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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 9, Part I, 14 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 9, Part I, 14 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * RUSSIA STILL RILED ABOUT U.S. ACCUSATIONS * TEACHERS' PROTESTS SPREAD THROUGHOUT COUNTRY * KAZAKHSTAN TO HAVE NEW PRO-GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION PARTIES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIA STILL RILED ABOUT U.S. ACCUSATIONS... Russian officials continued to express indignation at announced U.S. sanctions against Russia for allegedly sharing sensitive technology with Iran. Federal Security Service (FSB) spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich told ITAR-TASS on 14 January that U.S. intelligence services are wrong to believe that the two institutes and one university against which sanctions have been announced were violating export technology controls. According to an FSB statement, the current situation "is either the result of a misunderstanding or the product of insufficient work by American intelligence." The Russian Foreign Ministry echoed the FSB's assertion that the U.S. charges are unfounded and characterized the administration's steps as "in flagrant contradiction of understandings reached by the presidents of the two countries in September 1998." Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that the U.S. believes itself to be a "gendarme that has a right to dictate its will not only to countries but even to separate educational establishments, scientific establishments, and work collectives." JAC ...AS NEW MEASURES THREATENED. The U.S. increased pressure on Russia on 13 January by threatening to put curbs on Russian space launches of US commercial satellites if Russia does not stop cooperating with Iran's nuclear and missile programs. U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said that "if [the US] does not get progress on the missile proliferation problem," then Russia will not be able to launch any more satellites, Reuters reported. Permission for 16 launches has already been granted, but those launches are expected to be carried out early in 1999, requiring Washington to complete a review of the program, which has provided Russia with much-needed revenue. Russian Foreign Ministry sources responded by saying that "Russian-U.S. relations must be based on dialogue, not on unilateral moves," Interfax reported the next day. JAC MASLYUKOV TO MEET WITH IMF... First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott on 13 January in Washington on the first leg of a five-day U.S. visit. Maslyukov told reporters before the meeting that U.S. sanctions and Russian steel imports would likely top the discussion's agenda. Maslyukov is scheduled to meet with IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus, World Bank president James Wolfensohn and U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley. He is accompanied by First Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin, Economics Minister Andrei Shapovalyants, and Central Bank First Deputy Chairman Tatyana Paramonova, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC ...AS DUMA TINKERS WITH BUDGET BACK HOME. Meanwhile in Moscow, the State Duma's Budget Committee has approved a number of amendments, redistributing some 7.9 billion rubles ($350 million) among various budget items, Interfax reported on 13 January. The committee suggested that spending on international activities be cut by 4.3 billion rubles or 11 percent, while aid to regional budgets be increased by 3.5 billion rubles or 9 percent. JAC RUSSIA IN DEFAULT ON SOVIET-ERA DEBT. The credit agency Fitch IBCA on 13 January declared Russia's debt inherited from the Soviet Union in default, downgrading it from the level of CC to DD. The failure of Vneshekonombank to make a $362 million interest payment on 2 December prompted the decision, according to an agency statement. Two days earlier, the Russian government invited London Club creditors to hold talks in the second half of January on payment of its Soviet- era debts. On 19 January, creditors will vote whether to demand immediate payment or give Russia more time to settle its debts, Interfax reported. The debt, which Russia accumulated after the Soviet Union broke up, still carries a rating of CCC as do Russia's Eurobonds. JAC TEACHERS' PROTESTS SPREAD THROUGHOUT COUNTRY... Teachers' actions have spread throughout Russia and are expected to increase significantly on 27 January, the date of an all-Russia teachers' protest action, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 13 January. Noting that more than 90 percent of education workers are women, the newspaper reported that while the government has no money to pay the teachers their full wages, the problem has been exacerbated by the central and local authorities' disrespectful treatment of the teachers. For example, authorities in Novosibirsk tried offering some teachers three bottles of vodka in lieu of their wages. The daily concluded that the "humiliating position in which teachers have been placed by authorities is an indicator of the gangrene that is eating the Russian state more powerfully every day." JAC ...AS ACTIONS TALLIED. According to data released by an educational workers' union, as of 11 January teachers at almost 1,400 schools across nine Russian regions were on strike, "Vremya MN" reported on 12 January. Those regions are the republics of Altai, Khakassia, and Buryatia; the oblasts of Kurgan, Novosibirsk, Smolensk, Irkutsk, and Magadan; and Krasnoyarsk Krai. Teachers at 181 schools in Vologda Oblast and at six schools in Vladimir Oblast are also on strike, Russian agencies reported. JAC TOP FINANCE MINISTRY OFFICIAL RESIGNS. First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin tendered his resignation on 14 January, Prime-TASS reported. Prime Minister Primakov has accepted his resignation. Kudrin will not leave government service and will work at a state agency, according to Interfax the previous day. JAC VLADIVOSTOK ELECTIONS TO TAKE PLACE ON SCHEDULE? Deputy chief of the presidential administration Oleg Sysuev pledged on 13 January that "the president of Russia personally and the presidential administration will do everything possible to make sure that the [Vladivostok mayoral] elections scheduled for 17 January take place," ITAR-TASS reported. A district court had earlier ruled that the elections would be illegal, and although local officials intended to lodge an appeal, they said the elections would not take place as scheduled (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 1999). Sysuev said that the "cancellation of mayoral elections and all this unhealthy fuss around them benefit those who do not want law and order to be restored." According to Interfax, he is slated to become head of a new department in the presidential administration on regional policies and local self-government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 1999). JAC NEW FOREIGN INVESTMENT LAW IN PIPELINE. The Russian government is preparing a new version of the law on foreign investments, Deputy Economic Minister Vladimir Kossov told Interfax on 13 January. The law contains a provision that the government will protect investors from adverse changes in investment terms for the first seven years of a project. The bill, according to Kossov, "virtually renounces the nationalization of foreign property" and provides fair compensation in those rare cases in which nationalization is necessary for national security reasons. JAC LEBED TO SEEK POWER REDISTRIBUTION BETWEEN CENTER, REGIONS... Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed told ITAR-TASS on 14 January that he will push for a "redistribution of relations between the center and regions" at a meeting of the Siberian Accord organization on 15 January. According to Lebed, Moscow still tries to run everything long-distance. As an example, he cited the Krasnoyarskugol association, whose coal reserves and electric power stations are located in Siberia but are "managed from the Arbat." On the other hand, he noted that the 1999 budget shows the federation "has been increasingly shifting more responsibilities to regions without backing them financially." Deputy chief of the presidential administration Sysuev is planning to represent the government's position at the upcoming meeting. JAC ...WARNS OF NEW NORTH CAUCASUS CONFLICT. In a statement summarized by Interfax on 13 January, Lebed, who is also former Russian Security Council secretary, warned that unless Moscow takes swift action in support of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, a new war may erupt in the North Caucasus. He argued that Russia has ceded its strategic interests in Chechnya to the U.S., Turkey, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Forces opposed to Maskhadov are "ready to start an armed insurgency at any moment," he argued. Lebed also blamed Moscow for not having taken advantage of the opportunity offered by the peace agreement that he and Maskhadov signed in late August 1996 to stabilize the political and economic situation in Chechnya and the neighboring North Caucasus republics. In July, Lebed and three other leading Russian politicians called on the Russian government to take measures to stabilize the deteriorating situation in the North Caucasus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1998). LF GOVERNMENT ASKS KALMYKIA TO PAY UP. The republic of Kalmykia will not receive funds from the federal budget until it pays its 236 million ruble ($10.5 million) debt to the center, First Deputy Finance Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters on 12 January. According to Khristenko, Kalmykia suggested transferring outstanding taxes to the center twice a year in a fixed sum. But Khristenko argued that such a scheme would lead to regional separatism and is therefore unacceptable. JAC CENTRAL BANK BAILS OUT PROMSTROIBANK. The Central Bank has granted a 1.5 billion ruble ($66 million) stabilization loan to Promstroibank, Interfax reported on 13 January, citing "sources close to banking circles." In exchange the Central Bank has received a 75 percent stake in the company. JAC RUSSIA TO STUDY WOMEN IN SPACE. Yelena Kondrakova, the third Russian female cosmonaut, will participate in a simulated space flight on a model space station on earth, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 January. According to the agency, data need to be gathered on how women would participate in an international space crew. Two other women from the U.S. and Canada and several men will also take part in the simulated flight. The team will be divided into four crews that will live on a model international space station consisting of two modules measuring 200 and 100 cubic meters that have only computer and radio contacts with the outside world. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKHSTAN TO HAVE NEW PRO-GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION PARTIES. Former Prime Minister Sergei Tereshchenko, who headed President Nursultan Nazarbayev's recent successful campaign for re-election, told journalists on 13 January that his campaign team intends to create a new political party, called Otan [Fatherland], which Nazarbayev will be invited to head, Reuters reported. Tereshchenko said the new party will adhere to "democratic and parliamentarian principles" and will contend the local and parliamentary elections later this year. The new group will propose Nazarbayev as its candidate for the presidential elections in 2006, he added, according to Interfax. Also on 13 January, Hasen Qozhakhmet, one of the leaders of the opposition AZAT movement, told journalists in Almaty that he intends to found a new political party called Otanshildar [Lovers of the Fatherland], which will unite patriots and intellectuals, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported the following day. LF KYRGYZ PREMIER MEETS WITH PRIMAKOV, LUZHKOV... Jumabek Ibraimov held separate talks with Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov in Moscow on 13 January, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Ibraimov and Primakov focused on the prospects for expanding bilateral economic cooperation and on rescheduling Kyrgyzstan's $132 million debt to Moscow. Primakov characterized bilateral relations as "warm and friendly" and expressed confidence that the "few outstanding problems" can be resolved. (Ibraimov told Interfax on 11 January that Moscow had failed to deliver on earlier promises of industrial and technological cooperation.) Ibraimov said after his talks with the Russian premier that he does not exclude the possibility of Kyrgyzstan concluding an economic and political alliance with Russia, but he added that he did not discuss that possibility with Primakov, Interfax reported. LF ...AND SERGEEV. Meeting with Ibraimov and his Kyrgyz Defense Minister Murzakan Subanov the previous day, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev described bilateral military cooperation as "long-term and stable." He said that Russia will continue to render military assistance to Kyrgyzstan and that the two countries will sign a military cooperation agreement later this year, ITAR-TASS reported. LF FAMINE IMMINENT IN EASTERN TAJIKISTAN? The Gorno- Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, eastern Tajikistan, may soon face a famine as a result of the significantly reduced deliveries of humanitarian aid in recent months, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 January. The population of the region, one of the poorest in the entire former USSR, is Ismaili and has relied heavily on humanitarian aid from the Aga Khan's foundation and international agencies. LF TAJIK BORDER GUARDS RELEASED. Three Tajik border guards taken hostage on 10 January after an armed clash with an Afghan border patrol were released on 13 January, ITAR TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1999). LF UZBEKISTAN HALTS BBC MEDIUM-WAVE TRANSMISSIONS. A BBC editor told Reuters in Tashkent on 13 January that the Uzbek government has curtailed BBC medium-wave broadcasts in Uzbek, Russian, and English, switching those programs to a waveband inaccessible to many listeners. The BBC continues to broadcast on short-wave to Uzbekistan. LF UZBEKISTAN UPGRADES RAIL LINKS. The Asian Development Bank will extend a $120 million loan to Uzbekistan to upgrade its rail system, Interfax reported on 13 January. A recent session of the Uzbek-Chinese intergovernmental commission in Beijing also discussed the expansion of rail links between the two countries. LF ARMENIA CONCERNED THAT OSCE MAY AMEND KARABAKH PEACE PLAN. Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, speaking to journalists in Yerevan on 13 January, urged that the U.S, French, and Russian co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group not to amend their latest draft Karabakh peace plan to accommodate Azerbaijan's objections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Azerbaijani leadership has rejected that plan, which advocates the creation of a "common state" composed of Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1998). Oskanian said he has conveyed his concerns to the Russian and U.S. co-chairmen in recent meetings. He also expressed concern that Azerbaijan and Turkey might conclude a defense agreement, which he said would undermine stability in the region, according to Interfax. Turkish media have quoted Azerbaijani Presidential adviser Vafa Guluzade as advocating such a pact (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 8 January 1999). LF ARMENIAN DASHNAKS ANNOUNCED PLANNED COOPERATION WITH LUZHKOV'S OTECHESTVO. Leaders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) told journalists in Yerevan on 13 January that the party reached an agreement on "comprehensive cooperation" with Moscow Mayor Luzhkov's Otechestvo [Fatherland] political alliance during talks in Moscow last month, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Dashnak presidential adviser Vahan Hovannisian said the HHD and Otechestvo have the same "social democratic" ideology, and he praised Luzhkov for what he termed his rejection of "inter- ethnic hatred in Russia." He said his party will help Otechestvo become a member of the Socialist International, which the Dashnaks joined in 1907. LF RUSSIA WELCOMES ABKHAZ REPATRIATION OFFER. The Russian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement expressing cautious approval of Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba's unilateral offer to permit Georgian displaced persons to return to Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion beginning 1 March, Interfax reported on 13 January. But the statement also queried whether such repatriation is feasible without the agreement of the Georgian leadership and the overall stabilization of the region. Georgian leaders have dismissed Ardzinba's offer as populism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 1999). LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. 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