The burnt child shuns the fire until the next day. - Mark Twain
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 17, Part I, 26 January 1999


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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

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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
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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

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