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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 12, Part I, 19 January 1999


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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

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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN GROUNDED FOR NEXT TWO MONTHS

* RUSSIA CONDEMNS KOSOVA KILLINGS

* AZERBAIJAN SUGGESTS HOSTING U.S. MILITARY BASE
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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 handsŠ, 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
buildŠdangerous 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

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