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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 29, Part I, 11 February 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 29, Part I, 11 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

* SERGEEV SETS MAY DEADLINE FOR MERGING NUCLEAR FORCE
COMMANDS

* RUSSIA'S EARLY WARNING SYSTEM RUNNING LATE?

* AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CALLS FOR HALT TO PREDECESSOR'S TRIAL

End Note: SPARRING OVER SEVASTOPOL
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RUSSIA

SERGEEV SETS MAY DEADLINE FOR MERGING NUCLEAR FORCE
COMMANDS... After meeting with Russian President Boris
Yeltsin on 10 February, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told
reporters that plans to unite Russia's strategic nuclear
forces under one command will be completed by May 1999.
Sergeev's plan has met with resistance from many generals,
including chief of the armed forces General Staff Anatolii
Kvashnin, and even First Deputy Defense Minster Nikolai
Mikhailov has criticized it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 24
November 1998). JAC

...AS YELTSIN'S REMARKS CENSORED? Moscow's Center TV reported
that President Boris Yeltsin made "quite a few curious
statements" during his meeting with Sergeev, which were heard
by members of the administration and "a few selected
correspondents." However, according to Center TV, film
footage of the meeting was silent and all voices were erased.
Center TV is owned by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's city
government. JAC

ARSON SUSPECTED AT INTERIOR MINISTRY REGIONAL HEADQUARTERS.
President Yeltsin on 11 February ordered Prime Minister
Yevgenii Primakov and Interior Minster Sergei Stepashin to
investigate the fire that swept the Interior Ministry's
regional headquarters in Samara Oblast the previous day. At
least 48 people died, of whom only 16 have been identified.
As of 2:00 p.m. Moscow time, another 36 people were still
unaccounted for, RFE/RL's correspondent in Samara reported.
Stepashin flew to the oblast the same day. JAC

FORMER CENTRAL BANKER DENIES CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS. In an
open letter to the State Duma, the president, and the prime
minister on 11 February, former Central Bank Chairman Sergei
Dubinin and former Deputy Central Bank Chairman Sergei
Aleksashenko defended their past policies, which are now
under scrutiny following the release of former Prosecutor-
General Yurii Skuratov's report (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5
February 1999). The two bankers said that it was necessary to
set up a small offshore firm in the Channel Island of Jersey
in order to protect Russia's reserves while the government
conducted negotiations with its creditors, Reuters reported.
However, they said that only $1.4 billion had ever been
transferred, not $50 billion as previously reported. was
transferred and Meanwhile, former Finance Minister Boris
Fedorov told reporters that corrupt Central Bank and
government officials profited from the offshore firm's
operations. He said he had tried to raise the issue but was
told to mind his own business. JAC

RUSSIA'S EARLY WARNING SYSTEM RUNNING LATE? The "Washington
Post" reported on 10 February that Russia has only three
active early warning systems, which is four fewer than needed
to provide round-the-clock coverage. According to the
newspaper, for about three hours a day the system could not
detect a U.S. missile launch. U.S. State Department spokesman
James Rubin told reporters that "it's fair to say that we are
concerned about the potential deterioration of Russia's
ballistic missile attack warning capabilities." The same day,
NTV cited General Vladimir Dvorkin, director of the Defense
Ministry's Fourth Central Research Institute, who "did not
deny that the satellites on Russia's missile warning system
are somewhat obsolete." However, the network reported "that
does not mean that Russia does not have the capacity to
monitor launches of ballistic missiles." In addition to its
space satellites, there are also "the so-called over-the-
horizon radar detection centers." JAC

MASLYUKOV SAYS NO LINKAGE BETWEEN FOREIGN POLICY, DEBT. First
Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov denied allegations in a
CIA report that Russia has violated international agreements
on non-proliferation of missile and dual-purpose technology,
Russian agencies reported on 10 February. Maslyukov added
that such accusations "have apparently been made for
political purposes." The same day, Maslyukov also distanced
himself from earlier statements by his press spokesman Anton
Surikov that Russia is being pressured to agree to soften its
policy vis-a-vis Kosova and Iraq in order to receive IMF
support. He said, "If we agree, then [Western officials] will
quickly agree to a restructuring of foreign debt." Maslyukov
told Interfax that "the IMF has made no political demand
during any of our talks." JAC

MOLDOVAN LEGISLATORS IN MOSCOW FOR TALKS ON GAS,
TRANSDNIESTER. State Duma Chairman Seleznev met with his
Moldovan counterpart, Dumitru Diacov, on 10 February, ITAR-
TASS reported. Diacov, who is heading a parliamentary
delegation for an official three-day visit, addressed the
Duma, devoting the bulk of his speech to the Transdniestrian
conflict, INFOTAG reported. Diacov called for Russian
legislators' assistance in removing huge arsenals that
belonged to Russia's former 14th army and in establishing a
"political dialogue" on the question of the Transdniester.
Diacov is also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister
Primakov, Foreign Minister Ivanov, the leadership of the
Federation Council, and top officials at Gazprom. A likely
topic of discussion will be Moldova's large debt for gas
deliveries. Last month, Gazprom cut Moldova's fuel supplies
in half. JAC

ALTAI KRAI HUNGRY FOR FEDERAL FUNDS. Altai Krai State
Assembly Chairman Danil Tabaev declared he will go on a
hunger strike on 11 February to protest federal budget
arrears to his republic. According to Tabaev, the Finance
Ministry has reduced federal transfers to the krai by four
times and failed to disburse 73 million rubles ($3.2 million)
of 92 million rubles allotted for state workers, "Vremya MN"
reported on 10 February. At the Federation Council's last
session, Krai Governor Semen Zubakin said that Moscow's
financial policies have had the effect of putting 90 percent
of the region's population below the poverty line. JAC

NIZHNII FALLS TO LUZHKOV? The recent founding meeting of the
Nizhnii Novgorod branch of Yurii Luzhkov's Otechestvo
[Fatherland] movement is seen by many in the oblast as a
major victory for the Moscow mayor, according to "Kommersant-
Daily" on 10 February. While a municipal deputy was elected
head of the branch, its unofficial leader is considered to be
Governor Ivan Sklyarov, who unexpectedly presided over the
meeting. Given Sklyarov's de facto leadership and the likely
"not insufficient" financial support from the large number of
company and bank directors present at the meeting, many
locals believe that "Luzhkov already has Nizhnii in his
pocket," the newspaper commented. JC

VLADIVOSTOK RESIDENTS RAISE FUNDS FOR FORMER MAYOR. Residents
of Vladivostok have gathered more than 17,000 rubles ($736)
for a legal defense fund for former Mayor Viktor Cherepkov,
"Parlamentskaya gazeta" reported on 11 February. The monies
will defray not only Cherepokov's legal fees for lawsuits
protesting his removal from office but also his travel costs
to and from Moscow and possibly The Hague, where he is
contemplating filing an appeal with the International Court.
JAC

RUSSIA MAY CHARGE FEE FOR THOSE WANTING TO LEAVE. The Duma on
10 February passed in the third reading a law requiring
individuals crossing Russia's national borders to pay a fee
of 80 percent of the minimum wage or 68.4 rubles ($3), ITAR-
TASS reported. The minimum wage is now 85.5 rubles but may be
raised to 110 rubles. According to AFP, the fee must be paid
to a bank and therefore cannot be dealt with on departure
since few banks operate at airports or other border
checkpoints. To go into effect, the law must also pass the
Federation Council and be signed by President Yeltsin. JAC

FAR EAST SOLDIERS ON NATURAL FOODS REGIMEN. Inspectors from
the Federal Border Guards Service have discovered that
soldiers in its regional directorate in Russia's Far East
have been reduced to collecting ferns and wild berries and
growing what vegetables they can to survive, "Vladivostok"
reported on 13 January. Major-General Mikhail Aganesyan,
chief of staff of the directorate, explained that his troops
received only 30 percent of the money they were allotted in
1998. But he added that they still managed to do their job
properly and "not a single trespasser slipped past their
patrols." JAC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT DEFIES RIVALS. Presidential spokesman
Mairbek Vachagaev told journalists on 10 February that Aslan
Maskhadov will not recognize the legality of the state
council that opposition field commanders intend to create,
ITAR-TASS reported. He added that Maskhadov will not dissolve
the parliament, either. Maskhadov stripped that body of its
legislative powers last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4
February 1999). The Chechen president assured supporters that
the various Chechen factions will not use violence against
one another. Also on 10 February, the field commanders
convened the first meeting of the organizing congress they
established to elect the proposed state council and new
Shariah court. Two prominent field commanders, former acting
Premier Shamil Basaev and Culture Minister Akhmed Zakaev,
have advocated trying to find common ground with Maskhadov,
according to "Vremya MN" on 10 February. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

MURDERED OFFICIAL'S BODYGUARDS ARRESTED IN ARMENIA. A
spokesman for the Armenian Prosecutor-General's office told
RFE/RL on 10 February that two bodyguards who accompanied
General Artsrun Markarian on the day of his death have been
arrested. Markarian's body was found near Yerevan on 9
February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 1999). The
bullets that killed Markarian were fired from his own Smith-
Wesson pistol, which was found near the body. Armenian
President Robert Kocharian told leading politicians on 10
February that "there is a real hope" that the murder will be
solved swiftly, as the circumstances are "apparently simpler"
than those surrounding the murders of two other senior
officials in recent months. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CALLS FOR HALT TO PREDECESSOR'S TRIAL.
In a statement issued by the presidential press service on 10
February, Heidar Aliev recommended that the criminal
proceedings against Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman
and former president Abulfaz Elchibey be halted, Turan and
Interfax reported. Elchibey was charged with insulting the
honor and dignity of the president after he alleged in
November 1998 that Aliev played a role in the creation of the
Kurdistan Workers' Party. Elchibey intended to produce
documents in court substantiating that accusation. His trial
originally opened on 25 January but has been adjourned
several times since then (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January
and 9 February 1999). LF

AZERBAIJAN OIL EXPORT VIA CHECHNYA RESUMED. The Azerbaijan
International Operating Company (AIOC) resumed the export of
offshore oil via the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk pipeline on 10
February, Turan reported. Export had been halted following a
fire in the Chechen sector of the pipeline on 4 February,
which led the halt of oil production at the Chirag field on 9
February. Chechen presidential spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev
denied claims that the pipeline was sabotaged, according to
ITAR-TASS. The Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR has written
repeatedly to the Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft, which
operates the Russian sector of the Baku-Novorossiisk
pipeline, to protest frequent malfunctions. AIOC President
David Woodward said in Baku on 1 February that his consortium
may ask Transneft to reduce the tariffs for use of that
pipeline from $15.67 per metric ton (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2
February 1999). LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA SEEK RAPPROCHEMENT. Meeting on 9 February
with Russian Transport Minister Sergei Frank, Georgian
President Eduard Shevardnadze urged Moscow to participate in
the EC's TRACECA project to construct a road, rail, and ferry
network linking Central Asia and Europe via the Caucasus. The
following day, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Leonid
Drachevskii held talks with senior Georgian officials,
including Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili.
Drachevskii later told journalists that the aim of his visit
was "to discuss Georgian-Russian relations and find a
solution to existing problems," according to Caucasus Press.
He also discussed possible solutions to the Abkhaz and South
Ossetian conflicts. On 9-10 February, Russian First Deputy
Defense Minister Nikolai Mikhailov inspected Russian military
and naval bases in Georgia in order to prepare a list of
Russian facilities that are to be handed over to the Georgian
government, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

MORE KAZAKHSTANI PARTIES COMPLAIN ABOUT DELAYS IN
REGISTERING. Amirzhan Kosanov, a leader of the Kazakh
Republican People's Party, complained on 10 February that the
Justice Ministry is delaying registration of the party to
prevent it from participating in parliamentary elections
later this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 1999),
RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. The same day,
Seydakhmet Kuttykadam held a press conference to complain
about the delay in registering his movement, Orleu, which he
similarly attributed to an attempt to prevent the movement
from taking part in the ballot. Meanwhile, President
Nursultan Nazarbayev has returned to Kazakhstan from Moscow,
and it has been announced he may attend the founding congress
of the re-organized pro-Nazarbayev party OTAN, which has
merged with other parties supporting the president. BP

MURDERER OF TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER KILLED TRYING TO ESCAPE.
Ravshan Gafurov, who was captured by Tajik police in late
January and then confessed to killing Otakhon Latifi (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 27 January 1999) was shot and
killed by police on 10 February while trying to escape, ITAR-
TASS reported. Gafurov attempted to flee while he was being
taken from his cell to the outskirts of the capital, where
investigators hoped to find more evidence on the Latifi case.
After firing warning shots, the police shot down Gafurov. BP

OUTLAWED GROUP GOES ON TRIAL IN DUSHANBE. The trial of 14
members of the Sadirov brothers' band charged with murder and
kidnapping began on 11 February, ITAR-TASS reported. The
group was responsible for kidnapping UN employees, Russian
journalists, and Tajik government officials between December
1996 and November 1997. Bahrom Sadirov turned himself in
after receiving wounds in a fight with Tajik troops in spring
1997. His brother, Rezvon, was killed by Tajik troops in
November 1997. BP

TAJIK COMMISSION PROPOSES BICAMERAL PARLIAMENT. The National
Reconciliation Commission has approved a recommendation for
creating a bicameral parliament, ITAR-TASS reported on 10
February. It is the first recommendation the commission has
made since it began work in September 1997. The commission is
charged with proposing changes to the country's constitution
in order to create conditions for elections to the parliament
and the presidency. Also, the commission reached consensus on
the formation of the Central Election Commission, which will
have 15 members, four of whom will be from the United Tajik
Opposition. BP

AFGHAN NEGOTIATIONS TO BE HELD IN TURKMEN CAPITAL.
Representatives from the Afghanistan's Taliban movement and
opposing forces under the command of General Ahmed Shah
Masoud have agreed to hold talks in the Turkmen capital,
Ashgabat, ITAR-TASS and AP reported on 10 February. The
announcement came after representatives of the warring
factions and the UN met in Ashgabat. Both sides stressed that
Turkmenistan, which is officially recognized by the UN as a
neutral country, is the only acceptable venue for their
meeting. No date has been set for the beginning of formal
negotiations, but the informal talks in Ashgabat are expected
to continue on 11 February. There has been no mention to date
of any party from outside Afghanistan taking part in those
negotiations. BP

CHAIRWOMAN OF KYRGYZ SOCIAL FUND RESIGNS. Roza Uchkempirova,
the chairwoman of Kyrgyzstan's Social Fund, handed in her
resignation to President Askar Akayev on 10 February, RFE/RL
correspondents reported. Uchkempirova's dismissal follows
remarks by Prime Minister Jumabek Ibraimov on 8 February
suggesting that Uchkempirova had been involved in financial
mismanagement. Two days earlier, Prosecutor-General Asanbek
Sharshenaliev had told a government meeting on 6 February
that his office has evidence that Uchkempirova spent 1.5
million som ($50,000) on cans of food that were past their
expiry date. Those cans were intended for pensioners.
According to Sharshenaliev, the fund has a record of buying
cheap products for pensioners and altering the books to
inflate purchase prices. BP

KARIMOV COMMENTS ON CIS... In his meeting with Russian
Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev on 11 February in
Tashkent, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said "Russia does not
have a clear policy for countries in the Central Asian
region," ITAR-TASS reported. Karimov said that if "the states
in the region are divided, then we will lose everything," a
possible allusion to a dispute between his country and
Tajikistan. Tashkent has publicly blamed Russian interference
for that dispute. Karimov favored increased economic
cooperation within the CIS, but with regard to Uzbekistan's
decision to withdraw from the CIS Collective Security Treaty,
he said "the Russians themselves have caught on to the fact
that the agreement provided nothing." By way of example, he
said that "when the Taliban captured the northern part of
Afghanistan and were pointed toward us, no one from the CIS
helped us. [Belarusian President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka
repudiated the agreement...and said he wouldn't send even one
of his soldiers." At the same time, Karimov said the treaty
could and should be revised. BP

...AND ON UZBEKISTAN. Karimov also noted that "Uzbekistan
will never be a Shariah Islamic state." He pointed to "the
great amount of attention given to developing the education
and preparation of cadres in the republic" so that one day
power will be transferred to "conscientious youth who have
not fallen under foreign influence." While not explicitly
calling for better relations with Russia, Karimov said,
"Don't believe [those' who say Uzbekistan is drifting away
from Russia--this is pure fiction." BP

END NOTE

SPARRING OVER SEVASTOPOL

by Julie A. Corwin and Jan Maksymiuk

	Next week, Russia's upper house of parliament, the
Federation Council, will again take up the issue of the
Russian-Ukrainian treaty of friendship. The debate promises
to be sharp, as the treaty has become increasingly
controversial since its passage in the State Duma on 25
December 1998 and in Ukraine's Supreme Council on 14 January
1998. The treaty, which guarantees the inviolability of the
current border between Russia and Ukraine, was first signed
by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Ukrainian
counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, on 31 May 1997.
	The Federation Council seems likely to approve the
treaty, fearing its rejection could drive Ukraine into NATO's
embrace. But the issues of Crimea's status and Slavic
integration are likely to remain hot topics in Russian
politics, gaining in intensity as presidential elections
near. After all, likely presidential contender Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov and his adviser, Konstantin Zatulin, director
of Russia's Institute for CIS Countries, have been the most
outspoken recently in condemning the treaty. Similarly, the
presidential contenders from among the Communists, party
leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev,
have been equally impassioned in the treaty's defense.
	In his speech to the Federal Council on 27 January,
Luzhkov reportedly managed to persuade some senators in the
Council to change their plans and vote to postpone
consideration of the treaty. In his remarks, Luzhkov stressed
that ratification of the treaty would in effect separate
Crimea and Sevastopol from Russia forever, thus undermining
the goal of brotherly relations between Russia and Ukraine.
He also charged Ukraine with discriminating against ethnic
Russians.
	Prior to that speech, Luzhkov's adviser, Zatulin
launched his own attack on the treaty in a lengthy article
published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta." Anticipating Luzhkov's
remarks, Zatulin argued that Crimea and Sevastopol belong
"indisputably" to Russia and that an official endorsement of
the Russian-Ukrainian treaty would legally seal their
secession from Russia. According to Zatulin, CPSU General
Secretary Nikita Khrushchev moved to transfer Crimea to
Ukraine in 1954 in order to "enlist support of comrades from
the Ukrainian Communist Party" in his struggle "to expose the
cult of personality [of Joseph Stalin]" in the then CPSU
Politburo. The formal decision to transfer Crimea from the
RSFSR to the Ukrainian SSR--following a joint motion by the
Supreme Soviet Presidiums of the RSFSR and the Ukrainian SSR-
-was made by the USSR Supreme Soviet on 26 February 1954.
That decision, according to Zatulin, contravened the USSR and
RSFSR Constitutions, both of which pledged to guarantee the
territorial integrity of the RSFSR.
	Regardless of its legal validity, Zatulin continues, the
1954 decision to incorporate Crimean Oblast into Ukraine did
in no way embrace Sevastopol, which had been declared an
independent administrative and economic center--subordinated
directly to the RSFSR authorities in Moscow--by a USSR
Supreme Soviet decree in 1948. Thus, Zatulin concludes,
Ukraine has no legal rights whatsoever to the "city of
Russia's military glory," as Russian media often refer to
Sevastopol--the main base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
	Zatulin also addressed the issue of what he called the
"ethnic genocide" of the 10 million Russians in Ukraine.
These Russians, according to Zatulin, are currently subjected
to a policy of forced Ukrainization and denied the right to
develop their own independent ethnic identity. Zatulin
concludes that the adoption of the Russian-Ukrainian treaty
will result in Russia's "strategic defeat."
	Among those in favor of ratifying the treaty, rhetoric
is equally inflamed. Duma Chairman Seleznev suggested that
those who oppose the treaty "want to tear Ukraine away" from
Russia and foil plans to form a Slavic Union of Russia,
Belarus, and Ukraine. In what may be wishful thinking on his
part, Seleznev concludes that Luzhkov is "committing
political suicide" by opposing the treaty. Communist Party
leader Gennadii Zyuganov is more nonchalant, blaming
Luzhkov's opposition to the treaty on Zatulin, who, according
to Zyuganov, spawns "scandals and discord wherever he
appears." Zyuganov argues that the treaty is key to the
revival of a Slavic union composed of Russia, Belarus, and
Ukraine.
	While the bulk of the Russian electorate purportedly
regrets the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it is unclear
what financial or political costs--if any--they are willing
to bear for some kind of smaller reconstituted Union or
bigger and better Russia. Nevertheless, that sentiment can
and will be exploited by both the Russian nationalists and
Pan-Slavists, as Luzhkov, Zyuganov, and Seleznev have already
so ably demonstrated.
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