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