Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends. - Benjamin Disraeli 1804-1881
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 20, Part I, 29 January 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 20, Part I, 29 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

* BUDGET PREDICTED TO PASS THIRD TIME

* RUSSIAN PRESS PANS ALBRIGHT VISIT

* ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ASSESSES IMPACT OF CONTROVERSIAL
VOTE
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RUSSIA

BUDGET PREDICTED TO PASS THIRD TIME. The State Duma on
29 January began debating the 1999 budget in its third
reading. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev predicted that
the budget will pass easily, while Aleksandr Pochinok,
head of the government's finance department, told
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that "practically all
controversial issues have been resolved" and that even
the "governors are now practically unanimous in their
support for the budget." Duma Budget Committee Chairman
Aleksandr Zhukov said that his committee has approved
"many" of a "a huge number of amendments" that were
submitted. Among those amendments were a 3 billion ruble
($132 million) allocation for compensation for
individuals who transferred their savings accounts from
failing banks to Sberbank, 3 billion rubles for Russia's
northern regions, 1.5 billion rubles for regional
programs, 1 billion rubles for Siberian and Far Eastern
regions and 1.6 billion rubles for "regional subsidies,"
according to Interfax. JAC

RUSSIAN PRESS PANS ALBRIGHT VISIT. "Relations between
Moscow and Washington are at their lowest point since
1991," "Trud" concluded on 29 January, arguing that U.S.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's recent visit to
Moscow did not launch negotiations for START-III as had
been expected. The previous day, "Noviye izvestiya"
adopted a similar tone, arguing that "no progress has
been reached on any of the 'global' issues discussed in
Moscow." According to the newspaper, "an exaggerated
amount of attention to the external aspects of Albright
visit" was paid, partly in order to disguise that an
agreement to disagree had been reached even before
Albright arrived in Moscow. "Vremya MN" said on 27
January that Albright's visit produced no results but
"demonstrated how US officials were now conducting
relations with Russia: listen, nod their heads in
agreement, and then do exactly what they wish." JAC

TEACHERS' STRIKE TALLIES DIFFER. The education workers
union estimated that 300,000 teachers from some 8,500
educational institutions either were on strike or
suspended classes on 27 January, according to Interfax
on 29 January. Meanwhile, the federal government's
figures were much lower, suggesting that only 20,000
teachers were involved in the action, "Izvestiya"
reported on 28 January. However, the daily noted, that
teachers in even the best-paid regions, such as
Leningrad and Samara Oblasts, decided to support their
striking colleagues. According to the newspaper,
Education Minister Vladimir Filippov believes that one
solution for the chronic inability of some regional
governments to transfer federal monies intended to pay
teachers' wages would be the establishment of local
commissions to look into how federal budget funds have
been spent. Included in these commissions would be
teachers, and local journalists would be asked to
conduct their own investigations. JAC

NEW REGIONAL BLOC FORMED... A new election alliance of
regional leaders was established in Moscow on 27
January, in order to compete in upcoming parliamentary
elections, Interfax reported. Twenty-one regional
officials have signed up, including Kaliningrad and
Rostov Oblast Governors Leonid Gorbenko and Vladimir
Chub, Khakassian Republic head Alexei Lebed, Saratov and
Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast assembly heads Aleksandr
Kharitonov and Anatolii Kozeradskii, and Sergei
Sobyanin, head of the Khanti-Mansiiysk Autonomous Okrug.
One of the bloc's founders, Samara Oblast Governor
Konstantin Titov, may in fact be the group's leader,
according to an anonymous source cited by Interfax. JAC

...AS ANOTHER NDR DEFECTION FEARED. Titov, who is also a
deputy chairman of the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) party,
has not decided whether to maintain membership in both
organizations. NDR faction leader and Duma deputy
Vladimir Ryzhkov greeted the news with alarm, saying
that the NDR's political council should be convened "no
later than in February to find out why Titov and many
others are dissatisfied." Ryzhkov told Interfax on 28
January that Titov's establishment of a new bloc "is one
more piece of proof that the Our Home is Russia movement
is in trouble." Titov suggested that the NDR might want
to join his bloc. JAC

RANKS OF 'NEW POOR' GROWING. Russians' average income
since last August has decreased from $160 to $50 per
month, " while the cost of imported goods has risen 3.5
times compared with July 1998, "Vechernaya Moskva"
reported on 28 January. Meanwhile, the number of Russian
citizens whose incomes are below the national minimum
wage is growing by at least 10 million to 15 million
people a month, according to the newspaper. Specialists
at the Carnegie Moscow Center suggest that a new type of
poor has emerged in Russia, "Noviye izvestiya" reported
on 19 January. These people are well-educated, young to
middle-aged, and have lost their status and high incomes
but not their ideal of a prosperous life. They no longer
have the resources to continue the lifestyle approved by
the mainstream of society, such as being able to buy new
clothes or fruit for their children or pay for a
funeral, without massive borrowing. JAC

PASKO TRIAL ATTRACTING INTELLIGENCE SERVICE SUPPORT,
CENSURE. Yurii Maksimenko, the former chief of
intelligence for Russia's Pacific Fleet, unexpectedly
decided to testify in favor of military journalist
Grigorii Pasko during his trial for espionage in
Vladivostok, AFP reported on 26 January. Maksimenko, who
was allowed to attend the trial as a representative of
the Fleet Veterans Council, said earlier that the
state's case was flawed by too many assumptions and too
little proof, the "Moscow Times" reported on 22 January.
On 28 January, the Federal Security Service's (FSB)
public relations department issued a statement accusing
the media of providing misleading and lopsided coverage
of Pasko's trial, according to ITAR-TASS. According to
the FSB, Pasko is charged with specific criminal
offenses for which "his environmentalist activities and
work as a journalist are irrelevant." On 29 January,
Pasko's trial was adjourned until 8 February after one
of his lawyers was banned from representing him in
court. JAC

LEBED MAKES PEACE WITH MEDIA? Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor
Aleksandr Lebed and All-Russia State Television and
Radio Company (VGTRK) head Mikhail Shvydkoi signed an
agreement on the formation of a new state media holding
company and the terms on which its Krasnoyarsk
subsidiary would join that company, "Izvestiya" reported
on 29 January. In addition, Lebed rescinded his
directive appointing one of his local supporters as head
of the Krasnoyarsk media company, "Kommersant-Daily"
reported the previous day. Both newspapers interpreted
Lebed's agreement as evidence that the governor is
backing down in his confrontation with local media.
Lebed, on the other hand, told reporters on 27 January
that the conflict was the result of "misunderstanding"
and that he will get together with VGTRK to "settle the
issue like statesman." JAC

PATRIARCH WARY ABOUT NATO EXPANSION. Patriarch of Moscow
and All Russia Aleksii II on 28 January cautioned
visiting Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek about
erecting barriers between Poland and Russia. He said,
"We lived in a Europe divided into two blocs. One such
bloc has survived, but many people still perceive it as
aggressive and regard its gradual approach to Russian
borders with fear," according to Interfax. The patriarch
added that "the constant threat of air strikes on
Yugoslavia only increases the internal perception of
NATO as an aggressor." JAC

U.S. COMPANY BECOMES DE FACTO LANDOWNER IN TULA. The
Tulskaya Oblast Property Fund has sold 40 hectares of
land to a joint-stock company 90 percent owned by
Procter & Gamble, "Izvestiya" reported on 27 January.
The joint-stock company paid 16 million rubles (some
$696,000) for the land, on which the production and
housing facilities of the company are located. According
to the daily, over the past few years U.S. companies
have invested tens of millions of dollars in the
oblast's economy. A significant part of that sum has
gone toward developing health-care and other social
programs. JC

HOW COLD IS IT? Temperatures in Khanti-Mansiisk
Autonomous Okrug hit the lowest recorded this century on
27 January, sliding to minus 55.6 degrees Celsius, AFP
reported. In Komi Republic, temperatures dipped to minus
53 degrees Celsius, and in Arkhangelsk Oblast
temperatures below minus 40 degrees Celsius paralyzed
drawbridges over the North Dvina River, Reuters
reported. JAC

NORTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS TO HALT RUSSIAN
OUTMIGRATION. Addressing a congress last month of the
Rus organization, which represents the ethnic Russian
population of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania,
President Aleksandr Dsasokhov vowed to stem the
outmigration of ethnic Russians from the republic. Some
44,700 Russians have left North Ossetia in recent years,
almost 25 percent of the region's 1989 ethnic Russian
population. Many of those who left found themselves
unemployed as a result of the collapse of Russia's
military-industrial complex, which was the largest
employer in the region. But Dzasokhov noted that
Russians are also proportionally under-represented in
the police force and on local councils. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ASSESSES IMPACT OF CONTROVERSIAL
VOTE. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation-
Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) issued a statement on 28 January
urging President Robert Kocharian to dissolve the
parliament following the rejection of Prosecutor-General
Aghvan Hovsepian's request to strip former Interior
Minister Vano Siradeghian of his parliamentary immunity.
The statement said the 1995 parliamentary elections, in
which the HHD was banned from participating, were rigged
and the parliament is continuing the previous regime's
policy, which it characterized as "directed against the
vital interests of the Armenian people." Also on 28
January, Albert Bazeyan, leader of the largest Yerkrapah
parliamentary group, denied rumors of a split within
that group over whether Siradeghian should be brought to
trial, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Meanwhile,
several leading politicians have expressed doubts that
former President Levon Ter-Petrossian's 26 January
statement condemning the attempt to indict Siradeghian
heralds Ter-Petrossian's imminent return to mainstream
politics. Ter-Petrossian has lived in seclusion since
his forced resignation one year ago. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT AMBIVALENT ON QUESTION OF NATO
BASES. In an interview published in "Moskovskii
komsomolets" on 28 January, Heidar Aliev avoided a
direct answer to the question whether Azerbaijan might
host either a Turkish or a NATO military base on its
territory. ITAR-TASS quoted "a well-informed NATO source
in Moscow" as similarly avoiding a direct answer to that
question. That source went on to quote Turkish President
Suleyman Demirel as dismissing reports of such a base in
Azerbaijan as "pure speculation." Also on 28 January, a
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman interviewed by ITAR-
TASS pointed to the contradiction between Aliev's
statements and those of his adviser Vafa Guluzade, who
has repeatedly argued openly in favor of such bases in
Azerbaijan. LF

UN SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR POLITICAL SOLUTION IN
ABKHAZIA. In a 28 January resolution, the UN Security
Council called for "an early and comprehensive political
settlement [to the Abkhaz conflict], which includes a
settlement on the political status of Abkhazia within
the state of Georgia," Reuters reported. The resolution
also urged immediate measures to expedite the return to
Abkhazia of ethnic Georgian displaced persons forced to
flee during the conflict, and it condemned the failure
to halt guerrilla activities in Abkhazia's southernmost
Gali Raion. The Council extended for another six months
the mandate of the UN Observer Force in western Georgia.
LF

...WHILE GEORGIAN MINISTERS CALL ON UN TO PLAY GREATER
ROLE. Addressing the council, Georgian Foreign Minister
Irakli Menagharishvili said the UN should be more active
in promoting not only a settlement of the conflict but
also the repatriation of Georgian displaced persons,
according to AP. He argued that the 140-strong observer
force is "too small" to control the area in question.
Menagharishvili also called for the creation of a local
administration in Gali under UN control to create secure
conditions for the displaced persons' return. The Abkhaz
have rejected that option. Speaking on Georgian
Television on 27 January, Minister of State Vazha
Lortkipanidze similarly called for "more resolute" UN
moves to resolve the conflict, AP and ITAR-TASS
reported. LF

KAZAKH MILITARY PROCURATOR DISCUSSES MILITARY
DISCIPLINE. Speaking at a press conference in Almaty on
29 January, Zharmakhan Tuyaqbayev expressed concern over
the increase in the number of deserters last year and
over unspecified instances of abuse of power by senior
officers, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Senior
Defense Ministry officials denied Russian media reports
that four SU-27 fighter aircraft given to Kazakhstan by
Russia earlier this week were intended as part payment
of the rent for the Baikonur Space Complex (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 26 January 1999). They said the aircraft were
in payment of Soviet military equipment withdrawn from
Kazakhstan in 1993. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT IN VIENNA. Askar Akayev met with his
Austrian counterpart, Thomas Klestil, in Vienna on 27
January to discuss strengthening bilateral relations and
developing new forms of cooperation, RFE/RL's Bishkek
bureau reported the following day. Akayev also met
separately with Austrian businessmen to solicit
investments, particularly in Kyrgyzstan's mining, light,
and textile industries as well as in agriculture,
according to ITAR-TASS. Akayev underscored that
Austria's experience in developing its business sector,
in particular by supporting small and medium-sized
businesses, is of special relevance for his country. A
memorandum on cooperation between the Interior
Ministries of Austria and Kyrgyzstan was signed during
his visit. LF

KYRGYZSTAN SEEKS TO BREAK PENSIONS DEADLOCK... The
Legislative Assembly on 28 January approved amendments
to the pension law, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported.
The changes provide for raising the retirement age for
both men and women by four months annually over the next
nine years, from 60 to 63 for men and from 55 to 58 for
women by 2007. Last month, the Constitutional Court
rejected as unconstitutional amendments passed by the
Legislative Assembly in June 1998 that would have raised
the pension age by six months each year. The government
then formed a conciliation commission to work together
with the parliament on drafting alternative amendments.
The parliament remained opposed to the prospect of
amending the law, but the government insisted that
raising the retirement age is one of the conditions for
a $36 million World Bank loan. LF

...WITHOUT BREAKING BANK. Also on 28 January, the
Legislative Assembly approved the 1999 draft state
budget with only one vote against, RFE/RL's Bishkek
bureau reported. The dissenter, Alevtina Pronenko, told
RFE/RL that there is next to nothing allocated in that
draft for social needs. She said the government plans to
allot $50 million for pensioners in 1999 but that sum is
not enough even to pay back pensions for 1998. Pronenko
added that the $40.5 million to be given to Kyrgyzstan
by international finance organizations in 1999 will all
be used to repay the country's foreign debt. Pension
Fund chairwoman Roza Uchkempirova had warned on 20
January that if the retirement age is not raised, the
number of pensioners will increase this year from 32,000
to 41,000, and the fund's deficit would reach 310
million som (about $10 million). LF

TAJIK PARLIAMENT DEPUTY ESCAPES ASSASSINATION. Khudja
Karimov escaped unharmed when 10 masked assailants
opened fire on his home in Gazimalik early on 28
January, but his brother was killed in the attack, AP
and ITAR-TASS reported. A former member of the
Tajikistan National Front, which opposed the Islamic
opposition, Khudja Karimov was elected to the parliament
in 1994 and wounded in an assassination attempt the
following year. He was later sentenced to a one-year
prison term for embezzlement. On 28 January, city
administration official Dustamamad Mukhamadiev was
gunned down outside his home in Leninabad. LF

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