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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 75, Part I, 19 April 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 75, Part I, 19 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 * DUMA RECOMMENDS UNION WITH YUGOSLAVIA * BEREZOVSKII RETURNS * AZERBAIJAN-GEORGIA OIL PIPELINE OFFICIALLY INAUGURATED xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA DUMA RECOMMENDS UNION WITH YUGOSLAVIA... The State Duma on 16 April voted to adopt a non-binding resolution recommending that Yugoslavia be accepted into the Union of Belarus and Russia. The vote was 293 deputies in favor and 54 opposed with one abstention, according to Interfax. The resolution calls on the president and government to immediately consider the international, political, economic, legal and other ramifications of such a union. The Communists, the Liberal Democratic Party, Our Home is Russia, People's Power, Russian Regions and the Agrarian faction supported the resolution, while Yabloko opposed it. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev called the idea of a three-country union "a political initiative of the three states to end the war." But Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov dismissed that idea, saying that the accession of Yugoslavia to the union "is not directly linked to a solution to the [Kosova] problem." JAC ...AS REGIONAL LEADERS PROTEST. Before the vote was held, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said that the idea of the union "must be discussed in Russia's regions" and that a referendum is the only way to decide whether Yugoslavia can join such an alliance. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, who opposes expansion of the union, told NTV on 16 April that the vote was motivated by "passions and emotions" and suggested that "deputies are capable of voting for much, especially when their terms of office are about to expire." Although he also called the decision "emotional," Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov was less critical, saying only that "it must not involve Russia in the Balkan conflict." Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov had said earlier that he is "categorically against any negotiation on unification with [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic", who is "one of those people responsible for the situation now unfolding in the center of Europe." JAC CHERNOMYRDIN UNDER FIRE. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 April that new presidential envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin backed Germany's plan for a settlement in Kosova without first consulting the Foreign Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 1999). According to the newspaper, such a "blunder" is unsurprising since Chernomyrdin has a habit that is "very dangerous for any diplomat," that is, "agreeing with anyone he has just met." The next day, Mayor Luzhkov warned that the introduction of NATO ground troops into Yugoslavia would cause "another Vietnam" and possibly a third world war. JAC BEREZOVSKII RETURNS. Influential businessman Boris Berezovskii returned to Moscow from France on 18 April. Soon after his plane touched down and he spoke with reporters, he was whisked away to a local hospital complaining of back pain. Berezovskii, who is facing criminal charges of money laundering and "illegal entrepreneurship," declared "I come to Russia free from any doubts and I am sure that I am not guilty in the eyes of Russian law." "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 April that Berezovskii needed to return to Russia in order to rescue his failing business empire. According to the newspaper, Berezovskii's influence on Russian Public Television is now virtually nil and "he needs to get his people back in the company." In addition, the daily contends that he must personally monitor the issue of Sibneft's American Depository Receipts so that it progresses without any problems and "Sibneft itself does not go bankrupt." JAC SARATOV GOVERNOR OFFERS TO TAKE IN 100,000 REFUGEES. As an airplane loaded with humanitarian aid from his region headed for refugees in Macedonia on 18 April, Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov confirmed his proposal to "accommodate 50,000 refugees from Yugoslavia," Interfax reported. Ayatskov acknowledged that his proposal has aroused controversy but added that Saratov "has enough space to accommodate these people and find jobs for them." He added that after the break-up of the Soviet Union, the oblast took in 250,000 refugees and forced migrants from former Soviet republics, all of whom were given housing and jobs. "Izvestiya" noted on 16 April that the wealthier countries in Western Europe are prepared to take in only 100,000 refugees, adding that Ayatskov "has not ruled out the possibility of running for president of Russia in 2000." JAC KULIK TO BECOME SACRIFICIAL VICTIM? Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov hinted in remarks at a government session on 16 April that he might be willing to part with certain members of his cabinet. Primakov spoke about a recent government meeting that focused on the agro-industrial complex, saying that he ordered that he receive a list of all decisions made at the meeting and a list of all officials responsible for their implementation, Interfax reported. If tasks are not carried out, then "personnel will be replaced," Primakov said. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik claimed that not a single decision has been implemented since an extended government meeting on 7 March. "Everyone sitting at the presidium table, including me, are to blame," he commented. Also on 16 April, the chief editor of "Nezavisimaya gazeta" commented that Primakov has "repeatedly claimed his deputies are literally untouchable and unremovable." JAC DUMA CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO FIMACO. The Duma on 16 April passed a resolution suggesting that the prosecutor- general consider launching criminal proceedings against current and former Central Bank officials for using the Channel Islands firm FIMACO to conceal profits the bank earned from the Treasury bill market. The bank in 1996 failed to mention these profits in its annual report, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC CZECH PREMIER'S VISIT TO BE TURNING POINT IN BILATERAL RELATIONS? Foreign Minister Ivanov said on 16 April that the visit of Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman might mark a turning point in relations between the two countries. He said that the two officials discussed a number of international issues, primarily the Balkan crisis, as well as ways to boost economic, cultural, and other kinds of cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. Zeman told reporters that the problems of outstanding Russian debt to the Czech Republic and the transportation of Kazakh gas via Russia have been resolved. In addition, Russia and the Czech Republic will create a joint trade organization and an insurance fund in which Russia will invest. JAC METRO WORKERS RESUME HUNGER STRIKE. Workers at Sverdlovskmetrostroi, the construction company for rapid transit system in Yekaterinburg, have resumed a hunger strike to protest an 11-month backlog of unpaid wages, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 April. The workers suspended the strike earlier on receiving half of their unpaid wages, strike committee chairman Nikolai Maslov told the agency. Fifty-two female workers declared an indefinite hunger strike last month to protest unpaid wages. The women replaced 66 other protestors who were paid their own back wages after they had staged a nine-day hunger strike. Their good fortune caused their still unpaid colleagues to threaten them with revenge, according to "Kommersant Daily" on 26 March (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 March 1999). JAC DAGESTAN ACCUSES ARMENIA OF INCITING LEZGINS. Magomedali Magomedov, chairman of Dagestan's State Council, has accused Armenian intelligence of controlling the Lezgin separatist movement Sadval, the radical wing of which is campaigning for an independent state on the Lezgins' traditional homeland in northeastern Azerbaijan and southern Dagestan, Caucasus Press reported on 17 April, citing Azadinform. He claimed that Sadval's military units are trained in Armenia and that the movement plans to launch hostilities on the frontier between Dagestan and Azerbaijan. Magomedov did not specify which branch of Sadval he was referring to. The movement split into a radical and a moderate wing at its congress last November (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 1 December 1998). Earlier, Azerbaijani leaders accused Armenia of abetting Sadval, but this is believed to be the first occasion on which a Dagestani politician has done so. LF CHECHNYA ISSUES WARRANTS FOR FOREIGNERS' ABDUCTION. Chechen Prosecutor-General Magomed Magomadov told Interfax on 18 April that he has issued warrants for the arrest of four unnamed persons suspected of having abducted one New Zealand and three British telephone engineers who were murdered in Chechnya last fall. Magomadov said the investigation into who committed those murders is continuing. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIAN BASE IN ARMENIA FOUND IN COMPLIANCE WITH CFE. An international group of military inspectors from Turkey, Belgium, and the U.K. finished inspecting the Russian military base at Gyumri on 17 April, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported. The group's leader, Turkish Colonel Yavuz Akgun, told journalists that the weaponry deployed at that base does not exceed the limits imposed by the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. LF ARMENIAN SOLDIER SHOOTS TWO COLLEAGUES DEAD, WOUNDS SIX. Military police on 17 April arrested a private who the previous day had shot two colleagues as they slept and wounded six others in the southwestern town of Vayots Dzor, AP reported. "Oragir" on 17 April quoted military police as saying the young man was mentally ill, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In a similar incident, an Armenian private shot dead six servicemen last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 1998). LF AZERBAIJAN-GEORGIA OIL PIPELINE OFFICIALLY INAUGURATED... The presidents of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine, together with senior U.S. government officials, attended a ceremony at the oil terminal in Georgia's Black Sea port of Supsa on 17 April to mark the departure of the second tanker loaded with Azerbaijani oil exported via the Baku-Supsa pipeline. Speaking at the ceremony, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze described the commissioning of the pipeline as "the forerunner to a new epoch" in Georgia's history. His Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, expressed the hope that some Azerbaijani oil will also be routed through the Odessa- Brody pipeline, noting that "oil is a powerful foundation for a nation's development. It is the backbone of national security," according to AP. LF ...BUT U.S. STILL WANTS MAIN EXPORT PIPELINE TO CEYHAN. At a press conference in Tbilisi on 16 April and at the Supsa ceremony the following day, Richard Morningstar, who is special adviser on Caspian energy issues to the U.S. president and secretary of state, argued that there is "no serious alternative" to routing the Main Export Pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil from Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean terminal at Ceyhan. He noted that working groups from the Turkish and Azerbaijani state oil companies signed a memorandum in Istanbul several days earlier affirming their intent to proceed with construction of that pipeline, which Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev said could get under way before the end of 1999, Interfax reported. Morningstar said the U.S. government advocates the use of five separate pipelines for the export of Caspian oil and gas: Baku-Supsa, Baku-Novorossiisk, Kazakhstan-Novorossiisk, Baku-Ceyhan, and the planned Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. LF U.S. SAYS RUSSIA, ARMENIA SHOULD NOT BE EXCLUDED. Morningstar also stressed at his Tbilisi press conference that the U.S. does not object to Russian involvement in the transportation of natural gas via Georgia and Armenia, ITAR--TASS reported. He added that in the interests of regional security Armenia should not be excluded from regional projects, according to Caucasus Press. Morningstar noted that the planned Trans- Caspian gas pipeline, the route for which has not yet been determined, could be laid via Armenia, although he added that Armenia "is clearly not yet ready" for such a project. LF RAIL-FERRY SERVICE OPENS BETWEEN GEORGIA, UKRAINE. The first rail-ferry left Supsa for the Ukrainian port of Ilichevsk on 17 April. The ferry service, which will be extended to Novorossiisk and ports in Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria, is funded by the EU within the framework of the TRACECA project aimed at linking the states of Central Asia with Europe via the Transcaucasus and intended to provide landlocked countries in the region with access to the sea. LF GEORGIAN, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTS, MINISTERS SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENTS. Meeting on 16 April at the presidential residence at Krtsanisi, Shevardnadze and Kuchma signed a 10-year economic cooperation agreement, which Shevardnadze subsequently told journalists raises bilateral cooperation to "a qualitatively new level," ITAR-TASS reported. The two presidents also discussed the Russian State Duma's 16 April approval of Yugoslavia's application to join the Russia- Belarus Union. Shevardnadze predicted that the decision could negatively affect CIS member states. Also on 16 April, the Georgian and Ukrainian ministers of defense and internal affairs signed separate bilateral cooperation agreements, according to ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press. LF NO PROGRESS IN KYRGYZ-UZBEK GAS TALKS. Toktosun Abduvaliev, who is deputy director of the Kyrgyzgas state gas company, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 17 April that although talks are continuing with Uzbekistan, a swift resumption of natural gas deliveries from that country is unlikely. Abduvaliev said Kyrgyzstan owes Uzbekistan $4.5 million for gas deliveries but cannot pay that debt because enterprises in Kyrgyzstan owe Kyrgyzgas some 218 million soms (about $6.5 million). Uzbekistan halted supplies of gas to Kyrgyzstan two weeks ago. LF TAJIK PRESIDENT IN MOSCOW. Meeting at the Kremlin on 16 April, Imomali Rakhmonov and Russian President Yeltsin signed a Declaration on Allied Interaction, which is intended to complement the May 1993 Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, Russian agencies reported. Yeltsin said implementation of the 16 April agreement, which he characterized as "a practical guide to action," will expedite fulfillment of the 1997 accords ending the Tajik civil war. Seven intergovernmental cooperation agreements were also signed. LF TAJIK, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS SIGN BASES TREATY. Most observers had anticipated that Yeltsin and Rakhmonov would sign an inter-state treaty allowing Russia to establish a formal military base in Tajikistan on the sites where its units there are currently stationed. (Preliminary agreement on that treaty had been reached during Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev's visit to Dushanbe on earlier this month [see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 April 1999]). But that treaty was signed instead by Sergeev and his Tajik counterpart Sherali Khairulloev. Interfax had predicted on 16 April, shortly before the signing ceremony, that the event would be postponed for unspecified "purely political reasons" to allow consultations with other CIS states to take place. Uzbekistan had queried the rationale for creating a legal foundation for the Russian military presence in Tajikistan. The treaty does not envisage an increase in the number of Russian troops currently stationed in Tajikistan. 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