The business of art lies just in this--to make that understood and felt which, in the form of an argument, might be incomprehensible and inaccessible. - Leo Tolstoy
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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
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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."

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