The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 79, Part I, 23 April 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 79, Part I, 23 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

* YELTSIN REPORTED CONSIDERING HIS OPTIONS VIS-A-VIS SKURATOV

* DUMA ACCUSES RUSSIAN TV OF BEING PRO-NATO

* GEORGIAN AIR FORCE OFFICERS PROTEST NON-PAYMENT OF SALARIES
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN REPORTED CONSIDERING HIS OPTIONS VIS-A-VIS
SKURATOV... The Russian press has begun a new round of
speculation about President Boris Yeltsin's next move in the
wake of the Federation Council's unexpected rejection of
Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov's resignation. "Kommersant-
Daily" suggested on 22 April that Yeltsin can become "a
Kremlin pensioner or begin a counterattack." "Moskovskii
komsomolets" reported the next day that high-ranking
presidential administration officials said their actions
regarding Skuratov "would be quite strict" and that "the
criminal case [against him] is irreversible now." However,
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov warned that if Yeltsin decides to
"augment tension" following the Federation Council's
decision, then lawmakers may be tempted to vote for his
impeachment. The State Duma on 21 April passed amendments to
the chamber's rules on impeachment making it easier for
factions to enforce voting discipline. The amendments passed
by 329 to 42 votes with two abstentions. JAC

...AND PRIMAKOV? According to "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 23
April, presidential administration officials were unimpressed
by Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's speech to the
Federation Council to retain Skuratov. The daily reported
that they thought his speech was "absolutely formal" and "in
reality he did his best to keep Skuratov in his post."
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau quoted eyewitnesses as saying that
Primakov sounded unconvincing and unconvinced. However,
presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told NTV the
previous day that Yeltsin "does not bear any grievances
against Yevgenii Maksimovich Primakov over [the previous
day's] speech to the Federation Council." He added that
Yeltsin believes Primakov continues to play a politically
stabilizing role in the country. JAC

NEW ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMMISSION TO MONITOR PROSECUTOR'S
PROBES... The Federation Council on 22 April voted by 105 to
one to set up a temporary commission to study combating
corruption, Interfax reported. Sergei Sobyanin, chairman of
the council's Committee for Constitutional Legislation and
Judicial Issues, said the commission will closely follow the
investigations of high-profile criminal cases, including the
ones named by Skuratov at his recent appearances before the
upper legislative chamber. During his address on 21 April,
according to "Segodnya," Skuratov discussed investigations
into the activities of the Swiss firm Mabetex, the Channel
Islands investment firm FIMACO, and NOGA. Skuratov said that
"in just one Swiss bank in the city of Lugano alone, there
are accounts belonging to dozens of current and former
Russian officials connected in one way or another with
Mabetex." JAC

...AS BORODIN DENIES KEEPING MONEY IN SWITZERLAND OR IN OLD
BOTTLES. Pavel Borodin, head of the Kremlin facilities
directorate, told "Argumenty i Fakty" that he will sue all
those who are accusing him through the press of "keeping
fabulous bank accounts in Switzerland." He also denied
reports that investigators from the Prosecutor-General's
office have found an old wine bottle in his daughter's
apartment filled with $100 million. He pointed out that a
wine bottle is too small for such a sum. JAC

DUMA ACCUSES RUSSIAN TV OF BEING PRO-NATO. Several Duma
deputies, including Sergei Baburin (People's Power) and
Stanislav Govorukhin (People's Power), put forward a proposal
on 22 April to discuss a petition "on the inadmissibility of
using the Russian media to support the actions of NATO,"
"Izvestiya" reported on 23 April. According to the document,
"a pro-NATO trend can be seen in television interpretations
of events in Yugoslavia" and "obviously reflects attempts by
NATO to use the Russian media to spread propaganda." The
previous day, the Duma failed to override a presidential veto
of the bill that would have established a "supreme council"
to monitor morality in television and broadcasting (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March 1999). JAC

KULIK OVERLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT POTENTIAL U.S. INVESTMENT?
Officials at both U.S. and Russian companies are denying
Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik's 12 April statement
that U.S. companies John Deere and Case Corporation agreed to
invest up to $400 million in Rostelmash in Rostov Oblast and
Kirovskii Works in St. Petersburg, "The Moscow Times"
reported on 23 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 1999).
According to the newspaper, after his visit to the U.S. Kulik
had been under fire for snubbing domestic farm equipment
manufacturers. However, Kirovskii's chief financial officer
Vyacheslav Kondrashiev denied that his company is negotiating
with either U.S. company. He added that he thought "Kulik's
announcement was an attempt to smooth over our opposition and
that of the public." Meanwhile, a spokesman for John Deere
denied that a contract for tractors was even close to being
signed. JAC

YELTSIN TO VISIT JAPAN NEXT FALL? Despite the fact he is no
longer Japan's prime minister, the Russian Foreign Ministry
considers Ryutaro Hashimoto's visit to Moscow "very helpful,
given his influence in Japan and his contribution to the
development of bilateral relations," ITAR-TASS reported on 22
April. Hashimoto met with President Yeltsin the previous day.
According to "Kommersant-Daily," Yeltsin avoided discussion
of the dispute over the Southern Kuril Islands and was
"disappointed" to learn that the position of the Japanese
government on Kosova is that "the bombings are evil, but they
are a necessary evil." Yeltsin said he would like to visit
Japan next fall, an official at the Japanese embassy in
Moscow told reporters. JAC

IVANOV CALLS FOR RESUMPTION OF MID-EAST PEACE PROCESS.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told journalists in Jerusalem on
22 April that Israel and Syria should resume peace
negotiations and that Russia wants to play a more visible
mediation role, AP reported. Ivanov spoke after his Israeli
counterpart, Ariel Sharon, took him on a helicopter tour of
the Golan Heights and the West Bank. Sharon said he wanted to
show the visitor "the areas necessary for Israel's security
and existence." The daily "Haaretz" reported on 22 April that
Sharon asked Russia to mediate between Israel and Syria.
Ivanov is on a three-day tour of the Middle East. FS

DEFENSE MINISTER ON MILITARY DOCTRINE CHANGES. Igor Sergeev
said at the Belarusian Military Academy in Minsk on 22 April
that Russia will make changes in its national military
doctrine in connection with NATO's military action in
Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. He said the
focus will be on keeping nuclear deterrence forces at maximum
combat readiness and developing air defense troops. Sergeev
argued that Russia's defense budget should amount to at least
3.5 percent of GDP (this year it stands at 2.6 percent).
Sergeev and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka are to
meet on 23 April, reportedly to discuss supplies of Russian
modern weapons to Belarus's air and air defense forces. JM

PASKO BEGINS TESTIFYING. Military reporter Grigorii Pasko has
begun testifying in his treason and espionage trial,
Interfax-Eurasia reported. Pasko is accused of disclosing
classified information about the Pacific Fleet's
environmentally hazardous practices to Japanese television.
Pasko told the court that he has reported all his contacts
with Japanese journalists to the Pacific Fleet's leadership
and to the chief editor of the military newspaper at which he
worked. Pasko will likely continue testifying for at least
three days. Earlier the Pacific Fleet's military tribunal
sent a request to Japan's Foreign Ministry asking them to
require a correspondent from the newspaper "Asahi Shimbun"
and two reporters from NHK television to give evidence. JAC

LENIN'S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATED WITH FIREWORKS. An unidentified
group blew up a 3.3 meter monument of former Soviet leader
Vladimir Lenin in the Sverdlovsk Oblast on 22 April, the
129th anniversary of his birth, ITAR-TASS reported. In
Moscow, members of the Communist Party, National Bolshevik
Party, led by novelist Eduard Limonov, and Working Russia,
led by Viktor Anpilov, placed wreaths on Lenin's mausoleum.
JAC

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN TRADERS TO SUE GOVERNMENT OVER CASH REGISTER
REGULATION. Makich Demirian, the chairman of the Armenian
Union of Traders, told journalists in Yerevan on 22 April
that the union is bringing legal action against the Armenian
government for what it believes are serious violations during
the process of introducing cash registers, RFE/RL's Yerevan
bureau reported. In an attempt to prevent tax evasion, the
government ruled in late 1998 that all companies with a
working area of more than 30 square meters must input their
retail sales and services into cash registers beginning
February 1999. Demirian said this puts large businesses,
whose number is estimated at 1,700, at a disadvantage
compared with smaller traders. The traders' union will
therefore demand that the law be extended to all businesses
regardless of their size. Demirian said that some 600
businesses have been fined by the tax authorities for not
complying with the government. Many of those fines were
imposed before the introduction of such a penalty on 1 April.
LF

GEORGIAN AIR FORCE OFFICERS PROTEST NON-PAYMENT OF SALARIES.
Some 50 officers of Georgia's air force staged a protest on
21 April at the Makhata base, Caucasus Press and "Rezonansi"
reported. "Rezonansi" said the officers were demanding
payment of their salaries for the past seven months, improved
living conditions, and free Tbilisi metro passes for
themselves and their families. Caucasus Press quoted Defense
Ministry official Giorgi Gogashvili as attributing the
protest not only to wage arrears but to apprehension over
possible redundancies during the forthcoming reorganization
of the airforce. Gogashvili said that in 1998 his ministry
paid only 70 percent of salaries and owes two months' wages
for 1999. He blamed the Finance Ministry for not allocating
the necessary funds. Gogashvili added that although the 1999
budget froze the ministry's debts until 2000, courts continue
to rule in favor of companies that sue the ministry for not
paying its bills. LF

ABKHAZIA THREATENS TO PUT DETAINED GEORGIAN FISHING CREW ON
TRIAL. Caucasus Press on 23 April quoted Abkhaz Prosecutor-
General Anri Djergenia as saying that the nine crew members
of a Georgian fishing trawler detained in Abkhaz territorial
waters on 3 April will be put on trial next week unless
agreement is reached on exchanging them for five Abkhaz held
hostage in Georgia. The Abkhaz authorities released the one
woman crew member last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April
1999). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S EX-PREMIER CALLS FOR NEW ELECTION LAW...
Speaking at a press briefing convened by RFE/RL in Washington
on 22 April, Akezhan Kazhegeldin said that unless Kazakhstan
enacts new election legislation, the parliamentary elections
to be held later this year will not be free and fair, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported. At present, the conduct of
elections is stipulated by presidential decrees that have the
force of law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April 1999).
Kazhegeldin said new election legislation is a key factor in
promoting democratization in Kazakhstan. He predicted that
his National Republican Party will be barred on a
technicality from contesting the parliamentary elections,
just as he was prevented from participating in the January
1999 presidential poll. Kazhegeldin added that Kazakhstan
today is a country without a national identity, primarily
because it lacks democratic institutions. LF

...AS ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN CLAIMS NEW VICTIMS. Premier
Nurlan Balghymbaev convened a cabinet session on 22 April to
assess implementation of presidential decrees and government
measures aimed at combating corruption, RFE/RL's Astana
bureau reported. One city deputy mayor and two regional
Interior Ministry chiefs were arrested this week for
financial irregularities. Last week, Deputy Finance Minister
Zhomart Muqashev was detained on charges of abuse of his
official position. LF

KAZAKHSTAN HALTS RAIL CARGO TRAFFIC FROM UZBEKISTAN.
Kazakhstan has barred Uzbek freight trains from transiting
its territory until Tashkent pays an $8 million transit debt,
AFP reported on 21 April, quoting an unnamed Kazakh transport
official. But Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan reached an agreement
the same day whereby Kyrgyzstan will pay its $3.8 million
transit debt to Kazakhstan by 1 May. Kazakhstan had stopped
the transit across its territory of Kyrgyz rail traffic one
week earlier. LF

CZECH PREMIER VISITS KYRGYZSTAN. Milos Zeman and his Kyrgyz
counterpart, Amangeldi Muraliev, met in Bishkek on 22 April
and signed a declaration on the development of the interstate
relations and a protocol on intergovernmental cooperation,
RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Zeman later noted the
potential for expanded cooperation in food processing and
transportation. He proposed that Kyrgyzstan adopt legislation
on giving government guarantees for foreign investments in
order to attract investments from the Czech Republic.
According to Muraliev, an agreement between the two states on
avoiding double taxation will be concluded soon. A number of
cooperation agreements between Kyrgyz and Czech enterprises
were also signed. Zeman also met with Kyrgyz President Askar
Akaev to discuss bilateral relations. LF

UN ENVOY CALLS FOR LEGALIZATION OF TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTIES.
UN Special Representative in Tajikistan Jan Kubis and the
leader of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), Said Abdullo
Nuri, met in Dushanbe on 21 April to assess implementation of
the political and military protocols to the 1997 peace
agreement, AP-Blitz reported the following day. While noting
that 22 representatives of the UTO have been appointed to
government posts, they expressed concern that no progress has
been made to date in nominating opposition representatives to
serve on regional and district councils. They agreed that the
Committee for National Reconciliation, on which both
government and UTO are represented, must complete new draft
proposals on amending the constitution. President Imomali
Rakhmonov had rejected most of the amendments proposed
earlier. Kubis advocated that those opposition parties
belonging to the UTO be legalized, together with their
official publications. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT SAYS WESTERN-STYLE DEMOCRACY INAPPROPRIATE.
Addressing Turkmenistan's National Institute for Democracy
and Human Rights on 21 April, Saparmurat Niyazov said that
Western-style democracy is incompatible with the Turkmen
national mentality and with the Asian model of democracy,
RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported the following day. He added
that press censorship in Turkmenistan is necessary to
preclude the publication of articles inciting interethnic
hatred. Niyazov also said that he will not invite
international observers to monitor elections in Turkmenistan,
but nor will he prevent them from being monitoring the
ballot. Also on 21 April, Niyazov ruled out the privatization
of the country's major enterprises and said he will reject
pressure from the EBRD to raise domestic prices for gasoline
and diesel fuel, according to Reuters. LF

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