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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 94, Part I, 14 May 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 94, Part I, 14 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 * DUMA SHOWS SIGNS OF WARMING TOWARD STEPASHIN * IMPEACHMENT PROCESS EXPERIENCES SOME HICCUPS * KYRGYZ PROTEST EMBEZZLEMENT OF DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA DUMA SHOWS SIGNS OF WARMING TOWARD STEPASHIN... Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said on 13 May that the State Duma might vote to confirm acting Prime Minister Sergeii Stepashin after he lays out his program and suggests some of his likely cabinet appointees, Interfax reported. The same day, Duma Chairman (Communist) Gennadii Seleznev told NTV that quite a few Duma members think positively of Stepashin and may well confirm him as prime minister. In addition, Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin of the Communist Party said he "could agree to any candidacy, because any candidate for prime minister will discredit himself in two or three months under such leadership as [President Boris] Yeltsin's," "The Moscow Times" reported on 14 May. According to the daily, Agrarian faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov said that if the Duma gathers enough votes to advance an impeachment charge, then Stepashin will have a better chance. JAC ...AS POSSIBILITY OF CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS LOOMS. In an article published by "Segodnya" on 13 May, Duma deputy Aleksandr Shokhin (an independent) suggested that if Stepashin "behaves like a technocrat" and steers clear of politics, then deputies might approve him, particularly by the third round. However, President Yeltsin may want to dismiss the Duma, in which case he may propose a more unsympathetic candidate, Shokhin argued. He also forecast that the Duma will vote for impeachment and reject three candidates for prime minister, after which the president will appoint a premier whose status will be as uncertain as that of the Duma's. Confusion arises because the Russian Constitution does not address the problem of impeachment proceedings occurring simultaneously with the Duma's rejecting a candidate for prime minister three times. In the latter case, the president has the right to dissolve the Duma, according to Article 111 of the Constitution, but in the former, he cannot take such action, according to Article 109 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 1999). JAC IMPEACHMENT PROCESS EXPERIENCES SOME HICCUPS... As the Duma conducted its second day of hearings on the impeachment of Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 14 May, only five of 29 expert witnesses invited to appear showed up, ITAR-TASS reported. "Vremya MN" reported the same day that the weak quality of the legal arguments during the previous day's session caused an unidentified source within the Supreme Court to conclude that any impeachment charges referred to it will easily be dismissed "in less than a month." The previous day, both Duma Speaker Seleznev and Agrarian faction head Kharitonov predicted that at least one of the impeachment counts would garner the necessary 300 votes. JAC ...AS 'HORSE-TRADING' OCCURS WITH FEDERATION COUNCIL? The Federation Council will meet on 17 May at the request of a number of regions, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May. "Segodnya" argued the same day that the upper chamber may be the only real victor of the recent political machinations in Moscow. After all, under the constitution, it has the final say on impeachment after the process is reviewed by the courts. Political analysts told "The Moscow Times" on 14 May that council members are likely engaged in significant "horse- trading" with the Kremlin--most likely along the lines of trying to obtain larger export quotas, tariff exemptions, and new infusions of cash. During his televised address to the nation explaining the cabinet's departure, President Yeltsin noted that "the economy will work if the regions receive more independence." JAC SPECULATION OVER CABINET POSTS BEGINS... Discussing the likely composition of the new cabinet, "Segodnya" on 13 May predicted that Tax Minister Georgii Boos has "zero chance" of staying on in that post. While Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov may retain his position, according to the daily, both the Finance and Tax Ministries face a substantial reduction of their power. The newspaper also predicted that new First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko will oversee only industrial policy, while a new first deputy prime minister will be named to manage economic policy. Various reports also speculated that Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii's might be offered that job. "High-ranking" Kremlin sources told ITAR-TASS that a draft presidential decree has been prepared naming Dmitrii Kozak as deputy chief of the presidential administration. Kozak, who is a former deputy governor from St. Petersburg, would take over the post vacated by Ruslan Orekhov. On 14 May, Stepashin dismissed Yurii Zubakov, chief of the government staff, and appointed Mstislav Afanasiev in his place, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC ...AS FOREIGN MINISTER'S FATE DISCUSSED. According to Interfax on 13 May, Deputy Prime Ministers Valentina Matvienko and Vladimir Bulgak, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev will all be asked to remain. However, the next day "Izvestiya" reported that while Ivanov is widely respected, he is viewed as ousted Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's man and therefore may be given a remote foreign posting. Possible candidates to replace him are Duma Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko, former presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii, Deputy Grigorii Karasin, and presidential envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin. Duma speaker Seleznev suggested on NTV that Ivanov would surely not be offended if Primakov were given back his old job as foreign minister. JAC WORLD BANK PUTS LOAN DISCUSSIONS ON HOLD. The World Bank's board of directors has indefinitely postponed discussion of loans to be extended to Russia, Country Director for Russia Michael Carter told reporters on 13 May. According to Interfax, the bank had planned to lend Russia $2 billion over the next 18 months. Meanwhile, the government announced that Finance Minister Zadornov will be in charge of talks with the IMF until a new cabinet has been formed, Interfax reported on 13 May. The same day, Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin said that Finance Ministry officials are maintaining normal working contacts with their counterparts at the fund. JAC YELTSIN THREATENS TO WITHDRAW FROM MEDIATION. Yeltsin warned French President Jacques Chirac in Moscow on 13 May that Russia may pull out of the diplomatic efforts over Kosova. Foreign Minister Ivanov quoted Yeltsin as saying that "if NATO strikes against Yugoslavia continue, despite Russia's efforts, and if Russia's proposals are not taken into account, the country will be forced to review its participation in the negotiating process." Yeltsin and Chirac, however, stressed the similarity of their positions on developing a "multi-polar" global system, in which Europe, Russia, and China would play a stronger role along with the U.S., Reuters reported. FS CHERNOMYRDIN, AHTISAARI LAUNCH JOINT BELGRADE MISSION. Yeltsin's special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari agreed in Helsinki on 13 May to pay a joint visit to Belgrade, ITAR-TASS reported. Unidentified Western diplomats told Reuters in Moscow the same day that unspecified Western countries are considering making Ahtisaari their special envoy to Yugoslavia. They added that he will work closely alongside Chernomyrdin, but he did not elaborate. After meeting Chernomyrdin in Moscow, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said that "Chernomyrdin agrees that it is useful and I would even say necessary to be absorbed in our joint diplomatic work," AP reported. He also told journalists that "we have broadened and deepened [the number of issues on which we agree] and found ways of managing [issues on which we disagree]." Chernomyrdin repeated his call for an end to NATO's bombing campaign. FS ANNAN FEARS RUSSIAN CRISIS MAY COMPLICATE SEARCH FOR PEACE. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, after meeting his two special envoys to Yugoslavia, Carl Bildt and Eduard Kukan, in Geneva on 13 May, told journalists that he hopes "Russian foreign policy will remain the same" under a new premier. However, he expressed the fear that "what has happened may complicate the search for peace, but I hope it will not be an insurmountable problem." Annan stressed that Bildt and Kukan "are not going to be envoys to NATO," but he did not elaborate on the envoys' upcoming missions. In New York, Russian UN Ambassador Sergei Lavrov said the Security Council will not adopt a resolution on a Kosova peace plan until NATO ends its air campaign. He added that "until bombing stops, a political settlement is impossible. This doesn't mean that the resolution discussions could not continue," Reuters reported. FS RUSSIA TO CONDUCT HIGH PRIORITY TESTS OF ITS NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Non-nuclear "blast experiments" will be conducted at Novaya Zemlya this year to upgrade and check nuclear arms, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 12 May. After the Security Council adopted a resolution to upgrade Russia's tactical nuclear weapons on 28 April, Security Council Secretary Vladimir Putin remarked that "Russia has not tested its nuclear weapons for a longer period of time than all other countries and this raises certain problems" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 April 1999). According to the daily, the decision to conduct the experiments may be connected with that resolution. Last year, similar tests were conducted between September and December in accordance with the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty. "The new tests will be conducted on a completely different qualitative level and as a matter of priority," the newspaper reported, adding that "according to informed sources, far more money will be spent" on them than was spent on previous tests. JAC EU, RUSSIA WRAP UP FOOD AID TALKS. Talks between Russia and the EU on food aid concluded on 13 May with both sides consenting to a broad agreement on how to calculate prices for European foodstuffs, Interfax reported. According to an unidentified source in the "interdepartmental group" supervising food supplies, negotiators agreed on two separate methods for calculating prices that are "close to the Russian position but also recognize EU requirements." JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA FORMER ARMENIAN EDUCATION MINISTER DETAINED. Ashot Bleyan, who is currently director of one of Yerevan's largest secondary schools, was detained by two law enforcement officials on 14 May, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. A criminal case opened against Bleyan in March on charges of embezzlement of public funds intended for the purchase of textbooks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1999). Supporters of Bleyan, who as head of the small Nor ughi (New Path) political party unsuccessfully ran in the 1998 presidential elections, have formed a committee in his defense, which is scheduled to convene a press conference on 14 May. LF AZERBAIJANI WAR VETERAN COMMITS SUICIDE. A veteran of the Karabakh war shot himself on 6 May to protest the Azerbaijan parliament's refusal to pass legislation on privileges for war veterans, Turan reported on 13 May, citing "Yeni Musavat." A group of war veterans threatened in April to kill themselves unless the Azerbaijani authorities took measures to improve living conditions in Gyanja, the country's second- largest city (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 1999). LF GEORGIA, ST. PETERSBURG SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENTS. On a three-day visit to Tbilisi from 11-13 May, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev met with President Eduard Shevardnadze, Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze, parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania, and Tbilisi Mayor Ivane Zodelava, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. Yakovlev signed separate agreements intended to expand economic, trade, scientific, and cultural cooperation with the Georgian government and with the city of Tbilisi. LF KAZAKH FOREIGN MINISTER COMMENTS ON OSCE CRITICISM. Qasymzhomart Toqaev told RFE/RL correspondents in Astana on 13 May that Kazakhstan "is searching for its own path toward democracy." Toqaev was alluding to criticism expressed by Gerard Stoudman, chairman of the OCSE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Speaking in Astana on 11 May, Stoudman had criticized several provisions of Kazakhstan's new election legislation, concluding that the country is "not a democracy" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 1999). Toqaev stressed that Kazakhstan "would always greet free dialogue with the OSCE." LF DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFTS EMERGE IN KAZAKHSTAN. The urban population of Kazakhstan fell by 8.4 percent and the rural population by 6.8 percent during the 10 years that have elapsed since the 1989 census, Interfax reported on 13 May, citing the results of this year's census released by the State Statistics Agency. Of the country's current 14.95 million inhabitants, 8.3 million (55.9 percent) live in cities and the remainder in villages. The decrease of more than 1 million in the total population, from 16.2 million in 1989, is largely the result of outmigration of Russians, Ukrainians, and Germans. Ethnic Kazakhs now account for 53.4 percent of the population, compared with 36 percent at the time of the 1979 census. LF KYRGYZ PROTEST EMBEZZLEMENT OF DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS. Residents of Kyrgyzstan's Issyk-Kul region blocked roads leading to the Kumtor gold mine from 4-8 May and destroyed two trucks belonging to the Canadian-owned Kumtor Operating Company that is exploiting the deposit, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 13 May. The picketers were protesting the disappearance of some 780,000 soms ($22,000) allocated by the Kumtor Operating Company as compensation for victims of the spill of toxic chemicals into the Barskoon River in May 1998. That accident was caused by a truck owned by the company. Five police and two picketers were hospitalized in clashes when police tried to disperse the picketers, 34 of whom were detained. Other demonstrators then took three local officials hostage and released them only during the night of 9-10 May. after their fellow protestors had been freed. Criminal proceedings have been brought against one of the local officials accused of embezzling the relief funds. LF TAJIK AUTHORITIES COMPLY WITH SOME POINTS OF OPPOSITION ULTIMATUM. Meeting with members of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) outside Dushanbe on 12 May, representatives of the Tajik leadership agreed to some of the demands contained in an ultimatum addressed by UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri to President Imomali Rakhmonov, ITAR-TASS reported. Nuri had written to Rakhmonov on 5 May to demand he approve amendments to the constitution agreed on by the Committee for National Reconciliation. Nuri also demanded an amnesty for 93 imprisoned UTO fighters, the dropping of criminal proceedings against others, and the nomination as defense minister of opposition commander Mirza Zioev, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 13 May. Failure to comply with those demands within 20 days could lead to unspecified "undesirable consequences," Nuri warned. The Tajik government representatives agreed on 12 May only to drop all outstanding criminal charges against UTO members and release its jailed fighters. LF U.S. AGAIN TRIES TO RECONCILE TURKMENISTAN, AZERBAIJAN. U.S. special envoy for Caspian energy problems Richard Morningstar presented Turkmenistan's President Saparmurad Niyazov on 13 May in Ashgabat with new U.S. proposals aimed at resolving the dispute between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan over ownership of several Caspian sea oil-fields, AP reported. The two countries have been at loggerheads since 1997, when Azerbaijan concluded a contract with two Russian oil companies to exploit the Kyapaz/Serdar deposit. Ashgabat lays claim both to that deposit and part of the Chirag field. The unresolved dispute over the precise borders of the two countries' sectors of the Caspian Sea could hinder implementation of plans to construct a Trans-Caspian gas export pipeline from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan. Also on 13 May, Niyazov met in Ashgabat with Yosef Maiman, head of the Israeli Merhav company, which is advising Turkmenistan on that project, Interfax reported. LF UZBEK TERRORISM TRIALS BEGIN. Severe sentences have been handed down in the first of a series of trials of persons suspected of involvement in the bombings in Tashkent on 16 February, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported on 13 May. Fifteen people were killed and more than 100 injured in those attacks. LF YAROV TOURS CENTRAL ASIAN CAPITALS. Following his talks with President Nursultan Nazarbaev in Astana on 12 May, CIS Executive Secretary Yurii Yarov met with Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev in Bishkek the same day to discuss the planned CIS free trade zone and reform of the CIS executive bodies, Interfax reported. The following day, Yarov flew to Tashkent and Dushanbe for similar discussions with the Uzbek and Tajik presidents. Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov repeated his previous statements that economic integration within the CIS should take priority over any attempts at closer political integration. Tajikistan's Imomali Rakhmonov termed creation of a free-trade zone "an important short-term goal" that would speed up the integration of CIS member states into the world economic system. 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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