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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 69, Part I, 9 April 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 69, Part I, 9 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 * SELEZNEV SAYS YUGOSLAVIA WANTS TO JOIN SLAVIC UNION * DUMA TO CONSIDER DELAYING IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS * UZBEK PRESIDENT QUERIES NEED FOR RUSSIAN MILITARY BASE IN TAJIKISTAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA SELEZNEV SAYS YUGOSLAVIA WANTS TO JOIN SLAVIC UNION. President Boris Yeltsin told reporters on 9 April that Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev brought back a message from his trip to Belgrade that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic asked that Yugoslavia be admitted into the Russian-Belarusian Union. President Yeltsin, according to ITAR-TASS, said that the proposal seems impractical from both a legal and political point of view, since a nationwide referendum on the issue would have to be held in Yugoslavia. Earlier, First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov also said that such an admission was unlikely since the process of unification was facing difficulties even within the CIS, Interfax reported on 31 March. Seleznev has been a persistent advocate of both the Russian-Belarusian Union and its expansion to include not only Yugoslavia but also Ukraine and Bulgaria. On 4 April, he predicted that a national referendum on the merger of Russia and Belarus would be held as early as this autumn. JAC LIGHTS OUT IN SAKHALIN. The deputy governor of Sakhalin Oblast, Vladimir Shapoval, told Interfax-Eurasia on 8 April that his entire oblast will be without electricity by 15 April because the local government lacks the money to buy fuel. The blackout will affect not only residences but also hospitals and schools. Already, in the city of Yuzhno- Sakhalinsk, where some 170,000 people live, lights are on for only three to four hours a day. According to Shapoval, the oblast is on the edge of a humanitarian and ecological disaster. Meat, fish, and milk products are quickly going bad, and the region is witnessing a sharp increase in intestinal illnesses, according to "Izvestiya" on 9 April. In addition, some 30,000 pre-school and school children are going without breakfast or lunch. JAC REGIONS ORGANIZE AGAINST NATO... Many of Russia's regions continue to express their opposition to NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia. According to the organizational committee of the Right Cause movement, tens of thousands of people from St. Petersburg, Saratov, Penza, Tver, Krasnodar and other Russian cities and towns have signed a statement condemning NATO's action, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 9 April. In Sverdlovsk, local Cossacks have organized a blood drive and plan to send the donated blood to Yugoslavia, Interfax- Eurasia reported on 6 April. Meanwhile, volunteer military detachments in the regions continued to be organized. According to Liberal Democratic Party headquarters, 15,000 volunteers have signed up in Moscow and 55,000 more have registered across Russia, "Segodnya" reported. While all of these "regiments" are being formed in support of Serbs, Tatarstan nationalists are forming a battalion to support the Kosova "separatists," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 8 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 1999). JAC ...WITHOUT SUPPORT OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, LEADERS? The federal Ministry of Justice issued a warning on 8 April that recruiting volunteers for Yugoslavia would be considered a violation of the law prohibiting the formation of illegal militias. In Kemerovo, where almost 200 men have signed up to go to Yugoslavia, Governor Aman Tuleev said on 5 April that he opposes sending volunteers to the conflict, although he said he believes that the U.S. might target Russia next, Interfax reported. He said Russia should follow the U.S.'s example and carry out only air strikes without committing ground troops. In Tatarstan, President Mintimer Shaimiev denounced the idea of Russia sending any kind of volunteers, noting that "it is unacceptable to send volunteers from such a multi-ethnic country as Russia under any pretexts or mottos," Interfax reported on 8 April. JAC ANOTHER LEBED FOE FELLED... A prominent local opponent of Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed is now facing criminal charges for money laundering, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 April. Krasnoyarsk Aluminium chief Anatolii Bykov, who is reportedly in the U.S. undergoing medical treatment, said he would return to the krai to meet with First Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Kolesnikov, who has been heading up a task force investigating crimes in the region. As soon as Bykov started openly battling with Lebed, "Kommersant Daily" reported last month, he attracted the attention of the Interior Ministry, which sent brigades of investigators to perform checks on all of his enterprises (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 March 1999). After the former Krasnoyarsk Coal (Krasugol) company director was arrested, the regional office of the MVD told the newspaper that more arrests will be forthcoming. JAC ...AS COAL WAR REACHES CONCLUSION? On 8 April, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov headed a cabinet session at which the draft agreement on the stabilization of the coal sector in Krasnoyarsk Krai between the federal government and the krai government was approved, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, the federal government will coordinate with regional officials the terms for the sell-off of government stakes in coal companies. At a key meeting of the board of directors of Krasugol on 20 March, Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Generalov supported Lebed's plan to save the company from bankruptcy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1999). Bykov had been trying to assume control over Krasugol through one of his companies to which it had an unpaid debt. JAC NEW FSB HEAD APPOINTED? "Moskovskii Komsomolets" reported on 9 April that Federal Security Service (FSB) head Vladimir Putin was dismissed from his post at the FSB because he could not combine those duties with those of his more recent assignment as head of Russia's Security Council. According to the newspaper, Lieutenant General Nikolai Patrushev, long- time security officer and deputy director of the presidential administration, has been tapped to succeed him. That day, FSB senior spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich told ITAR-TASS that he had no information about Putin's departure, but he did acknowledge that Putin had said publicly that although he would hold both posts for a time, eventually a new FSB director would be selected. JAC GROUP CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR FSB BLAST. A group called the "New Revolutionary Alternative" has claimed responsibility for the explosion near FSB headquarters in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 1999), ITAR-TASS reported on 8 April. Investigators are checking both the authenticity of the claim and whether the group exists. The organization said the act was "staged in protest against bourgeois terror exercised by the Russian police systems against radical opponents of the existing regime." JAC ILYUKHIN TO STAR IN HIS OWN VIDEO? Duma Security Committee chairman and Communist faction member Viktor Ilyukhin told reporters on 8 April that a video is being prepared showing him in the company of prostitutes. According to Ilyukhin, a man strongly resembling him has already been found and the soundtrack of the video will have his voice as it has been recorded in the Duma and at other public events. He believes that he is being framed because of his inquiries into how the last tranche of money from the IMF was spent. According to Interfax, Ilyukhin sent a letter about the funds to U.S. House majority leader Dick Armey and representative Jim Sexton with copies of bank documents indicating where he thinks the money was transferred. Also on 8 April, Ilyukhin accused the presidential administration and "a number of departments" of working on a plan to declare a state of emergency in Russia within days. JAC DUMA TO CONSIDER DELAYING IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS. The State Duma agreed on 9 April to consider delaying an impeachment hearing for Russian President Boris Yeltsin that had been scheduled for 15 April. The Duma Council will take up the issue of postponement on 13 April. The same day, the Yabloko faction announced that it would support at least one of the impeachment counts against the president, that is, for his launching of the war against Chechnya. The impeachment effort is likely to founder in the Constitutional Court, according to "Izvestiya" on 9 April, because of a number of gaps in existing laws. For example, the law does not say what the court's composition must be in order to prepare the impeachment verdict or what procedure a jury would use to dismiss the president from his post, "since Yeltsin is being accused of as grave a crime as genocide against the Russian people, he presumably has the right to a trial by jury." JAC BEREZOVSKII IMPLICATED IN CHECHEN ABDUCTIONS. "Komsomolskaya pravda" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 9 April quoted Chechen security official Shaykhakhmed Akhmatkhanov as saying that documents proving business magnate and former CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii's involvement in abductions for ransom in Chechnya, including the kidnapping in Grozny on 5 March of Russian Interior Ministry General Gennadii Shpigun, have been handed over to the Russian Prosecutor-General's office. Akhmatkhanov suggested that Berezovskii was attempting to undermine Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov in return for which Maskhadov's domestic rivals included Berezovskii in oil transactions. On 7 April, Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin rejected similar Chechen accusations against Berezovskii as "total nonsense" and unsubstantiated gossip, according to ITAR-TASS. Berezovskii has been instrumental in negotiating the release of several individuals kidnapped in Chechnya. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA MAY SUBMIT NEW PROPOSALS ON KARABAKH CONFLICT. Aram Sarkisian, a foreign policy aide to Armenian President Robert Kocharian, told journalists in Yerevan on 8 April that Armenia may be constrained to submit new proposals for resolving the Karabakh conflict if Azerbaijan persists with its rejection of the most recent draft peace plan proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Sarkisian offered no indication as to what the new Armenian proposal might comprise. But a visiting U.S. State Department official told Armenian journalists in Yerevan following a meeting with Kocharian on 6 April that two earlier OSCE Minsk Group peace proposals remain on the negotiating table. LF RUSSIA TO LOWER TRANSIT TARIFFS FOR AZERBAIJAN'S CASPIAN OIL? The Russian pipeline company Transneft may agree to a request made several months ago by the Azerbaijan International Operating Company to cut by up to two-thirds the present tariff of $15.67 per metric ton for Caspian oil which the consortium exports via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline, Bloomberg reported on 8 April, quoting "Vremya" of the same date. But the reduced tariffs would still be higher than those charged for exporting oil via the alternative Baku- Supsa pipeline, which are believed to be $1.50-$2 per metric ton. In addition, as Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev told Georgian ambassador Zurab Gumberidze on 7 April, Azerbaijani light crude exported via the northern pipeline is mixed with lower quality crude from western Siberia, Turan reported on 8 April. The first tanker with AIOC oil exported via the western pipeline left Supsa for a Spanish refinery on 8 April, Caucasus Press reported. LF GEORGIA COUNTS ON CIS, UN TO RESOLVE ABKHAZ CONFLICT. Georgian presidential advisor Shalva Pichkhadze told Interfax on 8 April that Tbilisi will rely on exclusively peaceful means to resolve the Abkhaz conflict through the mediation of the CIS and the UN, rather than appeal to the U.S. and NATO. But he added that Georgia would lobby for a UN "Peace- enforcement" operation in Abkhazia if negotiations fail to yield a settlement. Pichkhadze also argued that the international community should hold the Abkhaz leadership responsible for genocide and ethnic cleansing of the region's Georgian population. On 9 April, Caucasus Press quoted Valeri Lomia, administrative head of Abkhazia's southernmost Gali raion, as stating that 1,402 Georgians (including 216 children) who had fled the district returned to their homes last month. LF KAZAKHSTAN TO FACE BUDGET CUTS IN WAKE OF CURRENCY CRISIS? Marat Ospanov, speaker of the lower house of parliament, told journalists on 9 April that the fall over the last week in the value of the tenge may necessitate further budget cuts, Interfax reported. The parliament had already sequestered the 1999 budget last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1999). That budget was predicated on an exchange rate of 87.5 tenge to the dollar, but the tenge is now trading at 116 to the dollar. Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev said in Astana on 8 April that he expects the tenge to stabilize within a week at 120 to the dollar. Former National Bank deputy chairman Grigorii Marchenko, who now heads Deutsche Bank Securities, told Interfax on 9 April that he does not believe the introduction of a floating exchange rate for the tenge will result in a systemic banking crisis in Kazakhstan. LF WORLD BANK GRANTS NEW LOAN TO KAZAKHSTAN. The World Bank has approved a loan of about $42.5 million to help Kazakhstan implement a long-term health service restructuring program, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 9 April. The loan is the first phase of three "adaptable loans" totaling $162.5 million the bank plans to provide to Kazakhstan over the next eight years. LF KAZAKHSTAN, TURKMENISTAN OPT FOR CHINESE EXPORT PIPELINES. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov told journalists in Ashgabat on 8 April following a meeting with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev that in the next century priority will be given to exporting Turkmen gas and Kazakh oil via China, ITAR-TASS reported. Kazakhstan and China signed an agreement on construction of a $3 billion, 3,000 km oil export pipeline in September 1997 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1997). In the short term, however, Kazakhstan will continue to export oil via Iran: Prime Minister Balghymbaev will travel to Tehran on 10 April to discuss oil exports and also sales of grain and engineering products, according to Interfax. Turkmenistan last year commissioned a feasibility study for a gas pipeline to China and Japan with an annual throughput capacity of 30 billion cubic meters. LF HELICOPTER CRASH IN TAJIKISTAN WAS AN ACCIDENT. Russian Federal Border Service Director Konstantin Totskii said in Dushanbe on 8 April that the helicopter that crashed in southern Tajikistan on 2 April, killing 18 Russian border guards, had hit a power line, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 1999). Totskii was attending a meeting of CIS border guard commanders in Dushanbe, at which he warned that it is impossible either to halt drug trafficking across the Tajik-Afghan frontier or to counter Islamic fundamentalism just by strengthening border guard forces, AP- Blitz reported. LF UZBEK PRESIDENT QUERIES NEED FOR RUSSIAN MILITARY BASE IN TAJIKISTAN. Islam Karimov told journalists at Tashkent airport on 8 April before departing for a Central Asian summit in Ashgabat that he opposes the planned establishment of a Russian military base in Tajikistan, Interfax reported. Karimov argued that the increased militarization of Central Asia will destabilize the regional situation, and that Tajikistan's neighbors are justified in asking "who this base is aimed at." Karimov also endorsed Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's decision to reimpose visa requirements for citizens of most CIS states wishing to travel to Turkmenistan. 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