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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 42, Part I, 2 March 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 42, Part I, 2 March 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * BORDYUZHA ORDERS CABINET CORRUPTION PROBE * SPLIT EMERGES AMONG RUSSIA'S CREDITORS * GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS START RETURNING TO ABKHAZIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA BORDYUZHA ORDERS CABINET CORRUPTION PROBE... Nikolai Bordyuzha, head of the presidential administration and Security Council, instructed his staff to investigate corruption allegations, specifically those included in a 25 February "Nezavisimaya gazeta" article, against members of Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's cabinet, Interfax reported on 1 March. The article hinted that First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov procured government contracts for companies in which he or relatives had an interest. It also suggested that the entire cabinet is riddled with corruption. The previous day, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii repeated his earlier demand that the government respond to charges of corruption. Maslyukov said that they emanated from organs controlled by politically powerful businessmen whose names are "symbols of corruption, economic crime, and political extremism." That "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives financial backing from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group has prompted some analysts to speculate that Berezovskii himself is trying to discredit Primakov and his cabinet. JAC ...AS BEREZOVSKII LABELS CABINET 'DANGEROUS.' Berezovskii told reporters on 1 March that the course being pursued by Primakov's cabinet is "very dangerous." Nevertheless, he added, he will not push for the cabinet's resignation. "Moskovskii komsomolets," a newspaper with close ties to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, a Berezovskii foe, suggested on 1 March that the return to television of journalist Sergei Dorenko was evidence supporting rumors that President Boris Yeltsin ordered Primakov to put a stop to attacks on Berezovskii. Russian Public Television, in which Berezovskii reportedly owns shares, has recently come under pressure, and the Duma has demanded that Berezovskii resign from his post as CIS executive secretary. Dorenko is reportedly close to Berezovskii. JAC STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS POSTPONED. President Yeltsin's doctors on 2 March declared his health "normal." Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told ITAR-TASS that Yeltsin's annual state-of-the-nation address, which is usually delivered at the end of February or the beginning of March, will likely be pushed back until the end of March. Russian newspapers widely blamed Yeltsin for his latest health set- back, noting that he had attended the funeral of Jordan's King Hussein against his doctors' advice. JAC SPLIT EMERGES AMONG RUSSIA'S CREDITORS. Chase Manhattan on 1 March followed Deutsche Bank's lead in announcing an agreement with the Russian government on terms for restructuring frozen defaulted short-term treasury bonds, Reuters reported. Headed by Deutsche Bank, the 19 foreign banks negotiating with the Russian government had put up a more or less united front. However, disagreements reportedly emerged among those banks that wanted to settle and those that are contemplating legal action against Russia in order to obtain better terms. "Izvestiya" noted on 3 March that for the last two months, German and Russian government officials had been conducting talks on the issue, and "the role of politics in Deutsche Bank's decision was apparently quite large." According to the newspaper, the Ministry of Finance asked on 26 February that creditors be given until 30 April to accept or reject the government's terms. JAC GOVERNMENT TO MEDDLE WITH FOOD PRICES. Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik announced on 1 March that Primakov's government intends to "strictly control prices on foodstuffs," Interfax reported. According to Kulik, priority will be given to regulating the prices of bread, dairy products, and vegetable oil. He acknowledged that Russian food prices are already much lower than world prices. For example, the price of one ton of grain costs $110-$120 on the world market and $50-$70 on the Russian market. Meanwhile, First Deputy Minister of Agriculture Vladimir Shcherbak told Interfax that Russia may set minimum prices for sugar beets and sugar. According to Scherbak, "sugar prices are artificially low" and do not provide enough incentive to plant a large crop. JAC PREPARATION OF POLITICAL PEACE TREATY NEARING COMPLETION. The working group preparing a draft statement on the political accord between Russia's branches of government met on 27 February and 1 March, Russian Television (RTR) reported. Duma deputy and head of the Russian Regions faction Oleg Morozov said the draft document is almost ready and will be forwarded to the presidential administration, the cabinet, and Federation Council on 2 March. According to RTR, the most controversial elements of the accord will be a Duma proposal for a constitutional amendment requiring the formation of a government of the parliamentary majority after legislative and presidential elections. JAC MORE INDICATORS OF ECONOMIC DECLINE. More than 55 percent of all large and medium-sized companies were unprofitable in 1998, according to the State Statistics Committee, ITAR-TASS reported. Agriculture was among the sectors hardest hit, registering a 35 billion ($1.5 billion) loss. Meanwhile, the flow of foreign capital slipped 4.2 percent last year and foreign trade turnover 17.6 percent. In January, five of Russia's major industries--manufacturing, agriculture, construction, transport, and trade/public catering--recorded a decline of 6.6 percent in their output of goods and services compared with the previous year, according to the State Statistics Committee, Interfax reported. JAC CHIZHOV DISMISSED. Before leaving for his vacation on 28 February, Prime Minister Primakov signed a decree dismissing First Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Chizhov. Citing "a source close to the government," Interfax reported that at the request of Aeroflot general director Valerii Okulov, Chizhov has been offered the post of first deputy director- general of Aeroflot with special responsibility for the company's economic and financial performance. Chizhov was criticized by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 24 February for his role in the upcoming privatization of a Bulgarian oil company. JAC ORTHODOX CHURCH SPEAKS OUT AGAINST SCIENTOLOGY. Moscow Patriarchate spokesman Father Vsevolod told Interfax on 1 March that the Russian Orthodox Church considers the Church of Scientology a socially dangerous totalitarian sect that negatively affects persons' personalities and family relationships. He added that the Orthodox Church wants an "appropriate legal assessment of the unseemly acts" of the Russian Scientology community. Last week, policeman raided the offices of Church of Scientology offices reportedly looking for evidence of criminal activities. JAC PENTECOSTALS MOUNT PROTEST IN SAKHA. About 60 members of a Pentecostalist group seized a public building in the village of Kutana in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), threatening to commit suicide en masse if the police forced them to leave that building, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 March. According to the news agency, the group took over the building to protest the local residents' decision to expel them from the village. Two years ago, the group reportedly occupied a police station in the neighboring raion of Ust-Mayskii. JAC INGUSHETIA ELECTS NEW PARLIAMENT. Some 50.7 percent of Ingushetia's 115,000-strong electorate cast their votes in the republic's 28 February parliamentary elections. The minimum required turnout was 25 percent. A total of 122 candidates contested the 21 parliamentary seats. Two seats were earmarked for representatives of the Russian-speaking population, and one for Ingushetia's Chechen minority. The party affiliation of the new deputies is not known, with the exception of one member of the pro-presidential Daimokhk movement. A member of Ingushetia's electoral commission told Interfax on 1 March that no complaints of procedural violations have been filed either by candidates or voters. President Ruslan Aushev said on 1 March that the immediate priority of the new parliament is to prepare elections to a state council that will amend the republic's constitution and decide on procedures for electing the next president, Interfax reported. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA NEW ARMENIAN ENVOY TO BELARUS, CIS APPOINTED. President Robert Kocharian on 1 March named Suren Harutiunian as Armenia's ambassador to Belarus and plenipotentiary representative to the CIS. Harutiunian served as Armenian Communist Party first secretary from May 1988 until April 1990, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He then worked for the Soviet Foreign Ministry and later its Russian counterpart. LF ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER TO REMAIN HEAD OF PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION. Self-Determination Union chairman Paruyr Hairikian has withdrawn his threat to resign as chairman of the presidential commission on constitutional reform, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 1 March. Hairikian had said that he would tender his resignation if President Kocharian did not overrule the commission's 19 February decision not to include the introduction of dual citizenship in a package of proposed constitutional amendments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 1999). Senior members of the Self-Determination Union said Kocharian asked the commission last week to propose the abolition of the constitutional article banning dual citizenship. LF AZERBAIJAN SAYS NATO BASES SOLE DEFENSE AGAINST RUSSIA. In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 27 February, Azerbaijani presidential adviser Vafa Guluzade said his recent proposals that Azerbaijan should host either U.S. or Turkish military bases are "a cry of despair" prompted by Russia's ongoing support for Armenia's occupation of Azerbaijani territory. He said Azerbaijan "cannot exist if it does not enter some security system or other." He added that Baku cannot accept Moscow's invitation to enter its security system while Azerbaijani territory is still occupied. Russia must fundamentally revise its policy toward Azerbaijan if does not want NATO bases to appear there, Guluzade continued. The official also said that the work of the OSCE Minsk Group has not yielded any progress toward resolving the Karabakh conflict, which he characterized as between Azerbaijan and Russia, not Azerbaijan and Armenia. LF ARMENIA CALLS FOR DIRECT TALKS BETWEEN BAKU, STEPANAKERT. Writing in the 2 March issue of "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Armenian Foreign Ministry official Arsen Gasparian affirmed that "the territory of the former Azerbaijan SSR is the homeland of two peoples, Azerbaijanis and Armenians, and relations between them are not a question of a majority or a minority but of a partnership of equals." Gasparian said that progress in the deadlocked Karabakh mediation process is contingent on direct talks between Baku and the Armenian leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. In his interview with that newspaper, Guluzade had termed then Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's 1996 proposal to embark on such direct talks one of the reasons for the deadlock in the peace process. LF GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS START RETURNING TO ABKHAZIA... Abkhaz and Georgian officials have given widely differing estimates of the number of Georgians who wish to take up Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba's offer to allow Georgian displaced persons who fled Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion during the 1992-1993 war or the renewed hostilities in May 1998 to return to their homes beginning on 1 March. Georgian parliamentary deputy Vakhtang Kolbaya told Caucasus Press on 1 March that only three Georgians have crossed the bridge over the River Inguri, which marks the internal border. He denied that the Georgian displaced persons who have been picketing the bridge for the past two weeks to protest Ardzinba's initiative have prevented persons who wished to cross from doing so. But Abkhaz Security Minister Astamur Tarba said some 300 persons have gathered near the bridge but are being prevented by the picketers from crossing into Gali Raion. LF ...AMID DIVERGING RUSSIAN ASSESSMENTS. Russian special envoy for Abkhazia Lev Mironov predicted that only those Georgian displaced persons whose living conditions in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi are unbearable will accept Ardzinba's invitation to return, Caucasus Press reported on 1 March. Echoing the standard objection voiced by the Georgian leadership, he added that it is "risky" for Georgians to return to Gali without adequate security guarantees. Mironov pointed out that the Russian peacekeepers deployed along the internal border cannot protect all villages and that therefore the Abkhaz leadership must assume the responsibility for the returnees' safety, which it has undertaken to do. But ITAR-TASS on 1 March quoted Nikolai Rusak, political adviser to the Russian peacekeeping force, as saying that the Abkhaz leadership made the correct decision in initiating the unilateral return of the displaced persons. LF ETHNIC GREEKS IN GEORGIA WANT DUAL CITIZENSHIP. Meeting with the Georgian parliamentary committee for human rights and national minorities, representatives of Georgia's ethnic Greek minority, estimated to number some 100,000, affirmed their support for the policies pursued by the present Georgian leadership, Caucasus Press reported on 26 February. At the same time, the Greeks expressed regret that the Georgian Constitution does not allow dual citizenship and that no Greeks are represented in the upper echelons of the country's leadership. They called on the parliament to expedite the passage of a law on national minorities. LF AZERBAIJAN ACCUSES RUSSIA OF VIOLATING AIRSPACE. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 27 February claiming that a Russian MiG entered Azerbaijani airspace from Armenia for a period of two minutes on 25 February, Turan and Reuters reported on 1 March. The statement termed the incident the direct consequence of Russian arms deliveries to Russian bases in Armenia and proof that those arms deliveries are not, as Russia claims, exclusively for defensive purposes. Reuters quoted an unnamed senior Azerbaijani Defense Ministry official as saying that Azerbaijan could have shot down the intruder but chose not to do so. LF AZERBAIJAN'S HONORARY CONSUL IN ST. PETERSBURG INJURED IN SHOOTING. Gudsi Osmanov was hospitalized on 28 February after being shot and wounded in his office, ITAR--TASS reported the following day. A spokesman for the St. Petersburg police said there were no political motive for the attack and that the perpetrators are known with a reasonable degree of certainty. LF PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY IN KAZAKHSTAN HOLDS FOUNDING CONGRESS. The reconfigured political party Otan held its founding congress in Almaty on 1 March, ITAR-TASS reported. The 380 delegates unanimously elected President Nursultan Nazarbayev as party chairman. Nazarbayev, who was present, declined to assume that post, pointing out that the country's constitution forbids an incumbent president to simultaneously be chairman of a political party. The delegates accepted Nazarbayev's recommendation that former Prime Minister Sergei Tereshchenko be elected chairman. Tereshchenko was also Nazarbayev's campaign manager during the recent presidential election campaign. According to Tereshchenko, there are 35,000 members of Otan, which recently merged with the Liberal Movement, the Popular Unity Party, and the Democratic Party, hence the need for a founding congress. Nazarbayev urged delegates not to allow Otan to become "a party of elites" but rather to "unite a broad spectrum of people." BP JAPANESE OIL COMPANY SIGNS CONTRACT WITH KAZAHSTAN. The Japanese National Oil Corporation signed an agreement with Kazakhstan's national oil company, Kazakhoil, in Astana on 1 March, Interfax reported. Under the terms of the agreement, the Japanese corporation will spend $50 million during the next three years to prospect in three different areas in western Kazakhstan. BP KAZAKHSTAN TO CUT ARMY BY 50 PERCENT. Kazakhstan's Defense Ministry announced on 1 March that it intends to cut the number of army personnel by 50 percent, Interfax reported. The ministry plans to accomplish all the cuts "within months," mainly by reducing the length of service for conscript sergeants and privates from two years to one. The Defense Ministry had announced on 24 February that it will create an all-volunteer army by 2000. However, a law on alternative service, which is to be drafted soon, will allow draftees to avoid military service by paying a fee but will oblige them to undergo basic military training. BP ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS KAZAKHSTAN. Raul Malk met with his Kazakh counterpart, Kasymjomart Tokayev, in Astana on 1 March, BNS and Interfax reported. The two signed an agreement on avoiding double taxation. Malk mentioned his country's desire to ship goods to China via Kazakhstan, and Tokayev said Kazakhstan would like greater access to Estonian port facilities for metals, oil, and grain exports. BP GAS SUPPLIES FROM UZBEKISTAN TO KYRGYZSTAN RESUMED. The managing director of Kyrgyzgaz, Ishenbek Omurbekov, told RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek on 27 February that supplies of natural gas from Uzbekistan have been restored (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 1999). Omurbekov said it may take as long as one week for full supplies to reach Kyrgyzstan. BP UZBEK TELEVISION ACCUSED OF BROADCASTING ANTI-KYRGYZ PROGRAMS. Parliamentary deputy Dooronbek Sadyrbayev told Kyrgyzstan's Legislative Assembly on 1 March, that on a recent visit to his constituency in Jalalabad he had seen television broadcasts from Uzbekistan that were anti-Kyrgyz in nature, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. Sadyrbayev said the programming criticized political and economic reforms in Kyrgyzstan and was partly targeted at President Askar Akayev. The mountain ranges that divide Kyrgyzstan mean that it easier for people in southern Kyrgyzstan, particularly in the Kyrgyz section of the Fergana Valley, to receive Uzbek broadcasts than national ones. Sadyrbayev told a 19 February session of the parliament that Uzbekistan has moved some of its border posts into Kyrgyz territory by as much as 24 kilometers. BP ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK TO GIVE LOANS TO TAJIKISTAN, KYRGYZSTAN. The Asian Development Bank will grant Tajikistan soft loans of $40 million annually from 1999-2002, Interfax reported on 1 March. The bank will also extend loans of $4 million annually to develop Tajikistan's energy sector, agriculture, the infrastructure, health care, and education system. On 27 February the Asian Development Bank said it will give Kyrgyzstan a $45 million loan this year, $40 million for the agricultural sector and $5 million for reconstruction of the Bishkek-Osh highway, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. BP ANOTHER PRESIDENTIAL PARDON FOR FOREIGNERS IN TURKMEN JAILS. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov on 1 March ordered 379 foreign nationals serving sentences in Turkmen jails to be released and sent home, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Niyazov called this latest pardon a "gesture of good will" to strengthen friendly relations with "partner nations." Those pardoned come from CIS countries, Pakistan, Latvia, Turkey, and Syria. Niyazov has ordered thousands of prisoners freed this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1999). BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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