History is made out of the failures and heroism of each insignificant moment. - Franz Kafka
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 90, Part I, 10 May 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 90, Part I, 10 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

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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN CALLS EMBASSY BOMBING 'VANDALISM'

* CHERNOMYRDIN VISITS BEIJING

* DETAINED ARMENIAN EX-MINISTER RELEASED
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN CALLS EMBASSY BOMBING 'VANDALISM.' Russian President
Boris Yeltsin in Moscow on 8 May called the accidental NATO
bombing of China's Belgrade embassy in the night from 7 to 8
May "an act of vandalism [and] further flagrant violation of
international law," ITAR-TASS reported. The following day,
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov cancelled a scheduled visit to
London. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told AP that the
cancellation of the trip "does not reflect any difficulty in
our bilateral relationship, but the additional pressure on
him which requires him to remain in Moscow following last
night's tragic accident." Cook added that "Ivanov has assured
me that Russia stands by those Principles it agreed to" at a
G-8 meeting in Bonn last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May
1999). The Russian Foreign Ministry, however, issued a
statement saying the bombing was of a "criminal character."
FS

CHERNOMYRDIN VISITS BEIJING... Yeltsin's envoy for Yugoslavia
Viktor Chernomyrdin left Moscow for Beijing on 10 May. An
unnamed government official told AP that he will discuss the
Chinese embassy bombing in Belgrade and ways to end the
Kosova crisis. Yeltsin earlier talked by phone to his Chinese
counterpart Jiang Zemin (see related items in Part 2).
Observers suggested that Chernomyrdin will urge the Chinese
leadership not to obstruct a draft Security Council
resolution on Kosova based on the G-8 principles. Meanwhile,
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's foreign policy advisor
Michael Steiner said in Bonn on 9 May that Foreign Ministry
officials from the eight countries will start drafting the
resolution there the following day. Newly-appointed UN
special envoy Carl Bildt, however, cautioned that "one must
unfortunately expect that [the embassy bombing] will make the
work in the Security Council more difficult." FS

...'ENCOURAGED' BY MILOSEVIC. Chernomyrdin returned to Moscow
from Bonn on 9 May and told Reuters that "there are some
encouraging results from [a telephone conversation between
him and Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic, but I will
not say anything yet." He added that he told Milosevic about
"new circumstances" in the negotiations, and that Milosevic
was "very satisfied." He did not elaborate. An unnamed German
government official told AP that Schroeder and Bildt urged
Chernomyrdin to postpone a trip to Belgrade originally
scheduled for that day, because the proposed peace plan was
still "relatively abstract." FS

RUSSIA MARKS VICTORY DAY. After commemorating on 7 May the
anniversary of the founding of the Russian Armed Forces,
Russians this weekend marked the 54th anniversary of victory
over Nazi Germany. On 7 May, President Yeltsin stumbled while
laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Reuters
reported. Speaking at a parade on 9 May in which 5,000
soldiers took place, Yeltsin said that victory in World War
II "unifies Russians, regardless of their beliefs and
political inclinations." He added that "all countries should
not forget the main lesson of war. The rule of power may
spark a big fire." And he said that the war showed that
"Russia was not only a good fighter but also a skillful
peacemaker." According to ITAR-TASS, more than two million
Russians took part in 2,747 Victory Day festivities across
the country.

RUSSIANS COMPARE CLINTON TO HITLER. One Russian told Reuters
correspondents on 9 May that "Clinton and NATO are worse
bastards than Hitler." Another said that "between Hitler and
Milosevic there is a world of difference and it's absurd to
compare them. There is a complete parallel between Hitler and
NATO." PG

NATO MAY USE FORCE AGAINST RUSSIA, GENERAL WARNS. The former
intelligence chief of the Russian armed forces told "Krasnaya
zvezda" on 7 May that NATO might use the strategy of force it
is employing in Kosovo against Russia. But Col. Gen. Fyodor
Ladygin acknowledged that such an outcome was in fact
"unlikely." In other comments, he suggested that Moscow's
ability to affect outcomes in the Balkans is extremely
limited and urged that Russia not get into a situation in
which others will simply ignore it. PG

ITAR-TASS SAYS "ALL THAT CAN BE STOLEN IS STOLEN." In a story
about the theft of copper pipes from the house of Tobolsk
Archbishop Dimitry, the Russian news agency on 7 May said
that "all that can be stolen is being stolen." In other crime
stories over the weekend, Russian news agencies noted that
thieves in Omsk had robbed the Victory Day memorial and that
someone had stolen a World War II-era bread ration from a St.
Petersburg museum. PG

MIXED ECONOMIC NEWS. Russia's industries produced 0.2 percent
less in the first quarter of 1999 than they did in the same
period a year ago, Interfax reported on 9 May. Meanwhile,
consumer prices rose 3.0 percent in April compared with only
0.4 percent in April 1998. Tax collections rose to 41.9
billion rubles ($1.7 billion) in April, but the Russian
government failed to cover its expenses and spent 1.9 billion
rubles more than it collected. Because of this mixed picture,
some 48 percent of Russian company managers told pollsters
that they expected the country's economic situation to worsen
in May, according to a poll reported by Interfax on 8 May.
Nonetheless, Russian Economics Minister Andrei Shapovalyants
told Interfax on 7 May that G8 countries were supportive of
Moscow's desire to join the OECD. He noted that "figures do
not always reflect the specifics of Russia's economy." PG

RUSSIANS DRINKING MORE ... Sales of vodka climbed 10 percent
and beer sales rose 19 percent in the first quarter of 1999
compared to a year earlier, Interfax reported on 9 May. But
the sale of champagne fell 13 percent. Because these figures
cover only official sales and not illegally produced liquor
which is estimated to make up 50 percent of all alcohol
consumed in the Russian Federation, the actual shifts may be
much greater. PG

... PRAYING MORE ... Meanwhile, ever more Russians are
turning to religion, according to a Public Opinion poll
reported by Interfax on 7 May. A mid-April sampling of 1,500
Russians showed that 55 percent now consider themselves to be
Orthodox Christians, up from 34 percent in June 1991. Nine
percent more, down from 10 percent in 1991, say they are
followers of another religion. The number professing atheism
has fallen from 40 to 31 percent. PG

... AND MORE CRITICAL OF THE WEST. More than seven out of ten
Russians believe that Moscow is excessively dependent on the
West, according to the results of a Public Opinon Poll
reported by Interfax on 7 May. Over half (51 percent) now
think that relations with the United States have deteriorated
over the past year, up from only 33 percent who felt that way
in January 1999. PG

LUKASHENKA SAYS CIS HAS NO FUTURE. Speaking in Volgograd on 7
May, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said that
"the CIS has absolutely no prospects for development." He
added that "in practice, there is no CIS; it doesn't even
fulfil the role of a political club." PG

RUSSIAN-IRANIAN NUCLEAR TIES TO INCREASE? Iran has formally
proposed expanding its cooperation with Russia in the
development of nuclear power, Russian Atomic Energy Minister
Yevgenii Adamov told Interfax on 8 May. PG

JAPANESE DIPLOMAT TO VISIT SAKHALIN. Minoru Tamba, Japan's
deputy foreign minister, will visit Sakhalin on 10-13 May,
ITAR-Tass reported on 10 May. He is scheduled to meet
regional governor Igor Farkhutdinov as well as other
officials. On 12 May, the Japanese diplomat, 61, will visit
his birthplace in Penzenskoye on Sakhalin. PG

MOSCOW, SEOUL AGREE TO INCREASE EMBASSY SPIES ... The Russian
Federation and South Korea have agreed to increase the number
of intelligence officers assigned to their respective
embassies from two to eight, Korean officials told AP on 10
May. This action follows a spy scandal in July 1998 when
Moscow expelled a Korean diplomat, and precedes a visit to
Moscow later this month by South Korean President Kim Dae-
jung. PG

... BUT MOSCOW HAS NO COMMENT ON POLISH ARREST OF SOVIET-ERA
SPIES. The Russian intelligence service declined comment on 7
May concerning the 4 May arrest of two retired Polish
officers whom Warsaw has charged with spying for the Soviet
Union (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 7 May 1999). But ITAR-
TASS suggested that the Polish media are using the case to
try to whip up anti-Russian passions. PG

MOSCOW SOURCES SAY OSCE SPYING FOR NATO IN KOSOVA. Interfax
reported on 9 May that unnamed military and diplomatic
sources have said that NATO country representatives on the
OSCE mission in Kosova are engaged in espionage for the
Western alliance. These sources singled out the nationals of
the United States, Canada and Germany for special criticism.
PG

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

DETAINED ARMENIAN EX-MINISTER RELEASED. Former interior
minister Vano Siradeghian was released from custody on 7 May,
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He had been detained four
days earlier in connection with several murder cases on
returning to Armenia after a four-month absence (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 4 May 1999). Siradeghian is chairman of the board
of the opposition Armenian Pan-National Movement and a
candidate in the 30 May parliamentary elections. Election
candidates may not be held in custody for longer than 96
hours without the consent of the Central Electoral
Commission, but the Procurator-General did not request
permission from that body to extend the detention period.
Also on 7 May, two people arrested on trumped-up charges on
Siradeghian's orders, and relatives of two of the men in
whose murder Siradeghian is implicated, held a protest rally
in Yerevan to demand a full investigation of his actions
during his tenure as minister in 1992-1996, Noyan Tapan
reported. LF

IRANIAN CUSTOMS DENIES DETAINING AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST. The
head of the Iranian customs post at the border crossing of
Astara has denied that his subordinates detained Ganimat
Zahidov, editor of the Azerbaijani newspaper "Ekspress," on 3
May, Turan reported on 8 May. He explained that an earlier
report by one of his subordinates that Zahidov had been
detained was based on a case of mistaken identity. Zahidov
was due to return to Azerbaijan on 3 May after a trip to Iran
during which he conducted a lengthy interview with Mahmudali
Chehragani, who is a professor at Tabriz university and a
representative of Iran's ethnic Azeri community (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 7 May 1999). Zahidov's present whereabouts are
unknown. LF

AZERBAIJANI POLICE PREVENT PEACEFUL MARCH TO KARABAKH. Police
in Baku twice used violence on 8 May to disperse and detain
an unknown number of people who intended to participate in a
peaceful march from Baku to Nagorno-Karabakh and Horadiz,
south-east of the disputed enclave, Turan reported. The march
was organized by the Geyrat party, which is headed by
defeated presidential candidate Ashraf Mehtiev. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT, PATRIARCH, DISCUSS STUDENT PROTEST.
Eduard Shevardnadze met with Catholicos Ilia II on 7 May to
discuss the planned exhibit in four U.S. cities this autumn
of historic Georgian icons and other religious artefacts,
Caucasus Press reported. The Georgian church opposes allowing
the relics to leave the country, as do several dozen students
who have declared a hungerstrike in protest (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 4 and 5 May, 1999). Shevardnadze informed the
patriarch that he intends to create a commission to draft
legislation regulating the temporary export of the valuables.
Ilia II subsequently tried, but failed, to persuade the
students to abandon their hungerstrike. Shevardnadze and the
patriarch also agreed to invite Pope John Paul II to visit
Georgia at an unspecified date. The Georgian church had not
done so earlier in the belief that the country was
spiritually and materially unprepared for such a visit. LF

KAZAKHSTAN TO INSIST IMPORTS BEAR LABELS IN KAZAKH, RUSSIAN.
Under a decree issued by the office of the Prime Minister of
Kazakhstan, as of 1 October 1999 all imported goods must bear
labels in both Kazakh and Russian detailing their country of
origin, date of manufacture and expiry date, Reuters and
Interfax reported on 7 May. The move is seen as a further
attempt to protect domestic manufacturers from an influx of
cheap foreign goods following the April devaluation of the
tenge. LF

ANOTHER MILITARY HELICOPTER CRASHES IN TAJIKISTAN. Ten people
were killed on 6 May when a Tajik military helicopter crashed
in mountains north of Dushanbe, AP reported. Eighteen Russian
border guards died in a similar crash in early April (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 1999). LF

AFGHAN OFFICIAL DISCUSSES RESUMPTION OF PEACE TALKS IN
TURKMENISTAN ... An Afghan delegation headed by Taliban
Deputy Foreign Minister Abdur Rahman Zahid met with Turkmen
government officials in Ashgabat on 6-7 May to discuss the
possibility of holding a third round of peace talks in that
city between representatives of the Taliban and the Northern
Alliance of Ahmed Shah Massoud, Reuters and Interfax
reported. An unnamed Turkmen government source told Interfax
that both sides want to resume the talks. Hostilities had
broken out again following the last meeting between the two
rival factions in Ashgabat in mid-March. But during talks in
Tashkent last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi
and Uzbek leaders advocated that the Contact Group comprising
Russia, the U.S., China, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan,
Tajikistan and Turkmenistan should mediate a solution to the
Afghan conflict under the aegis of the UN (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 7 May 1999). LF

... AND PIPELINE PROJECT. The Turkmen and Taliban officials
also discussed economic cooperation, including the planned
construction of a gas export pipeline from Turkmenistan via
Afghanistan to Iran, Reuters reported. The U.S. company
Unocal, which held the largest stake in the consortium
created to build that pipeline, pulled out of the project
late last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1998). LF

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT VISITS UZBEKISTAN. Petar Stoyanov and his
Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov discussed expanding bilateral
cooperation during talks in Tashkent on 7-8 May, Interfax and
ITAR-TASS reported. Karimov expressed particular interest in
the transport of Uzbek exports to Europe via Bulgaria and the
Danube. Inter-governmental agreements on cooperation between
the two countries' national airlines and in fighting
organized crime were signed during the visit. LF

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