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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 56, Part I, 22 March 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 56, Part I, 22 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

* CHECHEN PRESIDENT ESCAPES FOURTH ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

* BORDYUZHA GETS THE SACK

* AZERBAIJAN REJECTS RUSSIAN DUMA STATEMENT ON U.S. BASES

End Note: A DISASTER THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN
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RUSSIA

CHECHEN PRESIDENT ESCAPES FOURTH ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT... One
person was killed and eight injured when a bomb exploded in
central Grozny on 21 March as Aslan Maskhadov's motorcade
drove past. Maskhadov escaped uninjured, as he has on two
previous occasions. He was slightly wounded in a third
assassination attempt last summer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23
July 1998). Maskhadov, Chechen Deputy Prosecutor-General
Magomed Magomadov, and Russian Interior Minister Sergei
Stepashin all posited a connection between the assassination
attempt, the 19 March bomb explosion in Vladikavkaz, and the
5 March abduction in Grozny of Russian Interior Ministry
General Gennadii Shpigun. They said all three incidents are
intended to destabilize Chechnya and discredit its
leadership. Meanwhile no firm date has been set for the
proposed meeting between Maskhadov and Russian Prime Minister
Yevgenii Primakov. LF

...AFTER RESHUFFLING SECURITY AGENCIES. Interfax on 19 March
reported that Maskhadov has changed the name of the Shariah
Security Ministry to the Interior Ministry and appointed
General Aidamar Abalaev as its head. Abalaev was charged with
overseeing the investigation into Shpigun's abduction.
Maskhadov also decreed the creation of a Defense Ministry,
but newly appointed Minister of State Security Turpal
Atgeriev told ITAR-TASS that reports saying that field
commander Ruslan Gilaev will be appointed defense minister
are "premature." Atgeriev described the duties of his State
Security Ministry as "preventing and combating crime that
threatens the nation and the lawfully elected government." He
compared it to the Soviet-era KGB. LF

VLADIKAVKAZ DEATH TOLL RISES. Interfax on 19 March reported
that 60 people died and 101 were injured in the previous
day's explosion in the central market in the North Ossetian
capital, Vladikavkaz. Russian Interior Minister Stepashin,
who flew to Vladikavkaz with a group of investigators, said
the bomb was clearly intended to exacerbate tensions between
ethnic groups in the North Caucasus. Federal Security Service
(FSB) spokesman Oleg Vershinin similarly stated that the
explosion was "unequivocally" a terrorist act. Both Stepashin
and President Boris Yeltsin sent messages of condolence to
North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov. LF

BORDYUZHA GETS THE SACK. As was widely expected, former
presidential administration head Nikolai Bordyuzha has been
dismissed, just hours after returning to work on 19 March
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March 1999). To replace him,
Russian President Boris Yeltsin promoted Aleksandr Voloshin,
deputy head of the administration. According to "Segodnya" on
20 March, when Voloshin went into private business in 1993,
one of his first business partners was Boris Berezovskii. In
November 1997, Voloshin became an assistant to then head of
the presidential administration, Valentin Yumashev, who is
now an unpaid presidential adviser. Voloshin also prepared
Aleksandr Lebed's economic program when the latter was
running for governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai, "Kommersant-Daily"
reported. The daily also commented that Yeltsin's choice of
Voloshin had less to do with his connection to Yumashev and
Berezovskii and more to do with the fact that the two met
"rather often" while Yeltsin was in the hospital preparing
his annual address to the nation. JAC

STATE WORKERS GET PAY RAISE. Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov
signed a decree on 20 March increasing wages for state
workers beginning 1 April, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day,
Primakov chaired a meeting to discuss trimming the 300,000 or
so workers in federal bodies located outside of Moscow.
Meanwhile, "Vremya MN" reported that the backlog to state
workers was 11.6 billion rubles ($440 million) as of 2 March
and the government has had only limited success in reducing
it in 1999. JAC

START-II, LAND CODE ON DUMA AGENDA FOR EARLY APRIL. The State
Duma on 19 March approved the Central Bank's monetary and
credit policy for 1999 by a vote of 276 to 45 with no
abstentions, Interfax reported. According to the draft
statement, M-2 money supply may increase 18-26 percent during
the year. In addition, the bank plans to increase the volume
of credits available to commercial banks. The Duma took a
break on 19 March until 31 March, after which it will
consider ratification of the START-II treaty on 2 April,
ITAR-TASS reported. According to Duma speaker Gennadii
Seleznev, the land code will also be considered in April and
is likely to pass. He added that the Communist faction will
support the legislation. JAC

COMMUNISTS REFUSE TO SIGN POLITICAL ACCORD. Communist Party
leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced on 19 March that his
faction will not sign the political peace treaty presented by
a working committee last week. The deal breaker, according to
Zyuganov, is the resignation of President Yeltsin, which is
one of the party's main conditions for signing the accord.
The previous day, Our Home Is Russia faction leader Vladimir
Ryzhkov told "Kommersant-Daily" that although he participated
in the working committee that drafted the accord, he does not
like the results, since it contains only a hint of the
concrete suggestions made by Duma members He also said that
he is upset by the presidential administration's insistence
on removing one of the draft accord's nine points--namely,
that after 2000 the government be formed on the basis of a
parliamentary majority. JAC

TWO-THIRDS OF RUSSIAN BANKS TO SURVIVE? Central Bank Chairman
Viktor Gerashchenko told the Duma on 19 March that a little
over 1,000 of the country's 1,500 commercial banks will
survive the economic crisis that began mid-August, Interfax
reported. Noting that the Central Bank originally forecast
that no more than 250-350 banks would survive, he said that
this forecast was overly pessimistic and that many provincial
banks are "surviving on their own without significant
assistance from the Central Bank." On 16 March, the Central
Bank launched a new organization to revive the banking
industry, the "Moscow Times" reported. That organization will
include members of international financial institutions as
well as representatives from the Duma and Federation Council.
Banking analysts, according to the daily, believe that the
organization's principle goal will be to create the
impression that the government is doing something to
restructure the banking sector. JAC

TITOV PROPOSES ALLIANCE WITH NDR. Samara Governor Konstantin
Titov proposed on 18 March that his movement, Golos Rossii,
join Our Home Is Russia (NDR), "Novye Izvestiya" reported on
19 March. According to Titov, such an alliance would be
assured of overcoming the 5 percent barrier for the Duma.
Since Titov has openly criticized NDR leader Viktor
Chernomyrdin on a number of occasions, his proposal took some
analysts by surprise. However, "Segodnya" on 20 March quoted
"a source close to the executive committee of NDR" as saying
that Titov is favorably impressed by NDR's new economic
program, drafted by faction leader Ryzhkov. Titov, according
to "Novye Izvestiya," believes that "Now everything depends
on Chernomyrdin, who should understand that NDR without the
regions, without a strong regional policy, without a clear-
cut policy on federalism will be preparing for the elections
by going down a blind alley." JAC

OMSK DEPUTY GOVERNOR TARGETTED FOR ASSASINATION. First Deputy
Governor of Omsk Oblast Andrei Galushko survived an
assassination attempt on 22 March, ITAR-TASS reported.
Galushko is in charge of finance, foreign trade, and property
issues within the oblast administration and is also a member
of the commission for tax and budget discipline. That
commission recently approved a series of measures designed to
bring order into the region's crime-ridden grain, vodka, and
beer businesses, according to the agency. Galushko received
two bullet wounds and his driver was killed. Omsk Governor
Leonid Polezhaev's press secretary said that the attack on
Galushko was a result of his attempts to fight drug
trafficking, corruption, and the "vodka mafia." JAC

RUSSIA TO TRIM OIL EXPORTS. Russia is cutting its oil exports
by 100,000 barrels a day beginning 1 April, the Ministry of
Fuel and Energy told ITAR-TASS on 22 March. The move is being
to taken to support OPEC and other oil producers in their
attempt to raise flagging oil prices. JAC

PERSONNEL CHANGES ANNOUNCED. President Yeltsin has signed a
decree appointing Valerii Loshchinin as Russia's permanent
representative to international organizations in Vienna,
ITAR-TASS reported on 19 March. His predecessor, Oleg
Sokolov, retired. Yeltsin also dismissed Petr Kamshilov from
the post of presidential representative to Saratov Oblast.
JAC

RUSSIA, BULGARIA PEN GAS DEAL. Bulgarian Deputy Prime
Minister Evgeni Bakardzhiev and Gazprom President Rem
Vyakhirev signed an agreement on 18 March increasing
deliveries of Russian natural gas through Bulgaria from 19
billion cubic meters to 30 billion cubic meters annually
within two years, BTA and ITAR-TASS reported. The next day,
Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov told reporters that Russia
has also agreed to pay off its $100 million debt to Bulgaria.
Zadornov noted that to revive flagging trade between the two
countries, Bulgaria has been granted most-favored-nation
status with regard to customs duties. According to ITAR-TASS,
trade turnover between the two countries fell more than 90
percent over the last 10 years, dropping from $17 billion in
1988 to a mere $1.2 billion in 1998. JAC

RURAL FOLK USING EMPTIES FOR CASH. The Alexinbytservice
company in Tula Oblast's Alexin Raion has introduced the use
of empty glass bottles as a surrogate currency because of the
lack of available cash in outlying rural regions, ITAR-TASS
reported on 21 March. The firm, which provides a variety of
services such as repairing domestic appliances, tailoring,
and hair-cutting, found many potential clients but few with
ready cash. According to the agency, a hair cut costs five
empty bottles. The firm delivers its empties to wholesale
buyers who pay 1.3 rubles (5 cents) per bottle. JAC

YELTSIN ISSUES FORMAL INVITATIONS TO CIS SUMMIT. President
Yeltsin wrote to his fellow CIS heads of state on 19 March
inviting them to the summit to be held in Moscow on 2 April,
Interfax reported. Yeltsin also thanked his fellow presidents
for their comments on the proposals for amending the
structure of the CIS apparatus. Those proposals are one of
the main items on the summit agenda, together with the
dismissal of Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii and
implementation of plans to create a CIS free trade zone. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

AZERBAIJAN REJECTS RUSSIAN STATE DUMA STATEMENT ON U.S.
BASES. State Foreign Policy Adviser Vafa Guluzade dismissed
as "groundless" the 18 March statement by the Russian State
Duma condemning Baku's stated willingness to host U.S.
military bases, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19
March 1999). Guluzade said that Azerbaijan is a sovereign
state and thus entitled to decide on its own security policy.
He also dismissed as "ridiculous" the Duma's denial that
Russia is supplying arms to Armenia. LF

KARABAKH PARLIAMENT WELCOMES EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION.
Boris Aroushanian, chairman of the Foreign Relations
Committee of the parliament of the unrecognized Nagorno-
Karabakh Republic, has described the 11 March endorsement by
the European Parliament of the OSCE Minsk Group's Karabakh
peace proposal as "a hopeful sign," Interfax and Noyan Tapan
reported on 18 March. At the same time, Aroushanian expressed
incomprehension at Azerbaijan's rejection of those proposals,
given that they comprise "not a formula for the final
resolution of the conflict but principles for continuing
talks." Also on 18 March, Azerbaijan's opposition Vahdat
Party and National Unity Party issued a joint statement
condemning the European Parliament resolution as "against the
will" of the Azerbaijani people, according to Turan. The two
parties blamed the resolution on the erroneous foreign and
domestic policies pursued by the present Azerbaijani
leadership. LF

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS YEREVAN. On a one-day
working visit to Yerevan on 19 March, Irakli Menagharishvili
discussed with his Armenian counterpart, Vartan Oskanian, the
Abkhaz and Karabakh conflicts, the recent meeting in
Strasbourg of the parliamentary speakers of all three
Transcaucasus states, and the prospects for strengthening
economic ties, Noyan Tapan reported. Speaking later to
journalists, Menagharishvili said that while Georgia does not
currently aspire to NATO membership, it considers the
alliance "an important component of the future European
security structure" and intends to increase its participation
in the Partnership for Peace program, according to Interfax.
Oskanian characterized "stable" Armenian-Georgian bilateral
relations as an important component of regional stability in
the face of growing "polarization." LF

TURKMENISTAN'S DECISION TO INTRODUCE VISA REGIME
CRITICIZED... Speaking in Minsk on 19 March, the chairman of
the Integration Committee of the CIS Customs Union,
Nigmatzhan Isingarin, said the CIS will make an "adequate"
response to Turkmenistan's announcement that as of June, it
will require citizens of most CIS countries to have a visa
when traveling to that country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18
March 1999), Interfax reported. Isringarin said the decision
has "pluses and minuses," adding that "Turkmenistan will not
only isolate itself from CIS countries but other countries
will be closed to it." Isingarin pointed out that some
highways connecting southwest Asian countries with the CIS
run through Turkmenistan and that many CIS businessmen
transit Turkmenistan on routes from one CIS country to
another. "This means [such businessmen] will find routes
around Turkmenistan,÷which will lose most of all." BP

...AS ASHGABAT EXPLAINS DECISION... Turkmenistan's Foreign
Ministry has sent a note to the CIS Executive Secretariat
explaining the decision to introduce a visa regime, Interfax
reported on 19 March. The note said the action "should in no
way be understood as aspiring to break off relations with
governments of the CIS." It added that the 1992 agreement on
visa-free travel was concluded to "create favorable
conditions for those who elected or desired to return to the
country they considered their homeland." Now, it continued,
"the situation has been complicated as those who do not heed
laws and criminal elements have become the main users of the
visa-free regime." This situation is becoming "more and more
difficult to control," the note said. BP

...INTRODUCES NEW TRANSIT RULES FOR SOME GOODS. Turkmen
President Saparmurat Niyazov signed a decree on 19 March
establishing new rules for the transit through Turkmenistan
of beer, hard liquor, wine, and tobacco products, Interfax
reported. An unspecified fee will be imposed on goods
transiting Turkmen territory at the point of entry into the
country. Those same goods must leave Turkmen territory within
30 days and the fee will be returned at the point of
departure. The Foreign Ministry is charged with informing
accredited embassies in Turkmenistan "and other interested
parties" about the new regulations by 3 April. The action is
aimed at "protecting the domestic market," according to
Niyazov. BP

TURKMEN PRESIDENT DECLARES ANOTHER AMNESTY. Niyazov on 19
March signed a decree freeing 5,000 prisoners, Interfax
reported. This latest amnesty coincides with the holidays of
Nawruz and Kurban Bairami. The news agency reported that in
1999, more than 22,000 people have been freed under
amnesties. The crime rate in January and February has
reportedly dropped by 20 percent compared with the same
period last year. BP

TURKMENISTAN PLANS 10-YEAR SOCIO-ECONOMIC REFORM PROGRAM. At
an expanded session of the Cabinet of Ministers on 19 March,
President Niyazov signed a resolution on drafting a socio-
economic reform program through 2010, Interfax reported. All
proposals must be submitted by 1 September, and final
approval is expected to be given at a joint session of the
Peoples' Council, the Council of Elders, and the parliament
in December. BP

KAZAKHSTAN'S GOVERNMENT WANTS CUTS IN BUDGET EXPENDITURES,
REVENUES. Kazakhstan's Finance Minister Uraz Jandosov told
the parliament on 19 March that 1999 budget expenditures and
revenues need to be cut by 29 billion tenge ($333 million)
and 32.9 billion tenge, respectively, Interfax reported.
Jandosov said the government predicts that this year's GDP
will be down by 1.5 percent on 1998 and will be 8 percent
smaller than forecast in the current version of the 1999
budget. The government also predicted that inflation for this
year will be 3.7 percent, not the 8.3 percent foreseen by the
budget, and that exports will shrink by 10.3 percent and
imports by 12.3 percent (compared with the planned 1.3
percent increase). BP

ORLEU MOVEMENT IN KAZAKHSTAN PREPARES FOR PARLIAMENTARY
ELECTIONS. The head of Kazakhstan's Orleu Movement,
Seydakhmet Kuttykadam, said at a meeting on 19 March in the
city of Shymkent that he expects his movement to win three or
four seats in the parliamentary elections later this year,
Interfax reported. Kuttykadam said he believes the elections
will be moved forward from December to June. He also said he
expects incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev to remain in
office no longer than three more years. Kuttykadam said
Nazarbayev will have to step down because of "Kazakhstan's
growing international isolation, on the one hand, and the
catastrophic scale of the country's economic decline and
corruption in all strata of government, on the other hand."
BP

END NOTE

A DISASTER THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN

By Paul Goble

	A march by veterans of the Latvian Waffen SS Legion held
in Riga last week had been widely expected to trigger
confrontations between ethnic Latvians and ethnic Russians in
Latvia and lead to a deterioration of relations between Riga
and Moscow.
	But those disastrous outcomes did not materialize. Not
only did the march by 300 aging veterans of a German-
organized unit that had fought advancing Soviet troops during
World War II not lead to disturbances in Latvia itself; it
also revealed some quite remarkable restraint at the official
level in both the Latvian and Russian capitals.
	As a result, the prospects for inter-ethnic relations in
Latvia have dramatically improved, while the possibility of
better relations between Latvia and Russia has increased--a
development few observers would have predicted only a month
ago.
	There were some very good reasons for the earlier
pessimism. One year ago, a march by Waffen SS veterans
exacerbated tensions all round. There were clashes between
the marchers and ethnic Russians in the Latvian capital.
Several senior Latvian government officials took part in the
demonstration. And the Russian government roundly condemned
Riga for permitting what it called a manifestation of
fascism.
	Even though the Latvian authorities dismissed the
officials who took part, Riga appeared to have compounded its
problems when the parliament voted to make 16 March an
official day of remembrance for all those who fell in the
service of Latvia, regardless of what uniform they wore.
	While supporters of this measure argued that such a
memorial day was appropriate, opponents were deeply troubled.
The latter argued that by choosing 16 March--the anniversary
of the Legion's first battle against Soviet troops, near
Velikyy Luky in 1943--Riga appeared to be giving special
preference to those Latvians who served in German uniforms
rather than all Latvians.
	Consequently, many Latvians, ethnic Russians, and Moscow
officials predicted that this year's commemoration would
provoke an explosion. All were wrong.
	First, Latvian officials carefully distanced themselves
from the demonstration. The Latvian government announced that
no official would take part. President Guntis Ulmanis
suggested that the date of such a memorial was wrong and
should be changed. And both he and other senior officials
chose to be out of town on the date of the march.
	Second, all press accounts suggest that the Latvian
police acted with professionalism, discipline, and restraint.
In contrast to their handling of some earlier demonstrations,
the police behaved in a manner that suggested they were there
to protect public order rather than to back any particular
group. That, in turn, had the effect of reassuring many in
the Latvian capital that they could now count on the police,
regardless of their own ethnicity.
	And third, the predominantly ethnic Russian
counterdemonstration called attention to a pattern many of
the earlier doomsayers had missed. Local ethnic Russians who
participated in it behaved with dignity. Only those with
close ties to Moscow political groups appeared interested in
provoking any real problems.
	The counterdemonstration which attracted ethnic Latvians
as well as ethnic Russians was both peaceful and respectful.
Speakers denounced the fact that the march was taking place
but did not denounce Latvia as such--also a sharp contrast
with some similar events in the past.
	The only disturbance came from a group of extreme
Russian nationalists, both the Latvian and Russian media
reported. They condemned Latvia in terms that questioned its
right to national existence and even raised a portrait of
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin attached to balloons. So
hostile and violent were the remarks of this group that
others at the counterdemonstration denounced them in even
sharper terms than they had criticized those who had taken
part in the Waffen SS demonstration itself.
	Some in Moscow who had indicated they planned to be
outraged by the Latvian demonstration continued to complain--
but in remarkably mild terms. Roman Popkovich, the chairman
of the Russian parliament's defense committee, said the
Russian Duma "regrets and does not understand" Riga's
sanctioning of the demonstration and believes Europe should
understand that "Latvia is a country where human rights are
not respected."
	But a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry is
perhaps more telling. While its spokesman, Vladimir
Rakhmanin, said Moscow "will always denounce any attempts" to
make national heroes of those who supported the German side
in World War II or to revive fascism, he concluded with some
surprisingly mild and conciliatory words. "Moscow has paid
attention to the fact," he commented, "that the Latvian
authorities have disassociated themselves from the
commemorations." And he expressed the hope that "the next
step will be made" by changing the date of the soldiers'
memorial day in Latvia.
	If that happens, Rakhmanin said, "that will be the best
proof of Latvia's genuine adherence to the course of
integration of society and the country's merging with
democratic Europe." Because Latvian leaders are now saying
the same thing, the disaster that didn't happen may point to
an even better outcome in the future.

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