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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 83, 00-04-27

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

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

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 4, No. 83, 27 April 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT BACKS AWAY FROM IMPEACHMENT...
  • [02] ...AS PRESIDENT REJECTS MILITARY PROSECUTOR'S RESIGNATION
  • [03] ITERA RENEWS NORMAL GAS SUPPLIES TO ARMENIA
  • [04] OSCE OFFICIAL INSPECTS GEORGIAN-CHECHEN BORDER
  • [05] MORE SHOOTINGS IN ABKHAZIA
  • [06] GEORGIAN WAGES, PENSIONS ARREARS SKYROCKET
  • [07] RUSSIA AGAIN UNDERSCORES INTERESTS IN CASPIAN...
  • [08] ...AS KAZAKHSTAN CALLS FOR REGIONAL COOPERATION, WESTERN
  • [09] KAZAKHSTAN, CHINA RESOLVE OIL REFINERY DISPUTE

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [10] RUSSIAN, CHINESE UN OFFICIALS MEET MILOSEVIC
  • [11] MIXED REACTIONS TO BELGRADE SLAYING
  • [12] DRASKOVIC TO SUE OVER ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION
  • [13] TRAP FOR 'SERBIAN ROBIN HOOD'?
  • [14] EAGLEBURGER: MILOSEVIC WON'T TEMPT FATE IN MONTENEGRO
  • [15] BAJUK FALLS SHORT AGAIN IN SECOND SLOVENIAN VOTE
  • [16] CROATIAN BANK CHIEFS QUIT
  • [17] CROATIAN AUTHORITIES MOVE AGAINST ILLEGAL CONSTRUCTION
  • [18] BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY PICKS PRIME MINISTER
  • [19] 'CATASTROPHIC' AGRICULTURAL SITUATION IN BOSNIA
  • [20] KLEIN: SFOR NEEDED TO KEEP BOSNIAN PEACE
  • [21] ROMANIA'S DEMOCRATS ROCKING THE BOAT ONCE MORE?
  • [22] 'HOT LINE' DOCUMENTS ARE TROUBLE FOR FORMER ROMANIAN
  • [23] MOLDOVA, ROMANIA, TO INITIAL BASIC TREATY IN CHISINAU...
  • [24] ...WHILE BASIC TREATY WITH RUSSIA FACES NEW HINDERS
  • [25] MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN THE U.S.
  • [26] BULGARIA DECLARES COMMUNIST RULE 'CRIMINAL'
  • [27] BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LAW TO FIGHT CORRUPTION AMONG

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [28] COURTING STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP IN KYIV

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT BACKS AWAY FROM IMPEACHMENT...

    Members of

    the Miasnutiun parliament majority faction on 26 April

    postponed a formal decision on proceeding with impeachment

    proceedings against President Robert Kocharian, AP and ITAR-

    TASS reported. Kayunutiun faction leader Vartan Aivazian told

    Reuters that parliament deputies want to meet with Kocharian

    to seek "a compromise." He did not elaborate. But deputies

    nonetheless circulated an unsigned document listing a dozen

    alleged offenses committed by the president and claiming that

    he was not eligible to run for the presidency in 1998,

    RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. And 21st Century Party

    leader David Shahnazarian expressed support for Kocharian's

    impeachment, saying that his attempt to prevent Military

    Prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian from testifying at parliament

    hearings of the 27 October shootings was "illegal" and a

    violation of the constitution, Snark reported.

    Representatives of three small parliamentary factions--

    Orinats Yerkir, the Right and Accord bloc, and the Armenian

    Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun--told RFE/RL that

    they will oppose any bid to impeach the president. LF

    [02] ...AS PRESIDENT REJECTS MILITARY PROSECUTOR'S RESIGNATION

    Kocharian on 26 April refused to accept Jahangirian's

    resignation, which the latter had submitted in protest at

    Kocharian's attempt to prevent him from testifying, RFE/RL's

    Yerevan bureau reported. But in a written statement,

    Kocharian again stressed that he considers the

    "politicization" of the investigation into the parliament

    shootings unacceptable. Also on 26 April, Prime Minister Aram

    Sargsian told journalists after meeting with Miasnutiun

    faction leaders that he believes Jahangirian acted correctly

    in submitting his resignation, although he hoped that the

    president would not accept it. LF

    [03] ITERA RENEWS NORMAL GAS SUPPLIES TO ARMENIA

    During talks in

    Moscow on 25-26 April, Armenian Energy Minister Davit Zadoyan

    and Igor Markov, president of the Gazprom subsidiary ITERA,

    reached agreement on restructuring Yerevan's debt to the

    company for supplies of natural gas, Interfax reported.

    Yerevan will pay $1 million of the $11 million it owes in

    hard currency before the end of April and the remainder no

    later than July, First Deputy Energy Minister Karen Galstian

    said on 25 April. ITERA on 26 April increased gas deliveries

    to Armenia which it had cut by half on 15 April. Zadoyan told

    Interfax that Yerevan does not believe there was any

    connection between the Armenian government exclusion of ITERA

    from a tender for privatization of four energy distribution

    networks and ITERA's subsequent threat to cut gas supplies to

    Armenia completely. He said ITERA could still participate in

    the tender in alliance with one of the four remaining

    companies. LF

    [04] OSCE OFFICIAL INSPECTS GEORGIAN-CHECHEN BORDER

    Helle Degn,

    who is president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, told

    journalists in Tbilisi on 26 April that she would like to see

    OSCE observers deployed on the Russian side of the border

    between Georgia and Chechnya, Caucasus Press reported. Degn

    had inspected that border the previous day. At present there

    are 12 OSCE observers deployed on the Georgian side of the

    border; their number is to be increased to 42 next month (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2000). LF

    [05] MORE SHOOTINGS IN ABKHAZIA

    Three Abkhaz customs officials

    and a civilian were shot dead by unidentified attackers on 26

    April in Abkhazia's Gali raion, Caucasus Press reported.

    Those deaths raise to at least 20 the number of people shot

    dead in southern Abkhazia since the beginning of this year.

    LF

    [06] GEORGIAN WAGES, PENSIONS ARREARS SKYROCKET

    Georgian

    parliamentary Budget Office chairman Roman Gotsiridze told

    members of the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia faction

    on 27 April that the government currently owes between 350-

    400 million lari ($175-200 million) in unpaid wages and

    pensions, Caucasus Press reported. The pensions backlog alone

    has increased by 100 million lari since 1 January 2000 as a

    result of the budget revenue shortfall. Gotsiridze said it is

    "unrealistic" to burden the budget by paying salary and

    pension debts for last year. LF

    [07] RUSSIA AGAIN UNDERSCORES INTERESTS IN CASPIAN...

    Addressing

    the opening session of the Eurasia-2000 Economic Forum in

    Almaty on 26 April, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor

    Khristenko warned that international projects to exploit

    Caspian oil and gas reserves "cannot be decided without the

    participation of Russia," Reuters reported. He added that it

    is natural that the interests of various states engaged in

    the Caspian should collide. On 21 April, Russian President-

    elect Vladimir Putin had similarly warned that Russia has

    failed adequately to protect its interests in the Caspian and

    intends to do so more aggressively in future (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 25 April 2000). At a meeting the same day with

    Kazakh Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev, Khristenko

    discussed the possibilities for cooperation in the northern

    Caspian, which Russia and Kazakhstan agreed on dividing into

    national sectors in 1998. Khristenko also encouraged

    Kazakhstan to increase the amount of oil it exports via

    Russian pipelines. LF

    [08] ...AS KAZAKHSTAN CALLS FOR REGIONAL COOPERATION, WESTERN

    INVESTMENT

    Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev told the

    opening session of the Eurasia-2000 Forum that the states of

    Central Asia must consolidate their independence and emerging

    economies and strive for greater regional cooperation,

    according to Interfax. Nazarbaev said the TRACECA program

    constitutes a basis for integration and increased

    international investment in the region. He called on the UN

    and OSCE to do more to end the war in Afghanistan, which he

    termed "the biggest stability problem on the Eurasian

    continent." LF

    [09] KAZAKHSTAN, CHINA RESOLVE OIL REFINERY DISPUTE

    China and

    Kazakhstan have resolved "misunderstandings" that arose after

    the Chinese National Petroleum Company (CNPC) acquired a 60

    percent stake in Kazakhstan's Aqtobemunaigaz oil production

    company in 1997, Interfax reported on 26 April. Some 2,000

    Kazakh employees of that company who were dismissed a year

    ago and had still not received their due compensation had

    appealed to President Nazarbaev two months ago to annul the

    contract with the CNPC (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 2000).

    LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [10] RUSSIAN, CHINESE UN OFFICIALS MEET MILOSEVIC

    Russian

    Ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov and Chinese Deputy

    Ambassador Shen Guofeng met Yugoslav President Slobodan

    Milosevic in Belgrade on 26 April. The Serbian leader told

    his visitors that the UN civilian administration's (UNMIK)

    "project on alleged elections in [Kosova] before a political

    solution is achieved...is only a transparent attempt to

    legalize crimes committed by NATO and Albanian terrorist

    gangs," Reuters reported. Milosevic charged that KFOR and

    UNMIK are to blame for the "unbearable situation in the

    province and ethnic cleansing" of Serbs and other non-

    Albanians. The two ambassadors' visit comes on the eve of a

    trip to Kosova by an eight-member team from the Security

    Council, which will tour key cities and towns as well as meet

    with prominent individuals in the province. PM

    [11] MIXED REACTIONS TO BELGRADE SLAYING

    Serbian Justice Minister

    Dragoljub Jankovic said in Belgrade on 26 April that the

    slaying of Yugoslav Airlines Director Zika Petrovic "is

    obviously a specific kind of state terror imported from

    abroad. I think it is a perfidious attempt to destabilize the

    present authorities and topple this state," the "Financial

    Times" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 2000). But

    Dragan Covic of the Democratic Alternative called for the

    resignation of Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic. Covic

    said that "it is absurd that there have never been more

    policemen in Serbia and never so little security." The New

    Democracy party said in a statement that "there are 120,000

    policemen in Serbia who are guarding 120 ruling politicians

    and their undemocratic regime. The lives of the other 9

    million Serbs are not worth a penny," AP reported. PM

    [12] DRASKOVIC TO SUE OVER ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION

    Officials of

    Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement said in Belgrade on

    26 April that they will launch legal proceedings against

    several top officials whom they charge with obstructing the

    investigation of a fatal car accident involving Draskovic

    last October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 1999). The

    officials specifically mentioned Belgrade prosecutor Andrija

    Milutinovic and customs chief Mihalj Kertes. They charged

    Kertes, who is a close ally of Milosevic, with concealing the

    identity of the person who imported the truck that killed

    four of Draskovic's companions in the accident. Draskovic has

    charged that the accident was an attempt by the regime to

    assassinate him. PM

    [13] TRAP FOR 'SERBIAN ROBIN HOOD'?

    Relatives and political

    supporters of Bogoljub "Maki" Arsenijevic said that they fear

    that the Serbian Supreme Court's recent decision to drop

    charges against him is a trick to entice the flamboyant

    painter to leave his refuge in the Republika Srpska and come

    home, "Vesti" reported on 27 April. Maki led violent anti-

    government protests in Valjevo in 1999 for which he was

    imprisoned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March 2000). His escape

    to Bosnia in March captured public imagination, prompting the

    independent weekly "Vreme" of 18 March to dub him the

    "Serbian Robin Hood." PM

    [14] EAGLEBURGER: MILOSEVIC WON'T TEMPT FATE IN MONTENEGRO

    Former

    U.S. Secretary of State and Ambassador to Yugoslavia Lawrence

    Eagleburger told RFE/RL on 26 April that he doubts that

    Milosevic will start a war in Montenegro because he knows

    that Western countries are opposed to that. He added,

    however, that he does not think that recent political changes

    in Croatia will have any significant impact on political

    developments in Serbia or Bosnia. PM

    [15] BAJUK FALLS SHORT AGAIN IN SECOND SLOVENIAN VOTE

    Andrej

    Bajuk, who is the center-right candidate to become prime

    minister, received 43 out of 90 possible votes in the

    Slovenian parliament on 26 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21

    April 2000). Since he fell short of the necessary 46-vote

    minimum, the parliament will meet on 28 April to decide

    whether to hold a third vote, which requires only a simple

    majority. Franc Zagozen, who heads the coalition that

    nominated Bajuk, said that they will put the economist's name

    forward for a third time. Reuters reported from Ljubljana,

    however, that the legislators will most likely decide to call

    new elections rather than take a third vote. President Milan

    Kucan has said that new elections are necessary to ensure the

    formation of a credible government. He stresses that it is

    not possible to put together a broadly-based government in

    the current parliament. PM

    [16] CROATIAN BANK CHIEFS QUIT

    Marko Skreb, who is governor of

    the National Bank, and the seven members of the bank's

    governing council, submitted their resignations to the

    parliament on 26 April. Skreb has been under pressure to

    resign for some time. The resignations came in the wake of

    recent criticism in the parliament of how the bank functions,

    "Jutarnji list" reported. Critics have charged that Skreb,

    who until recently was a member of late President Franjo

    Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), took too long

    to investigate a series of bank failures. Many Croats believe

    that bad loans to HDZ loyalists lie at the root of most of

    the bank failures. PM

    [17] CROATIAN AUTHORITIES MOVE AGAINST ILLEGAL CONSTRUCTION

    On 26

    April, a government demolition squad destroyed a seven-story

    apartment building under construction in Zagreb. Some 525

    buildings are slated to be pulled down because they were

    built without permits or are unsafe, AP reported. PM

    [18] BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY PICKS PRIME MINISTER

    The three-member

    joint presidency elected former Bosnian Serb Deputy Prime

    Minister Tihomir Gligoric to head the new, expanded joint

    cabinet. He belongs to the Socialist Party of the Republika

    Srpska and was nominated by fellow Socialist Zivko Radisic,

    who is the Serbian representative on the joint presidency.

    Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim ministers will rotate on an

    eight-month basis. In addition to the previous ministries of

    foreign affairs, foreign trade, and civilian affairs and

    communications, three new posts will be added. They deal with

    refugees and human rights, European integration, and joint

    government finances. PM

    [19] 'CATASTROPHIC' AGRICULTURAL SITUATION IN BOSNIA

    Meeting in a

    special session on 26 April, the House of Representatives of

    the mainly Croat and Muslim federation approved a 17-point

    program to bolster agriculture. Among the measures the

    deputies called for is a package of new legislation to

    promote agriculture, forestry, and village development. The

    legislators also want better control of border crossings that

    have been used to bring in illegal agricultural imports,

    "Oslobodjenje" reported. It was noted, for example, that

    Italian peaches are being imported into the federation, while

    the peach crop in Herzegovina has not found markets. PM

    [20] KLEIN: SFOR NEEDED TO KEEP BOSNIAN PEACE

    Jacques Klein, who

    is a U.S. army general and head of the UN mission in Bosnia,

    told "Vjesnik" of 27 April that war would break out in Bosnia

    "within six months" if NATO peacekeepers left the country. He

    noted that the continued existence of separate Muslim,

    Croatian, and Serbian armies remains a key problem for peace

    and security. PM

    [21] ROMANIA'S DEMOCRATS ROCKING THE BOAT ONCE MORE?

    The

    Democratic Party on 26 April criticized Prime Minister Mugur

    Isarescu, accusing him of declining to "involve himself with

    the country's real economic problems" in the debates

    preceding the approval of the 2000 budget, RFE/RL's Bucharest

    bureau reported. The Democrats say the premier "lacks an

    overall vision of the economy" and has avoided taking a

    position on irregularities in the activities of the State

    Property Fund or the unwarranted restructuring of the debt

    owed to the budget by loss-making state companies. They said

    they had nevertheless supported the budget in the parliament

    because Romania could not face its problems without an

    approved budget. In response, Isarescu said he believes the

    most important thing for the country now is to ensure

    economic growth in order to raise living standards. MS

    [22] 'HOT LINE' DOCUMENTS ARE TROUBLE FOR FORMER ROMANIAN

    PRESIDENT

    Members of the Defense Committee of the Chamber of

    Deputies on 26 April said after examining secret documents on

    the Moscow-Bucharest "hot-line" debate that they confirm

    former President Ion Iliescu gave the "green light" to

    negotiating between Romania and Russia the installation of

    such a line. These negotiations were interrupted after

    Iliescu lost the presidential election of 1996. In other

    news, the Central Electoral Bureau on 26 April decided that

    all candidates in the June local elections must submit

    declarations attesting that they did not collaborate with the

    communist secret police. Those submitting false statements

    will be liable to prosecution. MS

    [23] MOLDOVA, ROMANIA, TO INITIAL BASIC TREATY IN CHISINAU...

    Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicolae Tabacaru and his Romanian

    counterpart Petre Roman will initial the basic treaty between

    their countries on 28 April in Chisinau. Before departing for

    the Moldovan capital, Roman told journalists that the treaty

    is "far beyond" a regular treaty on good neighborly

    relations. He said the document "confines the special,

    privileged relationship " between the two states, and

    emphasizes their "community of history, civilization,

    culture, and language." Roman also said the treaty stipulates

    that the two countries will mutually support each other in

    their quest for European integration and that Romania will

    rally behind "all Moldovan international efforts to secure

    sovereignty and territorial integrity." MS

    [24] ...WHILE BASIC TREATY WITH RUSSIA FACES NEW HINDERS

    Boris

    Pastukhov, who ended a three-day visit to Moldova at the head

    of a mediating mission of the CIS Parliamentary Assembly on

    26 April, said representatives of the Transdniester

    separatists must be represented in the drafting of the

    pending Russian-Moldovan basic treaty, ITAR-TASS reported. He

    said the treaty must take into consideration the interests of

    people living in the breakaway region. MS

    [25] MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN THE U.S.

    Boris Gamurari on 26

    April met in Washington with Defense Secretary William Cohen

    to discuss bilateral military cooperation, Flux and ITAR-TASS

    reported. Cohen said the U.S. intends to further contribute

    to Moldova's becoming a "stability and security factor in

    southeast Europe." Gamurari also met Assistant Defense

    Secretary Ted Warner, discussing with him military reform in

    Moldova, U.S. aid to implement it, and collaboration within

    the Partnership for Peace program. MS

    [26] BULGARIA DECLARES COMMUNIST RULE 'CRIMINAL'

    The parliament

    on 26 April approved a law declaring the former communist

    regime "criminal," Reuters reported. The law says the

    Bulgarian Communist Party that came to power in 1944 with the

    help of a "foreign force" had by 1989 brought the country to

    a "national catastrophe." It says the Bulgaria Communist

    Party was a "criminal organization, as were other

    organizations based on the same ideology [elsewhere], which

    in reality was aimed at oppressing human rights and the

    democratic system." The law has no immediate practical

    implications. Socialist Party (BSP) leader Georgi Parvanov

    accused the government of attempting to "push the country

    towards destabilization" in order to "hide in the turmoil the

    tracks of your multiple crimes." He said the BSP will walk

    out of the parliament so as "not to take part in the

    tragicomedy" and will return with a motion of no-confidence

    in the cabinet. MS

    [27] BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES LAW TO FIGHT CORRUPTION AMONG

    OFFICIALS

    The parliament on 26 April approved a law that

    would make public the income, expenses, and property of

    senior state officials, AP reported, citing BTA. Under the

    law, the Chamber of Accountancy, Bulgaria's central auditing

    institution, will compile and produce records of the income

    and expenses of the country's president, premier, ministers,

    deputies, senior government and judiciary officials. The

    records will be made public in the media. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [28] COURTING STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP IN KYIV

    By Jan Maksymiuk

    Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma scored several

    impressive political victories in the past two weeks. The

    major one was of course the overwhelming approval of all four

    questions in the 16 April constitutional referendum, which is

    widely expected to give him considerable additional levers of

    control over the parliament as soon as the will of the people

    is reflected in appropriate constitutional amendments.

    However, the two high-level visits to Kyiv shortly before and

    after the referendum--one by U.S. Secretary of State

    Madeleine Albright on 14 April and another of Russian

    President-elect Vladimir Putin on 18 April--turned out to be

    no lesser successes for the Ukrainian leader than the

    plebiscite.

    Albright moved up her trip to Kyiv, which had been

    originally planned for 20-21 April, thus giving rise to much

    speculation in Ukrainian and Russian media that she wanted to

    be in Kyiv before Putin in order to prevent Kuchma from

    making too many concessions to the Kremlin's energetic ruler.

    In particular, those media suggested that Albright would

    persuade Kuchma to stop paying the Russian gas debt with

    strategic bombers and cruise missiles. Also, Albright

    reportedly informed Kuchma about Washington's concern that he

    continue the course of reform and keep reformist Prime

    Minister Viktor Yushchenko in office as long as possible. In

    exchange for Kuchma's agreement, Albright reportedly pledged

    U.S. massive political and financial support to Kyiv.

    Albright did not spare praise for Kuchma and his renewed

    pledges to put Ukraine on a reform path. "I was very

    impressed by President Kuchma's dedication to this [reform]

    process and his desire to move the reform process forward,

    and by the work the prime minister is undertaking," she told

    journalists. Ukraine is expected to receive $219 million in

    U.S. aid this year. Albright also said she was "heartened"

    when Kuchma reaffirmed his intention to close the Chornobyl

    nuclear power plant this year. And she expressed support for

    the constitutional referendum, which is, however, regarded by

    the Council of Europe as dangerous to Ukraine's fledgling

    democracy.

    There was no mention, at least in official

    pronouncements, of what is believed to be a thorn in U.S.-

    Ukrainian relations--namely, Ukraine's pervasive corruption

    that hinders both the Ukrainian government and U.S. investors

    in promoting market reforms and generating economic growth in

    the country. Ukraine's National Bank has recently been

    checked by international auditors in connection with the

    charges of misusing IMF loans. Some commentators concluded

    that the audit, whose results are purportedly known to

    Washington, is not expected to do much damage to Kyiv.

    On the other hand, Putin's visit promised a lot of

    unpleasant moments for Kuchma. In contrast to lumpish and

    jovial Yeltsin, who was guided primarily by Moscow's Soviet-

    era patronage in "no neckties" contacts with his "younger

    brother" from Kyiv, Putin is believed to be a cold

    pragmatist. Ukraine's gigantic gas debt to Russia was to be

    the main topic of the Kuchma-Putin talks in Kyiv. Some

    Russian and Ukrainian left-wing politicians expected that

    Putin would use economic leverage to persuade Kuchma into

    making some steps toward to the "Slavic" union of Russian and

    Belarus.

    However, Putin's visit turned out to be a reconnoitering

    rather than an attack. Officially it was said that both

    leaders discussed a variety of important bilateral issues,

    but no decision was taken and no document was signed. Putin's

    sharpest pronouncement with regard to Kyiv was at a news

    conference in Sevastopol, when he noted that Russia and

    Ukraine "should quit barter in mutual settlements and

    increase payments in cash to one another." To which Kuchma

    duly responded that "tomorrow or the day after tomorrow" he

    will see to this problem. Some Russian media speculated that

    Putin reiterated to Kuchma Russia's former demands that

    Ukraine pay its gas debt with shares in privatized companies.

    But others suggested that this plan has already been dropped

    because of Kyiv's strong objection. A special bilateral

    commission has to work out a mutually acceptable solution to

    the Ukrainian gas debt dilemma by the end of May.

    In other words, one more time Kuchma has demonstrated

    his unshakable position as the leader of a geostrategically

    important country that permanently balances on the verge of

    economic collapse but nevertheless successfully maneuvers its

    political course through the conflicting interests of

    Washington and Moscow. Taking into account the latest

    outburst of popular love for and confidence in the president

    during Ukraine's constitutional referendum, Kuchma may be

    said to be one of the most successful politicians on the

    post-Soviet territory. Will he ever be held accountable for

    Ukraine's disastrous economic performance? At present such a

    development does not seem too likely. The first thing Kuchma

    did after the visits of Albright and Putin was to harshly

    criticize Viktor Yushchenko's government for a slow reform

    pace.

    27-04-00


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


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