On this shrunken globe, men can no longer live as strangers. - Adlai Stevenson
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 60 Part I, 27 March 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 60 Part I, 27 March 1998

A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia,
the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty.

This is Part I, a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and
Central Asia. Part II covers Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe and is
distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL
NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline

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EUROPEAN UNION: EMBRACING ENLARGEMENT AND ECONOMIC UNION
The EU takes two important steps this month toward implementing a unified
currency and enlarging to include Central and Eastern European countries.
These articles describe recent developments and describe the current
economic status of four European countries.
http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/eumarch98/index.html

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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN NOMINATES KIRIENKO, WARNS DUMA

* WIDE RANGE OF ISSUES DISCUSSED AT "TROIKA" MEETING

* TAJIKISTAN ENTERS CENTRAL ASIAN CUSTOMS UNION

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN NOMINATES KIRIENKO, WARNS DUMA. President Boris
Yeltsin has formally nominated Sergei Kirienko as prime minister and warned
the State Duma against opposing him, Interfax reported on 27 March. Yeltsin
said that he is appealing to the Duma "not to start new rounds of
confrontation," an implicit threat that he will use his powers to dismiss the
parliament and call new elections if deputies do not approve his nominee in
the first three rounds of voting. Yeltsin added he will give full backing to
Kirienko, who, he said, will need that support as he seeks to eliminate wage
arrears and presses for further reforms. Also on 27 March, Yeltsin signed the
1998 state budget. PG

REACTION MIXED TO KIRIENKO NOMINATION. Duma speaker
Gennadii Seleznev said Prime Minister-designate Kirienko must consult with
Duma leaders before that body considers confirming him in office, Interfax
reported on 27 March. Russian news agencies suggest that the first vote
could take place on 3 April. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said
Kirienko's nomination is "a very good decision, absolutely expected." He
added that "the Russian government is now working at full speed," Interfax
reported. Communist Party leader Valentin Kuptsov, for his part, said the
nomination was "a hasty move and [Yeltsin's] latest mistake." Business
magnate Boris Berezovskii suggested that it would be "unreasonable" for the
Duma to fail to back Yeltsin's nominee. PG

YELTSIN PRAISES CHERNOMYRDIN. In his 27 March address
nominating Kirienko, Yeltsin went out of his way to praise former Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and to suggest that the latter will play a
significant political role in the future, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin praised
Chernomyrdin for his loyalty and hard work and stressed he has asked him
"to concentrate on preparing" for the presidential elections in 2000.
Chernomyrdin's "huge experience and ability to work with people," Yeltsin
said, "will be an asset in this work. I am sure he will do a great deal yet
for
Russia." PG

WIDE RANGE OF ISSUES DISCUSSED AT "TROIKA" MEETING.
Yeltsin, French President Jacques Chirac, and German Chancellor Helmut
Kohl, meeting outside Moscow on 26 March, agreed that the "sudden
application of pressure" in Kosovo is unnecessary at this point, and they
reviewed Russia's ties with the EU and NATO. In discussions on a project to
build a new generation aircraft, Yeltsin favored basing that project on the
Russian-Ukrainian agreement on the An-70 airplane. Kohl spoke out strongly
against Latvia's and Estonia's policies toward those countries' ethnic Russian
minorities, saying Tallinn and Riga should not "overestimate the amount of
support for them from Western European states." Chirac said he is against the
Baltic States entering NATO. And Yeltsin stressed that an expanded Europe
will become a major force in today's multipolar world. All three leaders
underlined that their meeting poses no threat to any country. BP

MOSCOW SCRAPS TRANSPORT CHARGES TO SUPPORT OIL. First
Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov has announced that the Russian government
will not require Russian oil companies to pay for using the country's pipeline
system. He added that the move is part of a broader program of supporting
the oil industry in the face of falling world oil prices, ITAR-TASS reported
on 27 March. But LUKoil and other Russian oil companies continue to press
for $3.12 billion in tax relief because of declining world prices for oil,
even
as the government and LUKoil disagreed on whether to cut production.
Meanwhile, Rosneft officials said on 26 March that they believe the $2 billion
dollar price set by the government for a 75 percent stake in the oil
concern is
entirely fair, ITAR-TASS reported. And U.S. and Russian companies,
meeting in Almaty on 26 March, discussed four options for pipe lines
carrying Kazakh oil out of the Caspian basin, Interfax reported. PG

GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN REJECTS REPORTS ON DOWNSIZING.
Igor Shabdurasulov said on 27 March that he is puzzled by First Deputy
Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin's suggestions two days earlier that a special
Finance Ministry commission is preparing cost-cutting measures to end
chronic wage arrears to state employees, ITAR-TASS reported. Kudrin said
the number of public employees will be reduced. For instance, regional
branches of federal agencies will be downsized by a total of 70,000
employees. Jobs will also be cut in the health, education, and science
sectors.
The "Financial Times" on 26 March quoted Kudrin as saying a total of some
208,000 jobs will be cut, saving the federal government 40 billion rubles
(some $6.7 billion). He said the plan will allow all other state employees to
be paid on time, thereby reducing social tension. Shabdurasulov said that "no
such official proposals" have been made. LB/PG

MOSCOW WELCOMES CONTACT GROUP STATEMENT ON
YUGOSLAVIA. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Moscow
regards the latest final document of the international contact group on
Yugoslavia as a "balanced reasonable decision," at least "for the time being,"
Interfax reported. At the same time, the ministry expressed the hope that "the
arrival of radical nationalists in the Serbian government will not have a
negative impact on the settlement of the situation in Kosovo or on relations
between Moscow and Belgrade." PG

RUSSIA, JAPAN PREPARE FOR SUMMIT. Russian Deputy Foreign
Minister Grigorii Karasin and Japanese Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi met in
Tokyo 26 March to prepare for the 11-13 April summit between Yeltsin and
Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier,
the two countries exchanged notes outlining plans to simplify the visa regime,
Interfax reported. Meanwhile, a group of Duma deputies from the People's
Rule group has sharply criticized recent statements by U.S. Ambassador
James Collins backing Japanese claims to the Kuril Islands as "another gross
interference" in Russian internal affairs, Interfax reported. And the Russian
Foreign Ministry announced that Moscow has not ruled out the possibility of
attending a security summit with leaders of Japan, the U.S., and China,
Interfax said. PG

LUZHKOV CALLS FOR ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST LATVIA.
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov urged that Russia reduce the flow of goods
through Latvia by exporting them through Kaliningrad and Leningrad,
Interfax reported 26 March. The Russian government must do this in order to
protect the "basic rights" of ethnic Russians living in that Baltic
Republic. In
other comments, Luzhkov said that he planned to support the new Russian
government now being formed if it lives up to the promises the acting prime
minister has given him. Meanwhile, Luzhkov launched 27 March a new
national daily newspaper, "Rossiya," with an initial circulation of 100,000
copies. PG

RUSSIAN PATRIARCH WANTS ROLE FOR CHURCH IN ARMY.
Patriarch Aleksii II of Moscow and All Russia told Interfax on 26 March that
he has asked the Russian military to allow representatives of the Russian
Orthodox Church and other traditional religions to visit the troops and help
improve their spiritual upbringing. He said he favors creating a special
center
for moral upbringing to prepare young people for the draft. But Aleksii used
the occasion to stress again that he does not believe the military should
allow
representatives of other denominations access to soldiers because such
missionaries are "overcrowding the country." PG

MILITARY PROSECUTOR URGES DESERTERS TO TURN
THEMSELVES IN... The Chief Military Prosecutor's Office and the
Soldiers' Mothers Committee have organized a joint program to encourage
army deserters to turn themselves in, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26
March. Since 23 March, when the program was launched nationwide, more
than 150 deserters have turned themselves in, according to Yurii Demin, the
chief military prosecutor. There are an estimated 17,000 army deserters in
Russia. Demin has promised that criminal charges will not be brought against
first-time deserters who fled the army to escape "difficult circumstances,"
meaning brutal hazing. Deserters who give themselves up will be sent to
complete their military service in other units. LB

...AS PROSECUTOR-GENERAL PROPOSES AMNESTY FOR
DESERTERS. Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov has submitted a proposal
to the State Duma to amnesty army deserters, "Novye izvestiya" reported on
24 March. The newspaper said the proposal was drafted after prosecutors and
investigators became convinced that commanders close their eyes to
widespread hazing and that deserting is the only hope of survival for some
soldiers. The current situation often prompts deserters to commit crimes to
survive, since they are forced to live without documentation and are virtually
unable to earn money legally. The constitution grants the Duma the sole right
to declare amnesties. It is unclear whether Duma deputies would support an
amnesty for deserters. The lower house has yet to adopt a law on alternative
service for youths who do not want to serve in the army. LB

VLADIVOSTOK POLITICAL FEUD HEATS UP. The long-running dispute
between Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherpkov and regional government
Yevgenii Nazdratenko intensified on 26 March. Police raided the mayor's
office to seize documents they said were needed for an audit, Interfax
reported. Regional officials denied they were behind the raid, but the
incident
prompted 500 supporters of the mayor to stage a counter-demonstration and
several local officials to start a hunger strike. Some of those officials
blamed
the Nazdratenko administration and asked for Moscow's intervention.
Meanwhile, the Russian prosecutor general is considering whether to bring
charges against Nazdratenko in connection with the beating of a World War II
veteran in October 1997, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PREMIER COMMENTS ON ELECTION VIOLATIONS...
Prime Minister and acting President Robert Kocharian told journalists in
Yerevan on 26 March that he has documentary evidence that supporters of
rival candidates committed procedural violations during the16 March
presidential vote. He said, however, that he will not make that evidence
public, Noyan Tapan reported. Kocharyan said he has dismissed the
prosecutor of Yerevan's Mashtots Raion for failing to open criminal
proceedings into cases of such violations. And he denied he intends to
introduce "a militarized state" in Armenia. Also on 26 March, the Armenian
Communist Party issued a statement saying it will endorse neither Kocharyan
nor former Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchyan in the 30
March runoff because their programs do not take into account the "interests of
the working people," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

...PREDICTS ROBUST ECONOMIC GROWTH IN 1998. Kocharyan also
said on 26 March that the economic outlook for Armenia for 1998 is positive
and that economic growth is expected to reach 8-10 percent, RFE/RL's
Yerevan bureau reported. He said the presence of leftist political groups
in his
electoral coalition will not affect his determination to continue with
economic
reform if he is elected president. Kocharyan drew parallels with some
European countries where the Left is currently in power. "There is no
alternative to a market economy," he said. He also remarked that the
country's new prime minister should be a politician whose duties are not
confined to managing the economy, but he declined to say whom he might
appoint to that post. LF

ARMENIA "CANNOT AFFORD" PROFESSIONAL ARMY. Addressing
students in Yerevan on 25 March, Armenian Defense Minister Vazgen
Sargsyan said the country cannot afford to maintain a professional army. But
he denied rumors that the call-up period is to be extended from two to three
years, Noyan Tapan reported. Sargsyan said Armenia is currently militarily
stronger than Azerbaijan and is likely to remain so for 2-3 years, although
the
two countries have equal amounts of armaments. But he warned that "if some
day Azerbaijan feels it is stronger than we are, it will resume hostilities
regardless of opportunities to find a political settlement to the Karabakh
conflict." LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION SUBJECT TO THREATS, VIOLENCE. The
Azerbaijani Ministry of Justice has issued a statement warning that legal
action will be taken against people "who do not observe law as well as
[against] parties and public movements not registered at the Ministry of
Justice and engaged in illegal activities," Turan reported on 26 March. The
statement charges that the Brotherhood, Evolution, and Modern Turan parties
are engaged in illegal activities. The ministry also considers that the
Democratic Congress, the Round Table, the Azerbaijan National Committee
of the Helsinki Civil Assembly, the Youth Organization Turan, and the
Society for Protection of Oilmen's Rights are illegal. Meanwhile, Sardar
Jalaloglu, secretary-general of the Azerbaijan Democratic Party, was
hospitalized after he and two other ADP members were severely beaten near
the party's headquarters the previous day by unidentified assailants. LF

CONFUSION OVER AZERBAIJANI AMBASSADOR TO IRAN
CONTINUES. Alirza Bikdeli, Tehran's ambassador in Baku, has denied that
the car of Aliyar Safarli, the Azerbaijan's ambassador to Iran, was stopped
and searched at the Astara check point on 20 March, Turan reported. He also
denied that Tehran had demanded that Safarli be recalled, saying the matter
was "an internal affair of Azerbaijan." Iranian press reports claim that
Iranian
Deputy Foreign Minister Mortez Sarmadi and Azerbaijani President Heidar
Aliev agreed to recall Safarli during talks in Baku on 17 March. LF

WHO KILLED ZVIAD GAMSAKHURDIA? Manana Archvadze-Gamsakhurdia, widow of the
former Georgian president, has accused former Georgian Finance Minister Guram
Absandze of instigating her husband's murder, Interfax reported. Absandze was
extradited from Moscow to Tbilisi last week on suspicion of having financed
the 9 February attempt to assassinate current Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze. Archvadze-Gamsakhurdia originally claimed that her husband
committed suicide. She later said that members of his bodyguard team had shot
him on orders from Bessarion Gugushvili, who was premier under Gamsakhurdia in
late 1991. LF

GEORGIA CLAIMS OWNERSHIP OF RUSSIAN WINERIES. Georgian
Deputy State Property Minister Zurab Bakhtadze told journalists on 26 March
that Tbilisi is claiming ownership of seven wineries and distilleries in
Russian
cities, ITAR-TASS reported. Moscow, for its part, has laid claim to 70
Georgian facilities, mostly at health resorts on the Black Sea coast. LF

TAJIKISTAN ENTERS CENTRAL ASIAN CUSTOMS UNION. Tajikistan
has been accepted as a member of the Central Asian Customs Union, whose
founding members are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, RFE/RL
correspondents reported. Meeting in the Uzbek capital on 26 March, the
presidents of the four countries also agreed to form an international
hydroelectric consortium and reached accord on common principles for
creating a securities market. Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov said Tajikistan's
entry into the union makes it eligible for "concrete assistance" from the
other
three members. Kazakhstan's Nursultan Nazarbayev commented that
integration of the Central Asian states "does not distance those countries
from
the CIS." BP

KARIMOV LASHES OUT AT PAKISTAN, WAHHABIS AGAIN.
Speaking to journalists in Tashkent on 26 March, the Uzbek president
repeated his claim that Wahhabi militants are training in Pakistan (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1998), Interfax reported. Karimov also
blasted human rights organizations for complaining about the treatment of
those arrested in Namangan for their alleged role in violence there late last
year. Those arrested had "killed people by cutting off their heads," Karimov
said. He argued that human rights activists are "defending for the sake of
defending." And he said that the trial of those arrested will be attended by
journalists and observers from various countries. BP

TURKMEN PRESIDENT READY TO RELINQUISH SOME POWER.
Saparmurat Niyazov told the parliament on 26 March that he is prepared to
give up some of his powers following the 1999 elections to the legislature,
Interfax reported. He noted that there would be changes in the cabinet over
the next two years but gave no details. Interfax cites observers as saying
this
means the post of prime minister will be reinstated. Currently, Niyazov heads
the government. Also on 26 March, the parliament approved the draft of a
new civil code. BP

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