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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 27, Part I, 9 February 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 27, Part I, 9 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

* COMMUNISTS CALL FOR REVISING CONSTITUTION

* YELTSIN CUTS JORDAN TRIP SHORT

* AZERBAIJANI RULING PARTY WANTS ALIEV'S SON TO SUCCEED HIM
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RUSSIA

COMMUNISTS CALL FOR REVISING CONSTITUTION. Soon after the
Security Council approved the "political peace treaty"
proposed by Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Communist Party
leader Gennadii Zyuganov suggested that constitutional
amendments on the redistribution of power between government
branches be adopted within a month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8
February 1999). Primakov's plan called for the legislative
and executive branches to refrain from suggesting unilateral
amendments to the constitution. Zyuganov told reporters on 8
February that amendments redistributing power are necessary
because sooner or later "a decree with [President Boris]
Yeltsin's signature will be issued and the cabinet will have
to resign." Zyuganov also called for abolishing presidential
elections, suggesting that the president be selected by a
body made up of elected representatives and regional leaders
as well as members of political parties and movements, trade
unions, and every religion. JAC

YELTSIN CUTS JORDAN TRIP SHORT. Russian President Yeltsin's
trip to Amman, Jordan, on 8 February to attend King Hussein's
funeral was quick, lasting only six hours. However, he
managed to chat briefly with the presidents of the U.S.,
France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey as well as with the King of
Spain, Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat and UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Interfax reported. Yeltsin also
met with new King of Jordan Abdullah Hussein. Various news
agencies reported that presidential aides supported Yeltsin
as he walked up the stairs of the Raghadan palace, but
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Russian Public Television
that Yeltsin did not require medical assistance during "a
single moment" of the trip. "Izvestiya" reported that Yeltsin
"looked radiant" as he disembarked in Amman, commenting that
he was apparently not stricken by grief but elated by his
effort "to put Prime Minister Primakov in his place." It was
originally planned that Primakov, an Arabist by training,
would head the delegation. JAC

ARMED FORCES WILL HAVE TO WAIT FOR NEW WEAPONS. In a speech
to the Air Defense University in Tver Oblast on 8 February,
Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said the Russian armed forces
will not start receiving new weapons until after 2005, ITAR-
TASS reported. Until then, existing weapons must be repaired
and updated if possible. Navy Commander Vladimir Kuroydov was
more optimistic, telling ITAR-TASS on 6 February that the
navy will get new weapons in the near future, possibly later
this year. In the nearer term, however, the navy will focus
on "research and development for future projects." JAC

ASSISTANCE SOUGHT FOR POCKETS OF STARVATION IN FAR EAST...
The Russian branch of the International Red Cross has called
for $5 million to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in the
Far East, where 82,000 people need medical and food aid, AFP
reported on 8 February. According to a Moscow-based Red Cross
representative, the aid is needed within six weeks, to avoid
deaths from starvation in Chukotka, Magadan, and Kamchatka
Oblasts. Many hospitals in Magadan have been forced to reduce
their operations because of a shortage of anesthetics, while
the tuberculosis rate in the three-oblast area is four times
the national average. JAC

...AS SVERDVLOVSK APPEALS FOR FOOD AID. Sverdlovsk Oblast
authorities are appealing for 75,000 tons of wheat, 27,000
tons of soy, 4,000 tons of rice and also meat and powdered
milk from the food assistance shipments provided by the EC
and U.S., "Vremya MN" reported on 5 February. According to
the daily, the price of bread has risen 30 percent and the
oblast cannot purchase the necessary volume of wheat that it
needs from its traditional suppliers, Kurgan Oblast and
Bashkortostan, whose own supplies are low. In addition, the
oblast's minister of labor and economics, Galina Kovaleva,
revealed that the oblast government does not have enough
money to import bread. JAC

START-II ON AGENDA FOR MARCH. State Duma Security Committee
Chairman and member of the Communist Party Viktor Ilyukhin
told Interfax on 9 February that the Duma will start debating
ratification of the START-II treaty in March. According to
the agency, Ilyukhin does not think that the treaty will be
ratified. Writing in "Novoe Vremya," Aleksandr Pikaev of the
Moscow Carnegie Center says the chances of ratification for
the treaty have never been so small. According to Pikaev, the
U.S.'s suggested revision of the ABM treaty requires that the
whole process of nuclear arms reduction be rethought. He
concludes that the U.S. has left Russia with little choice:
"Either the U.S. quits the treaty unilaterally or Russia
gives its consent and gets in turn at least a hypothetical
chance of influencing Washington's anti-ballistic missile
defense system policy." JAC

RUSSIA, KUWAIT DISCUSS BIGGER, BETTER OPEC. After meeting
with Kuwaiti Prime Minster and Foreign Minister Sabah Jaber
Ahmad Sabah on 8 February, Prime Minister Primakov declared
that Russia hopes to broaden military-technical and economic
cooperation with Kuwait. Primakov, according to his
spokesperson, told Sabah that Russia will continue to insist
on using only political and diplomatic tools to resolve
Iraq's dispute with the UN over weapons inspections. Sabah is
also scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov,
Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, Minister of Fuel and Energy
Sergei Generalov, and top officials at Rosvooruzhenie.
Generalov said that he and Sabah will discuss the creation of
a new petroleum exporting organization combining OPEC and
IPEC. JAC

PASKO TRIAL POSTPONED AGAIN. The espionage trial of military
journalist Grigorii Pasko reopened in Vladivostok on 8
February only to be suspended again until 16 February.
Pasko's lawyers won a recess until then to find a replacement
for defense lawyer Karen Nersisian, who was barred from the
trail on 29 January for allegedly leaking sensitive
information to the press, ITAR-TASS reported. Pasko is
charged with providing classified materials to Japanese
television about the Northern Fleet's illicit dumping of
nuclear waste. In a similar espionage case, lawyers for
Aleksandr Nikitin, an environmentalist accused of publishing
classified information about the Northern Fleet, have decided
to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights, ITAR-
TASS reported on 9 January. JAC

KOMI ELECTS NEW STATE COUNCIL... Residents of Komi Republic
went to the polls on 7 February to elect a new local
legislature and municipal councils. RFE/RL's Russian Service
reported that among those elected to the 50-strong State
Council were 16 managers of leading local companies, 13 local
administration heads, and three trade union leaders. Yabloko
won only a single seat, while the Communist Party left empty-
handed. Turnout was 44.81 percent, according to ITAR-TASS. JC

...WHILE VOTERS STAY AT HOME IN KARELIA. The same day, in two
by-elections in Karelia, Yabloko member Aleksandr Gavrilov
and television journalist Viktor Maksimov, backed by a
voters' initiative group, were elected to the republic's
Legislative Assembly, ITAR-TASS reported. According to
preliminary results, Gavrilov received 39.5 percent of the
vote and Maksimov 52 percent. Turnout was only 15 percent in
Petrozavodsk, where Gavrilov triumphed. Election officials
attributed this to temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius.
The republic's law does not stipulate a minimum turnout for
the elections to be valid. JC

ALLEGED ARMENIAN SPY ARRESTED IN RUSSIA. Federal Security
Service personnel arrested an Armenian in Tver on 3 February
on suspicion of espionage, "Vremya MN" reported the next day.
The man, whose name was given as Karmen Tunan, was said to be
in possession of an automatic pistol with a silencer and an
identity card naming him as on the staff of the Armenian
Interior and National Security Ministry. LF

AFFORDABLE HOUSING EVER MORE SCARCE IN SIBERIA. To purchase
an apartment in Novosibirsk is now out of reach for all but
the super-rich, "Nezavisimaya gazeta--Krug zhiznii" reported
in its February issue. Since the 17 August devaluation of the
ruble, apartments now cost twice as much as before. The few
people who still had money after the crisis cornered the real
estate market, quickly buying up apartments without even
looking at them, according to the newspaper. Before the
crisis, a two-room apartment with a telephone near the metro
cost 150,000 rubles ($6,500 at the current exchange rate).
JAC

YELTSIN RULES PROPOSED REFERENDUM IN INGUSHETIA
UNCONSTITUTIONAL. President Yeltsin on 6 February overruled
Ingush President Ruslan Aushev's December decree ordering a
referendum on 28 February on the division of responsibilities
between Ingushetia and the federal center, Interfax reported.
The referendum is intended to gauge the degree of public
support for Aushev's proposals that Moscow should have no say
in the nomination or dismissal of local police chiefs in
Ingushetia and that certain, specifically Ingush customs
(such as the abduction of a young girl by her prospective
bridegroom or carrying a dagger) should not be considered
crimes in Ingushetia, even though they are not permitted
under the criminal code of the Russian Federation. Interfax
reported on 8 February that the deputy chief of the Russian
presidential staff, Oleg Sysuev, and Russian Security Council
Deputy Secretary Vyacheslav Mikhailov will meet with Aushev
on 11 February to discuss unspecified "problems" that have
arisen as a result of Yeltsin's ban on the referendum. LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT SAYS ISLAMIC LAW DOES NOT PRECLUDE
DEMOCRACY. Aslan Maskhadov told journalists in Grozny on 8
February that the introduction of Shariah law, which he
decreed on 3 February, will ensure democratic government and
"will not leave any place for extremism, fundamentalism, and
other radical trends," Interfax reported. The previous day,
Maskhadov had decreed the creation of a shura, or Islamic
council, as demanded last year by the radical field
commanders who head the opposition to him, several of whom he
named as its members. But since the shura is merely a
consultative body, his rivals may ignore it. They plan to
meet on 9 February to create their own alternative shura,
which former Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov said will be
empowered to nominate the next Chechen president,
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 9 February. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT CONVENES EMERGENCY DEBATE OVER ARMENTEL.
Deputies on 8 February began debating an opposition demand
that the law on telecommunications be amended in order to
strip the ArmenTel telecommunications company of the 15-year
exclusive rights it acquired one year ago, RFE/RL's Yerevan
bureau reported. The Constitutional Court ruled in January
that the relevant article of the telecommunications law
violates the constitutional ban on state and natural
monopolies but need not necessarily be amended in the next
five years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999). A U.S.
former employee fired from ArmenTel last year claimed on 5
February that corruption within the company is endemic, and
that Armenian officials have accepted millions of dollars in
bribes from Trans World Telecom, which previously owned a 49
percent stake in ArmenTel. LF

FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S TRIAL AGAIN ADJOURNED. The
trial of Abulfaz Elchibey on charges of slandering the honor
of President Heidar Aliev, which was scheduled to resume at a
Baku district court on 8 February, has again been postponed,
this time until 11 February, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 28 January and 3 February 1999). No explanation
was offered for the delay. "Avrasiya" on 8 February quoted
Elchibey's lawyer as arguing that the case should be closed
as there is no evidence to substantiate the charge. In
November 1998, Elchibey claimed that Aliev was instrumental
in creating the Kurdistan Workers' Party. Elchibey
subsequently told journalists that he will produce
documentation in court to substantiate that allegation. LF

AZERBAIJANI RULING PARTY WANTS ALIEV'S SON TO SUCCEED HIM...
"Yeni Azerbaycan," the newspaper of the eponymous ruling
party, argued on 5 February that "public opinion" supports
the candidacy of Aliev's son Ilham to succeed him as
president, Turan reported. The newspaper added that Ilham "is
the bearer of the genetic code of Heidar Aliev" and that
"this genetic code does not belong to an ordinary person, but
to a national patriarch and leader of the state." Sayad Aran,
head of the Yeni Azerbaycan party's ideological department,
told Turan three days later that the party supports Ilham
Aliev's candidacy. But Abulfaz Elchibey and Musavat Party
chairman Isa Gambar dismissed the argument that Ilham is
genetically the most suitable successor to the presidency as
"dilettantism." LF

...EXPELS WOULD-BE REFORMER. Eynulla Fatullaev, who
reportedly tried to create a faction within the Yeni
Azerbaycan party to promote democratization, has been
expelled from the party's ranks, Turan reported on 6 February
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1999). The independent
newspaper "Azadlyq" quoted Fatullaev on 6 February as saying
that he will continue to struggle for "political purity"
within the party. LF

KYRGYZ PRIME MINISTER MAKES ACCUSATIONS... Jumabek Ibraimov,
speaking at a press conference in Bishkek on 8 February, said
three leading officials are to be dismissed, RFE/RL
correspondents reported. Former Finance Minister Taalaibek
Koichumanov, who is currently head of the government's
financial and investment department, chairwoman of the
National Social Fund Roza Uchkempirova, and Salmor Alykulov,
director-general of the Kyrgyztelekom joint-stock company,
will all be sacked for embezzlement. Ibraimov did not say
whether they will be formally charged. Such a decision must
be approved by President Askar Akayev. BP

...AND REVELATIONS. Ibraimov also said that in the past, high
ranking posts in the government have been "sold" to
individuals. Ibraimov said that since he became prime
minister, his relatives have been offered bribes in exchange
for receiving positions in the government or in leading
companies. He also said someone had offered him a $200,000
bribe to privatize a state industry and another a $50,000
bribe to become head of the Kyrgyzalco joint-stock company.
The premier declined to name any particular individual but
stressed the need to fight economic crime and corruption. He
said the IMF and World Bank are prepared to help Kyrgyzstan
to achieve this. BP

INVESTIGATION INTO SLAYING OF UN WORKERS CONCLUDED. The
office of the Tajik Prosecutor-General has completed its
investigation into the killing of four UN employees last July
and sent the case to the Supreme Court, ITAR-TASS reported on
8 February. The three men from the United Tajik Opposition
will appear in court soon. All three were handed over by the
UTO to law enforcement authorities. BP

KAZAKHSTAN'S JUSTICE MINISTRY DELAYING REGISTRATION OF
PARTIES. Viktor Voronov, the chairman of the ZAN Corporation,
held a press conference in Almaty on 8 February to complain
about Justice Ministry delays in registering political
parties, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Voronov said the
ministry is "biased" in its treatment of certain parties and
movements, noting that the For Free Elections movement
attempted to register in October and has still received no
reply. According to Kazakhstan's law, the registration
process must be completed within 15 days of submitting
necessary forms. Voronov also pointed out that OTAN, a party
organized by supporters of incumbent President Nursultan
Nazarbayev, was registered quickly. BP

KAZAKHSTAN'S PROSECUTOR-GENERAL COMPLAINS ABOUT GOVERNMENT.
Yurii Khitrin told a meeting of the finance committee of the
parliament's lower house on 8 February that the government is
responsible for the "deliberate destruction" of agencies
subordinated to the prosecutor's office, ITAR-TASS reported.
Khitrin said since he came to office in 1997, the government
has cut personnel three times and that following the latest
cut in late January, only 1,335 people remain working in his
office. Khitrin also complained about the plans to cut
financing for his office by 390 million tenge ($4.5 million)
and to lower the budgetary status of the office, which, he
noted, will result in even more personnel cuts. BP

TAJIK PRESIDENT DECLARES WAR ON TERRORISM, ORGANIZED CRIME.
Imomali Rakhmonov, addressing the country's power structures
and law enforcement agencies on 9 February, declared 1999 the
year of combating terrorism and organized crime, ITAR-TASS
reported. Rakhmonov said the battle must begin with "self-
cleansing" within the power structures and law enforcement
agencies as they "all too often break the laws, are involved
in crimes, and are connected with the narcotics business."
Rakhmonov said that illegally-owned weapons must be
confiscated and order must be enforced within military units.
He ordered an inventory of all national armed forces and
military formations of the UTO, to be completed by 1 March.
BP

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