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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 70, Part I, 12 April 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 70, Part I, 12 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

* RUSSIAN OFFICIALS WARN, CRITICIZE NATO

* ONLY CANDIDATES WITH CASH NEED RUN?

* UN ENVOY ASSESSES POLITICAL SITUATION IN TAJIKISTAN

END NOTE: MOSCOW AND MINSK VIRTUALLY ALONE IN SUPPORT OF
MILOSEVIC
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RUSSIA

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS WARN, CRITICIZE NATO... Russian President
Boris Yeltsin warned NATO on 9 April not to "push [Russia]
towards military action. Otherwise, there will be a minimum
of a European war or maybe even a world war, which must not
be permitted." The same day, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov
criticized the West for mishandling the refugee problem
"created by NATO air strikes" and suggested that the conflict
e was on the threshold of a "serious ecological catastrophe."
He said that the West was settling refugees throughout the
world "instead of ensuring in a well-considered way the
return of refugees to their homes." He also said that Russia
had evidence that NATO was using weapons that had
"radioactive components" and that a higher radiation level
has been recorded in Yugoslavia. He added that air strikes on
oil facilities threaten to contaminate rivers. JAC

...AS TV COMPLAINS OF POOR TREATMENT BY YUGOSLAVIA. Russian
Television reported on 10 April that its correspondent, Gleb
Ovsyannikov, and a video engineer were expelled from
Yugoslavia by government authorities for no apparent reason.
According to the network, after its "Vesti" program showed
the destruction of a Interior Ministry building by a NATO
bomb, the journalists were deprived of their visas. On 4
April, NTV reported that their reports from the region were
subjected to military censorship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6
April 1999). JAC

RUSSIA SCRAPING FOR MORE REVENUE. Aleksandr Pochinok, head of
the government's department for monetary and credit policy,
told Ekho Moskvy on 9 April that the government has found
ways of increasing budget revenues by more than 60 billion
rubles ($2.4 billion). A saving of more than 30 billion
rubles will result from postponing the reduction in VAT from
1 July to 1 January, according to Pochinok. In addition, the
Tax and Finance Ministries and State Customs Committee have
pledged to collect more revenues. In March, these and other
federal entities missed their target for revenue collections
by as much as 11.6 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April
1999). The previous day, Russia's executive director at the
IMF, Aleksei Mozhin, told Interfax that the fund's board will
not consider approval of the Russia's economic program before
the end of May or early June. JAC

ONLY CANDIDATES WITH CASH NEED RUN? The official start of
election campaigns for the State Duma will be declared no
later than 19 August, Central Election Commission Chairman
Aleksandr Veshnyakov told reporters on 8 April. The elections
themselves are scheduled for 19 December. Veshnyakov also
explained that his commission has proposed that candidates
and parties place a 100,000 ruble ($4,000) deposit for an
individual candidate and 2 million rubles for a party at
Sberbank. If the candidate or bloc wins more than 5 percent
of the vote, then the deposit will be returned, ITAR-TASS
reported. However, if they fail to clear the 5 percent
hurdle, then the money will go into government coffers. Under
the current system, candidates must collect a certain amount
of signatures and present them to the election committee, a
practice which has led to signature-buying. JAC

PROGRESS FOR PASKO IN ESPIONAGE TRIAL... Lawyers representing
Grigorii Pasko scored one of their first legal victories on 9
April, the "Moscow Times" reported, when judges in the
military court refused to allow 23 of the prosecution's 28
remaining witnesses to testify. Pasko, a military journalist,
was arrested in November 1997 and charged with high treason
for providing classified information about the hazardous
environmental practices of the Pacific Fleet to Japanese
television. Before the decision, Pasko himself was grim about
his chances for acquittal, telling Interfax-Eurasia that
"everything indicates that it will be a sham, not a proper
trial." On 5 April, one of the prosecution's key witnesses,
Yurii Ralin, recanted his earlier testimony, "Segodnya"
reported on 10 April; however, the Federal Security Service
directorate in Primorskii Krai told the daily that Ralin may
have changed his testimony, but it has "proof of his
insincerity." JAC

...AS NIKITIN SLAMMED BY ST. PETERSBURG TELEVISION.
Meanwhile, Aleksandr Nikitin, an environmentalist facing
similar charges for disclosing similar information about the
Northern Fleet, has been accused by Petersburg Television of
ruining Russia's reputation as a nuclear superpower in the
West and paving the way for NATO air strikes against
Yugoslavia. According to the "Moscow Times," the new head of
newscasts at the station is Yevgenii Lukin, a former Federal
Security Services official and author of an anti-Semitic
novel. Lukin was appointed by St. Petersburg Governor
Vladimir Yakovlev, whose government has a 38 percent stake in
the station. JAC

ANOTHER POLITICIAN MURDERED IN ST. PETERSBURG. Gennadii
Tuganov, chief coordinator of the St. Petersburg branch of
the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), was slain in an apparent
contract killing on 9 April. LDPR leader Vladimir
Zhirinovskii told reporters that day that the killing was
"purely political" and that Tuganov was assassinated because
he was knowledgeable about the attempts of local criminal
gangs "to infiltrate government structures" and get their
names on the LDPR party ticket during elections. According to
"Kommersant Daily" on 10 April, Tuganov had been preparing
the party for gubernatorial elections in the Leningrad Oblast
scheduled for September, in which Zhirinovskii had said
earlier that he would participate. More recently, LDPR
officials have said that Zhirinovskii would run for governor
in Belgorod Oblast (see "RFE/RL Federation Report," 7 April
1999). JAC

SOME REGIONS SAYING NO TO AID. Three to four Russian regions
are refusing Western humanitarian assistance, Agriculture
Minister Viktor Semenov said on 9 April, "Izvestiya" reported
the next day. He could not say what reasons the regions were
giving for their refusal, but he suggested that they might
change their position after the Ministry holds direct
negotiations with them. JAC

SYRIAN PRESIDENT CANCELS... The Russian presidential press
service announced on 11 April that an official visit to
Moscow by Syrian President Hafez Assad scheduled for 12-13
April was postponed, ITAR-TASS reported. A Kremlin spokesman
later said that the visit has been delayed at the request of
Syria. Arab diplomats told AP that Assad had called off the
trip after the Russian government had hesitated in finalizing
an arms deal. JAC

...AS ISRAEL'S FOREIGN MINISTER ARRIVES. Israeli Foreign
Minister Ariel Sharon arrived in Moscow on 11 April for an
official three-day visit, his second visit to Russia in a
month. Sharon is expected to discuss Russia's nuclear
cooperation with Iran and military cooperation with Syria as
well as bilateral economic relations, ITAR-TASS reported.
Sharon was scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Ivanov on
12 April. JAC

BARCHUK DISMISSED, KVASHNIN NEXT? President Boris Yeltsin
dismissed Pension Fund head Vasilii Barchuk on 10 April.
Barchuk told Ekho Moskvy that his dismissal was a "good
Easter gift," saying that he tendered his resignation in
January 1999. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 9 April that,
according to well-informed Kremlin sources, General Anatolii
Kvashnin, chief of the Armed Forces' general staff, is likely
to be dismissed because his recent bellicose statements on
NATO actions in Yugoslavia openly conflict with the
president's stance. JAC

FSB IDENTIFIES ALLEGED TURKISH SPY. A Turkish intelligence
operative posing as a businessman was deported from Russia
several days ago, Reuters and Russian agencies reported on 10
April quoting Federal Security Service spokesman Aleksandr
Zdanovich. Zdanovich said 62-year-old Besik Mehmet Bahri had
confessed after his detention by the FSB to conducting a
secret mission in Russia in 1997-98 with the aim of
discrediting Russia's foreign policy in the Near and Middle
East. Bahri also admitted to trying to foster pro-Turkish and
separatist sentiments among the leaders of several
unspecified North Caucasus republics. In Georgia, police
arrested one Georgian and two Turkish citizens on 9 April on
the territory of the Supsa oil terminal, Caucasus Press
reported the following day quoting "Dilis gazeti." LF

ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO KILL CHECHEN PRESIDENT THWARTED. Chechen
security officials located and defused bombs on the highway
from Grozny to the town of Starie Atagi, and near the central
square in that town, hours before the arrival of President
Aslan Maskhadov, Russian agencies reported. It was the second
apparent attempt to assassinate Maskhadov in the past month
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 1999). Speaking later at a
ceremony to mark the taking of an oath of loyalty by some
4,000 members of local self-defense units, Maskhadov, who
recently returned from the hajj, abjured secular democracy
and pledged to build an independent Islamic state in
Chechnya. Former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, whose
headquarters are in Starie Atagi, demonstratively pledged his
support for "national unity" among Chechens. Yandarbiev has
hitherto been perceived as allied with Maskhadov's domestic
political rivals. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ITALIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA...
After attending the ceremonial opening of the new Italian
embassy in Baku on 9 April, Valentino Martinelli held talks
with President Heidar Aliev and Foreign Minister Tofik
Zulfugarov, who stressed the importance of Italian
participation in exploiting Azerbaijan's Caspian oil
reserves, Turan reported. Martinelli told Zulfugarov that the
holding of the municipal elections, which should have taken
place two years ago, could expedite Azerbaijan's being given
full membership in the Council of Europe. In Tbilisi the
following day, Martinelli met with President Eduard
Shevardnadze and Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili,
whom he assured of Italy's support for the export of
Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Georgia. Martinelli also said
Italy is interested in cooperating with Georgia to expand sea
and air communications between the Mediterranean and Black
Seas, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

... AND ARMENIA. Martinelli met in Yerevan the same day with
President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan
Oskanian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The talks focused
on bilateral relations, Armenia's relations with Russia and
Turkey, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and Pope John Paul
II's planned visit to Armenia. Martinelli subsequently told
journalists that he does not think the unresolved Karabakh
conflict should prove an obstacle to Armenia's acceptance
into full membership of the Council of Europe or its
integration into European structures. LF

ABKHAZIA CONDEMNS ALLEGED RUSSIAN BIAS. The Abkhaz parliament
adopted a statement on 9 April saying that the region's
leadership may abjure further Russian mediation of a
settlement of the conflict with Georgia if Moscow continues
its "one-sided support" of the Georgian position, Interfax
and Caucasus Press reported. The statement further termed
"invalid" the decision of the 2 April CIS summit, which it
claimed tacitly supported the Georgian leadership's imputed
intention to resolve the conflict by force. Also on 9 April,
two Abkhaz officials were shot dead in their car in
Abkhazia's southernmost Gali raion, ITAR-TASS reported
quoting an Abkhaz government source. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADER INTIMIDATED. A man identified
as an employee of the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry twice
rammed the car of opposition National Independent Party of
Azerbaijan chairman Etibar Mamedov with his own vehicle on 9
April, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. On the second occasion,
the attacker threatened Mamedov with a gun, but was disarmed
by Mamedov's bodyguard and subsequently detained by police.
LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PROTESTS PLANS TO REDUCE PENSIONS. The
Democratic Congress, which unites a dozen opposition parties,
issued a statement on 9 April criticizing a draft bill on
retirement benefits that proposes cutting pensions for the
rural population by 50 percent, Turan reported the following
day. The Democratic Congress further termed the proposed
reduction illegal, as the pension expenditures were approved
in the 1999 budget. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S TENGE REBOUNDS. Kazakhstan's currency gained in
value again in trading on 9 April, closing at 115.7 tenge/$1
after fluctuating only 3-4 tenge during the day, Interfax
reported. But National Bank head Kadyrzhan Damitov told
journalists on 9 April that as of 1 May the maximum amount of
hard currency that can be exported in cash on any one
occasion will be cut from $10,000 to $3,000. In neighboring
Kyrgyzstan, acting National Bank chairman Ulan Sarbanov told
the lower chamber of parliament on 9 April that the bank will
not introduce a fixed exchange rate despite sharp
fluctuations over the past few days in the value of the som
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7-8 April, 1999). LF

CENTRAL ASIA SUMMIT CONCLUDES. Meeting in Ashgabat on 8-9
April, the presidents of the five Central Asian Soviet
successor states reviewed the progress made since their
January 1998 summit in improving the ecological situation in
the Aral Sea region. They also discussed the prospects for
future cooperation in the implementation of international
projects for developing Transcaucasus and Trans-Asian
transport corridors and in constructing a multiple pipeline
network for the export of the region's hydrocarbon resources,
according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 April. Tajik
President Imomali Rakhmonov on 9 April responded to Uzbek
President Islam Karimov's protests that Tajikistan should
first have consulted neighboring states before agreeing to
allow Russia to maintain a military base on its territory
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 9 April, 1999). Rakhmonov said
his country has a "sovereign right" to conclude such
agreements, pointing also to the security risks posed by
Tajikistan's 1,600 km frontier with Afghanistan. LF

UN ENVOY ASSESSES POLITICAL SITUATION IN TAJIKISTAN. Speaking
at a press conference in Dushanbe on 9 April, Jan Kubis
expressed concern at delay in implementing both the military
and political protocols of the 1997 General Peace Accord,
ITAR-TASS reported. Kubis attributed the reluctance of both
the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition to act
on agreements they had initiated to narrow political
interests. Kubis also announced that the UN will resume
operations in the Garm region of eastern Tajikistan.
Operations there were suspended last summer following the
murder of three UN observers and their interpreter. Also on 9
April, Tajik Defense Ministry spokesman Zerobiddin Sirodzhev
told Interfax that a total of 900 former Tajik opposition
fighters have been enlisted into three interim army units. LF

END NOTE

MOSCOW AND MINSK VIRTUALLY ALONE IN SUPPORT OF MILOSEVIC

By Pete Baumgartner

	The vehement opposition by the governments of Russia and
Belarus to NATO's air campaign in Yugoslavia has placed them
in a small group of countries within Eastern Europe and the
former Soviet Union that tend to support Belgrade over NATO
in the Kosova crisis.
	Though the three newest members of NATO--the Czech
Republic, Hungary, and Poland--obviously back the alliance's
actions in Yugoslavia, absolute support has not been
forthcoming in every case.
	The weakest link for NATO has been in Prague. Though
Czech President Vaclav Havel has spoken strongly in support
of the air strikes, the governing Social Democrats (CSSD)
have made only lukewarm statements in favor of NATO's
actions. Additionally, on 10 April 341 delegates at a CSSD
conference in Prague signed a letter condemning the NATO air
campaign. Among conservatives, parliament speaker and former
Premier Vaclav Klaus said on 8 April that the air strikes
"were not the right policy," and that since the bombing began
"the suffering in Kosova has increased manifold." The rival
Freedom Union party called for Klaus to be dismissed as
speaker for "severely damaging the Czech Republic's
credibility and prestige within NATO."
	Hungary, the only NATO country that shares a border with
Yugoslavia, has solidly endorsed NATO action. So much so, in
fact, that one ethnic Hungarian leader in Serbia's Vojvodina
region said Budapest's "extreme" support for the air strikes
could have negative consequences for ethnic Hungarians there.
Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban even spoke favorably of NATO's
bombing of the bridges spanning the Danube River in Novi Sad,
despite the fact that Hungarian companies will suffer
substantial economic losses as a result of the stoppage in
shipping traffic the bridge debris has caused. (Orban reasons
that destruction of the bridge will help prevent Yugoslav
troops stationed in Vojvodina, which includes many ethnic
Hungarians, from being transferred to Kosova.)
	In Warsaw, official backing for the air campaign has
been solid, and only a small group of pacifist Catholic
deputies and the Peasant Party have spoken against the NATO
operation. Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek gave an
impassioned speech to parliament in support of air strikes on
9 April, and former President Lech Walesa even called for the
alliance to send in ground troops.
	Perhaps even more vocal than the fledgling NATO members
in their support for military action against Yugoslavia are
the seven countries striving to be part of the next wave of
NATO expansion: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuanian,
Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. These countries sent a joint
letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton on 9 April expressing
their full support for action necessary to end "...the
suffering and violence in Kosova."
	In Bratislava, Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda
called the decision to bomb Yugoslavia the lesser "of two
evils." But the party of former Premier Vladimir Meciar
called the air strikes "modern barbarism" in parliament on 25
March and declared its "solidarity" with Yugoslavia.
	In Bulgaria and Romania, government backing for NATO's
actions faces harsh criticism from the major opposition
parties--criticism that resonates somewhat within the public,
who are uncomfortable with the close proximity of the
military operations and who feel for the ethnic Romanian and
ethnic Bulgarian minorities living in Serbia. Though the
government of Bulgarian Premier Ivan Kostov supported the
strikes, it was criticized in some Western circles for
closing its borders to all Yugoslav refugees except ethnic
Bulgarians. Romania and Bulgaria also stand to lose millions
of dollars from the shutdown in shipping on the Danube,
something the threadbare economies of those countries can ill
afford.
	The Moldovan Foreign Ministry said on 25 March that it
notes that the Atlantic alliance's decision to use force was
"to a large extent imposed by the irreconcilable position" of
one side in the conflict, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported.
	Croatian officials, whose country has not yet been
accepted into NATO's Partnership for Peace program, have
publicly supported NATO. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, pledges of
official support for either Yugoslavia or NATO fall largely,
predictably, along ethnic lines. Leaders in both countries no
doubt feel a touch of schadenfreude that Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic is enduring the kind of destruction that
other former Yugoslav republics experienced during the 1991-
1995 wars of Yugoslav succession.
	In Kyiv, government officials have mixed condemnations
of NATO air strikes, with calls for resumed negotiations. The
Defense Ministry also maintained that "strong relations with
NATO are within Ukraine's interests." And despite virulent
statements by deputies against NATO, resolutions reducing
ties with NATO as well as one calling for Ukraine to renege
on its nuclear-free status have failed to pass a largely
leftist parliament. President Leonid Kuchma has also turned
down all calls for military aid to be sent to Belgrade and
called Yugoslavia's proposal to join the Belarusian-Russian
Union "unrealistic."
	In the Caucasus, both Armenia and Georgia expressed
disappointment at the failure of negotiations to solve the
conflict and concern at the decision by the alliance to use
force against Yugoslavia. Most political groups in Yerevan
spoke against the air strikes, though the Foreign Ministry
said on 25 March that "Armenia has always stood up for the
right of peoples to self-determination." Though on the same
day, its defense minister signed a CIS joint statement in
Moscow calling the NATO air strikes "inhuman." Meanwhile, the
People's Front of Azerbaijan Party praised NATO actions
against Yugoslavia "...which has committed genocide against
Albanians." It said that "the same policy of ethnic cleansing
has been carried out against Azerbaijanis living
in...Nagorno-Karabakh" and was hopeful that "such [NATO]
action will be carried out against Armenia..."
	The Central Asian states have been relatively quiet and
ever cautious in their official statements regarding the
Kosova conflict. Kazakhstan neither endorsed nor condemned
the air strikes but did call for Yugoslav forces to withdraw
from Kosova. The Tajik Foreign Ministry condemned the air
campaign as "destabilizing the global situation."
	So while Belgrade knows it has little support in the
West, unequivocal support in the East is also rare. Though in
a global sense, Yugoslavia appears to be doing alright:
Yugoslav Deputy Foreign Minister Zoran Novakovic pointed out
on 9 April that Russia, China, and India oppose the NATO
military campaign, and those countries "account for a
majority of the world's population," he said.

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