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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 17, Part I, 26 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 17, Part I, 26 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 * U.S. PLEDGES MONEY FOR RUSSIAN MEDIA * OIL PRODUCERS FACE NEW TAX * ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DECLINES TO LIFT FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER'S IMMUNITY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA U.S. PLEDGES MONEY FOR RUSSIAN MEDIA... U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright continued the second day of her official visit to Moscow by meeting with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Anatolii Kvashnin, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed, and Yabloko party leader Grigorii Yavlinskii. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Yavlinskii said Albright backed his proposal for a pan-European anti-ballistic missile system. Lebed, on the other hand, told reporters that he discussed only Russia's "extremely difficult" economic and political situation and that "foreign policy issues are not in my area of competence." Albright also talked with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on the telephone for 30 minutes about "key parameters of Russian-U.S. relations," Interfax reported on 26 January. In a speech at the All- Russia State Library for Foreign Literature, Albright pledged $10 million to assist the development of Russia's independent media. JAC ...AND SEEDS FOR FARMERS. Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik told reporters on 25 January that Russia and the U.S. have reached an agreement on the U.S. providing Russia with 15,000 tons of seeds free of charge. Proceeds from the sale of the seeds are to be used to support individual Russian farmers and agricultural research centers, Interfax reported. Russia may also agree to increase its imports of U.S. poultry parts provided that supplies of grain are also increased, a "source close to talks on U.S. food aid" told Interfax. According to that source, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman is under strong pressure from U.S. poultry producers and offered to increase U.S. shipments "considerably." JAC FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE PRESS CHIEF TO BECOME NO. 2 AT ITAR-TASS. Yurii Kobaladze, until recently spokesman for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, has been appointed first deputy director of ITAR-TASS, the agency reported on 25 January. Earlier press reports had maintained that Kobaladze would be named to the board of the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January 1999). JAC RUSSIA ACCUSES U.S. OF START-I VIOLATIONS. In an interview with "Krasnaya zvezda" on 23 January, Colonel- General Leonid Ivashov, head of the Defense Ministry's department for international military cooperation, accused the U.S. of violating the START-I treaty, thereby creating difficulties for the smooth ratification of the START-II treaty by the State Duma. As one example, he noted that the U.S. is carrying out flight tests of Trident intercontinental missiles in violation of the treaty. After meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Albright on 25 January to discuss the START-II treaty, Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told reporters that the U.S. is prepared to begin negotiations on the START-III treaty. Commenting on START-II, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told reporters that he believes the Duma will ratify the treaty only if the U.S. guarantees its observance of all earlier concluded arms control agreements and decisions taken by the UN Security Council. JAC OIL PRODUCERS FACE NEW TAX... Despite earlier statements by cabinet ministers that the oil industry is already suffering too much on account of low world oil prices to bear new taxes, Yevgenii Primakov's government on 23 January introduced a new export duty on crude oil (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 21 January 1999). The new charge adds 2.5 euros ($2.9) per ton of crude oil. However, should the monthly average price for Urals crude drop below $9.5 a barrel, then the Trade Ministry can request that oil producers be exempt from the duty for 30 days. If the price rises above $12 per barrel, then the duty can be doubled for 30 days. However, some tax relief may be in the offing for oil producers. Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Bulgak told reporters on 25 January that the government plans to introduce next year a new system of taxation for several oil companies. That system is designed to encourage oil production and the drilling of new wells. JAC ...AS PLANS FOR MEGA-MERGER ANNOUNCED. Rosneft, Slavneft, and Onako announced plans to merge on 25 January. According to Deputy Prime Minister Bulgak, the government will have a 75 percent stake in the new company, which will reportedly be the world's largest in terms of oil reserves and will produce 58 million tons of oil annually. The new company may be joined later by the Tyumen Oil Company. Bulgak noted that LUKoil and Yukos executives greeted the news of the merger "with some disappointment." LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov had proposed merging his company with Slavneft and Onako, while Yukos President Mikhail Khodorkovskii suggested teaming his company with Rosneft and Onako (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 1998). JAC CHEREPKOV BECOMES FORMER MAYOR ONCE MORE. The 17 January elections to Vladivostok's city assembly have been declared valid in only 10 out of 22 districts, Vladivostok election commission chairman Ilya Grinchenko told reporters on 26 January. Originally, polls in 16 of 22 districts were declared valid, but numerous complaints from voters and candidates prompted the local election commission to carry out additional checks. As a result, results were invalidated in four districts, while checks are still under way in two other districts, according to Interfax. Since the assembly requires at least 15 members to start work, the legislature's adoption of a new city charter and appointment of former Mayor Viktor Cherepkov as the new mayor are also invalid. JAC MARII EL REPUBLIC HAWKING WEAPONS ABROAD? President of the Marii El Republic Vyacheslav Kislitsin violated Russian law in soliciting the sale of the advanced model of the S-300 missile defense system to Kuwaiti Prime Minister Crown Prince Sheikh Saad Abdullah Salem Sabah, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 26 January. The daily alleged that it has an official letter from Kislitsin offering Kuwait not the S-300 system produced for export but the version that has exclusive classified technology intended for use only by Russia's military. According to the daily, only a small list of Russian state agencies and enterprises are allowed to sell weapons abroad, and Kislitsin has violated federal and criminal laws. The head of presidential press service in Marii El declined to comment on the charges, the newspaper reported. JAC SOUTH KOREAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS MOSCOW. Prime Minister Primakov told visiting South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Hong Soon Young on 25 January that Russia "is ready to play an important role in ensuring stability" on the Korean peninsula. Primakov joked that although both Russia and South Korea are experiencing economic difficulties, South Korea has been luckier since it received more money from the IMF. He added, "Don't worry, we won't ask you to give us anything." Young also met with Foreign Minister Ivanov, who said that the visit is important for "boosting bilateral political dialogue." South Korean President Kim Dae Jung is scheduled to visit Moscow in mid-April. JAC YABLOKO CALLS FOR DEEP TAX CUTS. The Yabloko party has unveiled a new economic program involving drastic tax cuts and measures to stimulate domestic production and demand, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 25 January. According to Yabloko leader Yavlinskii, Russia needs a new economic policy and the budget that the Primakov government proposed is a "scam" that is likely to lead to annual inflation closer to 180-200 percent than the 30 percent envisioned in the budget. JAC FILM STAR AGAIN DENIES PLANS TO SEEK PRESIDENCY. Responding to a report in the U.K.'s "Sunday Times," Oscar-winning film director/actor Nikita Mikhalkov told ITAR-TASS on 26 January that he will participate in upcoming presidential elections only as a voter. CIS Executive Secretary and influential business tycoon Boris Berezovskii told reporters in Tashkent the previous day that he supports Mikhalkov's candidacy and believes that Mikhalkov "thinks about Russia," unlike other contenders, who "think more about how they will become president." The "Sunday Times" quoted Mikhalkov as saying that he will think in earnest about running for president "if I feel that the people really need me and want me to be their president." JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DECLINES TO LIFT FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER'S IMMUNITY... By a vote of 65 to 56 with 25 abstentions, the National Assembly on 26 January turned down a request by Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian to lift Vano Siradeghian's immunity to allow his arrest on suspicion of ordering two murders, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999). Hovsepian had told deputies the previous day that there is "sufficient evidence" to claim that Siradeghian ordered the murder in January 1994 of two Armenian police officers who had bungled the assassination one month earlier in Moscow of Armenian-born Russian businessman, Serge Jilavian. Jilavian was at odds with the former Armenian authorities. Siradeghian, who is chairman of the board of the former ruling Armenian Pan- National Movement, has denied the charges and accused the country's present leadership of leading Armenia to "civil war." LF ...POSTPONES VOTE ON ELECTION LAW. Deputies on 25 January voted to postpone until 1 February the final vote on the new election law, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The opposition objects that the bill allows the government to control electoral commissions and provides for the allocation of 75 seats in single- mandate constituencies. LF ARMENIA, KARABAKH AGAIN DENY SHELTERING OCALAN. A spokeswoman for Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, told RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent on 25 January that Azerbaijan is behind Russian and Turkish media reports that Kurdistan Workers' Party leader Abdullah Ocalan has arrived in the enclave after leaving Italy on 16 January. She added that those reports are aimed at providing a pretext for a Turkish military presence in the region. On 23 January, Turkey's Anatolia News Agency carried a written denial by Armenian Foreign Ministry acting spokesman Ara Papyan that Ocalan has been or is currently in Armenia. But Mahir Valat, who heads the Kurdish National Liberation Movement office in Moscow, told Interfax on 25 January that Ocalan entered Russia from Italy en route to a third country, which he declined to name. LF FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ON TRIAL. The trial of former president and opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman Abulfaz Elchibey opened in Baku on 25 January and was adjourned until the following day. Elchibey is charged with insulting the honor and dignity of his successor, President Heidar Aliev, by claiming in November 1998 that the latter, together with Yevgenii Primakov, then head of Russian foreign intelligence, was instrumental in founding the Kurdistan Workers' Party in the 1980s (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 1998). LF GEORGIA DISCLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR ABKHAZ DEATHS. Two Abkhaz police officers were killed and three wounded on 25 January in an ambush by Georgian guerrillas in Gali Raion, Interfax reported, quoting Abkhaz Deputy Interior Minister Valerii Lagvilava. But Temur Khevsuriani, deputy security minister of the self-styled Abkhaz government in exile, told Caucasus Press that the Abkhaz were killed by members of the Russian peacekeeping force in retaliation for an earlier attack on them. Also on 25 January, President Eduard Shevardnadze criticized Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba for going back on an earlier agreement on the return to Gali of ethnic Georgians who fled the fighting there in 1992-1993 and 1998, ITAR-TASS reported. It is unclear whether Shevardnadze was referring to the protocol prepared for signing at a planned meeting between himself and Ardzinba. Each side has blamed the other for sabotaging that meeting by backtracking on earlier agreements. LF KAZAKHSTAN ARRESTS TWO SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS. Two former generals of the Kazakh National Security Committee have been arrested, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported on 26 January. One has been charged with illegal operations involving the sale of alcohol. The other is suspected of having provided classified information on the current economic and political situation in Kazakhstan, especially Kazakhstan's relations with Russia, to an unnamed country, possibly in Asia. LF RUSSIA GIVES KAZAKHSTAN FIGHTER AIRCRAFT. Russia on 25 January delivered four SU-27 military jets to Kazakhstan in part payment for the lease of the Baikonur space complex, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. According to Interfax, Russia will also provide Kazakhstan with another 12 such aircraft and with S-300 anti-aircraft systems to upgrade the security of the new capital. LF DISAFFECTION IN KYRGYZSTAN. Parliamentary deputy and respected film director Dooronbek Sadyrbayev told journalists in Bishkek on 25 January that he will forego his deputy's salary and official car until "order is restored" in the country, ITAR-TASS reported. Seven deputies had made a similar announcement the previous day. Sadyrbayev criticized press censorship, inadequate pensions, and what he termed "the practice of appointing persons with a criminal record to high state posts." On 22 January, summarizing the findings of a poll conducted by the Association of Kyrgyz Sociologists among 100 scientists, journalists, and public figures, Interfax reported that the Communist Party is the most popular of Kyrgyzstan's 22 registered political parties and movements. Absamat Masaliev, who headed the Communist Party from 1985-1991 and re-elected to that post in 1994, was named the best-known political leader in Kyrgyzstan. LF TAJIK OPPOSITION PROPOSES MORE GOVERNMENT MEMBERS. The United Tajik Opposition on 21 January agreed on another eight candidates for government posts, including nominees for the positions of first deputy interior, foreign, and security minister, Asia-Plus-Blitz reported on 25 January. The Committee for National Reconciliation has endorsed those candidacies, which must now be approved by President Imomali Rakhmonov. LF TURKMEN FOREIGN MINISTER IN PAKISTAN. Arriving in Islamabad on 25 January, Boris Shikhmuradov told journalists that his country still intends to proceed with construction of a gas export pipeline to Pakistan via Afghanistan, dpa reported. The U.S. company UNOCAL, which had a 46 percent stake in the consortium created in 1997 to build that pipeline, announced last month that it was withdrawing from the project because of the instability in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1998). Shikhmuradov is to meet with his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. He is also scheduled to meet with Taliban representatives. 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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