Increase The Peace. - John Singleton
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 36, Part I, 22 February 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 36, Part I, 22 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

* RUSSIA STILL HOLDING OUT FOR BREAKTHROUGH AT RAMBOUILLET

* G-7 BACKS UP IMF IN NEGOTIATIONS WITH RUSSIA

* ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CAUTIOUS ABOUT CALL FOR PRESIDENT'S
IMPEACHMENT
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RUSSIA

RUSSIA STILL HOLDING OUT FOR BREAKTHROUGH AT RAMBOUILLET. As
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov again stressed his
country's opposition to using force to settle the Kosova
conflict, Moscow Mayor and Otechestvo movement head Yurii
Luzhkov and Duma Speaker and Communist Party member Gennadii
Seleznev on 20 February condemned possible NATO airstrikes.
Luzhkov said that inter-ethnic problems "exist in nearly
every European country" and "cannot be solved by military
actions," while Seleznev threatened that Russia is likely to
withdraw from its treaty with NATO if force is used in
Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, in a telephone conversation on 20
February, Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov told British Prime
Minister Tony Blair that a political solution in Kosova is
still possible. Primakov told reporters the next day that the
Rambouillet negotiations between Belgrade and Kosova should
not be regarded as a failure. "The negotiation process is
continuing and we count on its success," he said JAC

PRIMAKOV SUGGESTS THAT GOVERNORS BE APPOINTED... Prime
Minister Primakov suggested at a 21 February session of the
Leningrad Oblast government that the Russian Constitution
needs amending to strengthen "vertical power" but that such a
step not be taken this year. In particular, he recommended
that governors be selected by local elective bodies from a
list of candidates provided by the president, Interfax
reported. Primakov explained that "at present governors are
chosen directly by the people and it is impossible to exert
influence over a governor," Reuters reported. Primakov's
announcement could damage the support he has managed to win
among the country's governors. "Kommersant-Daily" argued on
20 February that Primakov has managed to woo governors away
from Moscow Mayor Luzhkov and his Otechestvo movement by
convincing them at a January meeting on federal policy that
"consent emanates from the regions, not the center" (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 1999). JAC

...WHILE LUZHKOV BIDS FOR HEARTS, MINDS OF MAYORS. The new
governors' election bloc headed by Samara Oblast Governor
Konstantin Titov has also provided some competition for
Luzhkov's Otechestvo movement, prompting Moscow's mayor to
consolidate his support among the heads of other Russian
cities, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 February. Some 700
mayors, local manufacturers, bankers, and chairs of city
assemblies gathered in Moscow on 19 February for a conference
whose formal purpose is to discuss how to support municipal
economies, according to the newspaper. However, its
unofficial purpose was to rally around Luzhkov and support
the cause of strengthening the powers of city officials to
the disadvantage of regional and federal officials. Among the
city officials expressing support for Luzhkov were the mayors
of Omsk, Yekaterinburg, Volgograd, Perm, Krasnodar,
Trekhgornii, Severodinsk, Yakutsk, and Maykop. According to
the daily, governors who had earlier attended Otechestvo
constituent meetings in droves "grew noticeably cooler toward
Luzhkov" after Titov had announced the idea of an independent
bloc of "governors." JAC

1999 BUDGET BECOMES LAW. Russian President Boris Yeltsin
signed the 1999 budget into law on 22 February, Interfax
reported. The Federation Council had approved the budget on
17 February. The document sets aside $9.5 billion to pay
foreign creditors, who are owed at total of $17.5 billion in
1999, according to Interfax. The amount devoted to defense
was increased by 17 billion rubles ($744 million) to 107
billion rubles, while other programs were cut. The budget
calls for expenditures of 575 billion rubles and revenues of
474 billion rubles. JAC

G-7 BACKS UP IMF IN NEGOTIATIONS WITH RUSSIA. After meeting
in Bonn on 20 February, finance ministers and central bankers
from the G-7 nations issued a statement criticizing Russia
for failing to adopt "a concerted policy response to ongoing
financial and macro-economic instability." They also said
that "a viable budget for 1999" and "significant improvement
in government revenues" are necessary for an agreement with
the IMF and that an agreement with the IMF is necessary for a
debt restructuring agreement with the Paris Club. French
Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kohn slammed the
government's plan to cut value-added tax, calling it
"illusory," AFP reported. Members of the Russian delegation
to the meeting remained upbeat. Central Bank Chairman Viktor
Gerashchenko told ITAR-TASS that "recommendations issued were
positive" and that Russian officials "did not see the same
obstinacy we witnessed at previous rounds of talks between
the IMF and Russia." JAC

DUMA REJECTS IMF ADVICE ON CENTRAL BANK LAW... Duma Speaker
Seleznev dismissed the IMF's reservations about proposed
changes in the law on the Central Bank now being considered
by the Federation Council, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 February.
He said that the "IMF can give recommendations but it cannot
insist on which laws we shall adopt." He added that the IMF
"has gotten used to telling us what they would like to see.
Luckily, this government tells them what Russia needs." In a
letter to Central Bank head Gerashchenko on 12 February, IMF
deputy director of the department dealing with Russia, Jorge
Marquez-Ruarte, said that the amendments would reduce the
bank's independence and negatively effect the inflation rate
and stability of the ruble, RFE/RL's Washington bureau
reported. Marquez-Ruarte found a proposed amendment
restricting the Central Bank's ability to set interest rates
"particularly disturbing." JAC

...AS OFFSHORE FIRM CONTROVERSY CAUSES CENTRAL BANK TO CLOSE
RANKS? Marquez-Ruarte did not address the issue of the
Central Bank's use of a tiny offshore firm to handle its hard
currency reserves, although he said that the IMF supports the
bank's "increasing transparency and accountability" (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1999). The controversy
surrounding the use of the Channel Islands-based FIMACO has
prompted an "unprecedented closing of ranks" between former
and current Central Bank officials across Russia's political
spectrum, from current chairman Gerashchenko to his
predecessor, Sergei Dubinin, the "Moscow Times" reported on
19 February. On the other hand, "Izvestiya" noted on 13
February, that there are "clear political overtones" to the
assault on the Central Bank as well as "signs of a desire to
take revenge on the former Central Bank team, which held very
specific political views." JAC

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS JAPAN... Igor Ivanov,
speaking at a press conference at the Russian Embassy in
Tokyo on 22 February, addressed Japanese-U.S. plans to create
a regional anti-missile defense system in the Pacific area,
Russian and Japanese press reported. Ivanov warned the two
countries against expanding their sphere of operations and
stressed "alliances and groupings ...should have a strictly
defensive character." Ivanov said his country expects "the
actions of such alliances to be most transparent." Ivanov
also denied reports in the international press that quoted
him as saying it is "impossible" to conclude by the year 2000
a peace treaty with Japan officially ending World War II.
Ivanov is scheduled to meet with Japanese Prime Minister
Keidzo Obuchi and to hand over a letter from President Boris
Yeltsin. BP

ŠDISCUSSES PEACE TREATY. The previous day, Ivanov met with
his Japanese counterpart, Masahiko Komura, but the two failed
to make progress on deciding the fate of the Kuril Islands.
Ivanov had said before arriving in Japan that he has no
"magic formula" and expects no breakthrough on discussions
about the future of the islands. And he had noted that "it
would be an anachronism to negotiate just a peace treaty with
Japan half a century after World War Two ended." Questions
also remain over Yeltsin's planned visit to Japan this year.
The Japanese hope he will visit in the spring, but Russian
officials say Yeltsin's health and domestic issues make that
unlikely. Obuchi said on 22 February that his government will
"persistently, persistently, and more persistently" meet with
Russian officials to discuss the islands' fate. BP

DUMA CONDEMNS OCALAN ARREST. By a vote of 344 to two with one
abstention, the State Duma adopted a resolution on 19
February expressing "extreme indignation" at the 15 February
capture of Kurdistan Workers' Party leader Abdullah Ocalan,
Reuters reported. It termed the arrest a violation of
international law. Duma deputies called on President Yeltsin
to request that a peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem be
included in the agenda of the UN Security Council. They also
asked the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to
review whether Turkey meets that body's standards on human
rights. Federal Security Service Director Vladimir Putin told
Duma deputies later that day that Russia neither invited
Ocalan to Russia nor deported him from the country, ITAR-TASS
reported. Putin similarly denied that Moscow had rejected a
request by Ocalan for political asylum, saying Ocalan had
never made any such request. LF

DID PRIMAKOV BROKER CASPIAN OIL DEAL? "Kommersant-Daily" on
19 February suggests that Ocalan did apply for political
asylum in Russia last year and that his request was turned
down as part of a broader plan devised by Prime Minister
Primakov. According to that plan, which the newspaper claims
was agreed on by Primakov and Chevron President Richard
Matzke at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month,
Moscow will not impede construction of the Baku-Ceyhan export
pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil. (A firm commitment to
that project by the Western companies engaged in Azerbaijan
is on hold indefinitely because plummeting oil prices make it
economically unviable.) In return, Kazakhstan's crude will be
exported via the planned pipeline from Tengiz to Novorossiisk
and Turkey will not prevent its passage in tankers through
the Turkish straits. LF

RUSSIA ASKS FINNS FOR MONEY TO STOP BALTIC SEA DUMPING. Prime
Minister Primakov held talks with his Finnish counterpart,
Paavo Lipponen, on 21 February in St. Petersburg to discuss
the construction of a gas pipeline through Russian and
Finnish ports to supply Western Europe and Russian dumping of
sewage into the Baltic Sea. St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir
Yakovlev, who attended the meeting, told reporters later that
Russia is dumping large amounts of waste that it cannot
afford to reprocess. He said that the city of St. Petersburg
alone dumps 1 million cubic meters a day and added that
Russia needs $1 billion to resolve the problem. Primakov said
that already friendly Russian-Finnish relations are "on the
rise" and that Russia and Finland have proved that "when one
country joins the EU, that does not mean the curtailment of
tiesŠor a smaller interest in the development of relations
with the other [non-EU member]." JAC

TEACHERS IN ALTAI LAUNCH THIRD PROTEST THIS YEAR... Teachers
in Altai Krai on 22 February began an indefinite strike to
protest unpaid wages totaling 59 million rubles ($2.6
million), ITAR-TASS reported. Two strike actions by teachers
in the krai earlier this year resulted in a transfer of some
8 million rubles in overdue wages, but educational workers
are now demanding that the balance be paid in full (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1999). JAC

...WHILE MINERS IN KOMI TAKE PROTEST TO RAILWAY. Meanwhile,
coal miners at the Intinskaya mine in Komi Republic, who
began a strike action on 15 February, are now picketing the
Moscow-Vorkuta railway, ITAR -TASS reported (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 15 February 1999). JAC

PENTECOSTALS IN MAGADAN FACING POLICE PRESSURE. The Word of
Life Church in Magadan filed a complaint on 15 February with
the oblast's Prosecutor-General's Office about harassment by
local police and tax officials, Keston News Service reported
on 20 February. In December and January, local tax officials
raided the Church and removed documents, which have still not
been returned. In February, local police officials threatened
Church members during a night raid on the pretext of a hunt
for drug dealers, according to the UK-based agency. According
to the Church's pastor, the Pentecostal organization has some
800 followers in the city of Magadan and branches throughout
the oblast. A local expert on religions reckons that the
Pentecostals are the biggest denomination in Magadan after
the Orthodox Church. Last month, some 350 members of the
Church appealed to the U.S. embassy in Moscow for political
asylum. JAC

CHECHEN OPPOSITION ELECTS LEADER. Following two days of
deliberations, the Shura [council] established by opposition
field commanders on 9 February has elected former acting
premier Shamil Basaev as its head, Russian agencies reported
on 20 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 1999).
Former Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov told Interfax
that Basaev's powers have not been clearly defined, nor have
his deputies been named. The Shura demands that following the
proclamation of Islamic law in Chechnya, the president and
parliament resign and a new constitution be drafted. The
following day, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov dismissed
Prosecutor-General Mansur Tagirov at the insistence of the
Supreme Shariah Court because he had served in the Russian
police force during the 1994-1996 Chechen war. LF

LEBED GOES TO HOLLYWOOD. Prime Minister Primakov attended the
premiere of Nikita Mikhalkov's latest film, "The Barber of
Seville," on 20 February, AFP reported. Some Russian
newspapers called the film, which reportedly has a strong
patriotic theme, the opening bid in Mikhalkov's presidential
campaign, but Mikhalkov told those attending the premiere
that he has no such ambitions. Meanwhile, Krasnoyarsk
Governor Aleksandr Lebed will attend an Academy Awards party
at the Beverly Hills Hotel to benefit director Martin
Scorsese's film foundation, "Variety" reported. According to
the newspaper, the party invitation was first issued to
Russian President Yeltsin, who passed it on to Lebed. JAC

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CAUTIOUS ABOUT CALL FOR PRESIDENT'S
IMPEACHMENT. Opposition parties have reacted cautiously to
the 17 February demand by parliamentary deputy and chairman
of the National Democratic Party--21st Century Davit
Shahnazarian, to form an interim parliamentary commission to
consider impeaching President Robert Kocharian for violating
the constitution, Noyan Tapan reported on 19 February. Albert
Bazeyan of the majority Yerkrapah group said that the
initiative is inadvisable in the current strained situation.
Hrant Margarian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation,
which like Yerkrapah supports the president, suggested the
initiators of the proposal oppose Kocharian's anti-crime
strategy. Nerses Zeynavaldian of the Self-Determination Union
observed that Shahnazarian has not specified the grounds for
impeaching Kocharian, while Mkrtich Gimshian of the Hayrenik
group expressed support for Shahnazarian's proposal. Shavarsh
Kocharian of the National Democratic Union said he believes
that the proposal is correct, but he added that it could be
interpreted as an act of revenge. LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REVIEWS KARABAKH PEACE PROCESS...
Speaking at a news conference in Yerevan on 19 February,
Vartan Oskanian said that in Armenia's view the only option
for the resumption of the deadlocked OSCE-mediated talks on
resolving the Karabakh conflict lies in the plan proposed by
the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairman last year, RFE/RL's Yerevan
bureau reported. Baku has rejected that plan, which envisaged
the creation of a "common state" by Azerbaijan and the
unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Oskanian said that
the Minsk Group has issued a statement saying that the co-
chairmen are trying to find a mutually acceptable basis for
the resumption of negotiations. LF

...RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA, GULF STATES. Oskanian also rejected
claims that Armenia's ongoing military cooperation with
Russia is directed against other countries, such as Turkey
and Azerbaijan. He said Armenian policy is purely defensive
and directed not at polarizing, but at promoting
rapprochement and peaceful coexistence between the states of
the region, according to ITAR-TASS. Summarizing his visits to
Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates earlier
this month, Oskanian said Armenia will open an embassy in the
UAE and hopes for intensified economic cooperation with the
Persian Gulf states, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS CONTINUE PROTEST. Several hundred
Georgians forced to flee their homes in Abkhazia continue to
block passage over the Inguri bridge linking Abkhazia with
the rest of Georgia, Georgian media reported on 22 February
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1998). The Russian
peacekeeping force deployed along each side of that internal
border has condemned the protest as illegal. The Abkhaz
Foreign Ministry has issued a statement condemning the
protest as intended to prevent those displaced persons who
wish to return to Abkhazia from doing so. It also asked the
Georgian Foreign Ministry to halt such obstructions to the
repatriation process, Caucasus Press reported on 20 February.
LF

GEORGIAN INSURGENCY LEDAER ISSUES NEW THREAT. Colonel Akaki
Eliava, who led the failed one-day insurgency in western
Georgia last October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19-20 October
1999), has threatened to seize the strategic Black Sea port
of Poti if 60 of his supporters arrested in the wake of that
revolt are not released, Caucasus Press reported on 19
February, citing "Akhali taoba." Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze implicitly blamed the Georgian law enforcement
organs for failing to apprehend Eliava. Interior Ministry
representatives had held talks with Eliava in January in an
attempt to persuade him to surrender (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
20 and 22 January 1999). LF

THREE CENTRAL ASIAN PRESIDENTS MEET IN ASTANA... The
presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, taking
part in a Central Asian Union summit in Astana on 19
February, signed a memorandum on coordinating efforts to
cushion the impact of the global economic crisis and a
protocol on implementing the January 1997 Eternal Friendship
Treaty. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev said it
is "important" for each country "not to take unilateral
steps," and he called the Central Asian Union "more essential
today than ever before" if economic problems are to be
alleviated. The presidents established a working group of
their countries' prime ministers to coordinate measures to
combat the economic crisis. By mutual agreement, Kyrgyz
President Askar Akayev will continue to act as chairman of
the union for another year. The next summit is scheduled to
take place in Kyrgyzstan in June. BP

... TAJIK PRESIDENT STAYS AWAYŠ Tajikistan, which is a
candidate member of the Central Asian Union, was not
represented at the 19 February summit in Kazakhstan's
capital. In talks with RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe the
previous day, several government officials were unaware of
the meeting. There have been no reports that any invitation
was extended to Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov. Tajikistan
was expected to become a full member of the union at the
first summit this year. BP

ŠWHILE UZBEK PRESIDENT HOGS LIMELIGHT AT PRESS CONFERENCE. At
a press briefing in which he was the focus of attention,
Islam Karimov called the CIS Collective Peace Treaty
"ineffective" but said it is up to the nine participating
countries to decide for themselves if they will extend their
participation or withdraw from the treaty. Karimov also spoke
about the 16 February bombings in the Uzbek capital,
Tashkent, confirming that security forces there are seeking
"religious fanatics." Karimov said two men who had parked a
car containing explosives near government buildings fled just
before the car blew up, shouting "Allah Akbar." Karimov
credits the commander of the presidential guards, Rustam
Ajayev, with saving his life. Ajayev halted Karimov's car 150
meters from a car that exploded seconds later. BP

IRAN UNHAPPY WITH TURKMEN TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINE AGREEMENT.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry on 20 February warned
Turkmenistan about "any initiatives aimed at building oil and
gas pipelines under the Caspian Sea," AP and dpa reported.
Turkmenistan the previous day had named the U.S. companies
Bechtel Corp. and General Electric as the leaders in a
consortium to build the Trans-Caspian pipeline to bring
Turkmen natural gas to Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19
February 1999). The Iranian Foreign Ministry pointed out that
treaties signed by Iran and the Soviet Union in 1921 and 1940
"are still in force" and that any action taken without the
consent of all the littoral states will be considered
"illegal." The Iranian Foreign Ministry said "the
perpetrators of such action are held fully responsible for
any harmful consequences to the Caspian Sea, such as
environmental damage." BP

STREET PATROLS IN ALMATY INCREASED. Following a violent
demonstration by ethnic Kurds last week (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 19 February 1999), Kazakhstan's Interior Ministry
said it has intensified police patrols until 26 February,
Interfax reported. Viktor Khrapunov, the mayor of Almaty, has
called on members of the Kurdish community to abide by
Kazakhstan's laws and maintain ethnic and civil peace. Elders
of the Kurdish community in Kazakhstan have apologized for
not preventing the demonstration and have promised not to
allow any further such protests. BP

BROTHER OF UZBEK OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER ARRESTED. Muhammed
Begjon, whose brother, Muhammad Solih, is the leader of the
Uzbek opposition party Erk, was arrested in Khwarezm on 18
February, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Police came to
Begjon's home and requested he drive his car to the police
station. Once there, police searched Begjon's vehicle and
reportedly discovered gun cartridges. Begjon remains in
detention. BP

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                     All rights reserved.
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