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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 47, Part I, 9 March 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 47, Part I, 9 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

* YELTSIN RESIGNATION WOULD OPEN WAY FOR STALINISTS, AIDE
SAYS

* STEPASHIN ISSUES ULTIMATUM TO GROZNY

* FUGITIVE ARMENIAN EX-MINISTER REELECTED CHAIRMAN OF FORMER
RULING PARTY
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN RESIGNATION WOULD OPEN WAY FOR STALINISTS, AIDE SAYS.
In an interview with "Die Welt" published on 8 March, Oleg
Sysuev, first deputy chief of the presidential staff, said
that President Boris Yeltsin and his government are working
to stabilize conditions in Russia and that Yeltsin's
premature resignation would open the way to "a representative
of the third force," namely, nationalists and Stalinists.
Sysuev added that Russia will achieve stability and become a
"state power with democratic and market-oriented principles"
no sooner "than the end of the term of the next president, in
2004." PG

PRIMAKOV TO RETURN TO MOSCOW. Prime Minister Yevgenii
Primakov is scheduled to return to work in Moscow on 9 March,
ITAR-TASS reported. He has been on leave in Sochi since 27
February, but during that time, he met with British Foreign
Secretary Robin Cook and various Russian officials. He also
conducted negotiations with IMF Managing Director Michel
Camdessus over the telephone. PG

WESTERN BANKS ACCEPT RUSSIAN GKO PROPOSAL. Western banks who
hold Russian GKO securities have accepted in principle a
Russian plan to unblock payments on overdue short-term
Treasury bills, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 March. The 19 banks
are now considering the specifics of the agreement, which
would see payments resume on 30 April. PG

ONE LOCAL LAW IN FIVE CONTRADICTS CONSTITUTION. Justice
Minister Pavel Krashenninikov told the Duma on 5 March that
approximately 20 percent of all legal acts contradict the
federal constitution, ITAR-TASS reported. He indicated that
the situation is somewhat better in the regions and that a
new register of regional normative acts should ensure closer
conformity with constitutional standards. PG

FOUR ZHIRINOVSKY DEPUTIES MAY SUPPORT YELTSIN'S IMPEACHMENT.
Aleksei Mitrofanov, a member of Vladimir Zhirinovskii's
ultranationalist party and chairman of the Duma's
geopolitical committee, told Interfax on 9 March that four or
more of the deputies in his faction "are close to voting in
favor of Yeltsin's impeachment." PG

INDUSTRIALISTS CHALLENGE COMMUNISTS IN 'RED ZONE.' Several
senior industrial directors have indicated that they will
"seize power" from communist local officials who gained
election several years ago unless the latter change their
economic policies, "Novie izvestiya" reported on 6 March. PG

DUMA CONCERNED ABOUT U.S. AIRSTRIKES AGAINST IRAQ. Duma
Deputy Speaker Mikhail Gutseriev told ITAR-TASS on 8 March
that "the continuing U.S. air strikes [against] Iraq is a
matter of increasingly serious concern" for the Russian
parliament. "The U.S. is again using force by itself without
obtaining approval of all UN Security Council members." PG

SYNAGOGUE IN NOVOSIBIRSK VANDALIZED. Jewish leaders in Russia
told Western agencies that vandals desecrated a newly
rededicated synagogue in Novosibirsk on the night of 7-8
March . The attackers destroyed much of the interior and
painted swastikas and the signature of the Russian National
Unity movement on the walls. While no one was hurt, Rabbi
Berel Lazar of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Moscow
said the attack qualified as "a pogrom," Reuters reported.
But local Russian officials played down the attack. A
Novosibirsk police official said that "nothing terrible
happened here," suggesting that "this is just some kids
having hi-jinks," AP reported. The official added that he is
not sure whether the authorities will launch criminal
proceedings. PG

RUSSIA MARKS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY. The women of
Yeltsin's family took the lead in marking International
Women's Day in Russia by visiting the president in the
hospital on 8 March, ITAR-TASS reported. Elsewhere, there
were parades, a car race, and reports of the progress of
women in the Russian Federation. The news agency pointed out,
for example, that recent cutbacks in the country's armed
forces have not led to a decrease in the number of women
serving as officers. PG

SAINT PETERSBURG, HONG KONG PLAN COOPERATION. Representatives
of the two cities met in Russia's second capital to outline
measures for future cooperation in their capacity as the
major sea ports of their respective countries, ITAR-TASS
reported on 8 March. St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir
Yakovlev said that the cities can "cooperate as the sea
gates" to their respective markets. He added that the Russian
side can help Hong Kong in "creating its own incubators of
high technologies." PG

RUSSIA TO PUT RADAR-INVISIBLE MISSILES ON BOMBERS. Military
officials told Interfax on 8 March that Moscow plans to put
stealth cruise missiles on its most advanced strategic
bombers. Such missiles, the experts said, have a range of
3,000-5,000 kilometers and can infiltrate anticipated air
defenses "with minimal losses." The new missiles are to
remain on line for 50 years. No date was given for the
introduction of the new weapons. PG

SIBERIAN RESEARCHERS ANNOUNCE ANTI-AIDS DRUG. Scientists at a
research center in Novosibirsk announced on 8 March that they
have patented a drug they believe will suppress the HIV virus
that causes AIDS, Interfax-Eurasia reported. The new drug
reportedly kills the HIV virus but does not damage blood
cells. Team leader Aleksandr Lelyak said that the medicine
may lead to the discovery of a cure for those who are already
HIV positive or have AIDS. Last month, Armenian scientists
claimed to have discovered an anti-AIDS drug (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 23 February 1999). PG

ORTHODOX CHURCH READY TO HELP DELIVER AID... Patriarch of
Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II told Interfax on 6 March
that his Church is ready and willing to help distribute food
and medical assistance coming from abroad. He said that the
aid packages must be given to the "least protected" members
of society, including orphanages and residents of the
country's Far North. PG

...WHICH U.S. SAYS WILL BEGIN ARRIVING 22 MARCH. The U.S.
Department of Agriculture has announced that the first
shipments of U.S. food aid will arrive in Russia between 22
March and 5 April, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 March. The first
250,000 tons will be shipped from Gulf of Mexico ports, while
another 80,000 tons will be sent from Pacific ones. The aid
package will total 3.1 million tons. PG

RUSSIA, WESTERN COUNTRIES SIGN NUCLEAR CLEAN-UP PLAN. At a
meeting in the Norwegian city of Bodoe on 5 March, Russia,
the Nordic countries, European states, and the U.S. signed an
agreement to help clean-up Moscow's huge stockpile of nuclear
waste, Reuters reported. Various Western countries, including
the U.S., will make financial contributions to the effort. PG

SAS ENDS FLIGHTS TO ARKHANGELSK. Citing losses, the SAS
Scandinavian airline ended its Stockholm-Arkhangelsk route on
7 March, ITAR-TASS reported. SAS had made three flights a
week for the last 30 months on this route, and Russian
officials suggested that the flights had been full enough for
the company to make a profit. A Finnish company has indicated
that it may fill in with flights to the northern Russian
city, as has the St. Petersburg-based Pulkovo airline. PG

YELTSIN CHIEF OF STAFF HOSPITALIZED. Nikolai Bordyuzha was
hospitalized over the weekend after experiencing heart pain,
Interfax reported on 9 March. Bordyuzha's deputy, Sysuev,
will fill in on a temporary basis. PG

STEPASHIN ISSUES ULTIMATUM TO GROZNY... In a harshly worded
statement issued on 7 March, Russian Interior Minister Sergei
Stepashin warned that Moscow will resort to "extremely
rigorous measures to ensure law, order, and security in the
North Caucasus region" unless his subordinate, Major-General
Gennadii Shpigun, is released "shortly," Interfax reported.
Shpigun was abducted in Grozny on 5 March (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 8 March 1999). Stepashin said that despite
assurances from the Chechen leadership that it is cracking
down on crime and terrorist activities, the situation
continues to deteriorate and the Russian leadership's
tolerance is exhausted. "In effect, several thousand armed
scoundrels dictate their will to Chechen society, driving it
into medievalism and obscurantism," Stepashin said. He hinted
that Russian sanctions on Chechnya could entail cutting rail
and air links and energy supplies to the region. And he added
that in the event of future "terrorist acts," Russia will
intervene "in conformity with international practice" to
destroy "criminal formations' bases." LF

...AS CHECHEN LEADERSHIP VOWS TO FIND KIDNAPPED GENERAL...
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov told journalists in Grozny
on 8 March that he has given investigators three days to
locate Shpigun, Interfax reported. Presidential press
spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev told Interfax that Russia has
aggravated the situation in Chechnya by circumventing
Maskhadov and dealing directly with his rivals. Vachagaev
added that any armed intervention by Moscow "will forever
turn the Chechen people away from Russia." The Chechen
presidential press service issued a statement on 8 March
claiming that Russian intelligence had acted together with
opposition state Shura [council] leader Shamil Basaev in
abducting Shpigun. LF

...AND OPPOSITION WARNS OF REPRISALS. Speaking on Grozny
television on 8 March, Basaev denied any part in the
abduction and urged whoever is holding Shpigun to hand him
over to the Shura as a "war criminal," ITAR-TASS reported.
Opposition field commander Vakha Arsanov said the Shura has
placed its armed forces on high alert to counter anticipated
Russian military aggression. On 9 March, Basaev's deputy
Movladi Udugov warned that a Russian attack could trigger
Chechen reprisals against individual Russian politicians. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

FUGITIVE ARMENIAN EX-MINISTER REELECTED CHAIRMAN OF FORMER
RULING PARTY. The ruling board of the Armenian Pan-National
Movement (HHSh) on 8 March voted narrowly to reelect former
Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian as its chairman, RFE/RL's
Yerevan bureau reported. Following three days of heated
debates and two rounds of voting, 22 members of the 41-strong
HHSh board finally voted for Siradeghian, while 14 others
backed his main challenger, former parliamentary speaker
Babken Ararktsian. A third candidate, former Foreign Minister
Alexander Arzoumanian, withdrew after the first round of
voting. Siradeghian left Armenia in late January, two weeks
before the parliament voted to strip him of his deputy's
immunity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February 1999). He is
wanted in connection with several murders. "Oragir" reported
on 9 March that former President Levon Ter-Petrossian lobbied
energetically for Ararktsian's candidacy. LF

THREE SMALL ARMENIAN PARTIES TO FORM ELECTION ALLIANCE? The
nationalist Union for Constitutional Rights (SIM) has reached
a "tentative agreement" with two leftist groups, the
Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union (GAKM) and the
Miabanutyun (Accord) organization, on fielding a joint list
of candidates in the parliamentary elections scheduled for 30
May, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 8 March, quoting SIM
chairman Hrant Khachatrian. SIM and GAKM are members of the
Justice and Unity grouping, which endorsed Robert Kocharian's
candidacy in the March 1998 presidential elections. Neither
of those parties is believed capable of overcoming the 5
percent barrier to gain entry to the parliament under the
proportional system. Armenia's main parties have said they
will not form any electoral blocs. But Khachatrian said the
alliance will also seek to recruit another two pro-Kocharian
parties, the Democratic and Ramkavar Azatakan parties, whose
leaders hold senior government posts. LF

BULGARIA TO BACK ARMENIAN MEMBERSHIP IN COUNCIL OF EUROPE.
Bulgarian parliamentary chairman Yordan Sokolov met with his
Armenian counterpart, Khosrov Harutiunian, and other senior
officials, including President Robert Kocharian, Prime
Minister Armen Darpinian, and Foreign Minister Vartan
Oskanian, in Yerevan on 5-6 March. Sokolov said Bulgaria will
support Armenia's bid for full membership in the Council of
Europe, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported.
Sokolov concurred with the Armenian argument that Yerevan's
membership in that organization should not be directly linked
to the Karabakh conflict. LF

GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS END PICKET. Several hundred
displaced persons who on 16 February began blocking the
bridge over the River Inguri, which marks the border between
Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, ended their protest action
on 8 March after meeting with Georgian Minister of State
Vazha Lortkipanidze and with the chairman of the so-called
Abkhaz parliament in exile, Tamaz Nadareishvili, Caucasus
Press reported. The fugitives had been demanding a meeting
with Lortkipanidze to express their dissatisfaction over
Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba's offer to begin
repatriation on 1 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February
1999). Lortkipanidze told the fugitives that the Georgian
leadership had tried without success to persuade the UN to
mount a "peace enforcement" operation in Abkhazia, which was
also one of the displaced persons' demands. He added that
peace talks "are not the only way to return the refugees." LF

GEORGIA HAS MORE THAN 100,000 REGISTERED UNEMPLOYED. Georgia
currently has 101,700 registered unemployed, a 14.5 percent
decrease from early 1998, Caucasus Press reported on 8 March,
citing the State Statistics Department. More than half those
seeking work have higher education, and 25 percent are under
30. ITAR-TASS, which cited a total of 98,000 jobless, said
that the real figure is probably three times higher. Some
400,000 people out of a total population of 5 million in 1991
have emigrated since then in search of work. LF

GEORGIAN INSURGENCY LEADER INTERCEDES FOR EXTRADITED
GAMSAKHURDIA SUPPORTER. Caucasus Press on 8 March quoted
Akaki Eliava, who led the abortive October 1998 uprising in
western Georgia, as denying that Valerii Gabelia played any
role in that action. Gabelia was extradited to Tbilisi from
Moscow where he was detained last month (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 10 February and 5 March 1999 ). He has been
charged with treason and with financing both the February
1998 attempt to assassinate Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze and the mutiny led by Eliava. LF

NEW PARTY IN KAZAKHSTAN WANTS YOUNG MEMBERS. Representatives
of the People's Republican Party held a press conference in
Almaty on 9 March to reveal some of the party's goals, RFE/RL
correspondents reported. Amirzhan Kosanov, the spokesman of
party leader Akezhan Kazhegeldin, said the party will focus
on gaining supporters from among the country's younger
generation. He noted that party branches have been
established throughout the country, even in remote areas. The
party's deputy chairman, Ghaziz Aldamzharov, said the process
of choosing candidates to participate in parliamentary
elections later this year has already begun. Aldamzharov
added that the party currently has 4,000 registered members,
although it was officially registered only last week (see
"RFE/RL Newsline, 3 March 1999). Kazhegeldin was not present
at the press conference. Kosanov said he was in the U.S. to
inform people abroad about the existence of the new party. BP

UZBEKISTAN TO CUT OFF GAS TO KYRGYZSTAN AGAIN? A Kyrgyz
government official who requested anonymity told RFE/RL
correspondents in Bishkek on 8 March that Uzbekistan has sent
a telegram to Kyrgyzstan warning that gas supplies will soon
be cut off if the latter does not start paying its $3.3
million debt. Uzbekistan reduced gas supplies in late
February and stopped supplies altogether last November. On
both occasions, a Kyrgyz delegation traveled to Uzbekistan to
negotiate the resumption of deliveries. BP

KYRGYZ NATIONAL BANK TAKES MEASURES AGAINST TWO COMMERCIAL
BANKS. Kyrgyzstan's National Bank has announced that the
Maksata bank will work under a "conservative regime" for the
next six months, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 March. Chairman of
the National Bank Ulan Sarbanov also said the Insana bank
will be placed under a "temporary administration" until June.
Sarbanov said these moves are necessary owing to the banks'
violations of the law, which, he said, could "lead to a
worsening of the country's financial situation." Sarbanov
said the measures taken by the National Bank are aimed at
"preventing insolvency and will protect the commercial
banking system." BP

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