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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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * FEDERATION COUNCIL DEFIES KREMLIN OVER SKURATOV * ROSTOV REFUSES TO INVESTIGATE MAKASHOV * ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PROPOSES NEW REGIONAL ORGANIZATION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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