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

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 38, Part I, 24 February 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 38, Part I, 24 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 HAILS RAMBOUILLET RESULTS

* U.S., RUSSIA TO LAUNCH JOINT EARLY WARNING SYSTEM CENTER?

* TAJIK PRESIDENT WARNS OF NEW THREAT FROM AFGHANISTAN

End Note: LOOKING BACK TO THE FUTURE
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RUSSIA

RUSSIA HAILS RAMBOUILLET RESULTS. Foreign Minister Igor
Ivanov told reporters on 24 February that even though no
agreement was reached at Rambouillet, the talks yielded
"positive results." He said that "in the course of two weeks
it proved possible to work out a very important political
document that opens the way towards settling the [Kosova]
problem." Ivanov criticized NATO for its effort to try to
"impose on Belgrade an additional document," which had caused
"the situation over the past few days" to become
"overdramatized." Adopting a similar line, First Deputy
Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev said that "common sense
prevailed at the talks" and that now NATO bombing of Serbia
is out of the question. The previous day, Defense Minister
Igor Sergeev warned that NATO strikes against Yugoslavia
would lead to "another Vietnam" in the heart of Europe. JAC

U.S., RUSSIA TO LAUNCH JOINT EARLY WARNING SYSTEM CENTER?
Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with visiting U.S.
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott on 23 February.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov told
reporters that the two officials discussed the anti-ballistic
missile treaty as well as the situation in Kosova and Iraq.
Citing only an "information leak from Washington,"
"Izvestiya" reported on 24 February that Talbott and Primakov
agreed to open a joint early warning system center by
September. According to the newspaper, a U.S. delegation
headed by Assistant Defense Secretary Ted Warner recently
returned from Moscow where productive talks on the matter
were held. JAC

GOVERNORS REJECT PRIMAKOV'S PROPOSAL? Prime Minister
Primakov's call for an amendment to the constitution
providing for governors to be appointed rather than elected
drew a cool response from Russia's regional heads (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 February 1999). According to
"Kommersant-Daily" on 23 February, governors were "outraged"
at Primakov's suggestion, and following his speech to the
Sever-Zapad interregional association, Novgorod Oblast
Governor Mikhail Prusak, Murmansk Oblast Governor Yurii
Yevdokimov, and Republic of Karelia Chairman Yurii Katanandov
all harshly criticized federal government policy on various
issues. However, Carnegie Moscow Center analyst Nikolai
Petrov told the "Moscow Times" that Primakov's proposal
should prove appealing to governors because they would get to
appoint mayors, who can be their biggest headaches, and avoid
the risk of not being re-elected. He predicted that "the
elite--federal, regional, and local--is close to reaching a
deal at the expense of the electorate." JAC

RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT SEEKING DISTANCE FROM STEEL DEAL. The
Russian government says that the Russian-U.S. steel agreement
concluded by its trade negotiators in Rome on 23 February is
not yet a done deal. First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii
Maslyukov told reporters that the government has not yet
reached a final decision on the agreement and that doing so
"will be very difficult." Also on 23 February, Vladimir
Ponomarev, the head of exports at Severstal, one of Russia's
largest steel producers, told Bloomberg that the minimum
price set by the agreement is too high and will shut his
company's goods out of the U.S. market. But Magnitogorsk
Director-General Viktor Rashnikov told ITAR-TASS that he
approves in principle of the agreement. JAC

GERMANY RELUCTANT TO WRITE OFF DEBT. The Ministry of Finance
has postponed until 1 March announcing the terms it is
offering foreign holders of defaulted short-term treasury
bonds. First Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said
foreign investors will be allowed to buy shares on the
secondary market using ruble proceeds from exchanging
defaulted bonds. Meanwhile, German government officials and
bankers are opposed to writing off Russia's debts inherited
from the former Soviet Union, "Segodnya" reported. According
to the newspaper, Germany would be satisfied with payments in
oil, gas, and gold, as proposed by Commerzbank, but "sober
financial logic" dictates that Germany, which holds 40
percent of the Soviet Union debt, must insist on repayment.
Earlier, former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, who met with
German creditors in Bonn at the Primakov government's
request, had suggested that the Soviet debt be written off.
JAC

COURT LIMITS RETAIL BANKS' DISCRETION WITH INTEREST RATES.
The Constitutional Court on 23 February prohibited banks from
changing interest rates on savings accounts without first
concluding a new agreement with their depositors, ITAR-TASS
reported. Association of Russian Banks Vice President
Vyacheslav Zakharov said the ruling will lead banks to
conclude shorter-term contracts with their customers. Banking
analysts concluded that the decision will limit retail banks'
flexibility and encourage banks to be very conservative at a
time when they should be innovative to lure back customers,
according to AFP. JAC

SAMARA FIRE LABELED ACCIDENTAL. Vladimir Solovev, the
prosecutor leading the investigation into the blaze that
killed 67 people at regional Interior Ministry headquarters
in Samara Oblast earlier this month, told Ekho Moskvy on 23
February that arson was an unlikely cause. He said there is
no evidence to conclude the fire was caused by sabotage or
arson; however, the final conclusion will follow the end of
the investigation in about two months. Head of the regional
fire brigade General Aleksandr Zharkov also concluded that
the fire must have been caused by negligence, ITAR-TASS
reported. But as of 18 February, Interior Minister Sergei
Stepashin remained unconvinced. He told reporters that he
still has not ruled out that an "evil plot" was behind the
blaze. JAC

PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY TO PRIMORSKII KRAI RELIEVED OF DUTIES.
President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on 23 February
relieving General Viktor Kondratov from his duties as
presidential envoy to Primorskii Krai. Yeltsin appointed
Kondratov in May 1997, at which the latter was already
serving as chief of the regional administration of the
Federal Security Service (FSB)--a post he still holds. First
deputy head of the presidential administration Oleg Sysuev
told Interfax that FSB head Vladimir Putin had asked that
Kondratov be relieved of his duties as presidential envoy in
order allow him to concentrate on local FSB matters. JAC

ONLY FIVE REGIONS HAVE PAID WAGES IN FULL. Russian regions
were allotted 30.4 billion rubles ($1.3 billion) during 1998
for the payment of wages and reduction of debts from the
federal budget, according to a State Duma press release,
Interfax reported. During the same period, regions also
received 2.5 billion rubles in loans from the center. At
present only five regions do not have outstanding debts to
state workers: the cities of Moscow and Saint-Petersburg,
Krasnoyarsk Krai, and the Yamalo-Nenetsk and Taimirskii
Autonomous Okrugs. JAC

PATRIARCH WANTS CHAPLAINS BACK IN ARMY. Patriarch of Moscow
and All Russia Alexii II suggested on 23 February that the
post of regimental chaplain in the armed forces be
reinstituted. The Bolsheviks abolished the post after the
1917 revolution, according to Interfax. The patriarch noted
that the post should be reintroduced gradually. JAC

LUTHERANS WIN COURT BATTLE IN KHAKASSIA. The Supreme Court of
the Republic of Khakassia rejected on 12 February a request
by the republican prosecutor-general to strip the Evangelical
Lutheran mission of its registration in the region,
Radiotserkov reported. According to the report, the
prosecutor-general's office intends to appeal the case
further. JAC

DID OCALAN ASK YELTSIN FOR ASYLUM? At a press conference in
Moscow on 23 February, Mahir Valat, a senior official of the
Kurdistan National Liberation Front (which is affiliated with
the Kurdistan Workers' Party), produced documentary evidence
that Ocalan had appealed to President Yeltsin in October 1998
for asylum in Russia, Interfax reported. Russian FSB director
Putin denied on 19 February that Ocalan had ever made such a
request (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 1999). Valat
appealed to Russia as a permanent member of the UN Security
Council to insist that Ocalan be tried in a third country
(that is, not Turkey) and in an open trial. LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER ABDUCTED. Aleksei Mitrofanov,
who advises Aslan Maskhadov on issues related to Chechnya's
Russian-speaking population, was kidnapped on his way to work
in Grozny on 23 February, ITAR-TASS reported. Addressing a
rally the same day to mark the 55th anniversary of the
deportation of the Chechens and Ingush to Central Asia,
opposition state Shura [council] head Shamil Basaev
criticized Maskhadov's alleged insincerity and pro-Russian
orientation, Interfax reported. Basaev said that Maskhadov
issued his 3 February decrees imposing Islamic law in
Chechnya only under pressure from the opposition. Maskhadov
addressed a similar rally elsewhere in Grozny the same day.
LF

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MONGOLIA... During a one-day
visit to Ulan Bator on 23 February, Ivanov met with President
Natsagiin Bagabandi, to whom he handed a letter from Yeltsin,
ITAR-TASS reported. In that letter, the Russian president
wrote that Moscow wants to continue strengthening traditional
bilateral ties in the spirit of the 1993 agreement on
friendly relations and cooperation. Ivanov said his
conversation with Prime Minister Zhanlavyn Narantsataralt was
"concrete and constructive," noting that they discussed,
among others, boosting trade between Mongolia and Russian
regions bordering the Asian country. A protocol on
cooperation between the two countries' Foreign Ministries was
signed, as was an agreement on cooperation in the use of
diplomatic archives. BP

...AND TAJIKISTAN. On 24 February, Ivanov stopped off in
Dushanbe where he signed an agreement with his Tajik
counterpart, Talbak Nazarov, on cooperation between the two
countries' Foreign Ministries, ITAR-TASS reported. The two
ministers also agreed to hold talks on improving the legal
basis for bilateral relations, cooperating within the
framework of the CIS and in regional and international
organizations, including the UN. An information exchange will
take part between the two leaders ministries, and there will
be joint training programs for personnel. Ivanov met with
officials from the UN and the United Tajik Opposition to
discuss the peace process. He also met with Tajik President
Imomali Rakhmonov to discuss the Tajik president's April
visit to Moscow. BP

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS DISTANCE FROM ELECTION LAW
CONTROVERSY. Robert Kocharian was unaware when he signed the
election law on 18 February that the text had been amended
since the parliament had passed the bill in the final reading
three days earlier, presidential spokesman Vahe Gabrielian
told journalists on 23 February. Gabrielian said Kocharian
had neither vetoed nor raised any objections to the law
because of the relatively short period remaining in which to
organize the poll, but the spokesman said that the president
does not exclude subsequent amendments to it, Noyan Tapan and
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian intends to hold
talks with leading political figures in the near future on
the conduct of the elections, according to ITAR-TASS.
Opposition parliamentary deputies continue to protest the
changes introduced into the text by the bill's author, Viktor
Dallakian, after the final reading (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23
February 1999). LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN FLOATS REGIONAL COOPERATION
INITIATIVE. Khosrov Harutiunian has written to his
Azerbaijani counterpart, Murtuz Alesqerov, to solicit the
latter's support for Harutiunian's proposal to convene a
meeting of Transcaucasus parliamentary chairmen under the
auspices of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of
Europe, Noyan Tapan reported on 23 February. The letter
stresses the importance of peaceful dialogue in seeking a
solution to the region's problems. It also proposes
conducting seminars on regional cooperation under PACE
auspices. A spokesman for the Azerbaijani parliament told
Turan on 23 February that Alesqerov has not yet received the
missive, which Armenia's ambassador in Moscow was to deliver
to his Azerbaijani counterpart (Armenia and Azerbaijan have
no diplomatic relations). LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CALLS FOR 'RESOLUTE ACTION' ON KARABAKH
CONFLICT. In a letter addressed to the French, Russian, and
U.S. co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group, Heidar Aliev urged
those officials to "act resolutely" to find a solution to the
Karabakh conflict, Interfax reported on 23 February. Aliev
said that his country's position is "constructive," but he
repeated that Azerbaijan "flatly rejects" the most recent
peace plan proposed by the Minsk Group. He said that plan,
which advocates a "common state" comprising Azerbaijan and
the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, "pushes the peace
process back and reduces the chance of a settlement." But the
Russian co-chairman, Yurii Yukalov, has denied that the Minsk
Group will deviate from its most recent peace proposal, Turan
reported on 23 February, citing Snark. LF

PREPARATIONS UNDER WAY FOR OSCE CHAIRMAN'S KARABAKH MEDIATION
TRIP. Meanwhile, a Norwegian Foreign Ministry delegation held
talks with senior officials in Stepanakert and Yerevan on 21-
22 February in preparation for the planned visit to the
Transcaucasus in April of Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut
Vollebaek, who is currently the OSCE chairman-in-office,
Noyan Tapan and Turan reported. Karabakh President Arkadii
Ghukasian told the delegation that he hopes Vollebaek's visit
will give new impetus to the peace process. Ghukasian
stressed the Karabakh Armenians' desire for a "strong peace"
based on mutual concessions and dialogue. The Norwegian
delegation will arrive in Baku on 24 February. LF

AZERBAIJANI BY-ELECTION TURNOUT FALSIFIED? A spokesman for
Azerbaijan's Central Electoral Commission told Turan on 22
February that by-elections held the previous day in two
districts of Baku were valid, with more than 60 percent of
registered voters participating. The spokesman said the CEC
has received no complaints about violations of voting
procedure. But on 23 February, Nureddin Mamedli, chairman of
the committee for the defense of the rights of former
parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev, said that in the Khatai
district, which Guliev represented in the parliament until
being stripped of his mandate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17
December 1997), only between 2,000 and 3,000 of the 47,000
eligible voters actually went to the polls. Candidates from
the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan party have been declared elected
in both districts. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CLARIFIES POSITION ON CIS SECURITY TREATY.
Eduard Shevardnadze's press service issued a statement on 23
February denying that Shevardnadze stated unequivocally that
Georgia will not renew its membership in the CIS Security
Treaty after that treaty expires in April, ITAR-TASS
reported. The statement quoted Shevardnadze as having said
the previous day that the treaty has not benefited Georgia
and that he intends to coordinate with Uzbekistan's President
Islam Karimov his position on whether to recommit Georgia to
membership. Karimov has said his country will not renew its
membership in the treaty. Shevardnadze said on 8 February
that Georgia would renew its membership in the treaty "if our
interests are taken into consideration" with regard to the
Abkhaz conflict and the continued presence of Russian
military bases in Georgia. LF

FORMER GEORGIAN SECURITY CHIEF'S WHEREABOUTS STILL UNCLEAR.
The Georgian embassy in Egypt and the Russian embassy in
Damascus have both said they can neither confirm nor deny
British press reports that Igor Giorgadze has been granted
asylum in Syria, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 February. The
Georgian authorities say former Security Minister Giorgadze
helped to organize the failed August 1995 car bomb attack on
Shevardnadze at Moscow's instigation. The Georgian press last
month quoted a French publication as claiming that Syrian
President Hafez Assad granted Giorgadze asylum in October
1998 at the request of the Russian Federal Security Service
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 1999). LF

KURDISH PROTESTS CONTINUE IN SEVERAL CIS STATES. Ethnic Kurds
in several CIS states continue to protest the arrest of
Kurdistan Workers' Party leader Abdullah Ocalan and to demand
his release. Some 30 Kurds, including an 11-year-old girl,
are continuing a hunger strike outside the UN building in
Yerevan, which they began on 19 February, Noyan Tapan
reported on 23 February. In Tbilisi, several hundred Kurds
staged a protest march, bringing traffic in the city center
to a standstill, and then demonstrated outside the Turkish
embassy to demand a fair trial for Ocalan, AP and "Rezonansi"
reported. In Kazakhstan, some 200 ethnic Kurds began a hunger
strike in the city of Taraz on 23 February, Interfax
reported. LF/BP

TAJIK PRESIDENT WARNS OF NEW THREAT FROM AFGHANISTAN. Imomali
Rakhmonov, speaking on 23 February at a ceremony marking
Defenders of Fatherland Day, warned that he had information
about a threat from terrorists training in Afghanistan,
RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported. Rakhmonov said
there are some 400 people undergoing sabotage training in
various areas of Afghanistan, with the goal of "creating
chaos" in parts of Tajikistan. He did not elaborate. BP

UN CALLS FOR SPEEDIER PROGRESS IN TAJIKISTAN. The UN Security
Council, in a statement issued on 23 February, called on the
Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) to
intensify their efforts at implementing all the terms of the
June 1997 Tajik National Peace Accord, signed in June 1997.
The council noted that progress toward holding a
constitutional referendum and presidential and parliamentary
elections has been slow during the last three months. (All
three votes are planned for this year.) The council also
expressed concern about security in some parts of the
country, reminding Tajik officials that international aid is
dependent on a stable environment. And it repeated calls for
a full investigation into the murders of four UN employees
last July in central Tajikistan, requesting that the UTO
"contribute more effectively to the investigation." BP

IRAN, RUSSIA NEED TO PLAY 'KEY ROLE' IN TAJIKISTAN. UN
special envoy to Tajikistan Jan Kubis told journalists in
Tehran on 23 February that Iran and Russia have been active
participants in establishing peace in Tajikistan. He called
on both countries now to play a "key role" in speeding up the
peace process there. And he thanked Iranian officials for
their help in seeking a "full and final normalization of the
situation in Tajikistan," ITAR-TASS reported. BP

KARIMOV REVEALS MORE DETAILS OF LAST WEEK'S BOMBINGS. Uzbek
President Islam Karimov, addressing diplomats and journalists
in Tashkent on 23 February, revealed more details of the 16
February terrorist bombings. One of the primary suspects,
Ulughbek Babajanov, had visited government headquarters six
times before the bombings, he said. Babajanov, who is still
at large, obtained permission to enter the building from a
deputy prime minister who Karimov did not name. That official
was guilty of negligence and poor judgment rather than
complicity in the attack, the president argued. Karimov also
said that not only Wahhabis but members of Hezbollah were
involved in planning the attack. According to AP, Karimov
said the attacks were planned in a foreign country, but he
did not name which one. BP

LOCAL UZBEK OFFICIALS ASKED TO HELP IN INVESTIGATION. ITAR-
TASS reported on 22 February that passport control in
Uzbekistan has been tightened and the government has asked
local officials and committees to help in the investigation
of last week's bombings. The news outlet quotes a "high
official in the country's passport agency" as saying these
local officials and committees are, in effect, carrying out a
census in order to identify suspicious individuals. Crime has
reportedly decreased dramatically in Uzbekistan since the
attacks, and while no curfew has been imposed, the streets of
Tashkent are reportedly almost deserted after 9:00 p.m. local
time. BP

KYRGYZ AGRICULTURAL MINISTRY REVIEWS LAST YEAR'S RESULTS. The
Agricultural Ministry on 23 February announced that last
year's agricultural output totaled 19.6 billion som ($654
million), RFE/RL correspondents reported. Prime Minister
Jumabek Ibraimov noted that most of the money from foreign
loans for agriculture has been embezzled, and he advised more
stringent control over such funds. He added that agriculture
is the only sphere of the Kyrgyz economy that can ensure
"real growth" of GDP in 1999-2000, Interfax reported. BP

END NOTE

LOOKING BACK TO THE FUTURE

By Paul Goble

	A 19th-century Russian foreign minister has again been
held up as a model for Moscow's foreign policy because of his
ability to use "the force of the word" to prevent other
powers from exploiting Russia's time of relative weakness.
	Writing in the latest issue of the Russian Foreign
Ministry's journal "International Affairs," Viktor Lopatnikov
follows on from the celebration begun by Yevgenii Primakov
last year of Aleksandr Gorchakov, Russia's foreign minister
for nearly a generation after the country's defeat in the
Crimean War.
	Lopatnikov, who represents the Foreign Ministry in Saint
Petersburg, argues that Gorchakov's approach to dealing with
the outside world remains "amazingly topical today." And he
suggests that Russian officials study three aspects of
Gorchakov's approach in order to learn how to act in the
future.
	First, Lopatnikov says, Gorchakov's immense dignity in
the face of the indignities Russia suffered following its
defeat in Crimea not only helped restore Russian national
pride but had the effect of demonstrating to foreigners that
Russia is, in the poet Fyodor Tyutchev's words, "a country
that cannot be measured by an ordinary yardstick."
	To the extent that foreign powers recognize that fact,
Lopatnikov argues, they did not in the 19th century and will
not be interested in the future in exploiting Russia when it
is "concentrating" on its domestic affairs.
	These powers, he continues, will thus find themselves
once again caught between their own recognition that Russia
is a country unlike any other and their acceptance of Russian
demands that Russia be treated as an equal. Being thus
trapped, they will be forced to give more deference to Russia
than its position might otherwise justify.
	Second, Lopatnikov argues, Gorchakov understood that
Russia simultaneously must be extremely selective in deciding
where it will actually get involved. It must also insist on
its right to deploy its diplomatic and political muscle
wherever it deems necessary.
	On the one hand, as Gorchakov showed, that stance will
keep other powers off balance and thus allow Russia to use
diplomacy rather than force to prevent any combination from
arising against its interests. And on the other, it will
allow Russia to focus on the recovery of its domestic
economy, the ultimate source of its power.
	As Primakov argued last spring on the 200th anniversary
of Gorchakov's birth, this domestic focus both provides an
anchor for stabilizing Russia's foreign policy and guarantees
that Russian advances internationally can always be justified
in terms that other powers are likely to find acceptable
rather than aggressive.
	And third, Lopatnikov suggests, Gorchakov recognized
that the chief focus of Russian foreign policy must be along
its own borders. The 20th-century diplomat notes the praise
his 19th-century predecessor received for doing just that.
	In 1864, Aleksandr II formally congratulated Gorchakov
for his use of "the force of the word" to disarm the enemies
of Russia, an action the tsar said guaranteed that
Gorchakov's name would be entered in "the future chronicle of
the Fatherland."
	Lopatnikov does not provide the text of Gorchakov's
message that won Aleksandr's approval. But most of his
readers are likely to recall with precision just what policy
the 19th-century foreign minister was advancing.
	On 21 November 1864, Gorchakov issued a dispatch
justifying the Russian imperial advance into Central Asia. He
argued in terms that many of his European counterparts would
have found difficult to answer: "The position of Russia in
Central Asia is that of all civilized states which come into
contact with half-savage, nomadic populations who possess no
fixed social organization."
	In such cases, Gorchakov said, "the more civilized state
is forced, in the interests of security and commerce, to
exercise a certain ascendancy over those whose turbulent and
unsettled character makes them most undesirable neighbors."
	Presumably, Lopatnikov would not endorse these specific
terms for the present and future. But his and Primakov's
enthusiasm for Gorchakov who uttered them may confuse some
Russian diplomats and create problems for others.

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