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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 94, Part I, 14 May 1999


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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

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Headlines, Part I

* DUMA SHOWS SIGNS OF WARMING TOWARD STEPASHIN

* IMPEACHMENT PROCESS EXPERIENCES SOME HICCUPS

* KYRGYZ PROTEST EMBEZZLEMENT OF DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS
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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

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