|Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. - Sir Winston Churchill|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 77, Part I, 21 April 1999
________________________________________________________ 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * RUSSIAN PATRIARCH MEETS MILOSEVIC, RUGOVA * RUSSIA DEFAULTS ONCE AGAIN ON SOVIET DEBT * FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER FACES NEW CRIMINAL CHARGES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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. 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