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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 12, Part I, 19 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 12, Part I, 19 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 NEW EMAIL NEWSLETTER RFE/RL Watchlist is a weekly checklist of developments in Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet states that threaten the creation and growth of civil societies. http://www.rferl.org/watchlist/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN GROUNDED FOR NEXT TWO MONTHS * RUSSIA CONDEMNS KOSOVA KILLINGS * AZERBAIJAN SUGGESTS HOSTING U.S. MILITARY BASE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN GROUNDED FOR NEXT TWO MONTHS. Several planned foreign visits by Russian President Boris Yeltsin will be postponed, "diplomatic sources" told Interfax on 19 January. Kremlin doctor Sergei Mironov told NTV that Yeltsin will not be permitted to fly again for at least "two-and-a-half to three months." According to Mironov, Yeltsin's condition has stabilized and his temperature and blood pressure are normal. Meanwhile, some State Duma members have responded to news of Yeltsin's latest illness by announcing plans to send an inquiry about Yeltsin's health to the Constitutional Court in February. According to Article 92 of the constitution, the president is to surrender his powers in case of a sustained inability to work. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii called on Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov to address the nation and clarify the situation regarding Yeltsin's illness, since "there are indirect signs that the situation surrounding the president's health is more serious than usual." JAC PRIMAKOV URGED TO SEIZE POWER. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 January suggested that unless Prime Minister Primakov "takes all power into his hands┼, the question of power will be resolved by the West." According to the newspaper, the IMF recently "made what were in fact political demands on Russia," because the West, particularly the US, rejects Primakov's alliance with the Communist Party. The daily also asserted that the U.S. has been trying to increase Russia's economic isolation by imposing sanctions on institutes that allegedly cooperated with Iran and a "barrier on the path of Russian steel imports to the U.S." In addition, the West's intentions to increase Iraqi oil exports will hurt the Russian oil industry. The newspaper also argued that if no new IMF credit is forthcoming, "a full-scale default on foreign debts" is inevitable and will put Russia back behind the "iron curtain that separated it from international markets." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives financial backing from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. JAC RUSSIA COLLECTED MORE TAXES... Russia collected 7 percent or 1 billion rubles ($44 million) more taxes in December 1998 than in the previous month, Federal Tax Service head Georgii Boos reported on 16 January. While noting that tax service increased collection by 1 billion rubles each month during the fourth quarter of 1999, he said that the annual target for tax collection was not met. JAC ...AS BIG SPENDERS GET A YEAR'S REPRIEVE. Earlier this month, Boos admitted that a new law requiring official registration of all purchases exceeding 126,000 rubles ($5,633) could not be enforced because of insufficient tax service personnel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1999). The State Duma responded by postponing the date of implementation of the law until 24 January 2000. Duma deputy and member of the Russian Regions faction Pavel Bunich noted on 13 January that the law was drafted before 17 August when a purchase totaling 126,000 rubles was equal to more than $12,000. "Izvestiya" reported the same day that the Duma has reduced the minimum taxable amount for individuals' income to 30,000 rubles from 60,000 rubles in a package of pending tax legislation. JAC RUSSIA CONDEMNS KOSOVA KILLINGS. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters on 18 January that Russia "absolutely condemns the new shootings" in Kosova. Ivanov also called for a Contact Group meeting at the foreign minister level to be held "in the very near future" in order to consider possible joint action. Ivanov stressed that "it is essential to activate the process of a political settlement." Duma Foreign Affair Committee Chairman and member of Yabloko Vladimir Lukin told Interfax the next day that "there are suspicions about the Yugoslav side (and their involvement in the killings), but these should be painstakingly investigated as provocations are very possible in such cases." Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev also mentioned the possibility of a provocation, saying that "we know plenty of cases when provocations were intentionally organized, when people were killed to put the blame on one of the conflicting sides." JAC ALTERNATIVE TO JOINT COMMAND FOR NUCLEAR FORCES PROPOSED. Relations between Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Chief of the General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin "remain tense" over Kvashnin's continuing opposition to the formation of a Joint Command for Strategic Nuclear Forces (JCSNF), "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 January. The newspaper suggested that army General Makhmut Gareev's proposal to introduce the post of deputy to the Chief of the General Staff with responsibility for nuclear security, as an alternative to the formation of JCSNF, would be cheaper and would avoid "the necessity of upsetting the higher echelons of military power." The newspaper maintained that the plan for joint command is flawed because "responsibility for using Russia's nuclear shield would be split." Both the joint command and the forces with nuclear components would have analogous control organs, because "according to the plan, nuclear components will be transferred to JCSNF only for the period of fulfillment of strategic tasks." JAC RUSSIA WARNS US OVER POSSIBLE VIOLATION OF ABM TREATY. In response to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's statement to the "Los Angeles Times" that the U.S. should consider developing a defense system against ballistic missiles, Leonid Ivashov, head of the Defense Ministry's Department for International Cooperation, told Interfax on 18 January that any attempts to circumvent the ABM Treaty would upset the status quo. Ivashov dismissed Pentagon claims that such a territorial defense system would be designed as a response to the nuclear programs of North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. Ivashov said "any military expert understands that these countries do not have and will hardly acquire guaranteed means of delivery for reaching U.S. territory." JAC TURKISH PREMIER SAYS OCALAN FLEW TO MOSCOW. Bulent Ecevit said on 18 January, following a meeting with Russian ambassador to Ankara Aleksandr Lebedev, that he has reliable information that Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan flew from Italy to an airport near Moscow on 16 January, Reuters reported, citing the Anatolia news agency. Ecevit said that the Russian authorities are trying to verify that information, adding that Ocalan may have entered Russia under a false name. He said he hopes that if Ocalan is found to have entered Russia, he will be deported immediately. Also on 18 January, a spokesman for the Estonian Foreign Ministry told Interfax he has no information on Ocalan's possible imminent arrival in that country. He added that Ocalan has not applied for an Estonian entry visa and would be unable to acquire one at the border. Ukrainian and Belarusian spokesmen also denied on 18 January that Ocalan had entered their countries, according to AP. LF VOCAL YELTSIN CRITIC ALSO WINDS UP IN HOSPITAL. Duma deputy and member of the Communist Party faction Viktor Ilyukhin missed an impeachment committee meeting on 18 January because he himself was hospitalized for a kidney ailment. Earlier in the day, Ilyukhin repeatedly his frequent call for early presidential elections because of Yeltsin's ill health. He told Ekho Moskvy that "it's common knowledge already that the president is seriously sick. This hospitalization should result in urgent presidential elections in the country. That's what [Prime Minister] Primakov and, probably, [Moscow Mayor Yurii] Luzhkov would find very convenient." Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin revealed earlier that Yeltsin "reacts very sensitively" to extremist phenomena and the remarks of Communists, especially Ilyukhin, "Izvestiya" reported on 19 January. Yeltsin and Ilyukhin may have an opportunity to discuss their differences, since, according to Reuters, Ilyukhin is likely being treated at the same hospital as the president. JAC RUSSIA'S NEW AMBASSADOR TO U.S. REPORTS FOR DUTY. Yurii Ushakov will present his credentials to U.S. President Bill Clinton on 22 January, Interfax reported on 19 January. According to a Foreign Ministry statement announcing Ushakov's arrival, Russia "is concerned about the presence of too many irritants in Russian-American relations," such as the U.S.'s "repeated use of force bypassing the decisions of the UN Security Council." According to Interfax, former U.S. ambassador to the Russia Yulii Vorontsov left Washington, D.C. on 17 January. JAC FORMER VLADIVOSTOK MAYOR TO HEAD NEW CITY DUMA? Former Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov was elected a deputy to the city's legislature on 17 January, Interfax reported. His supporters won 15 out of 16 electoral districts, where voting had taken place in sufficient numbers to be valid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 1998). Local observers believe that Cherepkov will be elected chairman of the legislature, which will then draft the city's charters as well as rules for electing the mayor, according to Interfax. JAC KALININGRAD GOVERNOR FAVORS SALE OF LAND TO FOREIGNERS. Leonid Grobenko told journalists last week that he is in favor of selling land to foreigners, BNS reported on 18 January. "I believe our land should be sold to citizens of other countries just as long as they do not build┼dangerous plants there," he was quoted as saying. In late November, the Kaliningrad Duma passed a land bill in the first reading stating that only Russian citizens can buy and sell land in the exclave. JC RUSSIA DENIES VIOLATING CHECHEN AIR SPACE. A Russian air force spokesman told Interfax on 18 January that Chechen claims that Russian military aircraft overflew Chechnya on 16 January are untrue. He pointed out that Chechnya does not have radar capable of identifying the aircraft in question as a reconnaissance plane. President Aslan Maskhadov had issued a statement the previous day protesting a Russian aircraft's reconnaissance flight over Shali Raion, southeast of Grozny. Chechen Security Service chief Ibragim Khultygov told journalists in Grozny on 18 January that he believes the reconnaissance flight was part of preparations for a Russian missile strike against Chechnya, according to Interfax. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJAN SUGGESTS HOSTING U.S. MILITARY BASE. In an interview with Turan on 18 January, Azerbaijani presidential adviser Vafa Guluzade reasoned that since Armenia allows Russian military bases on its territory, Azerbaijan should strengthen its military cooperation with the West. He suggested that the first step should be to relocate the U.S. military base at Incirlik, in southern Turkey, to the Apsheron Peninsula. That base, he said, would serve U.S. strategic interests in the Caucasus. Guluzade added that Baku "would take any actions" to liberate its territories currently occupied by Armenian forces. LF MORE DEATHS IN ABKHAZIA. Three Abkhaz civilians were killed and four injured when their horse-drawn cart hit a landmine in Abkhazia's Gali Raion on the night of 17- 18 January, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. On 18 January, the bodies of three more Abkhaz who had been abducted in Gali in December were discovered, according to ITAR-TASS. In his weekly radio broadcast on 18 January, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze commented on Abkhaz President Vladidslav Ardzinba's proposal that Georgian displaced persons start returning to Gali as of 1 March. Shevardnadze said that Georgia must participate in organizing the repatriation process and that international guarantees of the repatriates' security are essential. LF KAZAKHSTAN ANNOUNCES PUBLIC HOLIDAY TO MARK PRESIDENT'S INAUGURATION. Kazakhstan has declared 20 January, the day of Nursultan Nazarbayev's inauguration as president, a national holiday, Reuters reported on 19 January. However, the 18 and 19 January, the first two days of the three-day Oraza-Aiyt religious festival, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan, were normal working days, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau noted. In neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the Islamic holiday of Oraza- Ayit is being marked officially. LF KAZAKHSTAN SEEKS TO UPGRADE POWER GRID. Kazakhstan's Electricity Supply Agency President Aset Nauryzbayev told journalists in Almaty on 18 January that the agency is negotiating a $266 million loan from the World Bank in order to upgrade the country's power supply network, Interfax and RFE/RL 's Almaty bureau reported. Nauryzbayev said that Kazakhstan's electricity network is almost totally self-sufficient and that only Aqtobe Oblast, in the northwest of the country, still receives electricity from Russia. Nauryzbayev failed to mention that the agency owes its employees more than 34 million tenges ($400,000) in wage arrears. LF TOP KYRGYZ OFFICIAL IMPLICATED IN FRAUD, MURDER. President Askar Akayev has dismissed Shalkar Jaisanbayev from his post as director-general of the Kyrgyzgazmunaizat state joint-stock oil and gas company, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 18 January. A criminal case has been brought against Jaisanbayev for serious financial crimes. According to Bolot Januzakov, a department head in the presidential administration, Kyrgyzgazmunaizat owes the state budget 163 million som (some $5.5 million) for state and foreign loans as well as 132 million som in customs duties. In addition, Jaisanbayev owes $18 million to various commercial banks. Also on 18 January, Chinara Kolbaeva, widow of prominent businessman Yusup Kolbaev, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau that Jaisanbayev was involved in her husband's murder in March 1997. Jaisanbayev's present whereabouts are unknown. LF TAJIK PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADER MEET. During talks on 16 January, Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri, who heads the National Reconciliation Commission, reaffirmed their commitment to the ongoing peace process, Interfax reported. The talks focused on the allocation to the opposition of 30 percent of posts in both the cabinet and local government, the possibility of an amnesty of imprisoned opposition politicians., and the proposed referendum on changes to the country's constitution. 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. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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