Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 11, Part I, 18 January 1999


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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

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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN RETURNS TO HOSPITAL

* TOP IMF, US OFFICIALS DERIDE BUDGET

* AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT HOSPITALIZED IN TURKEY
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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

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