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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 65, Part I, 2 April 1999
________________________________________________________ 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN OUTLINES PLANS FOR CIS REFORM * PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SIDELINED AGAIN * KAZAKH OFFICIAL SAYS IMPOUNDED MIGS INTENDED FOR BOSNIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 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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