on the eve of negotiations. Conversely, the fighting may not have had a strategic aim but revealed the degree of tension on the contact line and convinced the parties that a new peace process is needed.

In Geneva Aliev and Kocharian indicated that they may be able to compromise: Armenia no longer insists on complete adherence to the last OSCE proposal for a "common-state" and Azerbaijan no longer insists on complete adherence to the OSCE's 1996 Lisbon declaration. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 22 Jul 99) Although the presidents have revealed very little information about the substance of the talks, they have already come under fire from the more nationalist segments of their countrymen.

In Azerbaijan the leaders of the opposition parties denounced Aliev, who they contend has bowed to US pressure and conceded too much already. The opposition holds that Azerbaijan's territorial integrity can only be secured through military parity, that Armenia will agree to return Azerbaijani districts only when Azerbaijan is in a position to take them back. One Azerbaijani paper, Azadlyg, interpreted Aliev's comment that "the greatest degree of self-government implies freedom anyway and it is nearly independence," to mean that he was ready to grant more concessions. Of course, that comment can be read to mean precisely the opposite: why seek independence when its equivalent, self-government, is readily available? Azadlyg made a more vexing point by noting that the status of Shusha and Lachin, two Azeri-populated towns situated between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, has been omitted from the public discussion in recent months, whereas it used to comprise a key Azerbaijani demand. (AZADLYG, 20 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0722, via World News Connection)

For his part, President Kocharian received a stern warning from the Nagorno-Karabakh leadership. Naira Melkumian, the foreign minister, rejected the Azerbaijan position, saying that "we are not going to hold negotiations between autonomy and a common state. We are going to hold negotiations between independence and a common state." Nagorno-Karabakh's sovereignty can be limited to the degree that another country can represent its foreign interests. If Armenia concedes too much, the Karabakh government can turn to "some other third country which is able to maintain our security. Most probably, the model of West Berlin can be an example for us." With respect to the army, finance and state structures, Nagorno-Karabakh expects to attain complete independence. (SNARK, 0550 GMT, 20 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0722, via World News Connection)

Both governments sought to placate such sentiments by reiterating the less-conciliatory elements of their positions. Azerbaijan still insists on a restoration of its territorial integrity while Armenia will not commit itself without the blessing of the Nagorno-Karabakh government.

A new 'strategic partnership'
In a recent interview President Eduard Shevardnadze described relations between the US and Georgia as gradually assuming the qualities of a "strategic partnership." (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 22 Jul 99) The term, previously reserved for Russia, is rather ambiguous, but denotes very special relations, more friendly than a simple alliance.

In recent months Georgia and Azerbaijan announced their intention to seek NATO membership. Their application will no doubt benefit from their participation in the Kosovo peacekeeping operation. Azerbaijan has dispatched a 30-member unit to serve as part of a Turkish battalion. (AZERBAIJAN BULLETIN, 27 Jul 99) Georgia will send 20 peacekeepers who will serve with the French or Turkish forces.

by Miriam Lanskoy

Rocket crash provides chance for new agreement on Baikonur
The 5 July crash of Russia's Proton rocket in eastern Kazakhstan has permitted the Kazakh government to bring a number of long-standing concerns back into the media spotlight, as well as providing an opportunity to begin renegotiating its 1994 Baikonur lease agreement with Russia. Kazakh authorities' first response to the incident was to ban all further rocket launches from the Baikonur cosmodrome, regardless of whether or not they were driven by heptyl fuel. After days of discussions between the two sides, on 14 July Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov finally announced that both governments had come to an agreement on virtually all the issues raised by the 5 July Proton rocket crash over part of Kazakhstan's eastern territory (INTERFAX, 1054 GMT, 14 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0714, via World News Connection), allowing Russian and Ukrainian rocket launches to resume. However, Kazakh officials have only lifted the ban on non-heptyl powered rockets; as of 3 August, the ban on Proton rocket launches from the Baikonur launch site was still very much in effect. (INTERFAX RUSSIAN NEWS, 3 Aug 99; via nexis) Furthermore, the Kazakh government continues to express its dissatisfaction with the 1994 Baikonur lease agreement, which denies Kazakhstan any share in the commercial profits that Russia garners from each rocket launch, and also deprives Kazakh authorities of the power to approve or prevent individual launches. Russia's failure to pay an annual $115 million in rent for its use of the Baikonur cosmodrome since 1994 is yet another issue which must be addressed, as well as Russian officials' disregard for past Kazakh concerns that the Baikonur spacecraft launches cause widespread environmental damage.

Due to the fuel's toxicity, the Kazakh environmental ministry declared a ban on the launch of all rockets that use heptyl as early as last May, but Baikonur authorities chose to ignore the ministry's orders. (INTERFAX RUSSIAN NEWS, 11 Jul 99; via nexis) It should come as no surprise, then, that the joint Kazakh-Russian medical commission charged with investigating the ecological results of the recent crash has completely dismissed Kazakh officials' fears that the leakage of heptyl fuel from the Proton rocket may have caused environmental damage in Karaganda Region, and may pose a serious health hazard. The commission's first report to the Kazakh government stated that its members had found no signs of water or soil contamination from spilled rocket fuel and that all illnesses suffered by residents of the crash site were "the result of psychological stress caused by the incident." (INTERFAX RUSSIAN NEWS, 29 Jul 99; via nexis) Other Kazakh experts, however, have alleged that 66 tons of heptyl fuel were sprayed over Karaganda Region when the rocket fell. (ITAR-TASS, 1432 GMT, 9 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0709, via World News Connection) In all, 40 large and 100 small rocket fragments were found in Karakaly district (east of the city Karaganda), including pieces of the fuel tank. (INTERFAX RUSSIAN NEWS, 20 Jul 99; via nexis) There have even been reports that the Baianaul National Park in Kazakhstan's northern Pavlodar Region has suffered heptyl contamination. (INTERFAX RUSSIAN NEWS, 8 Jul 99; via nexis)

The Russian government has declared its willingness to pay Kazakhstan for any material damages which the rocket crash may have incurred, which Russian officials have estimated to be in the range of $230,000-$270,000, although Kazakhstan's own experts have tallied the cost of the damage at approximately $287,444 (equivalent to 38 million tenge). (INTERFAX RUSSIAN NEWS, 30 Jul 99; via nexis) However, Russia will not pay compensation directly to the residents of the crash site area, despite regional officials' efforts to obtain remuneration for harm suffered by the local population. The residents of Karbyshevka, a village in Karaganda Region where large rocket fragments were found, have gone so far as to demand that they be temporarily resettled until the scope of the health threats posed by the rocket debris has been fully determined. The villagers have complained that they are also experiencing adverse economic effects from the rocket crash because they have been unable to sell their meat and dairy products to anyone since 5 July. However, with the exception of granting a few small individual damage claims, the Kazakh government has ignored the Karaganda Region population's requests for resettlement or monetary compensation. (INTERFAX RUSSIAN NEWS, 14 Jul 99; via nexis) Kazakh authorities' lack of reaction to the villagers' concerns could well be directly connected to Russia's refusal to admit that the spacecraft's crash poses either a health hazard or an environmental threat.

In order to persuade Kazakh officials to lift at least partially the launch ban, Russia once again promised to begin making rent payments for its lease of the Baikonur facilities, pledging to give the Kazakh government $50 million by the end of 1999 and to provide another $65 million worth of goods and services over the course of the year 2000. No decisions have yet been made regarding the unpaid rent for 1994-1998, which Russia would prefer simply to subtract from Kazakhstan's debts for Russian energy supplies to a number of regions on the Kazakh-Russian border. (DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR, 1444 CET, 14 Jul 99; via nexis) It is somewhat questionable, however, whether Kazakhstan will receive even the 1999 rent payments, since the Russian government has yet to ratify the 1994 Baikonur lease agreement and is also considering transferring control of the Baikonur cosmodrome from the defense ministry to the Russian aerospace agency. (INTERFAX RUSSIAN NEWS, 14 Jul 99; via nexis) Until it is clear from what part of the budget the rent money should be taken, the Kazakh government may not receive any funds from Russia at all.

Kazakhstan's administration will receive another opportunity to extract concessions from the Russian government later in August, when the two sides meet to renegotiate the Baikonur lease agreement. Each party is to draft an auxiliary agreement by 1 September on such issues as: the creation of a joint emergency procedure in the event of another accident involving a Baikonur rocket launch; environmental protection measures and the extent of Russia's liability for damages caused by spacecraft explosions on Kazakh territory; and the establishment of quotas for further Proton rocket launches. According to Meirbek Moldabekov, director of the Kazakh National Aerospace Agency, Russian officials have even proclaimed themselves willing to consider sharing the commercial profits from each rocket launch (estimated at approximately $85 million per launch) with the Kazakh government. (INTERFAX RUSSIAN NEWS, 21 Jul 99; via nexis)

It remains to be seen whether the Kazakh side will stand firm and maintain its ban on Proton rocket launches until its demands are met, or whether President Nazarbaev's desire for cordial relations with Russia will cause any of Kazakhstan's interests to be sacrificed during the next phase of the Baikonur negotiations. On the one hand, Kazakh officials have found a relatively easy means of exerting pressure on the Russian government, which will not have a cosmodrome capable of launching unusually heavy spacecraft for some years to come. (INTERFAX RUSSIAN NEWS, 30 Jul 99; via nexis) On the other hand, it is still very much in Kazakhstan's interests to maintain a good relationship with Russia, if for no other reason than that Russia is still Kazakhstan's largest trade partner. Furthermore, Kazakhstan's longest border by far is with the Russian Federation, giving the Russian side considerable influence over Kazakh trade routes. Lastly, Kazakhstan is still dependent on Russian goodwill for exporting a portion of its petroleum resources. Kazakhstan's economic vulnerability to the effects of Russia's financial crises became painfully apparent last autumn, when the tenge's value plunged in response to the fall of the Russian ruble. Needless to say, the Kazakh delegation does not face an easy task as it approaches the renegotiation of the 1994 Baikonur lease agreement.

Disputes with Uzbekistan continue to create tensions
Despite Kyrgyz Prime Minister Amangeldi Muraliev's recent visit to Tashkent, during which he signed a number of "mutual cooperation" agreements in an effort to promote cordial Kyrgyz-Uzbek relations, the two governments have yet to resolve their most significant disputes. Prime Minister Muraliev was unable to come to a compromise over the price of the Uzbek natural gas upon which much of Kyrgyzstan depends for heat and hot water, nor was he able to settle long-standing disagreements over mutual debts for water and electricity supplies. Controversies over the ownership rights to industrial enterprises located in the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border regions have created further tensions. (KYRGYZ TELEVISION FIRST CHANNEL, 1430 GMT, 12 Jul 99; BBC Worldwide Monitoring Central Asia Unit, via nexis)

Trade turnover between the two countries has suffered severely in response to these types of disputes, falling by 52 percent in 1998 alone. Over the past six months Uzbekistan has imposed strict limits on traffic crossing into Kyrgyzstan, angering Kyrgyz officials and eventually prompting them to take similar actions. (VECHERNIY BISHKEK, 12 Jul 99; BBC Worldwide Monitoring Central Asia Unit; via nexis)

Kyrgyzstan may be able to solve its natural gas supply difficulties by simply finding another source of fuel, namely, Kazakhstan. On 30 July, Kyrgyz gas officials announced that they will soon begin buying gas from Kazakhstan at a lower price than the Uzbek gas company has required them to pay. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 2 Aug 99) This may provide Kyrgyz citizens and industries with a more stable source of fuel and also deprive the Uzbek government of at least one method of exerting pressure on President Akaev's administration.

However, there seems to be no way of protecting Kyrgyz citizens from the whims of Uzbekistan's security forces. A human rights coordinator in Kyrgyzstan's Jalalabad Province (close to the Uzbek border) has reported that over the past year at least 10 Kyrgyz citizens have been kidnapped by Uzbek interior ministry units and transported back to Uzbekistan. The kidnap victims were arrested on suspicion of being "Wahhabis," (Jamestown Foundation PRISM, 16 Jul 99) a term which the Uzbek government now uses to describe virtually any Muslim who is suspected of opposing President Karimov's policies. A phenomenon which has alarmed Jalalabad's residents even further is that the Uzbek security personnel often seem to be in the company of persons who participated in the June 1990 violence between Uzbek and Kyrgyz groups in Osh (a Kyrgyz city located south of Jalalabad). These persons were arrested and imprisoned, but have apparently now been set free, perhaps in order to help Uzbek law enforcement officers identify suspected Uzbek opposition members who reside in Kyrgyzstan.

President Akaev has done little to prevent these illegal raids by Uzbek security forces into Kyrgyz territory, in fact, he has not even lodged an official protest with the Uzbek government. In a 7 July interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta, he went so far as to call Kyrgyzstan's relations with Uzbekistan "good-neighborly." (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 9 Jul 99) In fact, there may be little recourse for Kyrgyzstan with regard to the Uzbek government's acts of aggression against Kyrgyz citizens. Kyrgyzstan cannot afford to become involved in any type of armed conflict with Uzbekistan's far superior military forces and the Kyrgyz government does not have sufficient economic or political leverage to force the Uzbek interior ministry to become more observant of international law. Nonetheless, President Akaev's apparent refusal to confront the Uzbek government over its invasions of Kyrgyzstan's sovereign territory will certainly not discourage Uzbek security forces from repeating their raids. In fact, President Karimov's administration may even interpret the Kyrgyz president's silence as tacit approval which could embolden the Uzbek interior ministry to commit even more brazen acts.

UTO gives up claim to defense ministry post
After weeks of negotiations, Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leaders have finally agreed on a date for the country's first national referendum, as well as on the issues to be voted on during the referendum. President Rahmonov also made a number of changes in his government, in order to bring his regime into compliance with the political protocol of the Inter-Tajik Peace Agreement, thereby meeting most of the opposition's latest demands. The UTO was granted administrative control over 14 geographical areas and additional opposition candidates were appointed to government posts both at the national and local level. However, one of the UTO's most long-standing demands, that Commander Mirzo Ziyo be granted the post of defense minister, was ultimately rejected by President Rahmonov. For as yet unstated reasons, the UTO leadership accepted the president's veto and agreed to Cmdr. Ziyo's appointment as minister of emergency situations and civil defense.

President Rahmonov's steadfast refusal to name a member of the UTO to lead the defense ministry, particularly such a prominent military figure as Mirzo Ziyo, is not at all surprising. There was undoubtedly tremendous opposition to Cmdr. Ziyo's appointment among the president's allies in the government, to say nothing of the sentiments that the Russian troop commanders in Tajikistan must have expressed at the prospect of ceding the defense ministry to the opposition. The Jamestown Foundation Monitor has suggested that the main reason behind President Rahmonov's unwavering rejection of Mirzo Ziyo's nomination to the post of defense minister is the fact that this ministry is actually controlled by the Office of the Russian Military Advisor. According to the Monitor's report, this body consists of a group of Russian military officers which closely supervises the activities of Tajikistan's defense ministry and most likely is vehemently opposed to the appointment of a UTO member as defense minister. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 21 Jul 99) Since defying the wishes of the Russian military officers stationed in Tajikistan could easily cause the collapse of his government, President Rahmonov can be expected to follow their directives with little hesitation.

The UTO leadership's decision to accept the president's offer to make Cmdr. Ziyo the minister of emergency situations and civil defense is far more difficult to fathom. At the end of June, Tajikistan's parliament voted to upgrade the Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defense to a ministry, in order to create an additional ministry post for the UTO, since by then it had become apparent that ceding the leadership of the defense ministry was totally out of the question. (VOICE OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, 1600 GMT, 1 Jul 99; BBC Worldwide Monitoring Central Asia Unit, via nexis) Thus, Cmdr. Ziyo's new post is not only much less influential than the position he was originally promised (the defense ministry is considered one of the "power ministries"), but most likely lacks all the resources that a more established ministry would have at its disposal. However, Said Abdullo Nuri (the chairman of the UTO) himself traveled out to Tavildora to persuade Cmdr. Ziyo to accept this much less prestigious position, without any explanation for why he had so suddenly yielded to President Rahmonov over the issue.

Perhaps Mr. Nuri believed that accepting a lower-ranking ministry post for Mirzo Ziyo was the only solution for breaking the deadlock between President Rahmonov's administration and the opposition and that the continuation of this deadlock would put the entire peace process at risk. It is very unlikely that President Rahmonov would have given in on this issue, regardless of the consequences. Over the past few years, the president has clearly indicated that he is unwilling to flout the wishes of the officers who command the Russian troops stationed in Tajikistan. In a case such as this one, where complying with the Russian officers' injunctions requires violating the terms of the Inter-Tajik Peace Agreement, there is little doubt how the situation would be resolved. President Rahmonov knows full well that while fulfilling the terms of the peace agreement will please his Western audience, it cannot guarantee his hold on the presidency, whereas carrying out policies dictated by his Russian military allies could keep him in power for many years to come.

The questions which now arise are whether the unity of the UTO will withstand the concessions made by its leaders to the Tajik government and whether Mr. Nuri has discredited himself and his leadership ability in the eyes of his peers. Mirzo Ziyo has many supporters, a number of whom voiced their dissatisfaction at his exclusion from power in the past and may now choose to do so again, despite Cmdr. Ziyo's own acceptance of the circumstances. Mr. Nuri and the rest of the UTO leadership may be perceived as having made one too many concessions to President Rahmonov's regime and its Russian allies, in order to rescue a peace process that over the past several months seems to have mainly benefited the president and his administration.

by Monika Shepherd

NATO continues to stroke Baltic feathers

Meeting with the other members of the US-Baltic Partnership Commission, Strobe Talbott said that, while not foreordained, the inclusion of the Baltic states in NATO is "desirable." "[T]he three Baltic states are not only eligible for membership in the alliance, they are making very real and concrete progress in that direction. No country should be excluded from eligibility for the alliance on the grounds of either geography or history... I would stop just short of saying it's inevitable. It is desirable," he said. (US Department of State, DEPARTMENT BRIEFING, 16 Jul 99; Federal News Service, via nexis) Desirable for some, but certainly not for others. Russia's repeated demand that NATO not expand onto the territory of the former Soviet Union brought a succinct response from newly elected Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga: "I don't think they have any business making those sort of pronouncements.... They have oppressed these countries for 50 years, and that is quite enough." She also drew the line on how NATO should respond to Russian demands. "If this alliance now bows to totalitarian aims and efforts, I think it will have discredited itself in terms of the moral ground that it stands on. ...It would be a severe indictment of its moral stance and all the ideals of democracy that NATO is supposed to be protecting." She said. (TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL, 9 Jul 99; Ventura County Star, via nexis)

The Baltic states' lack of full membership did not stop invitations from headquarters to take part in the alliance's latest project. Secretary-General Javier Solana sent a formal invitation to Estonia to participate in the international peace mission in Kosovo on 13 July. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1600 GMT, 13 Jul 99) Two weeks earlier, the Estonian government had allocated funding to send 10 peacekeepers to Kosovo. Latvia, too, received from Solana "a political invitation to check our readiness" to take part in NATO ventures, according to Latvian Defense Minister Girtis Valdis Kristovskis. (INTERFAX, 1420 GMT, 12 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0712, via World News Connection) The Latvian Saeima had already approved the deployment of 15 soldiers to Kosovo. At least one recent check on Latvia's readiness has brought a positive evaluation. Rear Admiral Christen H. Vinter of the Danish Royal Navy, visiting the port of Liepaja under the military cooperation program, reported that the preparedness and training of the Latvian Navy is on par with navies of NATO member states. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1300 GMT, 25 Jun 99)

It may be summertime, but the livin' ain't easy
Farmers in the agriculturally dependent Baltic states have been crying out for state-sponsored support for some time now, but the situation has continued to deteriorate. Estonian farmers are applying for 700 million kroons (US$45,690,000) in capital and direct subsidies from the government for next year. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1000 GMT, 16 Jul 99) Lithuanian farmers took their concerns to the roads, crowding onto main thoroughfares. Sugar beet growers protested for about a week on a highway in the Marijampole district, while other farmers staged what they called a one-day precautionary picket rally on the main roads of the country. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1300 GMT, 14 Jul 99)

Semantics hold up language law promulgation
Although the Latvian Saeima did, indeed, pass the proposed language law in the third reading last month, discussion on the issue is nowhere near the end. The topic, upon which everyone in the international community feels quite free to comment, will remain unresolved until the fall session, when members of parliament can respond to the president's refusal on 14 July to promulgate the bill.

President Vaira Vike-Freiberga did not make her decision lightly -- that would have been impossible given the international clamor the proposed bill had generated. Unlike many members of parliament who appeared to make their voting decision in defiance of outside observers, however, she clearly heard the message despite the messengers. And there were plenty of those. The problem remains imprecise terminology, as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) continues to point out.

US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott applauded Vike-Freiberga's action, and reassured Latvia that the OSCE recommendations would not be never-ending. "...[T]he United States, while supporting the OSCE standards with respect to all of the member states of the OSCE, will also make sure not to permit the goal posts to be moved in some way that will be unfair or disadvantageous to a worthy democracy which aspires, as all of these states do, to full membership in all of the institutions of the Euro-Atlantic community," he said during a meeting of the US-Baltic Partnership Commission in Washington, DC. (US Department of State, DEPARTMENT BRIEFING, 16 Jul 99; Federal News Service, via nexis)

The OSCE was not the only member of the international community interested in the Saeima vote on the language law. The Latvian representative to the Council of Europe (CE) Parliamentary Assembly, Juris Sinka, met with CE Secretary-General Daniel Tarschys to discuss the bill before the vote. Sinka characterized the talks as "pointless and useless." "It is always fruitful to talk, but sometimes it is less fruitful," Sinka said. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1000 GMT, 25 Jun 99)

After the Saeima passed the law in the third reading, Tarschys note that the adopted law "is not in line with Latvia's international commitments, particularly the European Convention on Human Rights which recognizes the freedom of expression and association and the right to privacy," Tarschys explained. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1800 GMT, 9 Jul 99) CE Parliamentary Assembly Chairman Lord Russel-Johnston remarked on his view that the law infringes on the personal (not "human" or "political") rights of a major portion of the country's population. Shortly thereafter, OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities Max van der Stoel also objected formally to the law, reiterating his concern that imprecise definitions could lead to misinterpretations. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1300 GMT, 13 Jul 99) The chairman of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, Ole Espersen, also sent a letter voicing opposition. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1600 GMT, 14 Jul 99) Not all of the concern emanated from without Latvia's borders, moreover. The State Human Rights Office repeated the concerns of others, viewing the law as inadequately drafted with badly defined terms and guidelines.

If international organizations held the stick, however, the United States offered the carrot. The US weighed in after the fact, praising Vike-Freiberga's decision in the face of the Saeima's resounding vote for the bill. "The US Government applauds President Vike-Freiberga's courage and foresight in returning the language law to the parliament for revision," State Department spokesman James Rubin said. "The US Government does not, and will not, ask for changes in the law that go beyond the OSCE's recommendations, and will not support any demands in excess of those recommendations." (US Department of State, PRESS STATEMENT by James P. Rubin, 15 Jul 99; via

Support for fluency expectations came from a completely unexpected source. "I understand -- and this is an indisputable fact -- that our Russian people who intend to live in Latvia should know Latvian. How can one live in a country without knowing its language?," said Russian Duma Chairman Gennady Seleznev. (INTERFAX, 1021 GMT, 13 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0713, via World News Connection) His compatriot, Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, did not agree. Stepashin railed against the Latvian parliament's passage of its language bill. The Latvians were ungrateful for Russia having liberated Latvia from the Nazis and constructed modern industry there, he said. Russia and the foreign ministry should react more sharply to discrimination against their compatriots, he added. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 10 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0713, via World News Connection)

Meanwhile, some Russian speakers within Latvia received a clearer picture of where they stood -- a little clearer, anyway. Understandably concerned with how the discussions were proceeding, members of the Russian Community in Latvia began to backpedal their earlier demand that Russia be recognized as the second state language in the country. Spokesman for the community's council, Garolds Astakhovs, said the Russian Community in Latvia would withdraw its demand if the Saeima allows the free and unpunished use of Russian in the educational, cultural, scientific, information, business, and documentation spheres where they do not relate to state legislative documents. (RADIO RIGA NETWORK, 0900 GMT, 23 Jul 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0723, via World News Connection)

Resolution of this issue will not come quickly. Vike-Freiberga asked the MPs not to rush with revision of the language law, but rather to evaluate it carefully. She suggested that the law should emphasize the country's wish to integrate non-Latvians into society and create an environment friendly to foreign investors while at the same time understanding that Latvian is the state language and should be respected. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1000 GMT, 15 Jul 99) Newly chosen Prime Minister Andris Skele responded positively, and the law will be discussed in the autumn session, which begins on 26 August.

Stronger government coalition formed
Negotiations to form a new government under People's Party leader Andris Skele brought a quick end to a political coalition that had formed over the much-discussed language law, to no one's surprise. What had been surprising was that the parties had managed to agree at all. Skele's attempts to build a workable government did hit a snag, though, when Latvia's Way made it clear it could not work with the Social Democrats. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1500 GMT, 10 Jul 99) Ironically, a similar declaration by Skele after the fall 1998 elections brought the Kristopans government to power, despite the election results strongly favoring Skele's party. (See discussion in The NIS Observed, 14 Jul 99.) Three parties with a combined total of 62 votes in the 100-member parliament -- the People's Party, Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK and Latvia's Way -- did manage to form a government, and split Cabinet posts equally among themselves. The plan, according to Skele, is to initiate an aggressive series of reforms to tackle the economic crisis, an ambitious aim since this year's crisis was in large part due to external factors, such as Russia's economic collapse. (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 0752 GMT, 16 Jul 99; via nexis)

Estonia is no role model, CE representative warns
Latvia was not the only country receiving negative international attention. The director of the Council of Europe mission in Latvia, Gunter Weiss, said Estonia's passage of a restrictive language law should not serve as a role model for Latvia. The European Union had made similar rebukes to Estonia in the past as it recently made to Latvia. "I don't think it would be wise to repeat in Latvia what Estonia has done before. Estonia may soon run into difficulty because of that law," Weiss said. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1300 GMT, 7 Jul 99) The Estonian law mandates that persons working in the service sector must be able to communicate with clients in Estonian. While the amendments have earned sharp criticism from Russia and from the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities, Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves reassured reporters that the "implementation act of the Estonian language law is in full conformity with the demands of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe." Moreover, Ilves said, there was no contradiction between the amendments and international norms and principles. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1300 GMT, 14 Jul 99) The government adopted the implementation plan on 27 July.

While language restrictions are tightening, requirements for residence permits will be eased this fall, after the government decided to drop immigration quotas in the consideration of permit applications. Earlier restrictions disallowed the granting of permits to persons from other countries in excess of .05 percent of those countries' populations. Beginning 1 October, such quotas will not be applied in the processing of residence permit applications for stateless persons who settled in Estonia before 1 July 1990 and who have not left the country since. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1800 GMT, 20 Jul 99)

Protest hinders but does not halt beginning of Butinge business
In response to a protest by several members of the Latvian Greens party who chained themselves to a buoy at the Butinge oil terminal, Lithuania has tightened control of its borders. "Vessels of coast guard and navy are patrolling the sea border [between Latvia and Lithuania] twenty-four fours a day according to a fixed schedule," said Sigitas Cerneckis, director of the Lithuanian Coast Guards' Border Police. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1300 GMT, 22 Jul 99) The protest slowed but did not stop the loading of the first shipment of oil through the terminal. The shipment, purchased by British Petroleum and exported by the Russian company Jukos, was headed to a BP refinery in Holland. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1600 GMT, 21 Jul 99)

Lithuania's agreement with the US-based Williams Company has been delayed, causing Russian petroleum concern LUKoil to renew its campaign for inclusion in the Lithuanian oil industry. While the date of the agreement signing continues to be pushed back (now to mid-August), Russia once again is reminding Lithuania that other offers are on the table. The president of LUKoil's investment company Nikoil, Nikolai Tsvetkov, suggested connecting Russia's oil fields to the Lithuanian petroleum company, thereby providing "good business for both sides." For 33 percent of stock in Mazeikiai Oil, Tsvetkov said, LUKoil could provide "up to 6 million tons of petroleum per year." (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1000 GMT, 22 Jul 99) This is a repetition of Nikoil's earlier proposal (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1400 GMT, 22 Jan 99) which was not considered while negotiations with Williams were going at full speed. When the offer was not accepted earlier this year, supplies to the refinery were halted. Konstantin Mozel, Russia's ambassador to Lithuania, hailed his host country's current willingness to listen to Russian offers and offered reassurance: The "ideology of the Russian offer is honesty, partnership and mutual benefit," Mozel explained. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1000 GMT, 22 Jul 99) Just in case there was any doubt.

by Kate Martin

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