Issue No. 151-November 30, 1999
1. Russia/Chechnya: THE ROAD TO GROZNY
By Arkady Dubnov
2. Croatia: HAPPY ELECTION YEAR
By Stojan Obradovic
3. Moldova : TO THE WEST OR BACK TO THE EAST ?
By Marian Chiriac
4. Azerbaijan: DEFINED NOMINEES TO THE MUNICIPALITIES
By Mustafa Hajibeyli
Russia/Chechnya: THE ROAD TO GROZNY
By Arkady Dubnov
The results of the OSCE summit in Istanbul, where Western leaders unsuccessfully
demanded Russia to cease military
operations in Chechnya, were already clear one week later. In Moscow, the government's actions at the summit were regarded as a complete and utter victory, not only in regard to the Chechen question, but also to Kosovo. This was not without reason, since Albania was the only country of 54 members of OSCE which expressed a divergent point of view on the Istanbul Declaration, protesting against the formulations introduced by Russia. Tirana regarded the formulations as tantamount to "placing both the aggressors and victims of aggression on the same playing field." This meaning, Serbs and Albanians.
On the evening of November 25, the Russian military began "the third stage in its antiterrorist operation" in Chechnya. All five
artillery divisions, which are located within firing distance of the Chechen capital, "were relocated from other populated areas of
Chechnya to Grozny." The military units "Ugoran" and "Grad" are directed at the capitol. According to military sources, the "Grad" unit is striking at a 6 hector area territory (1 hectare equals 10,900 square meters) with a full complement of arms, and Ugoran at 16 hectares. The goal of the artillery preparations is to force the civilian population to completely abandon the city. Of course, the refugees, who are mainly Russian-speaking civilians since the Chechens have either already fled to stay with relatives in the rural areas or left Grozny long ago, have been trickling out of the city over the past few days. The refugees confirm that the previous Chechen war did not have such mass strikes, and they remember many strikes fro m those years.
The artillery fire, which has lasted non-stop for two days and two nights, looks horrifying. Reports from Grozny, though only
available from the half-official Russian news agency Interfax, depict hundreds of completely destroyed homes and burning
buildings that once housed the industrial space and administrative offices of enterprises. The Second Municipal Hospital is in ruins, as well as the substations of the city's electrical grid. The central streets are completely closed to any sort of movement
because of the gaping crater holes that are as big as eight to ten meters in diameter. It is absolutely impossible to buy bread and
other food products, even at astronomical prices. In the brief moments of quiet, people gather water from puddles, risking being
caught by shots. The bombs being used are so powerful that people are not even protected by basements. Official sources in Russia's Ministry of Defense, confirm that the army has introduced super-powered vacuum bombs.
No one knows the exact number of victims among the civilian population. Lecho Dudayev, the mayor of Grozny, confirms that according to estimated figures, over 260 people have perished. In reality, the real figures could be twice as high. In Grozny, not a single hospital or medical station is working. In cases where random people are not able to carry people to rural hospitals,
people die on the spot. In this manner, the assurance of the commander of the Russian military in Chechnya has borne true:
"control over the Chechen capitol will be established without storming the city." It's clear that over time, the Russian
military will be able to enter a dead city.
On Saturday during an inspection in Khabarovskiye (Dalnii Vostok), the head of the General staff of the Russian Armed
Forced, General Antatolii Kvashnin, announced that, "the antiterrorist operation in Chechnya will be continued until the
set task is accomplished." No one in Moscow is able to clearly elaborate what constitutes the criteria for ending the operation -
they speak only about the "complete destruction of terrorists." On November 25, the NTV station broadcast a live television debate between Grigorii Yavlinksii, the leader of Yabloko, and Antatolii Chubais, the influential Russian oligarch and head of the Russian company, United Energy Systems of Russia (RAO BES). In the debate, Chubais expressed a similar sentiment, saying that the war would end with, "the destruction of the last terrorist."
The pre-election debates (elections to the lower house of Parliament, the Duma, will take place in Russia on December 19)
were dedicated to just one question - Chechnya. These live debates, with a tone of high-pitched fear, have never been seen
before in Russia. Instead of the proposed 50 minutes, the debates lasted twice as long. Yavlinskii, who is popular among the left leaning democratic spectrum of voters, recently made the bold suggestion that Russia should declare a moratorium on armed
conflict in Chechnya in order to prevent the death of thousands of innocent people and should instead create condition for peace
talks with the appropriate Chechen leaders. This position met with severe resistance from the national-patriots and right democrats.
Their informal leader, Antatolii Chubais, announced that Yavlinskii's position was "treachery," which could take away
Russia's victory for yet a second time. "The war must not be stopped because it is providing for the rebirth of the Russia
army," claims Chubais.
An example of this "Rebirth" in the army was demonstrated on the day of November 25, precisely five hours prior the beginning of the televised debates. On the Sleptsovkaya station, on the territory of Ingushetia near the border with Chechnya, where Chechen refugee camps are located (even by the most conservative estimates, there are about 210 thousand refugees from Chechnya in Ingushetia now), Russia soldiers on a military transport pulled up to a commercial kiosk and began to demand vodka. Since it is temporarily illegal to sell alcohol in Ingushetia in commercial booths, the soldier were refused. The soldiers responded with open fire from automatic weapons. As a result, 33 year old Larisa Kikiyeva was killed, and another two women injured. The incident was explained by the fact that the five soldiers, and their commander, a first sergeant, were drunk.
The deputy head of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General Valerii Manilov, announced on November 26 that the army hoped to "complete the third stage in the operation by the end of this year, according to a strictly set-out plan." The Commander-in-Chief, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, had "suddenly fallen ill" on the second half of the day of November 25, (tracheal-bronchitis, the result of a viral infection). On the eve of an "historical event," the signing of the unification agreement
between Russia and Belarus, the president was being treated in his suburban residence "Gorky 9." Yeltsin's press secretary, Dmitrii Yakushkin, announced that the preisdent was "doing paperwork," and this his "undivided attention" was being given to the Northern Caucasus and everything connected with Belarus..."
Croatia: HAPPY ELECTION YEAR
By Stojan Obradovic
Last week Croatia finally got the person to replace
the president. Immediately after getting into office, he declared
parliamentary elections to be on 3rd January 2000. Two days after new constitutional law introduced concept of temporary disability of Croatian president, Constitutional Court decided to turn over presidential authority to Vlatko Pavletic, president of Sabor (Croatian parliament). He thus replaced terminally ill president Franjo Tudjman. Croatian government, which initiated the whole process following request from the ruling party HDZ and the Constitutional court specifically stressed that dr. Franjo Tudjman still remained president of the state, with Pavletic only temporarily taking over its authorities.
President Tudjman, who is so ill that now not even state-controlled media hide that he is living only thanks to
medical machines since practically all vital functions ceased, was replaced by person who was himself "between life and death" at the beginning of this year, and had to undergone complicated heart operation in Switzerland. Yet, Pavletic became well, took over presiding over Croatian parliament and now yields presidential powers. Pavletic, a former communist " apartchik ", literary
critic and theorist fell out of political grace at the end of sixties. He was labelled as nationalist since he was one of the
initiators of Declaration of Croatian language, which strove to show its separateness from Serbian. After the declaration,
Pavletic mostly turns to literary work, and is politically active in 1990,when HDZ came to power. He began his new career as a
minister of culture in the first HDZ government but was never in the spotlight as a powerful member of the ruling party. His new
function as Sabor president was explained as yet another usual Tudjman's strategy to place people who will not ask too much
questions or show excessive self-consciousness into important state positions. That Pavletic is only a background figure is
confirmed by the fact that he immediately signed decree on election date asked by HDZ leadership, without regards to
opposition which fiercely opposed the date, also meeting with open protests of the international community. OSCE spokesman Peter Palmer openly stated that staging parliamentary elections on 3rd of January is a precedent in democratic Europe.
The ruling HDZ and opposition parties fought hard political battle over introducing institution of temporary disability of
president, and over ways to apply such institution as well as its duration. While HDZ was accusing opposition of wanting to bury already living president, opposition retaliated with claims that HDZ was manipulating with disease of president, thus protecting its party interests. What in fact lied behind this smoke-screen of presidential illness and its substitute were negotiations about time of parliamentary elections many feels could direct Croatian future in a decisive manner. Eventual change of government after ten years of almost absolute domination of HDZ, which is estimated as possible, is crucial for the future of the country. On the other hand, possible outcome is that HDZ remains in power for another term. Many say that would remove Croatia for some time from modern democracy and Europe.
It is therefore not surprising that the opposition, negotiating institution of Tudjman's substitute with HDZ, insisted
on a mutual agreement on an election timeframe at the same time. From the very beginning, HDZ wanted the elections to be as soon as possible meaning either end of December 1999 or immediate beginning of January 2000. There are several reasons for their decision - the motives are old and elections were already planned for 22nd December, but nobody was left to officially proclaim them since Tudjman got ill. HDZ counts on votes of many Croats who work or live abroad. They come home to Croatia for Christmas and New Year's Eve and are traditionally supporting the ruling HDZ. Of course, there are also the usual various salary raises and holiday wages that will at least for a short while cover up bleak economic reality of average Croatian citizens. Finally, HDZ is in a rush because there's no doubt that he can score on situation with a
gravely ill president of the state.
On the other hand, opposition parties asked for elections to be postponed until the end of January, final date for their regular staging since such date, opposition leaders claim, would make possible a framework for somewhat fair election campaign. But
HDZ who faces 'to be or not be' kind of elections doesn't care much for a fair campaign. By encircling election campaign with
Christmas and New Year's festivities, HDZ consciously wanted to make election campaign as short as possible in order to cut down analysis of all failures during 10 years of its reign. More, since he controls state functions, HDZ is aware that exactly during festivities, when campaign will be paused, it could dominate most influential state-controlled media. Finally, HDZ is completely certain that gravely ill president, founder of Croatian state, who can die in the middle of election campaign will exploit emotions of the masses and is counting that Tudjman can do one great thing more, even from his deathbed - briefly unite a part of nation.
Although by choosing 3rd January as election date Croatia once again caused protests from democratic Europe, the ruling elite pays no heed to it. In fact, it is gaining an advantage from it - the number of international election monitors will be much smaller due to Christmas and New Year festivities than under normal circumstances.
Anyhow, despite all its critiques, the opposition took up election challenge believing that popular anger reached a critical
mass when nothing can influence people's decision to vote for - changes. In fact, one could say the populace wants changes without asking much what the opposition parties have to offer. A similar thing happened during first elections - many then voted "against" instead of "for". And there lies the great opportunity for opposition.
The most important question remains to be answered: what will happen if president dies and presidential elections are to be
announced in 60 days. Taking all into account, it is only this uncertainty that is holding the ruling party tightly together.
After Tudjman dies, starts a fight for his legacy. Some are afraid such fight could result in a chaotic situation. However, many
estimate that, despite possible short-term crisis, it is evident that Croatia enters into post-Tudjman era. What role will be
played by Croatian opposition in the context of all those heavy burdens pressing Croatia -unresolved issues with international
community, neighbouring countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina and within Croatia, remains to be seen. The only thing certain at this time is that the post-Tudjman era will be hard for everyone. Victors as well as losers
Moldova : TO THE WEST OR BACK TO THE EAST ?
By Marian Chiriac
Moldova faces a second political crisis in less than
a year after its center-right Government was toppled in no confidence
vote on Nov 9 due a disagreement with the Parliament over economic policy. The communists, nationalists and deputies who support President Petru Lucinschi's plans to increase his power blocked key budget and some Western-style reforms sought by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The reforms, including privatisation of the country's major industries (wine and
tobacco), were conditions for receiving a 35 million USD loan from IMF. Since IMF funds are delayed, other loans are now in jeopardy.
Financing from the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Union - totalling
over 150 million USD - could all be put on hold.
The new political crisis is likely to further aggravate economic situation for Moldova as country's problems reflect both
its geopolitical position and the delays in starting reformist economic policy. Known as one of the richest regions in the
formers USSR, Moldova - a small agricultural state squeezed between Ukraine and Romania -, was in constant decline after the
fall of the communist regime. The value of leu, Moldova's national currency has dropped by 50 percent against the dollar in the past year while the external debt is over 235 million USD. Because of the financial blockage, the public sector has not payed its
workers for half a year. Many companies have not payed their energy and raw materials bills for months, and pay their workers
with products, instead of money.
The economy is at present only a third of its size before independence in 1991 and its precarious situation depends strongly
by the succes of Moscow's economy. Nearly 70 percent of Moldova's foreign trade is with Russia and country's entire energy system is based on natural gas imported from Siberian region. In such conditions there was no surprise that last year, the economy contracted a full 10 percent largely because of the unforeseen economic crisis in Russia.
Moldova faces now with an important question: should it orient themselves to the West or back to the East? For many politicians the answer seems to be obvious. "The resignation of the pro-Western Government signifies Moldova's refusal to integrate into Europe and its turn to the CIS and Russia", Alexandru Mosanu, head of the ruling coalition in Moldova said in an interview. This attitude is also stressed by the fact that the best candidate to become the new Prime Minister is a former high-ranking official in the times of the USSR. On the other hand, Vladimir Voronin, leader of the Communist Party from Moldova which voted against the government said that he and his allies "are in favour of continued reforms and democracy, but for the people and not for robbers and crooks".
The crisis in Moldova worried Romanian government which for the beginning expressed concerns over the political situation
there. The next day, Bucharest government decided to stop all deliveries of electricity to Moldova because of the accumulation
of 16.5 million USD debts and the lack of a clear mechanism of paying them. Romania resumed power exports on November 16 but only after Moldavian President assured that the country will confirm all its international obligations.
Itself poor and in crisis, Romania unfortunatelly cannot afford to be generous to a neighboring state despite they both are
very close from the economical and cultural point of view.
Moldova was mostly part of Romania before it was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939. The majority of people in Moldova speak the same language as Romanians, although they decided by a referendum to call it the Moldavian language.
Even though the two states share history and language, the Soviet campaign of forced Russification, the mass deportations of
the 50's, have changed the ethnic balance and altered the national identity. The nowadays relations between the two neighboring
countries are not bad, not good. But they are described very well by a short true story. After 1990,when Bucharest decided to help Moldova, the first cartloads of coal from Romanian coal fields shipped over the border made the Moldavians mumble. They were right. The coal was bad quality, full of stones, and dusty. Totally different from the anthracite they used to get from the Siberian mines prior their independence.
As the political and economic situation in Moldova remain extremely difficult it is hard to estimate the future, but it is
clear that country's independence won't be easy to maintain. There are only two options here: Moldova will either join the CIS, or will become a state included in a larger democratic Europe.
This is also a issue of strategic significance for Eastern Europe, a region where many countries here have failed so far to
pay the high pay charged for joining the West.