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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 73, Part I, 15 April 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 73, Part I, 15 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

* MORE RUSSIA SHIPS TO HEAD FOR ADRIATIC

* IMPEACHMENT DEBATE ON SLATE FOR MID-MAY

* UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS ISLAMIC THREAT WILL NOT HALT
DEMOCRATIZATION
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RUSSIA

MORE RUSSIA SHIPS TO HEAD FOR ADRIATIC. In an interview with
the military newspaper "Krasnaya Zvezda" on 15 April, Defense
Minister Igor Sergeev said that evidence suggests that NATO
is preparing a ground operation in Yugoslavia. He pointed to
the increased intensity of the air strikes, the introduction
of an additional number of planes and ground-based aircraft
as well as the deployment of Apache helicopters and multiple-
rocket launchers. He also said that Russia is planning to
replace its repair ship off the coast of Syria, which will
require the accompaniment of military ships. The Turkish
General Staff announced the previous day that an eight-ship
squadron of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, heading for the
Adriatic, will pass through the Turkish straits in three
groups beginning 15 to 22 April, ITAR-TASS reported. A naval
analyst told Reuters that "booking passage through the
Turkish straits indicates an intention to sail and is no
longer just talk." JAC

CHERNOMYRDIN BACKS GERMAN PEACE PROPOSAL. Viktor
Chernomyrdin, Russia's new presidential envoy to Yugoslavia,
said on 15 April that he supports Germany's call for a 24-
hour suspension of hostilities. In an interview with
"Kommersant-Daily" on 15 April, Chernomyrdin also spoke out
against sending military weapons or personnel to the conflict
zone. In remarks to reporters, Chernomyrdin condemned recent
NATO air strikes which resulted in casualties of civilian
Kosovar Albanians as "a tragedy and a crime," which
demonstrate the "need for a rapid, peaceful resolution of
existing problems." Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov
slammed Chernomyrdin's appointment, saying "this person made
a mess of everything in the country, but today he is assigned
to the worst hot spot." JAC

YUGOSLAV CONFLICT TO HAVE SPILLOVER EFFECT ON RUSSIA? The
Federal Security Service (FSB) is concerned about the
domestic effects of the increasing number of volunteers being
recruited in Russia to serve in the Kosova conflict (see
"RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 14 April 1999),
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 14 April. According to a FSB
source, "radical organizations are setting up illegal
paramilitary formations on the pretext of recruiting
volunteers for Yugoslavia--either for the propaganda effect
on the eve of the State Duma election campaign or for use in
street clashes should the domestic political situation
deteriorate." The daily also cited the fear voiced by
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev that participation by
Russians on both sides of the front line could destabilize
the situation in Tatarstan and elsewhere. In addition to some
Tatarstan residents, a volunteer battalion from the Congress
of Peoples of Dagestan and Ichkeria are also planning to go
to aid the Kosovar Albanians, the newspaper reported. JAC

IMPEACHMENT DEBATE ON SLATE FOR MID-MAY... The State Duma
voted on 14 April to delay the debate on impeachment of
President Boris Yeltsin from 15 April to 13 May. There were
241 votes in favor of the postponement. Earlier that day, two
previous votes to delay the debate failed to gather enough
votes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April), and "Izvestiya"
argued on 15 April that "from a legal point of view" the Duma
reached "a dual decision" and the debate can be held either
15 April or 13 May. According to the daily, Duma deputy Oleg
Morozov (leader of the Russian Regions faction) and deputy
Yelena Mizulina (Yabloko), among others, believe that since
the Duma twice failed to adopt a decision postponing the
question then the impeachment issue must be examined on 15
April. The Kremlin responded negatively to the latest
development: presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin said
that by postponing the debate the Duma paralyzes its
legislative activities. JAC

...AS YELTSIN WINS MORE SUPPORT FROM REGIONAL LEADERS.
Konstantin Titov, Samara Oblast governor and the informal
leader of the Golos Rossii movement of Russian regional
leaders, sent a letter to President Yeltsin expressing his
willingness to transform his movement into a pro-presidential
one, Interfax reported on 13 April citing a source in the
Federation Council. A source in Golos Rossii said the letter
was received on 9 April. According to the agency, Yeltsin has
been invited to participate in a forum Golos Rossii is
holding on 20 April in Moscow. On 13 April, 17 heads of
Russia's republics issued a declaration calling on the Duma
to stop impeachment proceedings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14
April 1999). JAC

WORLD BANK PRESIDENT ARRIVES FOR TALKS. World Bank President
James Wolfensohn arrived in Moscow on 14 April for a two-day
visit to assess the government's economic program and discuss
additional disbursement of its third structural adjustment
loan. Economics Minister Andrei Shapovalyants told reporters
that he hopes that Wolfensohn's visit will settle the issue
of the "timing of the loan and size of the tranches to be
disbursed in 1999 and 2000." Key issues between the bank and
Russia still to be resolved, according to Shapovalyants, are
"the size of cash payments to natural monopolies such as gas
and electricity, the regulation of access to export
pipelines, and the operating mode of the Russian development
bank," Interfax reported. JAC

SAKHALIN-3 PSA SAILS THROUGH DUMA. Members of the Duma
approved on 14 April a bill allowing production sharing at
the Sakhalin-3 oil field. The vote was 310-8 with two
abstentions. The bill allows the sale of the right to exploit
the hydrocarbon resources of the Kirinski exploration bloc to
different buyers, ITAR-TASS reported, in addition to the
usual tax breaks provided under a production sharing
agreement (PSA). The law still must be approved by the
Federation Council and signed by President Yeltsin before it
goes into effect. JAC

NIZHNII NOVGOROD HEADED FOR EUROBOND DEFAULT. Nizhnii
Novgorod is likely to become the first region in Russia to
default on its Eurobond, "Vremya MN" reported on 13 April. On
2 April, the oblast did not pay a $4.4 million coupon
maturing on its $100 million bond. According to Governor Ivan
Sklarov, the oblast at the present time can only pay about
half of the amount due, $2.2 million, but, according to the
newspaper, no negotiations with its creditors about a
restructuring of its debt are now taking place. However, by
14 April, Sklarov made it to Moscow to discuss the issue with
top Finance Ministry officials, "The Moscow Times" reported
on 15 April. An official with the oblast's administration
finance department told the daily that the oblast is hoping
that its creditors will not enforce "cross-default
provisions" requiring the oblast to make good on the $100
million bond immediately and instead allow them to
restructure or defer payment. JAC

WITH RESTRICTIONS IN PLACE, RUBLE BOUNCES BACK. The ruble
continued strengthening on 15 April for the sixth day in a
row, rising to 24.80 rubles per dollar. According to AFP,
analysts explain the rise by the new regulations imposed on
trading by the Central Bank. The IMF has expressed its
opposition to the Central Bank's limitations on ruble
convertibility (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 1999). JAC

MOSCOW PUSHING FOR BUMPER GRAIN CROP THIS YEAR. Federal-level
agricultural officials are offering farm credits and
fertilizer discounts to encourage a strong grain harvest this
year, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 April. Last year's harvest was
one of the worst in 40 years, and this year Agriculture
Minister Viktor Semenov is predicting that Russia will
produce 70 million metric tons of grain, a 46 percent
increase over last year's yield. Government spokesman Igor
Shchegolev pledged the same day that the federal government
will provide farmers with 65 percent of their total funds for
the year by May, which will be the first time in the last 10
years that such a large sum is provided in such a short
period of time, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA'S SUPREME COURT CHAIRMAN INJURED IN
GRENADE ATTACK. Islam Burlakov was hospitalized with serious
injuries on 13 April after unknown persons threw a grenade at
his home, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 April. The
paper quoted General Vladimir Semenov, the former commander
of Russian army land forces and a candidate in the 25 April
republican presidential elections, as saying that the attack
is intended to discredit him (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report,"
Vol. 2, No. 1, 5 January 1999). The KChR Supreme Court
rejected a complaint last week by the head of Semenov's
campaign staff that the republic's Central Electoral
Commission had violated the Russian Constitution in agreeing
to register Boris Ebzeev, who is a member of the Russian
Constitutional Court, as a presidential candidate. Semenov
escaped an apparent assassination attempt unscathed on 2
April. LF

RUSSIA, IRAN SIGN OIL, GAS AGREEMENT. Russian Fuel and Energy
Minister Sergei Generalov and his Iranian counterpart, Bijan
Namdar Zanganeh, signed a memorandum of understanding in
Tehran on 14 April on oil and gas exploration and
development, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. The agreement
covers the purchase of equipment and chemicals, cooperation
in petrochemical joint ventures, and the construction of
underground gas storage facilities. According to Generalov,
the agreement is the first of its kind. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIA, RUSSIA INAUGURATE COMBINED AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM.
Colonel-General Anatolii Kornukov, commander in chief of the
Russian air force, and his Armenian counterpart, Lieutenant-
General Mikael Harutiunian, attended a ceremony at a Russian
base 30 km southwest of Yerevan on 15 April to mark the
integration of the two countries' air defense systems,
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kornukov told journalists
in Yerevan the previous day that Russia will send a further
eight MiG-29s to Armenia in addition to the five recently
deployed there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December 1998 and
18 February 1999). Kornukov said on 15 April that other CIS
member states, including Azerbaijan, are invited to join the
CIS air defense system, of which Belarus, Kazakhstan, and
Kyrgyzstan are also members. He noted that the NATO air
strikes against Yugoslavia demonstrate that in conditions of
modern hi-tech warfare, small countries need to enlist the
help of larger states in order to repel a massive air
assault. LF

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS KILL TWO ARMENIANS. Two drunken Russian
border guards who had deserted their unit near the north
Armenian town of Gyumri seized sub-machineguns from a Russian
border post and then indiscriminately opened fire in the town
streets, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Two people were
killed and nine more wounded before the two soldiers were
overpowered and disarmed. Russia's ambassador to Armenia,
Anatolii Dryuker, expressed formal apologies for the incident
on 15 April. LF

GEORGIA, RUSSIA DISCUSS RAIL TRANSPORT. Visiting Tbilisi on
14 April, Russian Transport Minister Nikolai Aksenenko
discussed with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and
Georgian Railways Director Akaki Chkhaidze the possibility of
writing off Georgian railway's debts to Russia and the
resumption of rail traffic, including freight from Russia via
Abkhazia to the Black Sea port of Poti, Caucasus Press
reported. A preliminary agreement was reached on the repair
of Russian locomotives and carriages at a Tbilisi plant. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTY PROTESTS OFFICIAL RESTRICTIONS.
Speaking at a press conference in Almaty on 14 April,
Seydahmet Quttyqadam, leader of the recently registered ORLEU
party, complained that the city authorities have created
obstacles for his party, specifically by withdrawing
permission for it to hold a congress at the trade union
confederation building earlier this week, RFE/RL's Almaty
bureau reported. At a session of the pro-presidential
Otanshyldar Party in Almaty on 14 April, members announced
that Kazakhstan's current priority is not to create an open
society but to strengthen national statehood (see End Note,
"RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 1999). LF

KAZAKH FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH CHINESE AMBASSADOR.
Qasymzhomart Toqaev and Li Huei discussed the joint use of
water from the Irtysh River, which flows through eastern
Kazakhstan and Xinjiang, in Astana on 14 April, RFE/RL's
bureau in the Kazakh capital reported. Li said that the
Chinese government is assessing unspecified proposals made
earlier by the Kazakh side (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April
1999). LF

KAZAKHSTAN REGISTERS POPULATION DECLINE. According to the
preliminary results of the census conducted earlier this
year, the current population of Kazakhstan is 14.95 million,
Reuters reported on 14 April quoting the State Statistics
Agency. That figure represents a decline of over one million
since 1989, when the population numbered 16.2 million, and is
only marginally higher than the 1979 total of 14.684 million.
It is not clear what percentage of the decrease is
attributable to out-migration as opposed to negative
population growth. Nor is any information yet available on
shifts in the ethnic composition of the population. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION OFFERS TO PROVIDE SECURITY FOR UN OBSERVERS.
United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri, who also
chairs the Commission for National Reconciliation, met in
Dushanbe on 14 April with Joachim Hutter, a senior UN
official with responsibility for peacekeeping operations in
Asia and the Middle East, AP-Blitz reported. Hutter informed
Nuri of the UN's recent decision to resume operations in the
Karategin valley, whereupon Nuri offered to ensure the
security of the UN observers in that region. The UN suspended
operations outside Dushanbe last year following the murder of
three members of its observer force and their interpreter
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1998). LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS ISLAMIC THREAT WILL NOT HALT
DEMOCRATIZATION. In a two-hour speech to Uzbekistan's
parliament on 14 April, Islam Karimov said his country's
security is currently threatened by external Islamic forces.
But he pledged that those forces will not succeed in
reversing the embryonic reform process, pledging further
liberalization in both the political and economic spheres.
Specifically, Karimov advocated a mixed economy with a strong
private sector, and said the Uzbek currency will become
convertible before the end of this year, according to
Interfax. He added that Uzbekistan must step up its efforts
to gain admittance to the World Trade Organization, and
called for the deregulation of foreign trade. Karimov also
announced that those accused of the 16 February bomb attacks
in Tashkent, including opposition Erk party founder Muhammad
Solih, whom he identified as the organizer of those attacks,
will go on open trial in Tashkent in May. LF

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