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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 19, Part I, 28 January 1999


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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

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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
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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

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