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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 66, Part I, 6 April 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 66, Part I, 6 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

* RUBLE SINKS TO NEW LOW AS INFLATION SLOWS

* NTV BREAKS THE NEWS ON ETHNIC CLEANSING

* KAZAKHSTAN SETS FLOATING EXCHANGE RATE FOR TENGE
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RUSSIA

RUBLE SINKS TO NEW LOW AS INFLATION SLOWS. The ruble slipped
below 25 rubles per dollar for the first time on 5 April,
closing at 25.11 rubles to the dollar. Analysts point to the
dwindling reserves of the Central Bank, which have contracted
to $10.9 billion (a three-year low), as a primary cause for
the currency's slide, AFP reported. The ruble has already
lost 22 percent of its value since the beginning of 1999,
according to the "Moscow Times" on 6 April. Barring either a
jump in world oil prices or an agreement forgiving some of
Russia's foreign debt, downward pressure on the ruble is
likely to continue, analysts say. Meanwhile, inflation slowed
to 2.8 percent in March from 4.1 percent the previous month
and 8.5 percent in January, Interfax reported. JAC

NTV BREAKS THE NEWS ON ETHNIC CLEANSING. Russian television
news began coverage of ethnic cleansing in Kosova on 4 April,
when NTV's "Itogi" showed pictures of Kosovar Albanians being
forced from their homes by Yugoslav soldiers. In addition,
"Itogi's" anchorman Yevgenii Kiselev disclosed that the
reports of Russian journalists in Serbia were subjected to
military censorship. NTV chief editor Vladimir Kulistikov
explained the shift by pointing to simple economics, telling
the "Moscow Times" on 6 April that the network has finally
found the money to send its ace reporter, Pavel Lobkov, to
Macedonia to get a first-hand report from ethnic-Albanian
refugees. Analysts expect the rest of Russia's TV networks to
follow NTV's lead, and Yevgenii Volk of the Heritage
Foundation told the daily that the change in media coverage
was an indication that the Russian government would
eventually soften its stance against NATO. JAC

RUSSIA PROMISES NOT TO FORWARD U.S., EU FOOD AID TO
YUGOSLAVIA... Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik told
reporters on 3 April that food aid delivered to Russia by the
EU and the U.S. will not be sent on to Yugoslavia. The first
shipment of Russian food aid for Yugoslavia will be sent on 7
April, according to Minister for Emergencies Sergei Shoigu.
About 900 tons of aid worth about $1 million will be
transported by truck, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia will supply
medicines and foodstuffs, including baby food, sugar, and
salt, as well as warm clothes and tents. JAC

...THREATENS TO WITHDRAW PEACE-KEEPERS. Russian President
Boris Yeltsin called NATO air raids "barbaric" and accused
the alliance on 6 April of bombing "historical cultural
monuments which are registered by UNESCO." Moscow mayor and
likely presidential contender Yurii Luzhkov lodged his own
charges against NATO, accusing it of using radioactive and
environmentally dangerous obsolete missiles and bombs in its
strikes against Yugoslavia. The same day, citing information
from the Armed Forces' General Staff, "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
reported that spies hired by the U.S.'s OSCE contingent were
arrested trying to set up an automatic laser beacon near the
town of Avala. Meanwhile, Colonel General Leonid Ivashov,
head of the Defense Ministry's department for international
cooperation, said that the withdrawal of Russian peace-
keepers from Bosnia is among the possible new measures Russia
is considering as a response to continued NATO air strikes.
JAC

SKURATOV TENDERS RESIGNATION AGAIN. Russia's embattled
prosecutor-general, Yurii Skuratov, again submitted his
resignation on 6 March, Federation Council Chairman Yegor
Stroev told reporters. Skuratov had only just recently vowed
to fight President Yeltsin's decision on 2 April to suspend
him pending the outcome of a criminal investigation (see
"RFE/RL Newsline, 2 April 1999). According to Stroev, the
Council's committees on legal and constitutional control will
analyze the situation and render a final decision.
"Izvestiya" speculated the same day that Skuratov does not
actually have compromising evidence on people in the Kremlin
as he has been hinting at for the past weeks. It noted that
"compromising materials are kept in safes" and once
bargaining has ended then "all cards and materials are laid
on the table...If Skuratov had anything to reveal, he would
have done so already." JAC

RUSSIA TELLS ARAFAT TO HOLD OFF ON DECLARING STATEHOOD.
Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat arrived in Moscow on 5 April
for two days of official meetings. Central to his visit are
discussions of his plans to declare a Palestinian state on 4
May, when an interim peace accord with Israel expires.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Arafat on 5 April that the
declaration should be postponed in order to continue talks
within the framework of the Middle East peace process, ITAR-
TASS reported. After Arafat met with President Yeltsin the
next day, presidential foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko
told reporters that Yeltsin hopes that the Palestinian
leadership will opt for prolonging the transitional period
between Palestine and Israel. Arafat was also scheduled to
meet with Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 6 April. JAC

RUSSIA CONDEMNS NEW U.S. SANCTIONS. Russia's Foreign Ministry
on 4 April called the U.S.'s imposition of sanctions against
three Russian defense enterprises for cooperating with Syria
"an openly hostile move," Interfax reported. According to the
ministry, Russian supplies to Syria "do not violate the
nonproliferation or export-control regimes," nor do they
"upset the alignment of forces in the region" or "compare in
terms of characteristics and volumes of U.S. arms supplies to
other regions." The ministry concluded that the sanctions are
representative of "one more anti-Russian step taken by the
U.S. administration." "Izvestiya" argued on 6 April that the
U.S. is driving Russia "into a corner" by restricting its
room to maneuver in the Mediterranean region. Defense
Minister Igor Sergeev earlier called the U.S.'s charges
against the Tula machine-building design bureau, the Volsk
mechanical plant, and the Central Research Institute of
Precise Machine Building "groundless." JAC

MIXED RESULTS, RESPONSES TO CIS SUMMIT. The CIS presidents
failed at their meeting in Moscow on 2 April to adopt a
statement condemning NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia; instead
they called for a halt to the bloodshed and a peaceful
solution to the conflict in Kosova. Six of the nine CIS
states that signed the CIS Collective Security Treaty in
1992-1993 affirmed their intention to prolong that treaty
when it expires later this month, but Georgia, Azerbaijan and
Uzbekistan declined to do so. Ukrainian President Leonid
Kuchma told Interfax on 2 April that the summit was held
"with dignity," the implicit contrast being with the shouting
matches that marred the October 1997 summit in Chisinau.
Turkmenistan's Saparmurat Niyazov similarly noted that
"everything went well and without problems." But Azerbaijan's
Heidar Aliev struck a pessimistic note, saying that despite
attempts to reform the CIS, "crisis phenomena" within it have
not been overcome, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

BOMB EXPLODES NEAR FSB HEADQUARTERS. A bomb equivalent to 1.5
kilograms of TNT was detonated near the entrance to the
building that houses the reception office for the Federal
Security Service (FSB) on 3 April, ITAR-TASS reported on 6
April. An FSB spokesman linked the bombing with an incident
on 13 August 1998 when another bomb exploded in the vicinity,
"Trud" reported on 6 April. According to the newspaper, in
the most recent explosion must have been planned by
professionals since they managed to place the device near a
spot where FSS guards are always stationed and "according to
what information is available, video cameras near the
entrance did not get any shots of the criminals." JAC

COMMUNISTS FARE POORLY IN UDMURT ELECTIONS. In elections held
on 4 April, voters in the Republic of Udmurtia filled 12
slots in the republic's legislative assembly with members of
the Communist Party, "Izvestiya" reported on 6 April. In the
previous assembly, 20 deputies were communists (a minority of
the total seats available). According to Interfax-Eurasia,
voter turnout was relatively high with more than 51 percent
of eligible voters participating--in several okrugs this
figure reached 70.4 percent. Fourteen candidates from the
"Honor and Motherland" party were selected, 11 from the
Liberal Democratic Party and five from Yabloko, according to
the agency. JAC

YELTSIN APPOINTS HAWK TO HEAD INTERIOR TROOPS... President
Yeltsin signed a decree on 5 April appointing Vyacheslav
Ovchinnikov commander of the Interior Ministry troops and
promoting him to the rank of a three-star general. Colonel-
General Ovchinnikov earned the nickname "Hawk" during his
service in the war in Chechnya for his rough treatment of
Chechen terrorists, ITAR-TASS reported. Ovchinnikov replaces
Pavel Maslov, who resigned on 2 April. The same day, Yeltsin
dismissed his envoy to the Leningrad Oblast, Fedor Shkrudnev.
JAC

...RESHUFFLES PERSONNEL AT FSB. Yeltsin also shifted and
trimmed personnel at the FSB, dismissing Colonel General
Valentin Sobolev as first deputy director of the FSB and
appointing him deputy secretary of the Security Council on 2
April, Interfax reported. Lieutenant General Yevgenii
Solovyov was appointed deputy director and head of the
personnel department. In addition, an unidentified source in
the FSB told the agency that dozens of personnel have been
dismissed including Mikhail Dedyukhin, the head of
counterintelligence protection of strategic installations,
Aleksandr Izmadenov, his first deputy, and Aleksei
Pushkarenko, the head of counterintelligence operations. JAC

PROTESTERS IN DAGESTAN RELEASE MURDER SUSPECT. An angry crowd
occupied the local administration building in the town of
Kayakend on 5 April after storming the local militia
headquarters and releasing a man held in detention on
suspicion of the 31 March murder of Deputy Prosecutor-General
Kurban Bulatov, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1
April 1999). Nasir Gaidarov, deputy chairman of the People's
Assembly, finally persuaded the protesters to disperse. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

PIPELINE SHUTDOWN MAY SLOW AZERBAIJANI OIL PRODUCTION. A
spokesman for the Azerbaijan International Operating Company,
the only international consortium currently exporting Caspian
oil from Azerbaijan, told Reuters on 5 April that the
consortium will be forced to cut production unless the Baku-
Novorossiisk export pipeline is reopened. The Chechen
authorities closed the Chechen sector of the pipeline on 29
March because of the Russian government's $4 million unpaid
debt for security arrangements (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31
March 1999). Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov subsequently
called for talks with Russian officials with the aim of
reaching a "reasonable compromise" on that debt, Interfax
reported on 3 April. But Russian Ambassador to Azerbaijan
Aleksandr Blokhin told journalists in Baku on 5 April that
the reasons for the closure of the Baku-Novorossiik pipeline
were purely political, Turan reported. Blokhin said that
unnamed "forces" wish to export the maximum amount of Caspian
oil via Georgia and the minimum via Russia. LF

NEW ATTACK ON GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PLANNED? Eduard Shevardnadze
told journalists in Tbilisi on 5 April that a new attempt on
his life may be imminent, Caucasus Press reported.
Shevardnadze instructed Georgian security agencies to take
the necessary measures to prevent new acts of terrorism in
Georgia. Revaz Adamia, chairman of the Georgian Parliamentary
Commission on Defense and Security, had told journalists in
Tbilisi on 2 April that he believes it is "quite possible"
that a further attempt will be made this month to kill
Shevardnadze. Adamia explained that possibility in terms of
Georgia's unambiguously pro-western orientation. Shevardnadze
survived earlier attempts to kill him in August 1995 and
February 1998. Adamia also condemned as an "anti-state
movement" repeated charges of corruption made by the Georgian
media against Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze, according to
Interfax. LF

GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DOWNPLAY THREAT OF NEW REGIONAL
INSURGENCY. Also on 5 April, Shevardnadze dismissed as
unfounded the threat made the previous day by Colonel Akaki
Eliava to abolish the central Georgian government's control
over the west Georgian region of Mingrelia, Caucasus Press
reported. Bondo Djikia, who is the governor of Mingrelia,
similarly dismissed Eliava's threat, saying that no more than
15-20 people support him. Eliava has been in hiding since
launching an abortive rebellion in western Georgia in October
1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19-20 October 1998). LF

KAZAKHSTAN SEEKS TALKS WITH CHINA ON WATER ISSUES. Kazakh
President Nursultan Nazarbaev has proposed to Beijing that
the two countries begin talks later this month on how to
share water from the Irtysh and Ili rivers, Kazakhstan's
Foreign Ministry told Interfax-Kazakhstan on 1 April.
Nazarbaev hopes that they will be able to sign an agreement
specifying how much of the flow each side can take from these
two river systems. If talks are held, they are likely to be
complicated by the relative underdevelopment of international
law on riparian issues and by the impact of any decisions on
various ethnic groups in Xinjiang, many of which have co-
ethnic communities in Kazakhstan. PG

KAZAKHSTAN SETS FLOATING EXCHANGE RATE FOR TENGE. The
government and National Bank of Kazakhstan decided late on 4
April to free the exchange rate for the national currency,
the official exchange rate for which fell from 88 to 100 to
the dollar in trading the following day. The street rate fell
to 200 tenge to the dollar in panic buying, according to AP.
Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev told journalists that the
move was necessitated by the fall in value of the currencies
of neighboring countries, including Russia, which made Kazakh
exports less competitive. He said the government will
introduce unspecified social security measures to minimize
the impact of the tenge's loss in value on the population.
Revenues Minister Zeinulla Kakimzhanov told Interfax on 5
April that he believes 110 to 120 tenge to the dollar would
be a realistic exchange rate. LF

KYRGYZ PRIME MINISTER DIES. Djumabek Ibraimov died in Bishkek
on 4 April at the age of 55 after a long battle with stomach
cancer, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He had occupied the
post of premier for only three months, since 25 December
1998. A former CPSU activist, Ibraimov was appointed mayor of
Bishkek in January 1993. He subsequently served as a state
secretary and advisor to President Askar Akaev, who named him
chairman of the State Property Fund in December 1997.
Interfax on 4 April named Osh Oblast Governor Amangeldy
Muraliev as the most likely candidate to succeed Ibraimov as
premier. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTIES APPEAL TO CIS HEADS OF STATE. Four
Tajik opposition parties have addressed a statement to the
CIS presidents expressing concern at what they term the
widespread repression of political parties and movements that
are not aligned with the United Tajik Opposition. They also
accuse President Imomali Rakhmonov of pursuing "regional and
ethnic genocide," predicting that the Tajik leadership's
policies risk precipitating a new civil war. The four
parties--"Popular Unity of Tajikistan," Free Tajikistan, the
People's Republican Party of Tajikistan and "For Universal
Peace in Tajikistan"--ask the presidents of CIS states and of
those countries that are co-guarantors of the Tajik peace
process to try to convince Tajikistan's leaders that their
current policy of reconciliation and power-sharing only with
the UTO is futile and counterproductive. The appeal was
published in "Novaya gazeta" of 29 March-4 April. LF

18 RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS KILLED IN HELICOPTER CRASH IN
TAJIKISTAN. Eighteen Russian border guards, including three
senior officers, died on 2 April when their helicopter
crashed into the Pyandj River near the Tajik-Afghan frontier.
The cause of the accident has not yet been determined. LF

UZBEKISTAN CALLS ON RELIGIOUS 'EXTREMISTS' TO SURRENDER.
Speaking on state television on 4 April, Uzbekistan's
Interior Minister Zakirdjon Almatov said that young Uzbek men
who have embraced radical Islam in Afghanistan, Tajikistan,
or Chechnya will not be punished if they voluntarily turn
themselves in to the Uzbek authorities. But he added that any
who fail to do so will be punished "severely," and their
fathers will also be held legally responsible, Reuters
reported. Almatov said his ministry estimates that some 6,000
young men are members of extremist religious organizations.
President Islam Karimov had made a similar televised appeal
on 1 April, as a result of which "dozens" of young men have
already surrendered, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 April. LF

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