Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use of strength. - Henry Ward Beecher
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 93, Part I, 13 May 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 93, Part I, 13 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

* DUMA TO CONSIDER STEPASHIN'S NOMINATION IN SIX DAYS

* DUMA BEGINS IMPEACHMENT DEBATE

* KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS STAGE PROTEST
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RUSSIA

DUMA TO CONSIDER STEPASHIN'S NOMINATION IN SIX DAYS. The
State Duma Council will debate the candidacy of acting Prime
Minister Sergei Stepashin on 19 May, Vladimir Ryzhkov, Our
Home Is Russia faction leader told reporters on 12 May.
Ryzhkov characterized Stepashin's chances of being confirmed
as "fairly slim." Under the constitution, the president has
the right to dissolve the Duma if it rejects his candidate
for prime minister three times. Presidential envoy to
Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin told NTV that the Duma should
dissolve itself and new elections should be held immediately.
Presidential Chief of Staff Dmitrii Voloshin told Interfax
that "no one intends to dissolve the Duma in connection with
the cabinet dismissal." He continued "how can we consider
disbanding the Duma if we understand that the deputies are to
adopt a package of very important draft laws, including the
ones on which receipt of loans from the IMF depends?" JAC

'IMF LEGISLATION' ON HOLD. Duma Budget Committee Chairman
Aleksandr Zhukov said on 12 May that the Duma will not go
ahead with debate of the economic bills prepared by Yevgenii
Primakov's cabinet until a new government has approved them.
Meanwhile, an IMF spokesman said that the fund will support
"any economic program that envisages faster reforms," AFP
reported. Former Our Home Is Russia faction leader and now
independent deputy Aleksandr Shokhin predicted that prospects
for negotiations with the IMF could become complicated unless
a government is formed quickly, Interfax reported. He also
predicted that Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov will retain
his position and that either former Prime Minister Sergei
Kirienko or former State Tax Service chief Boris Fedorov
might return to government as deputy prime minister in charge
of economic issues. JAC

DUMA BEGINS IMPEACHMENT DEBATE... As Duma deputies began
debating the impeachment of President Boris Yeltsin on 13
May, hundreds of demonstrators in support of the action
gathered outside the parliamentary building. Impeachment
Commission chairman Vadim Filimonov began the proceedings by
outlining the five charges leveled against Yeltsin. Liberal
Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir
Zhirinovskii predicted that the maximum number of votes
gathered for any charge will be 260, falling short by 40 of
the 300 votes necessary for passage, ITAR-TASS reported.
Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii told Interfax that his
faction will vote for impeachment on the charge of initiating
the war against Chechnya under any circumstances--even if
Yabloko members were invited into the government. JAC

...AS FEDERATION COUNCIL MEMBERS LAMENT PROCESS, PRIMAKOV
DEPARTURE... Meanwhile, a letter from 17 oblast governors and
presidents of republics appealing to Duma members to
discontinue the impeachment process was distributed in the
Duma on 13 May, AFP reported. The letter was signed by
Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed and the presidents
of North Ossetia, Ingushetia, and Tatarstan among others.
Although they oppose impeachment, Lebed and most other
regional leaders expressed dismay over the removal of Prime
Minister Primakov. Altai Krai Governor Aleksandr Surikov
called Primakov's resignation the "most tragic mistake of a
president in Russia in recent history," Interfax-Eurasia
reported. Bashkortostan President Murtaz Rakhimov predicted
that social tension in the country will only increase and the
economic situation worsen, adding that the effort to impeach
President Yeltsin will not succeed. Communist Party leader
Gennadii Zyuganov called on the upper chamber to hold an
emergency session in connection with the dismissal of the
government. JAC

...AND COMMUNISTS CALL FOR STREET ACTIONS. As he had earlier
promised, Zyuganov called on the Russian public to take to
the streets to protest Primakov's removal. He told reporters
on 12 May that his party is "organizing mass demonstrations
in all the large cities to demand the impeachment of Yeltsin
and protest Primakov's dismissal." Yabloko leader Yavlinskii
appeared more inclined to take the news of Primakov's
departure in his stride, telling NTV that Primakov's
government had exhausted its potential. He also cited the
former premier's "refusal to combat corruption in the
government" and "to admit to the absence of a governmental
economic program." But he noted that Primakov "did many
useful things and maintained a certain stability." LDPR
leader Zhirinovskii and financial magnate Boris Berezovskii
were among the few influential Russian opinion-makers to
welcome the news of Primakov's departure. Zhirinovskii said
that his faction will support acting Prime Minister Sergei
Stepashin's candidacy and vote against impeachment. JAC

STOCKS PLUMMET, RUBLE WEAKENS. Shares on the Russian stock
market crashed 18 percent at one point on 12 May, while the
benchmark index RTS closed 16.2 percent lower than the
previous day, AFP and Reuters reported. The market had only
recently recovered, its index rising to more than 100 for the
first time since the mid-August devaluation of the ruble on 5
May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 1999). "Izvestiya" reported
that the value of the ruble by mid-day on 12 May slipped 2
percent against the dollar on forward contracts, while in
exchange offices throughout Moscow the rate slipped to 23.80-
24.20 rubles per dollar. Some traders predicted on 13 May
that the ruble will fall to 30 rubles per dollar by the end
of the month, Interfax reported. By 11:00 a.m. local time,
the ruble had already fallen to 26-26.3 rubles per dollar.
JAC

YELTSIN MAKES MORE PERSONNEL CHANGES... President Yeltsin on
12 May appointed Sergei Zverev as deputy chief of staff of
the presidential administration. According to ITAR-TASS,
Zverev is expected to oversee Kremlin relations with the
Duma, political parties, and public and religious
organizations. Zverev, a former executive with Gazprom and
Most, is considered a highly effective lobbyist (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 6 May 1999). The same day, Yeltsin also appointed
Vyacheslav Khizhnyakov, a former deputy governor from Rostov
Oblast and ataman of the Don Cossacks military society, as
his representative to the Federation Council, according to
Russian Television. Yeltsin also dismissed several high-
ranking officials in the Federal Tax Police Service,
including its first deputy director and deputy director. JAC

...WHILE MOST OF CABINET TO REMAIN INTACT? Citing anonymous
high-ranking Kremlin sources, Interfax reported that most
ministers, with the exception of First Deputy Prime Minister
Maslyukov and Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik, will be
asked to stay on in the new government. Kulik, however, did
not exclude the possibility that he would stay if offered the
chance, telling ITAR-TASS that "one must wait and see who
will join the government." JAC

YELTSIN THREATENS TO END KOSOVA MEDIATION... President
Yeltsin on 12 May threatened to end Russia's mediation
efforts in the Kosova crisis, telling the Russian Security
Council that "we are not taking part in this war, it is not
our country that started it." Referring to unspecified
Western leaders, he said that "some people obviously aren't
understanding our repeated proposals," AP reported. Yeltsin
warned that if NATO does not take these proposals into
consideration, Russia will halt its mediation. Yeltsin has
demanded an end to NATO air strikes as a precondition for
peace talks, but NATO officials have reaffirmed their resolve
to continue with the air campaign until Belgrade withdraws
its troops from Kosova (see Part II). Alexander Pikaev,
defense analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center said that by
threatening to end mediation efforts, "Yeltsin is clearly
trying to earn points with the military." FS

...BUT RECEIVES CHIRAC. Yeltsin and French President Jacques
Chirac, meeting in Moscow on 13 May, held two rounds of talks
on Kosova. At the start of the talks, Yeltsin said that "in
Kosova we are facing the most serious challenge to Europe in
recent times." He called Chirac's visit "very timely and
important." But he did not repeat his threat to end Russia's
mediation efforts. FS

CHERNOMYRDIN-TALBOTT TALKS CONTINUE. After meeting with U.S.
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott in Moscow on 12 May,
Yeltsin's special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin
said "we have moved closer to a solution." He added that "I
am ready to fly anywhere this issue can be resolved," AP
reported. Talbott praised Chernomyrdin's diplomatic efforts
but stressed that NATO's strategy has not changed. Later,
Talbott met with Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari in
Helsinki but gave no details of the meeting. State Department
spokesman James Rubin said Talbott's mission has three main
objectives: to discuss a detailed timetable for the
withdrawal of Serbian troops, the composition of an
international peace-keeping force, and setting concrete steps
toward a political solution to the crisis, RFE/RL's South
Slavic Service reported. Rubin added that Ahtisaari has
"indicated a willingness to play an advisory role as a friend
of this process." FS

FSB CHIEF UNSATISFIED WITH RUSSIA'S KOSOVA MEDIATION ROLE.
Federal Security Service (FSB) chief Vladimir Putin said in
Moscow on 12 May that Russia "is not satisfied with its role
as a technical courier...who merely transports proposals from
one country to another," Interfax reported. Meanwhile, the
Duma decided to set up a commission to investigate alleged
NATO war crimes against Yugoslavia. In a resolution, it
called the NATO air campaign "a military crime." The
commission is expected to submit before 1 December a report
to the Duma, which will then forward it to the International
Criminal Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia. The resolution
also called on the commission to discuss with the parliaments
of OSCE member states the setting up of an international
commission to investigate "NATO aggression." FS

SARATOV PLACING CURBS ON PRESS FREEDOM...The chief of staff
of the Saratov Oblast's legislative assembly is threatening
to strip local journalists of their accreditation to chamber
sessions if they are found to be "distributing incorrect
information, insulting the honor and dignity of the Duma
members or employees," "EWI's Russian Regional Report"
reported on 13 May. According to the publication, journalists
already face a possible loss of accreditation for "repeatedly
distorting information" in a special order signed by Saratov
Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov in September 1998. But local
authorities are attempting to tighten controls over already
limited press access in anticipation of upcoming elections,
local media allege. JAC

...AS NATIONAL POLITICIANS COZY UP TO LARGER MEDIA OUTLETS.
"Argumenty i Fakty" reported in its April edition that
Moscow-based political leaders are seeking alliances with TV
and radio broadcasting channels. According to the journal,
Right Cause member and Unified Energy Systems president
Anatolii Chubais is increasing his contacts with Russian
Public Television, while Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov is
courting NTV. The publication claims that Luzhkov helped
arrange the transfer of state money to Most Bank, which owns
NTV. In addition, Luzhkov suddenly appeared on NTV's "Itogi"
program. On 12 May, State Duma deputies adopted a resolution
condemning Russian television channels for their "pro-NATO"
coverage of events in Yugoslavia, ITAR-TASS reported. The
Duma advised the president and government to "substantially
limit" the use of "television and agency material from the
aggressor states." JAC

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIA, GREECE VOW TO EXPAND ECONOMIC COOPERATION. Speaking
at a joint news conference in Yerevan on 12 May, Presidents
Robert Kocharian and Constantine Stefanopoulos characterized
political relations between their two countries as "just
excellent," with their approaches to most issues "almost
identical," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Interfax reported.
But they stressed that their expanding bilateral ties, which
include military cooperation, "should not be viewed as an
alliance against any other country," meaning Turkey. The two
presidents said future cooperation will focus on the economic
sphere. At a separate meeting with Armenian parliamentary
deputies, Stefanopoulos pledged his country's support for
Armenia's aspiration to be granted full membership in the
Council of Europe. Three inter-governmental economic
agreements were signed during Stefanopoulos's three-day
visit, which ends on 13 May. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION COMMENT ON KARABAKH CEASE-
FIRE ANNIVERSARY. In a 12 May statement pegged to the fifth
anniversary of the signing of a Karabakh cease-fire
agreement, Heidar Aliev pledged that his country will
continue to honor that truce, ITAR-TASS reported. The
signatories to that accord were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia,
and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Aliev noted
that the cessation of hostilities enabled Azerbaijan to
consolidate its statehood and build an army. He said Baku
will continue to strive for a peaceful settlement of the
conflict that will entail the liberation of occupied
territories and enable displaced persons to return to their
homes. But Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman Abulfaz
Elchibey criticized the cease-fire as Aliev's most egregious
mistake, while Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar deplored the
fact that the last five years were not used to implement
democratic reforms and prepare for a new war to liberate the
occupied territories, according to Turan. LF

AZERBAIJAN, RUSSIA CRACK DOWN ON CROSS-BORDER CRIME. In a
coordinated campaign over the past two months, the Russian
and Azerbaijani Interior Ministries have eradicated two
criminal gangs operating on the border of the two countries
and have seized arms, ammunition, seven stolen cars, 2,500
liters of contraband alcohol, and more than four tons of
sturgeon and 30 kilos of caviar, ITAR-TASS reported. A total
of 55 wanted criminals have been arrested. LF

UN URGES GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA TO BACK PEACE PROCESS,
REPATRIATION. In a 7 May letter, the UN Security Council
called on the Georgian and Abkhaz leaderships to display the
"necessary will" to achieve a breakthrough in ongoing talks
on a settlement of the Abkhaz conflict, dpa and Caucasus
Press reported. The letter underscored the "imprescriptible
right" of displaced persons to return to their homes in a
secure environment. But on 13 May, Caucasus Press quoted Anri
Djergenia, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba's envoy, as
describing the talks as deadlocked. Djergenia blamed that
deadlock on the Georgians who, he said, have proposed no
further meeting since the 29 April talks in Sukhumi under UN
auspices (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 18, 6 May
1999). Djergenia also said a preliminary investigation has
refuted Georgian allegations that Russian peacekeepers were
responsible for the deaths of four Georgians killed in the
Abkhaz village of Bargebi on 12 May. LF

CONSTRUCTION OF KAZAKH OIL EXPORT PIPELINE BEGINS. Energy
executives and officials from Kazakhstan, Russia, the U.S.,
and Oman gathered in Novorossiisk on 12 May to witness the
start of construction of a marine terminal for the planned
1,580 kilometer oil export pipeline from Kazakhstan's Tengiz
field, Reuters reported. The $2.2 billion project, in which
Chevron is the major shareholder, is scheduled for completion
in mid-2001. LF

KAZAKHSTAN MAY FACE GRAIN SHORTAGE. Industry, Trade, and
Energy Minister Mukhtar Ablyazov told Interfax on 12 May that
unless the state grain policy is changed, Kazakhstan may have
to begin importing grain. He said that last year's harvest of
7.6 million metric tons was down 44 percent on the 1997
figure. In late April, an Agriculture Ministry official told
Reuters that although the area sown this year will probably
be smaller than in 1998, the country could theoretically
harvest 10 million tons of grain and export some 3 million
tons. LF

KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS STAGE PROTEST. Some 400 members
of the disbanded Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights picketed
the government building in Bishkek on 12 May to demand the
resignation of Justice Minister Nelly Beishenalieva and the
re-registration of the committee by the Ministry of Justice,
RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The ministry had revoked
the 1996 registration of the committee in October 1998,
claiming that the original documentation contained errors,
and had rejected subsequent applications to re-register the
committee. But in April 1999, the ministry registered a
committee of the same name headed by the deputy chairman of
the dissolved committee. Three senior members of the
government and presidential administration met with the
protesters and undertook to form a commission to investigate
the case. LF

TURKMENISTAN, AFGHANISTAN CONCLUDE AIR TRANSPORT, GAS
AGREEMENTS. During Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister Abdur
Rahman Zahid's visit to Ashgabat last week, the Turkmen
government and the Taliban signed agreements on the start of
commercial flights by Ariana Afghan Airlines to Turkmenistan
and on the sale of low-priced Turkmen gas to that country,
Reuters reported from Kabul on 12 May. Other agreements
provide for the restoration by Turkmenistan of two Afghan
power plants and the sale to Afghanistan of tar to resurface
highways. LF

CORRECTION: "RFE/RL Newsline" on 10 May incorrectly reported
that in late 1998, Unocal withdrew from a project to build a
gas export pipeline from Turkmenistan via Iran. That pipeline
will run from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan to Pakistan.

UZBEKISTAN IMPOSES TOUGHER SENTENCES FOR RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM.
The Uzbek parliament has voted to amend the Criminal Code to
provide for prison sentences of between five and 15 years and
confiscation of property of those belonging to religious,
extremist, or prohibited organizations, Interfax and Reuters
reported on 12 May. Membership in such organizations that
commit serious crimes is punishable by 15-20 years'
imprisonment. LF

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