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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 83, Part I, 29 April 1999


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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
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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?
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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

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