Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow; Naught may endure but Mutability. - Percy Shelley
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 61, Part I, 29 March 1999


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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

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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

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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?
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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

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