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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 65, Part I, 2 April 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 65, Part I, 2 April 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

* YELTSIN OUTLINES PLANS FOR CIS REFORM

* PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SIDELINED AGAIN

* KAZAKH OFFICIAL SAYS IMPOUNDED MIGS INTENDED FOR BOSNIA
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RUSSIA


YELTSIN OUTLINES PLANS FOR CIS REFORM. Addressing his fellow
CIS heads of state in Moscow on 2 April, Russian President
Boris Yeltsin endorsed plans to proceed with the creation of
a CIS free trade zone. A framework agreement on establishing
such a zone was signed in April 1994 but has still not been
implemented. Former CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii
had worked out, and secured CIS presidents' support for, a
detailed plan to implement that agreement (see "End Note,"
"RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1998). But Yeltsin rejected a
second component of Berezovskii's plans for reforming the
CIS, namely the creation of a supra-national Coordinating
Committee. Yeltsin affirmed that such a body is not necessary
at the current stage of intra-CIS integration. Yeltsin added
that problems within the CIS should be resolved on the
principle of equality, stressing that "there are no younger
or elder brothers among us," according to ITAR-TASS. LF

NEW CIS EXECUTIVE SECRETARY ELECTED... Also on 2 April, CIS
heads of state approved Yurii Yarov's appointment as CIS
executive secretary. Since last December, Yarov had served as
President Yeltsin's representative in the Federation Council.
Yarov, who was born in Leningrad exactly 57 years ago, is a
technocrat-turned-CPSU-activist whom Yeltsin appointed as his
representative in St. Petersburg in 1991. He subsequently
served as a deputy premier under Viktor Chernomyrdin. LF

...IN PREDECESSOR'S ABSENCE. Berezovskii, who had told
Interfax in a statement on 1 April that he would return from
abroad to attend the CIS Moscow summit at the risk of being
arrested, was prevented from taking off for Moscow from Kyiv,
where his plane stopped to refuel, on the morning of 2 April,
according to ITAR-TASS. Berezovskii was summarily dismissed
as CIS executive secretary by Yeltsin last month (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 5 March 1999). He had been appointed to that post
at the last CIS summit, in late April 1998. Describing Yarov
as "a professional," Berezovskii expressed satisfaction that
the 12 CIS presidents managed to agree on his successor,
ITAR-TASS reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which receives
financial support from Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, reported
on 2 April that its correspondents have been denied
accreditation to cover the CIS summit. LF

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SIDELINED AGAIN... A day after Prosecutor-
General Yurii Skuratov sent a letter to President Yeltsin
calling for the creation of an ad hoc governmental commission
to recover Russian money kept abroad, Yeltsin signed a decree
on 2 April suspending Skuratov from his duties pending the
outcome of a criminal investigation into Skuratov's alleged
abuse of office, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin also sent a
letter to the Federation Council asking its members to
dismiss Skuratov. According to Interfax, Skuratov said his
direct phone line to the government has been disconnected and
his bodyguard team changed. Skuratov called the president's
action "absolutely illegal" and vowed to stay on the job,
while Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov called
Yeltsin's move unconstitutional. Zyuganov also said that the
Duma may appeal to the Federation Council to convene an
emergency session on the Skuratov issue. JAC

...BUT HIS INVESTIGATION TO CONTINUE? One member of
Federation Council, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev, similarly
called the president's action unconstitutional, adding that
as soon as the prosecutor-general "began to fight against
corruption seriously, they tried to fire him.' Fellow Senator
and Samara Governor Konstantin Titov told Interfax that even
if Skuratov is dismissed, the glaring criminal cases of
corruption that he has investigated will be placed under
control of the Federation Council. "We will demand from the
new prosecutor -general a full investigation of all evidence
of corruption," Titov said. JAC

RUSSIAN INDUSTRIALISTS WILLING TO BANKROLL VOLUNTEERS TO
YUGOSLAVIA? As one of Russia's warships left for the
Mediterranean, "Izvestiya" reported on 2 April that the
Russian government will examine the question of sending air
defense advisers and military inspectors "in the near
future." The newspaper, which cited unofficial sources in the
government, said the range of specialists could be widened in
the event that NATO introduced ground troops. Moreover,
"Russia's major financial and industrial groups are offering
to sponsor volunteers," Andrei Manilov, head of the Liberal
Democratic Party's youth section, told the daily. According
to Manilov, 56,000 people have already registered in Liberal
Democratic Party headquarters across Russia and battalions
are being formed. He claimed such troops would have to be
sent to Budapest by air and the rest of the way overland. JAC

RUSSIA SEEKS MULTILATERAL, BILATERAL DEBT FORGIVENESS... The
Russian government has reopened negotiations with the Paris
and London clubs to restructure debt inherited from the
Soviet Union, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov announced on
31 March. According to Zadornov, this move was possible
because of the announcement of an agreement in principle with
the IMF. The same day, First Deputy Finance Minister Yurii
Maslyukov told reporters that Russia wants its foreign
creditors to write off three-quarters of the debt and
restructure the remaining 25 percent. Meanwhile, the
government has also contacted countries such as Algeria and
South Korea asking them either to pay their debt to the
Soviet Union, as is the case with Algeria, or to forgive old
loans, AFP and Interfax reported on 29 and 30 March. Seoul,
for example, extended $1.47 billion to the Soviet Union in
1990, which Russia would rather repay in submarines than
cash. JAC

...AS RESERVES SINK TO THREE-YEAR LOW. Central Bank Chairman
Viktor Gerashchenko told reporters on 1 April that new money
from the IMF must be immediately used to replenish
diminishing hard-currency reserves, which have dropped to
about $10.9 billion. Reserves declined by almost $1 billion
in March alone. According to Gerashchenko, Russia paid $2.1
billion on its foreign debt in the first quarter of 1999. JAC

RUSSIA-UKRAINE TREATY COMES INTO EFFECT. President Yeltsin
and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma met in Moscow on 1
April to exchange documents ratifying the Russian-Ukrainian
treaty on friendship, cooperation, and partnership between
the two countries. The treaty, which formally took effect
with the document exchange, is valid for 10 years. Under the
treaty, each country agreed to respect the other's
territorial integrity and not use force against the other.
The two presidents also discussed the situation in the
Balkans, NTV reported, which President Yeltsin said "makes
the task of such a partnership even more vital." JAC

ATTACK ON U.S. EMBASSY REALLY ATTACK ON POWER MINISTRIES? The
unknown participants in the attack on the U.S. embassy on 28
March were likely "former members of the MVD or former
military men," an unidentified staffer from the MVD central
apparatus told "Kommersant-Daily" on 1 April. Interior
Minister Sergei Stepashin called the group "very well
prepared" and noted that "the very strange thing is that the
grenade launchers did not work. It looks as though this was
more an attempt at a show of strength than a terrorist act
proper." In fact, "the aim of the action was to show that
federal authorities are unable to maintain order even in the
very center of the country," the Moscow MVD directorate told
the daily. Sergei Bogdanov, spokesman for the directorate,
told the "Moscow Times" on 2 April that his agency is not
certain that the Skif (Scythian) group, which claimed
responsibility for the attack, exists. JAC

WEST THINKING ABOUT NEW NUCLEAR NATIONS WITHIN RUSSIA?
"Izvestiya" reported that some Western analysts, none of whom
are identified by name or affiliation, are predicting that
upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections are likely
to expedite centrifugal processes in Russia. As a result,
regions or regional associations may decide to form their own
military units and may even develop "nuclear ambitions." In
order to prevent the possibility of Russia's nuclear weapons
falling outside the control of Moscow, these analysts have
suggested that Russian nuclear weapons be put under
international control of either NATO or the UN or both. One
alternative proposed, according to the newspaper, is to
deploy the naval forces of the U.S. and other Western
countries along Russia's border and establish a special
regime to monitor the country's nuclear weapons. JAC

MORE INTRIGUE IN SVERDLOVSK LOCAL ELECTIONS. Masked gunmen
raided the office of a local newspaper in Yekaterinburg and
seized all copies of its 1 April issue, which reportedly
contained a revealing interview with Yuri Altshul, a
candidate in upcoming elections for Sverdlovsk's legislative
assembly, ITAR-TASS reported. Yuri Altshul, 33, leader of the
branch of the Fund for the Social Defense of the Handicapped,
was slain in an apparent contract killing on 30 March.
According to "Kommersant-Daily" the next day, he was one of
the most active opponents of the Uralmash crime group. German
Korobeinikov, editor of "MK-Ural" told ITAR-TASS that Altshul
had disclosed the name of a man who had tried to have him
killed earlier. Korbeinikov said that the press secretary for
Uralmash suggested that his newspaper either pull the page on
which the interview would appear or name the price to cancel
the whole issue. JAC

KOMMERSANT EDITOR REINSTATED. "Kommersant-Daily" editor-in-
chief Raf Shakirov was reinstated on 1 April after being
dismissed on 25 March. Shakirov was fired after he apologized
to Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov for a highly critical
article that was published without his knowledge (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 29 March 1999). Prime Minister Primakov praised
the decision to return Shakirov to his old post, saying it
"will undoubtedly contribute to the development of mutual
understanding and trust between the government and the mass
media." JAC

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

MORE ARMENIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIANS TO BOYCOTT ELECTION.
Twelve members of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National
Movement (HHSh) and four members of the Liberal-Democratic
Party, which also belonged to the former ruling Hanrapetutiun
coalition, issued a statement in Yerevan on 1 April declaring
their "flat refusal to participate in this election farce,"
Noyan Tapan reported. Two of those 16 had appended their
signatures to an earlier statement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31
March 1999). By the 30 March deadline, 15 parties and six
electoral blocs informed the Central Electoral Commission of
their intention to contest the poll and are currently
collecting the required 50,000 signatures in order to
register. LF

GEORGIA REHEARSES RESPONSE TO PIPELINE EMERGENCY. The
Georgian Pipeline Consortium, which is responsible for
operating the Georgian sector of the Baku-Supsa oil export
pipeline, conducted the first of a planned series of
exercises on 31 March aimed at dealing with the aftermath of
sabotage or accidental damage to that pipeline, Caucasus
Press reported. Two days later, a Ukrainian Defense Ministry
delegation arrived in Tbilisi to develop plans for joint
exercises by the Georgian-Ukrainian-Azerbaijani force that is
to be created to guard the pipeline. LF

KAZAKH OFFICIAL SAYS IMPOUNDED MIGS INTENDED FOR BOSNIA.
Askar Gabdullin, director-general of the Metallist plant in
Kazakhstan, told Interfax on 1 April that the six obsolete
MiG-21s the plant sold to the Czech firm Agroplast were
destined for Bosnia. He added that the sale contract had been
approved by the government of Kazakhstan. The MiGs were
impounded in Baku on 19 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24
March 1999). CTK on 1 April quoted RFE/RL's Slovak Service as
reporting that since 1993, Agroplast has used Bratislava
airport (the alleged destination of the Russian cargo plane
that transported the MiGs) for illegal arms shipments. It
added that Agroplast has delivered arms from unnamed CIS
states to third countries. LF

LAWYERS STRIKE IN KAZAKHSTAN. A spokesman for Kazakhstan's
lawyers announced on 1 April that some 2,500 of his
colleagues will not work for the state until the government
pays their back wages for the past six months, AP reported.
He estimated the total wage arrears at some 80 million tenge
($919,000). Addressing a joint session of Kazakhstan's
parliament the previous day, President Nursultan Nazarbaev
claimed that both pensions and state employees' wages in
Kazakhstan are paid on time, in contrast to other CIS states.
Also on 1 April, 400 police in the town of Kentau prevented
some 100 women from beginning a march to Almaty to protest
the authorities' tardiness in paying child benefits, RFE/RL's
Almaty bureau reported. LF

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               Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc.
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