The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 77, Part I, 21 April 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 77, Part I, 21 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

* RUSSIAN PATRIARCH MEETS MILOSEVIC, RUGOVA

* RUSSIA DEFAULTS ONCE AGAIN ON SOVIET DEBT

* FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER FACES NEW CRIMINAL CHARGES
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RUSSIA

RUSSIAN PATRIARCH MEETS MILOSEVIC, RUGOVA. Patriarch of
Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II and Serbian Patriarch Pavle
met with the family of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
in Belgrade on 20 April, ITAR-TASS reported. According to a
Church press release, Aleksii "expressed the support of the
Russian people to citizens of Yugoslavia, who are struggling
with the aggression of NATO." The statement added that a
possible union of Serbia, Russia, and Belarus is a
"historical step in the interest of the peoples of the three
states." Aleksii also met with Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova,
but declined to give details of his talks. The same day,
Rugova's former chief of protocol, Adnan Merovci, told an
RFE/RL correspondent in Skopje that Serbian police have
arrested Rugova and are "armed to the teeth." The daily
"Berliner Zeitung" alleged that Aleksii has long-standing
links to the intelligence establishment in Moscow. FS

YELTSIN SAYS KOSOVA CRISIS MUST NOT UNDERMINE RUSSIA'S
WESTERN TIES. A spokesman for Russian President Boris Yeltsin
told AP on 20 April that Russia does not want the Kosova
crisis to undermine its ties with Western countries. He
quoted Yeltsin as saying that "we cannot break off relations
with leading world powers" and that it will take time before
Yugoslavia can become a member of the Union of Russia and
Belarus. He also quoted Yeltsin as saying that "haste will do
no good." The same day, the second Russian plane carrying 31
tons of relief goods for Kosovar refugees arrived at Skopje
from Moscow. FS

PRIMAKOV, IVANOV DISCUSS KOSOVA WITH OIC OFFICIALS. Prime
Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Russian Foreign Minister Igor
Ivanov met separately in Moscow on 20 April with a delegation
from the Organization of the Islamic Conference contact group
for Bosnia and Kosova, which is headed by Iranian Foreign
Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported.
Ivanov told journalists after those talks that the two sides
agree there can be no military solution to the Kosova
conflict and that an international force must be deployed in
Kosova following a negotiated solution. But he added that
"tactical differences" between them remain. The OIC
delegation gives priority to resolving the refugee problem,
whereas Moscow insists that NATO strikes first be halted and
negotiations then resumed. Kharrazi underscored the
importance of Russia's role in seeking a solution to the
conflict, adding that "we are united in the opinion that the
UN Security Council has failed to play the role it should
play." LF

CHERNOMYRDIN HOLDS TALKS IN TBILISI... Viktor Chernomyrdin,
in his capacity as President Yeltsin's envoy for the Kosova
crisis, flew to Tbilisi on 20 April to meet with President
Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss the peace proposal
Shevardnadze had advanced the previous day, ITAR-TASS and
Caucasus Press reported. That five-point plan comprises an
immediate halt to military operations, the withdrawal of
troops from Kosova, the deployment of an international
peacekeeping force, the unconditional return of refugees, and
the immediate start of talks on Kosova's future political
status within Yugoslavia. Chernomyrdin said that the Russian
and Georgian positions on Kosova "largely coincide."
Shevardnadze praised Chernomyrdin's appointment as envoy and
expressed the hope that in the future he will be instrumental
in mediating solutions to the Abkhaz and Karabakh conflicts.
LF

...AND BAKU, KYIV. Chernomyrdin flew from Tbilisi to Baku on
20 April to continue talks on Kosova with President Heidar
Aliev, who welcomed the Russian initiative to resolve the
conflict, Interfax reported. Aliev and Chernomyrdin both
condemned "separatist extremism, ethnic cleansing, and
military intervention." The Azerbaijani leadership, like that
of Georgia, has a vested interest in forestalling a solution
to the Kosova crisis that would entail independence for the
region, since such a model would set a precedent they would
not wish to see applied to Nagorno-Karabakh or Abkhazia.
Chernomyrdin then proceeded to Kyiv for talks with President
Leonid Kuchma, whose three-point peace plan for Kosova is
very similar to Shevardnadze's (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16
April 1999). LF

RUSSIAN COMMUNISTS SAY 1,500 VOLUNTEERS GO TO YUGOSLAVIA. The
chairman of the State Duma's Security Committee, Viktor
Ilyukhin of the Communist Party, and the leader of the
Spiritual Heritage nationalist movement, Aleksei Podberezkin,
told Interfax on 20 April that "hundreds of volunteers" have
left Russia to fight in Yugoslavia. Podberezkin said that
1,500 Russian military specialists with practical combat
experience have registered as volunteers with his
organization, which has put them in touch with Serbian
forces. He added that they will travel to Yugoslavia
privately via Budapest. FS

RUSSIA DEFAULTS ONCE AGAIN ON SOVIET DEBT. Russia will not
be able to make a $1.2 billion payment on Ministry of
Finance bonds maturing on 14 May, First Deputy Finance
Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told Interfax on 20 April.
According to Kasyanov, Russia will have to start
negotiating restructuring of the debt with Russian and
foreign holders of the bonds. Standard & Poor's responded
to the news by lowering the rating on MinFin bonds from
triple C minus to double C minus, AFP reported. The credit
agency noted that the expected default was consistent with
the government's declared strategy of not paying Soviet-era
debt while continuing to service post-Soviet debt,
including Eurobonds. For example, Kasyanov had said
previously that Russia would make payments on the sixth and
seventh tranches of MinFin bonds that are debt acquired by
Russia after the Soviet Union's demise. On 21 April, ITAR-
TASS reported that members of the Paris Club have verbally
agreed to the restructuring of 20 percent of Russia's
Soviet debt, totaling some $8 billion. JAC

FEDERATION COUNCIL TO DEMAND THAT SKURATOV DELIVER THE
DIRT? The Federation Council again considered the fate of
Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov in a closed session on 21
April. Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said that
while opinion in the upper body has shifted against
Skuratov, it is still impossible to make a prediction about
the senators' likely decision. Stroev added that Skuratov
said he honestly finds it difficult to do his job and will
ask to be let go. The same day, Perm Oblast Governor
Gennadii Igumnov and Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii
Ayatskov told "Tribuna" that they intend to vote against
Skuratov, while Bryansk Governor Yurii Lodkin insisted that
the senators "should know the reasons why he tendered his
resignation twice." JAC

START-II TREATY DECLARED DEAD. Duma deputy and member of
the Yabloko faction Aleksei Arbatov said on 21 April that
"NATO aggression against Yugoslavia has buried hopes for
the ratification by the Russian State Duma of the START-II
treaty," ITAR-TASS reported. He added that while he hopes
Russia's negotiations with the U.S. on the problem of
strategic weapons are resumed, it is difficult for him "to
imagine how the Duma would return to a discussion of the
treaty." JAC

GOVERNMENT THREATENS OIL COMPANIES ON BEHALF OF FARMERS. A
one-day suspension of Russian oil companies' right to
export oil was canceled on 20 April, just hours after it
was announced. The measure had been enacted by the Ministry
of Fuel and Energy in order to compel oil companies to make
deliveries essential for the agricultural sector.
Agricultural officials have recently expressed concern that
there will not be enough fuel during spring sowing (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 1999). First Deputy Prime
Minister Yurii Maslyukov told reporters on 21 April that
the decision to cut off oil companies' exports is "not a
measure to be used in a market economy." A spokesman for
SIDANKO, Russia's fifth-largest oil company, told "The
Moscow Times" that his company will be happy to sell fuel
to farmers if they pay on time. He added that it sometimes
takes farmers 200 days to pay for fuel from the company's
Angarsk refinery in eastern Siberia. JAC

RUSSIA URGES PAKISTAN TO JOIN ARMS CONTROL TREATIES.
Following a meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif on 20 April, Prime Minister Primakov declared that
even new nuclear states with no official status should join
treaties that put limitations on nuclear weapons and ban
tests. Primakov also said that Nawaz has asked Russia to
play a more active role in peace-making in Southern Asia.
Nawaz began an official three-day visit to Moscow the
previous day, the first visit by a head of state of that
country since 1974. Nawaz and Russian Minister of Trade
Georgii Gabunia signed an agreement on trade and economic
cooperation on 20 April. Trade between the two countries
plummeted 49 percent in 1998, compared with the previous
year, according to Interfax. Nawaz met with President
Yeltsin on 21 April and is also expected to visit St.
Petersburg and Kazan. JAC

KREMLIN REARRANGES TOP MILITARY POSTINGS... President
Yeltsin reshuffled top military brass, appointing Igor
Puzanov to the post of commander of the Moscow military
district and promoting him to the rank of colonel-general,
Interfax reported on 20 April. Puzanov replaces Leontii
Kuznetsov who is retiring. General Nikolai Serdtsev, until
recently the commander of engineers in the Strategic Rocket
Forces, was appointed commander of engineers of the armed
forces. Yeltsin also appointed Colonel-General Vladimir
Chilindin, formerly head of combat training for ground
forces, to the post of commander of Russia's peace-keeping
force in Tajikistan. JAC

...AS DUMA SUGGESTS DEFENSE-ORIENTED BUDGET POLICY. The
previous day, "Vremya MN" reported that the Duma adopted a
non-binding resolution on 16 April urging the government to
transfer all monies owed to the military under the 1999
budget. According to the daily, the resolution has "no
practical value" but "voices the generals' thoughts" and
tries to prove that it is possible to revive the army "by
radically revising the government's budget policy and
partially reorienting it toward subsidizing the defense
industry." Colonel-General Ivan Chizh, head of the armed
forces' medical service, said on 20 April that suicide was
a leading cause of death among servicemen in 1998,
accounting for 22.7 percent of the total who died, ITAR-
TASS reported. JAC

NEW OIL CONSORTIUM FOR BALKANS ESTABLISHED. Representatives
of the Russian energy companies Rosneft, Slavneft,
Transneft, Stroitransgaz, and Orel Oil signed an agreement
on 20 April with Yukos Petroleum Bulgaria, establishing a
oil consortium for the Balkans, ITAR-TASS reported on 20
April. Under the agreement, the companies will develop the
market for oil and oil products on the Balkan peninsula as
well as build the Burgas-Alexandropolis oil pipeline. JAC

ZHIRINOVSKII PROMISES INFLUX OF LIBYAN MONEY. Liberal
Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii, who recently
confirmed his plan to run for governor of the Belgorod
Oblast, promised that if he is elected, "Libya will grant $17
billion to Belgorod Oblast," "Tribuna" reported on 21 April.
The daily noted that this sum is three times greater than
what Russia is expected to receive from the IMF. ITAR-TASS
reported the previous day that the would-be governor has
recently cut an album of songs to honor the 50th birthday of
popular singer Alla Pugacheva. JAC

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

DATE SET FOR POPE'S ARMENIA VISIT. Pope John Paul II will
travel to Armenia from 2-4 July, Reuters reported on 20
April, citing the Armenian Foreign Ministry. Armenian
President Robert Kocharian and Catholicos Karekin I had
extended an invitation to the pontiff during their visit to
the Vatican in March. John Paul will visit Armenia as part of
the celebrations to mark the 1700th anniversary of the
adoption of Christianity as Armenia's state religion (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1999). LF

KARABAKH OFFICIALS DENY TALKS ON WITHDRAWAL FROM OCCUPIED
AZERBAIJANI TERRITORIES. The Foreign Ministry of the self-
proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has echoed Armenian
denials of a Russian media report that Baku and Yerevan are
conducting talks on conditions for the withdrawal of Armenian
forces from five occupied districts of Azerbaijan (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 1999). A spokesman for the
unrecognized republic's Defense Ministry similarly told
RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent on 20 April that Karabakh
Armenian forces will withdraw from those districts only "in
the full context of the conflict's settlement, along with
[determination of] Nagorno-Karabakh's status." LF

AZERBAIJAN RETURNS IMPOUNDED MIGS TO KAZAKHSTAN. Azerbaijan's
Transport Prosecutor Chingiz Mamedov announced on 20 April
that the six MiG-21 fighters impounded at Baku's Bina airport
in mid-March were sent back to Kazakhstan the previous day.
The Russian transport aircraft carrying the MiGs was
prohibited from continuing its journey on 19 March pending an
investigation into the final destination of the MiGs. The
flight documents had listed that destination as Liberec,
Czech Republic, but crew members had said they were en route
for North Korea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1999).
Kazakhstan's Office of the Prosecutor-General will continue
the investigation into the case, Turan reported. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER IN MOSCOW. Zurab Zhvania and
Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov discussed economic
cooperation and the Abkhaz conflict on 20 April, ITAR-TASS
reported quoting Primakov's press secretary Tatyana
Aristarkhova. Zhvania also met with Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov, who called for a "clear concept" for Russian policy
in the South Caucasus, warning that "Russia must not lose
Georgia as a good neighbor." LF

FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER FACES NEW CRIMINAL CHARGES. Prosecutor-
General Yurii Khitrin and the chairman of the State
Commission for the Struggle against Corruption and Organized
Crime, Oralbay Abdikarimov, have announced that charges of
tax evasion have been brought against former Prime Minister
Akezhan Kazhegeldin and his wife, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau
reported on 21 April. Kazhegeldin's lawyer, Vitalii Voronov,
told journalists on 20 April that the charges are politically
motivated. Also on 21 April, National Security Committee
Chairman Nurtay Abyqaev told RFE/RL that members of unnamed
political parties have been interrogated or arrested in
connection with the appearance on walls in Astana of slogans
backing Kazhegeldin and denouncing President Nursultan
Nazarbaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March 1999). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S COSSACK COMMUNITY UNDER PRESSURE, MAY EMIGRATE.
Speaking at a news conference in Almaty on 20 April, Vladimir
Ovsyannikov, who is the leader of the Semirechie Cossacks,
accused the Kazakhstan government of suppressing the culture
and traditions of the Cossack community, RFE/RL's Almaty
bureau reported. He warned that the entire Cossack community
may emigrate to Russia if that policy is not changed.
Ovsyannikov's home and those of his deputies were searched
for unregistered weapons late last month, RFE/RL
correspondents reported on 1 April. Estimates of the number
of Cossacks in southern Kazakhstan range from 20,000 to
30,000. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT ASSESSES AGRICULTURAL SECTOR. In his annual
address to the nation, delivered to both chambers of the
parliament on 20 April, Askar Akaev noted the beneficial role
of Kyrgyzstan's agricultural sector in mitigating the impact
on the country of last year's financial crisis in Russia,
RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Akaev said the October 1998
referendum in which more than 90 percent of voters endorsed
private ownership of agricultural land showed the correctness
of Kyrgyzstan's policy in that sphere. But he noted that a
market for land has still to emerge and demand remains low,
according to Interfax. Akaev also expressed concern that
Kyrgyzstan continues to import many foods that it could
produce domestically. LF
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