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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 11, Part I, 18 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 11, Part I, 18 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 * YELTSIN RETURNS TO HOSPITAL * TOP IMF, US OFFICIALS DERIDE BUDGET * AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT HOSPITALIZED IN TURKEY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN RETURNS TO HOSPITAL. Russian President Boris Yeltsin was hospitalized on 17 January for an acute bleeding stomach ulcer. The next day, doctors at Moscow's Central Clinical Hospital proposed that Yeltsin be treated with medicine over the next two to three weeks rather than undergo surgery. Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told NTV the same day that the illness had developed "all of a sudden" and that there had been no symptoms the previous day. Acknowledging that the ulcer "could have been caused by stress," Yakushkin added that it is unlikely to have been caused by the overconsumption of aspirin, as had been initially reported, since Yeltsin had stopped taking aspirin for some time. A meeting with French President Jacques Chirac planned for 28-29 January "is most likely to be postponed," according to Yakushkin. JAC NEW CALLS FOR TRANSFERRING PRESIDENTIAL POWERS... No changes have been made in Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's schedule in connection with President Yeltsin's illness, according to Primakov's press secretary, Tatyana Aristarkhova. State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told reporters on 18 January that the president's illness will have "no effect" on the country's political situation. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said the president's "diagnosis was not the most terrible," while Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that Yeltsin's illness should be treated and not commented on, ITAR- TASS reported. However, he suggested that "Yeltsin is not in condition to exercise his duties" and that "one should think about how to turn them over to the prime minister and government and how to elect a new president." Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov suggested on 16 January that early presidential elections should be seriously considered, given the problem of the Russian president's "being not active enough." JAC ...AND CREATING OFFICE OF VICE PRESIDENT. Luzhkov told Swedish Television on 15 January that the post of vice president should be reintroduced in Russia, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the next day. Luzhkov said that the elimination of the post from the constitution had been a mistake owing to a "personal conflict" that should now be rectified. JAC TOP IMF, US OFFICIALS DERIDE BUDGET... IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer told an investment conference on 15 January that Russia's 1999 budget is "neither sufficiently ambitious nor realistic." He added that "fund staff estimate that it falls some 3-4 percentage points of GDP short of what is needed" and "will entail a continuation of the cycle of large deficits and every growing interest payments." The previous day, U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said that Russia will have to make "genuine and realistic cuts" in its budget deficit if it wants IMF assistance. JAC ...AS MASLYUKOV SAYS NOT TO WORRY. First Deputy Minister Yurii Maslyukov downplayed Fischer's remarks, telling reporters on 17 January that in a private conversation Fischer "did not sound so categorical." "Segodnya" noted the previous day that the Primakov government does not seem fully aware of the international financial institutions' (IFIs) dissatisfaction with Russia. The daily quoted Maslyukov as saying that the IFIs have "no questions" for Russia regarding its World Bank loans, while the World Bank Country Director for Russia Michael Carter warned that the Bank may suspend further installments of its coal loan, unless it receives clarification of the Russian government's plans for the coal sector. Meanwhile, another brainstorming session to resolve issues stemming from Russian economic program, involving officials from the Russian government, IMF, World Bank, and EBRD, opened in Moscow on 16 January. According to Carter, the session is meant to clarify issues before upcoming negotiations, "Segodnya" reported. JAC PRIMAKOV CALLS FOR NATIONAL UNITY... At a two-day meeting of the inter-regional association Siberian Accord in Kemerovo on 15 January, Prime Minister Primakov warned Siberian governors that "there can be no talk of conflict between the center and the regions" and that separatist trends "must be quelled, liquidated, and uprooted." Primakov called for the "restoration of the vertical state power structure, where all matters would be solved jointly by the center and local authorities." Primakov and Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev said a recent agreement signed by them is a new model for cooperation between the center and the regions, "Segodnya" reported on 16 January. Under the agreement, the Kemerovo Oblast administration can appoint up to 50 percent of the boards of directors of local coal mining enterprises. In addition, oblast authorities must be consulted on sales of coal company shares. JAC ...DEFENDS THE BUDGET. Prime Minister Primakov also defended the 1999 budget against Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed's charge that the document "puts regions in the hardest position" and should be rejected outright. According to Primakov, it would be "simply ridiculous" to reject the budget, arguing that revenues and expenditures are "balanced enough" and cannot be expanded. Acknowledging that some redistribution of spending is possible, he noted that Russia "cannot turn its back on the army," Interfax reported. JAC RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT DENIES OCALAN IN MOSCOW. Russian Ambassador to Turkey Aleksandr Lebedev told ITAR-TASS on 17 January that Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan has not returned to Moscow from Italy. Lebedev said all Russian consulates have been instructed to deny Ocalan a visa. A spokesman for the Russian Security Service declined on 17 January either to confirm or deny that Ocalan might travel to Moscow, according to Interfax. On 16 January, Ocalan left Italy for an unknown destination. He had been apprehended on arrival in Rome from Moscow last November. LF FORMER VLADIVOSTOK MAYOR WINS VICTORY OF SORTS AT POLLS. Voters in Vladivostok elected backers of recently ousted former Mayor Viktor Cherepkov to the city's local assembly on 17 January, ITAR-TASS reported. Cherepkov supporters won 15 out of 16 electoral districts in which the ballot was considered valid. In six other districts, turnout was too low for the vote to be valid. Voters had been expected also to vote for a new mayor the same day but a local court canceled that ballot last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 1999). Overall, voter turnout was low, according to election committee chairwoman Tatyana Plokhova. On 16 January, one polling station was broken into and 37 ballot sheets and an electoral commission stamp stolen, Interfax reported. JAC NEW POLITICAL FAULTLINES EMERGE IN ST. PETERSBURG. Yabloko has recalled party member Igor Artemiev from the post of St. Petersburg deputy governor and chairman of the city finance committee, declaring that it will now be in opposition to St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev and his government, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 January. Aleksandr Shishlov, chairman of Yabloko's St. Petersburg branch, told the agency that the decision was prompted by Governor Yakovlev's repeated violations of a 1996 coalition agreement. Meanwhile, another alliance in St. Petersburg is also crumbling. Four deputies in the city's legislative assembly from the Yurii Boldyrev Bloc have announced they are quitting the movement and are now willing to cooperate with Governor Yakovlev's government, "Vremya MN" reported on 15 January. According to the newspaper, many members of the assembly were elected solely because they joined the bloc, whose main founding principle was strict party discipline. JAC DEBT RATING FOR SVERDLOVSK OBLAST HITS BOTTOM. In its annual review of the economy of Sverdlovsk Oblast, international credit rating agency Moody's reported that the country's economic crisis has hit the region hard, reducing its ability to pay its foreign debt, "Vremya MN" reported on 15 January. The agency gave Sverdlovsk the lowest rating on its scale, a Caa3, for the region's ability to repay its hard currency debt of 954 million rubles ($44 million). Moody's ranked the city of Moscow the most reliable of all Russia's cities and towns in terms of debt repayment. JAC KALMYKIA OFFERS DZERZHINSKII A HOME. President of the Republic of Kalmykia Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has offered the territory of his republic as a permanent home for a monument of Felix Dzerzhinskii, founder of the Cheka, that the Duma recently voted to restore to its original place on Lubyanka Square in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1998), "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 January. Ilyumzhinov has volunteered Kalmykia because there have been some disagreements between the Duma and Moscow authorities over the restoration. JAC LEAKS REPORTED FROM NICHOLAS II ICON. Myrrh, a yellowish to reddish brown aromatic resin, has been flowing from an icon of Tsar Nicholas II for the past two months in Moscow's Ascension Church, Archpriest Vasilii Golovanov told ITAR-TASS on 16 January. According to Golovanov, hundreds of Muscovites and pilgrims from across Russia have witnessed the miracle, which will likely be used as evidence that Nicholas II should be canonized. Myrrh first started flowing from the icon on 7 November, the anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, Golovanov claimed. JAC CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS IGNORE PARLIAMENT SUMMONS. A special session of the Chechen parliament scheduled for 17 January failed to take place because Shamil Basaev, Khamzat Belaev, and former acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev ignored a request to attend, Interfax reported. The session was to have discussed the 24 December decision taken by the Chechen Supreme Shariah Court under pressure from the field commanders to suspend the powers of the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). Speaking on Ekho Moskvy on 16 January, Russian presidential envoy to Chechnya Valentin Vlasov said that Moscow should have provided more economic and political support to President Aslan Maskhadov in accordance with the agreements signed by Maskhadov and President Yeltsin in May 1997. He criticized Yeltsin for not more systematically monitoring the government's implementation of those agreements. LF NEW BODY TO ADDRESS OSSETIAN-INGUSH CONFLICT. At a special conference on 16 January, the Russian Security Council set up a new working group to address the consequences of the 1992 conflict in North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodnyi Raion, Interfax reported. Participants agreed that progress toward a solution of the conflict was made last year, not least owing to the good will of the presidents of the two republics involved. The working group includes Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, Ingush President Ruslan Aushev, North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov, and Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha. The last-named subsequently briefed President Yeltsin on the conference proceedings. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT HOSPITALIZED IN TURKEY. Heidar Aliev was flown to Ankara on 17 January and taken to a military hospital to be treated for bronchitis and a respiratory infection. Azerbaijani government officials denied rumors that Aliev, who is 75, is also suffering from cardiac problems. LF FORMER TOP ARMENIAN OFFICIALS SET UP NEW ORGANIZATION. Several former leading members of the Armenian Pan- National Movement (HHSh), including former deputy parliamentary speakers Ara Sahakian and Karapet Rubinian, have formed what they say is a non-political organization named "EuroWay" to promote Western-style democracy in Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 15 January. LF PROMINENT ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ASSESSES ELECTION CHANCES. Interviewed by RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 16 January, HHSh chairman Vano Siradeghian predicted that the movement will gain popularity in the runup to the May parliamentary elections. He added that the party may poll more than 10 percent of the vote. But Siradeghian predicted that no single party will have an absolute majority in the new parliament. He said the Republican Party, created on the basis of the Yerkrapah union of veterans of the Karabakh war, would be lucky to receive 25 percent of the vote. The Yerkrapah are currently the largest group within the parliament. Siradeghian also forecast that tensions between President Robert Kocharian and Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian will inevitably increase. LF FINAL ELECTION RESULTS RELEASED IN KAZAKHSTAN. According to data released by the Central Electoral Commission on 16 January, incumbent Nursultan Nazarbayev polled 79.78 percent of the vote in the 10 January presidential election, ITAR-TASS reported. Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin received 11.7 percent, Customs Committee chairman Gani Kasymov 4.61 percent, and Senator Engels Gabbasov 0.76 percent. LF RUSSIAN BORDER GUARD CHIEF IN KYRGYZSTAN. Meeting in Bishkek on 15 January, General Konstantin Totskii and Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akayev discussed how to implement the agreement concluded last summer whereby Russian border guards will gradually be withdrawn from Kyrgyzstan and Kyrgyz border guards will take over their duties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 1998), ITAR- TASS reported. That agreement was due to take effect on 1 January 1999, according to RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau. But Kyrgyzstan's Defense Minister Marat Subanov told journalists after the talks that a timetable for the Russian withdrawal still has to be drafted. He added that Russia will transfer some military equipment to Kyrgyzstan. LF PREMIER SAYS ECONOMIC SITUATION IN KYRGYZSTAN 'SERIOUS'... Addressing parliament on 15 January, Jumabek Ibraimov expressed concern at the economic situation in Kyrgyzstan and pledged "strong measures" to improve it, including tighter fiscal discipline and a crackdown on smuggling, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Also on 15 January, "Vremya-MN" reported that GDP growth in Kyrgyzstan totaled only 2.2 percent compared with the projected 4.6 percent. Industrial output in 1998 was only one third of the 1991 level, the news paper reported. Last year, wages and pension arrears skyrocketed from almost nil to 720 million som (about $24 million). LF ...AS FINANCE MINISTER ASSESSES BUDGET, FOREIGN LOANS. In an interview with "Slovo Kyrgyzstana" published on 15 January, Finance Minister and former Central Bank chairman Marat Sultanov said that the 1999 draft budget, approved by the upper but not the lower chamber of parliament, requires "serious amendments." Sultanov said that the Russian financial crisis has had little impact on Kyrgyzstan, noting that foreign currency reserves fell in 1998 from $195 million to $189 million. He said that the problems involved in rescheduling Kyrgzystan's foreign debt are not insoluble but warned that more "bad loans" could seriously complicate the situation. The National Bank announced on 16 January that it has reached agreement with Turkey's Ex-Im Bank on postponing repayment of a $75 million credit. In Moscow last week, Ibraimov and his Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, agreed on postponing repayment of Kyrgyzstan's $132 million debt to Russia. Sultanov said that the Kyrgyz government has offered to purchase some of Russia's foreign debt. LF TAJIK PRESIDENT WARNS OF DRUGS THREAT. Imomali Rakhmonov told an international conference in Dushanbe on 15 January that drugs are being smuggled into his country from neighboring Afghanistan at the rate of 1 ton per day, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. He said the number of addicts in Tajikistan is increasing, and he pleaded for additional international aid to halt drug trafficking through Tajikistan to third countries. The following day, the German government donated several thousand dollars' worth of computers and other equipment to the Tajik anti-narcotics commission, ITAR-TASS reported. Interfax reported on 15 January that Uzbekistan registered an 11 percent increase in drug trafficking during the first 10 months of 1998. LF U.S. EMBASSY IN TAJIKISTAN RESUMES NORMAL OPERATIONS. U.S. Ambassador Robert Finn told journalists in Dushanbe on 15 January that the embassy has returned to normal operations, which were suspended in September 1998 following the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa one month earlier. At that time, embassy staff were evacuated from Dushanbe to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. But he added that the embassy is currently looking for a site on which to build a more secure building, according to Asia-Plus. Finn also said that the U.S. will grant Tajikistan assistance worth some $47 million in aid in 1999, including $30 million in food aid, ITAR-TASS reported. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. 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