We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 30, Part I, 12 February 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 30, Part I, 12 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

* PRIMAKOV SOURCE CONFIRMS PRIME MINISTER, BEREZOVSKII AT WAR

* IMF CLAIMS NO KNOWLEDGE OF CENTRAL BANK'S OFFSHORE HIDEAWAY

* CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CLOSED

End Note: COUNTING TROUBLE IN THE FORMER SOVIET UNION
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RUSSIA

PRIMAKOV SOURCE CONFIRMS PRIME MINISTER, BEREZOVSKII AT WAR.
Tomas Kolesnichenko, a close friend of Prime Minister
Yevgenii Primakov and head of the ANCOM-TASS analytical
service, told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 12 February that
business tycoon Boris Berezovskii has issued a "declaration
of war" to Primakov and that is precisely what is now
occurring. Kolesnichenko also confirmed that Berezovskii was
the real target of raids on the offices of Sibneft and
Aeroflot and that Berezovskii's influence on Russian
President Boris Yeltsin and his family is fading (see "RFE/RL
Newsline, 3 February 1999). According to the newspaper,
Kolesnichenko and Primakov have been friends for the last 40
years. JAC

IMF CLAIMS NO KNOWLEDGE OF CENTRAL BANK'S OFFSHORE HIDEAWAY.
An IMF spokeswoman said the fund knows nothing about the
Central Bank's use of an offshore firm on the Channel Island
of Jersey to manage some of its hard-currency reserves,
RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported on 11 February. Phil
Poole, director of Emerging East European Markets for ING
Barings, told RFE/RL that while it is normal for Central
Banks to use private financial firms to help invest their
foreign reserves, he does not understand why such a firm
would have been set up from scratch since any number of
reliable firms already exist. He added that the transactions
should have come to light during the normal course of IMF
routine evaluations. According to the "Financial Times" on 12
February, the transactions were not illegal, but they could
"complicate the Russian government's talks with foreign
creditors." JAC

PRIMAKOV LOBBYING FOR POLITICAL PACT. At a closed-door
session with Duma faction leaders, Prime Minister Primakov
managed to soften some factions' opposition to his proposed
"political peace treaty," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11
February. According to the newspaper, Yabloko transformed its
position from one of categorical hostility to "critical
equanimity." Before the meeting, the Communist Party outlined
a series of demands, such as a fundamental change in the
country's socio-economic policy, that would have to be met
before it considered joining a political peace effort. The
daily noted, citing eyewitness reports, that Communist Party
leader Gennadii Zyuganov was "far more restrained than usual"
at the meeting. However, the newspaper concluded that
Primakov's victory is far from final and he will "find it
harder and harder...to pacify the contrary Duma deputies with
his mere presence alone." Our Home Is Russia faction leader
Vladimir Ryzhkov told RFE/RL that most factions are still
seeking changes in the Russian Constitution. JAC

RUSSIAN NEWSPAPER SLAMS CIA REPORT. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on
11 February accused the U.S. of pursuing a "deliberate policy
to discredit Russia's image by portraying it as one of the
main culprits in the proliferation of nuclear weapons." The
newspaper was responding to the CIA report submitted to the
U.S. Congress that named Russia, along with China and North
Korea, as main source countries for the proliferation of
missile and dual-use technology. First Deputy Prime Yurii
Maslyukov, whose views are usually at odds with that of the
daily and its patron, influential businessman Boris
Berezovskii, voiced a similar charge, suggesting that the
accusations must "have been made for political reasons" (see
"RFE/RL Newsline, 11 February 1999). The newspaper concluded
that in the future, it is possible that "Western democratic
states will take control of Russian nuclear weapons if they
believe that the situation in Russia poses a threat to the
world." JAC

RUSSIA, CHINA EXPRESS CONCERN OVER US-JAPAN MILITARY
COOPERATION. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin
told reporters on 11 February that both Russia and China are
concerned about a package of bills on revised Japanese-U.S.
military cooperation now before the Japanese parliament,
ITAR-TASS reported. The legislation aims to implement the
U.S.-Japan military agreement adopted in 1996, which,
according to Rakhmanin, contains vague language calling for a
significant strengthening of bilateral military ties in the
case of "emergencies in regions adjacent to Japan." JAC

RUSSIA REPEATS DEMAND THAT YUGOSLAVIA REMAIN INTACT. Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov repeated Russia's opposition to a split
of the Yugoslav Federal Republic, saying "Russia has opposed
any settlement [of the Kosova problem], which breaches
Yugoslavia's territorial integrity," Interfax reported on 11
February. According to Ivanov, the issue has not even been
raised at talks at Rambouillet, France. State Duma Foreign
Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin told Ekho Moskvy on
9 February that Russian armed forces "should take an active
part" in any kind of peace-keeping contingent in Kosova. JAC

DEATH TALLY RISES IN SAMARA FIRE. The number of persons who
died in the fire that engulfed the regional Interior Ministry
headquarters in Samara Oblast has risen to 51, of whom only
17 have been identified, RFE/RL correspondent in Samara
reported on 12 February. The official death tally remains
much lower. Head of the Federal Security Services Public
Relations Center told Interfax that while arson is not the
lead theory on why the blaze occurred, it has not been ruled
out. JC

FLEETING LIFE SIGNS REGISTERED IN STOCK MARKET... The Russian
stock market has experienced a slight decline after a five-
day rally: on 12 February, the Russian Trading System index
fell 2.1 percent after rising 5.7 percent the previous day,
Bloomberg reported. Despite the five-day rise, analysts
believe that real demand for equities has not fully revived
and will not for some time. "The long term view is that we
need political change, reform, and a feasible economic plan,
improvement in tax revenues--all the same issues as before,"
Gary Kinsey, a trader with Aton Capital Brokerage told AFP.
He added, "Otherwise, it will be nothing but hot money and
the markets will be in-and-out, up-and-down." JAC

...AS DUMA PASSES FOREIGN INVESTOR PROTECTION LAW. The Duma
passed a new version of a law to protect investors on the
securities market on 12 February, Interfax reported. The Duma
had passed an earlier version of the law in July 1998, but
the Federation Council rejected that draft two weeks later.
According to the agency, the law would impose strict fines or
suspensions on brokers and dealers who infringe on the legal
interests of investors. JAC

LENINGRAD, ST. PETERSBURG MERGER STILL YEARS AWAY. Despite
support from relevant local officials, Leningrad Oblast
Legislative Assembly Chairman Vitalii Klimov believes that it
will take two to five years to unite Leningrad Oblast with
the city of St. Petersburg, according to "EWI Russian
Regional Report" on 11 February. St. Petersburg Governor
Vladimir Yakovlev supports the merger, despite the oblast's
myriad financial difficulties. The St. Petersburg assembly,
whose members were just elected or re-elected in December
1998, have not yet declared their position on the issue.
According to the publication, the most difficult part of the
unification process will be harmonizing the laws of the two
regions. For example, St. Petersburg has a 5 percent sales
tax, while Leningrad Oblast does not. Another complicating
factor may be upcoming oblast gubernatorial elections on 19
September 1999. JAC

RUSSIA TO SPEND $23 MILLION ON CAUSE OF SLAVIC UNITY? The
executive committee of the Russian-Belarusian Union will
consider a draft 1999 budget for the union on 12 February,
ITAR-TASS reported. Under the current draft, expenditures
will total 800 million rubles ($35 million), with 520 million
rubles contributed by Russia and 280 million rubles
contributed by Belarus. In his opening remarks to the
committee, Prime Minister Primakov said that the achievement
of the "unification of Russia and Belarus must be backed up
economically." According to ITAR-TASS, he also said that "a
single currency of the Russian-Belarusian Union will be
introduced within the coming weeks." JAC

RUSSIAN, INGUSHETIAN OFFICIALS DISCUSS CONTROVERSIAL
REFERENDUM. Meeting in Moscow on 11 February, Ingushetian
President Ruslan Aushev and Russian Security Council First
Deputy Secretary Vyacheslav Mikhailov failed to reach a
compromise whereby Ingushetia would not proceed with the
referendum scheduled for 28 February, Interfax reported. That
referendum is intended to formalize amendments to the
republic's constitution and criminal code, allowing the
president to appoint local police chiefs without Moscow's
prior sanction and legalizing such local traditions as the
abduction of a girl by her future bridegroom. Aushev has said
the referendum will take place as planned if further talks on
16 and 17 February do not result in a compromise. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

LUZHKOV IN YEREVAN. During a one-day visit to Yerevan on 11
February at the head of a delegation of city officials and
businessmen, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov signed several
agreements with Armenian government officials aimed at
expanding economic cooperation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau
reported. Luzhkov held talks with Prime Minister Armen
Darpinian and President Robert Kocharian. Characterizing
Armenia as "Russia's strategic partner," Luzhkov said his
Otechestvo movement is interested in strengthening
cooperation with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation -
Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) and other Armenian political parties.
Otechestvo and the HHD concluded a cooperation agreement in
December 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1999). LF

MURDERED ARMENIAN OFFICIAL BURIED. General Artsrun Markarian
was buried at the Yerablur military cemetery on 11 February,
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Markarian's body was
discovered late on 9 February with bullet wounds in the chest
and head. Two of his bodyguards who were arrested on
suspicion of murder have denied killing him, saying that he
threatened them shortly before leaving his car late on the
night of 8 February. A senior Armenian official at the
Prosecutor-General's Office told ITAR-TASS on 10 February
that the possibility of suicide cannot be ruled out. But
Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian, who
attended the funeral on 11 February, told Armenian Television
that he categorically rejects the theory that Markarian
killed himself. LF

CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CLOSED.
Acting on a 10 February proposal by President Heidar Aliev, a
Baku City court has closed the criminal case against
Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman Abulfaz Elchibey,
Turan and ITAR-TASS reported the following day. Elchibey had
been accused of insulting the honor and dignity of President
Aliev by claiming he was instrumental in creating the
Kurdistan Workers' Party. Elchibey said the charges against
him have been dropped because he committed no crime, but an
unidentified Western diplomat told Reuters that the decision
was the result of international diplomatic pressure on the
Azerbaijani leadership. Elchibey has appealed to Chechen
President Aslan Maskhadov, former acting President Zelimkhan
Yandarbiev, and former acting Premier Shamil Basaev to seek
ways of overcoming their differences in order not to
jeopardize Chechnya's independence, Turan reported on 11
February. LF

AZERBAIJANI DEFENSE MINISTER DISCUSSES MILITARY COOPERATION
WITH TURKEY. "Obshchaya gazeta" on 11 February quoted Safar
Abiev as saying that among the topics of discussion during
his official visit to Turkey last December was the
possibility of a bilateral military alliance similar to that
signed in 1997 by Russia and Armenia, AFP and Interfax
reported. Abiev said that Yerevan is helping to train Kurdish
terrorists and that "all the Russian military equipment
supplied to Armenia will be used in Nagorno-Karabakh if
Armenia resumes military actions against Azerbaijan." At the
time of Abiev's visit to Turkey, Turan quoted an unnamed
source within the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry as saying that
Turkey is ready to provide "aid to Azerbaijan" to resolve the
Karabakh conflict. LF

COORDINATING COUNCIL DISCUSSES ABKHAZ REPATRIATION. An Abkhaz
government delegation headed by Prime Minister Sergei Shamba
traveled to Tbilisi on 11 February for a one-day meeting of
the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council, which was set up
created in November 1997 to address practical aspects of
resolving the Abkhaz conflict. Russian Foreign Ministry and
OSCE representatives as well as several Western ambassadors
also attended the five-hour session. The talks focused on the
plan proposed last month by Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba
to allow Georgian displaced persons to return to their homes
in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. Also on the agenda was
the question of how to halt repeated violations of the cease-
fire regime in Gali. Bagapsh, who met separately with
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, told journalists that
the repatriation process will begin on 1 March and that the
Abkhaz and Georgian sides hope to reach agreement on the
necessary logistical arrangements by 25 February. He said
that 18,000 displaced persons have already applied to return
and that a special 120-strong militia composed of both
Georgians and Abkhaz will be created to protect them. LF

GEORGIAN WARLORD'S LAWYER LODGES APPEAL. Gogmar Gabunia on 11
February appealed to the Georgian Supreme Court to annul the
verdict handed down in the trial of Djaba Ioseliani, leader
of the Mkhedrioni paramilitary formation, Caucasus Press
reported. Ioseliani was sentenced in November 1998 to 11
years in prison on charges treason, robbery, and of
attempting to assassinate Georgian head of state Eduard
Shevardnadze in August 1995 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11
November 1998). Gabunia argues that Ioseliani's trial was
illegal, since at the time of his arrest, in November 1995,
he was a parliamentary deputy and thus immune from
prosecution. He said if the Supreme Court rejects his plea,
he will appeal to the International Human Rights court in
Strasbourg. In September 1998, Tornike Berishvili,
Mkhedrioni's political secretary, quoted the presiding judge
at the trial as admitting that the case against Ioseliani is
flawed (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 29, 22
September 1998). LF

JAILED GEORGIAN EX-MINISTER URGED TO ABANDON HUNGER STRIKE.
Doctors have appealed to former Defense Minister Tengiz
Kitovani to abandon the hunger strike he began on 3 February,
ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February. Kitovani was sentenced to
eight years' imprisonment in 1996 for allegedly attempting to
launch an insurrection. He is demanding that the case against
him be reopened and that he be formally acquitted (see
"RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 6, 10 February 1999).
Many observers consider that case to have been fabricated. LF

KAZAKHSTAN TO RAISE TARIFF ON KYRGYZ, UZBEK GOODS...
Kazakhstan's Ministry of Energy, Industry, and Trade has
announced that foodstuffs and other goods imported from
Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan will be subject to a 200 percent
tariff beginning 11 March, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on
11 February. Two days earlier, Prime Minister Nurlan
Balgimbayev had announced import quotas on cooking oil,
butter, vegetable oil, cigarettes, and alcoholic and soft
drinks from Uzbekistan as well as on margarine, mayonnaise,
yeast, and other products from Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan says
the quotas will protect domestic producers from lower-priced
products from neighboring countries. BP

...DRAWING COMPLAINTS FROM KYRGYZSTAN. Kyrgyz President Askar
Akayev has responded angrily to the import quotas, saying
they are another example of an attempt by other CIS countries
to isolate his country, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. "The
countries of the CIS are sparing no effort to organize an
economic blockade against us," Akayev said. He claimed these
countries are put out by Kyrgyzstan's entry into the World
Trade Organization last year, arguing that the import quotas
are an example of the "traditional habit of punishing anybody
who moves forward." Akayev added that Uzbekistan is drawing
up similar measures. RFE/RL correspondents in both Kyrgyzstan
and Uzbekistan have reported recently that Uzbek customs
officials are already charging $16 for every $100 worth of
goods crossing into Uzbekistan from Kyrgyzstan. BP

WORLD BANK APPROVES $100 MILLION LOAN FOR KAZAKHSTAN. The
board of directors of the World Bank has approved a $100
million loan to Kazakhstan for the reconstruction and
maintenance of roads, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February.
World Bank experts estimate that only 37 percent of the
country's roads are currently in good condition. They also
emphasized the importance of an adequate transportation
network for domestic and international trade. BP

KARIMOV SAYS HE'LL DEFEND UZBEK INTERESTS AT UPCOMING CIS
SUMMIT. Speaking about his 11 February meeting with Uzbek
President Islam Karimov, Russian Federal Council chairman
Yegor Stroev said they "talked openly and eye to eye" and
added "we may not agree with [the Uzbek representatives] but
we must respect them," ITAR-TASS reported. Stroev spoke
highly of Uzbekistan as "the sole country inside the former
Soviet Union that has not allowed its industrial production
to fall from the 1990 level." He also praised Uzbekistan for
combating Islamic fundamentalism, which he described as "a
dangerous political phenomenon." Karimov confirmed he will
attend the CIS summit on 26 February but warned "it does not
mean that I won't insist on the interests of the state that I
govern." BP

U.S. COMPANIES AWARDED CONTRACTS IN TURKMEN DEAL. Turkmen
Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov said on 11 February that
President Saparmurat Niyazov has selected the companies that
will take part in building the Trans-Caspian pipeline,
Reuters reported. He also named the U.S. companies Bechtel
and General Electric Capital to head the consortium. BP

END NOTE

COUNTING TROUBLE IN THE FORMER SOVIET UNION

By Paul Goble

	The population census just completed in Azerbaijan and
the one about to held in Kazakhstan open a new era for the
post-Soviet states, one in which they are likely to discover
just how political population statistics inevitably are.
	Yuri Shokamanov, the deputy chairman of Kazakhstan's
statistical administration, announced earlier this week that
on 25 February, his agency will conduct its first census
since the 1989 USSR count. Azerbaijan has just completed
taking its first post-Soviet population census, and several
other former Soviet republics will follow suit over the next
two years. (Armenia and Kyrgyzstan intended to conduct
censuses this year but have postponed them for financial
reasons.)
	But in making this announcement, Shokamanov did not call
attention to just how dramatic a step his government's action
really is or just how much controversy such undertaking are
almost certain to generate.
	For three reasons, these first post-Soviet censuses are
likely to be especially controversial. First, there will be
heated debates over just which questions to ask and equally
which questions not to ask. Should the census-takers ask
questions about ethnicity and nationality or only about
citizenship? If they ask about ethnicity, the censuses in
several of these countries are likely to reveal major shifts
in the percentage of various national groups.
	In Ukraine, for example, surveys suggest that the
percentage of the population that will declare itself
ethnically Russian is likely to be far smaller than the
percentage that identified itself that way in the last Soviet
census of 1989.
	Such shifts would almost certainly have major and
immediate political consequences, and thus there will be some
who are likely to advocate that the census-takers avoid such
questions. But if the census does not ask questions about
ethnicity, there will similarly be consequences. Some ethnic
minorities will undoubtedly conclude that they are going to
be "swallowed up" or at least ignored by the dominant group.
Thus, these minorities almost certainly will fight to include
questions about ethnicity as a way to help preserve their
status in the post-Soviet states.
	Second, there are going to be political battles over
which information to release and when. Because many people in
the post-Soviet states retain their Soviet-era reluctance to
provide full and accurate information to officials who ask
for it, at least some of them are going to be concerned about
the release of any information from the census. Some will
undoubtedly argue that census data should be kept extremely
confidential, lest their declarations come back to haunt
them.
	But at the same time, any efforts by officialdom to
impose controls over the release of information from the
census almost certainly will increase suspicions that the
results have been distorted to benefit officials at the
expense of the citizenry as a whole.
	And third, there are going to be even more intense
struggles over how the information gathered is used for
political redistricting or for budgetary allocations. These
last struggles are likely to continue well after the censuses
are completed.
	If the data gathered are used to change the size of
electoral districts or to change the allocation of funds,
those who would benefit will press for its release, while
those who would lose will almost certainly oppose it. And if,
as seems certain, these censuses prove to be incomplete--
journalists can be counted on to highlight cases where the
census-takers have missed someone--then many people in this
region are likely to look at any use of the numbers gathered
as a political plot.
	None of these fights is unusual. In the U.S., for
example, questions about how to conduct the census in the
year 2000 have already divided the Congress and sparked a
series of closely-contested court cases--just as they did
before earlier counts.
	But because the post-Soviet states will be conducting
these surveys for the first time and will almost certainly
want to establish precedents that break from past and not
always satisfactory Soviet practice, all these controversies
are likely to be even greater. And thus something that on the
face of it seems quite neutral--the counting of the
population--could become one of the most contentious
political issues across this region over the next two years.

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