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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 74, Part I, 16 April 1999


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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

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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
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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

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