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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 74, Part I, 16 April 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 74, Part I, 16 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 * WORLD BANK GIVES RUSSIA GREEN LIGHT, PENDING IMF APPROVAL * RUSSIA DENIES SHIP MOVEMENT TOWARDS ADRIATIC * ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS MAY MEET IN WASHINGTON xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA WORLD BANK GIVES RUSSIA GREEN LIGHT, PENDING IMF APPROVAL... World Bank President James Wolfensohn pledged on 15 April to extend new credits to Russia provided that the government fulfills policies required by the IMF. He told reporters that the bank "has agreed on a program that is very substantial in terms of lending" and will include $2.3 million in new loans over two years. Wolfensohn added that the World Bank hopes to agree on terms for resuming the extension of older loans such as the third structural adjustment and the coal sector loans at the end of April, when the Russian government sends a delegation to Washington. First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov said that a "small team" will head to the U.S. on 25 April and that all documents concerning talks with the World Bank and IMF must be ready by then, Interfax reported. JAC ...AS DOES PARIS CLUB. First Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told Interfax on 15 April after meeting with Paris Club representatives that the group of creditors is prepared to consider restructuring the debts of the former Soviet Union once the IMF approves the government's economic program. Kasyanov added that no date has been set yet for consultation with the London Club. The previous day, in an interview with "Krasnaya Zvezda," State Duma deputy Aleksandr Vengerovskii (Liberal Democratic Party) suggested that Russia cope with its economic problems not by relying on the IMF but by adopting a strategy similar to that of Charles de Gaulle in postwar France, who "adopted stiff laws which established control over all operations in hard currency and founded a single state bank." He added that "sooner or later, we will inevitably accept the necessity of establishing a state bank" that "would absorb the Central Bank, the Treasury, Sberbank, and the leftovers of the so-called oligarchs' banks." JAC CHERNOMYRDIN APPOINTMENT A SWIPE AT PRIMAKOV... Contrary to earlier press reports, Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov did meet with Wolfensohn despite continuing to suffer from acute back pain, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 April. The deputy chairman of the Duma's Defense Committee, Aleksei Arbatov (Yabloko), told NTV that he suspected Chernomyrdin's appointment was President Boris Yeltsin's way of "showing his dissatisfaction with the prime minister" since "Primakov is considered not only our leading expert but also our leading public figure in the field of foreign policy." Russian newspapers seemed to agree with Arbatov's hypothesis: "Kommersant-Daily" noted that "the president has effectively appointed a parallel premier." JAC ...AND A HARBINGER OF A SOFTENING OF KOSOVA POLICY? "Nezavisimaya gazeta" agreed, noting that if "Chernomyrdin succeeds, it could create an opportunity for him to return to the No. 2 spot in the government." It also argued that Chernomyrdin's appointment grew out of "the impasse in Russian foreign policy created by the Foreign Ministry's rather inflexible blueprint" for the Balkans. The daily continued that many Western experts are saying that Russia's stance is leading to its isolation internationally and "the Russian president and his team, who have always advocated liberal values, could not accept this turn of events." According to the daily, Chernomyrdin is "prepared to talk tough with [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic." JAC RUSSIA DENIES SHIP MOVEMENT TOWARDS ADRIATIC. A senior defense ministry official told Interfax on 15 April that the Defense Ministry does not intend to dispatch Black Sea Fleet ships to the Adriatic anytime soon. He added that only a repair ship will move into the Mediterranean off the coast of Syria. On the same day, Black Sea Fleet press service head Andrei Grachev told NTV that the only ships being dispatched will be those participating in a training voyage that will start on 19 April. ITAR-TASS reported on 16 April that the squadron of ships headed for training exercises is now ready to sail for the Mediterranean as soon as it is ordered to do so and will "carry out assignments in the area of the Yugoslav conflict." JAC INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT REBOUNDING. Russian industrial production climbed 2.8 percent in March over the previous month and 1.4 percent compared with the previous year, according to the Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Term Forecasting of the Russian Academy of Sciences, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 April. In February, output rose 2.5 percent compared with the previous month, but was 2.5 percent below the monthly average for 1997, according to "The Moscow Times" the previous day. Analysts attributed the gains to the devaluation of the ruble, while giving the government some credit for improved fiscal discipline and a tigher monetary policy, the daily reported. First Deputy Premier Maslyukov suggested that the jump in industrial output was much higher in March, telling reporters that the increase in industrial production was 11 percent and that the figures for the first four months of 1999 will likely outstrip those of the previous year. JAC AGRICULTURE MINISTRY SEIZES TAINTED U.S. MEAT. More than 40 tons of U.S. meat products infected with the fatal listeria bacteria were confiscated in Russia after the U.S. Department of Agriculture warned Russian authorities that products from the Thorn Apple Valley firm might be tainted. According to Interfax on 15 April, some 23.5 tons were discovered and held in Moscow, 6.5 tons in Murmansk and 211 kilograms of sausage and luncheon meat in St. Petersburg. The meat had been sold commercially and was not part of any food aid package. JAC CZECH PRIME MINISTER CONDUCTS TALKS IN MOSCOW. Milos Zeman met on 15 April with an ailing Prime Minister Primakov in private, after which Zeman conducted a solo press conference. According to Zeman, the two officials discussed economic cooperation and the issue of Russia repaying its roughly $4 billion debt to the Czech Republic--possibly with shipments of gas, oil, or Russian weapons, according to ITAR-TASS. Zeman also told Primakov that the Czech Republic will put up no barriers to the passage of humanitarian assistance to Yugoslavia through its borders, Interfax reported. JAC COMMUNIST PARTY TO FACE NO CHARGES ON ANTI-SEMITIC REMARKS. The Communist Party was cleared on 15 April by the Justice Ministry of accusations that it violated Russian law when two of its Duma deputies made anti-Semitic remarks, Interfax reported. Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov signed a report which concluded that the "goals and objectives of the Communist Party and its structures do not run counter to the requirements of the law." It added that while the remarks of some members of the party "contributed to tension within society" they could not be considered to be objectives of the party itself. JAC VLADIVOSTOK MAYOR TO RUN FOR LEGISLATURE. Vladivostok's embattled former Mayor Viktor Cherepkov has filed papers with the local election commission so that he may run in upcoming elections for the city's legislative assembly, "Izvestiya" reported on 15 April. Presently, there are 64 candidates registered to run in ten districts in elections that will take place on 16 May. Previous election results were declared invalid, and the current assembly has only six of the 24 deputies required (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 28 January 1999). President Yeltsin earlier removed Cherepkov from the office of mayor, and a subsequent legal battle by the erstwhile mayor to challenge that decision has proved unsuccessful. JAC RUSSIAN PREMIER POSTPONES NORTH CAUCASUS MEETING. Yevgenii Primakov has postponed his planned 17 April visit to Vladikavkaz to meet with the leaders of north Caucasus republics because of ill health, First Deputy Premier Vadim Gustov told journalists on 15 April. The meeting will now take place on 24 April. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS MAY MEET IN WASHINGTON. A spokeswoman for Armenian President Robert Kocharian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 15 April that Kocharian has received a proposal from the U.S. government to meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, to discuss the Karabakh conflict on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Washington on 23 -25 April. She said that the proposal has not been rejected, but that no concrete agreement on such a meeting has yet been reached. In Baku, however, presidential advisor Vafa Guluzade told AFP on 15 April that Kocharian has already agreed to negotiations with Aliev. And Interfax quoted Aliev as saying that "since it was [U.S. President Bill] Clinton who advanced this initiative, it will have an important and effective outcome." LF CORRECTION: "RFE/RL Newsline" on 15 April inaccurately identified Lieutenant-General Mikael Harutiunian as commander of the Armenian air force. He is armed forces chief of staff. In the same item, Kyrgyzstan was mistakenly included in the list of members of the CIS Joint Air Defense System. TWO ARMENIAN POLITICAL PARTIES FOUND BRANCHES IN NKR. The Social Democrat Hnchakian Party (SDHK) and the liberal Ramkavar Azatakan Party (RAK) both plan to open branches in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 15 April. Arkady Soghomonian, chairman of the NKR parliament's committee on social security and head of an "organizing committee" preparing for the founding congress of the Social Democratic Hnchakian Party of Artsakh, said that party will participate in parliamentary elections in the enclave scheduled for next year. The Ramkavar Azatakan Party of Artsakh, which is headed by Boris Arushanian, chairman of the NKR parliament committee on foreign affairs, held its founding congress in Stepanakert on 15 April. Hitherto the Communist Party and the Dashnaks (HHD) have been sole parties registered in the self-proclaimed republic. Most prominent Karabakh political figures have no party affiliation. LF GEORGIA, AZERBAIJAN, UKRAINE SET TO CONCLUDE JOINT MILITARY EXERCISE. Some 100 members of the Georgian, Azerbaijani, and Ukrainian armed forces embarked on 16 April on the final stage of exercises begun three days earlier near Tbilisi on maintaining the security of the Baku-Supsa oil export pipeline in the event of a natural calamity or terrorist attack on that facility, Caucasus Press reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 April reported that Georgia is creating mobile patrols, stationary posts and a communications system to guard the pipeline. That force will be supplied with military hardware and helicopters. LF GEORGIAN INTERIOR MINISTER RULES OUT THREAT TO SUPSA CEREMONY. Kakha Targamadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 16 April that there is no chance that fugitive rebel Colonel Akaki Eliava will make good on his threat to attack the oil terminal at Supsa during the 17 April ceremonies to mark the departure of the first tanker carrying Azerbaijani oil exported via the Baku-Supsa export pipeline, Caucasus Press reported. The presidents of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine and senior U.S. government officials are due to attend that ceremony. Eliava has been on the run since launching an abortive insurrection in western Georgia last October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19-20 October 1998). LF PROTESTS OVER WAGE ARREARS CONTINUE IN KAZAKHSTAN... More people continue to join the women picketing the office of the mayor of Qyzyl-orda to demand back wages, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 16 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1999). Local authorities have prevented KHABAR News Agency from relaying reports on the protest to Almaty and Astana. Meanwhile 13 of the 15 workers from the Mangyastau oil and gas research facility who launched a hunger strike at the beginning of April to demand their salaries for the past 24 months have been hospitalized after refusing an offer of payment in kind in the form of pasta. LF ...AS GOVERNMENT ASSESSES ECONOMIC SITUATION. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uraz Djandosov told visiting representatives of Switzerland's International Center For Public Affairs that the government of Kazakhstan is hoping for economic growth in the second quarter of 1999, Interfax reported on 15 April. Industrial output in the first three months of this year was only 95.9 percent of the 1998 level. Djandosov also predicted that the recent fall in the value of the tenge will not result in serious inflation, given the tight budget and the government's strict monetary and fiscal policies. But RFE/RL correspondents across Kazakhstan report that prices for sugar and gasoline, which are mainly imported, have already increased by 30-40 percent. LF KYRGYZ PRESIDENT'S INDIAN VISIT TERMED A SUCCESS. First Deputy Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev told journalists in Bishkek on 15 April that President Askar Akaev's visit to India will contribute to increased trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1999). The volume of bilateral trade has already increased from $3.9 million in 1996 to $13.81 million in 1998. In addition to four inter-state agreements, on avoiding dual taxation, combating crime, civil aviation and cooperation in tourism and the arts, 24 further agreements were signed during Akaev's visit between individual Indian and Kyrgyz companies. Askar Aitmatov, who is a member of the presidential staff, told Interfax on 15 April, that the Kyrgyz and Indian positions on key foreign policy issues, including Afghanistan, coincide. LF TAJIK, RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTERS SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Khumidin Sharipov, one of the Tajik government delegation currently accompanying President Imomali Rakhmonov to Moscow, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Stepashin, signed an agreement on 15 April on coordinating measures to counter Islamic fundamentalism and the smuggling of arms and narcotics, ITAR-TASS reported. They also undertook to cooperate in efforts to apprehend Tajik criminals on Russian territory, of whom Stepashin observed that "there are not very many of them, but they are rather dangerous." LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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