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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 45, Part I, 5 March 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 45, Part I, 5 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 * BEREZOVSKII SACKED * PRIMAKOV, CAMDESSUS MEETING ON SCHEDULE FOR LATE MARCH * OPPOSITION LEADER IMPLICATED IN TASHKENT BOMBINGS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA BEREZOVSKII SACKED... Russian President Boris Yeltsin, acting in his capacity as chairman of the Council of CIS Heads of State, on 4 March fired Boris Berezovskii as CIS executive secretary. Berezovskii had been appointed to that post at the suggestion of the Ukrainian and Georgian presidents during the CIS summit in Moscow last spring (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 1998). In a statement issued by the presidential press service, Yeltsin said Berezovskii exceeded the limits of his executive authority and failed to implement unspecified instructions by the chairman of the Council of CIS Heads of State. Yeltsin named Ivan Korotchenya, Berezovskii's predecessor, as acting CIS executive secretary. Berezovskii's dismissal must be endorsed by the presidents of the other CIS member states. LF ...BUT REMAINS DEFIANT? Despite orders from Yeltsin to return to Moscow immediately, Berezovskii remained in Baku, having met earlier on 4 March in Dushanbe with President Imomali Rakhmonov and in Tashkent with Islam Karimov to discuss his plans for CIS reform, which virtually all CIS presidents have approved. Meeting the next day with President Heidar Aliev in the Azerbaijani capital, Berezovskii blamed his dismissal on unnamed Russian circles intent on "issuing orders and controlling developments throughout the CIS from Moscow," according to ITAR-TASS. Berezovskii's appointment and his efforts to reanimate the CIS by transforming it into a primarily economic grouping were intended to allay widespread misgivings among CIS presidents engendered by Yeltsin's threats at the March 1997 CIS summit. Yeltsin had threatened to sabotage domestic political stability in some CIS states in order to bind them closer to Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1997). Misgivings among CIS member were intensified by heated disagreements at the Chisinau summit in October 1997. LF MOSCOW SWIRLS WITH RUMORS. A report in "Argumenty i Fakty" from 3 March that President Yeltsin will soon reshuffle Yevgenii Primakov's cabinet by firing all Communists has unleashed a frenzy of speculation. Presidential administration officials were busy on 4 March making television appearances to deny an imminent shake-up. Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told reporters that Yeltsin has not ordered Primakov to fire all Communists from the government. He noted that "it's sad to see that a brief report that is all fabrication could snowball with details and take on a kind of reality." State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told reporters that media reports were "disinformation and absolute fiction," while Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov warned that "either the government continues to work with the same composition or there will be a serious government crisis." JAC ABSENCE OF LEADER ON DUTY TRIGGERS ANXIETY, OR IS BEREZOVSKII TO BLAME? Rather than calming the nation, or at least the capital, the joint television appearance of Yeltsin and Primakov on 25 February pledging their commitment to each other and to stay in office at least until 2000 had the opposite effect, causing at least some newspapers to conclude that Primakov's days are numbered. Our Home Is Russia faction leader Vladimir Ryzhov attributed the nation's "groundless" nervousness to the fact that Yeltsin is in the hospital while Primakov is away on vacation and that few people understand what their meeting, which took place before Primakov left, was all about. Presidential administration head Nikolai Bordyuzha said that a video interview of that meeting had not been televised for purely technical reasons, not political ones. Some political analysts believe that former CIS executive secretary Berezovskii was deliberately stoking the rumors through media outlets he controls, such as "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and that with his departure, such speculation may subside. JAC COOK WRAPS UP VISIT. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook wrapped up his visit to Russia on 5 March, with a side trip to Sochi on the Black Sea, where Prime Minister Primakov is currently vacationing. On the issues of Kosova and Iraq, Cook and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov agreed to disagree after four-hours talks in Moscow the previous day. Cook said that London has no intention of halting air strikes against Iraq. He also welcomed Russian participation in an international peace-keeping force in Kosova. However, Ivanov reasserted that "Yugoslavia is a sovereign state, and only with Belgrade's agreement can international forces be deployed there." Cook and Ivanov did not discuss Russia's recently troubled relationship with the IMF, "a diplomatic source" told Interfax. That issue will be taken up by Prime Minister Primakov in Sochi. JAC RUSSIAN OFFICIALS VIEW NATO EXPANSION. With three former Soviet bloc countries poised to join NATO on 12 March, Duma Chairman Seleznev said on 4 March that he feels "regret, if not surprise" over the eagerness of East European leaders to join the alliance, since history shows that when a grouping claims a leading role in Europe, destructive conflicts tend to flare up. First Deputy Chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff Colonel-General Valerii Manilov told members of the Duma that "the NATO military machine is approaching the Russian border" and "demands concerted, well-coordinated, and confident actions from Russia." Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii had other ideas, suggesting in a proposal to the State Duma that Russia cut off natural gas supplies to the Czech Republic the day after it joins the alliance, CTK reported. JAC PRIMAKOV, CAMDESSUS MEETING ON SCHEDULE FOR LATE MARCH. Prime Minister Primakov and IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus will meet in Washington on 24 March, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported on 4 March. Meanwhile, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov adopted a more conciliatory tone toward the fund than he had used in the past week, returning to his former optimism. He said that "a real rapprochement in negotiations with the IMF might be expected within the next few days, which might be followed by the arrival of an IMF mission in Moscow." The same day IMF Moscow representative Martin Gilman told Interfax that the situation regarding the timing of the return of the IMF mission to Moscow has not changed. According to Gilman, the mission could return at any time, but only if talks are likely to be productive and "will lead to a rapid conclusion of an agreement for [IMF] support for the Russian government's program." JAC LOW EXPECTATIONS FOR FOREIGN INVESTMENT. Although the government has finally taken action to improve Russia's investment climate, such as adopting amendments to production-sharing agreement (PSA) legislation, it expects to attract only a "maximum of $1 billion in foreign investment" in 1999, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 March. But even the government understands that for investors, the advantages of PSAs are not very great at the moment. At the latest government meeting on investment policy, it was clear, according to the newspaper, that the government "is eager to support investments but it does not know how. The only question it has decided is that of state investments." The cabinet decided to devote only 15 percent of GDP to investment--the same policy that was followed at the beginning of the 1990s. The newspaper concluded that with such a low level of investment, "the nation is destined to descend the staircase of the world economic hierarchy" and "will have to scale down its high-technology industries." JAC MOSCOW POOH-POOHS U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS REPORTS. The press service of the Moscow city government told ITAR-TASS on 4 March that information contained in the U.S. State Department's human rights report is misleading and inaccurate. According to the service, the Moscow city government has never pursued a policy, as the report alleges, of deporting Chechens and other persons of Caucasian nationality from Moscow. Press service officials responded to the report's criticism that Moscow has not allowed entry to refugees from Armenia, Asia, and African countries with a legitimate need for political asylum, noting that Moscow is not a sovereign state and issues such as the granting of asylum come under the jurisdiction of federal authorities. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA DASHNAKS WANT ARMENIAN PRESIDENT TO GUARANTEE FAIR ELECTIONS... Senior members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (HHD), which supports President Robert Kocharian, told journalists in Yerevan on 4 March that the country's present leadership, and Kocharian personally, should ensure that the May 30 parliamentary elections are free and fair, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. HHD leader Vahan Hovannisian stressed that the new parliament "must be legitimate" and its members elected on the basis of their ideological views. The HHD shares many opposition parties' reservations about the new election law and will continue to lobby for amendments to it, according to Rouben Hakopian, the HHD's only deputy in the parliament. The HHD has held talks with the Republican Party and the Communist Party on cooperating to prevent election fraud and will also discuss that issue with the National Democratic Union. (AZhM). LF ...WHICH MANUKIAN BELIEVES ARE UNLIKELY. "Yerkir" on 3 March quoted AZhM chairman Vazgen Manukian as expressing doubt that the upcoming parliamentary poll will be democratic. Manukian recalled Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian's recent statement that "absolutely free and fair elections are impossible in a small country like Armenia." But Albert Bazeyan, deputy parliament speaker and chairman of the Yerkrapah majority parliamentary group, said that group is "ready to cooperate with all political forces in the matter of ensuring free and fair elections and help leaders of other parties to be elected in different electoral districts," Noyan Tapan reported on 4 March. LF ARMENIAN PRESIDENT CREATES COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE PRIVATIZATION SCANDAL. President Kocharian has formed a presidential commission to look into allegations that the creation of the ArmenTel telecommunications company in the early 1990s and the firm's subsequent privatization were characterized by large-scale corruption, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 4 March, citing the presidential press service. Leading opposition parties had unsuccessfully attempted last month to create an analogous parliamentary commission. Some opposition leaders have alleged that senior Armenian government officials had accepted millions of dollars in kickbacks from ArmenTel's former U.S. shareholder, US Trans World Telecom (TWT). TWT had a 49 percent share in ArmenTel until December 1997, when Greece's OTE paid $142 million for 90 percent of its stock. ArmenTel's current Greek owner has so far refrained from commenting on the corruption accusations against its predecessors. OTE has been the target of much criticism in Amenia since last December, when it announced a drastic increase in telephone charges. LF AZERBAIJAN TO PARTICIPATE IN KOSOVA PEACEKEEPING FORCE. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 4 March saying that it informed NATO on 26 February of its willingness to send a contingent to serve as part of the NATO peacekeeping force in Kosova, Interfax and Turan reported. Azerbaijani presidential adviser for foreign policy Vafa Guluzade had told ITAR-TASS two days earlier that Azerbaijan accepted NATO's invitation to participate in the operation. The 30-man Azerbaijani platoon will be attached to a Turkish battalion, and Ankara will cover all its expenses. Azerbaijan already has eight observers serving with the OSCE observer force in Kosova. LF CORRECTION: "RFE/RL Newsline" on 3 March cited Noyan Tapan as reporting that the military attache at the Russian embassy in Yerevan had admitted that Azerbaijani claims that a Russian fighter aircraft had violated Azerbaijani airspace on 25 February could be true. Noyan Tapan on 4 March retracted that information as inaccurate. SUSPECT IN SHEVARDNADZE ASSASSINATION BID DEPORTED TO GEORGIA. Valerii Gabelia, former prefect of Georgia's Marneuli Raion, was flown to Tbilisi from Moscow on 4 March, Caucasus Press reported the following day, citing "Dilis gazeti." A supporter of deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Gabelia had been detained by Moscow police last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 1999). The Georgian Prosecutor-General's Office has accused Gabelia of helping organize the failed attempt to assassinate President Shevardnadze in February 1998. LF GEORGIA, TURKEY TO INTENSIFY DEFENSE COOPERATION. Representatives of the Turkish armed forces general staff and the Georgian Defense Ministry signed a protocol in Tbilisi on 4 March whereby Turkey will provide additional financial and technical aid to the Georgian armed forces over five years, Interfax and Turan reported. Last year, Ankara allocated $5.5 million to the Georgian armed forces. Turkey will also continue training Georgian military officers in Turkey. LF AFGHAN NEGOTIATIONS SET FOR 10 MARCH IN ASHGABAT. The UN Secretary-General's special envoy for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, announced in Islamabad on 4 March that representatives from the Taliban and the Northern Alliance will meet in Ashgabat on 10 March for talks, AFP and Pakistani newspaper "The News" reported. Brahimi credited Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov with helping to bring both sides to the negotiating table (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 1999). Brahimi said the negotiations offered "the last chance" for the two factions to reach a settlement, but he cautioned against "too much optimism" because of the "rigid" attitudes of both sides. BP OPPOSITION LEADER IMPLICATED IN TASHKENT BOMBINGS. The chairman of Uzbekistan's banned opposition party Erk has been named as a suspect in the 16 February bombings in Tashkent, Uzbek Television reported on 1 March. Mohammed Solih, who ran against incumbent President Islam Karimov in the 1991 presidential election, was called a "traitor to his motherland" and was accused of bringing "young men" to Chechnya via Turkey to receive training in sabotage. The television station also linked Solih with former Chechen acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, calling the two "friends." Interfax on 4 March cited an article in Uzbekistan's daily newspaper "Pravda Vostoka" as reporting that Solih also has connections with "Takhir Yuldash, a Wahhabi." The article claimed Yuldash "wanders around Peshawar, Istanbul, Chechnya, Kabul, and Karaganda" and that "we know what these secret meetings are aimed at. It's naive to believe that Yuldash has no hand in the attack on the president. Yuldash shamelessly says he will need Solih after seizing power." BP IMF INCREASES LOANS TO KYRGYZSTAN. The IMF on 4 March announced it will augment planned loans to Kyrgyzstan, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. The fund said it will provide $12 million in addition to an already approved three-year loan, bringing the loan to a total of $100 million. Kyrgyzstan will receive immediately a $26 million tranche, as well as the extra $12 million. The IMF said the increase is necessary owing to the "external shock" of Russia's financial crisis. The IMF predicted that Kyrgyz economic growth for 1999 will be 3 percent, up on last year's 2 percent growth but well short of the 10 percent registered in 1997. 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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