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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 95, Part I, 17 May 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 95, Part I, 17 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

* IMPEACHMENT EFFORT FALLS SHORT BY 17 VOTES

* STEPASHIN PROMISES GOVERNMENT OF 'TECHNOCRATS'

* UN SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR REFERENDUM, ELECTIONS IN
TAJIKISTAN
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RUSSIA

IMPEACHMENT EFFORT FALLS SHORT BY 17 VOTES... State Duma
deputies on 15 May failed to impeach Russian President Boris
Yeltsin on any of the five charges against him. According to
Interfax, the charge that the president initiated the war
against Chechnya fetched the most votes, 283 of the 300
needed. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said the
failed impeachment effort is in no way a defeat for his
party. He told Ekho Moskvy on 16 May that the vote signifies
the "political funeral of [Liberal Democrat Party leader
Vladimir] Zhirinovskii's party and Our Home Is Russia [NDR],"
who "were Yeltsin's accomplices in bringing down the
country." Those factions voted against impeachment. He also
accused Yabloko members, who had "promised 42 votes," of
"losing their nerve." Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii
expressed regret that the impeachment effort foundered but
noted that "90 percent" of his faction "solidly voted for the
Chechnya charge." JAC

...AS REGIONAL LEADERS, TRADERS HAIL RESULT. Regional and
other political leaders in Russia appeared to greet with
relief the results of the vote. Presidential envoy to
Yugoslavia and NDR leader Viktor Chernomyrdin called the
outcome "a triumph of common sense." Ryazan Oblast Governor
Vyacheslav Lyubimov concluded that "a big political campaign
is over and now it is time to get down to work," ITAR-TASS
reported on 16 May. Aleksandr Popov, chairman of Rostov
Oblast's legislative assembly, said he is glad the effort
failed in the Duma and "saved state money, since it would
have died at one of the next stages." Konstantin Titov,
Samara Oblast governor and informal leader of Golos Rossii,
called the vote's outcome a "serious defeat" for the
Communist Party. Both Lyubimov and Titov predicted that the
Duma will confirm acting Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin's
candidacy. On 17 May, the value of shares on Russia's stock
market rose sharply by 10 percent to 14 percent at the
opening of trading, Interfax reported. JAC

YELTSIN'S HEALTH MORE IMPORTANT NOW THAN EVER? On 15 May--the
same day that the impeachment vote took place--President
Yeltsin underwent what the Kremlin characterized as routine
and planned medical checks. Presidential spokesman Dmitrii
Yakushkin later said that the president felt "fine" after the
examination. The "Los Angeles Times" reported on 17 May that
the Russian Constitution does not indicate who would succeed
the president if he should die or become incapacitated, since
the Duma has not yet confirmed a new prime minister. Head of
the Constitutional Law department at Moscow's State and Law
Institute Igor Stepanov told the newspaper that gaps in the
constitution "not only create a legal impasse, they could
also trigger a fierce struggle for power." JAC

VICTORY PREDICTED FOR STEPASHIN. "Segodnya" had predicted on
15 May that the impeachment vote would fail and that acting
Prime Minister Stepashin might be confirmed on the very first
vote. According to the daily, Spiritual Heritage leader
Aleksei Podberezkin called Stepashin "the only representative
of the president's circle whom the Duma can accept." Also on
15 May, "Kommersant-Daily" also had predicted confirmation
for Stepashin because, the newspaper argued, if he is
rejected, Yeltsin will nominate First Deputy Prime Minister
Nikolai Aksenenko, who is reportedly business magnate Boris
Berezovskii's "protege." Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told
Ekho Moskvy on 15 May that he does "not rule out the Duma
giving [Stepashin] the go-ahead to form a cabinet." He added
that "I like the fact that there is nothing arrogant about
him.... He is a good expert in his field, a good person." NDR
faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov said that Stepashin has "a
chance" of being confirmed in the first round, Interfax
reported on 17 May. JAC

STEPASHIN PROMISES GOVERNMENT OF 'TECHNOCRATS'... In a
meeting with regional leaders on 16 May, Stepashin said that
a new deputy prime minister will be appointed to oversee
macroeconomic issues and that the post may be offered to a
member of the Duma, ITAR-TASS reported. The agency reported
that the offer was made to and accepted by Duma Budget
Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov (Russian Regions). On the
issue of other cabinet appointments, Stepashin said on 14 May
that the "backbone of the government will be retained" and
that "what is needed is a technocratic transitional-period
government." The same day, Stepashin appointed Vladimir
Engelsberg as head of the prime minister's directorate,
replacing Robert Markarian, who had been appointed by former
Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov. JAC

...VOWS TO CONTINUE ECONOMIC REFORM. On 14 May, Stepashin
said that the main tasks of his government will be the
adoption of legislation drafted by the Primakov government
for the IMF, the drafting of the 2000 budget and its
submission to the Duma before the summer recess,
implementation of the current budget, and timely payment of
pensions and wages as well as transfers to the regions,
"Izvestiya" reported on 15 May. He also said that his cabinet
will continue the course of large-scale economic reform
approved by President Yeltsin, which seeks to support Russian
producers, encourage investment in manufacturing and
agriculture, overhaul the tax and social welfare system and
fight crime and corruption, Interfax reported. On 16 May,
Stepashin said that licenses will be revoked for six major
Russian banks in connection with their participation in the
illegal export of capital abroad. JAC

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SLAMS NATO BOMBINGS. The Russian
Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 14 May condemning the
NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia as "madness," ITAR-TASS
reported. The statement said that NATO's attack on the
village of Korisa was "a new crime of the alliance" and
warned of "the most grave consequences of the military
actions against Yugoslavia." The statement also charged NATO
with killing more than 1,200 civilians since April. Duma
speaker Seleznev said in Moscow that NATO is a "terrorist
organization," and he suggested that Russia appeal to
"lawyers across the world to stage a public Nuremberg trial
of the fascist organization named NATO," AP reported FS

CHERNOMYRDIN SEES RUSSIA'S POSITION STRENGTHENED. Russian
special envoy to Yugoslavia Chernomyrdin, speaking in Moscow
on 14 May, dismissed media suggestions that Russia is too
"conciliatory" in its Kosova negotiations. He said that "on
the contrary, we are strengthening our position.... We are
[holding talks] to persuade Western leaders...that first of
all bombings must be stopped." Defense Minister Igor Sergeev
said that President Yeltsin has ordered him to review
Russia's military doctrine in the wake of NATO's actions. He
added, however, that "Russia is making persistent, daily
steps" toward finding a political solution to the Kosova
crisis. FS

YELTSIN TESTS COMMON GROUND WITH INDIA OVER KOSOVA. The head
of the Russian presidential foreign policy department, Sergei
Prikhodko, arrived in New Delhi on 15 May for talks with
Indian leaders. He told ITAR-TASS that "there is agreement
among the positions of Russia, China, and India on the Kosova
conflict, which is a good basis for uniting forces on the
international arena." He handed Prime Minister Atal Bihari
Vajpayee a message from Yeltsin, saying that "we encounter an
open challenge [by] NATO...to the entire system of
international relations." Meanwhile in New York, the UN
Security Council adopted a resolution expressing "profound
regrets over the [Chinese embassy] bombing [in Belgrade] and
deep sorrow for the loss of lives, injuries and property
damage." The council also adopted a resolution to support
humanitarian efforts, but China and Russia abstained from the
vote, demanding an end to NATO bombings. FS

IVANOV CRITICIZES DEFENSE POLICY OF NORDIC NEIGHBORS...
Russian acting Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said at an annual
summit of foreign ministers from Nordic and Baltic countries
in St. Petersburg on 14-15 May that "an increase in the
foreign military presence and activity on Russia's northern
border is taking place," Interfax reported. He said that
unspecified neighboring states have failed to "transform the
region into a zone of security and cooperation" and abandoned
"certain positions that in the past prevented a
destabilization...in the region." He did not elaborate,
however. Observers have suggested that his remarks are part
of Moscow's continued opposition to the eastward expansion of
NATO rather than a new, broader foreign policy campaign on
Moscow's part. Ivanov proposed an information exchange on
defense matters between the countries participating in the
meeting. The foreign Ministers of Russia, Iceland, and Norway
signed a treaty regulating fishing rights in the Barents Sea,
whereby they will fish a combined total of no more than 4,500
tons a year and will set exact quotas in Oslo later this
month, AP reported. FS

...MEETS WITH BALTIC FOREIGN MINISTERS. At separate meetings
with his Estonian and Latvian counterparts, Ivanov discussed,
among other things, signing bilateral agreements with the two
Baltic States, Baltic agencies reported. While showing
interest in concluding with Estonia accords on investment
protection and avoiding double taxation, Ivanov told Toomas
Hendrik Ilves that he will not rush to sign the Russian-
Estonian border treaty as long as the State Duma is unwilling
to ratify such a document. Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis
Birkavs told journalists that the two sides plan to prepare
by this fall a package of mostly trade and economic
agreements to be signed at a "top-level meeting." And
Lithuanian acting Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas said
that he and Ivanov reassured each other that recent changes
within the Russian and Lithuanian governments will not affect
the countries' "good" bilateral relations. JC

NEW COMMERCIAL BANK EMERGES. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on
14 May that Andrei Kozlov, former first deputy chairman of
the Central Bank, Aleksandr Zurabov, the chairman of
Menatep's board of directors, and owner of Russkii Standart
vodka Rustam Tariko have launched a new commercial bank
called Russkii Standart. According to the daily, the bank's
founders announced that they intend to support small and
medium-sized businesses. Banking experts estimate that the
start-up cost of the new bank will be at least $10 million.
JAC

NEW METHOD PROPOSED FOR BOOSTING ARMY REVENUES. Former First
Deputy Prime Minister and head of Molodaya Rossiya Boris
Nemtsov suggested on 16 May at the movement's congress in St.
Petersburg that the Defense Ministry could boost sagging
revenues by allowing draftees to buy their way out of serving
in the military, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Nemtsov,
parents of many young men already pay bribes of $5,000-
$10,000 for medical diagnoses that lead to the classification
of their children as unable to serve for health reasons. On
14 May, acting Defense Minister Sergeev told reporters that
work with the armed forces' personnel is the cornerstone of
combat readiness, since "much depends on our selection,
training and education of military personnel." JAC

TULEEV'S BLOC SCORES ANOTHER VICTORY IN KEMEROVO. Voters in
Prokopievsk elected Valerii Garanin, a member of the Bloc of
[Kemerovo Governor] Aman Tuleev, their new mayor on 16 May,
Interfax-Eurasia reported the next day. According to the
agency, more than 38 percent of registered voters
participated. The chairman of the city's election commission
said a complaint will be lodged with the local prosecutor's
office against the two other candidates in the race. He
claims that both committed acts of hooliganism, while the
candidates themselves have "declared war" with the election
commission over the results of the ballot. Governor Tuleev's
bloc scored an impressive victory during regional elections
in April, before which more than 60 candidates charged that
Tuleev's bloc had committed serious violations of election
law (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 21 April 1999).
JAC

VLADIVOSTOK ELECTIONS FAIL--AGAIN. After weeks of
controversial decisions by Vladivostok's election commission
and administration head, voters failed to turn up in
sufficient numbers for the 16 May election to the city's
legislative assembly to be valid. According to ITAR-TASS,
this was the 16th failed election attempt. The last vote
attracted enough voters, but the results were annulled
because of alleged voter fraud. City election commission head
Ilya Grinchenko told the agency that "every new flop cuts the
number of voters wanting to participate." Earlier in the
month, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr
Veshnyakov appealed to the head of the presidential
administration, Aleksandr Voloshin, to ensure that elections
to Vladivostok's legislative assembly 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," 12 May
1999). JAC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT SAYS DUMA SHARES BLAME FOR CHECHEN WAR.
Aslan Maskhadov told journalists in Grozny on 15 May that the
responsibility for the war in Chechnya is shared by the
entire Russian leadership, including the Duma, most of whose
deputies voted to support it, ITAR-TASS reported. He argued
that political instability in Russia is a direct consequence
of the strained relations between Moscow and Grozny and will
continue until "the two countries sign an inter-governmental
agreement establishing equal relations between them,"
according to Interfax. The previous day, acting Premier
Stepashin told a visiting delegation from the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe that preparations are
continuing for the planned meeting between Maskhadov and
President Yeltsin. He vowed to "make every effort to see that
the meeting is constructive," Interfax reported. LF

RUNOFF ELECTION IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA. Citing unofficial
results, Caucasus Press reported on 17 May that retired
General Vladimir Semenov polled some 75 percent of the vote
in the previous day's presidential runoff. Cherkessk Mayor
Stanislav Derev garnered some 20 percent. In the first round
of voting on 25 April, Derev had polled 40 percent and
Semenov 18 percent. Voter turnout was estimated at 63
percent. Electoral commission members suggested that the poll
results could be invalid as less than 75 percent of polling
stations were open. The German news agency dpa quoted acting
Russian Premier Stepashin as having warned both candidates
that federal troops would be deployed to quell any post-
election violence. District campaign headquarters of both
runoff candidates were subjected to arson attacks in recent
weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 1999). LF

FOUR KILLED BY BOMBS IN NORTH OSSETIA. Four people were
killed and 15 injured in a series of bomb explosions in a
military settlement on the outskirts of the North Ossetian
capital, Vladikavkaz, on 16 May, Interfax and ITAR-TASS
reported. More than 60 people died when a bomb exploded in
the town's central market some two months ago (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 22 March 1999). LF

FOREIGN AID WORKER ABDUCTED IN KABARDINO-BALKARIA. A New
Zealand citizen employed by the International Red Cross was
kidnapped in Nalchik, the capital of the Kabardino-Balkar
Republic, on 15 May, AP reported. A Russian woman also seized
was subsequently released. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

INSPECTORS SAY ARMENIA IN COMPLIANCE WITH CFE. A team of
French, Belgian, and Turkish military officers who inspected
an Armenian army detachment near Yerevan from 11-14 May
detected no violations of the limits on military equipment
stipulated by the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in
Europe, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 15 May, quoting a
senior Foreign Ministry official. An earlier inspection of
the Russian military base in Armenia similarly found no
violations of those limits (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April
1999). The Armenian parliament voted in May 1997 to cede part
of Armenia's CFE equipment allocation to Russia. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT LEAVES U.S. FOR HOME. Heidar Aliev, who
was discharged from the Cleveland Clinic a week ago after
heart bypass surgery, flew to London on 16 May, Interfax
reported. Aliev will travel to Turkey on 18 May and return to
Baku three days later. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CRITICIZES LAW ON MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS.
The Democratic Bloc, which is composed of 17 opposition
parliamentary deputies, issued a statement on 14 May
condemning as "reactionary" and "anti-democratic" legislation
on the status of municipalities and on municipal elections
passed by the parliament in the first reading on 4 May, Turan
reported. The statement says that the drafts of those bills
differed from the ones that had received a positive
assessment from Council of Europe experts before the vote. LF

INVESTIGATION OF BID TO KILL GEORGIAN PRESIDENT COMPLETED.
The Georgian Prosecutor-General's office has completed and
forwarded to the Supreme Court the investigation into the 9
February 1998 failed attempt to assassinate Eduard
Shevardnadze, Interfax reported. Thirteen people, including
Guram Absandze, who served as finance minister in 1990-1991
under President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, face charges of state
treason, attempted murder, and forming an anti-government
military organization. Senior investigator Gigla Agulashvili
told journalists that the accused had prepared the attack in
Chechnya. LF

BOMB EXPLODES NEAR ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT BUILDING. The Abkhaz
parliamentary building was damaged by a bomb explosion early
on 16 May, but no one was injured, Interfax reported. Two
days earlier, a political officer with the Russian peace-
keeping troops deployed along the border between Abkhazia and
the rest of Georgia expressed concern at a series of violent
incidents over the past week, which, he said, had augmented
tensions in southern Abkhazia. He suggested that the violence
is intended to sabotage the ongoing return of displaced
persons to Abkhazia, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

WORLD BANK APPROVES NEW LOAN FOR KAZAKHSTAN. The board of
directors of the World Bank has approved a $16.5 million loan
for Kazakhstan to finance the reform of the country's legal
and judicial system, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington
reported on 14 May. The bank also approved a $130,000 grant
to help Kazakhstan cope with the millennium bug, according to
Interfax. LF

KYRGYZ SECURITY COUNCIL APPROVES NEW FOREIGN POLICY CONCEPT.
Meeting in Bishkek on 14 May, the Security Council approved a
new foreign-policy concept drafted by the Foreign Ministry on
the basis of President Askar Akaev's "Silk Road Diplomacy"
doctrine, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. That doctrine,
published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 March, envisages
making use of Kyrgyzstan's geographic position to forge
harmonious relations with neighboring Central Asian
countries, with the states of Eastern and Southeastern Asia,
and with Europe. Addressing the council, Akaev called for a
concerted and coordinated effort to crack down on drug-
related crime, according to Interfax. LF

KYRGYZ CUSTOMS INTERCEPT PLUTONIUM SMUGGLER. Officials at
Bishkek airport arrested an Uzbek citizen who had agreed to
transport a canister of radioactive plutonium to the United
Arab Emirates, AP and dpa reported, quoting ITAR-TASS. The
man claimed to have been given the material by a stranger who
promised him $16,000 to smuggle it out of Kyrgyzstan. LF

UN SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR REFERENDUM, ELECTIONS IN
TAJIKISTAN. In a resolution unanimously adopted on 15 May,
the UN Security Council called on the Tajik authorities to
speed up implementation of the 1997 peace plan by
demobilizing fighters, establishing a "broad political
dialogue," and creating conditions for holding a referendum
and for parliamentary elections that are due before the end
of the year, Reuters and AP reported. The previous day, the
Tajik parliament voted unanimously to approve a proposal by
President Imomali Rakhmonov to amnesty some 5,500 opposition
fighters, Reuters reported. The amnesty was one of a series
of demands that United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo
Nuri had addressed to Rakhmonov earlier this month (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 1999). LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT UNENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT CIS FREE TRADE ZONE.
In talks with CIS Executive Secretary Yurii Yarov in Ashgabat
on 14 May, Saparmurat Niyazov said he considers it
inexpedient for his country to join the proposed CIS free
trade zone, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Niyazov said
Turkmenistan would incur financial losses of approximately
$500 million annually by acceding to that agreement. He also
noting that equal opportunities do not exist for all CIS
member states, citing Russia's rejection of Turkmen proposals
for the export of its gas to international markets via
Russian pipelines. Niyazov added that a CIS free trade zone
would become redundant if CIS states fulfilled their shared
ambition of joining the World Trade Organization. LF

UZBEK FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS TAJIKISTAN. On a two-day visit
to Dushanbe on 14-15 May, Abdulaziz Komilov held talks with
President Rakhmonov on the peace process in Tajikistan and
regional security issues, ITAR-TASS reported. Komilov told
journalists that Tashkent is monitoring the situation in
Tajikistan and "supports the policy conducted by the Tajik
president to consolidate the peace process." The Uzbek
delegation also met with Tajik officials to assess the
implementation of previous bilateral agreements. LF

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