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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 32, Part I, 16 February 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 32, Part I, 16 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

* MINI IMF MISSION WINGING ITS WAY TO MOSCOW?

* WORST MAY NOT YET BE OVER FOR RUSSIAN BANKS

* FIVE BOMBS EXPLODE IN TASHKENT

End Note: LEAVING AFGHANISTAN, TRANSFORMING THE WORLD
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RUSSIA

MINI IMF MISSION WINGING ITS WAY TO MOSCOW? Deputy Finance
Minister Oleg Vyugin said on 15 February that one or two
experts from the IMF may visit Moscow this week to help work
on the government's economic program. He added that he hopes
a full mission will return to Moscow by the end of the month.
These "one or two" specialists are likely to be tax experts,
who may assist in negotiations between the fund and the State
Tax Service, "Vremya MN" reported. While tax service head
Georgii Boos has claimed "considerable convergence" over the
government's tax plan, differences remain between the two
sides. The newspaper reported that in its "extremely
diplomatic" remarks on the government's economic memorandum,
the fund continues to insist that the primary budget surplus
be increased from 1.65 percent to 2.3 percent of GDP. JAC

CHERNOMYRDIN FOLLOWS IN CHUBAIS'S FOOTSTEPS... Also on 15
February, Vyugin told Interfax that the appointment of former
Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to the post of
presidential envoy to international financial institutions
would not surprise him. The agency also cited sources among
Chernomyrdin's circle as saying that "in all probability,
Chernomyrdin will initially hold talks with IMF officials in
a private capacity and then, if they are successful, he will
be appointed special envoy." "Komsomolskaya Pravda" reported
on 13 February that Chernomyrdin is already acting as envoy
but his appointment is "being kept a secret in order not to
annoy the Communists." According to the newspaper,
Chernomyrdin will also attend a meeting of the Gore-Primakov
Commission in Washington in March because Chernomyrdin's
direct style of speech is more intelligible to U.S. Vice
President Al Gore than Yevgenii Primakov's "diplomatic
devices." JAC

...RETURNS TO GAZPROM. Chernomyrdin, who is also the former
head of Gazprom, announced on 15 February that the government
has another job lined up for him as a member of Gazprom's
board of directors. "Vremya MN" reported that Gazprom head
Rem Vyakhirev vigorously opposes Chernomyrdin's appointment,
but his opinion has apparently been disregarded. JAC

COMMUNIST PARTY PROTESTS JUSTICE MINISTRY INVESTIGATION.
Communist Party members reacted angrily to the Justice
Ministry's announcement that it is launching an investigation
into the party's activities to determine whether they are in
accordance with Russian law. State Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev told reporters on 16 February that the Justice
Ministry apparently wishes to derail the talks between the
Communist-dominated Duma and government over the political
peace treaty proposed by Prime Minister Primakov. Duma
Security Committee Chairman and member of the Communist Party
Viktor Ilyukhin described the Justice Ministry's statement as
a declaration of a "witch-hunt." JAC

WORST MAY NOT YET BE OVER FOR RUSSIAN BANKS. Moody's
Investors Service released its assessment of the Russian
banking system on 15 February, which concluded that the
development of the Russia's banking sector was set back
several years by the breakdown of Russian financial markets
in 1998. Mergers and consolidations among the surviving banks
may eventually resuscitate the entire banking system, but
there may be more breakdowns before the system has fully
revived. Moody's commented that the government's bank
restructuring program "lacks specifics, and it will take
time, know-how, and large financial resources to implement
it." JAC

NEW THEORY PROFFERED FOR SAMARA FIRE. Interior Minister
Sergei Stepashin has suggested that the recent fatal blaze in
Samara may have been set, as was a recent fire in Togliatti,
"Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 16 February. According to
the newspaper, a Federal Security Service building in
Togliatti caught fire destroying all documents; as a result
more than 500 investigations had to be dropped, including a
number of criminal proceedings against the company AvtoVAZ.
However, local police investigators are trying to pour water
on the theory that the fire was set by a "criminal group,"
according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 13 February. They suggest
that the fire was more likely the work of "ordinary weirdoes
who did not realize where their actions would lead." The
newspaper also reported that many witnesses, according to law
enforcement agency sources, agree that the fire started in
several places simultaneously. JAC

YELTSINS DISMISSES THREE MORE OFFICIALS. President Boris
Yeltsin on 15 February dismissed Federal Migration Service
head Tatyana Regent, presidential envoy to the republics of
Adygei, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachai-Cherkessia,
and Stavropol Krai Petr Marchenko and State Committee for the
Film Industry chairman Armen Medvedev, ITAR-TASS reported.
Medvedev is retiring, and Marchenko reportedly asked to be
removed from his post. JAC

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT WRAPS UP VISIT. Petr Stoyanov concluded
his two-day unofficial visit to Moscow on 15 February by
meeting with Prime Minister Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov. Luzhkov noted that the two countries have a common
destiny and that political transformations cannot alter the
bonds of Slavic brotherhood, according to ITAR-TASS. After
meeting with Primakov, Stoyanov said their discussions
confirmed that the two countries have managed to eliminate
the "deficit of friendliness and trust" that existed a year
ago. After arriving in Sofia, Stoyanov stressed that Russia
has agreed to pay its $50 million debt by supplying spare
parts for Soviet-made Bulgarian aircraft, an RFE/RL
correspondent reported. Details of the arrangement will be
elaborated at an upcoming session of the intergovernmental
commission for trade, economic, scientific, and technical
cooperation in Moscow, chaired by Russian Finance Minister
Mikhail Zadornov and Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Evgeni
Bakardzhiev. JAC

NEW ELECTION DATE SET FOR VLADIVOSTOK. The election
commission in Primorskii Krai announced that elections to the
Vladivostok city assembly will be held on 16 May, Interfax
reported. The current assembly in Vladivostok does not have a
quorum and has no legal right to make decisions, according to
the commission. JAC

ICE BLOCKING FUEL DELIVERIES TO FAR EAST. A stretch of more
than 100 kilometers of thick ice is preventing tankers with
refined products from making deliveries to the Magadan
Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 February. A navigation
safety expert told the agency that a heavy ice-breaker is
urgently needed. Meanwhile, a tanker in Khabarovsk Krai
cannot leave the port of Vanino because of ice. JAC

NEXT MISSION OF 'MIR' MAY BE ITS LAST. Russian Space Agency
head Yurii Koptev told Ekho Moskvy on 15 February that
negotiations with the anonymous foreign investor interested
in funding the space station "Mir" for the next three years
have stalled and no sources for additional financing have
been found. Koptev concluded that his agency could ensure the
space station's operation only until July or August 1999,
provided federal budget allocations are forthcoming. Viktor
Afanasev, commander of the crew that is scheduled to leave on
20 February, has said his mission is likely to be the last
one, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 February. JAC

BREZHNEV CONSULTS WITH CASTRO. Andrei Brezhnev, grandson of
former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and head of the All-
Russian Communist Socio-Political Movement, met with Cuban
leader Fidel Castro in Havana, according to the February
issue of "Vek." Brezhnev told the publication that the
situation in Cuba is far better than that in Russia and that
Cuba may have some recipes for economic survival that would
be helpful for Russia. JAC

CIS SUMMIT POSTPONED. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister
Vadim Gustov told journalists in Moscow on 15 February that
the meeting of CIS heads of state scheduled for 26-27
February has been postponed, probably until sometime in
March, Interfax reported. Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze had said he could not attend because of a
previously scheduled state visit to Turkey. Gustov said the
summit participants will discuss CIS reform, including
cutting the staff of CIS administrative bodies from 2,340 to
600-700. According to a plan drafted by CIS Executive
Secretary Boris Berezovskii, all CIS administrative
structures except for that which provides logistical support
for the CIS Heads of State Council, will be merged into one
body. Gustov declined to say whether Berezovskii will be its
head. LF

KURDS BREAK INTO GREEK EMBASSY IN MOSCOW. Some 30 Kurdish
activists who broke into the Greek embassy in Moscow on 16
February agreed to leave after negotiations with Russian
security officials, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Russian
capital reported. The Kurds remained in the vicinity of the
embassy chanting slogans in support of Kurdistan Workers'
Party chairman Abdullah Ocalan, Interfax reported. Ocalan was
arrested in Kenya late the previous day. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN KURDS TAKE UN OFFICIALS HOSTAGE. Several Armenian
Kurds briefly occupied the UN mission in Yerevan on 16
February and took its personnel hostage, threatening to
immolate themselves and their hostages unless Kurdistan
Workers' Party leader Ocalan was released and granted
political asylum, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The
hostage-takers left the building after releasing their
prisoners. It is not known whether charges will be brought
against them. A group of some 100 Kurds who had gathered
outside the building marched to the Interior Ministry after
receiving reports that police had arrested several ethnic
Kurds during a demonstration outside the Greek embassy
earlier the same day. They were dispersed by police. LF

ARMENIAN PREMIER PROPOSES NEW TAX SYSTEM FOR BUSINESSES.
Meeting on 13 February with leading businessmen, Armen
Darpininan proposed a system whereby taxes for companies
would be set on the basis of anticipated turnover and the
companies freed from systematic checks by tax officials,
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 15 February, citing the
government's press service. "The most superficial estimates
show that 50 percent of the economy is not being taxed,"
Darpinian was quoted as saying. "The government's task is to
prevent an increase in the tax burden on those taxpayers who
work [honestly] and pay taxes." The government intends to
boost its tax revenues by 47 billion drams ($87 million), in
line with 1999 budget targets. On 15 February, the opposition
Hanrapetutiun parliamentary faction harshly criticized
Darpinian's proposal. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN REJECTS IMF EVALUATION. Zurab
Zhvania has criticized as "unsubstantiated" a statement by
Hunter Munroe, the IMF representative in Tbilisi, that the
volume of the 1999 draft budget is $100 million larger that
the total agreed on with the IMF. Zhvania said the
discrepancy between the two figures is only $40 million. In a
statement issued by the IMF on 12 February, Hunter called on
the Georgian government to implement a strong economic
program and to raise tax revenues, an RFE/RL financial
correspondent in Washington reported. Hunter said government
expenditure increased in December and tax revenues dipped the
following month. He praised the Georgian government's
decision not to intervene to prevent a fall in the value of
the lari in December, but he said that falling tax revenues
are pushing the value of the lari down and fuelling
inflation. On 16 February, the lari was trading at 2.285 to
the U.S. dollar, Caucasus Press reported. LF

MORE FATALITIES IN ABKHAZIA. Six Abkhaz policemen were shot
dead in two separate incidents in Abkhazia's southernmost
Gali Raion on 13-14 February, Caucasus Press reported. Those
deaths bring the number of police killed since late May 1998
to at least 24. An Abkhaz Interior Ministry official blamed
the shootings on Georgian guerrillas. LF

AZERBAIJANI EX-PREMIER'S LAWYERS SLAM 'POLITICAL' VERDICT.
Vladislav Tsimbal, a defense lawyer for former Prime Minister
Suret Huseinov, told Reuters on 15 February that the sentence
of life imprisonment handed down earlier that day by the
Azerbaijan Supreme Court was politically motivated. Tsimbal
said he will appeal that sentence at the European Court of
Human Rights. Huseinov was found guilty on charges of
attempting a coup d'etat, treason, and drug smuggling. LF

FIVE BOMBS EXPLODE IN TASHKENT... Five bombs went off in the
Uzbek capital on 16 February. Four explosions occurred at
11:15 a.m. local time, two inside the Interior Ministry
building, one near the Uzbek National Bank for Foreign
Economic Affairs, and one on Independence Square, where the
government's headquarters are located. Another went off 45
minutes later in the vicinity of the airport. Uzbek
Television reported that terrorists had tried to kill
President Islam Karimov, who had just been arriving at
government headquarters for a scheduled meeting of the
Council of Ministers when the bombs began exploding. Prior to
his arrival, a car smashed through barricades around the
square and a shoot-out ensued between the occupants of the
car and Uzbek police. Casualties have been reported, but no
figures are available to date. BP

...WHILE KARIMOV VOWS TO PUNISH THOSE RESPONSIBLE. Shortly
after the explosions, Karimov appeared on national television
appealing for calm among the citizens of the capital, ITAR-
TASS reported. The president said the bombings were "aimed
against our system, our independent policy, the independence
of our state," adding that they constituted an "attempt on my
life." He stressed that "no one will intimidate us" and
promised to "eliminate the scoundrels" who organized the
bombings. BP

EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS TO BE HELD IN KAZAKHSTAN? The
chairman of the lower house of the parliament, Marat Ospanov,
told journalists in Astana on 13 February that a dispute
between the government and parliament over amendments to the
budget could lead to a crisis of confidence and early
elections to the parliament, RFE/RL correspondents reported.
The leader of Kazakhstan's Communist Party, Serikbolsyn
Abdildin, told RFE/RL correspondents that Ospanov was
expressing the opinion of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. BP

OSCE DELEGATION MEETS WITH KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT. A
delegation from the OSCE headed by Haly Dine met with
Nazarbayev on 13-14 February, RFE/RL correspondents reported.
Dine told Nazarbayev that last month's presidential elections
fell "far short" of international standards and that the OSCE
hopes this year's parliamentary elections will come closer to
conforming with international norms. BP

JAILED FOREIGNERS AMNESTIED IN TURKMENISTAN. More than 250
foreign citizens currently imprisoned in Turkmenistan will be
set free under Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's latest
amnesty, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 15 February.
Among those to be freed are citizens of Afghanistan (129),
Russia (85), and Iran (40). BP

TAJIK, RUSSIAN MUFTIATS SIGN AGREEMENT. A delegation from
Tajikistan's Muftiat met with representatives of Russia's
Muftiat in Moscow on 15 February and signed an agreement on
cooperation in several areas, ITAR-TASS reported. The
agreement provides for regular conferences on spiritual
matters, the opening of new medressahs and mosques, and
regular meetings between delegations from the two countries.
The Russian Muftiat has already concluded similar agreements
with the Muslim spiritual boards in Belarus, Latvia, Ukraine,
and Crimea. BP

END NOTE

LEAVING AFGHANISTAN, TRANSFORMING THE WORLD

by Paul Goble

	Ten years ago, the last Soviet army units left
Afghanistan, closing a chapter on Moscow's disastrous
military intervention there and opening the way to the
disintegration of the Soviet system as a whole.
	But as dramatic as those changes were, the Soviet
withdrawal from Afghanistan continues to affect that country,
the post-Soviet states, and the Western world in ways that
may ultimately prove to be even more dramatic. That is
because the withdrawal called into question many of the
assumptions that had governed the international system during
the Cold War and thus opened the way not only to a post-
Soviet but also to a post-Cold War world.
	That process began on 15 February 1989, when General
Boris Gromov led approximately 400 Soviet soldiers across the
Afghan border into the USSR, just five minutes before the
deadline set for their withdrawal by the U.N.-sponsored
Geneva accords of April 1988. In addition to the impact of
the event itself--the first Soviet withdrawal from any
territory since the Austrian State Treaty more than 30 years
earlier--its larger implications for the Soviet Union were
suggested by two articles that appeared in the Moscow press
on the same day.
	In a front-page commentary, the Communist Party
newspaper "Pravda" argued that any future commitment of
Soviet troops must "not be decided in secrecy," as had been
the case when Moscow decided to intervene in Afghanistan in
December 1979, but only "with the approval of the country's
parliament."
	The Moscow weekly "Literaturnaya gazeta," for its part,
published one of the first detailed accounts of Soviet
atrocities in the Afghan war, which many Soviet citizens had
known about but which the Soviet authorities until then had
consistently refused to acknowledge.
 	All three of these events--the withdrawal itself, the
acknowledgement that the Soviet intervention lacked popular
support, and the description of the atrocities--had the
effect of further delegitimizing the Soviet system. Thus,
they played a key role in its ultimate destruction.
	But precisely because this withdrawal proved to be so
pivotal in the history of the region, it has generated a set
of images that continue to mold opinions not only in
Afghanistan but also in the post-Soviet states and the
Western world. These opinions appear likely to reshape the
future even as the withdrawal itself already has reshaped the
past.
	In Afghanistan, the Soviet withdrawal had much the same
effect as Russia's defeat in the Russo-Japanese War more than
80 years earlier. It encouraged Afghans, other Muslims, and
indeed many non-Europeans to think that they could take on a
major power and win, something few had assumed until then.
That shift in assumptions helped power the Taliban in
Afghanistan itself, and many other challenges to European and
U.S. dominance of international affairs.
	Indeed, much of the current terrorist challenge to the
West has its roots in the Soviet withdrawal not only because
the Mujaheddin demonstrated that a European power could be
defeated on the field of battle but also because it showed
that a great power would be willing to withdraw rather than
continue to fight.
	In the post-Soviet states--and particularly in Central
Asia and the Caucasus--Moscow's withdrawal from Afghanistan
has led many to conclude that political power is fragile and
that popular groups inspired by Islam can successfully
challenge it. Some groups in Tajikistan and elsewhere have
challenged the authorities, while many of those in power have
sought to justify repressive policies in the name of
preventing the kind of societal and political chaos that
Afghanistan suffered in the wake of the Soviet occupation.
	And on a global scale, the Soviet withdrawal from
Afghanistan continues to serve as a reminder that however
strong a state may appear to outsiders, it can be defeated
and even destroyed if it loses all popular legitimacy.
	Before the Soviet withdrawal, many in both the Soviet
Union and the West assumed that the Soviet Union would
continue forever. After that event, many in both places
recognized that the days of the Soviet power were numbered.
	Such prophecies not only proved to be self-fulfilling,
but they also have led people in other countries, far
different and far removed from the USSR, to think about
changing structures that many had assumed could never be
dislodged.
	In 1975, four years before Moscow invaded Afghanistan
and 14 years before it withdrew, the yearbook of the "Kabul
Times" claimed that Afghanistan was "the beginning of the end
of everything." To a larger extent than the editors of that
newspaper knew, their claim has proved true, first by the
Soviet withdrawal and then by the impact of that withdrawal
on the world.
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