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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 45, Part I, 5 March 1999


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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

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Headlines, Part I

* BEREZOVSKII SACKED

* PRIMAKOV, CAMDESSUS MEETING ON SCHEDULE FOR LATE MARCH

* OPPOSITION LEADER IMPLICATED IN TASHKENT BOMBINGS
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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

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