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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 19, Part I, 28 January 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 19, Part I, 28 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 * YELTSIN MAKES CAMEO TV APPEARANCE * FEDERATION COUNCIL PUTS OFF DECISION ON UKRAINE TREATY * GEORGIA TO BECOME FULL MEMBER OF COUNCIL OF EUROPE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN MAKES CAMEO TV APPEARANCE... President Boris Yeltsin will likely remain hospitalized until the end of the week and then convalesce at home, presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told reporters on 27 January. Yeltsin made a 10- second silent appearance on Russian Television, sitting in a chair in his hospital as he met briefly with Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov. Yakushkin denied that any rift had occurred between the two men as a result of Prime Minister Primakov's letter to the Duma suggesting a political cease- fire (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 1999). JAC ...AS SPECULATION SWIRLS AROUND PRIMAKOV. Nevertheless, the Russian press continued to speculate that the Kremlin was taken by surprise and Prime Minister Primakov is seeking to expand his power. "Tribuna" reported on 28 January that "well-informed and reliable sources" said that Yeltsin's daughter's first reaction to news of Primakov's initiative was that Yeltsin would "fire Primakov on the spot." The previous day, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that "its sources in the inner presidential circle argue that the president did not know anything about Primakov's intention to approach the [State] Duma." Both "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Kommersant-Daily" conclude that Prime Minister Primakov's real motive for suggesting the political accord is that he has decided to run for president next year. JAC FEDERATION COUNCIL PUTS OFF DECISION ON UKRAINE TREATY. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told reporters on 27 January that the Duma may send the Russian-Ukrainian Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership to President Yeltsin for signature without ratification by the Federation Council. The Council voted by 115 to 15 with nine abstentions to postpone ratification of the treaty until mid-February. Seleznev blamed the vote on Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who, according to Russian Television, managed to persuade some governors not "to give away Sevastopol and Crimea" to Ukraine. Deputy Secretary of Ukraine's National Security Council Oleksandr Razumkov warned on NTV that non- ratification would have extremely negative consequences, such as the suspension of the existing agreement on the Black Sea Fleet. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was more calm, saying that the upper body's decision was evidence only of its reluctance to make a hasty decision on such an important matter. JAC INFLATION RACING AHEAD OF GOVERNMENT FORECAST. Inflation in January will likely reach almost 8 percent, according to the State Statistics Committee on 28 January. The government based its 1999 budget on an assumed annual inflation rate of 30 percent. However, an 8 percent monthly rate would be the equivalent of more than 150 percent annually, according to AFP. JAC KREMLIN TO INCREASE CONTROL OVER STATE COMPANIES? President Yeltsin has ordered Prime Minister Primakov and chief of the presidential administration Nikolai Bordyuzha to increase control over the selection of state representatives to the boards of director of companies in which the controlling share is owned by the state, "Vremya MN" reported on 26 January. "A high-ranking state official from the presidential administration" told the newspaper that when controversies regarding privatization and tax payments dogged Gazprom, Svyazinvest, and Purneftegaz last summer, "it became clear that the role of the state within the structures of the largest companies and control over their activities should be strengthened." According to the source, at the time the state had no levers to affect policy at these companies. Meanwhile, according to "Kommersant-Daily," Svyazinvest posted heavy losses in 1998 of 4 billion rubles ($176 million), in part because the devalued ruble made purchases of foreign equipment more expensive. JAC CHECHNYA'S NEIGHBORS WANT STRONGER FENCES. The Federation Council asked President Yeltsin to declare a state of emergency in Stavropol Oblast on 27 January so that local law enforcement agencies are better able to cope with the region's rising crime, Interfax reported. The upper house blames the region's situation on its proximity to Chechnya and the presence there of refugees and forced migrants numbering almost 400,000. "Segodnya" reported the previous day that residents of the village of Kurskaya in Stavropol Oblast blocked roads leading to Chechnya, demanding that the status of the border with Chechnya be upgraded to that of national one. During the past year, five people from Kurskii Raion were taken hostage and "local agricultural enterprises are constantly being pillaged," Russian Television reported. JAC TOP MILITARY OFFICIALS CALLS FOR NEW ALL-ENCOMPASSING TREATY. Strategic Rocket Forces Commander Colonel-General Vladimir Yakovlev suggested that the U.S. and Russia launch talks on a new "global strategic stability treaty" that would attempt to resolve the two countries' differences over the ABM treaty and lower the number of nuclear warheads envisaged by all the START treaties, Interfax reported on 27 January. Yakovlev also called for an agreement "on the inviolability of space." Eventually, according to Yakovlev, France, Britain, and China would join the global stability treaty. JAC POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Bronislaw Geremek met with Premier Primakov on 27 January to discuss bilateral and European security issues. Geremek also met with Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev and Foreign Minister Ivanov. Ivanov later told reporters that they did not discuss Poland's granting of political asylum to former Yeltsin adviser Sergei Stankevich. JAC SHORT LIFE OF VLADIVOSTOK'S CITY DUMA ENDS. The Leninsk District Court in Vladivostok has dissolved the city assembly, some of whose members were improperly elected on 17 January, Interfax reported on 27 January. The court also revoked all the assembly's decisions, including its adoption of a new city charter and appointment of former mayor Viktor Cherepkov as the city's new mayor (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). JAC LINK BETWEEN ORTHODOX CHURCH, EXTREMIST GROUPS DISCUSSED. At a Moscow press conference, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexii II addressed the issue of Orthodox clergymen cooperating with neo-Nazi groups such as Russian National Unity, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 January. The patriarch said he knows nothing about such cases, according to the newspaper. But he admitted that there may be people who either profess Orthodoxy or consider themselves members of the Orthodox Church who are in extremist groups. The Church does not have the right to reject such people, he argued. JAC STAROVOITOVA ALLIES UNHAPPY WITH INVESTIGATION. Ruslan Linkov, aide to slain deputy Galina Starovoitova and witness to her murder, told Reuters on 27 January that Starovoitova's killer will probably never be caught because the rank-and- file employees of the organs investigating the crime "do not completely answer to the leadership that promised to solve the case." Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin told reporters the same day that "much progress has been made" in the case. The previous day the "Moscow Times" reported that St. Petersburg journalists interrogated by investigators said that they were asked irrelevant and offensive questions, while one reporter was told "we are going to solve this case in a way that buries your democratic movement." The Duma commission set up to investigate the murder is expected to work until 30 May, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 January. JAC NEW LIGHT SHED ON FAMED PILOT'S DEATH. The daughter of renowned pilot Valerii Chkalov alleges in the 28 January issue of "Ekho planeti" that her father's death while testing a I-180 fighter plane was caused by gross negligence on the part of the factory that made the aircraft. From previously inaccessible materials from the Federal Security Service archives, Chkalova found a document that the factory's director had sent to Stalin and Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov that grossly misrepresented the plane's flight- readiness. After his death in 1938, it was officially reported that Chkalov, often called Russia's Charles Lindbergh, was fully informed of the plane's defects and defied a personal order from Stalin not to risk a test flight. JAC TATAR PRESIDENT ON COLLISION COURSE WITH MOSCOW? Mintimer Shaimiev told a conference on federalism in Moscow on 26 January that he intends to defend the interests of Russia's national-territorial formations against what he termed the federal center's "unconcealed aspiration" to transform Russia into a unitary state, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 28 January. He added that none of those national-territorial formations, including Tatarstan, has any intention of trying to undermine the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. Shaimiev argued that complaints by Moscow that the constitutions of some of Russia's republics are at odds with that of the Russian Federation are "out of place," since many of the constitutions in question were adopted before the 1993 Russian Constitution. He said that the process of coordinating legislation should involve amendments both to federal and local legislation. LF INTERIOR MINISTRY PURGE IN TATARSTAN. Eleven regional police chiefs have been fired in Tatarstan, together with the head of the Interior Ministry department for combating economic crime, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 and 27 January. The latter quotes Interior Minister Asgat Safarov as saying that the officers involved systematically overstated the percentage of reported crimes that had been solved. Safarov, a former head of the presidential bodyguard service, was appointed interior minister in June 1998, after President Mintimer Shaimiev sacked his predecessor for opposing the election of Farit Mukhametshin as parliamentary chairman. LF RUSSIA, TURKEY DISCUSS CFE MODIFICATION. Meeting in Ankara on 25 January, Russian and Turkish delegations discussed unspecified issues relating to the ongoing attempt to amend the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe to take into account the shifts in the European security landscape resulting from the end of the Cold War and NATO's planned eastward expansion, according to ITAR-TASS and the "Turkish Daily News" of 26 and 27 January. Also on 27 January, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel told journalists in Ankara after visiting Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev in the hospital there that Baku has made no "formal request" for the stationing of Turkish troops on Azerbaijani territory, AFP reported. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT. Leading members of the Communist Party of Armenia and the Union for Constitutional Rights have deplored the parliament's 26 January rejection of Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian's demand that former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian be stripped of his deputy's immunity to facilitate his arrest for suspected incitement to murder (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). Communist Party leader Sergei Badalian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that his party's seven deputies may boycott parliamentary proceedings. Haig Baboukhanian told Noyan Tapan that the parliament should be dissolved. Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun) party leader Vahan Hovanessian had told the party's newspaper "Hayots ashkhar" before the 26 January vote that President Robert Kocharian should dissolve the parliament if it failed to lift Siradeghian's immunity. LF RETIRED U.S. DIPLOMATS SEEK TO KICKSTART KARABAKH MEDIATION. Two former senior U.S. diplomats have held talks in Baku and Yerevan with leading officials from Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on the prospects for resuming negotiations on a solution to the Karabakh conflict. They told journalists in Yerevan on 25 January that their mission is intended to support the OSCE Minsk Group's ongoing mediation effort, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But their talks in Baku and Yerevan did not focus on the most recent OSCE draft peace proposal, which Azerbaijan has rejected. Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasian told the U.S. diplomats that their country should play "a decisive role" in resolving the conflict, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 January. He said the mediators have made "new proposals" with "very serious prospects" but declined to disclose those proposals on the grounds that they have not yet been presented to Azerbaijan's President Aliev. LF ARMENIAN PRESIDENT OPPOSES INCREASE IN BROADCASTING TARIFFS. President Kocharian has asked the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications to reconsider its decision to raises the fees for use of broadcast frequencies by private television and radio stations from 1 January, according to Snark on 25 January, as monitored by the BBC and reported by Groong on 27 January. The ministry has increased the monthly fees from $40 to $1,000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999). Kocharian termed the new rates "unrealistic." LF IMF APPROVES NEW LOAN FOR AZERBAIJAN. The IMF has approved a $79 million loan for Azerbaijan to help counter the impact of the Russian financial crisis and falling oil prices, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 27 January. In addition, the fund will release $33 million under a three- year ESAF program. The IMF noted that while Azerbaijan's projected 1999 budget deficit is equal to only 3.1 percent of GDP, compared with 10 percent last year, it is still larger than planned. LF FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S TRIAL AGAIN ADJOURNED. The trial of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman Abulfaz Elchibey resumed on 27 January but was adjourned until 2 February at the request of the defense lawyers, who object that the preliminary investigation was not objective and that the prosecution's case contains numerous irregularities, AP and Turan reported. Elchibey is charged with insulting the honor and dignity of President Aliev by claiming that he was instrumental in establishing the Kurdistan Workers' Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 1998 and 26 January 1999). On 26 January, a Baku district court handed down two- year suspended sentences on five members of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party for participating in an unsanctioned demonstration in Baku on 12 September and for resisting arrest. Some police witnesses for the prosecution failed positively to identify the accused as having participated in the demonstration, while others denied that the men had resisted arrest. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S RETURN HOME AGAIN DELAYED. Aides to President Aliev told journalists in Ankara on 27 January that the president is well and will return to Baku no later than 31 January, Reuters reported. Aliev was flown to a military hospital on 17 January, reportedly suffering from bronchitis and/or influenza. On 19 January, a member of the presidential administration told Interfax that Aliev would return to Baku "by the weekend," that is, on 23 or 24 January. But on 25 January, the Azerbaijani consul in Istanbul had told Turan that the president would return "on Tuesday or Wednesday," that is, 26 or 27 January. LF GEORGIA TO BECOME FULL MEMBER OF COUNCIL OF EUROPE. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 27 January voted unanimously to admit Georgia to full membership within three to six months. That decision is conditional on implementation of judicial reform, a tougher crackdown on corruption, and progress in repatriating to Georgia the Meskhetians deported by Stalin to Central Asia in 1944, according to Interfax. In addition, Tbilisi must draw up within two years a constitutional framework that allows autonomy for Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Addressing the assembly in Strasbourg, Georgian parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania urged its members also to admit Armenia and Azerbaijan to full membership in order to promote closer regional cooperation. LF KYRGYZSTAN REGISTERS DISAPPOINTING ECONOMIC GROWTH IN 1998. National Statistical Board head Zarylbek Kudabayev told journalists in Bishkek on 27 January that GDP in 1998 increased by 1.8 percent, compared with 1997, but that the increase was due almost entirely to the Kyrgyz-Canadian gold joint-venture, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kudabayev said that industrial output amounted to 21.05 billion som (about $700 million), which is equal to a 4.6 percent increase over the previous year. Agricultural output remained at the 1997 level. Annual inflation was 18.4 percent, and the average monthly salary was 825 som ($28). The country's foreign trade deficit increased sharply last year to $290 million. LF TAJIK PRESIDENT, UN REPRESENTATIVE DISCUSS PEACE PROCESS. At a meeting in Dushanbe on 27 January, Jan Kubis and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov agreed on the need to expedite implementation of the 1997 Tajik peace accords, which Kubis termed "painfully slow," Russian agencies reported. Kubis expressed concern at the delay in implementing agreements reached between Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri and in disarming opposition and maverick armed formations. He also noted that no headway has been made on drafting amendments to the country's constitution, which the Commission for National Reconciliation has just begun discussing, according to Asia-Plus-Blitz on 27 January. Kubis briefed Rakhmonov on his recent talks in Moscow with Russian Foreign Ministry officials about the situation in Tajikistan. LF TURKMEN PRESIDENT FIRES AGRICULTURE MINISTER. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov sacked Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Kurban Velmuradov during a cabinet meeting on 26 January, Interfax reported on 27 January. Velmuradov's deputy, Kurbanmurad Rozyev, has been named to succeed him. Niyazov criticized unnamed officials in the agricultural sector who, he claimed, "do not understand...the tasks given them" and still act according to "obsolete" and "Soviet-era" methods. Niyazov's claims that the country's agriculture is in crisis are difficult to reconcile with official statistics showing a 20 percent increase in agricultural output last year. Interfax reported on 18 January that the Turkmen government has adopted a six-year program for the partial privatization of farms and industrial and construction companies belonging to the agro-industrial complex. Initially, the government will retain a 51 percent stake in those companies. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. 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