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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 72, Part I, 14 April 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 72, Part I, 14 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 * VOTE TO DELAY IMPEACHMENT FALLS SHORT * CHERNOMYRDIN TAPPED FOR PEACEMAKER ROLE IN BALKANS * TAJIK GOVERNMENT DELEGATION VISITS TASHKENT END NOTE: Basic Agreement Reached On New European Arms Accord xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA VOTE TO DELAY IMPEACHMENT FALLS SHORT. A vote to delay a debate on the impeachment of Russian President Boris Yeltsin failed to pass the State Duma on 14 April, just 20 votes short of the 226 needed. The previous day, Duma faction leaders agreed to delay the debate to mid-May, but some members of the Communist Party opposed such a long delay. A compromise decision is expected to emerge after a new meeting of faction leaders with Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev on 14 April, Interfax reported. The debate was originally scheduled for 15 April. JAC U.S., RUSSIA HOLD TALKS ON KOSOVA... After an almost four- hour meeting in Oslo with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on 13 April, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters that Russia and the U.S. agreed that future work is necessary to devise "an acceptable form of international presence in [Kosova] to ensure conditions for a political settlement." The two did agree on some basic principles for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, such as the end of violence in Kosova, the army's withdrawal from the area, and the return of refugees, ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov called the discussion "very useful" but "difficult." Ivanov added that a meeting of G-8 foreign ministers will take place in "a matter of days." JAC ...AS RUSSIA REPEATS OLD THREATS, ACCUSATIONS RE NATO. The same day, the Russian Foreign Ministry repeated accusations that the U.S. is supplying military aid to the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), citing reports in British newspapers about alleged U.S. secret talks with the UCK. In addition, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev repeated an earlier threat that Russia may withdraw its peacekeepers from Bosnia-Herzegovina and send more warships to the Mediterranean in response to continuing NATO air strikes. "Segodnya" reported on 10 April that Sergeev has maintained a less bellicose public posture on the Kosova issue than some of his fellow officials at the Defense Ministry, such as the director of the department for international military cooperation, Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, and the commander of the Far East Military District, Colonel General Viktor Chechevatov. According to the newspaper, the Kremlin is displeased that these officers have publicly expressed positions at odds with President Yeltsin's. JAC CHERNOMYRDIN TAPPED FOR PEACEMAKER ROLE IN BALKANS. President Yeltsin signed a decree on 14 April appointing former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin as presidential envoy to Yugoslavia, presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told reporters. Yeltsin apparently decided not to avail himself of the services of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who offered himself for the role during a television interview the previous day, Interfax reported. In other personnel news, first deputy head of the presidential administration Oleg Sysuev told ITAR-TASS that Nikolai Bordyuzha, former head of the presidential administration and secretary of the Security Council, will be appointed to head the State Customs Committee. JAC U.S. SUPPORTING ISRAEL'S CLOSER RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA? In its coverage of the visit of Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon to Moscow, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 April that according to its sources in the Israeli government, Israel's recent policy of wooing Russia "has been approved by Washington" because the U.S. "fears that its tense relations with Russia could push it into the embrace of such odious regimes as Iran, Iraq, and Syria." According to the daily, in his discussion with Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 12 April, Sharon made it clear that "the friendship is possible only after Russia discontinues the leakage of technologies to Iran and missile deliveries to Syria." Syrian President Hafez Assad recently postponed a visit scheduled for 12-13 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 1999). On 13 April, Sharon told Interfax that about 2 million people in the former Soviet Union can claim Israeli citizenship under its repatriation law. JAC GOVERNORS DIVIDED ON ISSUE OF LARGER SLAVIC UNION... Federation Council members expressed mixed reactions to the idea of expanding the Union of Belarus and Russia to include Yugoslavia. Both Lipetsk Oblast Governor Oleg Korolev and Ryazan Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Lyubimov spoke in favor of the larger confederation. Lyubimov told ITAR-TASS on 13 April that Yugoslavia's admission might persuade the world community that Russia "has something up its sleeve" and halt combat operations in the Balkans. However, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Nazarov said such a union would be disadvantageous to Russia in every respect, while Karelia Republic legislative assembly speaker Valentina Pivenko called the proposal "dangerous" because it would draw Russia into the conflict. In his recent address to leaders of Russia's republics, President Yeltsin pledged to consult with them on foreign policy issues, particularly on the union of Russia and Belarus (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 14 April 1999). The head of 17 of Russia's 21 republics issued a statement on 13 April calling on the State Duma to stop impeachment proceedings. JAC ...AS DUMA MOVES FORWARD? The Duma authorized its Committee on Legislation, Judicial and Legal Reform and its Committee on International Affairs to draw up a draft decision calling on President Yeltsin to sign a treaty establishing the Russia-Belarus-Yugoslavia union, Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told reporters on 13 April. The same day, the presidential envoy to the Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov, told ITAR-TASS that although the president supports the idea of including Yugoslavia, the issue is an extremely difficult one requiring more than "just two or three weeks" of serious calculation. He added that "unification will cause us a serious economic headache and we should calculate what advantages, apart from geostrategic, such a union will give us." The next day only 84 Duma members voted in favor of a motion to put the issue of the expanded union on the legislature's agenda, Russian Television reported. That was well short of the 226 votes needed. JAC ANGRY TEACHERS SEIZE ADMINISTRATOR'S OFFICE. Teachers in ten cities and villages in the Sverdlovsk Oblast stayed away from classes on 13 April to protest unpaid wages, ITAR-TASS reported. In Kushva, angry teachers seized the office of the head of the local administration and have so far resisted attempts by administration and police officials to leave. Last week, the information department of the oblast government reported that the oblast's government had managed to reduce the amount of wages still owed to state workers for 1998 by 19 million rubles ($760,000), Interfax-Eurasia reported on 7 April. Currently, the debt stands at 163.78 million rubles. Meanwhile, in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii in the Kamchatka Oblast, teachers are continuing the second week of their strike called to demand the payment of six months of back wages. JAC INDIAN DEFENSE OFFICIAL'S VISIT POSTPONED. A visit by Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes scheduled for 12 April was postponed at India's request, Interfax reported on 13 April. According to the agency, the visit had to be rescheduled for "internal political reasons." The same day, Russia expressed concern over India's test of a medium-range ballistic missile on 11 April, saying that it could undermine stability in the region. On 14 April a "high-ranking military diplomatic source" told ITAR-TASS that Pakistan's ballistic missile test undertaken in response to India's "could lead to a further build-up in the nuclear arms race in Asia." Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will visit Moscow from 19-22 April. JAC CHECHEN PRESIDENT AVOIDS PRIMAKOV MEETING. Presidential spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev told Interfax on 13 April that because of other engagements Aslan Maskhadov will not travel to the North Ossetian capital, Vladikavkaz, on 17 April to meet with Russian Premier Primakov, who is to attend a meeting of leaders of north Caucasus republics. Following the 5 March abduction in Grozny of Russian Interior Ministry General Gennadii Shpigun, Maskhadov called for an urgent meeting between himself and President Yeltsin to "defuse tensions," but Russian officials suggested that a meeting between Maskhadov and Primakov would be more appropriate. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS IN BID TO LOWER ENERGY TARIFS. Opposition deputies failed on 13 April to pass in the second and final reading a bill that would have reduced energy tariffs by 25 percent to their 1998 level, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Only 89 of the parliament's 190 deputies voted in favor of the bill, while the Armenian Constitution requires that an absolute majority must vote in favor to pass legislation amending government expenditures or revenues. Eduard Yegorian of the Hayrenik faction, who drafted the bill, insisted that the bill's passage was legal, and said he will appeal to the Constitutional Court if President Robert Kocharian fails to sign it into law. Many of the pro- government Yerkrapah deputies boycotted the session rather than risk jeopardizing voter support in the 30 May parliamentary poll. LF AZERBAIJAN'S EX-PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON FOREIGN POLICY. In a telephone interview with Turan on 13 April, Ayaz Mutalibov expressed approval of the Azerbaijani leadership's decision not to renew the country's membership in the CIS Collective Security Treaty. But Mutalibov attributed to "despair" recent proposals by Azerbaijani officials that the country should host either a NATO or U.S. military base, warning that the West is unlikely to agree to such a move and that it would inevitably exacerbate Azerbaijan's already strained relations with Russia. He said he thinks it unlikely that any state, even Turkey, would risk a war with Russia over Azerbaijan. Mutalibov said he considers the proposal that Azerbaijan should form a confederation with Turkey "inexpedient" as it would entail the loss of Azerbaijan's independence. LF EXPORT OF AZERBAIJANI OIL VIA RUSSIA RESUMES. Chechnya recommenced the pumping of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil through its sector of the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline on 12 April, two weeks after halting it because of Russia's failure to pay back debts for security of that pipeline, Interfax and Turan reported on 13 April. The Azerbaijan International Operating Company, the sole western consortium currently exporting oil from Azerbaijan, has again upped production from the Chirag field which was cut by half as a result of the closure of the northern pipeline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1999). LF AZERBAIJANI INTERIOR MINISTRY ISSUES BAN ON BODYGUARDS. Interior Minister Ramil Usubov has issued a ruling that leaders of Azerbaijani political parties may no longer be accompanied by bodyguards, Turan reported on 12 April. The ruling follows an incident on 9 April in which a police official is reported to have rammed the car of National Independence Party of Azerbaijan chairman Etibar Mamedov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April 1999). It is not clear what measures the ministry plans to take to enforce the ruling. LF ABKHAZ READY TO RELEASE MEMBER OF DETAINED FISHING CREW? Georgian Intelligence Service chief Avtandil Ioseliani and his Abkhaz counterpart, Astamur Tarba, have reached agreement on the release of a woman crew member of the Georgian fishing vessel intercepted in Abkhaz territorial waters on 3 April, Caucasus Press reported on 14 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1999). Negotiations are continuing on exchanging her nine fellow crew members for four Abkhaz believed to be held by Georgian guerrillas. LF GEORGIAN EX-PRESIDENT'S SON WANTED IN SHOOTING INCIDENT. Georgian police want to question Tsotne Gamsakhurdia, the elder of the late president's two sons, in connection with an incident in Tbilisi on 12 April in which he shot and wounded a member of the Georgian water polo team, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. Gamsakhurdia is believed to be in Batumi where he is employed as an assistant to the city mayor. LF TRANSCAUCASUS DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET. The defense ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Vazgen Sargsian and Safar Abiev, accepted an invitation from their Georgian counterpart, David Tevzadze, to a meeting in the Georgian government residence at Tsinandali on 12 April, Caucasus Press reported two days later quoting Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Giorgi Katamadze. Katamadze did not divulge details of the talks other than to say that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was not discussed. He added that the three defense ministers plan to meet again in Georgia in early May. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S NATIONAL BANK CHAIRMAN BRIEFS PRESIDENT. Kadyrzhan Damitov told President Nursultan Nazarbaev in Almaty on 13 April that the tenge is stabilizing after dropping sharply in value last week, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. The exchange rate of the tenge to the U.S. dollar was fixed at 113.45 on 13 April, up from 117.5 on 9 April. But in eastern Kazakhstan, traders were demanding 138 tenge to the dollar, and some exchange offices in Astana remain closed because of a shortage of hard currency, according to RFE/RL correspondents. LF HUNGER STRIKES IN KAZAKHSTAN. Hundreds of employees of an oil and gas research facility in Mangyastau, western Kazakhstan, are in the fifteenth day of a hunger strike to demand that the government and the state oil company KAZAKOIL pay their wage arrears for the past two years, RFE/RL correspondents in the region reported on 14 April. And in the oblast center of Qyzyl-Orda, seven local women have embarked on a hunger strike to demand their salaries for the last 18 months. The leader of that initiative told RFE/RL's Almaty bureau that several families in the oblast have recently died of hunger. LF KYRGYZSTAN'S PRESIDENT BEGINS STATE VISIT TO INDIA. Askar Akaev met in New Delhi on 13 April with leading Indian officials, including President K.R. Narayanan and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Topics discussed included bilateral relations and cooperation in agriculture, electronics, civil aviation, and tourism. LF KYRGYZ OPPOSITION, MEDIA CRITICIZE NEW PERSONNEL APPOINTMENTS. In an editorial on 14 April, the independent Kyrgyz weekly "Aalam" said that the appointment of Amangeldi Muraliev as prime minister will only strengthen the tensions between the southern and northern regions of the country, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 13 April. The paper characterized Muraliev as "too gentle" to conduct a ruthless crackdown on corruption, while the opposition "Res Publica" weekly on 13 April described him as "indecisive" and not capable of standing up to the president. Meanwhile, parliament deputies Dosbol Nur Uulu and Abasamat Masaliev criticized President Akaev's appointment of 31-year-old Temirbek Akmataliev to succeed Muraliev as governor of Osh oblast, the country's largest. An agronomist by training, Akmataliev had previously served in the presidential administration and, since early 1998, as governor of the small Talas oblast. The deputies argued that Akmataliev is too inexperienced to discharge his new duties competently. They accused Akaev of entrusting senior posts only to politicians who, like himself, come from the Kemin district of Chu oblast. LF TAJIK GOVERNMENT DELEGATION VISITS TASHKENT. Tajik Prime Minister Yakhye Azimov flew to Tashkent on 13 April to discuss the implementation of agreements reached by Presidents Islam Karimov and Imomali Rakhmonov during their 90-minute talk on the sidelines of the 8-9 April Central Asian summit in Ashgabat, AP-Blitz reported on 14 April. Azimov and his Uzbek counterpart, Utkur Sultanov, discussed cooperation in the spheres of customs, border and land, passenger and cargo transit, and the supply and transit of natural gas to Tajikistan. "Vremya MN" on 13 April quoted Karimov as characterizing his talks with Rakhmonov as "an honest and frank exchange of opinions," in which Rakhmonov said "mutual understanding" was reached and "all problems were resolved." Karimov underscored that economic ties between the two countries did not suffer from the cooling in relations that followed Rakhmonov's charges that Uzbekistan had abetted the insurgency launched in November 1998 by rebel colonel Mahmud Khudoiberdiev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 1998). LF END NOTE Basic Agreement Reached On New European Arms Accord By Roland Eggleston German officials and officials with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) say that after years of negotiations, agreement has been reached on the basic elements of a new treaty restricting conventional weaponry in Europe. German diplomats and OSCE officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that the basic agreement was reached last week in Vienna, where the negotiations have been based. The treaty would place limits on the number of artillery, tanks, armored troop carriers, war planes, and attack helicopters which can be held by any individual nation. Another part restricts the number of reinforcements which can be brought in from other countries. NATO had earlier said the agreement would be "the cornerstone" of a new security regime in Europe. The aim is to ensure that in the future, no single country will be able to maintain military forces at levels which would allow it to hold a dominating position on the European continent. German and OSCE officials say that the basic agreement concluded in Vienna last week has been accepted by 30 states, including Russia, Ukraine, the United States, and all other members of NATO and the former Warsaw Pact. Confirmation from other capitals was not immediately available. The officials said the agreed treaty will be presented at this month's NATO Summit meeting in Washington and the final text is expected to be signed at a summit meeting of the OSCE in Istanbul in November. The new treaty will replace the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty limiting conventional forces on the continent, and several amendments since then. The German and OSCE officials said it was achieved only after difficult negotiations in which all parties had to give way on some cherished positions. They said that as an example, both Russia and NATO had to give way on some measures involving the new members of NATO--Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic. They said Russia also gave way on some of its positions about its forces in the Caucasus. The original 1990 CFE treaty was based on the total holdings of two blocs of military power--NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The new treaty would treat every country individually. Each would be allowed a maximum number of conventional forces of its own and each is allowed to deploy only a certain number of foreign forces on its territory to make an overall limit. German officials said, for example, that Germany will be allowed a maximum of 3,444 main battle tanks of its own. Other countries may station tanks in Germany, but the overall total of both German and foreign tanks cannot exceed 4,704. It is the same with artillery systems. Germany is to be allowed 2,255 of its own but foreign countries can only deploy about half that number on German soil. German diplomats told RFE/RL that the expansion of NATO with the inclusion of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary created problems which were solved only after months of argument. Russia argued that the admission of these states brought NATO's frontline closer to its borders and it was entitled to special privileges to protect itself. One argument focused on the maximum limits allowed each country. The officials said it was defused only through a concession by the new member states of NATO. They agreed that they would cut their forces to below the levels originally proposed. The deadline for making these cuts is 2003. As an example, Poland will reduce the number of its main battle tanks from 1,730 to 1,577 by then. The officials say that in another move to ease Moscow's concerns, several states close to Russia's borders have agreed to limit the number of foreign forces deployed on their territory. In return, Russia agreed to concessions regarding the deployment of forces in Kaliningrad and Pskov. German diplomats said the purpose of these and other agreements was to decrease tensions in the sensitive border areas between Russia and NATO. Another problem which was resolved only after long negotiations was the rapid deployment of forces in a crisis situation. Strict adherence to the limits would have meant that only a certain number of foreign forces could be sent to another country involved in a crisis. The United States, in particular, insisted on more flexibility. Finally, Russia agreed with NATO that in these exceptional circumstances two divisions of battle tanks, armored troop carriers, and artillery systems could be temporarily based in the affected country. The officials said that the so-called 'Flank Areas' covering Russia's St. Petersburg military district and the Caucasus created other problems. Originally, Russia wanted to lift all restrictions on its deployment of troops in these regions. There were objections from Turkey, Georgia, Norway, and some other countries. They argued that, in theory, this could allow Moscow to station its entire armed forces on the borders in the south or the north. Finally, Russia agreed to a system limiting the number of forces it can move in and out of these regions according to the situation. The document now agreed upon in Vienna is more than 100 pages long. Diplomats describe it as a "basic structure." More months of negotiation will be needed to refine the rough text and re-examine some of the details, which could lead to new arguments. But the experts are confident it will be ready for signing by the heads of state and government at the OSCE Summit meeting in Istanbul in November. Roland Eggleston is a senior RFE/RL correspondent based in Munich. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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