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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 3, Part I, 6 January 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 3, Part I, 6 January 1999

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

* RUSSIA TIGHTENS MISSILE TECHNOLOGY CONTROLS

* DUMA TO APPROVE BUDGET BY MID-FEBRUARY?

* AZERBAIJANI EX-PREMIER PLEADS NOT GUILTY ON COUP
CHARGE

End Note: KURDISH NATIONALISM IN ARMENIA
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RUSSIA

RUSSIA TIGHTENS MISSILE TECHNOLOGY CONTROLS. President
Boris Yeltsin on 5 January signed amendments designed to
bring previous Russian policies into compliance with
international agreements on the control of exports of
weapons and dual-use technology. The amendments expand
the list of items prohibited for export. According to
the presidential press service, the amendments confirm
Russia's commitment to a policy of non-proliferation and
strengthen its national system for export controls. The
U.S. and Israel have charged Russia with exporting its
missile technology to Iran. JAC

OIL REVENUES PLUMMET... Russian oil exports generated 30
percent less revenue in the first 11 months of 1998
compared with the previous year, according to statistics
from the State Customs Committee, Interfax reported on 5
January. During the same period, producers exported 10
percent more to partly compensate for the slump in world
oil prices. According to AFP, exports of natural gas,
crude oil, and refined products make up 42 percent of
Russia's hard currency earnings. JAC

...AS GOVERNMENT SLAPS DUTY ON FUEL OIL EXPORTS. The
government has introduced export duties on fuel oil in
order to prevent electricity shortages. A duty of 10
ecus per ton ($11.7) will be imposed on shipments from 1
January to 31 March. Unified Energy System (UES) head
Anatolii Chubais had complained to the parliament that
increased fuel oil exports have reduced the nation's
fuel oil reserves over the past two months. The fall in
the ruble made fuel oil exports profitable, despite low
world prices, Bloomberg reported on 5 January. Some
refinery managers have said that they will find ways to
continue exporting, the "Moscow Times" reported. JAC

DUMA TO APPROVE BUDGET BY MID-FEBRUARY? State Duma
Deputy Speaker and member of Our Home is Russia Vladimir
Ryzhkov told ITAR-TASS that the 1999 budget might be
approved in its fourth and final reading as early as 10
February. According to Ryzhkov, the second reading of
the budget will likely be scheduled for 15 January and
the third for 3 February. He added that 150 suggested
amendments to the budget, most of which proposed
redistributing budget expenditures, have been submitted.
Meanwhile, citing Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr
Zhukov, Interfax reported that the second reading may
occur on 12 January and that 130 amendments have been
submitted, which if passed would increase spending by
one-third. On 5 January, Prime Minister Yevgenii
Primakov authorized the government to spend money at the
same rate as the previous year until the new budget is
approved. JAC

MORE TALKS WITH IMF SCHEDULED. First Deputy Prime
Minister Yurii Maslyukov is expected to meet with IMF
First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer in Boston
within the framework of a conference from 14-16 January,
an IMF spokeswoman told Reuters on 5 January. An IMF
mission will visit Moscow sometime in the last two weeks
of January to review the government's economic plans.
Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin said that the
release of new credits is not on the mission's agenda.
JAC

YELTSIN PLEDGES TO PAY MOSKVA REPAIR BILL. President
Yeltsin has approved proposals for financing repairs of
the nuclear cruiser "Moskva" by Ukraine's Nikolaev
shipyard, Interfax reported on 5 January. The government
owes the shipyard 58 million rubles ($2.8 million) for
repairs to the cruiser, which are more than 90 percent
complete. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said that the
ship, which was built in the 1980s, "is an excellent
vessel from a technical point of view" and that its
"life span has not been exhausted." JAC

ANTI-REFORM REGIONS COMPRISE MAJORITY. Regions with
strong economies and good prospects for growth are the
most likely to support politicians that favor market
economic reforms; however, these regions are outnumbered
by their poorer counterparts, who tend to tend to
support Communists and "anti-liberals," the January
issue of "Vek" argued. According to the journal, "it is
impossible to find more than 15 regions with strong
economies." JAC

COSMONAUT ON 'MIR' TO SERVE ANOTHER STINT. Sergei
Avdeev, the cosmonaut who celebrated his 43rd birthday
and 500th day in space on 1 January, may spend an
additional 99 days on board the space station "Mir" (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). Avdeev may remain on
board when a new international crew arrives in February.
"Mir" was scheduled to cease operations in mid-summer,
but a private investor has recently offered to keep
"Mir" in orbit, provided the government guarantees a
loan to the company that runs the station. JAC

NEW NDR CANDIDATES DISCUSSED. Among the likely
candidates to head the Our Home is Russia (NDR) faction
in the Duma are acting faction head Boris Kuznetsov,
Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich, Andrei
Polyakov, head of the Committee for Local Government,
and Valerii Yazev, a prominent Urals businessmen, Deputy
Duma speaker Ryzhkov told ITAR-TASS on 5 January.
Ryzhkov admitted that his name has also been floated as
a prime contender for the post, which was vacated by
Aleksandr Shokhin in late December following a
disagreement with NDR party head, Viktor Chernomyrdin.
JAC

NEW HEAD OF RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION APPOINTED. Russian
President Boris Yeltsin and President of Belarus
Alyaksandr Lukashenka have appointed Viktor Stepanov,
former premier of the Karelian Republic, chairman of the
Executive Committee of the Russia-Belarus Union,
Interfax reported on 5 January. Stepanov replaces
Vladimir Pokrovskii, who was dismissed. JAC

DZERZHINSKII TO BE CAST IN ICE. To express their support
for an earlier decision by the State Duma to restore the
statue of Cheka founder Felix Dzerzhinskii to Lubyanka
square in Moscow, the municipal authorities in
Birobidzhan, capital of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast
have authorized the construction of their own
Dzerzhinskii in ice, "Trud" reported on 1 January. A
local businessman and former Communist Party regional
secretary will provide the several thousand rubles to
fund the project. The ice sculpture is expected to last
only until the spring. JAC

CYPRUS CONSIDERING ALTERNATIVE TO S-300s? Having decided
not to deploy on Cyprus the S-300 air defense missiles
it contracted to purchase from Russia, the Greek Cypriot
government is now considering buying either Tor-M1
Russian short-range missiles or comparable ASPIDE
Italian-made missiles, AP and "Financial Times" reported
on 6 January, citing the Russian daily "Segodnya." Greek
Cyprus reached that decision under pressure from Turkey.
The Tor-M1 has a range of 12 kilometers, compared with
200 kilometer range of the S-300. Following the Greek
Cypriot decision, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesmen
said Moscow expects the Greek Cypriot government to
abide by the 1997 contract to purchase the S-300s (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). LF

FOUR RUSSIAN POLICEMEN SHOT DEAD ON CHECHEN-INGUSH
BORDER. Unidentified gunmen have shot dead four Russian
police officials and wounded several others in the
Ingush village of Aki-yurt, close to the border with
Chechnya, Russian agencies reported on 5 January. Ingush
Interior Ministry officials said the killers then
crossed the border into Chechnya. But Chechen State
Security Minister Aslanbek Arsaev told ITAR-TASS that a
search has yielded no trace of the killers, who he
suggested may be hiding in Ingushetia or neighboring
North Ossetia. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

AZERBAIJANI EX-PREMIER PLEADS NOT GUILTY ON COUP CHARGE.
Suret Huseinov pleaded not guilty on 4 January to
charges of attempting a coup d'etat in October 1994,
setting up illegal armed formations, and drug
trafficking, Turan reported the following day. Huseinov
also denied any involvement in the declaration of a
separate Talysh-Murgan Republic on the Azerbaijani-
Iranian border in mid-1993. He claimed that the
disturbances in October 1994, which the prosecution
characterized as an attempted coup, were orchestrated by
former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev. Huseinov, who
led the insurrection that precipitated the flight from
Baku in June 1993 of President Abulfaz Elchibey, served
as prime minister under Heidar Aliev until October 1994,
when he was dismissed on suspicion of attempting to oust
Aliev, He fled to Moscow but was extradited to
Azerbaijan in April 1996. The prosecutor has demanded
life imprisonment for Huseinov. The final sentence is to
be handed down later this month. LF

ANOTHER JOURNALIST BEATEN IN AZERBAIJAN. Yalchin Imanov,
a journalist with the independent "Yeni Musavat"
newspaper, was beaten in two separate incidents on 3
January when he tried to obtain an interview with the
chief administrator of Barda Raion, Turan reported.
Imanov was first assaulted by a guard employed by the
administrator and then taken to the local police
department, where he was beaten again. Reporters Sans
Frontieres has lodged a protest with Azerbaijani
Interior Minister Ramil Usubov over both incidents. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER CALLS FOR DEFENSE PACT
WITH TURKEY. In a statement published by the Turkish
daily "Zaman" on 31 December and cited by Groong on 5
January, Vafa Guluzade said that in view of what he
termed the "Cold War" between Russia and Turkey, Baku
wants to conclude a defense agreement with Ankara on the
lines of that between Russia and Armenia. Guluzade added
that military assistance to Azerbaijan would strengthen
Turkey's own security as well as its position in the
region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 December 1998). LF

NEXT JAMES BOND MOVIE TO BE SHOT IN BAKU. A spokeswoman
for Eon Productions told journalists in Baku on 5
January that the company plans to shoot a new movie
featuring the British agent 007 in Baku, Reuters
reported. She said the plot will focus on "power-hungry
criminals in an oil-rich former Soviet republic" and
that Baku was selected for the location because of its
petroleum infrastructure. Also on 5 January,
Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR announced that it
exceeded the 9 million metric ton target for oil
extraction in 1998 by 52,000 tons, ITAR-TASS reported.
But an RFE/RL correspondent noted that because of
plummeting oil prices, Azerbaijan failed to make any
profit on oil exports last year. LF

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH BLASTS ELECTIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN. Human
Rights Watch, in a 5 January press release on the
presidential elections in Kazakhstan, blasted the
upcoming vote as "blatantly unfair," according to
RFE/RL, which obtained a copy. The organization said
that incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev "likes to
present himself as a dignified partner for Western
leaders and investors" but "the way his government has
twisted arms in this campaign should leave no illusions
about what kind of leader Nazarbayev really is." The
release lists a series of abuses, including pressure on
workers and students to sign petitions in support of
President Nazarbayev, the violation of citizens' rights
to freely disseminate and receive information, the
government's encroachment on the right to free speech,
bias in registering political support groups, and
obstruction of public demonstrations. BP

CANDIDATE IN KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
COMPLAINS ABOUT LEAFLETS. The campaign office of Gani
Kasymov, the head of Kazakhstan's Customs Committee and
a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections,
issued a statement on 5 January complaining about
leaflets being distributed in Almaty, RFE/RL
correspondents reported. The leaflets say that Kasymov
is "a member of the corrupt nomenklatura and a puppet
candidate brought into the race by the incumbent
president's people." No one has claimed responsibility
for distributing the leaflets. Kasymov's campaign
manager, Zhanquat Abdigaliyev, said two state-controlled
newspapers, "Kazakhstanskaya Pravda" and "Yegemen
Kazakstan," have refused to print Kasymov's political
platform. Meanwhile, Serikbolsyn Abdildin, the Communist
Party candidate in the elections, has said he will
appear on national television on 7 January and has
challenged President Nursultan Nazarbayev also to appear
for a debate with him. BP

OSCE SAYS IT WILL BE ABLE TO ASSESS KAZAKHSTAN'S
ELECTIONS. Dimitr Dimitrov, a representative of the OSCE
mission to Kazakhstan, said on 5 January that the
mission has full access to documents necessary to assess
the conduct of the 10 January presidential elections,
ITAR-TASS reported. Dimitrov said the authorities in
Kazakhstan are not interfering with the mission's work
and that the mission expects to release a brief official
statement on the day after the elections and a detailed
analysis one month later. BP

TAJIK SUPREME COURT PASSES DEATH SENTENCE. The Supreme
Court on 5 January handed down the death sentence to
Sharip Sharipov and prison terms to 17 of his
accomplices, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 January. Sharipov
was accused of organizing and carrying out attacks on
Tajik and Russian servicemen in the Dushanbe area in
1994-1995. He and his group are alleged to have been
responsible for "dozens of murders" and to have planned
to bomb the presidential palace. Sharipov has claimed
that he is a victim of slander. Observers say Sharipov
has no chance of being granted a presidential pardon.
President Imomali Rakhmonov rejected a request for
pardon in late December by six men sentenced to death
for their alleged role in an attack on Rakhmonov in
Khujand in April 1997. Among those sentenced for
involvement in that incident was Abdulkhafiz Abdullayev,
the brother of former Tajik Prime Minister Abdumalik
Abdullojonov. Abdullojonov is wanted on charges by the
Tajik authorities. BP

UNITED TAJIK OPPOSITION ORDERED TO CONTROL ITS UNITS.
Tajikistan's National Reconciliation Commission on 5
January ordered the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) to
inspect the temporary bases of its units on the
outskirts of Dushanbe and to inventory stockpiles of
weapons and munitions, ITAR-TASS reported. The deputy
leader of the commission, Abdumajid Dostiyev, said it is
"necessary to control the presence of opposition
personnel...as well as armaments and ammunition."
Dostiyev added that every absence without leave or
unauthorized opening of weapons lockers must be reported
and investigated. The decision comes following a gun
battle between two UTO field commanders in downtown
Dushanbe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1998). BP

CHINARA JAKIPOVA RESIGNS FROM SOROS FOUNDATION IN
KYRGYZSTAN. Former Minister of Education Chinara
Jakipova on 5 January announced she will step down as
head of Kyrgyzstan's branch of the Soros Foundation.
Jakipova has received high popularity ratings in polls
on likely future presidential candidates and is known to
be a very influential figure in Kyrgyzstan's political
circles. However, she told an RFE/RL correspondent in
September that she is not yet considering running in the
2000 presidential elections. Jakipova said on 5 January
that she is leaving the Soros Foundation to engage in
some "creative work." BP

END NOTE

KURDISH NATIONALISM IN ARMENIA

By Onnik Krikorian

	The arrest last month in Rome of Abdullah Ocalan,
president of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), has led
to a dramatic increase in support for the Kurdish
national liberation movement, even among those Kurds
living in countries where repression has not been
particularly evident in recent years. In Armenia,
Ocalan's arrest has served to accelerate the trend among
the country's 50,000--60,000 strong Yezidi community to
identify themselves not only as Yezidi but also as
Kurds.
	The Yezidi are indeed Kurdish, speaking the same
language as the majority of the Kurds (Kurmanji), and
all Kurds were originally Zoroastrian before the
majority converted to Islam. The Yezidi religion--even
with elements of the Zoroastrian, Islamic, and Christian
faiths--closely resembles that of the Armenians before
the adoption of Christianity, and the PKK has recently
acknowledged that fact in an attempt to clarify the
origins of the Kurdish nation. Visiting Armenia in June
1998 in what was most likely a recruiting drive, Mahir
Welat, the PKK representative to Moscow and the CIS,
affirmed, "I am a Muslim Kurd but I also honor all
religions. All Kurds used to be Yezidi [Zoroastrian] in
the past. Some of us were forced into becoming Muslim,
but now it is our intention to return and to educate
ourselves again."
	The Yezidi are currently the largest ethnic
minority in Armenia, the Muslim Kurds having left during
the early years of the Karabakh conflict. Moreover, both
the Armenians and the Yezidi fled Ottoman Turkey during
the massacres of 1915, and both harbor the same hatred
of the Turkish and [Muslim] Kurdish perpetrators that
has shaped much of the identity and policy of present-
day Armenia.
	Although relatively small in size, the Yezidi
community in Armenia still has strategic significance
for the PKK. An upsurge of Kurdish nationalism in
Armenia would inevitably affect an estimated 200,000
Muslim Kurds who have assimilated into Azerbaijani
society. Indeed, with the PKK representative to the
Caucasus based in Armenia and with Welat's recent visit,
the situation of the Azerbaijani Kurds may already be
targeted for attention.
	According to Welat, "the attitude of Armenia toward
national minorities is considered part of the generosity
and graciousness of the Armenian people. Azerbaijan has
many nations too, but if we consider their national
policy, it is very bad. For those who show loyalty
toward Azerbaijan, the attitude towards them is normal,
but for those such as the Kurds, the attitude is quite
different. They do not have normal lives."
	Official PKK policy is to praise Armenia but to
criticize Azerbaijan for the treatment of its own
Kurdish population--despite a notable silence when the
Kurds living in Kelbajar and Lachin were expelled by
Armenian forces during the Karabakh conflict. The PKK
even remained silent when, under the presidency of Levon
Ter-Petrossian, there was a short-term policy to promote
a Yezidi identify far removed from any Kurdish origin.
That policy, however, only strengthened the resolve
among the Yezidi to develop a strong Kurdish identity.
Yezidi villages now openly demonstrate their support for
the PKK by displaying portraits of Ocalan and PKK
guerillas on their walls. In early December, buses
ferrying villagers to Yerevan to attend the 20th
anniversary celebration of the formation of the PKK
displayed ERNK (National Liberation Front of Kurdistan)
and PKK flags, and a recorded message from Ocalan
himself was broadcast to the hundreds who attended.
	While the reasons for the increase in Kurdish
nationalism among the Yezidi are complex, there is
little doubt that one significant factor is a marked
reluctance among many Armenians to consider Armenia
anything other than a mono-ethnic country. Even though
policy toward minorities may change under President
Robert Kocharian, the Yezidi have so far been overlooked
during the development of the new social and political
structures. Thus, it was inevitable that the opportunity
to find themselves an integral part of a nation fighting
for liberation would prove attractive. With Ocalan in
Rome and with the Yezidi having found a new identity
desirable in a new Armenia, open support for the PKK in
Armenia is currently politically expedient in that it is
directed against Turkey.
	As the result of the developments in Rome--and
regardless of sensitivities over identity in the past--
50,000 Yezidi in Armenia have come to identify
themselves as Kurds virtually overnight. But that new
sense of purpose may pose problems in the near future,
both for the Yezidi themselves and for Armenia. Given
the sensitivity of the Kurdish question, it is uncertain
how long Armenia will continue with its new-found
tolerance toward a minority that enthusiastically
identifies itself with a movement that might well
achieve autonomy in eastern Turkey, which many Armenians
consider part of historical Western Armenia. (Some
Armenian political groups such as the Dashnaktsutiune--
the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--have reportedly
held talks with the Kurds on reconciling the two
nations' respective claims on those territories.)
	And if there is indeed an upsurge of Kurdish
nationalism among the Kurds of Azerbaijan, Baku may
choose to attribute that development to a deliberate
policy of destabilization on the part of Armenia, rather
than lay the blame on the PKK or on its own reluctance
to address the needs and aspirations of a significant
ethnic minority.

The author is a free-lance journalist currently based in
Yerevan. The views expressed in this article are his own
and do not necessarily reflect the position of any
organization with which he may be employed or otherwise
affiliated.

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               Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
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