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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 62, Part I, 30 March 1999


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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

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Headlines, Part I

* IMF, RUSSIA AGREE TO AGREE?

* RUSSIAN DELEGATION TO CONSULT WITH EU AFTER BELGRADE

* AZERBAIJAN HANDS OVER DETAINED TRANSPORT AIRCRAFT TO
LUZHKOV
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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

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