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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 88, Part I, 6 May 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 88, Part I, 6 May 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 STOCK MARKET ROARS BACK TO LIFE * YELTSIN SAYS RUSSIA, U.S., NATO POSITIONS MOVE 'CLOSER' * KAZAKH JOURNALIST RELEASED FROM PSYCHIATRIC CLINIC xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET ROARS BACK TO LIFE... The Russian stock market hit a new peak for 1999 on 5 May, reaching 102.69 on the RTS benchmark stock index, a 12 percent rise from the previous day. This marked the first time that the index has risen above 100 since the devaluation of the ruble last August. Leading the pack of rising stocks were Rostelekom and Tatneft, whose shares rose 33 percent and 30 percent, respectively, Interfax reported. Traders attributed the market's pickup to the recent rise in oil prices and the announcement of a deal with the IMF. They predicted that the rally could turn out to be short-lived if either of these developments are reversed, "The Moscow Times" reported on 6 May. However, Dmitrii Yudin, emerging markets analyst for Merrill Lynch, noted that the market cannot crash from its current level. "Shares are extremely cheap," he said. On 6 May the index closed barely changed from the previous day at 102.67, or 0.02 percent lower. JAC ...AS RUBLE FIRMS AGAINST DOLLAR. The ruble continued its rise on 6 May, inching up to 24.07 rubles to $1 or 0.08 percent higher than the previous day, AFP reported. Moreover, bankers are confident that the ruble's exchange rate will remain between 24.5 and 25.5 rubles to $1, barring any sudden political developments, "Rossiiskaya Gazeta" reported on 6 May. According to the newspaper, Russian exporters, flush with cash since the rise in oil prices, are pushing the ruble's value up vis-a-vis the dollar. Another factor influencing the exchange rate, the daily claims, is the Central Bank's success in its "struggle against profiteers" and its effort to reduce demand for dollars by 10-15 percent. The IMF has objected to the Central Bank's new rules restricting access to the foreign exchange market, saying that they reduce the ruble's convertibility. JAC LENINGRAD DEFAULTS. Leningrad Oblast missed a 5 May deadline to pay off a $50 million loan to an international bank syndicate, AP reported. Regional officials had been trying to get creditors to agree to restructuring the loan, but they apparently failed to do so before time ran out (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 5 May 1999). On 4 May, two of the oblast deputy governors, Sergei Susekov and Valerii Goloshapov, resigned. The next Russian entity expected to default, according to "The Moscow Times" on 6 May, is Tatneft, whose grace period to pay a $13.5 million coupon, which already matured on its $300 million Eurobond, ends 25 May. According to Standard & Poor's, the company's fortunes have been boosted by the rise in oil prices, but its close ties to the cash-strapped government of Tatarstan could interfere with its making good on its debts. Despite the company's troubles with its creditors, its shares have been popular lately with traders, who consider them undervalued. JAC YELTSIN SAYS RUSSIA, U.S., NATO POSITIONS MOVE 'CLOSER.' Russia's special envoy for Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin briefed President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow on 6 May, AP reported. Yeltsin said later that "of course, he didn't manage to solve everything --stopping the bombing and so forth, but we did not count on that. We counted on him bringing the positions of the Americans, NATO and [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic closer together." Chernomyrdin also met with Spanish Foreign Minister Abel Matutes, who stressed the importance of Russia's role in resolving the Kosova conflict. Chernomyrdin told journalists after the meeting that "the war should be stopped at the negotiating table and under the UN's aegis," ITAR-TASS reported. FS DRAFT PEACE PLAN READY AT G-8 MEETING? "The New York Times" quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying on 5 May in Washington that NATO and Russia have narrowed their differences over the composition of a peacekeeping force. They will be able to issue a joint statement at the G-8 meeting in Bonn on 6 May, the officials added. A senior German official said both sides agreed to a draft accord providing for "an international civilian and security presence" that will enter Kosova under a UN mandate after the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosova, Reuters reported. But so far Yugoslav President Milosevic has rejected any such settlement. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, before leaving for Bonn on 6 May, said that "one should look at things realistically. I am not optimistic about a breakthrough. But if there is the slightest progress, this will be important," ITAR-TASS reported. FS ZYUGANOV CALLS CHERNOMYRDIN 'SPECIAL DEMOLISHER.' Russian Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov has accused the Russian government of secretly approving and justifying NATO air strikes. He told Interfax on 5 May that "Chernomyrdin should be seen not as a special envoy but as a special demolisher, a special agent, a kind of political screen to conceal the fact that the positions of Moscow and Washington on the Balkans are coming closer together." He accused Chernomyrdin of "traveling around the world to justify the international crimes against" Yugoslavia. Chernomyrdin rejected Zyuganov's accusations. FS YELTSIN TO DO MORE CHAIR REARRANGING? Interrupting his address at a meeting to organize celebrations for the 2000th anniversary of Christianity and the new millennium, President Yeltsin asked that newly promoted First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin be reseated to sit closer to the presidential chair, NTV reported on 5 May. Later, Yeltsin interrupted Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's remarks saying that Primakov's plans had not been coordinated with the Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church. Although seemingly insignificant, these actions are being added by Kremlin watchers to an increasingly growing list of "signs" that Yeltsin is about to dismiss Primakov, such as the recent remark of Oleg Sysuev, deputy head of the presidential administration, in an interview with "Vlast" that "there are no irreplaceable prime ministers." In its May issue, "Argumenty i Fakty" reported that Sergei Zverev, former Gazprom and MOST executive, is to be appointed deputy director of the presidential administration in charge of political strategy. As one of the country's top lobbyists, he would reportedly be able to repair any damage that might occur with relations between the Kremlin, cabinet, and State Duma. JAC SUPREME COURT CHAIRMAN AGREES TO STAY ON. After meeting with President Yeltsin on 6 May, Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev told reporters that he has accepted the president's offer to be reappointed to the court. Lebedev's 10-year term expires in July. The Federation Council must approve Lebedev's candidacy. JAC FEDERAL AUTHORITIES TO INTERVENE IN VLADIVOSTOK? Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov has appealed to the head of the presidential administration, Aleksandr Voloshin, to ensure that elections to Vladivostok's legislative assembly scheduled for 16 May actually take place, Interfax reported on 5 May. In a letter to Voloshin, Veshnyakov expressed his concern about that city administration's refusal to provide financing for the elections (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 5 May 1999). "Vremya MN" reported on 27 April that acting Mayor Yurii Kopylov is refusing to transfer 2.5 million rubles ($104,000) needed to hold the elections because, according to him, the chairman of the election commission "cannot be trusted with the people's money." However, many city residents believe that Kopylov's stance might be connected with the fact that he will likely be removed from office in such elections, according to the daily. JAC NEW MINERS STRIKE LAUNCHED. About 1,000 coal miners on Sakhalin Island declared a strike on 6 May to protest a 10- month backlog of unpaid wages, ITAR-TASS reported. The mine supplies coal to one of the oblast's chief power stations that has already been experiencing a coal shortage. Meanwhile, in Chita Oblast, teachers in 36 schools are continuing a strike that has already lasted one month, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 5 May. The teachers are also demanding unpaid wages. Local school authorities fear that the strike may interfere with final exams. JAC LIFESTYLES OF THE YOUNGISH AND POWERFUL. In its April edition, "Argumenty i Fakty" asked members of President Yeltsin's administration to disclose their income and property. Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin earned 87,043 rubles ($3600) in 1998, owns one apartment measuring 107.5 square meters and two cars, including a Mitsubishi Charisma. Sysuev, deputy director of the presidential administration, earned 101,864 rubles last year, owns a 152 square meter apartment but no securities or cars. Presidential adviser and daughter Tatyana Dyachenko owns a Mitsubishi Pajero jeep and a BAZ 8142 trailer. Last year, she earned 1,508,477 rubles which included money earned from the sale of a house and land. The recently appointed chief of the presidential administration, Voloshin, has--or had--perhaps the most modest lifestyle, earning 75,669 rubles in 1998 and sharing a 56.4 square meter apartment with his mother. JAC YELTSIN MEETS WITH NORTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT. Aleksandr Dzasokhov met with Yeltsin in the Kremlin on 5 May to brief him on the April session of the North Caucasus Association Council and to discuss the general situation in the North Caucasus, according to Radio Rossii on 5 May and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 6 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April 1999). Yeltsin endorsed Dzasokhov's proposal to convene a further meeting of the Russian and Transcaucasus presidents. The first such summit was held three years ago on the initiative of Dzasokhov's predecessor, Akhsarbek Galazov (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 4 June 1996). Meanwhile, Ingush displaced persons have staged a mass demonstration on the border between Ingushetia and North Ossetia to protest the alleged refusal by the North Ossetian authorities to allow 30 Ingush families to return to their homes in North Ossetia, which they fled during the fighting of November 1992, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 6 May. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES ELECTION CAMPAIGN... Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan on 5 May to mark his first year in office, Robert Kocharian expressed his "sympathy" for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation - Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) and for the Miasnutiun (Unity) Bloc that comprises the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), headed by former Armenian Communist Party first secretary Karen Demirchian and Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian's Republican Party, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital reported. Observers believe the latter grouping will win the largest number of seats in the 30 May parliamentary elections and that Miasnutiun and the HHD will be represented in a reshuffled cabinet. But Kocharian hinted that other "sound political forces," which he did not name, may also join the government. He expressed satisfaction at the course to date of the election campaign, stressing the importance of ensuring the poll conforms to international standards, Interfax reported. LF ...AND KARABAKH PEACE PROCESS. Kocharian further predicted that once the Kosova crisis is resolved, the international community will adopt a more serious approach to the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian predicted that the Balkan crisis will have a positive impact on the prospects for a solution to that conflict, arguing that developments in Kosova show that "the principle of self- determination cannot be realized in countries that have a very basic understanding of democracy. The forcible suppression of a people's right to self-determination leads only to war," he concluded. LF AZERBAIJAN REJECTS IRANIAN CRITICISM OF NEW OIL CONTRACTS. Ali Hasanov, who heads the social-political department of the presidential administration, said on 5 May that Iranian objections to the three oil contracts Azerbaijan signed with U.S. oil companies last month are "groundless," according to Interfax on 5 May and "Izvestiya" on 6 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 1999). Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamidrza Asafi had said that Iran does not recognize the contracts as legal, since some of the oil deposits in question lie in Iran's sector of the Caspian, according to Turan on 1 May. He added that until a new agreement defining the national sectors of the five Caspian littoral states is reached, Tehran will view any development of those deposits as violating its national rights. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT REPRIMANDS SENIOR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS. Nursultan Nazarbaev has criticized Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uraz Zhandosov and Energy, Trade, and Industry Minister Mukhtar Abliazov for inadequate control over their ministries and for failure to implement unspecified presidential decrees, Interfax and RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported on 5 May. Nazarbaev instructed Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev to review the cases in question and to take whatever action proves necessary, including firing those responsible. LF KAZAKH JOURNALIST RELEASED FROM PSYCHIATRIC CLINIC. Armial Tasymbekov, who was forcibly taken to a psychiatric hospital in Astana last week, was released on 5 May, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported the following day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 1999). A doctor at the clinic told RFE/RL that Tasymbekov had been treated for "a temporary mental disorder" and is now "absolutely sober and healthy." The doctor added that he is "forbidden by law" to reveal the nature of that disorder. Tasymbekov told an RFE/RL correspondent who managed to gain access to the clinic on 3 May that he was interrogated by a colonel of the National Security Committee about the appearance in Astana earlier this year of slogans denigrating President Nazarbaev and extolling former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER CRITICIZES RUSSIAN MEDIA COVERAGE OF BORDER TALKS. In an interview with ITAR-TASS on 5 May, Kasymzhomart Toqaev complained that Russian media allegations that Kazakhstan has ceded territory to China risk harming not only Sino-Kazakh but also Sino-Russian relations. After four years of negotiations, the presidents of China and Kazakhstan signed an agreement in July 1998 formally demarcating the frontier between the two countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). Also on 5 May, a Kazakh delegation began talks in Beijing on the optimum division of waters from the Irtysh and Ili Rivers that flow from China through Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 20 April 1999). LF KYRGYZSTAN MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF NEW CONSTITUTION. In a 4 May address on national television to mark the sixth anniversary the following day of the country's constitution, President Askar Akaev said that one of the most crucial tasks facing the country is the timely payment of wages, pensions and other benefits, according to Interfax. He rejected speculation that either the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2000 or the presidential election in December 2000 will be brought forward, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Meanwhile, two Kyrgyz newspapers on 5 May quoted an unnamed Interior Ministry official as saying that the 12 people arrested the previous day, allegedly for preparing terrorist attacks on transport facilities, had in fact been preparing an attempt to assassinate Akaev, kidnap several other senior officials, and stage a coup. LF TAJIK PRESIDENT AGREES TO OPPOSITION AMNESTY PROPOSAL. In response to a 4 May appeal by the Commission for National Reconciliation, Imomali Rakhmonov charged senior government officials with drafting a decree on terminating criminal proceedings against Tajik opposition fighters and amnestying those already sentenced for their actions during the civil war, AP-Blitz reported on 5 May. In its appeal, the Commission for National Reconciliation had expressed concern about the slowdown in the peace process over the past three months. Also on 4 May, field commander Mansur Muakalov released the last two of six police officers abducted by his men south of Dushanbe on 28 April, Reuters reported. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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