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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 81, Part I, 27 April 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 81, Part I, 27 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 * NEWSPAPER SAYS INCREASED G-7 SUPPORT LINKED TO ANTI-WEST POLICY * RUSSIA TO INCREASE COMBAT-READINESS OF NUCLEAR FORCES * TAJIK OPPOSITION SLAMS PRESIDENT'S REJECTION OF CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS End Note: AFTER THE BOMBING STOPS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA NEWSPAPER SAYS INCREASED G-7 SUPPORT LINKED TO ANTI-WEST POLICY... Finance ministers from the G-7 member countries have again urged the Russian government to reach an agreement with the IMF, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported on 26 April. In a communique issued after the ministers' meeting with Russian Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov and Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko, the G-7 expressed concern about continued instability in Russia. On 24 April, "Izvestiya" argued that Russia's "inflexible stand on Kosova," along with "the rapid growth of anti- Western attitudes among both the Russian masses and elite, appear to have really scared the world's leading economic powers." The daily cited a recent speech by British Prime Minister Tony Blair saying that the West cannot watch Russia teeter on the edge of an economic abyss. It also pointed to a statement by U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin that the "U.S. should do everything possible to help Russia stabilize its economy." JAC ...AS RUSSIA BRINGS IMF RADICAL NEW PROPOSALS? While Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus agreed in principle on a agreement on 29 March, lower level officials have so far been unable to iron out the remaining details. On 26 April, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov flew to Washington to lead one of the largest delegations to the annual spring meetings of the IMF/World Bank, Russian Television reported. Aleksandr Pochinok, head of the government's finance department, told ITAR-TASS on 26 April that Maslyukov was taking with him some "tough and serious documents." The next day, "Izvestiya" reported that the Russian delegation will submit a number of "radical new measures for privatization (of the electric energy industry in particular), agricultural reform, a balanced budget, and tax policy." JAC RUSSIA TO INCREASE COMBAT-READINESS OF NUCLEAR FORCES. "Izvestiya" reported on 27 April that commanders from Russia's strategic nuclear forces are preparing proposals for a "drastic" overhaul of their forces to increase Russia's combat-ready nuclear strength. The proposals will be presented at a Security Council session later this week, according to the daily. The decision will be implemented by "upgrading and extending the life-spans of strategic weapon systems of the last Soviet series." In addition, the navy's commander-in-chief, Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov, ordered that all nuclear submarines remain on combat duty and any accident involving them be considered a crime. In an interview with "Krasnaya Zvezda" on 27 April, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said that Russia and Belarus will be forming a joint regional grouping of conventional armed forces. According to Sergeev, Russia is already providing Belarusian troops with weapons. JAC IVANOV-TALBOTT TALKS 'CONSTRUCTIVE'... U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott told Reuters in Moscow on 27 April that he had "extremely intense [and] constructive discussions" with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov the same day about the Kosova crisis. Talbott declined to say whether Ivanov gave him details about the latest peace plan of President Boris Yeltsin's Yugoslav envoy, Viktor Chernomyrdin. He said, however, that "I learned even more about Russian perceptions of the situation and I'm convinced that the U.S. and Russia are continuing to work together along with many other countries to try to bring peace to the region," Reuters reported. Talbott began talks with Chernomyrdin after meeting with Ivanov. This is the first of several meetings Chernomyrdin plans to have with high-ranking Western leaders this week. FS ...WHILE CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS TALKS 'IMPOSSIBLE' DURING NATO STRIKES. Chernomyrdin told ITAR-TASS before meeting with Talbott that "it is necessary to stop the missile and bomb strikes, at least for a certain time, so that there is a chance for talks. Negotiations are impossible without that." He added that the oil embargo planned by NATO and EU countries "does not suit us" and that he will discuss the issue with Talbott. The previous day, Chernomyrdin conducted telephone conversations with Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic and U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Chernomyrdin's adviser, Valentin Sergeev, said the two sides "thoroughly discussed" possible ways of settling the Yugoslav crisis and agreed to maintain permanent contacts to "promote the search for mutually acceptable" settlements of the conflict. The same day, Yeltsin talked by telephone to French President Jacques Chirac, who urged Russia to keep up its mediation efforts. FS RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS WARN OF YUGOSLAV ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER. Russian UN Ambassador Sergei Lavrov on 27 April sent a report to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan detailing the "possible ecological consequences of the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia," ITAR-TASS reported. According to that report, NATO's intensive bombing of military and industrial targets has caused "extensive pollution of the natural environment with highly toxic agents, oil, and oil products." The report added that "the dispersal of toxins" could reach as far as the Middle East and North Africa. It concluded that "there is a transition from localized military action to large-scale environmental warfare," AP reported. FS LUKIN CHARGES NATO WITH 'PHILOSOPHY OF CANNIBALISM.' Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko), head of the State Duma's international affairs committee, told ITAR-TASS on 27 April that NATO, led by the U.S., will "decide which zone of their interests to choose, and they will do there what they want." He added that "at last, it has become clear to all in the world: bearers of the last-instance truth are [the] 19 [NATO] states." He added that "this is nothing but a return to medievalism: the strongest side is always right." Lukin also charged NATO with following a "philosophy of cannibalism." FS CRIMINAL CHARGES FILED AGAINST BEREZOVSKII. The Office of the Prosecutor-General has filed criminal charges against business tycoon Boris Berezovskii for money-laundering, illegal entrepreneurship, and lobbying business interests while in government service, Interfax reported on 26 April. Berezovskii's lawyer, Genrii Reznik, told reporters that Berezovskii is restricted from travelling outside Moscow. After a four-hour meeting with Prosecutor Nikolai Volkov, Berezovskii himself repeated accusations against Yevgenii Primakov, suggesting that the prime minister's "spirit, the spirit of arresting everyone," is behind the charges against him. "Primakov gave a signal when he said in Davos [Switzerland] that the 94,000 jail cells about to be vacated will be filled," he said. On 27 April, Berezovskii told ITAR-TASS that he had met with Primakov for more than two hours the previous evening, but he declined to comment on the discussion. JAC STEPASHIN DECLARES BORDER WITH CHECHNYA CLOSED. Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin pledged on 26 April that the border between Chechnya and Stavropol Oblast "will be closed for gangsters, not for civilians. This will effectively be a war zone," Interfax reported. Stepashin added that four combat helicopters will patrol the border constantly with orders to eliminate gangsters who are uncovered. Stepashin is visiting Kursk Raion in Stavropol, which has recently experienced a rash of kidnappings and killings, including the slaying of four policemen on 6 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1999). Following those killings, Stavropol Governor Aleksandr Chernogorov announced that the border would be closed, a move that some analysts interpreted as infringing on the jurisdiction of federal authorities. JAC FSB SUSPECTS TERRORISM MOTIVE BEHIND CONSULATE BLAST... Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel said on 27 April that he believes the explosion outside the U.S. and U.K. consulates three days earlier was not linked to developments in Yugoslavia, RIA Novosti reported. Security officers from the U.S. embassy in Moscow arrived in Ekaterinburg on 26 April to investigate the incident, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to the agency, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) believes that terrorism was the most likely motive behind the bombing, but investigators are not ruling out the possibility of a malicious attempt to destroy private property. JAC ...AS ANOTHER BOMB EXPLODES IN CENTRAL MOSCOW. A bomb left a large hole in the Intourist Hotel, located close to the Kremlin, on 26 April. An explosive device was left in an elevator on the 20th floor of the hotel, near the offices of a firm headed by State Duma deputy and popular singer Iosif Kobzon, "The Moscow Times" reported. Kobzon said that he had an appointment at the hotel around the time the explosion occurred but had been delayed, according to AFP. Kobzon called the act "just an ordinary terrorist act, a terrorist act in the center of Moscow." JAC NDR REARRANGES CADRE. Chernomyrdin, presidential envoy to Yugoslavia, was reelected leader of Our Home is Russia (NDR) on 24 April. Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov and NDR Duma faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov were elected first deputy chairmen of the movement's 170-member political council, ITAR-TASS reported. Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov, informal leader of Golos Rossii, decided not to join the political council, according to the agency. But "Izvestiya" reported on 27 April that Titov was "ousted," as were all "gas specialists" and "Northerners" who had belonged to the movement's political council. In addition, Vladimir Babichev, chairman of the executive committee of the political council, was replaced by Yevgenii Trofimov. According to the newspaper, major changes are unlikely to follow since Trofimov is "known as Babichev's creature." JAC 'MIR' TURNS TO COMMERCIAL TRAVEL. British businessman Peter Llewellyn has offered to infuse the struggling Russian space station "Mir" with $100 million in exchange for a place on the rocket flying to the station this August, Interfax reported on 26 April. Llewellyn will begin training next month at a facility near Moscow, Russian Space Agency Director Yurii Koptev told reporters on 27 April. Llewellyn's contribution may cover all the station's annual maintenance costs: Koptev said that expenses for the station had dropped to less than $100 million from $200-$250 million before the devaluation of the ruble in August 1998, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, the space agency celebrated the completion of the living module for the International Space Station, whose construction was running some 18 months behind schedule. It is now likely to go up in November. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION CAMPAIGN BEGINS. Campaigning for the 30 May parliamentary elections began on 26 April, one day after the Central Electoral Commission formally registered 21 parties and blocs that will participate in the poll, Noyan Tapan reported. Of the 131 seats in the new parliament, 56 will be allocated under the proportional system and the remaining 75 in single candidate constituencies. More than 800 candidates are contesting those seats. Also on 26 April, the 21 members of the Central Electoral Commission resigned in accordance with the electoral law. A new commission, three of whose members are appointed by the government and the remainder by the five parties or blocs that collected the largest number of signatures in their support, will be named on 27 April. Outgoing commission chairman Khachatur Bezirjian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that his successor will be subjected to public criticism if even a single irregularity in the voting procedure is reported. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT WANTS GREATER U.S. SUPPORT, INVESTMENT... Speaking in Washington on 26 April, Heidar Aliev called for greater U.S. engagement and investment in the Caspian, a correspondent for RFE/RL reported. In a clear reference to Russia, Aliev criticized attempts to undermine political stability in Azerbaijan and to call into question the size of its untapped oil reserves. He also again expressed his displeasure at Russia's deployment of S-300 missiles and MiG-29 fighter aircraft at its military base in Armenia. He argued that Russia's policy of military cooperation with Armenia undermines Moscow's efforts, in its capacity as one of the three co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group, to mediate a solution to the Karabakh conflict. LF ...APOLOGIZES TO KAZAKHSTAN FOR IMPOUNDING MIGS. Aliev has telephoned his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev. to apologize for the impounding at Baku's Bina airport last month of six obsolete MiG fighter aircraft being transported from Kazakhstan to a firm in the Czech Republic that had purchased them for training purposes, Interfax reported on 26 April, citing the Kazakh weekly "Panorama" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March and 21 April1999). That publication quoted a senior Kazakh transport official as blaming the incident on the over-reaction of Azerbaijani intelligence. LF AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS ARRESTED, BEATEN. Rovshan Ismaylov, a correspondent for the journal "Ganun," was detained by police on 13 April, beaten, and held in custody for two days before being charged with resisting arrest, Turan reported on 26 April. According to the annual report of the Paris-based organization Reporters Sans Frontieres, at least 24 journalists were arrested in Azerbaijan in 1998 and 40 beaten by police. Ten newspapers were subjected to total or partial censorship in 60 separate incidents. LF GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ CONSULTATIONS 'NOT A SUCCESS.' Abkhaz Prosecutor-General Anri Djergenia met with Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze outside Tbilisi on 26 April to discuss the "Decision on Further Measures Toward a Settlement of the Conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia," adopted by the CIS heads of state at their 2 April summit, Caucasus Press reported. That document advocates the withdrawal from Abkhazia of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed there if Tbilisi and Sukhumi fail to agree by 2 May on the texts of two agreements, one of which is on preventing a resumption of hostilities and the other on the repatriation to Abkhazia of Georgian displaced persons and measures to restore the region's economy. Lortkipanizde said the meeting "was not a success." He said he and Djergenia had focused primarily on the fate of the Georgian fishing crew detained in Abkhaz territorial waters on 3 April, but they had failed to agree on the conditions for the crew's release. LF KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT PASSES NEW ELECTION LAW IN FIRST READING. Central Electoral Commission chairman Sulaiman Imanbaev said in Bishkek on 26 April that the Legislative Assembly--the lower chamber of parliament--has passed in the first reading a new election code drafted by the government, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. A special Conciliatory Commission, formed by the parliament and government, will consider the bill next month. The draft provides for 15 out of a total of 60 members of the new Legislative Assembly to be elected on party lists. Interfax on 23 April quoted Communist Party chairman Absamat Masaliev as saying he backs that provision, which he said will ensure a democratic approach in adopting crucial legislation. Imanbaev also announced that local elections will be held in Kyrgyzstan in October,1999. The parliamentary elections are scheduled for 23 March 2000, and the next presidential poll will take place in the fall of that year. LF TAJIK OPPOSITION SLAMS PRESIDENT'S REJECTION OF CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. In a statement released on 23 April, the United Tajik Opposition criticized President Imomali Rakhmonov's refusal to endorse constitutional amendments agreed on by the Committee for National Reconciliation, which is composed of both government and opposition representatives, AP-Blitz reported on 27 April. The UTO said Rakhmonov's intransigence is paralyzing the work of the committee, and it called on the president to adopt the proposals in order to ensure its continued functioning. It also urged international organizations and the Contact Group for Tajikistan to exert pressure on Rakhmonov, according to Interfax. On 25 April, two Tajik border guard officers were shot dead by unknown assailants in a suburb of Dushanbe. LF UZBEKISTAN'S ECONOMY SLOWING DOWN. The head of the Asian Development Bank's Tashkent office, Nagaradja Gnanathurai, predicted on 26 April that Uzbekistan's industrial output will decline in 1999, Interfax reported. Gnanathurai noted that while the impact on Uzbekistan of the Russian economic crisis was less severe than on other countries in the region, GDP grew by only 2.8 percent in 1998, compared with 5.7 percent the previous year. In addition, the Uzbek som lost in value, while the country's foreign debt rose to $2.8 billion. The ADB approved loans to Uzbekistan last year totaling $110 million. Uzbekistan's GDP increased by 2.9 percent during the first quarter of 1999, while the budget deficit was on target at 1.1 percent, Interfax reported on 19 April, quoting Deputy Prime Minister Bakhtiar Khamidov. LF END NOTE AFTER THE BOMBING STOPS By Paul Goble Even as NATO continues its air strikes against Yugoslavia, ever more Western leaders are beginning to focus on what the Western alliance should do in the Balkans after the bombing has stopped. Such discussions are likely to intensify now that the alliance has issued a communique that suggests its member states are at least as interested in a diplomatic resolution of the conflict as in continuing to use military power to achieve their original aims. So far, most of the discussions have centered on some kind of Marshall Plan for the Balkans. Such a program, named for and modeled on U.S. assistance to Western Europe after World War II, would apparently involve massive, multilateral aid from NATO countries to the war-ravaged states of the former Yugoslavia. By invoking the name of the largest and most successful foreign assistance program in history, officials in NATO countries clearly hope not only to put additional pressure on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to reach a settlement but also to redirect the efforts of the Western alliance in a non-military direction. But there are at least three reasons why a new "Marshal Plan for the Balkans" will have to be very different from its model if it is to help bring peace and stability to that turbulent region. First, the original Marshal Plan was funded and directed by one country, the U.S. A new such plan for the Balkans would be funded and directed by a group of states and thus subject to the kinds of decision by committee that appear to govern much of NATO's activities. That would almost certainly guarantee that any program announced would suffer from inevitable differences of opinion within the alliance and might even make it impossible for any program announced ever to be realized. Second, the original Marshall Plan took shape to counter a single, overriding threat to Western Europe. While the U.S. had hoped to extend assistance to all Europe, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's veto dashing that hope probably had the unintended consequence of making the Marshall Plan more successful than it would otherwise have been. On the one hand, it meant that U.S. assistance was focused on a smaller number of countries and thus had a bigger impact than would have been the case if it had been spread more widely. On the other, Soviet opposition had the effect of generating more domestic U.S. support for it because Washington was able to point to the way in which the Marshall Plan was contributing to U.S. security interests in Europe. Any aid package to the Balkans will not have that external disciplining factor. Not only will that mean that the domestic constituencies in many countries will be reluctant to fund a new plan at the levels that would be needed; it will also mean that the lack of an external threat will almost certainly guarantee that the members of the alliance will stay less united on this issue, just as they are on so many others. Third, the original Marshall Plan was intended to restore the economies of the countries of Western Europe, not to create something fundamentally new. Any aid package to the Balkans would have to address the far larger and more complicated issues of nation- and economy-building, issues that few foreign aid programs have been successful at resolving. In many ways, the discussions about a new Marshall Plan for the Balkans reflect the difficulties of finding a solution to the conflicts in that region. Obviously, the people there will need massive amounts of aid to overcome the tragedies visited upon them by Milosevic and his supporters. But before the West can design an aid package that will help them, these conflicts will have to be addressed and some resolution found. Once that occurs, a genuine assistance program can be developed to meet the specific needs of the people and political structures that will then be in place. In thinking about the future, those proposing a new Marshall Plan for that region should remember that the original Marshall Plan was not proposed until more than two years after the bombs had stopped falling. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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