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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 10, Part I, 15 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 10, Part I, 15 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 * IMF, RUSSIA ADVISED TO START FROM SCRATCH * YELTSIN TAKES A SICK DAY? * ARMENIAN PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTIES NOT TO FORM ELECTION ALLIANCE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA IMF, RUSSIA ADVISED TO START FROM SCRATCH... Russia and the IMF should develop an entirely new Extended Fund Facility (EFF) program in order to end their present stalemate, former presidential economic adviser Aleksandr Livshits argued in a memorandum obtained by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 January. According to Livshits, the Russian government needs to "recognize that is impossible for it to fulfill the 'big loan' program ratified last year." One advantage of a new EFF program, which could be concluded by March according to Livshits, would be that the IMF could make "a positive assessment of the holding of preliminary consultations with Russia by the Paris and London clubs." JAC ...AS FUND FINDS GOVERNMENT BUDGET TOO OPTIMISTIC. The newspaper noted that it is not known whether First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov, who met with IMF Managing Director on 14 January, will put forward any suggestion similar to Livshits's, but it concluded that without this proposal, "the government will be powerless to win over the Washington officials." After his meeting, Maslyukov told reporters that the IMF believes the government is too "optimistic" in its budget deficit forecast, and that "we cannot agree with their opinion." IMF Moscow office head Martin Gilman told Interfax that the EFF program for 1996-1998 can no longer be implemented, but "at this stage it is early to speak about whether [a new credit] will be an EFF or another possible form of credit." JAC YELTSIN TAKES A SICK DAY? Russian President Boris Yeltsin failed to appear for work on 14 January, but his press spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin declined to give a specific reason, according to Reuters. Admitting that he himself has not seen the president since the end of last year, Yakushkin told Ekho Moskvy that Yeltsin's "voice [over the telephone] was very lively and he is feeling very energetic." Yakushkin added that a decree on reorganizing the presidential administration will probably appear next week. "Segodnya" reported the same day that Pavel Borodin, head of the presidential affair department, may be asked to leave. Borodin's department has already been "re-subordinated" to head of the presidential administration Nikolai Bordyuzha, the daily noted. JAC RUSSIA LABELS U.S. THREATS 'BLATANT BLACKMAIL.' Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 14 January said that U.S. sanctions against Moscow for allegedly offering sensitive missile technology to Iran are "counterproductive," adding that "any threats or allusions to sanctions are outdated instruments contradicting the current [state] of our bilateral relations." The next day, the official government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" was less mild, calling the U.S. threat to pull Russia's access to commercial space launches "blatant blackmail." A spokesman for the Khrunichev Space Center said that Russia could lose as much as $280 million if launches were cancelled, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin noted that curtailing the space launch program would negatively affect not only Russian organizations but also U.S. aerospace companies. Meanwhile, an Atomic Ministry spokesman told Reuters that Russia is planning to triple its staff of nuclear workers at Iran's Bushehr facility. JAC IS LEBED LOSING FAVOR? News reports about declining political support for Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed continue to appear. Members once loyal to Lebed are leaving his party, complaining of "being squeezed dry," "Izvestiya" reported on 14 January. The paper also noted that "the absolute majority of the parliament," which is said to back Lebed's former backer, Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov, "is today in opposition to the governor." The next day, 24 legislators from the krai sent Lebed an open letter accusing him of failing to effectively manage the government as local industry flags, the agricultural sector worsens, and living standards continue to fall, according to ITAR-TASS. The legislators called on Lebed to coordinate his personnel policy with the legislature. "Izvestiya" noted that many of "Bykov's people" will soon be dismissed from the krai's administration. JAC GOVERNMENT TO IMPOSE PRICE CONTROLS ON DRUGS. Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 14 January pledged to regulate the price of medicine, ITAR-TASS reported. Primakov said the pharmaceutical industry is plagued by crime and speculation and that an upper limit for drug retail prices will be set. Primakov also noted that the industry once created many new medicines of a high quality but is now mostly producing Western analogues. Minister of Health Vladimir Starodubov told reporters the same day that his ministry will undertake a series of measures, including the registration of prices for domestic and imported medicines, designed to lower the price of medicine by 25 percent. JAC MORE DEFECTIONS FROM NDR... Another key member of the Our Home is Russia (NDR) party is quitting. Duma Deputy Valerii Grebennikov, who was also the party's treasurer, has announced that he is leaving the NDR, "Izvestiya" reported on 15 January. The newspaper called Grebennikov's resignation "as significant an event as [former NDR faction leader and Duma deputy Aleksandr] Shokhin's departure" because "Grebennikov was considered one of the most influential figures in the NDR and close to [former Prime Minister Viktor] Chernomyrdin." According to the daily, Grebennikov now believes that the NDR resembles the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the 1960s and 1970s "with its conformism, secrecy, and the indiscriminate power of its apparatus." Citing a "reliable source," "Segodnya" reported the previous day that Chernomyrdin considers [Duma deputy speaker] Vladimir Ryzhkov the most suitable candidate for leader of the party's Duma faction. JAC ...AS MIKHALKOV DECLINES TO RUN. Acclaimed film director Nikita Mikhalkov said on 14 January that he will not run as an NDR candidate in either parliamentary or presidential elections, as Shohkin had earlier suggested (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1998). Mikhalkov added that he will participate in presidential elections "only as a voter." JAC OTECHESTVO, BABURIN SLAM TREATY WITH UKRAINE. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Otechestvo [Fatherland] movement is calling for the Federation Council to reject ratification of the treaty with Ukraine because the document "rules out Russia's right to call Sevastopol a Russian city," according to a statement by the movement's political council on 14 January. When the State Duma ratified the treaty, the document argues, it acted "against the background of the policy of forced Ukrainianization of 12 million Russians whose civil rights continue to be disregarded." Duma Deputy Speaker and member of People's Power Sergei Baburin wrote in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the same day that the treaty "should not be ratified at any price" because the treaty undermines the "future of close-knit Slavic peoples" and "opens the way for Ukraine to join NATO." JAC IRAQ GOES SHOPPING IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD. Iraq will spend at least $2 billion on cars, and possibly ships and planes as well, that are produced in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, according to Interfax on 14 January. "Izvestiya" the previous day noted that the "Russian White House was extremely surprised by news of the [sale] agreement" but added that "many companies sign documents on cooperation with Iraq that both sides pledge to fulfill only after [UN] embargo has been lifted." Also on 13 January, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discussed the idea of sending another UN mission to Iraq to assess on-the-spot developments there. Albright is scheduled to visit Moscow on 25-27 January. JAC RUSSIA TO REQUIRE TOURISTS TO SIGN UP FOR HEALTH INSURANCE? The Russian Health Ministry announced on 14 January that tourists will soon be required to take out medical insurance before receiving a visa, AFP reported. The measure is still being drafted and would apply to all visits of less than six months. JAC CHECHEN SECURITY MINISTER ESCAPES ASSASSINATION... Aslanbek Arsaev escaped uninjured when two men opened fire on his car in Grozny on 14 January, Western agencies reported. Arsaev's bodyguards apprehended the two attackers. LF ...AS PRESIDENT DOWNPLAYS THREAT OF CIVIL WAR. Meeting on 14 January with local administrators and imams of rural mosques, Aslan Maskhadov again said that he will not permit a civil war in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, Maskhadov tasked local officials with identifying reliable individuals who would be prepared "to support law and order." On 13 January, former Russian Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed warned that Maskhadov's opponents may shortly attempt to oust him, thereby unleashing a new war in the North Caucasus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1999). LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTIES NOT TO FORM ELECTION ALLIANCE. The seven Armenian political parties that in March 1998 formed the Justice and Unity bloc to back Robert Kocharian's presidential candidacy are unlikely to set up an electoral alliance for the May parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 14 January. Aleksandr Aghamalian, one of the leaders of the Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union (GAKM), told RFE/RL that the seven parties have "rather different approaches" and that while some still support the present Armenian leadership, others, including the GAKM, are more critical. He predicted that Justice and Unity will split into "two or three" electoral alliances to contend the May poll. The Yerkrapah Union, seen as the main pro-government force in Armenia, has already said it will not form such an alliance. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation is also likely to field its own list of candidates. LF U.S. AMBASSADOR ASSESSES ARMENIA'S ECONOMIC POTENTIAL... Michael Lemmon told journalists in Yerevan on 14 January that he believes Armenia can become the "economic engine of the Caucasus" if it proceeds with economic and political reform and establishes closer ties with neighboring countries, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Lemmon said that the economic reform process is probably more advanced in Armenia than elsewhere in the region, adding that "I believe there is incredible wealth of human talent in this country that is not being fully utilized." But he also warned that "halting or reversing the reform process is...no solution" to the country's current economic difficulties. Lemmon emphasized the importance of economic integration in the South Caucasus and praised the expanding cooperation between Armenia and Georgia as a first step in this direction. He added that the U.S. has a "strong interest" in opening a commercial route linking Azerbaijan to Turkey via Armenia, which, he said, would bring "very, very real economic benefits." LF ...CALLS FOR FREE, FAIR ELECTIONS. Lemmon also urged the Armenian authorities to ensure that the May parliamentary elections are free and fair, which, he said "Armenia needs more than anything elseŠ. It is absolutely necessary for the [electoral] process to be free, fair, transparent, and acceptable in its conduct to all the parties and voting public." International observers termed the 1995 parliamentary elections "free but not fair" and registered shortcomings in the conduct of the 1996 and 1998 presidential polls. LF AZERBAIJAN POSTS RECORD ECONOMIC GROWTH IN 1998. Azerbaijani state counselor for economics Vakhid Akhundov told a press conference in Baku on 14 January that Azerbaijan's 10 percent GDP growth in 1998 was the highest in the CIS and Eastern Europe, Interfax reported. Akhundov said that industrial production increased by 22 percent, agricultural output by 4 percent, and trade turnover by 12 percent. LF TURKMENISTAN TEXTILE SECTOR STRENGTHENS. President Saparmurat Niyazov told a recent government session that Turkmenistan registered more than 5 percent GDP growth in 1998, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 January. Industrial production increased by 15 percent, primarily in those sectors not related to oil and gas, and agricultural output by 20 percent. Niyazov expressed particular satisfaction at progress in the textile industry, noting that the country now processes 35 percent of its cotton, compared with only 3 percent in the early 1990s. Interfax reported on 13 January that Niyazov has approved a program for the phased privatization of agricultural, construction, and processing enterprises in the agro-industrial complex. Meanwhile, the Turkmenbashi Blue Jeans Plant has been awarded an international certificate in recognition of the outstanding quality of its output. LF KAZAKHSTAN DENIES INTEREST IN JOINING RUSSIAN-BELARUS UNION. Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqayev has issued a statement saying that while Kazakhstan respects the decision by the presidents of the Russian Federation and Belarus to create a union with a joint currency, parliament, army, and citizenship, Kazakhstan will never join such a union in view of its geopolitical location and the present level of integration with other CIS states, Interfax and RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Toqayev dismissed as groundless rumors that Kazakhstan is planning to join the Russia-Belarus Union. In his weekly radio broadcast on 11 January, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze likewise denied that Georgia would join that union, according to Interfax. LF ALMATY OBLAST GOVERNOR ISSUES DEBT ULTIMATUM. Zamanbek Nurkadilov, governor of Kazakhstan's Almaty Oblast, has warned local administration heads that failure to pay overdue wages and pensions will be construed as actions aimed at undermining recently re-elected President Nursultan Nazarbayev, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 15 January. Nurkadilov said that about 20 percent of the electorate in Almaty Oblast did not vote for Nazarbayev in the 10 January presidential election because of wage and pension arrears. LF KYRGYZ PRIME MINISTER REPORTS ON MOSCOW VISIT. Addressing a press conference in Bishkek on 14 January, Jumabek Ibraimov assessed his visit to Moscow on 12-13 January as "very successful," Interfax reported. Three inter-governmental agreements were signed during that visit: on sharing information, cooperation in developing small, and medium businesses, and avoiding dual taxation, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The two sides also agreed that the conditions for repaying Kyrgyzstan's $132 million debt to Russia will be discussed in 2000 and that Bishkek will pay no interest on that loan this year. Russia will give Kyrgyzstan new IL-76 and AN-12 aircraft to replace 12 aircraft donated in 1992. The Kyrgyz delegation also reached an agreement with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov whereby Kyrgyzstan will supply Moscow with ecologically pure foods (including grain and honey). LF KYRGYZSTAN INTENSIFIES CONTROL OVER DANGEROUS CHEMICALS. The Ministry for Emergency Situations is to assume control over the transportation of poisonous chemicals on the territory of Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 14 January, quoting Deputy Minister Tilekbay Kyshtobaev. The Interior Ministry had previously been responsible for that task. Kyshtobaev said that an average of 16 tons of poisonous chemicals are imported daily from China. Four people died and some 5,000 were hospitalized last summer after the Canadian Kumtor Operating Company spilled 2 tons of natrium cyanide near Barskoon village in the region of Issyk-Kul (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 1998). LF UZBEKISTAN REFORMS MILITARY, UPGRADES BORDER GUARDS. Uzbekistan has launched the restructuring of its armed forces in a bid to create a mobile, well-equipped, and well-trained army capable of defending the country's independence, Interfax reported on 13 January, quoting Defense Minister General Khikmatulla Tursunov. The reform foresees cuts in personnel and improved training of reservists. On 14 January, Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov issued a decree creating a new border defense unit, Reuters reported. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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