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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 59, Part I, 25 March 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 59, Part I, 25 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 * RUSSIA ENDS NATO COOPERATION * CAMDESSUS TO HEAD TO MOSCOW * KAZAKHSTAN CLAIMS OWNERSHIP OF IMPOUNDED MIGS End Note: THE ROOTS OF RUSSIAN-IRANIAN RAPPROCHEMENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIA ENDS NATO COOPERATION... Russian officials launched a round of condemnations, retaliatory actions, and threats, following a last-minute televised appeal by President Boris Yeltsin and telephone calls with French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and U.S. President Bill Clinton. Among Moscow's first actions after the launching of NATO air strikes was to pull out of the alliance's Partnership for Peace and military cooperation programs on 24 March. President Yeltsin also recalled Russia's chief military envoy to NATO, Lieutenant-General Viktor Zavarzin, and ordered the closure of Russia's offices at NATO headquarters. In addition, Russia decided to return its 100 members of the Kosova Verification Team currently in Macedonia to Russia. JAC ...HINTS AT OTHER ACTIONS... In an official statement, Yeltsin said that "in the event that the military conflict worsens, Russia retains the right to take adequate measures, including military ones, to defend itself and the overall security of Europe." Russian Public Television reported on 24 March that according to Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, Russian is considering deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. The next day, however, Sergeev told reporters that Russia is planning no military response to the NATO aggression. JAC ...DEMANDS AIR STRIKES END. Both Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Russia's representative to the UN, Sergei Lavrov, denounced "NATO aggression" and called for an immediate end to the air strikes. The Foreign Ministry called the bombings "a crude violation of the UN Charter" and "an act of open aggression against a sovereign member state of the UN," while President Yeltsin called the actions "a gross error by the Americans, American diplomacy, and Clinton" that "they will eventually have to account for." Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin adopted a more conciliatory tone, saying that "Russia should assume that it will live and work in Europe" and not let itself be dragged into an outright confrontation with the West. "Izvestiya" also counseled Russians "to grit our teeth and set about finally dragging Russia out of the [financial] hole it is in." It continued "a break with America and NATO would be much more costly for us than it would be for the West." JAC RUSSIA WARNS OF DETERIORATION IN RELATIONS WITH U.S... Deputy head of the presidential staff Sergei Prikhodko warned on 25 March that NATO air strikes will affect U.S.-Russian relations "in a most serious way." The previous day, retired Major-General Vladimir Slipchenko, a "military expert," told "Novye Izvestiya" that the primary motivation for bombing Belgrade is Washington's desire to test its high-precision weapons systems. According to Slipchenko, "the Americans are lying when they say they always use the same Tomahawk missiles. In fact, each new strike against Iraq or some other country is a test of the latest modification." JAC ...AS URANIUM AGREEMENT SIGNED. Meanwhile, Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov signed a lucrative agreement with U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on shipments of Russian highly enriched uranium to the U.S. for use in nuclear power stations there, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. In addition, a memorandum of cooperation between the Russian Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Energy was signed in Washington on 24 March. JAC CAMDESSUS TO HEAD TO MOSCOW. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus is expected in Moscow on 27 March to continue negotiations with Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, which were aborted when the latter canceled his trip to the U.S. in mid-air. While most of the Russian press praised Primakov for his decision to return to Moscow, "Kommersant-Daily" on 24 March was harshly critical, accusing Primakov of "ignoring the interests of his motherland and people for the sake of internationalism." However, Sergei Karaganov, head of the Council for Defense and Foreign Policy, argued that Russia's apparent outrage over Kosova will encourage the U.S. "to sweeten the pill for Russia" and encourage the fund to conclude an agreement, Interfax reported on 24 March. JAC ELECTION COMMITTEE GETS NEW HEAD. The Central Election Committee elected a new chairman, Aleksandr Veshnyakov, on 24 March. Veshnyakov is a former secretary of the body, whose candidacy was put forward by the Agrarian Party. Valentin Vlasov, former presidential envoy to Chechnya and the candidate favored by the Kremlin, withdrew his candidacy at the last minute and was instead elected deputy chairman. Political analysts are interpreting Veshnyakov's ascendancy as a blow for the Kremlin but a positive development for fair elections, since Veshnyakov is considered apolitical and devoted to fulfilling the letter of law, the "Moscow Times" reported. JAC SWISS PROSECUTOR-GENERAL HAS NO DIRT ON YELTSIN, FAMILY. Carla del Ponte, who arrived in Moscow on 24 March for talks with Prosecutor General Yurii Skuratov, issued a statement that day saying that she has brought no evidence with her to compromise anyone. However, an Interior Ministry source told Interfax that Del Ponte gave Skuratov evidence on "dubious financial operations of Russian citizens." Interior Minister Stepashin stated that Del Ponte brought no materials "regarding the members of President Yeltsin's family or the president himself." Duma Security Committee Chairman and member of the Communist faction Viktor Ilyukhin told reporters the previous day that $2.3 billion of a $4.8 billion IMF credit had been illegally transferred to an Australian bank and that from there $235 million was deposited with an Australian company, in which Yeltsin's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko has a 25 percent stake. Former Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin told "Segodnya" the next day that Ilyukhin's charges revealed only his "incompetence" in financial matters. JAC KIRIENKO TO RETURN TO KREMLIN? Former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko confirmed on 24 March that members of the presidential administration have approached him about his becoming secretary of the Security Council, a post left empty by the dismissal of head of the presidential administration Nikolai Bordyuzha on 19 March, Interfax reported. "Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day, citing a Yeltsin administration source, that presidential representative to the CIS Ivan Rybkin and former ambassador to France Yurii Ryzhov are also under consideration. "Moskovskii komsomolets" suggested the previous day that Rybkin's assumption of the post would lend further credence to the theory that Boris Berezovskii has revived his influence in the Kremlin. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" predicted that another man in uniform is likely to take over the position, such as General Anatolii Kvashnin, chief of staff of the armed forces. JAC PASKO TEAM APPEALS TO YELTSIN, OBUCHI. Lawyers for Grigorii Pasko sent an appeal signed by leading Russian writers and human rights activists to President Yeltsin and Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi asking that Pasko be released from jail while the court considers his case, "Vremya MN" reported on 24 March. Two days earlier, Pasko's attorney Aleksandr Tkachenko had presented a similar appeal, which the court refused to consider. Another member of his legal team, Oleg Kotlyarov, told the daily that the judicial panel seems prejudiced against Pasko, since more than 10 witness have been called and none have testified to his guilt. Pasko is accused of espionage for providing classified materials to Japanese television about the Pacific Fleet's hazardous handling of nuclear waste. JAC STATE OF THE FEDERATION SPEECH SLATED FOR END OF MARCH. President Yeltsin's annual "state of the nation" address will be delivered in the Kremlin's Marble Hall on 30 March, ITAR- TASS reported. The Duma, which is currently in recess, may hold an emergency session on 29 March to discuss a response to NATO air strikes, Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told reporters on 24 March. JAC TATARSTAN, ALGERIA TO COOPERATE IN OIL, SHIPBUILDING. Visiting Kazan on 23-24 March, Algerian Ambassador to Moscow Ammar Makhlufi met with Tatarstan's Minister of Trade and Economic Cooperation, Khafiz Salikhov, and with President Mintimer Shaimiev to discuss cooperation prospects and investment in Tatarstan's economy, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The Algerian delegation expressed interest in Tatarstan's petrochemical companies, specifically in the possibility of Tatar companies participating in oil extraction in Algeria. Makhlufi also told Shaimiev his country is interested in partnership ventures with Tatarstan's aircraft industry and in purchasing warships and civilian vessels built in Tatarstan. LF OFFICIALS DENY BIN LADEN IS IN CHECHNYA. Chechen presidential press spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev told ITAR-TASS on 24 March there is no truth to rumors that Saudi millionaire terrorist Osama bin Laden is currently the guest of Jordanian-born Chechen field commander Khottab, who is believed to have connections to Islamic fundamentalists. Former Chechen Foreign Minister and prominent oppositionist Movladi Udugov likewise dismissed reports of bin Laden's presence in Chechnya as disinformation spread by foreign intelligence services. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA YELTSIN SEEKS TO REASSURE AZERBAIJANI COUNTERPART. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Leonid Drachevskii met with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev in Baku on 23 March, Interfax reported. Drachevskii delivered to Aliev a letter from President Yeltsin reassuring him that Russia's military cooperation with Armenia is not directed against Azerbaijan. In a 20 March letter to Yeltsin, Aliev had claimed that deliveries of Russian fighter aircraft and S-300 air defense missiles to the Russian military base in Armenia violate the agreement on friendship and cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan and upset the military balance in the region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 March 1999). Drachevskii also told Aliev that Russia no longer insists on the "common state" principle as a basis for resolving the Karabakh conflict, according to Interfax. The OSCE Minsk Group, of which Russia is one of the three co-chairs, proposed that model last year, but Azerbaijan rejected it. LF U.S. MILITARY OFFICIAL DISCUSSES COOPERATION WITH GEORGIA, AZERBAIJAN. Major-General Charles Wax, who is director of Plans and Policy for U.S. European Command Headquarters, held talks in Tbilisi on 22-23 March with senior Georgian parliamentary and Defense Ministry officials, Interfax reported. Parliamentary Defense and Security Committee chairman Revaz Adamia told journalists that the talks focused on broader Georgian participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Wax then traveled to Baku, where he met on 24 March with Defense Minister Safar Abiev and President Heidar Aliev, Turan reported. Wax said his visit to Azerbaijan is of a fact-finding nature and that U.S. military cooperation with Azerbaijan should be balanced by similar cooperation with other countries in the region. Aliev termed such cooperation essential to stability throughout the Caucasus. Prior to Wax's arrival in Baku, Interfax quoted unnamed Azerbaijani diplomatic sources as saying that the U.S. delegation would inspect the former Soviet strategic bomber base located at Nasosnaya, near Baku. Unconfirmed reports suggest Azerbaijan has offered NATO the use of that base. LF GEORGIA ISSUES DECREE ON PIPELINE SECURITY. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has issued a decree instructing an interdepartmental commission of the National Security Council to take the appropriate measures to ensure round-the- clock security of the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 25 March. Meeting last week in Tbilisi, the Georgian and Azerbaijani defense ministers, Davit Tevzadze and Safar Abiev, signed a protocol on conducting joint exercises in Ukraine in April. Taking part in those exercises will be Georgian, Azerbaijani, and Ukrainian battalions deployed to guard that pipeline, Caucasus Press reported. LF FORMER KAZAKH POLITICAL PRISONER CRITICIZES HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES. Workers' Movement of Kazakhstan leader Madel Ismailov told journalists in Almaty on 24 March that government officials' claims that conditions in the country's prisons have improved since the adoption of a new criminal code are untrue, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported the following day. Ismailov, who was released last month after serving a one- year prison sentence for insulting Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev, has vowed to organize a new movement to protect prisoners' rights. LF KAZAKHSTAN CLAIMS OWNERSHIP OF IMPOUNDED MIGS. Senior officials in Kazakhstan on 24 March said that the six MiG-21 fighter aircraft impounded by Azerbaijani authorities at Baku's Bina airport belong to Kazakhstan and were bound for Slovakia, not Yugoslavia or North Korea, Reuters and Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1999). A Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry statement said that the obsolete planes had been sold in 1998 to the Czech arms firm Agroplast on condition they be transported to the Czech Republic. But the Slovak Foreign Ministry told CTK on 24 March that the planes were to be transported directly to Agroplast's headquarters in Liberec, not via Slovakia. And a spokeswoman for Agroplast told CTK on 24 March that the company is not engaged in any business activities in the former Soviet Union. The Russian Embassy in Baku reported that the Azerbaijani authorities have arrested a Czech national who was on board the Russian aircraft that was transporting the MiGs. LF TYPHOID OUTBREAK IN TAJIKISTAN? Some 90 people in Tajikistan's Garm Oblast, half of them children under 15, have contracted an infection that International Red Cross officials believe may be typhoid, ITAR-TASS and AP-Blitz reported on 24-25 March. LF UKRAINE EXTRADITES BOMBING SUSPECTS TO UZBEKISTAN. The Ukrainian government has extradited to Uzbekistan four Uzbeks apprehended in Kyiv earlier this month on suspicion of involvement in the 16 February bomb attacks in Tashkent, Interfax and AP reported on 24 March, quoting an Ukrainian Interior Ministry official (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18-19 March 1999). Human Rights Watch had earlier appealed to Kyiv not to undertake such action. LF END NOTE THE ROOTS OF RUSSIAN-IRANIAN RAPPROCHEMENT By Paul Goble Russia increasingly views Iran as a potentially important ally in three key areas. But in every one of them, Moscow's cooperation with Tehran puts the Russian government at odds not only with the U.S. and Turkey but also with the post-Soviet states of Central Asia and the Caucasus. To the extent that Moscow seeks to extract additional financial resources from the West or to maintain ties with the southern members of the CIS it must sometimes play down or otherwise restrict its cooperation with Iran in certain areas, including in that country's growing nuclear power industry. But such actions in no way change Moscow's calculations about the continuing utility of Iran in achieving Russia's foreign-policy goals. Consequently, any concessions to the West that Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov may announce on nuclear issues are likely to be balanced by Russian efforts to firm up its links with Iran in other areas. That is the message of an article about Russian-Iranian relations that appears in the current issue of the prestigious Russian foreign-policy journal, "International Affairs." Written by Viktor Vishnyakov, chairman of the Russian State Duma's Subcommittee for Issues of International Law, the article suggests that Russia views Iran "as a potential ally in many of the most important areas" of Moscow's foreign policy. First of all, Vishnyakov says, Moscow sees Iran as playing a key role in Central Asia and the Caucasus. It does not challenge Russia's role there, nor does it oppose any expansion of Turkish influence in the region. Moreover, it generally shares Moscow's views on the status of the Caspian Sea and hence on possible pipeline routes to transport oil and gas from these regions to the West. Consequently, Iran helps Moscow to shore up its influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus by helping both to prevent the countries in those regions from gaining the wealth and independence that exports would give them and to block the introduction of Western influence into a region that Moscow continues to view as its proper sphere of influence. Second, the Duma leader argues, Moscow views Iran as another aggrieved outsider state that will join with Russia in opposing U.S. power. Drawing on the ideas of 19th-century Russian Foreign Minister Aleksandr Gorchakov, which Primakov has said should guide Russia's current approach, Vishnyakov says that such an alliance will allow Russia to revive its power on the international stage. While Vishnyakov himself does not make much of this particular argument, he does not have to. Three other articles in the same issue of "International Affairs" are entirely devoted to Gorchakov--including one by Russia's current foreign minister, Igor Ivanov--and at least three more make reference to the 19th century prince who is rapidly becoming the Russian foreign-policy theorist for the 21st century. Third (and this is the point to which Vishnyakov devotes most of his attention), Russia values Iran both for "cooperation in developing modern technologies"--a euphemism for nuclear power--and as a purchaser of Russian military equipment. Iran's purchases of such military products, he says, "make it possible to enhance Russia's role in solving regional problems." Indeed, Vishnyakov opens his article with the claim that Russia's expanding ties with Iran are responsible for Tehran's willingness to explore closer ties with Baghdad's Saddam Hussein. He argues that those ties will contribute to regional stability but are likely to be seen by many countries, including the U.S., as pointing in a very different direction. Vishnyakov also suggests that Iranian purchases of Russian military equipment and expertise in nuclear power can help Russia reconstruct itself, providing Moscow with both the cash and cooperation it needs to overcome its current economic difficulties. And lest any third country think it can block the expansion of Russian-Iranian ties by extracting one or another concession, Vishnyakov warns, as the Duma did last year, that Moscow will view such "attempts to meddle in mutually advantageous cooperation between Russia and Iran in economic, science, and technology and other areas" as both "unlawful" and "unacceptable." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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