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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 53, Part I, 17 March 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 53, Part I, 17 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

* FEDERATION COUNCIL DEFIES KREMLIN OVER SKURATOV

* ROSTOV REFUSES TO INVESTIGATE MAKASHOV

* ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PROPOSES NEW REGIONAL
ORGANIZATION
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RUSSIA

FEDERATION COUNCIL DEFIES KREMLIN OVER SKURATOV. The
Federation Council on 17 March voted 142 to six to reject
the resignation of Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov.
Skuratov tendered his resignation on 1 February, citing
health reasons, but in his speech to the parliament's upper
chamber the same day, he said that "various powerful
forces" "have driven a wedge between himself and Russian
President Boris Yeltsin." Among those forces he named two
former deputy prime ministers, several current ministers
and State Duma deputies, and "well known oligarchs." He
added that "information about my private life was used,"
having been "obtained by criminal means." "Kommersant-
Daily" reported the same day that "a cassette of Skuratov's
'sexual adventures' is in the hands of the leaders of all
Russia's TV channels," and Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev
confirmed that there have been "direct threats from the
mass media" to reveal information about Skuratov. Skuratov
told the senators that he will agree to stay on in his
position only if President Yeltsin concurs. JAC

START-II RATIFICATION LINKED TO ABM TREATY. Speaking on
Russian Public Television on 16 March, Prime Minister
Yevgenii Primakov said that if the Duma does not ratify
START-II, then the U.S. will likely abandon the anti-
ballistic missile treaty. In the face of such a withdrawal,
according to Primakov, Russia will "have to think about a
completely new military situation that would require an arms
race." Meanwhile, Geopolitics Committee chairman and member
of the Liberal Democratic Party faction Aleksei Mitrofanov
told reporters the same day that he believes the Duma will
ratify the treaty in the near future. Liberal Democratic
Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii earlier spoke out against
the treaty. JAC

PROGRESS MADE ON POLITICAL ACCORD. Members of Russia's
various political branches tentatively lent their support on
16 March to the current draft of the political peace treaty.
Presidential administration deputy head Oleg Sysuev,
Federation Council Deputy Chairman Oleg Korolev, and Duma
deputy and head of the Russian Regions faction Oleg Morozov
all initialed the nine-point statement (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 16 March 1999). In addition, representatives of
four groups in the Duma also signed the draft statement,
which still has to be debated and approved by the Duma and
Federation Council. According to "Kommersant-Daily" the same
day, agreement was possible after Duma representatives backed
the Kremlin's formulation that a working group be formed to
examine whether the constitution should be amended rather
than stipulating that the working group draft those
amendments. JAC

PRIMAKOV COMMENTS ON U.S.-RUSSIAN RELATIONS... Prime
Minister Primakov assessed U.S.-Russian economic relations
on 17 March as "undoubtedly changing for the better but too
slowly." Regarding his visit to Washington next week,
Primakov said his preparations for the Gore-Primakov
commission are focusing on two issues: how "to reorient the
commission's work to provide real assistance to the
solution of problems faced by Russia" and [how to] clear
away "logjams and unresolved problems that have accumulated
during the commission's existence," ITAR-TASS reported.
Interfax reported the same day that Agriculture and Food
Minister Viktor Semenov will not be attending the
agricultural business committee meetings of the commission
and that "sources" have linked his absence with the
"possibility of pending dismissal." The agency also noted
that Semenov did not speak at a national farmers meeting in
February and that Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik has
expressed dissatisfaction with the ministry's preparations
for the spring sowing. JAC

...AS HIS UPCOMING U.S. VISIT PREDICTED TO BE PIVOTAL. In
the March issue of "Vek," Sergei Rogov, director of the
U.S.A.-Canada Institute writes that the preparations for
the commission meeting are taking place "against a backdrop
of unprecedented pressure" and that the two countries are
"poles apart on many international issues." The meeting
itself may mark a turning point in the development of U.S.-
Russian relations, he writes, as Washington must decide
whether to "make corrections in its policy and stop
dictating solutions to Moscow or apply even more pressure."
JAC

ALBRIGHT DOESN'T WANT LUZHKOV TO VISIT U.S.? Moscow Deputy
Mayor Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 16 March discounted reports
that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright allegedly
recommended that the Clinton administration seek to
distance itself from Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov to avoid
strengthening the latter's internal political position,
Interfax reported. He said that U.S. officials "tell us
just the opposite. They intend to broaden and deepen the
dialogue with [Luzhkov] as a leading Russian politician."
The same day, "Moskovskii komsomolets," which is close to
Luzhkov, reported that information has reached "journalists
who circulate around the U.S. State Department" that
Albright believes Luzhkov is the "only politician in Russia
capable of uniting the country around him." However, the
newspaper comments, the U.S. should not contribute to
strengthening his position or be in any hurry to have him
visit the U.S. JAC

ROSTOV REFUSES TO INVESTIGATE MAKASHOV... Rostov Oblast
Prosecutor-General Sergei Ustinov declined to take action
against Duma deputy and member of the Communist Party
Albert Makashov for his anti-Semitic comments on 20
February in Novocherkassk. During his speech at a meeting
of the Movement for the Support of the Army, Makashov
suggested transforming the group into a "Movement against
Yids." Ustinov told "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 March there is
some ambiguity connected with Makashov's use of the word
"zhid" since it was used in Pushkin's time to refer to
plunderers and money-grubbers and therefore, it cannot
necessarily be proven that Makashov knowingly intended to
incite ethnic hatred. The Russian Jewish Congress,
responding to the local prosecutor's decision, said
Makashov was expressing anti-Semitic views with the tacit
approval of the leadership of the Communist Party, AP
reported. JAC

...INVITES HIM TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR. An aide to Makashov,
Valerii Tulyakov, told ITAR-TASS that four oblasts--
Sverdlovsk, Rostov, Samara, and Orenburg--have invited
Makashov to run for governor in their regions. "Novye
izvestiya" reported earlier that Makashov plans to run for
governor in Novosibirsk (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation
Report, 3 March 1999), but Tulyakov said that Makashov has
no intention of running for governor anywhere. According to
Tulyakov, Makashov said "I am not an expert in sewage
systems." JAC

MASLYUKOV ENDS VISIT TO JAPAN... First Deputy Prime Minister
Yurii Maslyukov left Japan on 17 March after a three-day
visit, Russian media reported. On 16 March, he attended the
fourth session of the bilateral subcommission on economic
affairs that discussed Japanese participation in six energy
and mining projects in Russia's Far East. Earlier, Maslyukov
had discussed Japan's extension to Russia of a $2 billion
loan for ecological purposes. Japan had originally said it
would provide the money to convert coal-burning power plants
into gas-fuelled ones in the Far East. Some Japanese
officials, pointing out that such loans are given to
developing countries, recently questioned Russia's
eligibility for such monies. Japanese officials said several
times during Maslyukov's visit that the delay in granting
that loan is not connected to the issue of the four Kuril
Islands. BP

...AFTER MEETING WITH TOP GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS. On 15
March, Maslyukov met with Japanese Prime Minister Keidzo
Obuchi, who said he hopes that bilateral economic relations
will continue to develop and that the two countries will
sign by 2000 a treaty officially ending World War II and
including an agreement on the disputed Kuril Islands.
Maslyukov met with Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko
Komura the same day and signed an agreement allowing 1,000
Russian students to attend Japanese universities each year
at the Japanese government's expense. Komura commented the
following day on Russian concerns about the Theater Defense
Missile system Tokyo and Washington plan to establish in
the Asian Pacific region, saying he understands Russia's
unease but stressing that the system is purely defensive.
BP

ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WRAPS UP MOSCOW VISIT. Lamberto
Dini wrapped up a two-day official visit to Moscow on 16
March. At his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor
Ivanov, the two officials discussed the Kosova situation
and bilateral cooperation issues such as Italian
participation in the elimination of Russia's chemical
weapon stockpile, AP reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman
Vladimir Rakhmanin said that both officials agreed that
they favor "the attainment of the earliest possible
agreement on the Kosova political accord drafted by the
Contact Group." Dini also met with First Deputy Prime
Minister Vadim Gustov, with whom he discussed bilateral
issues and various schemes for rescheduling Russia's
foreign debt. JAC

PRIMORSKII KRAI HIT BY NEW ELECTION SCANDAL. Representatives
of the political movement Young Nakhodka will be struck off
of the roster of candidates for the Nakhodka city council in
elections scheduled for 28 March because its candidates were
illegally registered, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 March. The
group plans to protest the decision of the Primorskii Krai
election commission. JAC

CHECHENS RALLY TO SUPPORT PRESIDENT. Addressing a crowd of
30,000- 50,00 people who gathered in Grozny's central square
in pouring rain on 16 March, Chechen President Aslan
Maskhadov acknowledged he is ready for the "maximum
compromise" with Moscow but added he will never cede
Chechnya's independence, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. Maskhadov
blamed tensions within Chechnya on his political opponents,
accusing former Premier Shamil Basaev and former Foreign
Minister Movladi Udugov of seeking with the help of foreign
support to promote anarchy in order to seize power. LF

NEW THEORIES ON KHOTTAB, SHPIGUN ABDUCTION. ITAR-TASS on 16
March quoted unnamed senior Chechen officials as stating that
the alleged abduction on 13 March of three members of
opposition field commander Khottab's family was staged by
Basaev in order to deflect attention from the seizing of
Russian Interior Ministry General Gennadii Shpigun. Russian
Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin told Interfax on 16 March
that his ministry has begun receiving "hints" that Shpigun's
abductors might ransom him, adding that Moscow will not pay
for his release. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PROPOSES NEW REGIONAL ORGANIZATION.
Speaking on 15 March at the Royal Institute of International
Affairs in London, Vartan Oskanian said that the absence of
an all-encompassing regional organization for the Caucasus
contributes to destabilization in the region, an RFE/RL
correspondent in the British capital reported. Oskanian said
such an organization should bring together Russia, Iran,
Turkey, the South Caucasus, and the Central Asia states and
serve as a forum for the discussion of problems and
consensus-building. In Yerevan, presidential press secretary
Vahe Gabrielian on 16 March hailed Iran's recent offer to
mediate in the Karabakh conflict but made it clear that
Armenia gives priority to the ongoing OSCE mediation effort,
Noyan Tapan reported. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT, PARLIAMENT ON COLLISION COURSE OVER
ENERGY PRICES. Presidential press secretary Gabrielian said
on 16 March that President Robert Kocharian will veto a
parliament bill to reduce electricity tariffs if lawmakers
pass it in the second and final reading, RFE/RL's Yerevan
bureau reported. Deputies voted in favor of the bill in the
first reading the previous day, after Kocharian had met with
representatives of the Yerkrapah parliamentary group, the
largest in the legislature, to try to persuade them to
prevent passage of the bill. Gabrielian failed to specify
what steps Kocharian will take if the parliament overrides
his veto, which it can do by a simple majority. AFP on 16
March quoted an Armenian government spokesman as repeating
opposition to the parliament's proposal to reduce energy
tariffs, which, the spokesman said, would worsen the economic
situation and lead to a fall in tax revenues and foreign
investment. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMEN MEET. Meeting in
Strasbourg on 15 March under the aegis of the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe, Khosrov Harutiunian,
Murtuz Alesqerov, and Zurab Zhania adopted a declaration
affirming their support for inter-parliamentary dialogue as a
means of promoting regional cooperation and understanding,
Noyan Tapan reported. "Rezonansi" on 15 March quoted Georgian
parliamentary speaker Zhvania as saying that the acceptance
of Armenia and Azerbaijan into full membership of the Council
of Europe is contingent on a solution to the Karabakh
conflict, according to Turan. LF

AZERBAIJANI POLITICIANS ASSESS EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
ON KARABAKH. The opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party
issued a statement on 16 March saying that the 11 March
European Parliament resolution endorsing the efforts of the
OSCE Minsk Group to mediate a settlement of the Karabakh
conflict is "unfair," Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
12 March 1999). The statement attributed the adoption of the
resolution to unspecified "unilateral concessions" on the
part of the Azerbaijani leadership. State Foreign Policy
Adviser Vafa Guluzade dismissed the resolution as
"declarative," noting that it failed to specify precisely
which of the Minsk Group's various peace proposals it
supports. Also on 16 March, first deputy parliamentary
speaker Arif Ragimzade turned down a request by Azerbaijan
Popular Front Party First Deputy Chairman Ali Kerimov to
schedule a debate on the resolution, saying he has not had a
chance to read it. LF

AZERBAIJANI SOCCER TEAM PRECIPITATES CHILL IN RELATIONS WITH
TURKEY. The Turkish Foreign Ministry has informed Azerbaijani
Ambassador Mehmet Nevrozoglu of Ankara's displeasure at the
decision to locate a training camp for the Azerbaijani
national soccer team in the Greek sector of Cyprus, according
to "Hurriyet" on 14 March. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev
summoned the team back to Baku, where the Youth and Sports
Ministry termed the incident "a disappointing mistake,"
according to Interfax. LF

AZERBAIJAN, TURKMENISTAN PLEDGE TO RESOLVE CASPIAN DISPUTE.
In a telephone conversation on 16 March, Presidents Aliev and
Saparmurat Niyazov agreed to instruct the working groups
charged with finding a compromise agreement to the two
countries' dispute over ownership of Caspian oil fields to
expedite the drafting of the appropriate documents for
signing next month, Russian agencies reported. Those
documents will specify the precise location of the dividing
line between the two countries' respective sectors of the
Caspian and clarify ownership of the Chirag and Azeri fields,
to which both countries lay claim. A decision on the median
line delineating the two countries' sectors of the sea is a
precondition for construction of the planned Trans-Caspian
gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PREMIER SAYS ECONOMIC SITUATION 'NOT SIMPLE.'
Nurlan Balgimbayev, addressing an expanded session of the
government on 16 March, said the economic situation in the
country is "not simple," noting that industrial output in the
country fell 5 percent in the first two months of 1999,
Interfax reported. Balgimbayev said oil refining at the
Atyrau and Pavlodar plants decreased owing to a shortage of
raw materials. He also identified tax collection as a
problem: in 1998 only 89.3 percent of taxes were collected,
and on the basis of figures for early 1999, it is estimated
that the figure will drop to 78.9 percent for this year. The
premier added that in a survey of 38 major industrial
enterprises put "under management of foreign and domestic
investors," only one in four improved its economic and
financial performance last year. BP

KAZAKHSTAN'S FORMER PREMIER CRITICIZES TENGIZ OIL DEAL.
Akezhan Kazhegeldin has called the deal between the U.S. oil
company Chevron and Kazakhstan "ill-conceived and
unprofitable," according to the weekly "XXI Vek," cited by
Interfax on 15 March. Kazhegeldin said when the contract was
signed in 1993, Chevron agreed to pay a $420 million bonus
but not until the TengizChevrOil joint venture began
producing 12 million tons of oil annually. Kazhegeldin said
it will be a long time before this quota is reached. He noted
that in 1996, when he was prime minister, he sold off 25
percent of Kazakhstan's stake in the Tengiz project to
another U.S. oil company, Mobil, for $1.1 billion, which was
transferred to Kazakhstan's foreign account immediately. BP

ANOTHER 30 SUSPECTS IN TASHKENT BOMBING ARRESTED IN
KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakhstan's police say they have apprehended 30
more ethnic Uzbeks in Taldy Kurgan and Almaty who are
believed to be members of a group called Uzbekistan Islam
Haraketi, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported on 17
March. Police say all the detainees have Kyrgyz passports.
Moreover, some of the group escaped to Turkey, Pakistan, and
the United Arab Emirates before police could arrest them. BP

UZBEKISTAN RESUMES GAS SHIPMENTS TO KYRGYZSTAN. An official
at the state company Kyrgyzgaz told RFE/RL correspondents in
Bishkek on 16 March that Uzbekistan is again sending supplies
of natural gas to Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan greatly reduced
supplies of gas on 12 March creating shortages of energy
areas in northern Kyrgyzstan, including the capital, Bishkek.
BP

UZBEK, TURKISH PRESIDENTS ATTEND OPENING OF SAMARKAND CAR
PLANT... Islam Karimov and Suleyman Demirel attended the
opening ceremonies of the joint-venture automotive plant
Samkochavto in Samarkand on 16 March, Interfax reported. The
plant will produce 5,000 vehicles annually. Turkey's Koc
Holding company built the $65 million plant and is co-owner.
It is the second automotive assembly plant to open in
Uzbekistan. The UzDaewooAvto plant in Andijan began operating
in 1996 and has an annual capacity of 200,000 vehicles. BP

...WHILE DEMIREL SAYS UZBEK OPPOSITION LEADER NOT TO RETURN
TO TURKEY. At the Samkochavto opening ceremony, Demirel said
Uzbek anti-government forces will not find refuge in Turkey,
AP reported. "Islam Karimov's enemies are my enemies,"
Demirel stressed. According to RFE/RL correspondents in
Samarkand, Demirel said Mohammed Solih, whom Uzbek
authorities have named as an organizer of the February
bombings in Tashkent, is not in Turkey and will not be
allowed to return there. Solih has resided in Turkey from
time to time since fleeing Uzbekistan in 1993. BP

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