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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 83, Part I, 29 April 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 83, Part I, 29 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 CURIOUS ABOUT WHAT'S HAPPENING OUTSIDE OF MOSCOW? Get detailed reports about Russia's regions and regional policy in the weekly "RFE/RL RUSSIAN FEDERATION REPORT." It's available on our web site at: http://www.rferl.org/russianreport/index.html To subscribe, send an e-mail to: email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * ONLY A FEW TECHNICAL DETAILS REMAIN IN IMF-RUSSIA NEGOTIATIONS * NEW 'TOP-SECRET' NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM DISCUSSED * FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER DENIES TAX-DODGING CHARGES End Note: HAS TRANSITION FAILED IN FORMER USSR? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA ONLY A FEW TECHNICAL DETAILS REMAIN IN IMF-RUSSIA NEGOTIATIONS... IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus issued a statement on 28 April that the IMF and the Russian government have agreed on an economic program that he hopes will be approved by the fund's board of directors. He added that "there are still a few technical elements to be settled in the next few days." Once the program is approved, a loan worth $4.5-4.6 billion will be issued to Russia over an 18- month period, Russian Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov told reporters. Camdessus said earlier that once a pact is agreed, Russia will have to take various steps, including seeking legislative approval for a number of bills, before the money can be disbursed, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported. JAC ...AS FIMACO PROBE TURNS UP LEADS? "The New York Times" reported on 29 April that IMF money will never be sent to Moscow and will essentially be transferred from one of the fund's accounts to another so that Russia can avoid default on the money its owes the IMF this year and next. According to the newspaper, the arrangement reflects behind-the-scenes pressure from the U.S. and European countries that IMF money be safeguarded against misuse. Meanwhile, "Trud" reported on 29 April that the State Duma's Audit Chamber needs more time to complete its audit of the previous installment of the IMF loan to Russia. One auditor with the group, Eleonora Mitrofanova, told the daily that media accusations against the Central Bank and the Channel Islands firm FIMACO so far "look like the truth." JAC NO KOSOVA SOLUTION APPARENT AT MOSCOW-BERLIN TALKS. Meeting in Berlin on 28 April, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said they see no imminent diplomatic solution to the Kosova crisis. Annan told Reuters in Moscow the following day that "the search for a political solution is a long, complex, drawn-out process." He made the statement before talks with Russia's envoy for Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin and President Boris Yeltsin. No details have yet been released about that meeting. Annan will also meet with the Russian, Greek, and Canadian foreign ministers as well as the German defense minister. After meeting with Annan, Chernomyrdin left for Bonn to discuss his peace initiative with Schroeder. He is scheduled to arrive for talks with Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema in Rome on 30 April and to resume talks in Belgrade later that day. FS CHERNOMYRDIN PLEDGES 'CONCRETE PROPOSALS.' Before leaving for Berlin, Chernomyrdin told AP that he will present "concrete proposals" in Bonn, Rome, and Belgrade. He said that at the core of his plan is NATO's suspension of its air strikes and argued that "it is useless trying to resolve the problem under bombs." He added that "in the Balkans everything must be done under the aegis of the UN, which must play a colossal role in the settlement." Annan, however, said the previous day in Bonn that the alliance "should remain firm, [while] we should do whatever we can in search of a political settlement." Annan has appointed Slovakia's Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan as his special envoy to Yugoslavia. He added that he will appoint a second envoy soon. FS NEW 'TOP-SECRET' NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM DISCUSSED. Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 29 April chaired a closed-door meeting of the Security Council on the development of Russia's strategic nuclear weapons policy. Russian Television reported that Yeltsin said Russia's nuclear forces are the "key element in ensuring the country's national security." After the meeting, Security Council Secretary Vladimir Putin told reporters that Yeltsin signed two decrees on the development of strategic nuclear and tactical weapons and approved the adoption of one program, which is of a "top- secret nature," ITAR-TASS reported. Putin also said that "Russia has not tested its nuclear weapons for a longer period of time than all other countries and this raises certain problems." He added that Russia is thinking of giving its specialists the possibility of moving ahead in "this sensitive sphere" without withdrawing from outstanding agreements. JAC MOSCOW FACING DEFAULT... "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 April that some foreign creditors of the Moscow city government do not want to negotiate a restructuring of one of the city's outstanding debts and are demanding that the city pay off a $100 million loan in full and not the just the $4.5 million in interest that it owes. On 27 April, Deputy Moscow Mayor Iosif Ordzhonikidze admitted that "Moscow could experience problems meeting its debt servicing obligations this year," Prime-TASS reported. In addition to the $100 million debt, the city must make payments of some $22 million and $23.7 million on two Eurobond coupons on 17 May and 31 May, respectively. JAC ...AS LUZHKOV'S POLITICAL FUTURE HANGS IN BALANCE? Yurii Korgunyuk, a political analyst at the Center for Applied Political Studies, told "The Moscow Times" on 28 April that "Luzhkov has always stressed his difference from other regional governors. If there is a restructuring, it will be evident that the huge debt hanging around Moscow's neck was a result of faulty economic policy." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" noted that a default would seriously damage Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's chances in upcoming presidential elections. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives financial backing from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. Berezovskii and Luzhkov are open rivals. JAC RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN MILITARY COOPERATION ON FAST TRACK? Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka revealed on 28 April that he has brought with him to Moscow a more ambitious, more radical plan for the unification of his country and Russia, but he added that he "understands Russia is not ready" yet, Interfax reported. Lukashenka added that since Russia is not ready for the creation of a state with a single president, government, and parliament, then there is no need to change the constitution and organize a referendum, Russian Television reported. "Izvestiya" noted on 29 April that although the economic prospects of the union look "vague," the "military-political" detente is proceeding quickly. "It is friendship [aimed] against NATO that makes the [Russian-Belarusian] friendship so firm now," according to the daily. The two leaders discussed on 28 April a joint defense concept that envisions the two sides using the same types of weapons and equipment for a future joint force, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 1999). JAC KEMEROVO GOVERNOR FINDS WAY TO REWARD VOTERS. Newly re- elected governor of Kemerovo Oblast, Aman Tuleev, announced on 26 April that as of 1 June all enterprises in the region will begin making additional monthly "donations" to budget sector employees, "Vremya MN" reported on 28 April. The monies are supposed to be provided on a voluntary basis, but according to the daily, those companies that "forsake their new duty will face sanctions"; for example, their director will be replaced or, if they are private, the authorities will initiate a procedure to try to impose an external administration on them. According to the daily, Tuleev's government hopes to collect 170 million rubles ($7 million) each month in this way, until enough money is allocated by the federal budget to result in a pay hike for state sector employees. JAC INDEPENDENCE OF REGIONAL MEDIA ENDANGERED. Top officials in the Union of Journalists expressed their concern on 28 April that regional newspapers and magazines are in danger of losing their independence, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the union's president, Vsevolod Bogdanov, local authorities are reorganizing the editorial boards of newspapers and magazines under the pretext of bringing them into line with Russia's Civil Code. After the reorganization, editorial boards are guided not by the Law on the Mass Media but by the Law on State Employees, which circumscribes the publication's editorial freedom and independence. Local journalists are turned into "clerks" who merely disseminate the information that their board chooses, the agency reported. The union is recommending that localities adopt a new statute on the composition of the editorial boards drafted by the union's lawyers. JAC MANDELA MAKES MOSCOW TRIP. South African President Nelson Mandela and President Yeltsin signed an agreement in Moscow on 29 April to boost economic cooperation in areas such as gold and diamond production and improve political contacts between their countries, AP reported. Mandela arrived in the Russian capital on 28 April and is expected to meet with Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev as well. On 30 April, he will hold talks with Moscow Mayor Luzhkov and visit the Academy of Sciences to receive an honorary degree, ITAR- TASS reported. JAC FORMER GROZNY MAYOR SENTENCED. Following a three-year investigation and trial, Beslan Gantemirov was sentenced on 28 April to six years' imprisonment on charges of embezzling the equivalent of $1.7 million allocated by Moscow for reconstruction in Chechnya, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 April. Gantemirov has repeatedly claimed the charges against him were fabricated and says he will appeal the sentence. LF NORTH OSSETIA WANTS TO EXPAND ECONOMIC COOPERATION WITH ARMENIA. Armenian government chief of staff Eduard Tatevossian held talks with North Ossetia's President Aleksandr Dzasokhov in Vladikavkaz on 24 April to discuss the potential for cooperation between North Ossetian industrial enterprises and their Armenian counterparts, including the Zangezur copper and molybdenum plant, Noyan Tapan reported on 28 April. Dzasokhov also said that his republic is interested in buying electricity from Armenia. Much of North Ossetia's industrial potential was geared to producing components for the Soviet military-industrial complex and has been lying idle in recent years. Tatevossian headed the Armenian delegation to the North Caucasus Association council session (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 1999). LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ENDORSES RUSSIAN LOAN. Legislators on 28 April approved a $20.6 million Russian loan for the Medzamor nuclear power plant, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Most of that sum, to be released in several installments by the end of next year, will be spent on purchases of Russian nuclear fuel, on which Medzamor is dependent. An agreement on the loan was signed last December by the Russian and Armenian governments. The debt will be repaid over five years beginning in 2003. Medzamor was shut down under public pressure in 1989 but reopened in 1995 with Russian assistance to make up for severe energy shortages in Armenia, despite widespread safety concerns in the West. The Armenian government has pledged to close the plant in 2004, even though its management said last week that it could operate for another 16 years. Medzamor currently generates some 35 percent of Armenia's electricity. LF ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT UNVEILS MEASURES TO SAVE LAKE SEVAN. Environment Minister Gevorg Vartanian outlined to journalists on 28 April a new program to save Lake Sevan from an ecological disaster, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Under that program, the water level of the lake, which has been steadily declining for several decades and fell by 23 centimeters in 1998 alone, will be raised by 5 meters over the next decade. Vartanian said that the use of water from the lake for irrigation purposes will be cut by 20 percent this year, and it is hoped eventually to cease using water from the lake for hydro-electricity. In addition, the completion next year of the Vorotan tunnel to divert a nearby river into the lake should help raise the water level. Vartanian noted that a government ban on all forms of fishing will go into force on 15 June with the aim of replenishing the lake's fish stocks. LF GEORGIAN HUNGER-STRIKERS ATTACKED. The six members of the Free Georgia--Future Generation organization, who began a hunger-strike in Tbilisi on 26 April to demand the release of persons they consider political prisoners, were attacked by a group of 20-25 men in civilian clothes during the night of 27-28 April, Caucasus Press reported. The organization's leader, Koba Bukia, accused the Georgian authorities of instigating the attack. LF GEORGIAN CUSTOMS INTERCEPT RELIGIOUS LITERATURE. Customs officials in southern Georgia have thwarted an attempt to smuggle into Georgia some six tons of religious literature and video cassettes produced by the Jehovah's Witnesses, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported on 27 and 28 April. The Turkish driver of the lorry transporting the materials was arrested. The 20 million religious tracts and video cassettes were said to be of high quality, but it is unclear what language(s) they were in. LF FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER DENIES TAX-DODGING CHARGES. Speaking to journalists in Washington, Akezhan Kazhegeldin denied the recent accusations of tax evasion leveled against him by government officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1999), Interfax reported. He added that he has documentary proof that he paid all his taxes in 1997. Kazhegeldin said the charges are intended to compromise him "as a person and as a politician." "A tragedy" is how he described the inability of Kazakhstan's authorities to find a common language with the opposition. And he argued that the country's leadership is "neither united nor a monolith" but composed of disparate factions pursuing their own "clan and corporate interests." LF TAJIK POLICE OFFICERS HELD HOSTAGE. Some 40 members of an armed opposition group headed by Mansur Muakalov abducted six Tajik police officers in eastern Tajikistan during the night of 27-28 April. The kidnappers are demanding the release of five men charged with more than 80 crimes, including 10 murders, Interfax reported on 28 April, quoting an Interior Ministry press spokesman. LF UZBEKISTAN RESTORES GAS SUPPLIES TO KAZAKHSTAN. Uzbekistan has resumed supplies of natural gas to three oblasts of southern Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 29 April. Those supplies were cut earlier this month because of non-payment of debts, and Kazakhstan responded by halting rail traffic from Uzbekistan and pointing to Uzbekistan's unpaid debts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 1999). The two sides subsequently agreed to resume both natural gas deliveries and rail transit, but they have so far made little progress on clearing mutual debts. LF 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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