The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that's the essence of inhumanity. - George Bernard Shaw
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 57, Part I, 23 March 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 57, Part I, 23 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

* RUBLE CONTINUES LONG SLIDE

* MOSCOW THREATENS TO CANCEL PRIMAKOV TRIP IN EVENT OF NATO
AIR STRIKES

* ARMENIA ANTICIPATES OSCE PRESSURE ON AZERBAIJAN

End Note: AFTER THE BOMBS FALL
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RUSSIA

RUBLE CONTINUES LONG SLIDE. The ruble fell for the ninth
consecutive day on 23 March, closing at 24.29 rubles to $1,
ITAR-TASS reported. Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko
said the previous day that the ruble's decline is "in large
part psychological." Earlier, he had argued that an agreement
with the IMF would reassure the market. On 20 March, First
Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov told Interfax that
although the ruble had slumped to 24 to $1, the 1999 budget,
which was based on an assumed rate of 21 rubles to $1, would
not have to be revised. Maslyukov blamed the ruble's slide on
the "alarming situation in society," with "ex-Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin slinging mud at me, then former junior
reformers abusing the government." JAC

PRIMAKOV LEAVES FOR U.S... Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov
left for Washington on the morning of 23 March for a four-day
official trip to the U.S. Upon arrival, Primakov is expected
to hold talks with World Bank President James Wolfensohn and
attend a dinner with U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Interfax
reported. The next day, Gore and Primakov will chair a
meeting of the U.S.-Russia Bi-national Commission, also known
as the Gore-Primakov Commission, and Primakov will meet with
President Bill Clinton and IMF Managing Director Michel
Camdessus. Among the items on the agenda of the commission
are Russian steel exports to the U.S., joint space research,
and bilateral trade issues. About 100 Russian steel workers
appealed to officials in the Russian government and at the
U.S. embassy in Moscow on 22 March to reconsider a recent
agreement that sharply reduces Russian steel shipments. JAC

...PREPARED TO MAKE CONCESSIONS TO IMF? Russian newspapers
concluded that Primakov will have to agree to a series of
concessions during his trip in order to win IMF money.
"Segodnya" on 20 March linked the work of the Gore-Primakov
Commission with the IMF negotiations, noting that Russia,
"whose budget is equivalent to that of New York City, intends
to ask the U.S. to put in a word with the IMF." It continued,
"It is not inconceivable that Primakov will have to swallow
several bitter pills during the commission's work" before he
asks the U.S. for its political support. Meanwhile, the IMF
itself has moderated some of its demands, Finance Minister
Mikhail Zadornov told reporters on 19 March. According to
Zadornov, the IMF will not demand that the Russia's primary
budget surplus be as high as 3.5 percent of GDP. He also
pledged that export duties on oil will not be increased
unless oil prices rise to $12 a barrel. JAC

MOSCOW THREATENS TO CANCEL PRIMAKOV TRIP IN EVENT OF NATO AIR
STRIKES. Prime Minister Primakov will cut short his scheduled
trip to the U.S. should NATO attack Serbia, Interfax reported
on 23 March, citing "government sources." Primakov stated the
previous day that Russia is "categorically opposed to the use
of force in Yugoslavia," adding that such a development would
have "a great destabilizing effect, not just on the situation
in Yugoslavia and Kosovo, but also in Europe as a whole."
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov joined the prime minister in
condemning possible military action, telling reporters that
"if we are interested in a long-term peaceful settlement of
the [Kosova] problem, we would have to admit that it is
impossible to achieve this by using such methods." He added
that the "history of the Balkans and the entire world
experience show that attempts to find a quick solution to a
problem by using force will lead to opposite results." JAC

SKURATOV STRIKES BACK. Investigators from the office of the
Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov on 23 March sealed off
several Kremlin offices as part of its investigation into
whether the Swiss company Mabetex bribed officials in order
to win a lucrative contract to renovate the Kremlin. Pavel
Borodin, head of the facilities directorate, told NTV that a
number of officials have been questioned and have denied any
wrongdoing. "Novye Izvestiya" reported earlier that Borodin
tried to force Skuratov out of office because he had
uncovered Borodin's shady dealings with Mabetex (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 16 March 1999). Skuratov is scheduled to meet with
Switzerland's Prosecutor-General Carla del Ponte on 23 March.
JAC

DUMA AGAIN REFUSES TO CENSURE MAKASHOV. Before leaving for
the U.S., Prime Minister Primakov told an audience at the
Anti-Defamation League that "his government takes a very
strong position against any manifestation of nationalism,
including anti-Semitism." He also said that Duma deputy and
member of the Communist faction Albert Makashov must "be
condemned unambiguously" for his anti-Semitic pronouncements,
Reuters reported. On 19 March, by a vote of 133 to 104, the
State Duma rejected a motion to condemn Makashov for his
recent statements in Krasnodar Oblast (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
17March 1999). Writing in "Sovetskaya Rossiya" on 23 March,
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said the people's
patriotic forces are ready for a Russian-Jewish dialogue. He
also argued that the "Russian question" is the most acute
ethnic question in Russia. And he called for a national
policy program to "save the unique Russian civilization" and
"revive the Russian people as the backbone of the Russian
state." JAC

ISRAEL, RUSSIA TO COOPERATE ON NON-PROLIFERATION. Addressing
reporters after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu on 22 March, Foreign Minister Ivanov said
that Russia is open to close cooperation with all relevant
countries on non-proliferation issues. According to Israel
state television, the nations agreed to set up a joint
control body to monitor exports of sensitive technology to
Iran and to be chaired by the countries' two foreign
ministers. Netanyahu had said earlier that Russia's alleged
technology transfers to Iran would be the top item on the
agenda of his two-day trip to Moscow, which began on 21
March. Netanyahu also met the same day with Prime Minister
Primakov, who said relations between the two countries are
"normal and expanding." According to Ivanov, specific
projects for cooperation will be discussed at a Russian-
Israeli inter-governmental commission meeting slated for July
or August. JAC

RUSSIAN NATIONAL UNITY TO BE JOINED BY BOLSHEVIKS, COSSACKS?
Eduard Limonov, novelist and leader of the nationalist
extremist National Bolshevik Party (NBP), announced on 22
March that he is ready to form an alliance between his party
and the neo-nazi Russian National Unity (RNU) party, ITAR-
TASS reported. Limonov told members of his party at a meeting
in St. Petersburg that the NBP is ready for joint actions
with the RNU. The same day, Russian Television reported that
at a rally organized by the RNU in Krasnodar, some local
Cossacks were in attendance. According to the television
station, the Cossacks have previously kept their distance
from all parties and movements. JAC

REGIONAL NEWSPAPERS FACING PAPER SHORTAGE. Subscribers to
"Samarskaya Gazeta" did not get their paper for a week and
more than 60 magazines and 300 newspapers also published in
Samara Oblast face closure this month because of a "shortage"
of newsprint, Periodicals Publisher Guild head Aleksandr
Oskin told ITAR-TASS on 22 March. Publishers in St.
Petersburg, Novosibirsk, and other regions face a similar
problem. According to Oskin, the problem is that although
paper production increased last year, pulp and paper
factories prefer to export two-thirds of their products,
selling the remainder through middlemen who mark up the price
by 30 percent or more. JAC

KALININGRAD GOVERNOR OPPOSED TO 'FOURTH BALTIC REPUBLIC.'
Leonid Gorbenko, following a meeting with former Federation
Council Chairman Vladimir Shumeiko, has spoken out against
the latter's proposal to turn Kaliningrad Oblast into a
"Baltic Republic within the Russian Federation" (see "RFE/RL
Russian Federation Report," 3 March 1999), BNS reported on 22
March. The Kaliningrad regional press service reported that
Gorbenko's position "with regard to separatism and political
extremism remains unchanged: the Kaliningrad region is an
inalienable part of Russia and the all-embracing crisis can
be overcome only through [accord]." Shumeiko intends to
compete in Kaliningrad for a seat in the State Duma,
according to BNS. JC

NEW TAX POLICE CHIEF NAMED. President Yeltsin has appointed
Vyacheslav Soltaganov the new head of the Tax Police,
replacing Sergei Almazo, who was dismissed last month.
Soltaganov previously headed the directorate for information
protection and internal security of the State Tax Service. In
other personnel-related moves, President Yeltsin signed a
decree dismissing his envoy to North Ossetia and Ingushetia
Vladimir Kalamanov. "Kremlin sources" told Interfax that
Kalamanov's work is regarded positively and he is a candidate
for the post of head of the Federal Migration Service. JAC

VODKA MUSEUM OPENS IN YAROSLAVL. A vodka museum has opened in
the town of Uglich in Yaroslavl Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on
22 March. Uglich was the home of one of the early members of
the Smirnov vodka dynasty, Grigorii Smirnov, who launched his
own tavern there in 1835. The museum features a display of
more than 400 brands of vodka from 62 distilleries throughout
Russia and an exhibit chronicling the early history of vodka
from the 13th century, when peasants would distill rye wort
in earthenware pots, to the 15th century and the development
of small distilleries. JAC

RUSSIA, TATARSTAN REACH AGREEMENT ON EXTENDING POWER-SHARING
TREATY. After weeks of negotiations, Moscow and Kazan have
reached agreement on prolonging for five years the 1994
powersharing treaty, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 19
March. President Mintimer Shaimiev told journalists on his
return to Kazan from Moscow the previous day that various
details, including tax rates in Tatarstan, may be amended by
the mutual consent of Tatarstan and the federal authorities.
LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT SEEKS RENEWED TALKS WITH MOSCOW. As Chechen
investigators continued their search on 22 March for the
perpetrators of the previous day's bomb attack on President
Aslan Maskhadov, the latter told journalists in Grozny that
there are forces both in Chechnya and in Moscow who have a
vested interest in removing him. Maskhadov said he still
hopes for a meeting with President Yeltsin, whom he described
as the sole individual empowered to resolve problems in
bilateral relations but noted that no date has been set for
such a meeting. He added that he is prepared to meet also
with Prime Minister Primakov, who will visit the Caucasus
next month, and that he hopes talks will be renewed on a
comprehensive treaty defining relations between Russia and
Chechnya. Maskhadov endorsed Chechen Foreign Minister Isa
Idigov's proposal, made earlier that day, that
representatives of international organizations or a third
country should participate in Russian-Chechen negotiations.
LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIA ANTICIPATES OSCE PRESSURE ON AZERBAIJAN. Speaking at
separate press conferences in Yerevan on 22 March, the
foreign ministers of Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-
Karabakh Republic, Vartan Oskanian and Naira Melkumian,
predicted that during his visit to the Transcaucasus in
April, OSCE chairman-in-office Knut Vollebaek will try to
persuade Azerbaijan to accept the most recent OSCE plan to
end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau
reported. Azerbaijan has rejected that plan, which calls for
Azerbaijan and Karabakh to form a "common state." Melkumian
said the plan "has not been and will not be changed" to
accommodate Azerbaijan. Melkumian added that a "very serious
shift" has occurred over the past year in the international
community's attitude toward the conflict in favor of a
settlement of the conflict avoiding what she described as
"two extremes" of outright independence or conventional
autonomy for Karabakh. LF

ARMENIA WARNS AGAINST TURKISH BASE IN AZERBAIJAN... Noting
that Azerbaijan and Turkey have already begun discussions on
whether Azerbaijan should host a Turkish military base on its
territory, Oskanian warned that the opening of such a base
would disrupt the military balance of forces in the region
and force Armenia to take unspecified appropriate moves in
response, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Oskanian
dismissed repeated Azerbaijani claims that Armenia's military
cooperation with Russia and the deployment at Russia's
military base in Armenia of Russian arms pose a threat to
Azerbaijan. He said the base in question is intended solely
to protect the external borders of Armenia and the CIS and
that Armenia will have no access to the weaponry in question
if the war with Azerbaijan resumes. LF

...WHILE AZERBAIJAN AGAIN CONDEMNS RUSSIAN ARMS SHIPMENTS TO
ARMENIA. In a 20 March letter addressed to Russian President
Yeltsin, Heidar Aliev expressed concern at the recent
deployment at Russia's military base in Armenia of MiG-29
fighter aircraft and S-300 air defense systems, Interfax and
Turan reported. Aliev wrote that those arms shipments and the
deepening military cooperation between Moscow and Yerevan
"contradict the letter and spirit of the agreement on
friendship and cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan" and
upset the military balance in the region. He further deplored
the failure to clarify responsibility for previous shipments
of Russian arms worth $1 billion to Armenia. In an interview
published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 23 March, Aliev's
military adviser General Tofik Agaguseinov similarly argued
that the buildup of arms at Russia's military base in Armenia
violates Russia's allocation under the Conventional Forces in
Europe flank agreement. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ISSUES DECREE ON FIGHTING TERRORISM. In
his weekly radio broadcast on 22 March, Eduard Shevardnadze
announced that he has signed a decree on intensifying anti-
terrorism measures in Georgia. Referring to the previous
day's failed attempt to assassinate Chechen President Aslan
Maskhadov, Shevardnadze also proposed a coordinated campaign
against terrorism throughout the Caucasus, Reuters reported.
It is unclear whether the first target in Georgia of the new
measures will be the ethnic Georgian White Legion guerrillas
who over the past year have killed several dozen ethnic
Abkhaz police and civilians in Abkhazia's Gali Raion.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 March suggested that Tbilisi is
seriously concerned at the possible export of Wahhabism from
Chechnya to contiguous regions of Georgia populated by Kists,
who are ethnically close to the Vainakhs. LF

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER VISITS GEORGIA. On a one-day stopover
in Tbilisi on 22 March following a two-day visit to Russia,
Benjamin Netanyahu met with Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze to discuss bilateral relations, including
expanding trade and economic ties as well as the situation in
the Caucasus and the Middle East. They also signed an
agreement on expanding cooperation, including in the military
sphere, according to Caucasus Press. Netanyahu told reporters
that Georgia offers excellent potential for Israeli
investors, particularly in the energy and transport sectors,
AP reported. LF

GEORGIAN SENTENCED FOR MURDER OF UN EMPLOYEE. A Georgian
court sentenced 21-year-old Zurab Bregladze to life
imprisonment for the murder last July of Maria Magdalena
Wieworska, a Polish woman employed at the UN mission in
Tbilisi, Western agencies reported on 22 March. LF

TURKMEN-IRANIAN RELATIONS ASSESSED. Turkmen President
Saparmurat Niyazov met with Iran's visiting Minister of
Islamic Culture and Guidance Ataollah Mohajerani in Ashgabat
on 22 March, Russian agencies reported. The talks focused on
ways of expanding regional cooperation. On behalf of Iranian
President Mohammed Khatami, Mohajerani invited Niyazov to
attend the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in
Tehran in June. LF

UZBEKISTAN SETS DEADLINE FOR RECEIPT OF NEW PASSPORTS. Uzbek
Interior Ministry official Badriddin Shoriskhiev on 19 March
warned that anyone who fails to exchange his old Soviet
passport for a new Uzbek one by 1 January 2000 will be
deprived of Uzbek citizenship, AP-Blitz reported from
Dushanbe on 23 March. Shoriskhiev said some 12 million people
have handed in their old passports since the new ones were
introduced in 1995, but 1.8 million have not yet done so. LF

END NOTE

AFTER THE BOMBS FALL

by Patrick Moore

	Top Western officials continue to make public statements
to warn Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that NATO's
"patience is at an end" and that "time is running out" for
him to sign the Rambouillet accords. At the time of going to
press, it remains unclear whether there will be air strikes
or whether the current huffing-and-puffing will come to
nothing, as has often been the case in recent months.
	It is equally unclear whether any NATO member states are
prepared to send in ground troops if Serbian forces continue
what appears to be a massive ethnic-cleansing operation in
Kosova itself. The Serbian forces seem, in fact, to be
taunting the West, as a Serbian soldier near Skenderaj
suggested when he recently commented to reporters: "See what
we're doing? When are the Americans coming?"
	Questions also remain as to what might happen were
Serbian authority in Kosova actually to collapse and the
Kosovars to take charge of their own fate. The Kosovar
leadership has generally shown a remarkable degree of unity
in public, but there is no guarantee that such discipline
will continue once the immediate threat of a common enemy is
removed. There are well-known rivalries both within the
Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and within the civilian
leadership, as well as between the guerrillas and the
politicians.
	One can well imagine, moreover, peacetime scenarios in
which at least some of these rivalries might come to the
surface in perhaps violent form. Such developments, which are
rooted in traditional Balkan political cultures, could
prevent a modern European political life from emerging. The
polarization and even violence present in Albanian and
Montenegrin politics suggest that the transition from post-
communist to European norms is not proving easy in that part
of the Balkans.
	But the Kosovars have friends who will try to help them
maintain unity of purpose. By signing the Rambouillet accords
recently in Paris, the Kosovars ensured that they will have
the political support of the U.S. and other key Western
powers as long as they adhere to the agreement. There is
always a danger of a colonial-type "dependency syndrome"
developing in Kosova--as has happened to some extent in
Bosnia--if a postwar foreign civilian and military presence
becomes preeminent in the affairs of the province. At the
moment, however, that is the least of the Kosovars' worries.
The Kosovar leaders are now bracing themselves for the new
Serbian offensive and congratulating themselves on having
cemented their new political bond to the Western powers.
	Members of the Kosovar delegation at Rambouillet
recently told "RFE/RL Newsline," moreover, that the Albanian
government provided constant and vital psychological support
for the Kosovar negotiators during the peace talks. There is
every reason to expect that Tirana will continue to be a
reliable friend to the Kosovars.
	This is primarily because Albania is anxious for peace,
stability, and democracy to come to Kosova, so that those
same phenomena might better develop within Albania itself.
Tirana's overall concerns, in fact, reflect those that can be
found throughout much of the Balkans. One frequently hears
from Bulgarians, Romanians, Albanians, and Macedonians that
Western countries have become so concerned with Bosnia and
Kosova that they often neglect the rest of the post-communist
Balkans and appear to lack a sound strategy to help the
region shake the complex legacy of communism.
	People in the countries bordering the crisis regions of
the former Yugoslavia often express bitterness that the
international community has not sufficiently compensated them
for the economic sacrifices they made while wartime sanctions
were in force on Serbia and Montenegro. Romania's and
Bulgaria's prospects for joining NATO and the EU, moreover,
appear dim at best, while there is little serious talk
anywhere that Macedonia or Albania might join either
organization at any time in the foreseeable future. More than
one observer has openly asked whether the countries of the
post-communist Balkans might not in fact be condemned to a
state of indefinite limbo between their communist past and a
future firmly rooted in Europe, to which they aspire.
	It is of course true that many of the problems facing
the countries of the region are largely of their own making.
The Balkan countries themselves often raise artificial
barriers--such as stringent visa requirements--that prevent a
free exchange of people and ideas within the region. The
educated elites in each of the countries of the region have
almost always looked toward major international capitals for
their foreign cultural, political, and economic links rather
than to their neighbors. And crime remains endemic across
much of the peninsula.
	With regard to the various countries bordering the
former Yugoslavia, the Romanian political elite seems to be
ever given to in-fighting, and the threat of extremism
remains permanently on the horizon. Bulgarian politicians
generally enjoy criticizing those in power but do not always
become model public servants when they themselves take
office. Perhaps the new coalition government in Macedonia
will succeed in breaking the hold of corruption and cronyism
on political life and the economy. If it does not, Macedonia
may find itself locked into the traditional Balkan political
pattern in which the "ins" and the "outs" take turn in office
and help themselves to the rights and privileges of power.

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