Change is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast. In the pool where you least expect it, will be a fish. - Ovid
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 48, Part I, 10 March 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 48, Part I, 10 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

* SKURATOV, PRIMAKOV CUT SHORT VACATIONS

* CHECHEN PRESIDENT WANTS TO MEET WITH YELTSIN

* GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA TRADE ACCUSATIONS OVER REPATRIATION
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RUSSIA

SKURATOV, PRIMAKOV CUT SHORT VACATIONS. Prime Minister
Yevgenii Primakov returned to Moscow from his vacation in
Sochi on the evening of 9 March, five days earlier than
scheduled (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 1999).
Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov also reported for work on 9
March, chairing a meeting with his deputies, Interfax
reported. President Boris Yeltsin had accepted Skuratov's
resignation in early February, but the Federation Council
postponed consideration of the issue until 17 March,
requesting that Skuratov himself appear to explain his
decision. According to the agency, Skuratov was on leave from
22 February following his release from the hospital, where he
had been registered on 2 February. Skuratov has fully
recovered, according to one of his closest deputies,
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 March. The Yeltsin
administration apparently remains concerned: administration
head Nikolai Bordyuzha told "Argumenty i Fakty" that Skuratov
is "a decent person who has truly become very tired." JAC

BORDYUZHA OUT, CHUBAIS IN? Citing "high-ranking" sources,
"Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 10 March that
President Yeltsin is considering replacing presidential
administration head and Security Council Secretary
Bordyuzha, whose recent hospitalization for heart pain, the
newspaper added, was not coincidental (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 9 March 1999). According to these sources,
"Kremlin strategists" believe the presidential
administration needs someone "strong and tough enough" to
shield a sick Yeltsin and become an effective counterweight
to the growing influence of Prime Minister Primakov. On the
other hand, this official must possess very limited levers
of influence so that he or she would still be dependent on
the president. According to the newspaper, former First
Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais fits the bill and
Yeltsin will make a decision "within several days" on
whether to invite him to rejoin the government. JAC

IMF MISSION TO RETURN TO MOSCOW... The IMF will send a
staff mission to Moscow this week, RFE/RL's Washington
bureau reported on 9 March. According to a fund
spokeswoman, there are no deadlines for reaching an
agreement, but the IMF hopes that the team can make rapid
progress. Citing its own sources, the "Times" of London
reported on 9 March that the fund and the Russian
government are likely to reach an agreement in time for
Prime Minister Primakov's visit to Washington, D.C. later
in March for the Gore-Primakov Commission. The next day,
First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov told reporters
that "there is no need for additional meetings in Moscow"
with the IMF mission, because Primakov will discuss "all
unsettled issues" in Washington. Ahead of the commission
meetings, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will
meet with Vice President Al Gore as well as the heads of
the IMF and World Bank. He told reporters, however, that he
has "no authority" at all to conduct official talks with
international financial institutions. JAC

...AS CONTROVERSY CONTINUES TO SHROUD CENTRAL BANK.
According to RFE/RL's Washington bureau, Fund officials
continue to have questions about the Russian Central Bank's
use of the tiny offshore firm FIMACO to manage its hard
currency reserves. IMF sources told RFE/RL that the fund
sent a mission to the Central Bank to conduct technical
training in reserves management, and fund officials
recommended that all reserves should be "invested by and in
the name of the Central Bank." JAC

NEW CALL FOR WRITING OFF SOVIET DEBT. First Deputy Finance
Minister Mikhail Kasyanov is holding consultations with
Paris Club "experts" on the possibility of restructuring
Russia's external debt, Interfax reported on 9 March. In an
open letter to President Yeltsin published by "Kommersant-
Daily" on 9 March, Duma deputy Aleksandr Shokhin
recommended that the Russian government immediately open
negotiations with Paris Club creditors on writing off the
country's debts inherited from the Soviet Union by
exchanging the debts for those developing countries still
owe to the Soviet Union. According to Shokhin, the "nominal
amounts of [both sets of] debts and financial assets
coincide almost precisely." Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg
Vyugin told Interfax on 10 March that the Central Bank used
nearly $1 billion of its gold and foreign currency reserves
in January to make foreign debt payments. In an earlier
interview with the "Financial Times," Finance Minister
Mikhail Zadornov warned that if the Russian government does
not reach an agreement with the IMF soon, its hard currency
reserves used for repaying foreign debts will be exhausted.
JAC

ST. PETERSBURG POLICE INCREASING PRESSURE ON RELIGIOUS
GROUP. Officials from St. Petersburg's Interior Department
have initiated criminal proceedings against Open
Christianity, a Dutch religious group, some of whose
members have been fighting an attempt by local police to
remove them from a building where they have been operating
a school for several years, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 March
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 1999). Interior Department
head Lieutenant-General Viktor Vlasov told ITAR-TASS that
the group has been operating the school's building for
commercial purposes for the past four years, charging other
groups rent and not paying taxes. According to the agency,
an eviction notice will become effective on 12 March.
School and human rights group officials argue that the real
conflict with city officials is over the right of religious
groups to teach their faith. JAC

DUMA DEPUTY APPEALS TO RUSSIAN LEADER TO USE DOMESTIC
BANKS. State Duma Security Committee Chairman and member of
the Communist Party faction Viktor Ilyukhin publicly
appealed to President Yeltsin on 9 March to move his
personal savings from foreign bank accounts to Russian
commercial banks. According to Ilyukhin, Yeltsin should set
an example that "business tycoons and 'new Russians'" might
follow. He added that the amount of money that would be
returned this way would be greater than the sums currently
under negotiation with the IMF. Ilyukhin has been outspoken
in his demands that Yeltsin resign and is a member of the
Duma's impeachment commission. According to "Trud" the next
day, Ilyukhin plans to introduce an amendment to the
Criminal Code that would make the non-return of assets
removed from Russia a criminal offense. JAC

REFINED PRODUCT EARNINGS CONTINUE TO SLUMP. Russia's
revenues from the export of petroleum products were down by
34.5 percent--$222 million--in January, compared with the
same period last year, according the State Statistics
Committee, Interfax reported on 10 March. JAC

COSMONAUTS BECOME SPACE FARMERS. Crew of the space station
"Mir" planted several dozen seeds of varying kinds of wheat
in their "hothouse" on 9 March, ITAR-TASS reported.
Scientists hope that the wheat can be harvested within 70 to
90 days, proving that space is suitable for agricultural
production. Commercial applications of the experiment are
likely only in the distant future, since spokesman for the
Institute for Medical and Biological Problems Vladimir Sychev
told the agency that 20 square meters of grain must be sown
to provide enough bread for one person. The same day,
cosmonauts marked the 65th anniversary of the birth of Yurii
Gagarin, the first man to fly into space. JAC

SHAIMIEV CALLS ON REGIONAL BLOCS TO UNITE. Interfax on 9
March quoted Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev as
predicting that if all Russia's regional blocs and movements
united, they would form a majority in the next State Duma.
Shaimiev expressed his support for Samara Governor Konstantin
Titov's proposal to create a Golos Rossii [Voice of Russia]
movement, adding that Communist Party leader Gennadii
Zyuganov's opposition to that proposal derives from his
awareness that such a regional movement is the only force in
Russia strong enough to counterbalance the Communists. LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT WANTS TO MEET WITH YELTSIN... Speaking on
Chechen Television on 9 March, Aslan Maskhadov said a meeting
between himself and Russian President Yeltsin is urgently
needed to defuse escalating tensions between Moscow and
Grozny, Russian media reported. Affirming that "I am doing my
best to prevent war," Maskhadov condemned the use of threats
and ultimatums as counter-productive. He said more than 20
separate groups are investigating the circumstances of the 5
March abduction from Grozny airport of senior Russian
Interior Ministry official Major-General Gennadii Shpigun.
Maskhadov has offered a $200,000 reward for information on
Shpigun's whereabouts. Also on 9 March, Chechen Deputy
Prosecutor-General Magomed Magomadov deplored the lack of
cooperation between Moscow and Grozny in investigating
Shpigun's abduction. LF

...CAN COUNT ON MOSCOW'S SUPPORT. Russian Nationalities
Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov told Interfax on 9 March that he
sees no need for a meeting between Yeltsin and Maskhadov but
that it is imperative for either Prime Minister Primakov or a
lower-level Russian leader meet immediately with both
Maskhadov and Chechen opposition politicians, including
adherents of radical Islam, Interfax reported. Primakov is to
chair a high-level meeting on policy toward the North
Caucasus on 10 March. Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, who
on 7 March issued the "threats and ultimatums" to which
Maskhadov had referred, said Russia "has been supporting and
will support the legitimate Chechen president." Both
Yeltsin's special envoy to Chechnya, Valentin Vlasov, who was
abducted and held captive for six months last year, and Oleg
Sysuev, first deputy chief of the presidential
administration, ruled out Moscow's use of force in Chechnya.
LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

SPLITS IN FORMER ARMENIAN RULING PARTY? Two members announced
their resignation from the board of the Armenian Pan-National
Movement on 9 March to protest the re-election of fugitive
former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian as board chairman,
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Former deputy parliamentary
speaker Karapet Rubinian said that he opposes Siradeghian's
ideology, describing him as neither a liberal nor a democrat.
Samvel Gevorgian said that the defeated candidate for the
post, former parliamentary speaker Babken Ararktsian, would
have been "more useful to the party," which a third HHSh
member predicted may now spilt. Siradeghian was re-elected in
absentia as board chairman on 8 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
9 March 1999). LF

ARMENIAN JOURNALIST KILLED IN HIT-AND-RUN ACCIDENT. Tigran
Hayrapetian, editor of "Nor Ughi," which is published by the
eponymous opposition party, died in hospital in Yerevan early
on 9 March after being run over by a car in the capital,
Noyan Tapan and ITAR-TASS reported. Hayrapetian, who was 35,
managed Nor Ughi chairman Ashot Bleyan's unsuccessful
presidential election campaign in 1998. He contributed to
several opposition publications. LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN CYPRUS. Visiting Cyprus on 8-10
March, Vartan Oskanian held talks with his Cypriot
counterpart, Ioannis Cassoulides, Nicosia Mayor Lellos
Demetriades, and Cypriot parliamentary deputy president Nicos
Anastasiades on expanding bilateral relations and
cooperation, dpa and Noyan Tapan reported. Discussing with
Cassoulides the situation in the Caucasus and the Middle
East, Oskanian expressed the hope that Turkey's relations
with its neighbors will improve following the parliamentary
elections next month. Oskanian also met with President
Glafcos Clerides on 9 March. LF

ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS TBILISI. Vazgen Sargsian met
with his Georgian counterpart, David Tevzadze, and
parliamentary chairman Zurab Zhvania in Tbilisi on 8 March to
discuss defense cooperation between Armenia and Georgia and
creating a legal framework for such cooperation, ITAR-TASS
and Caucasus Press reported. The next day, Sargsian met with
Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze. Sargsian
assured the Georgian officials of Armenia's unswerving
support for Georgia's territorial integrity. LF

KARABAKH SPOKESMAN DENIES PRESIDENT MET WITH AZERBAIJANI
OPPOSITIONISTS. A spokesman for Arkadii Ghukasian, president
of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, told RFE/RL's
Armenian Service on 9 March that an Azerbaijani press report
claiming Ghukasian met with two prominent Azerbaijani
opposition figures in the U.S. on 5 March is untrue. "Yeni
Azerbaijan," the official Azerbaijani government daily,
reported on 6 March that Ghukasian met with Musavat Party
chairman Isa Gambar and former Azerbaijani parliamentary
speaker Rasul Guliev to discuss proposing to Western oil
companies that the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline for
Azerbaijan's Caspian oil be routed not via Georgia but via
Stepanakert and Armenia. Gambar similarly denied the meeting
with Ghukasian but admitted he had met with Guliev to discuss
the political situation in Azerbaijan, Turan's Washington
correspondent reported on 9 March. Ghukasian met in
Washington on 8 March with Donald Kaiser, the U.S. co-
chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, according to Noyan Tapan.
LF

CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEE ON DEFENDING AZERBAIJAN'S EX-PARLIAMENT
SPEAKER DETAINED. Natik Jabiev, who heads the youth committee
to defend Rasul Guliev's rights, was sentenced by a Baku
district court on 9 March to 12 days in prison "for resisting
the police," Turan reported. Jabiev was detained on 5 March.
On 20 February, two other members of the committee were
sentenced to 15 days in prison. LF

GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA TRADE ACCUSATIONS OVER REPATRIATION.
Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze, meeting with
Russian and UN special envoys for Abkhazia Lev Mironov and
Liviu Bota in Tbilisi on 9 March, accused the Abkhaz
leadership of backtracking on an earlier offer to recruit
into the police force of the region's southernmost Gali raion
Georgian displaced persons who return to their homes in
Abkhazia. Lortkipanidze said the move was aimed at limiting
Georgian representation in the force, Caucasus Press
reported. In Sukhumi, Abkhaz Prime Minister Sergei Bagapsh
told journalists on 9 March that unspecified Georgian leaders
are trying to prevent displaced persons from returning,
according to Interfax. He said 350 have managed to do so
since 1 March, adding that of an estimated 30,000 who
returned spontaneously earlier, 22,000 have already
registered with the Abkhaz authorities. LF

GEORGIAN, UZBEK PRESIDENTS MEET... Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze met with his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov,
in Tashkent, on 9 March, Russian and western press reported.
Karimov called their discussions "rich in content and
constructive." Shevardnadze said they focused on problems on
of regional and international security as well as bilateral
economic cooperation. Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov met
with Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili the
same day to discuss shipping more Uzbek cargo via the "Trans-
Caucasus transportation corridor," according to Interfax.
Sultanov said his country could supply aircraft, cars,
trucks, buses, and agricultural equipment to Georgia. Trade
between the two countries has jumped from $600,000 in 1994 to
$15.2 million in 1998, according to news agencies. BP

...COMMENT ON BEREZOVSKII'S DISMISSAL. At a press conference
following their meeting, both presidents criticized the
decision to replace Boris Berezovskii from the post of
executive secretary of the CIS. Shevardnadze said it was
"inappropriate" for the Russian State Duma to issue an appeal
for Berezovskii's dismissal, saying it was "not within [its]
authority" to do so. He added that "the decision on
Berezovskii's appointment was made jointly (among CIS
countries) but that the decision on his dismissal" was made
unilaterally. Both presidents agreed that it would have been
better if President Yeltsin had requested that Berezovskii
step down. BP

UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS INVESTIGATION INTO BOMBINGS SOON
COMPLETED... At the same press conference, Karimov said the
investigation into the terrorist bombings in Tashkent last
month will soon be completed. Karimov repeated claims that
Islamic groups were responsible, but he contradicted earlier
remarks by saying "we do not assume that Chechens have
something to do with the criminals who committed that act of
vandalism" (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 26 February and 5 March
1999). Karimov noted that unlike Chechnya, "we will never
embark on creating an Islamic, Sharia State [since such a
state] is opposed by all Uzbekistan's 24 million people." BP

...CONNECTS POLITICAL OPPOSITION TO BOMBINGS. Karimov linked
opposition political groups to the bombings, particularly
leaders of the Erk Democratic Party, whom Karimov called
"beggars living outside the country." "Realizing they have no
other way and relying on money provided by extremist Islamic
centers," these forces would rather see "an Islamic state
than a civilized democracy," Karimov said. He vowed that
those responsible for the bombings will receive "an open and
just trial, in line with the letter and spirit of the law,
without forgiveness or pity." BP

KYRGYZSTAN, UZBEKISTAN REACH NEW AGREEMENT ON GAS SUPPLIES.
The Kyrgyz government's press service announced on 9 March
that a new plan to pay for gas supplies from Uzbekistan has
been worked out by the two countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
9 March 1999), RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported.
Kyrgyzstan will supply 22,000 tons of wheat to pay off the
$3.3 million it owes Uzbekistan for gas supplies. BP

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