The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 54, Part I, 18 March 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 54, Part I, 18 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, PRIMAKOV MEET EMBATTLED PROSECUTOR-GENERAL

* RUSSIA HAILS PROGRESS WITH IMF

* EX-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES IN ARMENIA FAIL TO FORM ELECTION
ALLIANCE

End Note: FEDERATION COUNCIL VOTES TO KEEP SKURATOV
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN, PRIMAKOV MEET EMBATTLED PROSECUTOR-GENERAL...
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Yevgenii
Primakov met privately with Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov
on 18 March, after slamming the Federation Council's decision
the previous day to reject Skuratov's resignation. According
to the Kremlin press service, "the fight against crime can be
conducted only by morally unstained people." Just hours after
the Federation Council decision, Russian Television showed
footage of a man looking a lot like Skuratov, who is married
and the father of two children, dallying with two
prostitutes. Before his meeting with Yeltsin and Primakov,
Skuratov told NTV that the film was used to blackmail him to
drop a case concerning a Swiss firm. Yeltsin ordered a probe
into the film itself, ordering the Security Council to
conduct a thorough check of information smearing the honor
and dignity of an official of the Prosecutor-General's
Office, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

...WHILE DANGLING POSSIBILITY OF DISMISSING HIM AGAIN.
Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin said on 17 March
that President Yeltsin may ask the Federation Council to
relieve Skuratov of his duties once again, while first deputy
head of the presidential administration Oleg Sysuev told
Russian Television that Skuratov has become a tool in a
political struggle and that a prosecutor-turned-political
figure in the hands of extremists is "explosive" in any state
(see also "End Note" below). JAC

RUSSIA HAILS PROGRESS WITH IMF. Evaluating the past week's
negotiations with the IMF, the Ministry of Economics issued a
statement noting that "considerable progress has been made in
coordinating the parameters of the Russian government's
economic policy." Remaining differences will be settled
before Prime Minister Primakov's visit to Washington next
week, according to the ministry. First Deputy Prime Minister
Yurii Maslyukov, who was in Asia for most of the time that
the IMF mission was in Moscow, told reporters on 18 March
that he will meet with the IMF mission on 19 March.
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 March that according to its
sources, the main sticking points between the fund and the
Russian government's remain the latter's desire to cut value-
added tax and its reluctance to increase energy export
duties. JAC

RUSSIA TO COOPERATE WITH OPEC? ITAR-TASS on 17 March quoted
Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Generalov as saying Russia
will join OPEC oil producers in voluntarily cutting its oil
exports in order to boost prices. But "Kommersant-Daily"
reported the same day that the ministry is ready to cut oil
production but not oil exports. Generalov told the Federation
Council the previous day that Russia has lost $6.2 billion
because of the drop in the world market price for oil during
1998. LUKoil Chairman Vagit Alekperov said the same day that
Russian producers have already cut back their output enough
in recent years and cannot afford further cuts. JAC

RUSSIA REAFFIRMING COMMITMENT TO IRAN? After suggesting in an
interview with "The New York Times" that Russia is willing to
suspend all nuclear cooperation with Iran in exchange for the
U.S.'s lifting sanctions against two Russian nuclear research
facilities, Atomic Energy Industry Minister Yevgenii Adamov
told reporters on 17 March that not only will Russia honor
its commitments to Iran with regard to its nuclear energy
programs; it will also expand its activities there. The next
day, "Izvestiya" attributed Adamov's revelations to the New
York daily to the odd phenomenon of Russian officials'
"keeping their mouths shut in the presence of their
compatriots but embarking on unthinkable revelations when
they meet a foreigner." Head of the Russian Chemical-
Technological University told "Izvestiya" that he is shocked
by the minister's contention that his institute is supplying
Iran with information on heavy water technology, saying "it
is a mystery where the minister got his information." JAC

RUSSIA, NORTH KOREA INITIAL TREATY. Russian Deputy Foreign
Minister Grigorii Karasin and his North Korean counterpart,
Ri In Gyu, initialed a new cooperation agreement in Pyongyang
on 17 March, according to Interfax and the South Korean news
agency Yonhap. Few details of the treaty have been made
public, but Karasin called it "an absolutely normal agreement
that complies with international law and is not directed
against any third countries." The formal agreement, which
replaces the one signed in 1961, is expected to be signed
when Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov visits North Korea
later this year. BP

THREE LAWS SAIL PAST UPPER LEGISLATIVE CHAMBER... The
Federation Council on 17 March passed the law on gas supply
and a controversial law on morality in the media. President
Yeltsin has already pledged to veto the media law. The
Federation Council also passed legislation reducing VAT to 15
percent effective 1 July. The Duma passed the bill five days
earlier, ignoring a request by Prime Minister Primakov to
delay action on the bill until after negotiations with the
IMF, which opposes the measures, have been completed. Tax
Minister Georgii Boos told members of the Federation
Council's budget committee that the government may submit a
draft law to the Duma postponing the lowering of VAT to 1
October or 1 January if the issue becomes a "stumbling block"
with the IMF. JAC

...AND ONE PUSHED THROUGH DUMA. The same day, the State Duma
passed the law on financing the Strategic Nuclear Forces
through 2010 in its first reading by a vote of 376 to zero
and one abstention. Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman
Popkovich said earlier that passage of this law is critical
to the successful ratification of the START-II treaty.
According to ITAR-TASS, the legislation clarifies certain
aspects of the drafting and implementation of the law on the
federal budget where the latter concerns financing of the
country's strategic nuclear forces. It also addresses
ratification issues of international treaties pertaining to
those forces. JAC

PRESIDENT VETOES LAW ON FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT. President
Yeltsin on 17 March vetoed the law amending Article 7 of the
Russian Federation law on rights of citizens to free movement
and choice of place of residence. Yeltsin objected to the law
in its present form because of a provision that made
conducting the military draft impossible since registration
of residents would be canceled, "Novosti" reported. JAC

YELTSIN PROPOSES FILLING COURT VACANCY. President Yeltsin has
nominated Mikhail Mityukov, presidential representative to
the Constitutional Court, to fill the seat left vacant by the
death of Vladimir Oleinik last month, ITAR-TASS reported on
17 March. Mityukov's nomination must be approved by the
Federation Council. JAC

CHUBAIS TRIES TO PUT LIKE-MINDED ON UES BOARD. United Energy
System (EES) Chairman and former First Deputy Prime Minister
Anatolii Chubais has nominated former acting Premier Yegor
Gaidar, former Premier Sergei Kirienko, former First Deputy
Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and former head of the Federal
Tax Service Boris Fedorov as candidates for the EES board of
directors, Ekho Moskvy reported on 17 March. Kirienko has
already turned down the offer, according to Chubais. Duma
Chairman Seleznev said that the Duma will make its own
recommendations for board members, noting that the nominees,
who are members of the Right Cause party, do not have a
strong background in power engineering. JAC

YELTSIN SET TO LEAVE HOSPITAL. Presidential spokesman
Yakushkin told reporters that President Yeltsin will be
released from the Central Clinical Hospital on 18 March. Duma
Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told reporters two days earlier
that the Duma will invite Yeltsin to participate in the
debate on his impeachment scheduled for 15 April. JAC

HARD TIMES FOR OLDEST PROFESSION. Moscow police officer
Viktor Egorin told reporters on 17 March that a night with
one of the more desirable prostitutes in Moscow would have
cost between $100-$200 before the devaluation of the ruble,
but now prices have been cut in half, AFP reported. Part of
the problem might be increased supply. According to Moscow
Interior Board figures, police arrested 12.7 percent more
women on suspicion of prostitution during the first two
months of 1999 than during the same period the previous year,
AP reported. JAC

'BARBER OF SIBERIA' DRAWING CROWDS. The new film by director
Nikita Mikhalkov, the man who would not be Russian president,
is attracting record audiences since it opened three-and-a-
half weeks ago, Interfax reported on 17 March. According to
Mikhalkov, the film, which cost $45 million, has already made
$500,000. In other film news, Vissarion Dzhugashvili, the
great grandson of Soviet ruler Josef Stalin plans to make a
movie about his grand-father, Stalin's son, Iakov, AFP
reported. Iakov was shot by the Germans during World War II
after Stalin refused to hand over captured German Field
Marshal Friedrich Paulus in exchange for his son, saying that
he refused to exchange an ordinary soldier for a field
marshal. JAC

BASHKORTOSTAN ELECTS NEW PARLIAMENT. More than 60 percent of
Bashkortostan's estimated 2.85 million voters cast their
ballots on 14 March in the parliamentary and local elections,
Russian media reported. A total of 144 candidates were
elected to the lower and 30 to the upper house of the
parliament; of those, 83 and 14, respectively, had been
members of the previous parliament. Not a single Communist
Party candidate was elected to either chamber. But that does
not reflect an absence of widespread dissatisfaction with
social conditions: "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 March
that in 10 constituencies in Ufa the number of votes cast
against all candidates for the local council was larger than
the combined total of votes for any given candidate. The poll
in those districts was therefore declared invalid. LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT RESHUFFLES SECURITY AGENCIES. At a cabinet
meeting on 18 March, Aslan Maskhadov formally accepted the
resignations of Shariah Security Minister Aslanbek Arsanov
and Deputy Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriev, ITAR-TASS and AP
reported. Maskhadov then confirmed Atgeriev's appointment as
head of the newly created Ministry of State Security, which
incorporates all previously existing bodies responsible for
state security. Maskhadov announced that he will personally
take charge of Chechnya's law enforcement agencies. The
previous day, Chechen Deputy Prosecutor-General Magomed
Magomadov had criticized Moscow for its refusal to cooperate
by sharing information on the ongoing investigation into the
5 March abduction in Grozny of Russian Interior Ministry
General Gennadii Shpigun, according to Interfax. Magomadov
expressed surprise at Russian Interior Minister Sergei
Stepashin's statement that his ministry is aware of both
Shpigun's whereabouts and the identity of his kidnappers. LF

RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTER ADVOCATES QUADRILATERAL
COOPERATION. Speaking in Tbilisi on 17 March, Stepashin said
that "the time is ripe" for cooperation between his ministry
and its Georgian, Armenian, and Azerbaijani equivalents to
stabilize the situation in the Caucasus, ITAR-TASS reported.
Stepashin denied media reports that former Georgian security
service chief Igor Giorgadze visited Moscow in February as
part of a Syrian government delegation. Giorgadze, whom the
Georgian authorities accuse of masterminding the
assassination attempt on Georgian head of state Eduard
Shevardnadze in August 1995, is reported to be in hiding in
Syria. In an interview with "Krasnaya zvezda" the same day,
Russian Nationalities Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov advocated
imposing emergency rule in the North Caucasus republics that
border on Chechnya. Abdulatipov said the situation in most of
those republics "is getting out of control." LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

EX-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES IN ARMENIA FAIL TO FORM ELECTION
ALLIANCE. Vazgen Manukian, chairman of the center-right
National Democratic Union (AZhM), said in Yerevan on 17 March
that former Armenian Communist Party First Secretary Karen
Demirchian has declined Manukian's proposal to form an
alliance to contend the 30 May parliamentary elections,
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Demirchian's center-left
People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) and the AZhM are among five
parties that observers believe have the greatest chance of
surmounting the 5 percent barrier to parliamentary
representation under the proportional system. Demirchian and
Manukian were among the 12 candidates in the March 1998
presidential poll. Manukian polled third place in the first
round, and Demirchian lost to acting president Robert
Kocharian in the runoff. Manukian on 17 March also ruled out
an electoral alliance with Paruyr Hairikian's Self-
Determination Union. Hairikian withdrew his candidacy in the
1996 presidential election in favor of Manukian. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER WARNS AGAINST 'PRESSURE.' Khosrov
Harutunian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 17 March that he
will not tolerate "public pressure" on the parliament to
adopt in the second reading an opposition-sponsored bill
lowering energy prices. Hundreds of opposition supporters
picketed the parliament building on 15 March when the bill
underwent its first reading. LF

AZERBAIJANI OIL CONSORTIUM PLANS TO DOUBLE OUTPUT. In a press
release issued in Baku on 17 March, David Woodward, president
of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company, the only
international consortium at present extracting off-shore
Caspian oil, said the consortium plans to double output in
1999 to 5.2 million metric tons, Turan and Dow Jones
Newswires reported. Woodward noted that the two existing
export pipelines from Baku via Russia and Georgia have a
combined throughput capacity of 10 million tons. The Main
Export Pipeline, the optimum route for which he said the AIOC
has not yet decided, will be economically viable only when
other consortia or other countries (such as Kazakhstan),
begin to export oil. That is unlikely to happen before 2003,
Woodward predicted. LF

AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA DISCUSS DEFENSE COOPERATION. Proceeding
on the assumption that the Baku-Ceyhan route will ultimately
be chosen for the Main Export Pipeline, Azerbaijani Defense
Minister Safar Abiev and Georgian Minister of State Vazha
Lortkipanidze discussed in Tbilisi on 17 March creating a
legal basis for cooperation between their two countries on
protecting oil and gas export pipelines, Caucasus Press
reported. Also on 17 March, Abiev said that the Russian
military bases in Georgia pose a threat to Azerbaijan,
according to Interfax. He also expressed displeasure that a
Russian army facility in Tbilisi is engaged in repairing
tanks for the Armenian army. Abiev has held talks with his
Georgian counterpart, David Tevzadze, and with Georgian
parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania. LF

FOUR SUSPECTS IN TASHKENT BOMBINGS ARRESTED IN UKRAINE.
Ukrainian police have arrested four Uzbek nationals suspected
of involvement in the Tashkent bombings last month (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February, 1999), Interfax reported. The
four were apprehended in Kyiv. In a 16 March statement,
Amnesty International names two of the detainees as Yusif
Ruzimuradov and Muhammed Bekjon, both members of Uzbekistan's
banned Erk Party. Bekjon is the brother of Mohammed Solih,
whom Uzbek President Islam Karimov has named as an organizer
of the bombings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 March 1999). BP

KAZAKHSTAN NOT TO WITHDRAW BATTALION FROM TAJIKISTAN.
Kazakhstan's border guard chief, Major-General Toktasyn
Buzubayev, said at a press conference in Almaty on 17 March
that his country will not withdraw its battalion from
Tajikistan, Interfax reported. Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have
withdrawn their troops from the CIS peacekeeping force (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1998 and 23 February 1999),
leaving only battalions from Tajikistan, Russia, and
Kazakhstan guarding the Tajik-Afghan border. Interfax also
reported that the size of Kazakhstan's battalion in
Tajikistan has been reduced from 500 to 300 men. BP

NEW CHAIRMAN APPOINTED TO KAZAKHSTAN'S SUPREME COURT COUNCIL.
Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev has appointed
Igor Rogov as chairman of the Supreme Court Council, ITAR-
TASS reported on 18 March. Nazarbayev had held that post for
three years, but a constitutional amendment adopted last year
forbids the president from holding this post. BP

TURKMENISTAN TO INTRODUCE VISA REGIME FOR MOST CIS CITIZENS.
Turkmenistan is to require citizens of most CIS states to
obtain a visa before visiting that country, Interfax reported
on 17 March. Turkmenistan is the first country to announce it
is withdrawing from the CIS Free Travel Agreement. A "source"
told Interfax that one reason for the decision is that "mass
migration and other travel are becoming increasingly
uncontrollable." Another reason, according to the same
source, is that Turkmenistan has become a haven for those
wanted for crimes elsewhere in the CIS. Citizens from
Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are exempt from the new
requirement, which is expected to go into effect beginning 9
June. BP

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEBATES UZBEK GAS SUPPLIES. Lawmakers on 17
March discussed purchasing natural gas from Uzbekistan,
RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. Sagyn Ainakulov,
the director of the state gas company, Kyrgyzgaz, said that
as of 1 March Kyrgyzstan owes Uzbekistan more than $6 million
for gas supplies. Several deputies said they have reviewed
the contracts with Uzbekistan for gas supplies and have
objections to its terms. They noted that Kyrgyzstan pays $50
per 1,000 cubic meters and has resorted to settling its debt
through shipments of flour. That flour sells for $220 per
ton, but the deputies claimed that the world price for 1,000
cubic meters of gas is $38 and for 1 ton of flour $320. They
argued that the government and state gas company are
criminally negligent for agreeing to such conditions. BP

MORE TAJIK OPPOSITION MEMBERS RECEIVE GOVERNMENT POSTS.
Another five members of the United Tajik Opposition have been
given government positions in line with terms of the Tajik
Peace Accord signed in June 1997, ITAR-TASS and AP reported
on 17 March. Abdunabi Sattarov from the democratic wing of
the UTO was appointed deputy premier. The other posts given
to the UTO are the deputy heads of the Health Ministry, the
State Statistical Board, and the Special Property Committee
as well as the head of the Geological Board. However, no
decision has been taken on the UTO nominations for defense
minister and head of the State Committee for Industry. BP

END NOTE

FEDERATION COUNCIL VOTES TO KEEP SKURATOV

by Floriana Fossato

        The surprise 17 March vote in Russia's Federation
Council to overwhelmingly reject the resignation of
Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov has added a new element to
a story ripe with political intrigue and economic
implications.
        Skuratov abruptly tendered his resignation to President
Boris Yeltsin last month, citing health reasons. For weeks,
he was hospitalized at Moscow's Central Clinical Hospital.
His resignation, however, came just one day after he had
revealed that Russia's Central Bank had been channeling
billions of dollars in reserves through an obscure off-shore
company. Shortly after Skuratov's resignation, security
forces raided companies owned by businessman-turned-
politician Boris Berezovskii, known for his powerful Kremlin
connections.
        Yeltsin immediately accepted Skuratov's resignation.
Speaking by telephone with Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov
on 16 March, Yeltsin stressed the need to quickly appoint
Skuratov's successor. The Russian Constitution states,
however, that accepting the prosecutor-general's resignation
is the prerogative of the upper house of parliament, the
Federation Council.
        The next day, a healthy-looking Skuratov appeared before
the Council and told senators that he is ready to continue
his work if "you extend your trust and support to me." The
vote was 142 to six to keep Skuratov in his job.
        Skuratov acknowledged that health was not the reason
behind his resignation. Without naming names, he said
powerful forces had driven a wedge between him and Yeltsin,
forcing him to resign. His revelations lend credence to
rumors widespread in Moscow in the last few weeks that he was
being blackmailed. Gennadii Seleznev, the Communist speaker
of the State Duma--today confirmed those rumors, saying there
have been "direct threats from the mass media" to reveal
compromising information about Skuratov.
        "A big contribution to the resignation process came from
well-known oligarchs, who have their own interest in criminal
cases linked with corruption in top power posts," Skuratov
told the upper house of parliament. "Among those cases are,
above all, facts concerning [airline] Aeroflot, [car dealer]
Avtovaz, private security company Atoll, and others. At the
time [of the resignation], my personal contacts with the
president also ceased. Maybe I was wrong, maybe I made
mistakes; but I was under the impression that I lost the
president's support. In the end, facts surrounding my
personal life were released. They were obtained by illegal
methods, in order to put pressure on me. When I sent my
[resignation] letter to the president, I hoped to attract the
attention of the head of state to the facts taking place
around me and the Prosecutor-General's Office."
        All the Federation Council members who took the floor on
17 March called for a vote in an effort to keep Skuratov in
his job. Some--like Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Kemerovo
Governor Aman Tuleev--went so far as to tell colleagues that
the upper house was about to vote, not only on Skuratov's
future, but on the very values its members support. They
argued that senators would vote "for the victory of criminals
or for the victory of the law."
        Sources in the Federation Council noted, however, that
most of the governors taking the floor in support of Skuratov
are close to the Communist Party and that some are themselves
under investigation for financial wrongdoings, such as Tula
Governor Vasilii Starodubtsev. According to those sources,
this signals a possible alliance between Skuratov and
Yeltsin's communist foes.
        Skuratov's resignation unleashed an outpouring of
speculation in Russia's media and political circles.
Virtually no one in Moscow believed failing health was the
real reason behind Skuratov's resignation. Moscow's leading
newspapers on 17 March ran front-page articles predicting
that the Federation Council--after listening to Skuratov's
reasons for his move--would quickly vote to accept his
resignation.
        Following a meeting of leading television and media
executives on 16 March, the director of Russian Public
Television (ORT), Igor Shabdurasulov, said senators should
accept Skuratov's resignation immediately and without
discussion. ORT is only partly under the control of its major
shareholder, the state. Its management is reportedly
controlled by Berezovskii, who is fighting with the
government and parliament to maintain his grip on the
network, which is Russia's largest.
        Political analysts say the Federation Council 17 March
vote--openly contradicting Yeltsin's approval of Skuratov's
resignation--indicates that a new conflict between the
president and the parliament could be in the making.
        According to influential Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov,
the vote "creates a precedent for the independence of the
Prosecutor-General's Office from the Kremlin. The
consequences could be positive, but also negative. We'll
see."
        Yeltsin's representative in the Federation Council,
Yurii Yarov, said Skuratov's decision to remain in his job
with the support of the Federation Council is "strange and
surprising."
        Sergei Markov, director of Moscow's Institute of
Political Studies, told RFE/RL that "it is absolutely clear
that a new, serious conflict is brewing. Yeltsin did sign
Skuratov's resignation letter and the Federation Council has
just voted against his decision."
        Markov noted that "what happens next is unclear. The
constitution gives no indication in this regard because the
law usually includes only rational developments. It is
possible that a special commission will be appointed to find
a compromise and will try to solve the controversy with
political methods."

The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.
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