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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 69, Part I, 9 April 1999


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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

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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
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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. LF

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