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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 61, Part I, 29 March 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 61, Part I, 29 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 NATO ATTACKS YUGOSLAVIA: Coverage of the crisis in Kosovo in four languages in audio and text. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/nato-kosovo/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * PRIMAKOV TO MEET WITH MILOSEVIC * NEW HOPE IN MOSCOW FOR IMF AGREEMENT * ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER, FORMER CP FIRST SECRETARY TO FORM ELECTION ALLIANCE? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA PRIMAKOV TO MEET WITH MILOSEVIC. Russian agencies reported on 29 March that Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov will meet with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic the next day in Belgrade. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev will accompany Primakov. According to State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Primakov and Milosevic have been in "constant contact" since the NATO air strikes began, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, President Boris Yeltsin has sent a letter to Milosevic expressing support for Yugoslavia and detailing a "whole range of specific proposals for a settlement to the crisis," presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told Ekho Moskvy on 27 March. JAC FOREIGN MINISTRY MIXES HARSH RHETORIC WITH SUPPORT FOR START-II. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 27 March, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov accused NATO of committing "genocide" against the Yugoslav people and suggested that the alliance answer for its crimes before the UN war crimes tribunal. He added that it is "obvious that NATO can no longer claim to discharge peace-making functions." The same day, in his address to the Duma, Ivanov argued that the START-II treaty should still be ratified, although "now is apparently not the best time." Ivanov also rejected the possibility of closing the Russian embassy in the U.S., adding that Russia will not end its ties with the U.S., although bilateral relations have been severely damaged. Also on 27 March, Duma members adopted a 16-point resolution condemning NATO by a vote of 366 to four with two abstentions. Among other things, the resolution recommends that ratification of the START-II treaty be postponed to protest NATO air strikes JAC RUSSIA TO TRIM BACK FURTHER MILITARY COOPERATION. Citing Defense Ministry sources, Interfax reported on 26 March that Russia will be scaling back planned military contacts with NATO member countries for the next few months by as much as 100 percent in some cases. The same day, the Defense Ministry announced that it will stop cooperation with the U.S. to solve the so-called millennium computer bug problem, and General Anatolii Kvashnin, chief of staff of the Armed Forces, refused to speak by telephone to his U.S. counterpart, General Harry Shelton, on 26 March, according to the agency. Russia earlier announced the end of its military cooperation program with NATO (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 1999). On 27 March, Russia refused to host Pentagon experts who were to have arrived in Moscow that day to discuss nuclear weapons safety under the auspices of the Nunn-Lugar program. JAC SHOTS FIRED AT U.S. EMBASSY... Unidentified attackers tried to fire a grenade launcher and released two bursts of automatic rifle fire at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on 28 March. NTV and ITAR-TASS reported that three men have been detained in connection with the incident. According to ITAR-TASS, some 1,500 people had gathered near the embassy on 28 March. The previous day, NTV estimated that 3,000- 4,000 people were in attendance. According to news agencies, participants were both young and old and members of such diverse organizations as the Communist Party, soccer fan clubs, and political extremist organizations. Vladimir Ryzhkov, Duma deputy and leader of the Our Home Is Russia faction, predicted on NTV that if the bombing continues for another week or couple of weeks, "then the whole world will come out against the U.S. and its allies." JAC ...WHILE OTHER EMBASSIES REMAIN RELATIVELY UNTOUCHED. Protests at the British Embassy have been markedly less violent, the "Moscow Times" reported, while the German Embassy witnessed only one small protest on 24 March. Other than a swastika painted on the building opposite the German embassy and blue paint splashed on the gates of the British embassy, property damage has been minimal. JAC REGIONAL LEADERS JOIN MOSCOW IN CONDEMNING NATO... A number of regional leaders, including Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, Volgograd Mayor Yurii Chekov, and Novosibirsk Governor Vitalii Mukha, have expressed solidarity with the position of the Moscow government in condemning NATO air strikes, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 27 March. The previous day, Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel, whose oblast was once called one of Russia's islands of reform by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, suggested on 26 March that the Federation Council hold an emergency session on 31 March to censure NATO. He called NATO attacks on Yugoslavia "a colossal mistake by the U.S.," Interfax-Eurasia reported. The legislative assembly of Karelia and members of the interregional association Bolshaya Volga have adopted statements protesting NATO actions, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. JAC ...AS CITIZENS ORGANIZE NEW PROTESTS. Meanwhile, more street protests were held outside of Moscow. In St. Petersburg, members of the Liberal Democratic Party, National Bolshevik Party, and monarchist and extreme leftist organizations participated in a rally on 27 March outside of the city's Kazan Cathedral, carrying placards that read "Yesterday Iraq, Today Serbia, Tomorrow Russia" and "Yankees Out of Yugoslavia," Interfax-Northwest reported. The previous day, students in Blagoveshchensk in Amur Oblast burned a U.S. flag, and trade union members in Ryazan led a protest in the town's Victory Square, according to Interfax-Eurasia. Meanwhile, burial ceremonies for Wehrmacht soldiers killed in Russia during World War II scheduled to be held on 15 May have been postponed to protest NATO bombings, Volgograd oblast officials announced on 26 March, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC GOVERNMENT DISTANCES ITSELF FROM RIGHT-DEMOCRATS' PEACE EFFORT. Former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, former First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, and former State Tax Service head Boris Fedorov, all of whom are members of the Right Cause party, launched their own private Balkan peace initiative, meeting in Budapest with U.S. presidential envoy Richard Holbrooke and Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi on 28 March. Foreign Minister Ivanov told reporters the next day that "neither the president nor the government authorized them to hold talks and to put forward initiatives on behalf of Russia." He added that it looked "strange that Holbrooke arrived in Budapest all of a sudden, allegedly as a private individual at exactly the same time as when the Russian politicians arrived." Meanwhile, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said after his meeting with French President Jacques Chirac in Paris on 26 March that he will take back to Moscow new peace proposals. JAC NEW HOPE IN MOSCOW FOR IMF AGREEMENT. After the arrival of IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus in Moscow on 27 March, Russian officials were noticeably more optimistic about the outcome of negotiations. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov told reporters that an agreement could be reached in three days, and First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov said that the two sides have only "millimeters" of differences left to bridge. "Izvestiya" commented that "practically no one doubts that an agreement with the IMF will soon be reached." Camdessus met with Maslyukov, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II, and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 28 March and with Duma Chairman Seleznev the next day. He also spoke with President Yeltsin by telephone. JAC NEWSPAPER EDITOR SACKED FOR APOLOGY, NOT CRITICISM? "Kommersant-Daily" editor Raf Shakirov was likely dismissed for his published apology to Prime Minister Primakov for an earlier article, not for the article itself, as was first reported, according to the "Moscow Times" on 27 March. Speaking on NTV two days earlier, Prime Minister Primakov said that he was indignant over Shakirov's departure. "To sack a brilliant journalist and good manager for his apologies? You can agree or disagree with him, but if he sees that some information does not correspond with reality and wants to correct it, I think he improves the newspaper," Primakov commented. JAC SUPREME COURTS SUPPORTS MOSCOW BAN ON RNE. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling on 26 March banning the neo-Nazi Russian National Unity (RNE) from convening its national congress in Moscow. According to "Kommersant-Daily" the next day, the group's last chance may be to appeal to the European Court for Human Rights in the Hague. Also on 26 March, the daily reported, Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov instituted criminal proceedings against Duma deputy and member of the Communist Party Albert Makashov for his repeated anti-Semitic public statements. JAC ELECTION UPSET IN KHAKASSIA. According to preliminary data, voters in the Republic of Khakassia voted against incumbents in the 28 March elections for most of the nine city and raion administrations heads and 50 municipal organs, ITAR-TASS reported. One newspaper correspondent, two directors of state enterprises, and a deputy police chief unseated current heads of rural raion administrations, while Petr Ovchinnikov, deputy head of a municipal communications center, was elected mayor of Sayangorsk. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER, FORMER CP FIRST SECRETARY TO FORM ELECTION ALLIANCE? Galust Sahakian, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) which is headed by Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 26 March that the HHK and the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) will "most probably" declare a joint list of candidates for the 30 May parliamentary elections. That party was founded last year by former Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchian. Sargsian has demonstrated respect for Demirchian since last year's presidential election campaign, in which Demirchian lost in the runoff to Robert Kocharian. Demirchian has not confirmed Sahakian's statement. LF RUSSIA AGAIN HINTS AT SHIFT ON KARABAKH MEDIATION. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Leonid Drachevskii told journalists in Yerevan on 27 March that as one of the three co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia is prepared to amend the most recent draft peace plan for Nagorno-Karabakh in order to "find a normal solution acceptable to all parties," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have endorsed that plan, which advocates that Azerbaijan and Karabakh create a "common state," but Azerbaijan has rejected it. Visiting Baku four days earlier, Drachevskii had similarly assured Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev that Moscow will no longer insist that the "common state" model be used as the only one for mediating a solution to the conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 1999). Karabakh Foreign Minister Naira Melkumian, who together with her Armenian counterpart, Vartan Oskanian, met with Drachevskii in Yerevan, said she does not believe Russia favors more concessions to Baku. LF AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT AMENDS LAW ON MILITARY SERVICE. Lawmakers on 26 March voted to raise the maximum age for military service from 26 to 27, Interfax reported. They also abolished the previously existing exemption from the draft for only sons and for the sons of persons killed in the Karabakh war or during the Soviet army intervention in Baku in January 1990. LF AZERBAIJAN DENIES CONDEMNING NATO STRIKES. The press service of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry issued a statement on 27 March denying that Defense Minister Safar Abiev had appended his signature to the statement condemning NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia adopted two days earlier at the CIS defense ministers' meeting in Moscow, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1999). LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PAYS TRIBUTE TO PREDECESSOR. In his weekly radio broadcast on 29 March, Eduard Shevardnadze spoke against ignoring the role of any Georgian politician who contributed to the restoration of Georgia's independent status, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze singled out the 31 March 1991 referendum, organized by the late Zviad Gamsakhurdia, as having made an important contribution to that process. In that referendum, the majority of the Georgian population voted for the restoration of independence. Gamsakhurdia, who died on 1 January 1994, would have celebrated his 60th birthday on 31 March. LF LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN VISITS GEORGIA. Vytautas Landsbergis held talks in Tbilisi on 25-26 March with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze, and parliamentary chairman Zurab Zhvania, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze thanked Lithuania for supporting Georgia in its quest for full membership in the Council of Europe. Landsbergis expressed Lithuania's interest in gaining observer status with the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization and in participating in joint economic and transport projects. He mentioned specifically the TRACECA project to revive the "Silk Road" and the export of Caspian oil via Lithuania. LF UN MILITARY MISSION TO RESUME OPERATIONS IN GORNO-BADAKHSHAN. The UN observer mission in Tajikistan has carried out two inspection missions to the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Republic of Tajikistan and will resume operations there shortly, AP-Blitz reported from Dushanbe on 26 March. The UN suspended operations in Gorno-Badakshan last year following the murder last summer of three mission members and their driver in the region. Also on 26 March, the Tajik Supreme Court handed down death sentences to three former opposition fighters found guilty of those murders, Interfax reported. LF TURKMENISTAN MOVES TO DEREGULATE HOUSING MARKET. President Saparmurat Niyazov has signed a resolution empowering the Ashgabat mayor's office to sell state-owned apartments to individuals and legal entities, including foreigners, Interfax reported on 26 March. The resolution also allows government banks to offer long-term loans to Turkmen citizens for the purpose of purchasing houses or apartments. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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