Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow; Naught may endure but Mutability. - Percy Shelley
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 221, Part I, 16 November 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 221, Part I, 16 November 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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Headlines, Part I

* SCHROEDER ARRIVES IN MOSCOW

* LUZHKOV FORMS NEW POLITICAL MOVEMENT

* MODEST TURNOUT AT GEORGIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS

End Note: REPLACING SKRUNDA
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RUSSIA

SCHROEDER ARRIVES IN MOSCOW. German Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder arrived in Moscow on 16 November for his first
visit to Russia in his new capacity. Schroeder is expected to
reorient Germany's Russia policy away from its reliance on
the personal relationship existing between former Chancellor
Helmut Kohl and President Boris Yeltsin. In addition to
meeting with Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Yeltsin,
Schroeder will also meet with Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr
Lebed, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, and Communist
Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov. JAC

DUMA TAKES MILD STANCE ON ANTI-SEMITISM. On 13 November, the
Duma adopted a milder version of a resolution that had
condemned anti-Semitic statements and mentioned State Duma
deputy and Communist Party member Albert Makashov by name.
According to the resolution, "some deputies, officials, and
mass media outlets do not advance friendly and respectful
relationships between persons of different nationalities with
their statements," ITAR-TASS reported. The resolution passed
with 302 votes in favor and 34 against. Federal Security
Service (FSB) head Vladimir Putin announced the same day that
Moscow city prosecutors have launched an investigation into
several politicians who attended a rally at which Makashov
also spoke. Those politicians are suspected of inciting
ethnic hatred. Meanwhile, over the past week, the number of
Russian Jews applying for permission to emigrate to Israel
has jumped, according to the Israeli embassy in Moscow,
"Komsomolskaya pravda" reported. JAC

MENATEP, MOST, SBS-AGRO MAKE BAIL-OUT LIST. Andrei Kozlov,
Central Bank first deputy chairman, told the Duma's Budget
Committee on 12 November that 720 out of Russia's 1,600
commercial banks will not be saved. According to
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 November, Kozlov also said 190
regional banks have minor problems and require some
assistance. Kozlov did not disclose the identity of eighteen
banks considered too socially important to be allowed to
fail. However, Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko
later told NTV that the bank would not allow the failure of
"Russia's three largest banks, Menatep, Most, and SBS-Agro."
Lev Makarevich, an analyst with the Association of Russian
Banks told "Moscow Times" that the Central Bank itself may
not yet know the identity of the 18 banks since an assessment
of the banks' assets will require months. "All the banks,
including the biggest ones, practiced double or even triple
accounting," he said. JAC

LUZHKOV FORMS NEW POLITICAL MOVEMENT. After plans to form a
center-left alliance with the Communist Party crumbled,
Moscow Mayor and likely presidential contender Yurii Luzhkov
told NTV on 15 November that he is forming his own political
movement, which is to be called Otechestvo [Fatherland].
According to Luzhkov, the movement will form the nation's
political center, blending elements from both the Left and
the Right. It will advocate "free market principles as well
as the preservation of the state sector in the economy."
While attending a Labour Party meeting in England earlier
this fall, Luzhkov declared his affinity for the policies of
British Prime Minister Tony Blair(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30
September 1998). JAC

MOSCOW CONTINUES TO OPPOSE USE OF FORCE AGAINST IRAQ. Russia
began evacuating personnel from its embassy in Baghdad on 15
November in anticipation of possible Western air strikes, AP
reported. But Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the
same day after talks in Kuala Lumpur with U.S. Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright that there are "good prospects for a
political settlement of the crisis." Following his letter to
U.S. President Bill Clinton on 13 November making clear that
Russia opposes the use of force against Iraq, Russian
President Yeltsin reaffirmed Moscow's commitment to a
political solution to the Baghdad-UN standoff in a letter
which Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev delivered to
Syrian President Hafez Assad on 15 November. Speaking at a
conference in St. Petersburg the same day, Duma speaker
Gennadii Seleznev expressed doubt that the U.S. could topple
the Iraqi leadership. LF

RUSSIA JOINS APEC. Russia formally joined the Asia Pacific
Economic Cooperation forum on 14 November, ITAR-TASS
reported. On 17 and 18 November, Prime Minister Primakov will
fill in for President Yeltsin at an informal summit of APEC
leaders in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Foreign Minister Igor
Ivanov, who attended APEC pre-summit ministerial meetings,
noted that APEC states account for about 50 percent of world
trade turnover and about 18 percent of Russia's foreign
trade, according to ITAR-TASS. According to Interfax, Ivanov
presented a government plan for liberalizing Russian trade.
JAC

CANADA TO AID SAKHA... Canada will provide humanitarian aid
to the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), the diamond-producing
region in eastern Siberia, this winter, ITAR-TASS reported on
14 November. The amount of relief has not yet been
determined, but the Canadian government reportedly plans to
send Yakutia food, warm clothes, medicines, and possibly
fuel. JAC

...AS KORYAK, CHUKOTKA DEEMED IN WORST SHAPE. The next day,
Deputy Minister for Emergencies Nikolai Loktionov said that
the Koryak and Chukotka Autonomous Okrugs are even less
prepared for winter than Sakhalin Island or Magadan and
Kamchatka Oblasts, whose low food and fuel reserves have
triggered a variety of alarming news reports (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 4 November 1998). JAC

PROSECUTOR INVESTIGATES PLOT TO KILL BEREZOVSKII. The office
of the chief military prosecutor has reopened its
investigation into a plot to murder influential businessman
and CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii. According to
"Kommersant-Daily" on 13 November, FSB officers provided
evidence that Lieutenant-Colonel Aleksandr Litvinenko
received orders to kill Berezovskii. Litvinenko, who refused
to carry out those orders, is reportedly being persecuted and
narrowly evaded an attempt on his own life. The previous day,
"Kommersant-Daily" reported that William Webster, former
director of the CIA, told a Duma delegation visiting the U.S.
that Berezovskii illegally purchased $72 million worth of
real estate in Antigua. Berezovskii, speaking to Interfax on
11 November, dismissed the charges as a Duma provocation,
saying that "the entire island of Antigua probably costs less
than $72 million." JAC

NDR FACING REGIONAL PRESSURE... At a leadership meeting of
the Our Home is Russia (NDR) party on 14 November, NDR leader
and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin found himself
facing increasing criticism of his leadership. Saratov Oblast
Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov joined Samara Oblast Governor
Konstantin Titov, who earlier had voiced criticism of
Chernomyrdin (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 15 October 1998).
Ayatskov proposed that the party elect a new chairman, saying
the movement risks losing many of its members to other
parties, according to Interfax. Aleksandr Shokhin, leader of
NDR's Duma faction, said that real problem is not who heads
the movement but that its various parts are not working well
together, ITAR-TASS reported. He cited problems in relations
between the movement's leadership and regional leaders. JAC

...WHILE SEEKING TO FORM ELECTORAL BLOC. Unlike Yabloko and
the Communist Party, which have declared their unwillingness
to form a coalition in anticipation of presidential and
parliamentary elections, NDR stressed its desire to create a
bloc of center-right parties. According to a resolution, the
party will aim to retain--if not increase --its number of
representatives in the Duma. JAC

RUSSIAN AIRLINES SLASH PRICES, REDUCE SERVICE. Aeroflot
reduced its prices by 30 percent from 10 November until 31
March 1999 for business class travelers on international
flights, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 November. The special rates
will not be available during the period from 16 December to 1
January. Vnukovo Airlines has also cut its fares for internal
flights. Earlier Transaero reduced its service to some
Russian cities, cutting back its total number of flights by
30 percent. Domestic airlines are struggling since passenger
travel plunged 30 percent in September and October compared
with last year. JAC

NEWSPAPER BLAMES U.S. CONSUL OFFICIAL FOR ACCIDENT.
"Komsomolskaya pravda" has suggested that a U.S. consulate
official was at fault in a traffic accident in Vladivostok
that left a 23-year-old "maimed" and in need of expensive
medical treatment. Citing a local television broadcast, the
newspaper reported that while the US official has admitted
his guilt and volunteered to pay for the boy's treatment, no
money has yet been forthcoming. The daily also noted that the
boy is receiving round-the-clock care "not from a U.S. Peace
Corps volunteer, but from his mother." It concluded that "we
do not dispute [the U.S. diplomat's] right to refuse 'to
breathe into a tube' [take a breath analyzer test after the
accident] but we do dispute his moral right to cripple a man
and then carry on blithely with the rest of his life." JAC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT GREETS VLASOV'S RELEASE. Aslan Maskhadov
expressed his pleasure on 13 November at the release of
Russian presidential envoy Valentin Vlasov, who had been
abducted on 1 May on the border between Chechnya and
Ingushetia, Interfax reported. Maskhadov also praised
Vlasov's strength of character and said that he hopes Vlasov
will resume his mission in Chechnya soon. Chechen Deputy
Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriev told Interfax that Vlasov was
not held on Chechen territory and that the Chechen leadership
was not informed of the operation to secure his release.
Details of that operation have not been publicized. Chechen
Deputy Security Minister Nasrudi Bazhiev rejected Russian
Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin's claim that no ransom was
paid. He accused Stepashin of encouraging criminal groups
that engage in kidnappings. LF

WAS MOSCOW INVOLVED IN OCALAN'S ARREST? Russian government
and Foreign Ministry spokesmen refused on 14 November to
comment on the implications of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
leader Abdullah Ocalan's arrest on arrival in Rome on a
Russian Airlines flight from Moscow on the night of 12-13
November, according to Interfax. Russian officials had
repeatedly said they could not confirm media reports that
Ocalan was in Russia. But "Segodnya" on 14 November quoted
Can Altan, an adviser at the Turkish Embassy in Moscow, as
implying that Russian intelligence may have tipped off the
Italian authorities and thus facilitated Ocalan's arrest. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

MODEST TURNOUT AT GEORGIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS. Initial returns
indicate that turnout at the 15 November Georgian municipal
elections was low, though above the required 33.3 percent
minimum nationwide, according to Caucasus Press. The ruling
Union of Citizens of Georgia reportedly received a majority
in Tbilisi and in the predominantly Armenian-populated region
of Samtskhe-Djavakheti. Voting was marred by minor procedural
violations in a number of places, including Krtsanisi, where
President Eduard Shevardnadze was allowed to cast his vote
without producing his passport. LF

GEORGIAN FINANCE MINISTER RESIGNS. As widely anticipated,
Shevardnadze on 14 November accepted the resignation of 28-
year-old Mikhail Chkuaseli, who had served as finance
minister since May 1997. Chkuaseli told journalists that he
had intended to resign two months ago but had changed his
mind after the parliament approved changes in the tax code
and the government implemented IMF recommendations to
mobilize tax revenues. But those measures have not had the
desired effect: Chkuaseli complained on 11 November that
budget revenues do not exceed 100,000 lari ($75,000) per day,
while state expenditures are 2 million lari per day.
Addressing the state financial stabilization commission the
same day, Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze said the
budget shortfall for the first 10 months of 1998 was 160
million lari. LF

NO COMPROMISE ON ARMENIAN ELECTION LAW. Representatives of
the Yerkrapah parliamentary group, the largest in the
legislature, held three-day talks last week with opposition
representatives but failed to reach agreement on a new
election law, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 13
November. Yerkrapah wants most seats in the new parliament to
be allocated under a majoritarian system, while an
alternative draft law supported by 11 other political parties
represented in the parliament prefers the proportional
system. Eduard Yegorian, leader of the Hairenik group and
author of the alternative draft law, termed the talks "a
farce" and accused Yerkrapah of unwillingness to compromise
on any major issue. LF

ARMENIA POSTPONES PLANNED POPULATION CENSUS. Minister of
Statistics Stepan Mnatsakanian told ITAR-TASS on 14 November
that the nationwide census planned for next year has been
postponed until 2001 because the draft budget for 1999 does
not provide the necessary funds. As of 1 November, Armenia's
population was officially estimated at 3,780,000. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADER CHARGED WITH INSULTING
PRESIDENT. The Ministry of Justice announced on 13 November
that former President Abulfaz Elchibey, chairman of the
Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, has been charged with
defaming the honor and dignity of his successor as president,
Heidar Aliev, Reuters and Interfax reported. That crime is
punishable by up to six years' imprisonment. Elchibey had
affirmed in articles published in two independent newspapers
last week that Aliev was instrumental in the creation of the
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). On 14 November, the recently
formed Movement for Democracy that unites 23 opposition
parties called off a demonstration planned for the following
day after the Baku city authorities refused permission to
hold it, Interfax reported. On 13 November, the Azerbaijani
parliament had passed legislation limiting the right to hold
public demonstrations. LF

ANOTHER KAZAKH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BARRED FROM RUNNING.
Central Electoral Commission chairwoman Zagipa Baliyeva told
Interfax on 13 November that Asylbek Amantai, who heads the
Oton public movement, cannot register as a candidate for the
10 January presidential elections. She explained that in
February, Amantai was sentenced by a local court on charges
of violating regulations for convening meetings and
demonstrations. Former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin has also
been refused registration as a presidential candidate on the
same grounds. LF

TURKISH PRESIDENT IN KYRGYZSTAN. Arriving in Bishkek on 13
November, Suleyman Demirel discussed bilateral relations with
Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev. The following day, he opened
the Kyrgyz-Turkish university in Bishkek, in which Turkey has
invested $13 million, and visited several Kyrgyz-Turkish
joint ventures. Discussing economic cooperation, Demirel
warned that Turkey will extend further loans to Kyrgyzstan
only after irregularities in the use of a $75 million loan in
1993 have been clarified, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported.
The total volume of Turkish-Kyrgyz trade is $60 million, and
Turkey has invested $18 million in Kyrgyzstan's Manas free
economic zone. Demirel had left Turkmenistan for Kyrgyzstan
on 13 November without either signing an anticipated joint
communique or holding a press conference with his Turkmen
counterpart, Saparmurat Niyazov, Interfax reported. LF

UZBEKISTAN AGAIN DENIES ABETTING TAJIK REBELS. The Uzbek
Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 13 November rejecting
as "completely groundless" accusations made the previous day
by Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov that the Uzbek
leadership provided support to the leaders of the failed
revolt in Tajikistan two weeks ago, Reuters reported.
Addressing the Tajik parliament the same day, Rakhmonov
softened his rhetoric, urging deputies not to fuel enmity
between the Tajik and Uzbek peoples, according to ITAR-TASS.
Also on 13 November, Tajik National Reconciliation Commission
chairman Said Abdullo Nuri, who also heads the United Tajik
Opposition, appealed to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
officially to condemn the revolt in order to deter UN members
from further interfering in Tajikistan's internal affairs. In
Bishkek on 14 November, CIS Executive Secretary Boris
Berezovskii warned that the deterioration in Tajik-Uzbek
relations poses a threat to the entire CIS. LF

END NOTE

REPLACING SKRUNDA

by Paul Goble

	In yet another indication that Moscow can still find
funds for activities it deems essential, the Russian military
will soon open a radar base in Belarus to replace the Skrunda
site in Latvia, which was shut down in the summer.
	According to a recent report in the Moscow newspaper
"Nezavisimaya gazeta," construction of the new base, to be
located near the Belarusian city of Baranovichi, was delayed
for five years because of "insufficient funding." As a result
of those delays, much of the equipment for it is no longer in
working order after being stored for so long.
	But, the newspaper reports, Moscow recently found the
funds and ordered construction carried out at "forced march
tempi." The early warning radar system will soon be in
service to protect Russia's Northwest.
	"Nezavisimaya gazeta" suggests that this project
reflects the growing military cooperation between Moscow and
Minsk. Indeed, it published this story under precisely that
rubric. But in fact, the opening of what the newspaper called
an "alternative" to Skrunda points to three much larger
issues.
	First, Moscow's construction of a new site in Belarus
undermines Russia's long-standing claims, supported by many
in the West, that the Skrunda site was integral to East-West
arms accords and that Moscow had no choice but to continue to
operate the Skrunda site in Latvia long after Soviet power
fell there.
	Indeed, it was largely on the basis of these Russian
claims that the Latvian government was pressured into
allowing the Russian military to continue to operate the
Skrunda site until this summer, four years after the last
Russian soldier left, and to have another 18 months to
dismantle it.
	Second, Moscow's ability to find the funds needed for
this plant at a time when the Russian government faces so
many financial problems seems certain to raise a number of
questions in Western countries to which Moscow has applied
for assistance. Indeed, the Baranovichi installation is not
the only one of its kind: the Russian military is putting on
line a variety of new weapons systems even as some of its
units are forced to open soup kitchens for soldiers and
officers.
	Some governments are likely to ask just how cash-pressed
the Russian government is if it can construct such expensive
bases. They may also inquire where the Russian authorities
got the cash for such installations. Did the Russian
government divert some Western assistance intended for
shoring up the Russian economy into strengthening the Russian
army?
	Johannes Linn, World Bank vice president for Europe and
Central Asia, recently told RFE/RL that the bank does not
have control over the exact use of its so-called structural
adjustment loans, granted in exchange for policy changes that
the bank believes will be beneficial to the debtor country as
whole. At the same time, Linn said that while the bank does
not control every dollar the Russian government spends and in
particular, does not control the military budget, it has
recently agreed to review with Moscow the government's public
expenditures program in order to identify high- and low-
priority expenses.
	But while closer control over budget allocations may
appease concerns in some quarters, there is likely to be
considerable resistance in the West to any plans for
providing monetary assistance to the Russian government
following the announcement about Baranovichi. At the very
least, Russian military construction of the kind taking place
in Belarus almost certainly will cause Western governments to
conclude they should supply only non-cash aid to Moscow
because such assistance, be it food or medical supplies, is
far less easy to divert to other purposes.
	Third, Moscow's decision to build this site in Belarus
points to one of the ways the Russian authorities are coping
with their loss of control over the Baltic States. Their
willingness to live up to their commitment to shut down the
Skrunda site in Latvia demonstrates that most in Moscow are
coming to accept that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are no
longer part of what some in Russia call its natural "sphere
of influence," which they view as also embracing the former
Soviet republics.
	This does not mean that Moscow will avoid using a
variety of non-military means to put pressure on the
governments of these countries. Rather, it suggests that the
Russian authorities recognize that any direct use of military
power in that region would almost certainly be
counterproductive.
	Moreover, Moscow's acceptance of this new reality in the
Baltic States makes its interest in Belarus and other former
Soviet republics along its western borders all the greater.
That, in turn. suggests that Moscow is likely to press for
additional forms of military cooperation with these
countries, either bilaterally or under the cover of the
Commonwealth of Independent States.
	To the extent that happens, replacing Skrunda with
Baranovichi appears likely to reverberate through the new
security architecture of this still unsettled region.

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                     All rights reserved.
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