We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers. - Martin Luther King Jr
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 26, Part I, 8 February 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 26, Part I, 8 February 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 TO MAKE UNEXPECTED APPEARANCE AT HUSSEIN'S FUNERAL

* IMF LEAVES RUSSIA AGAIN WITHOUT AGREEMENT

* ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES CONTROVERSIAL ELECTION LAW
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN TO MAKE UNEXPECTED APPEARANCE AT HUSSEIN'S FUNERAL.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin arrived in Amman, Jordan, on
8 February to attend the funeral of King Hussein. Film
footage on Russian Public Television showed Yeltsin's wife,
Naina, helping the president as he unsteadily made his way
down the stairs of his plane. According to the president's
press service, Yeltsin felt he had to go to Amman--against
the advice of his doctors. Also attending the funeral are
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and members of the presidential
administration. Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov earlier sent
a personal message to Hussein's family saying he "deeply
grieves" the "death of a great statesman" and that numerous
meetings with Hussein have "enriched" him and "played a great
role" in his life, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

IMF LEAVES RUSSIA AGAIN WITHOUT AGREEMENT... IMF Managing
Director Michel Camdessus informed Prime Minister Primakov by
letter that the fund will be withdrawing its mission from
Moscow to return "no sooner than within two months,"
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 6 February. Interfax
reported that Primakov had earlier asked Camdessus to extend
the mission's visit until 15 February. But according to the
newspaper, Camdessus thinks the government should submit a
more realistic economic program first. First Deputy Prime
Minister Yurii Maslyukov remains optimistic, telling Russian
Television that he expects the government to reach an
agreement with the fund this month, which would then be
considered by the IMF board of directors in late April or
early May. Maslyukov's press spokesman told reporters that
the mission would return in mid-February and that Camdessus
had accepted Primakov's invitation to come to Moscow himself.
JAC

...AS BUDGET PASSAGE MARKS GOVERNMENT'S 'FIRST POLITICAL
VICTORY.' The State Duma on 5 February passed the 1999 budget
in its fourth and final reading by a vote of 305 to 58 with
six abstentions. The next day, Communist Party leader
Gennadii Zyuganov suggested that the parliament should
immediately start drafting the 2000 budget. In past years,
the budget has required several months to pass the
legislature. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" called the Duma's strong
support for the budget "the first political victory of the
government of the parliamentary majority." JAC

GOVERNMENT COLLECTS MORE TAXES AS INFLATION RISES... The good
news is that Russia collected 17.6 percent more taxes than
had been originally planned in January, Interfax reported on
5 February, citing the State Tax Service's press relations
department. The service collected 20.35 billion rubles ($890
million) in January, with 92.3 percent of payments made in
cash. The bad news is that the growth in taxes collected can
be attributed primarily to Russia's growing inflation rate,
"Izvestiya" reported on 6 February. "Tax income that
disappeared after the mid-August economic crisis has been
compensated for by inflation income," according to the daily.
Another factor in the high rate of tax collection is the use
of offsets, the practice by which companies reduce their tax
payments using means other than paying in cash, according to
the newspaper. JAC

...AT DIFFERENT RATES THROUGHOUT RUSSIA. According to the
State Tax Service, two-thirds of all taxes in January came
from two cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, and two oblasts,
Samara and Moscow. Moscow and St. Petersburg also experienced
higher inflation than some regions, with 9.4 and 9.5 percent,
respectively, registered in January, according to Prime Tass.
Inflation was even higher in the Republics of Marii El and
Buryatia, and the Sverdlovsk and Yaroslavl Oblasts, ranging
from 11.9-12.2 percent, while in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous
Okrug, prices soared 16 percent. Inflation ranged between
3.6-4.8 percent in Kemerovo and Omsk Oblasts, the Khakassia
Republic, Altai Krai, and the Koryak and Evenk Autonomous
Okrugs. JAC

SECURITY COUNCIL OKAYS 'PEACE TREATY.' The Security Council
on 5 February adopted a statement that all branches of the
government will not initiate unilateral changes in the
constitution or decide on the dismissal of the cabinet
without consulting one another, deputy head of the
presidential administration Oleg Sysuev told Russian
Television on 7 February. The declaration was sent to the
Duma and Federation Council, which will discuss it shortly,
according to Sysuev. "Izvestiya" reported on 6 February that
President Yeltsin did not attend the meeting but issued
instructions to Primakov, who chaired it, not to give away
any presidential powers. JAC

CENTRAL BANKER RESPONDS TO ALLEGATIONS. Central Bank Chairman
Viktor Gerashchenko has responded to allegations by former
Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov that the bank engaged in a
variety of illegal activities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5
February 1999). Gerashchenko told the Duma that a Jersey-
based offshore firm had been handling Russia's hard-currency
reserves because "the Central Bank technically could not
handle these in the early 1990s on its own," the "Moscow
Times" reported on 6 February. The Central Bank and one of
its foreign subsidiaries had set up the firm to maximize
profits from investments and to hide assets from the London
and Paris Clubs. Gerashchenko told Russian Public Television
(ORT) that the prosecutor's office is trying to ruin the
bank's reputation with unsubstantiated accusations. The Duma
voted on 5 February to appoint Coopers & Lybrand as the
official auditor of the Central Bank. JAC

MURDOCH SEEKING STAKE IN RUSSIAN MEDIA. Media baron Rupert
Murdoch is reportedly negotiating with Boris Berezovskii to
acquire a 20 percent stake in ORT from the influential
businessman, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 February. In
December, "Argumenty i Fakty" reported that the Russian
government was preparing to sell 10 percent of the
government's shares in the company to "a serious investor"
and that Rupert Murdoch was allegedly interested in acquiring
the stock so that he would possess a truly global network
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 1998). After hearing that
talks with Murdoch were under way, Duma deputy and member of
the Our Home Is Russia faction Gennadii Volkov drafted
legislation that would bar foreigners from acquiring stakes
in ORT, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. JAC

RUSSIA NOT TO SEND PEACEKEEPERS TO KOSOVA? Deputy Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Gusarov told reporters on 7 February that
no ground troops would be needed in Kosova to enforce a peace
deal. He said if an agreement is accepted by both sides, then
"I fail to see at this time what a ground force can do." He
added that political, not military, assistance is more
important. Citing anonymous Defense Ministry sources,
Interfax reported on 4 February that Russia will not be able
to send a "sizable military force" to Kosova in the event a
decision is reached on Russian participation in an
international peace-keeping operation. The reason,
"Izvestiya" concluded on 6 February, "is not hard to guess--
lack of money." JAC

CITIZEN MILITIAS FORMING IN STAVROPOL? First Deputy Prime
Minister Vadim Gustov said on 6 February that he opposes the
imposition of a state of emergency in oblasts neighboring
Chechnya, because the situation is not critical enough, ITAR-
TASS reported. Gustov was taking part in a behind-closed-
doors meeting in Sochi on 6 February of the Association for
Economic Development of the North Caucasus, convened to
discuss how to deal with the situation along the borders of
Chechnya. Earlier the Federation Council had recommended that
a state of emergency be declared in Stavropol Oblast to
assist local policemen in their fight against growing crime
particularly in the area bordering Chechnya (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 28 January 1999). According to the Stavropol
branch of the federal Interior Ministry, special detachments
made up of local residents would roam border areas where
small terrorists mobs can access via dirt roads, bypassing
checkpoints, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 February. JAC

RUSSIA'S TRADE SHRINKS WITH CHINA, JAPAN. Trade between
Russia and China declined by 10 percent in 1998, totaling
$5.5 billion, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 February. The two
countries had agreed in April 1997 to increase bilateral
trade to $20 billion by the year 2000. While that now seems
unlikely, Aleksandr Karpich, head of the Russian Trade
Ministry's department on trade and economic cooperation with
countries in Asia, Africa, and South America, said that in
the coming years, there "is potential for some growth" in
trade with China. Also on 6 February, Japan's Ministry of
Finance released a report showing that trade between Japan
and Russia sunk by 16.7 percent last year, totaling 504.4
billion yen ($4 billion). Particularly hard-hit were Russian
imports to Japan, which fell by 22 percent. BP

CHECHEN PRESIDENT DISMISSES DEPUTY. Aslan Maskhadov abolished
the post of vice president on 5 February, Reuters reported.
Vakha Arsanov, who had occupied that post and was Maskhadov's
running mate in the 1997 presidential elections, said on
Chechen Television the same day that he intends to raise a
personal "peacekeeping-force" numbering some 300 men. Arsanov
has the reputation of being sympathetic to radical Islam. In
a press conference on 7 February, Arsanov noted that the
office of the president will also be abolished under Shariah
law and that the country will be governed by an imam.
Meanwhile, the Chechen parliament on 5 February issued a
statement claiming that Maskhadov's imposition of Islamic law
two days earlier violates the constitutional rights of the
Chechen people. Maskhadov had also issued a decree stripping
the parliament of its legislative powers, which lawmakers
indicated on 6 February that they will ignore. LF/PG

ARMED CLASH ON DAGESTAN-CHECHNYA BORDER. Three men were
wounded in a clash on 7 February between Dagestani policemen
and several car passengers at the
Gerzel checkpoint, ITAR-Tass reported. The driver of the car
had refused to allow the police to inspect his vehicle. PG

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES CONTROVERSIAL ELECTION LAW.
Deputies approved the new election code in the third and
final reading on 5 February, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau
reported. The opposition has repeatedly sought to increase
the number of mandates allocated under the proportional
system from the present 56 (out of a total of 131), arguing
that the predominantly single-mandate constituencies in
conducive to vote-rigging. Addressing tens of thousands of
supporters at a rally in Yerevan later the same day, leading
members of the opposition National Democratic Union,
including chairman Vazgen Manukian, urged voters to prevent
irregularities during the poll, tentatively scheduled for
mid-May. LF

KOCHARIAN THREATENS TO DISSOLVE PARLIAMENT. Speaking on
Armenian Television on 6 February, President Robert Kocharian
said he will dissolve the parliament if it continues to
refuse to allow the arrest and prosecution of former Interior
Minister Vano Siradeghian on murder charges, RFE/RL's
Armenian Service reported. On 26 January, deputies refused to
lift Siradeghian's immunity, but the former minister has
since left the country. PG

ARMENIAN MINISTER FACES LIBEL CHARGES. In what could prove a
landmark case, the Yerevan newspaper "Oragir" is suing
Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian, a
key ally of President Kocharian, for what it claims is
defamation, chief editor Nikol Pashinian said on 6 February.
On 30 January, Sarkisian told another newspaper that
"everything published in 'Oragir' is slander." Pashinian told
RFE/RL that a Yerevan court has agreed to begin hearing the
case--the first of its kind in Armenia--on 16 March. No
senior Armenian government official has been taken to court
in Armenia. PG

OUTMIGRATION FROM ARMENIA DETAILED. Armenian Statistics
Minister Stepan Mnatsakanyan told ITAR-TASS on 6 February
that some 600,000 people left his country between 1992 and
1998. As a result, Armenia's population stood at 3,798,200 on
1 January 1999. Mnatsakanyan also noted that because of a
lack of funds, Yerevan has put off a census planned for later
this year until 2001. PG

AZERBAIJAN UNLIKELY TO JOIN CIS COLLECTIVE SECURITY TREATY.
Speaking in Bonn on 5 February, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister
Tofik Zulfugarov said that "it is unlikely that Azerbaijan
will join the CIS Collective Security Treaty," ITAR-TASS
reported. Azerbaijan has ratified the treaty but has not
deposited the necessary ratification instruments. Zulfugarov
said that the primary reason for this is Armenia's membership
in the security grouping. In other comments, the Azerbaijani
foreign minister called for reforming the CIS so that it
would reflect the interests of all its members. He added that
"integration into European and Trans-Atlantic institutions is
Azerbaijan's undisputed priority," noting that he will meet
with the foreign ministers of Georgia and Armenia in
Luxembourg before the middle of 1999. PG

GEORGIA TO BUILD THIRD PORT. State Minister Vazha
Lordkipanidze told ITAR-TASS on 7 February that Tbilisi plans
to build a new port at Anaklia. He said the project will be
approved by the end of this year and that he hopes to attract
nearly $1 billion in foreign and domestic investment.
Construction is estimated to take at least seven-and-a-half
years. PG

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH COMPLAINS TO ASHGABAT OVER DETAINED
WORKER. The New York-based Human Rights Watch sent a letter
to the Turkmen government on 5 February complaining about the
treatment of one of its workers in Turkmenistan (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 5 February 1999). The letter noted that Turkmen
state security agents "detained" Aleksandr Petrov in his
hotel room, "accused him of breaking the law, and held him
incognito refusing to allow him to notify his
colleagues...that he was being forced out of the country." It
added that "Turkmenistan has an open-door policy when it
comes to receiving billions of dollars in U.S. investment but
slams the door on any effort to bring to light its shameful
human rights record." BP

TURKMEN PRESIDENT AMNESTIES ANOTHER 3,000 PRISONERS. Under an
amnesty declared by Saparmurat Niyazov, another 3,00
prisoners were released from jail on 6 February, ITAR-TASS
reported. The amnesty is the fourth declared by Niyazov since
the beginning of this year. Some 17,000 prisoners are
expected to be freed or have their sentences reduced during
1999. Niyazov told a meeting of agricultural producers that
the Turkmen state has "strengthened itself...in plans for
developing democracy and the rights of the individual and
today can allow itself to be humane in its relationship
toward fellow citizens." BP

TAJIK PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIA ONLY 'RELIABLE PARTNER.' At a
meeting on 6 February, Police Day in Tajikistan, Imomali
Rakhmonov said Russia "is the only reliable partner and
[guarantor] of stability and security in Tajikistan," ITAR-
TASS reported. Rakhmonov applauded Russia's role in
Tajikistan "even though somebody does not quite like it,"
alluding to comments made by the Uzbekistan Foreign Ministry
last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 3 February 1999). Rakhmonov
also hinted that during his April visit to Moscow "very
important documents for both countries" will be signed, but
he did not elaborate. BP

...WHILE INTERIOR MINISTER CALLS FOR ALL-OUT WAR ON ORGANIZED
CRIME. At the same meeting, Tajik Interior Minister Khumdin
Sharipov said the police are geared to start a "total war" on
criminal organizations, ITAR-TASS reported. Sharipov pointed
to law-enforcement successes in 1998, saying more than 40
criminal groups were "neutralized." At the same time, he
noted that the effectiveness of law-enforcement agencies
remains "rather low." In 1997-1998, some 300 policemen were
charged with a criminal offense and another 500 were relieved
of their duties for violating the law. President Rakhmonov
called on the police to step up their efforts to combat
organized crime during 1999, which he called an especially
important year. A referendum on changes to the constitution
is planned later this year, as are parliamentary and
presidential elections and the 1100th anniversary of the
Samanid Dynasty--"the first Tajik state," according to
Rakhmonov. BP

NEW PARTY REGISTERED IN TAJIKISTAN. The Ministry of Justice
on 8 February registered the Equality and Development Party,
ITAR-TASS reported. Party chairman Rakhmatullo Zoirov said
his group will seek to have its own candidate in the
presidential elections and to win seats in the parliamentary
elections. BP

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