We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 16, Part I, 25 January 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 16, Part I, 25 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

* ALBRIGHT ARRIVES TO FACE TOUGH QUESTIONING

* LEBED TRIES TO EXERT CONTROL OVER LOCAL MEDIA

* ARREST OF FORMER ARMENIAN INTERIOR MINISTER SOUGHT

End Note: MESSAGES SENT, MESSAGES RECEIVED
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RUSSIA

ALBRIGHT ARRIVES TO FACE TOUGH QUESTIONING. U.S.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrived in Moscow
on 23 January for a two-day official visit. On 25
January, she met with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and
Moscow Mayor and head of the Otechestvo [Fatherland]
party Yurii Luzhkov. Other meetings with Russian
officials, such as State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev,
are planned for the same day. A telephone conversation
with Russian President Boris Yeltsin is also tentatively
scheduled. Before their meeting, Foreign Minister Ivanov
said that the ABM treaty would be a primary discussion
topic. Sergei Yastrzhembskii, former presidential
spokesman and current deputy prime minister of the
Moscow city government, told TV-6 on 24 January that
Mayor Luzhkov will pose tough questions to Secretary
Albright since the U.S. "is embarking on a course of
neutralizing Russia, to which Moscow should respond."
JAC

LEBED TRIES TO EXERT CONTROL OVER LOCAL MEDIA...
Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed on 23 January
dismissed both the director and chief editor of
Krasnoyarsk State Television and Radio Company,
establishing police cordons outside company headquarters
to prevent those officials from entering. Inside, Lebed
introduced his new appointee to head the company, Oleg
Nelzin, a local legislator and member of his Honor and
Motherland movement. Lebed explained his actions by
saying that the regional TV head had "prepared documents
for the transfer of the company to federal authorities,"
ITAR-TASS reported. However, Chairman of the All Russian
State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) Mikhail
Shvydkoi told Russian Television the next day that
legally, the head of a subsidiary company is appointed
by VGTRK and the regional head, adding that "the 'law
and order governor' has violated the law." JAC

...AS HIS PARTY SPLITS. NTV on 23 January reported that
a split has appeared in Lebed's Honor and Motherland
movement, after Viktor Zubarev, former chairman of the
movement's council, left Lebed's "team." Both Lebed and
Zubarev chaired their own meetings of the Honor and
Motherland movement on 23 January, after which Zubarev
issued a statement that Lebed is no longer the
movement's leader and that the local branch of the
movement would now be called Strong Regions, Strong
Russia. In the latest of a series of articles highly
critical of Lebed, "Izvestiya" on 23 January said "Lebed
has failed to become a real governor and has remained a
general, using security structures as his controlling
instruments." The newspaper also predicted that Lebed's
"political burial is at hand," with Krasnoyarsk Aluminum
chief Anatolii Bykov as his undertaker. JAC

LEBED PROTEGE LOSES ELECTION. Preliminary results show
that Nikolai Ashapov, acting mayor of Achinsk in
Krasnoyarsk Krai, lost the second round of mayoral
elections on 24 January to local factory director and
member of the communist party Mikhail Achkasov, ITAR-
TASS reported on 25 January. Ashapov, who had been
appointed by Krai Governor Lebed, was considered a Lebed
protege (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1999). JAC

NEW ELECTION CONTROVERSIES EMERGE IN VLADIVSTOK. Without
waiting for election results to be confirmed, the newly
elected members of the city assembly in Vladivostok
passed a new charter on 23 January stipulating that the
office of mayor is no longer an elected position. They
then appointed former Mayor Viktor Cherepkov as the new
city head. Earlier, assembly members had elected
Cherepkov as their speaker. Chief of the presidential
administration Nikolai Bordyuzha told NTV on 24 January
that "it is too early to say that Cherepkov has been
elected mayor" since the proper procedures have not been
followed by the city's legislature. Only when city
assembly election results have been confirmed can
deputies approve a new city charter, he added. The local
election commission reported the next day that official
results will not be available until 26 January.
Meanwhile, Cherepkov has flown to Moscow to attend a
Supreme Court session that will examine his appeal
against President Boris Yeltsin's earlier order removing
him from office, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

PRIMAKOV GOVERNMENT CALLS FOR FOOD PRICE MONITORING.
Agricultural production in Russia plummeted 12.3 percent
in 1998 compared with the previous year, partly due to
an unusually poor wheat harvest. according to the State
Statistics Committee. Agriculture Minister Viktor
Semenov called for replenishment of the country's
strategic grain reserve, which had totaled 20-25 million
tons last year but had been "eaten up," Russian Public
Television reported on 21 January. Semenov recommended
that regions monitor food prices and implement a maximum
ratio of prices of raw materials to those of final
products. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman is
scheduled to meet with Semenov and Deputy Prime Minister
Gennadii Kulik on 25 January to discuss the
effectiveness of U.S. food aid and a possible Russian
request for maize and vegetable seeds for this year's
harvest. JAC

LUZHKOV CALLS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Moscow Mayor
and likely presidential contender Luzhkov on 23 January
called for amending the Russian Constitution so that it
would regulate the issue of the president's health.
Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin responded by
saying that the issue of the president's health is fully
reflected in the constitution and that statements like
Luzhkov's "are full of political intrigue." JAC

GAZPROM CUTTING WORKFORCE... After recording heavy
losses in 1998, Gazprom has launched a series of lay-
offs intended to remove up to 35,000 workers from its
payroll, the "Moscow Times" reported on 23 January. Over
the next two years, Gazprom plans to reduce its
workforce from 350,000 to 250,000 by spinning off non-
production companies. Tens of thousands of these jobs
will be eliminated outright, according to the daily,
while others may still exist at those spun-off
subsidiaries that manage to survive on their own.
Gazprom also plans to accept fewer payments in barter
and demand more in cash. According to preliminary
results, Gazprom posted a loss of 45 billion rubles ($2
billion) in 1998, AFP reported on 19 January. JAC

...PULLS AWAY FROM POLITICS? Gazprom is also abolishing
its department for media and public affairs, "Novie
izvestiya" reported on 22 January. That move follows a
meeting earlier this month between Gazprom Chairman Rem
Vyakhirev and Prime Minister Primakov, who wanted the
company to stop engaging in political activities.
According to the newspaper, in exchange for giving up
"its lobbying activities," Primakov granted Gazprom an
exemption from export duties on hydrocarbons. The daily
also argued that the abolition of the media and public
affairs department pulls "the information and financial
carpet out from under [former Prime Minister] Viktor
Chernomyrdin and his [presidential] election campaign."
Sergei Zverev, former president of Most Group,
supervised the department as deputy chairman of
Gazprom's board of directors and "came to Gazprom mainly
for the purpose of organizing Chernomyrdin's election
campaign." JAC

'MIR' NO LONGER HEADED FOR RETIREMENT. Prime Minister
Primakov signed a resolution on 22 January extending the
operational life of the space station "Mir" until 2002.
"Mir" will be financed by non-government sources
beginning in the second half of 1999, according to the
resolution. The Russian Space Agency and Academy of
Sciences will determine within three months the space
station's new sources of financing. Earlier, it was
reported that Energiya had found an unknown private
investor willing to finance the station for another
three years. The station's new life "will probably be
met without enthusiasm by NASA," according to
"Izvestiya," because the U.S. agency "would like, on the
one hand, to channel all of Russia's resources into the
international space station, dominated by the U.S., and,
on the other hand, to push rivals in space exploration
to the back of the stage." JAC

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

NEW GOVERNMENT APPROVED IN KAZAKHSTAN. President
Nursultan Nazarbayev on 22 January endorsed all 14
cabinet nominations by Prime Minister Nurlan
Balghymbayev. Most of the 14 were members of the
previous cabinet, which resigned following Nazarbayev's
inauguration on 20 January. The most significant change,
however, is the appointment of former First Deputy
Premier Uraz Djandosov as finance minister. Reuters
quoted financial analysts in Astana as characterizing
Djandosov as "honest, committed, bold" and a convinced
reformist. Speaking after the new government was sworn
in, Nazarbayev pledged to continue with privatization
and economic reform, Interfax reported. LF

TAJIK GOVERNMENT NEUTRALIZES WARLORDS. Government forces
killed Saidmukhtor Yorov and three of his bodyguards in
a shoot-out on the outskirts of Dushanbe on 24 January,
Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. A second warlord,
Ravshan Gafurov, and five of his supporters were
arrested. The Tajik government said the men were not
aligned with the United Tajik Opposition and that they
had engaged in kidnapping civilians for ransom. On 22
January, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that Tajik
prosecutors have concluded the preliminary investigation
into the November 1998 insurrection in Leninabad Oblast.
The trial of 162 insurgents on charges of treason will
begin shortly. LF

IMF DELEGATION IN KYRGYZSTAN. Tanas Katsambas, head of
an IMF delegation to Kyrgyzstan, told journalists in
Bishkek on 23 January that the country's government has
taken the "necessary measures" in order to minimize the
impact of last autumn's Russian financial crisis,
RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Earlier, Katsambas met
with President Askar Akayev, Finance Minister Marat
Sultanov, and National Bank acting Chairman Ulan
Sarbanov. LF

POLICE GENERAL APPOINTED HEAD OF KYRGYZSTAN'S STATE OIL
COMPANY. President Akayev has named General Bakirdin
Subanbekov, former head of the Chu Oblast police, as
director-general of the Kyrgyzgazmunaizat state joint-
stock company, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 24
January. Subanbekov replaces Shalkar Jaisanbaev, for
whom an arrest warrant has been issued on charges of
large-scale embezzlement and suspected involvement in
murder (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1999). LF

U.S. OIL COMPANY EMPLOYEE MURDERED IN TURKMENISTAN.
Turkmen police are investigating the death by
strangulation of a 45-year-old U.S. oil company employee
in the Caspian city of Turkmenbashi, AP reported on 22
January, citing Interfax. The man's body was discovered
on 11 January in his apartment, which had been burgled.
LF

ARREST OF FORMER ARMENIAN INTERIOR MINISTER SOUGHT.
Armenian parliamentary speaker Khosrov Harutiunian told
RFE/RL on 25 January that state prosecutors will ask the
parliament to lift the immunity of former Interior
Minister Vano Siradeghian in order to facilitate his
immediate arrest. He did not specify, however, what
charges would be brought against Siradeghian. A close
associate of former President Levon Ter-Petrossian,
Siradeghian is currently chairman of the board of the
former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement. Last year,
Siradeghian was twice interrogated by law-enforcement
agencies in connection with a group of men arrested on
murder charges in January 1998. LF

ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REVIEWS TELECOM MONOPOLY.
The Armenian Constitutional Court on 23 January began
examining an appeal by 72 parliament deputies that the
1998 telecommunications law is unconstitutional,
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That law granted the
ArmenTel company exclusive rights to operate the
country's telecommunications network. The Greek
telecommunications giant OTE paid $142 million in late
1997 to acquire an 80 percent stake in ArmenTel and 15-
year exclusive rights. ArmenTel's recent decision to
increase the monthly telephone fixed fee by 50 percent
sparked mass protests and prompted some smaller pro-
government parties to appeal to the population not to
pay their telephone bills. A presidential spokesman told
journalists on 22 January that Robert Kocharian has not
yet agreed to a demand by opposition parliamentary
deputies to convene an emergency debate on ArmenTel's
privatization. LF

ARMENIAN PRIVATE TV, RADIO STATIONS PROTEST FEES RISE.
Owners of more than one dozen private television
channels and radio stations have strongly protested the
government's recent decision to increase the monthly fee
for use of air frequencies from $40 to $1,000, RFE/RL's
Yerevan bureau reported on 22 January. One radio station
owner conceded that those rates are not high by
international standards but said they are
"inappropriate" under Armenian economic conditions. LF

IRAN, RUSSIA UNHAPPY OVER POSSIBLE U.S. MILITARY
PRESENCE IN TRANSCAUCASUS. Speaking in Tehran on 23
January, the chief of Iran's armed forces joint staff,
Major-General Hassan Firuzabadi, warned that the opening
of a U.S. military base in neighboring Azerbaijan would
have undesirable consequences, ITAR-TASS and Xinhua
reported. Azerbaijan's ambassador to Iran, Abbasali
Hassanov, has denied Turkish media reports that the U.S.
and Azerbaijani leaderships are currently discussing
such a base. On 22 January, the Russian Foreign Ministry
issued a statement condemning claims by Azerbaijani
politicians that Russia plays a destabilizing role in
the Transcaucasus, and that a U.S. military base in
Azerbaijan is necessary to counter the Russian presence
in the region, Russian agencies reported. The statement
said such claims are aimed at undermining Russian-
Azerbaijani relations. LF

GEORGIA, AZERBAIJAN, UKRAINE TO CREATE JOINT
PEACEKEEPING FORCE. Meeting in Baku on 21-22 January,
the defense ministers of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and
Ukraine discussed the creation of a joint peacekeeping
force that, according to an Azerbaijani Defense Ministry
spokesman, could be deployed to guard the proposed oil
export pipeline from Azerbaijan through Georgia, Reuters
reported. Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze had
proposed such a force last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
10 December 1998). The three ministers also signed a
joint communique on coordinating their relations with
NATO and the UN and on holding joint maneuvers. The
defense minister of Moldova, the fourth country in the
GUAM alignment, had been scheduled to attend the
meeting. No explanation was offered for his failure to
do so. LF

RETURN OF GEORGIANS TO ABKHAZIA DISCUSSED. UN special
envoy Liviu Bota and senior Western diplomats met with
Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba in Sukhumi on 23
January to discuss the latter's unilateral proposal to
allow ethnic Georgia displaced persons to return to
Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion beginning 1 March.
The French and Russian representatives at the talks
expressed satisfactions with that offer but questioned
how it could be implemented without Georgian approval
and support, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. On
22 January, a delegation representing the Georgian
displaced persons flew to the U.S. to participate in a
31 January session of the UN Security Council that is to
discuss the Abkhaz conflict. The delegation will seek to
persuade the Security Council to adopt a resolution
condemning the alleged policy of genocide conducted by
the Abkhaz against the Georgians during the 1992-1993
war. It will also demand the replacement of the CIS
peacekeeping force in Abkhazia by a multilateral UN
force. LF

ADJAR LEADER SETS CONDITIONS FOR PARTICIPATION IN
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT. Deputies elected from
constituencies in the Adjar Autonomous Republic will
resume their participation in the work of the Georgian
parliament only after that body finally enacts
legislation on creating free economic zones in Georgia
and elects a representative of the Adjar leadership as a
deputy speaker, according to Adjar Supreme Council
chairman Aslan Abashidze. The Adjar deputies suspended
their participation in the work of the Georgian
legislature last summer. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 22
January quoted Abashidze as accusing Georgian border
guards of engaging in espionage activities in Adjaria
with the aim of destabilizing the political situation
there. LF

END NOTE

MESSAGES SENT, MESSAGES RECEIVED

by Paul Goble

	The statements of Russian politicians
notwithstanding, the Russian military has sent a message
that suggests many in Moscow are coming to terms with
the idea that the three Baltic States will eventually
become members of NATO.
	But just as in 1990, when Moscow's military
commanders indicated that they did not expect Estonia,
Latvia, and Lithuania to be part of the USSR by the year
2000, the Russian generals are giving out signals that
some in both the region and the West appear likely to
misinterpret.
	On 29 December, Lieutenant-General Pavel Labutin,
the chief of the Leningrad Military District, told ITAR-
TASS that he has re-established a Russian army group "in
the Baltic direction" as a result of "NATO expansion to
the East and the prospect of admitting the Baltics into
this bloc."
	Labutin's remarks suggest that he and his officers
have been planning the reorganization of their forces
not so much to prevent the expansion of NATO but rather
on the assumption that the Western alliance will
sometime in the near future include the three Baltic
countries. In taking that position, General Labutin
appears to be out in front of, if not out of step with,
the Russian political elite. But precisely because his
remarks suggest such is the case, Labutin's actions have
been interpreted in a very different way not only by
some in the region but also by a few analysts in NATO
capitals.
	Not surprisingly, some Baltic officials see the
restoration of this army group in the same way as they
viewed last summer's Russian military exercise
"Operation Return" near their borders: as a direct
threat to themselves and as an effort to intimidate the
West.
	Some observers in NATO capitals have drawn a
similar conclusion. They have argued that this Leningrad
Military District reorganization is a direct challenge
to NATO and that the Western alliance must take notice
of it. Moreover, they have argued that this latest shift
may represent a potential violation of the Conventional
Forces in Europe agreement.
	Such Baltic and Western comments may lead some in
NATO capitals to draw exactly the opposite conclusion
from the one that Labutin's words and actions suggest.
And they may thus lead some in those cities to argue for
putting off the inclusion of the Baltic States into the
Western alliance.
	If that happens, there will be a repetition of
events that took place nine years ago. One day after the
Lithuanian government declared the restoration of its
independence, a Washington newspaper published a map
showing how Soviet generals perceived the security
architecture of Europe in the year 2000. That map, the
product of extensive interviews with these generals by a
U.S. Defense Department analyst, showed that the
generals did not believe that Estonia, Latvia, and
Lithuania would be part of the Soviet Union by that
time.
	But to a remarkable degree, the publication of that
map had a very different impact on U.S. thinking about
the Baltic pursuit of independence than the most obvious
reading of it would appear to have suggested. Instead of
leading more people in the West to conclude that Russian
acceptance of eventual Baltic independence could allow
the West to increase its support for the Balts, the
appearance of this map led some writers to conclude that
the West should be even more circumspect lest it
exacerbate divisions in Moscow.
	As subsequent events proved, the Soviet military's
assessment of the facts on the ground was far closer to
reality than the one given out by the Soviet political
establishment. And had that been more widely understood
at the time, all the parties might have avoided some of
the difficulties they subsequently faced.
	Labutin's action, one he almost certainly did not
undertake on his own, appears to be yet another such
message about the Russian military's understanding of
the situation. And just as in 1990, how it is received
is likely to have a major influence on the fate of the
Baltic countries over the next several years.

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