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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 249, 99-12-28

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

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

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 3, No. 249, 28 December 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR REJECTS PROPOSED MONITORING OF PARLIAMENT SHOOTING
  • [02] SON OF MURDERED ARMENIAN POLITICIAN TAKES OVER CHAIRMANSHIP OF HIS
  • [03] AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT CANCELS PLANNED TOUR OF PROVINCES
  • [04] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT REBUTS RUSSIAN ACCUSATIONS
  • [05] RUSSIA DENIES BOMBING GEORGIA
  • [06] GEORGIAN SECURITY MINISTER ANTICIPATES NEW ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
  • [07] AMNESTY FOR IMPRISONED GEORGIAN WARLORD DENIED
  • [08] KAZAKHSTAN'S AFGHAN VETERANS APPEAL TO PRESIDENT
  • [09] TURKEY TO PROVIDE LOAN FOR KAZAKHSTAN'S MILITARY
  • [10] KAZAKHSTAN STARTS PAYING PENSIONS ARREARS
  • [11] KYRGYZSTAN ASSESSES FOREIGN LOAN BURDEN
  • [12] THREE SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR TAJIK BOMBING
  • [13] TAJIK OPPOSITION JOURNALIST BEATEN
  • [14] TAJIK POLICE THWART ALUMINUM SMUGGLING
  • [15] NIYAZOV NOT TO REMAIN TURKMEN PRESIDENT FOR LIFE?
  • [16] TURKMENISTAN ABOLISHES CAPITAL PUNISHMENT, RAISES MINIMUM WAGE
  • [17] TURKMENISTAN DEPORTS BAPTIST PASTORS

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [18] MILOSEVIC, SERGEEV CONDEMN KFOR
  • [19] CHINA BACKS BELGRADE ON KOSOVA
  • [20] SERGEEV VISITS PRISTINA
  • [21] TEN WOUNDED IN BOMBING OF SERBIAN CAFE IN PRISTINA
  • [22] 72 PERCENT OF YUGOSLAV BUDGET TO GO TO ARMY
  • [23] SERBIAN RENEWAL TO DEMONSTRATE FOR EARLY ELECTIONS
  • [24] BELGRADE TO STEP UP COUNTER-PROPAGANDA EFFORT
  • [25] BELGRADE ARCHBISHOP CALLS FOR "RECONCILIATION"
  • [26] SERBS URGED TO CONSERVE ELECTRICITY
  • [27] ALBANIA'S FOREIGN DEBT RISES
  • [28] DEL PONTE WELCOMES WAR CRIMES ARRESTS
  • [29] OPPOSITION COALITION LEADS IN CROATIAN CAMPAIGN
  • [30] A NEW GOVERNMENT IN MACEDONIA
  • [31] MONTENEGRO TO PAY YUGOSLAV TROOPS IN HARD CURRENCY
  • [32] FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER EXPELLED FROM PARTY...
  • [33] ...AND UNLIKELY TO GET SENATE CHAIRMANSHIP
  • [34] FORMER ROMANIAN DISSIDENTS BARRED FROM SUPERVISING COMMUNIST FILES
  • [35] CONSTANTINESCU RECEIVES FORMER ROMANIAN KING
  • [36] MOLDOVANS FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT WITH GAZPROM
  • [37] CONTROVERSY OVER APPOINTMENT OF MOLDOVAN DEPUTY INTERIOR MINISTER

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [38] Balts Continue to Show Strong Support for Death Penalty

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR REJECTS PROPOSED MONITORING OF PARLIAMENT SHOOTING

    INVESTIGATION

    Military prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian, who is conducting

    the investigation into the 27 October shooting of eight senior Armenian

    officials, on 27 December rejected calls for the creation of an ad hoc

    parliamentary committee to ensure that the investigation is impartial,

    RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Jahangirian also rejected allegations

    that his close ties with the Yerkrapah Union of veterans of the Karabakh

    war, which was founded and headed by slain Prime Minister Vazgen

    Sargsian, impinges on the objectivity of the investigation. On 23

    December, opposition National Democratic Union chairman Vazgen Manukian

    charged that the investigators are manipulating the investigation into

    the 27 October shootings for political reasons, specifically by

    indicting former presidential aide Aleksan Harutiunian. Also on 23

    December, a police officer who was on duty at the parliament building on

    27 October was arrested on charges of negligence in connection with the

    killings, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

    [02] SON OF MURDERED ARMENIAN POLITICIAN TAKES OVER CHAIRMANSHIP OF HIS

    PARTY

    As had been rumored, Stepan Demirchian, the younger son of

    parliamentary speaker Karen Demirchian, one of the victims of the 27

    October shootings, was named acting chairman of the late Demirchian's

    People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) on 24 December, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau

    reported. The HZhK board also issued a statement calling for speeding up

    the preparation of constitutional reforms to limit the powers of the

    president. President Robert Kocharian reached tentative agreement

    earlier this month with the Republican Party of Armenia, the HZhK's

    partner in the majority Miasnutiun coalition, on holding a referendum on

    the planned constitutional amendments. LF

    [03] AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT CANCELS PLANNED TOUR OF PROVINCES

    Heidar Aliev

    on 27 December cancelled a 27-28 December visit to Shamkir district and

    the city of Gyanja, Turan reported. No explanation was given for the

    decision. Gyanja was the scene of demonstrations last week by residents

    protesting the lack of basic facilities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22

    December 1999). LF

    [04] GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT REBUTS RUSSIAN ACCUSATIONS

    By a vote of 143-1,

    deputies on 23 December adopted a statement rejecting as absurd and

    unfounded claims by the Russian Foreign Ministry that Georgia is

    abetting Chechnya by allowing the transport of arms to Chechen fighters

    across Georgian territory among other alleged support, Interfax and

    Caucasus Press reported. The parliament statement again affirmed

    Georgia's recognition of Russia's territorial integrity and Tbilisi's

    readiness to allow the deployment on Georgian territory of Russian

    observers empowered to monitor traffic across the Georgian-Chechen

    border. On 23 December, one day after four Georgian border guards were

    wounded by Russian grenade-launcher fire, U.S. Senator Sam Brownback,

    who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Sub-Committee on Near

    Eastern and South Asia Affairs, called on the U.S. administration to

    make it clear to Russia that U.S. support for Georgia is unequivocal and

    that any further military actions against Georgia are unacceptable. LF

    [05] RUSSIA DENIES BOMBING GEORGIA

    On 24 December, a Russian Defense

    Ministry commission charged with investigating Georgian claims that

    Russian helicopters had entered Georgian airspace and fired on Georgian

    territory on 17 November said it had found no evidence to substantiate

    those claims, according to Interfax (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November

    1999). LF

    [06] GEORGIAN SECURITY MINISTER ANTICIPATES NEW ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

    Vakhtang Kutateladze told parliament deputies on 24 December that

    Georgian intelligence has evidence that "destructive forces" both inside

    Georgia and abroad are seeking to destabilize the situation in the runup

    to the April 2000 presidential elections by perpetrating terrorist

    attacks against Georgian politicians, including President Eduard

    Shevardnadze. Speaking on the independent TV channel Rustavi-2 the

    following day, Kutateladze said the anticipated attack on Shevardnadze

    is being planned by the same "forces" that tried unsuccessfully to kill

    him in 1995 and 1998. Former Security Minister Irakli Batiashvili told

    Interfax on 26 December that "Russian radicals" have already selected as

    their preferred successor to Shevardnadze a Georgian politician who is

    not a member of the opposition. LF

    [07] AMNESTY FOR IMPRISONED GEORGIAN WARLORD DENIED

    Georgia's Supreme Court

    has rejected an appeal for clemency by lawyers for Djaba Ioseliani,

    leader of the Mkhedrioni paramilitary organization, Caucasus Press

    reported on 25 December. Ioseliani's lawyer Gogmar Gabunia had argued

    that a court's decision to sentence Ioseliani to 11 years' imprisonment

    in November 1998 on charges of banditry and planning to assassinate

    Georgian head of state Eduard Shevardnadze was illegal because Ioseliani

    had parliamentary immunity at the time of his arrest. Meanwhile, the 73-

    year-old Ioseliani plans to take monastic vows, according to "Alia" on

    23 December. LF

    [08] KAZAKHSTAN'S AFGHAN VETERANS APPEAL TO PRESIDENT

    Oleg Rubets, deputy

    chairman of the Kazakh Union of Afghan Veterans, on 24 December said his

    organization has written to President Nursultan Nazarbaev to ask him to

    prevent the sentencing of former chief of staff Bakhytzhan Ertaev on

    what Rubets believes are fabricated charges, Interfax reported. Ertaev

    is implicated in the clandestine sale to North Korea of several dozen

    obsolete MiG fighter aircraft (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 November

    1999). Rubets said he has documents proving Ertaev's innocence, adding

    that prominent businessmen are trying to frame him. LF

    [09] TURKEY TO PROVIDE LOAN FOR KAZAKHSTAN'S MILITARY

    Under an agreement to

    be signed on 25 December, Turkey will provide Kazakhstan with a $700,000

    interest-free loan to improve communications systems used by the

    country's armed forces, Interfax reported on 24 December, quoting

    Defense Minister Sat Tokpakbaev. LF

    [10] KAZAKHSTAN STARTS PAYING PENSIONS ARREARS

    Kazakhstan's Finance Minister

    Mazhit Esenbaev on 27 December said the government has paid 15.3 billion

    tenge ($110.7 million) in back pensions, and will pay off the remaining

    arrears before the end of the year, Interfax reported. Esenbaev linked

    the move to last week's agreement with the World Bank, which has

    released a $100 million tranche of a loan to finance pension reform in

    Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 1999). LF

    [11] KYRGYZSTAN ASSESSES FOREIGN LOAN BURDEN

    Prime Minister Amangeldi

    Muraliev on 23 December said the country's foreign borrowing since 1991

    amounts to $1.296 billion, RFE/RL's bureau in Bishkek reported. Muraliev

    described the amount as "dangerous." He added that while some loans have

    been used for infrastructure modernization, others--including loans from

    Turkey, Switzerland, and the EU--have been partly embezzled. LF

    [12] THREE SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR TAJIK BOMBING

    A district court in Kurgan-

    Tyube on 27 December sentenced three men to death for masterminding a

    series of bombings in that town in November 1998, ITAR-TASS and AP

    reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 1998). Ten other men

    received prison sentences of 19 years. LF

    [13] TAJIK OPPOSITION JOURNALIST BEATEN

    Three armed masked men attacked

    Mukhiddin Idizoda, deputy editor of the Tajik opposition newspaper

    "Nadzhot," near his home on 27 December, ITAR-TASS reported. The

    newspaper is funded by the Islamic Renaissance Party. LF

    [14] TAJIK POLICE THWART ALUMINUM SMUGGLING

    Tajik police have arrested a

    criminal gang engaged in smuggling aluminum, AP and ITAR-TASS reported

    on 26 December. Police officials seized 200 metric tons of the metal,

    worth about $270,000, from a warehouse in Dushanbe. LF

    [15] NIYAZOV NOT TO REMAIN TURKMEN PRESIDENT FOR LIFE?

    Turkmenistan's

    President Saparmurat Niyazov on 27 December rejected a proposal by the

    People's Council that he should remain head of state for life, Interfax

    reported. Niyazov said presidential elections will be held as scheduled

    in 2002, adding that that he may run for a further term, or "if not, we

    shall appoint someone else." Also on 27 December, Niyazov issued a

    decree banning smoking in public places in what he described as part of

    a campaign to raise life expectancy from 65 to 75. LF

    [16] TURKMENISTAN ABOLISHES CAPITAL PUNISHMENT, RAISES MINIMUM WAGE

    The

    People's Council on 27 December voted to amend Turkmenistan's

    constitution to abolish capital punishment, Reuters reported.

    Turkmenistan is the first Central Asian state to do so. Lawmakers also

    voted to raise the minimum wage and pension to 400,000 manats

    (approximately $76). LF

    [17] TURKMENISTAN DEPORTS BAPTIST PASTORS

    The Turkmen authorities have

    forcibly deported two Baptist pastors and their wives from Ashgabat and

    Turkmenabad, Compass Direct reported on 26 December. A member of one of

    the Ashgabat congregation, who was forcibly detained on 16 December, has

    been released (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 1999). LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [18] MILOSEVIC, SERGEEV CONDEMN KFOR

    During a visit to Belgrade on 23

    December, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev joined Yugoslav

    President Slobodan Milosevic in condemning the NATO-backed UN force in

    Kosova, Western agencies reported. In a joint statement, the two said

    their countries "regard the state of affairs [in Kosova] as untenable"

    and call on the UN Security Council "to immediately take steps against

    those responsible for failure to implement its mandate and to secure

    strict respect of Resolution 1244 as well as the military technical

    agreement." Milosevic decorated Sergeev with medals for his efforts to

    promote bilateral cooperation. Sergeev reciprocated by decorating

    Yugoslav military leaders for their "heroic defense" of their country in

    Kosova. PG

    [19] CHINA BACKS BELGRADE ON KOSOVA

    Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji told visiting

    Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic on 27 December that Beijing

    wants the Kosova crisis to be settled on the basis of the sovereignty

    and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. On 24

    December, Yugoslav President Milosevic decorated several Chinese

    officials and journalists for their "courage and solidarity" during

    NATO's bombing and noted that China had shown "friendly support and help

    to our country in its struggle to preserve freedom, independence,

    sovereignty, and territorial integrity," Tanjug reported. The commander

    of the Yugoslav army corps which was pulled out of Kosova last summer,

    Vladimir Lazarevic, told "Politika" on 27 December that the Russian and

    Chinese support indicates "it is possible that China and Russia would

    veto a decision on extending the KFOR and UNMIK mandate that expires

    next year." PG

    [20] SERGEEV VISITS PRISTINA

    Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev met with

    Gen. Klaus Reinhardt, the commander of the NATO-led KFOR, and German

    Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping in Pristina on 24 December, Western

    agencies reported. They discussed the stationing of Russian peacekeepers

    in Orahovac, despite local opposition to them. Sergeev also visited with

    Russian peacekeepers in Kosova. Although NATO commander Gen. Wesley

    Clarke was in Pristina on the same day to present awards to Russian

    troops, the two did not meet. Before arriving in Pristina, Sergeev told

    Interfax "our relations with [NATO] apparently have entered a new phase

    of getting colder." PG

    [21] TEN WOUNDED IN BOMBING OF SERBIAN CAFE IN PRISTINA

    Ten people were

    wounded when a bomb exploded in a Serbian cafe in Pristina on 27

    December, a KFOR spokesman told Reuters. Two of the wounded have been

    hospitalized at Camp Bondsteel, the main base of the U.S. forces in

    Kosova. PG

    [22] 72 PERCENT OF YUGOSLAV BUDGET TO GO TO ARMY

    The Yugoslav parliament on

    24 December passed a budget for 2000 which allocates 72.74 percent of

    total budget spending worth 22.5 billion dinars ($1.9 billion) to the

    country's military, Reuters reported. Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic

    said Belgrade is not planning any new military operations but simply

    hopes to repair equipment and infrastructure damaged by NATO's bombing

    campaign. PG

    [23] SERBIAN RENEWAL TO DEMONSTRATE FOR EARLY ELECTIONS

    The Serbian Renewal

    Movement (SPO) told the BETA news agency on 26 December that it will

    urge its supporters to demonstrate in favor of early elections. The

    SPO's Aleksandar Cotric said the party will soon "call its supporters to

    win early elections on the streets" unless the government calls "early

    elections under democratic conditions." Those conditions include the

    resignation of Yugoslav President Milosevic in advance of any vote. PG

    [24] BELGRADE TO STEP UP COUNTER-PROPAGANDA EFFORT

    Yugoslav Information

    Minister Aleksandar Vucic on 25 December said Belgrade will begin

    publishing daily bulletins in English, establishing new Internet

    websites, and promoting satellite transmissions of local news in order

    to counter what he called the West's propaganda war against Yugoslavia,

    Reuters reported. He said Yugoslavs have been subjected "throughout this

    year to permanent information torture from the Western media and their

    local branches." Meanwhile, on 27 December, the international media

    watchdog group Reporters sans frontieres issued a press release

    denouncing Vucic for his efforts to suppress the free press in

    Yugoslavia. PG

    [25] BELGRADE ARCHBISHOP CALLS FOR "RECONCILIATION"

    In his Christmas

    message, Roman Catholic Archbishop France Perko called for "forgiveness

    and reconciliation" among all ethnic communities in the Balkans.

    However, he also told the newspaper "Blic" that at present there is "no

    sincere wish for reconciliation on any of the sides." In remarks that

    appear to have been directed at Milosevic, Perko said "politics must be

    a search for what is possible, whereas here it has been a search for the

    impossible." PG

    [26] SERBS URGED TO CONSERVE ELECTRICITY

    Belgrade's EPS electrical power

    company called on its customers to reduce the amount of electricity they

    were using recently during several days of extremely low temperatures,

    Reuters reported on 25 December. Belgrade has asked Moscow to provide

    additional natural gas but has not yet received an answer. Meanwhile,

    Hungary's MOL energy company said it will deliver gas to Serbia over the

    New Year's holiday. PG

    [27] ALBANIA'S FOREIGN DEBT RISES

    Albania's foreign debt rose to $529.8

    million as of December 1999, DPA reported. Some $324 million of that is

    owed to international organizations. PG

    [28] DEL PONTE WELCOMES WAR CRIMES ARRESTS

    Carla del Pone, the chief

    prosecutor of the International Tribunal in The Hague, on 24 December

    welcomed the arrest of Zoran Vukovic, a Bosnian Serb charged with war

    crimes, ITAR-TASS reported. His arrest brings to 34 the number of those

    accused who are now in the custody of the tribunal; 31 others are still

    at large. NATO Secretary General George Robertson also welcomed the

    arrest, but the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo issued a statement calling on

    Americans in the country to exercise "extreme caution" because of an

    increased danger of hostility "directed towards the international

    community" in the wake of the arrests. PG

    [29] OPPOSITION COALITION LEADS IN CROATIAN CAMPAIGN

    A coalition of Social

    Democrats and Social Liberals now appears likely to capture 35 percent

    of the vote in the 3 January parliamentary election, AP reported on 27

    December. The late President Franjo Tudjman's Croatian Democratic

    Community (HDZ) is now running at 20 percent in the polls. Meanwhile,

    Croatia's highest court has ordered state-run television to broadcast

    advertisements by Glas 99, an NGO urging Croatians to exercise their

    right to vote. The Social Liberals filed a complaint the same day about

    a HDZ advertisement showing a drunk as a representative of the

    opposition. PG

    [30] A NEW GOVERNMENT IN MACEDONIA

    Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco

    Georgievski reshuffled his cabinet on 26 December. In the new line-up,

    Georgievski's VMRO will have 12 seats, the democratic Alternative seven,

    and the DPA five, AP reported. PG

    [31] MONTENEGRO TO PAY YUGOSLAV TROOPS IN HARD CURRENCY

    As part of its

    effort to win the loyalty of Yugoslav troops stationed on its territory,

    Montenegro will now pay them in hard currency rather than with rapidly

    depreciating Yugoslav dinars, Reuters reported on 23 December.

    Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said "Belgrade may not like it and

    it may be a pretext for them to misuse the army." PG

    [32] FORMER ROMANIAN PREMIER EXPELLED FROM PARTY...

    Former Premier Radu

    Vasile was expelled from the ruling National Peasant Party Christian

    Democratic (PNTCD) at an extraordinary meeting of the party's Bureau for

    Coordination, Leadership, and Control (BCCC) on 27 December, Romanian

    state radio reported the next day. PNTCD chairman Ion Diaconescu said

    Vasile was expelled for trying to set up a dissident group within the

    PNTCD, for "blackmailing" the party by setting up conditions for

    submitting his resignation earlier this month, and for repeatedly

    refusing to attend BCCC meetings. Vasile did not participate in the 27

    December meeting. PNTCD spokesman Remus Opris said he is not worried

    about a possible split in the PNTCD. He said he is "confident" that

    Vasile's supporters "will not follow him into nowhere." MS

    [33] ...AND UNLIKELY TO GET SENATE CHAIRMANSHIP

    The National Liberal Party

    on 23 December announced it will back its leader, Mircea Ionescu-

    Quintus, for the position of Senate chairman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau

    reported. The position, vacated by Foreign Minister Petre Roman, was

    unofficially offered to Vasile as part of a deal that led to his

    resignation. The BCCC on 27 December decided that deputy Virgil Petrescu

    will "temporarily" fill the position of PNTCD secretary-general. That

    position was also promised to Vasile as part of the resignation deal. MS

    [34] FORMER ROMANIAN DISSIDENTS BARRED FROM SUPERVISING COMMUNIST FILES

    The

    Judicial Commissions of Romania's two parliamentary chambers on 27

    December decided that Andrei Plesu and Mircea Dinescu are not eligible

    for membership in the College for the Study of the Securitate Archives.

    The Democratic Party nominated Plesu and Dinescu to the college. They

    were both dissidents under the Nicolae Ceausescu dictatorship, but the

    commissions said the recently-passed law on the college bars membership

    to former or present members of any political party, noting that the two

    men had been Communist Party members. Plesu served as foreign minister

    until recently and Dinescu was a member of the leadership of the

    National Salvation Front, which was set up after the ouster of

    Ceausescu. Dinescu said it is "incredibly foul" to question his and

    Plesu's "morality" when it is well-known that "torturers and even

    priests" had been members of the party. MS

    [35] CONSTANTINESCU RECEIVES FORMER ROMANIAN KING

    President Emil

    Constantinescu on 26 December met in Bucharest with former King Michael,

    who is visiting Romania over the Christmas holidays. It is the first

    time that a postcommunist president has received the former monarch. The

    meeting took place at the official presidential residence in the

    Cotroceni Palace, which was one of the royal house's state residences.

    After the meeting, the former monarch said he is "confident" in the

    country's "prosperous future." MS

    [36] MOLDOVANS FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT WITH GAZPROM

    A Moldovan delegation

    led by MoldovaGas chief Valentin Penkov has failed to reach an agreement

    in Moscow on Gazprom gas deliveries in 2000, Infotag reported on 27

    December. Earlier, the Moldovan media reported that the Russian concern

    partially resumed deliveries on 24 December. At the same time, Gazprom

    announced that the deliveries will be limited to the amount that Moldova

    has been able to pay on its outstanding debt in 1999, which is equal to

    about 12 percent of regular supplies. A Moldovan government delegation

    headed by Premier Dumitru Barghis canceled a previously planned visit to

    Moscow owing to negotiation difficulties, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau

    reported on 24 December. MS

    [37] CONTROVERSY OVER APPOINTMENT OF MOLDOVAN DEPUTY INTERIOR MINISTER

    Dumitru Diacov, Mircea Snegur, and Alexandru Mosanu--all leaders of the

    opposition Alliance for Democracy and Reforms--are demanding that

    President Petru Lucinschi postpone the appointment of General Nicolae

    Alexei to the posts of deputy interior minister and chief of the

    Department for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption, RFE/RL's

    Chisinau bureau reported on 27 December. The former Ion Sturza cabinet

    dismissed Alexei from his position as chief of that department earlier

    this year. Diacov and Snegur wrote to Lucinschi that Alexei was

    responsible for several "public scandals" and covered up illegal

    activities during his tenure as department head. Alexei dismissed the

    accusations, saying Diacov, Snegur, and Mosanu fear his return because

    they "do not wish to see the evil of corruption uprooted...and are well

    aware that if I return, I shall continue what I have started." MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [38] Balts Continue to Show Strong Support for Death Penalty

    by Mel Huang

    Public support for capital punishment remains strong in Estonia,

    Latvia, and Lithuania, despite the fact that the practice has been

    banned in all three countries.

    A recent poll conducted by the Estonian polling firm EMOR for the

    Gallup International Millennium Survey project showed that more than

    half of respondents continue to back the death penalty: 64 percent in

    Estonia, 63 percent in Lithuania, and 58 percent in Latvia. Those

    opposing capital punishment accounted for only 5-10 percent of

    respondents.

    The debate over the death penalty re-ignited in Latvia as the

    trial of confessed mass murderer Aleksandr Koryakov got under way in the

    small eastern town of Gulbene. In February, Koryakov entered a nursery

    school and stabbed three girls and their teacher to death. Citing the

    desire to become famous, Koryakov voiced no remorse but rather regret

    for not having killed more people. Prosecutor Rita Medne was clearly

    frustrated by not having capital punishment as an option and pressed for

    a life sentence. Medne added that she would have requested the death

    penalty, had it been available, "as a prosecutor, woman, and mother."

    Koryakov was convicted and sentenced to life in prison on 7 December.

    On joining the Council of Europe and signing the European

    Convention on Human Rights, all three countries pledged to abolish

    capital punishment in accordance with the document's Sixth Protocol,

    which bans the death penalty as a punishment in peace time. The last

    time capital punishment was carried out in the region was in Lithuania

    in summer 1995, when reputed mafia boss Boris Dekanidze was executed.

    Estonia was the first of the three Baltic States to repeal capital

    punishment when it ratified the Sixth Protocol in April 1998. At the

    time, the decision did not enjoy popular support--a full 69 percent

    opposed banning the death penalty and only 20 percent supported the

    move. The recent figure showing 64 percent support for the death penalty

    shows that capital punishment remains popular 18 months later.

    Lithuania also repealed the death penalty in late 1998, but it did

    not ratify the Sixth Protocol until later. At the time of the repeal, 78

    percent of Lithuanians wanted the death penalty retained, and opposition

    members of parliament criticized the government for being soft on crime.

    Today support for capital punishment has dropped noticeably but has yet

    to become a minority view.

    Latvia's debate on repealing the death penalty coincided with the

    Gulbene murders, which shocked the nation and prompted members of

    parliament from both inside and outside the ruling coalition to call for

    capital punishment to be retained. However, within weeks Latvia joined

    its neighbors in ratifying the Sixth Protocol. The recent poll showing

    58 percent support for the death penalty in Latvia was taken in August,

    well before passions about the Gulbene events were re-ignited by

    Koryakov's trial.

    Other brutal crimes have also contributed to maintaining public

    support for the death penalty as a deterrent in all three countries. For

    example, convicted multiple murderer Zigmunds Niekrass was released from

    a Latvian jail in April, having served only 10 years for molesting and

    murdering three victims, including an eight-year-old boy. In addition, a

    recent rash of police and taxi driver killings has shocked the public in

    Estonia.

    The death penalty is just one of the many thorny issues the

    residents of the Baltic countries must grapple with in their efforts to

    integrate with, and gain membership in, international organizations such

    as the EU and NATO. As those organizations establish the rules of the

    game, few options exist for the Baltics other than adopting those rules.

    28-12-99


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


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