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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 62, Part I, 30 March 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 62, Part I, 30 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 * IMF, RUSSIA AGREE TO AGREE? * RUSSIAN DELEGATION TO CONSULT WITH EU AFTER BELGRADE * AZERBAIJAN HANDS OVER DETAINED TRANSPORT AIRCRAFT TO LUZHKOV xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA IMF, RUSSIA AGREE TO AGREE? After several weeks of prolonged negotiations, top IMF and Russian officials announced on 29 March that they have reached an agreement that will include at least $4.8 billion to cover money Russia owes the fund in 1999. Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov told reporters that the Russian government's pledge to meet a primary budget surplus of 2 percent of GDP is a key element of the new understanding, but such a goal was already assumed in the 1999 budget. An IMF spokesman in Washington told reporters that the fund agreed on a broad framework for Russia's economic program while specific figures still need to be worked out. A new IMF mission will arrive in Moscow later this week to work on the government's economic program, Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin told Interfax. According to Vyugin, the fund is continuing to insist that Russia increase its budget revenues to pay larger wages and pensions, adding that "these differences will be settled." JAC GOVERNMENT TO PROPOSE TIGHTER CONTROLS ON CAPITAL FLOWS. The Primakov government on 29 March announced it will submit legislation amending the law on currency regulation and control so that individuals can take out of the country only $5,000 in cash presumably on any given occasion, First Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Ignatiev told reporters, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Ignatiev, $10.6 billion in cash was legally exported in 1998, more than a third of which was exported in single increments larger than $10,000. Last month, then acting Prosecutor-General Yurii Chaika reported that about $9 billion was illegally taken out of the country in 1998, noting that this amount far exceeded the sum Russia was trying to extract from international financial institutions. JAC RUSSIAN DELEGATION TO CONSULT WITH EU AFTER BELGRADE. Prime Minister Primakov, accompanied by Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, left for Belgrade on 30 March. After negotiations in Belgrade are concluded, Primakov is expected to head to Bonn for consultations with the EU, Interfax reported. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder currently heads the EU. ITAR-TASS reported the same day that just hours before Primakov's plane was scheduled to depart from Moscow, NATO forces bombed an airport about 10 kilometers from the one at which his plane was to land. JAC NEW QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT U.S. EMBASSY SHOOTING. Investigators into the 28 March attack on the U.S. embassy have raised troubling questions, "Trud" reported on 30 March. According to the newspaper, "nobody knows" how the vehicle that was driven by the men who fired shots at the embassy managed to run a red traffic light at an intersection constantly patrolled by police and not be pursued. The daily also reported that its sources in the Federal Security Service (FSB) maintain that the grenade launchers the terrorists tried to use simply malfunctioned. It was not the case that they did not know how to use them, according to the daily. JAC U.S. ACCUSED OF TESTING SECRET WEAPONS IN YUGOSLAVIA. Foreign Minister Ivanov on 29 March accused NATO of closely coordinating the movements of the Kosova Liberation Army and of planning a ground offensive, "despite Washington's denials," Interfax reported. The same day, the Russian Defense Ministry augmented the minister's charges, saying that NATO is concealing information on its military activities. According to the ministry, NATO strikes have "largely damaged civilian facilities, notably educational institutions, heating and electricity plants, and residential and administration buildings." The next day, unidentified sources at the ministry told ITAR-TASS that the U.S. is testing new secret weapons in Yugoslavia, one of which is designed to destroy radio electronic equipment by generating an electric impulse. Earlier, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 27 March that the U.S. used a new weapons system during its first air strike against Yugoslavia, but the newspaper did not elaborate on its characteristics. JAC YELTSIN URGES SUPPORT FOR CONSTITUTION, MARKET ECONOMY... In his annual "state of the federation" address on 30 March, Russian President Boris Yeltsin touched on his pet themes of support for market reforms and the Russian Constitution as well as the need to combat political extremism. Yeltsin blamed the country's current economic difficulties not on market economic reform but on the failure to complete these reforms, meaning that the country is now stuck with an economic system halfway between the old and the new. Yeltsin also stressed that the constitution should not be amended before mid-2000--after Russia has a new government, parliament, and president. On the issue of regional separatism, Yeltsin called for fighting even its slightest manifestations, such as the erection of trade barriers and violations of federal budget laws. He suggested fine-tuning regulations governing the transfer of federal monies to the regions. JAC ...AS LEFT REFUSES TO POSTPONE IMPEACHMENT. On 26 March, the leadership of the Communist Party rejected an appeal by Prime Minister Primakov to delay a scheduled debate in the State Duma on Yeltsin's impeachment in light of the crisis in Kosova. The debate is now scheduled for 15 April. JAC YELSTIN APPOINTS FSB HEAD TO SECURITY COUNCIL. President Yeltsin signed a decree on 29 March appointing FSB head Vladimir Putin as secretary of the Security Council, a post that has been vacant since the dismissal of chief of the presidential administration Nikolai Bordyuzha earlier this month. Putin, according to Interfax, will retain both posts. However, ITAR-TASS reported that a new director will soon be appointed to head the FSB. It cited sources within the FSB as saying that Bordyuzha may replace Putin. "Kommersant-Daily" the next day reported that Bordyuzha was dismissed from military service at the same time that he was sacked from the Kremlin and that therefore he is unlikely to direct the FSB since he is now a civilian. JAC PRIMAKOV ACCEPTED 'CHUMP CHANGE?' Foreign Minister Ivanov angrily refuted claims in the latest issue of the "New Yorker" magazine that Prime Minister Primakov accepted a $800,000 bribe from Iraq to help that country obtain strategic materials for its nuclear weapon stockpile. Ivanov said on 29 March that the story, by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, was a ruse designed to divert attention from NATO's "barbaric" bombing of Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists told the "Washington Post" that "given Primakov's familiarity with [intelligence] trade craft, I'd have some difficulty believing that he would accept a personal gratuity of such a trivial amount of money--that's chump change!--and that he would do so in a way that would be so easily detected." Primakov himself has not yet commented publicly on the report. JAC SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER ARRIVES IN MOSCOW. Prince Saud al- Faisal, Saudi Arabian foreign minister, arrived in Moscow on 29 March for a two-day official visit. Prime Minister Primakov met with al-Faisal that day, and the two officials discussed bilateral relations and a number of foreign policy issues. Later, Primakov called for an end to air strikes on Iraq. The two officials also discussed ways of strengthening the UN Security Council, ITAR-TASS reported. After his meeting with al-Faisal, Foreign Minister Ivanov noted that Russia is interested in strengthening relations with Saudi Arabia. The two officials signed a protocol on political consultations between their two Foreign Ministries. Al-Faisal also met with Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev and is to hold talks with Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev and Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin. JAC RISING ANTI-U.S. SENTIMENT CURBING AMERICA'S CULTURAL EXPORTS? The U.S. rock band KISS has postponed two shows in Moscow this week so that it does "not become a target for aggression and anti-American provocations," according to a statement from the band's local promoter, Vladimir Kiselov, the "Moscow Times" reported on 30 March. Kiselov appealed to local KISS fans not to become "blind weapons in the hands of terrorists" and allow the postponement of the concert to lead to hooliganism. Meanwhile, the woman whose face has graced the placards of some anti-NATO protesters outside the U.S. embassy, former White House intern-cum-memoirist Monica Lewinsky, has canceled the Russian leg of her European tour to promote her book, "Monica's Story," for similar reasons. JAC ITAR-TASS RESIDENT CORRESPONDENT ABDUCTED IN CHECHNYA. Said Isaev, who has worked as ITAR-TASS's Grozny correspondent for the past five years, was abducted from his home by unidentified armed men on the night of 28 March, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 March, quoting Chechen Minister of State Security Turpal Atgeriev. ITAR-TASS Director-General Vitalii Ignatenko has appealed to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov to assist in locating and releasing Isaev. LF CHECHEN PRESIDENT ISSUES ORDER TO SHOOT DOWN INTRUDING AIRCRAFT. Presidential press secretary Mairbek Vachagaev told Interfax on 29 March that Maskhadov has issued instructions to shoot down all aircraft overflying Chechnya, following the intrusion of Russian helicopter gunships into Chechen airspace the previous day. Maskhadov left Grozny on 25 March for Saudi Arabia. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJAN HANDS OVER DETAINED TRANSPORT AIRCRAFT TO LUZHKOV. Meeting on 29 March with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who arrived that day in Baku for an official visit, President Heidar Aliev again expressed his dissatisfaction at Russia's policy of providing armaments to Armenia while simultaneously seeking to mediate a solution of the Karabakh conflict, ITAR- TASS reported. But in what he termed a "gesture of respect" for Luzhkov, Aliev announced that the criminal investigation into the intercepted Russian freight plane detained at Baku airport on 18 March with a cargo of MiG-21s has been halted and that he will hand the freight plane over to Luzhkov so that it can be returned to its Russian owner, Interfax and CTK reported. The fate of the six MiGs remains unclear. LF AZERBAIJANI INTELLIGENCE CHIEF ACCUSES RUSSIA, IRAN OF COORDINATING SUBVERSION. Minister for National Security Namik Abbasov has accused Russia and Iran not only of implementing joint economic and political sanctions against Azerbaijan but also of conducting coordinated intelligence activities in that country, Turan reported on 29 March. Abbasov said that over the past five years, his ministry has identified and neutralized 13 Iranian intelligence operatives, one of whom was an employee at the Iranian embassy in Baku. He accused Russian intelligence of involvement in alleged coup attempts in Azerbaijan in 1993, 1995, and 1996. Abbasov was addressing participants in a ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of Azerbaijan's security bodies. It is unclear whether President Aliev, who made his early career in the Azerbaijan SSR KGB and headed that body from 1967-1969, attended the ceremony. LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SAYS UN LACKS ADEQUATE PEACE ENFORCEMENT MECHANISMS. In his weekly radio address on 29 March, Eduard Shevardnadze blamed the UN for the Kosova crisis, arguing that it would not have occurred if the UN Security Council had earlier resorted to peace enforcement measures, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Such measures are permitted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Shevardnadze said that UN Security Council resolutions on Abkhazia have also proved ineffective. Several Georgian politicians have argued that the UN should mount a peace enforcement operation in Abkhazia. LF NEW KAZAKH POLITICAL PARTY HOLDS FOUNDING CONGRESS. The Kazakh opposition movement Azamat, which was founded in January 1997, has reconstituted itself as a political party. Addressing the constituent congress in Almaty on 27 March, deputy chairman Petr Svojk said the party's objective is to contribute to the country's democratization, Interfax reported. The congress adopted a resolution criticizing the present government, whose policies Svojk termed "criminal" and conducive to "the devastation of the country." Speaking to Interfax two days later, Svojk was particularly negative in his assessment of the Kazakh-Chinese border treaty concluded last year and signed into law by Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 24 March. The treaty has been repeatedly criticized in the Kazakh press, as has Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev, who played a key role in its adoption, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 18 March. Svojk said the treaty cedes to China land that contains lead and gold deposits. LF OSCE OFFICIAL VISITS KYRGYZSTAN. OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel met with Kyrgyz officials--including President Askar Akaev, Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev, Education Minister Sovetbek Toktomyshev, and Chairman of the Government Commission on Religious Affairs Emil Kaptagaev--in Bishkek on 25-29 March to discuss the situation of ethnic minorities in Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Van der Stoel subsequently told journalists that the OSCE will implement several programs on interethnic relations in Kyrgyzstan, according to Interfax. Speaking on 26 March at a meeting to mark the fifth anniversary of the first session of the Assembly of Peoples of Kyrgyzstan, Akaev noted that 83 percent of Kyrgyzstan's population believes that interethnic relations within the country are stable and peaceful. LF DEATH TOLL IN KYRGYZ CHEMICAL SPILL HIGHER THAN REPORTED? Parliamentary deputy Jypar Jeksheev, who is chairman of the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan, said in Bishkek on 26 March that some 80 people have died as a direct consequence of the spill of sodium cyanide into the Barskoon River in May 1998(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 1998), RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Jeksheev added that neither the Kyrgyzaltyn state gold company nor the Canadian Kumtor Operating Company (KOC), one of whose lorries caused the accident, has kept its promises to pay compensation for all damage resulting from the spill. LF IMF, WORLD BANK REPRESENTATIVES ASSESS LOANS TO TAJIKISTAN. Tapio Saavalainen, who heads the IMF mission to Tajikistan, addressed a meeting in Dushanbe on 27 March to assess the fulfillment of programs and projects financed by the IMF, the World Bank, and other organizations, ITAR-TASS reported. Saavalainen said the IMF will continue to support Tajikistan, but he expressed concern at the country's $984.7 million foreign debt, the largest of any CIS state. Saavalainen also discussed with President Imomali Rakhmonov the need to improve tax collection and to accelerate the privatization of state enterprises, according to AP-Blitz. World Bank regional director Ishrat Husein, who met with Rakhmonov on 26 March, said the World Bank plans to lend Tajikistan some $95 million in 1999. One-third of than sum is earmarked for restructuring the economy, while the remainder will finance housing construction and improvements to the civil service and education system, according to AP. 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. 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