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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 98, Part I, 20 May 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 98, Part I, 20 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

* FOREIGN, JUSTICE MINISTERS TO RETAIN POSTS

* BILL ON HELPING RUSSIANS ABROAD BECOMES LAW

* CHINESE EMBASSY DENIES KNOWLEDGE OF ROCKET SALES TO ARMENIA
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RUSSIA

FOREIGN, JUSTICE MINISTERS TO RETAIN POSTS... RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau reported on 20 May that Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov,
Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, and Justice Minister
Pavel Krasheninnikov will be reappointed. According to
Interfax, President Boris Yeltsin asked Prime Minister Sergei
Stepashin to suggest several names for candidates to replace
him at the Interior Ministry. Current senior Interior
Ministry officials such as Vladimir Strashko, Vladimir
Kolesnikov, Vladimir Vasilev, and Vladimir Rushailo are
reportedly top contenders for the post. Former Minister for
International Economic Relations and current President of
Alfa Bank Petr Aven will likely be appointed Russia's envoy
to international financial institutions such as the IMF,
Interfax reported, citing "financial sources." JAC

...AS STEPASHIN GETS FIRST REJECTION. State Duma Budget
Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov (Russian Regions)
announced on 20 May that he will not accept Prime Minster
Stepashin's offer of the post of deputy premier with
responsibility for economic policy, ITAR-TASS reported.
Zhukov told reporters that he will accept the position only
under certain conditions--one of them being that the
cabinet's economic team be composed of like-minded
individuals. Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev said later that
day that "Zhukov is absolutely right in refusing to work with
[First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai] Aksenenko." NTV
reported the previous day that Aksenenko "has demonstrated an
extraordinary independence in his actions and statements
these past few days." "Moskovskii komsomolets" of 20 May was
more frank, suggesting that Aksenenko is "behaving as if
Stepashin did not exist at all" and commenting that "he seems
to believe in the market even less than [acting First Deputy
Prime Minister Yurii] Maslyukov." JAC

BEREZOVSKII, OTHERS TRYING TO INFLUENCE CABINET MAKE-UP...
Russian media are devoting renewed attention to the behind-
the-scenes machinations of the country's so-called oligarchs.
"Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 20 May that SBS-Agro
Bank President Aleksandr Smolenskii has asked Prime Minister
Stepashin to reappoint Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik
or another candidate sympathetic to his bank. On 18 May,
"Kommersant-Daily" reported that business magnate Boris
Berezovskii is trying to strengthen the position of First
Deputy Prime Minister Aksenenko, "his protege in the
government." According to the newspaper, Stepashin is
resisting that effort and plans to promote acting Economics
Minister Andrei Shapovalyants to deputy prime minister
overseeing the economy, the Trade and the Anti-Monopoly
Ministries as a counterbalance to Aksenenko. Shapovalyants
was a member of former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii
Tuba's team. An additional counterweight to Aksenenko was
supposed to been provided by Duma Budget Committee Chairman
Zhukov. JAC

...AS ZHIRINOVSKII MAKES HIS OWN SUGGESTIONS. On 20 May,
"Sovetskaya Rossiya" published what it alleged is a letter
from Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii
presenting a list of candidates from his party for cabinet
posts. He suggests 17 candidates to head Slavneft, Sberbank,
and the ministries of education, trade, anti-monopoly policy,
state property, and regional policy, among other posts. For
himself, he suggests the post of first deputy prime minister.
However, at a press conference the previous day, he said he
wants to be responsible only for the committee to bury former
Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. JAC

BILL ON HELPING RUSSIANS ABROAD BECOMES LAW. The Federation
Council on 17 May overrode a presidential veto on the law on
state policy regarding relations with Russians abroad,
"Izvestiya" reported on 20 May. Under the law, Russia can
provide "compatriots" living in foreign countries the means
to establish local governing bodies. The law also addresses
the status of the Russian language in other countries where
ethnic Russians are a minority, the daily reported. According
to the newspaper, President Yeltsin rejected the legislation
earlier because the term "compatriots" has no legal basis and
the bill violates the principle in international law of non-
interference in the affairs of other countries. Now that his
veto has been overridden his only recourse is to challenge it
in the Constitution Court, according to the daily. JAC

CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS MILOSEVIC TOOK 'STEP FORWARD.' Russian
special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin proceeded to
Belgrade on 19 May, after talks in Helsinki with Finnish
President Martti Ahtisaari and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
Strobe Talbott. Returning to Moscow on 20 May, Chernomyrdin
said that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic took "a step
forward" during their talks, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same
time, he noted that Milosevic rejected the complete
withdrawal of Yugoslav troops from Kosova. Chernomyrdin will
brief both Talbott and Ahtisaari in Moscow later on 20 May.
Milosevic's office in Belgrade issued a statement the
previous day saying that "the solution could be found only
politically and within the UN, and with the active and direct
participation of Yugoslavia, [based on] the principles" laid
down by the G-8 countries in early May (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 7 May 1999). The BBC on 20 May quoted an unnamed
Yugoslav diplomat as saying, with regard to the G-8 document,
that "Belgrade likes vaguely worded documents because that
opens the door for negotiations." FS

MAYORSKII SAYS G-8 TALKS 'DIFFICULT AND UNPLEASANT.' Russian
senior diplomat Boris Mayorskii said in Bonn on 19 May that
the negotiations there among G-8 diplomats over a UN Security
Council resolution are "difficult and sometimes very
unpleasant." He stressed Russia's position that "as long as
the [NATO] bombing continues, the result of our work cannot
be agreed upon," AP reported. German diplomat Guenter Pleuger
said that the officials drafted a working text of a
resolution but noted that many parts of it were left open for
further negotiation and "important points remain to be
settled." Pleuger also commented that the key points of
disagreement are NATO's role in a peace-keeping force and a
precise timetable for an end to air strikes and a Serbian
troop withdrawal. Talbott, who arrived in Bonn from Helsinki,
said the key question is whether Milosevic is ready to accept
the G-8 principles. FS

RUSSIA, SYRIA SIGN NUCLEAR POWER AGREEMENT. Yevgenii Adamov,
who is minister of atomic energy in the outgoing Russian
cabinet, and Ibraghim Osman, director-general of the Syrian
Commission for Atomic Energy, signed a 10-year cooperation
agreement in Moscow on 19 May, Interfax and ITAR-TASS
reported. The agreement provides for scientific, technical,
and economic cooperation in the peaceful application of
nuclear energy. Adamov noted that the agreement took years to
draft and sign and that no time must be lost in its
implementation. LF

BARAK VICTORY CUTS SHORT RUSSIAN-ISRAELI HONEYMOON? Yeltsin
on 19 May hailed the victory of Labor Party leader Ehud Barak
in Israel's general elections, saying that the "results of
the Israeli people's choice convincingly demonstrate their
desire for a speedy political settlement with their Arab
neighbors," according to the presidential press service.
Noting that several members of the cabinet of vanquished
former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had visited Moscow,
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" speculated that the Kremlin is more
likely cursing its bad judgement for backing the "wrong
horse." According to the newspaper, "Moscow was carried away
by its practically unilateral support for Netanyahu" and "has
not only worsened its already poor relations with Israeli
socialists...but has also caused discontent in many Arab
states." JAC

MOSCOW TO MOVE UP CITY ELECTIONS? A bill submitted to the
city's legislative assembly on 19 May provides for moving up
elections for Moscow's mayor and deputy mayor from June 2000
to December 1999 so that they would take place simultaneously
with the State Duma elections, Interfax reported. According
to assembly chairman Vladimir Platonov, the move would save
the city money. However, political analysts told "The Moscow
Times" that the reasoning is more along the lines that a
victory in December elections would allow Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov to focus on his presidential campaign and ensure his
political future should his presidential bid falter. JAC

VLADIVOSTOK TO TRY AGAIN. Vladivostok's city election
commission on 20 May announced that by-elections for seats in
the city's legislative assembly in four districts would be
held on 20 June, ITAR-TASS reported. The commission announced
earlier that the results of elections held on 16 May had to
be declared invalid in eight of the city's districts because
of low turnout. Under federal and local legislation, new
elections in these districts must be held no later than the
end of September. One candidate in the election, former Mayor
Viktor Cherepkov, may be in Moscow come July, according to
Radio Mayak on 20 May. The station claims that he has been
offered the position of minister for labor and social
development at the recommendation of Right Cause movement
leaders Chubais and Boris Nemtsov. JAC

KEY WITNESSES REFUSE TO TESTIFY IN PASKO TRIAL. Three
Japanese journalists refused to testify in the espionage and
treason trail of military journalist Grigorii Pasko,
Interfax-Eurasia reported on 19 May. One of Pasko's lawyers
told AP that the reporters are afraid to come to Russia
because they believe they might be arrested as Pasko's
accomplices. Pasko is accused of supplying classified
military information to Japanese television about the
environmentally hazardous practices of Russia's Pacific
Fleet. JAC

FIRES SWEEP THROUGH FAR EASTERN FORESTS. The number of forest
fires in the Far East has more than tripled over the last two
days, an official with the forest service for the Far East
told ITAR-TASS on 19 May. According to the agency, up to
7,500 acres in Khabarovsk Oblast were on fire. The next day,
the agency reported that almost 5,000 acres of forests in
Irkutsk Oblast are engulfed in flames. Forest service
officials are concerned that their agency's chronic lack of
fuel and equipment will lead to the destruction of more of
the region's taiga as fire season sets in. Last year, more
than 400,000 acres were destroyed. JAC

TATAR NATIONALISTS CALL FOR ELECTION BOYCOTT. The All-Tatar
Public Center issued a statement on 19 May calling on voters
to boycott the upcoming State Duma elections and next year's
Russian presidential poll, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported.
The statement also called for a ban on all "pro-Russian
parties, movements, and media" in Tatarstan. The newspaper
interpreted the appeal as a direct response to Tatarstan's
President Mintimer Shaimiev's unequivocal support for the
recently created Vsya Rossiya political bloc. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

SOME ARMENIAN CLERGY OPPOSE POPE'S PLANNED VISIT. The Vatican
officially confirmed on 19 May that Pope John Paul II will
visit Armenia from 2-4 July as part of the celebration of the
1,700th anniversary of Armenia's adoption of Christianity as
the state religion, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
26 March and 21 April 1999). But Azg/Mirror-On-Line reported
the same day that some members of the Armenian clergy oppose
the planned visit, which they fear reflects an attempt by the
Catholic Church to bring the Armenian Apostolic Church under
its influence. Some priests reportedly also resent the fact
that Catholicos Karekin I did not consult with his clergy
before inviting the pontiff to visit Armenia. LF

CIS EXECUTIVE SECRETARY VISITS ARMENIA. Continuing his tour
of CIS capitals, Yurii Yarov met with President Robert
Kocharian and Prime Minister Armen Darpinian in Yerevan on 19
May, Noyan Tapan reported. Those talks focused on the planned
CIS free trade zone, the restructuring of the CIS Executive
Committee, and the distribution of posts on that committee
among individual CIS states. Yarov subsequently told
journalists that the level of economic cooperation between
CIS member states is inadequate, which he attributed to the
impact of the region-wide financial crisis. Darpinian said
that CIS heads of state will sign an agreement on the free-
trade zone at their next summit in Minsk in early June,
adding that the zone will become operational on 1 January
2000. Yarov also rejected suggestions that his predecessor,
Boris Berezovskii, was responsible for the decision by
Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia not to renew their
participation in the CIS Collective Security Treaty. LF

CHINESE EMBASSY DENIES KNOWLEDGE OF ROCKET SALES TO ARMENIA.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Yerevan told Noyan
Tapan on 19 May that the embassy has no information
concerning allegations made the previous day by Azerbaijan
State Foreign Policy Adviser Vafa Guluzade that Armenia has
acquired eight Chinese Typhoon multiple rocket systems (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 1999). LF

ABKHAZ PRESIDENT TO SEEK RE-ELECTION. Vladislav Ardzinba
intends to seek a second term in the presidential elections
to be held in September 1999, Caucasus Press reported on 20
May, quoting presidential adviser Astamur Tania. Tania said
that "other political forces" in Abkhazia, whom he did not
name, will also nominate candidates. Tania dismissed the
Amtzabz (Fire) opposition movement as "a myth created by
Georgian intelligence" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 1999).
He said leaflets distributed in Abkhazia in the name of that
movement were printed in Georgia and are of a higher quality
than can be produced using the typographic facilities
available in Abkhazia. LF

ABKHAZIA REJECTS RUSSIAN CRITICISM OF PLANNED MILITARY
EXERCISES. Caucasus Press on 20 May quoted Abkhaz Security
Minister Astamur Tarba as saying that as planned, the
unrecognized republic will hold large-scale military
maneuvers late this month, despite the protest by a senior
officer of the Russian peacekeeping contingent that such
exercises would violate the May 1994 cease-fire agreement
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 1999). Tarba said the
maneuvers will be held in a district of Ochamchira Raion that
is not part of the military zone, in which only limited
amounts of military equipment may be deployed. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTIES SIGN MEMORANDUM. Several opposition
parties and movements including Azat, Azamat, Orleu, and the
Communist Party have signed a memorandum on preparations for
the October parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau
reported on 20 May. Orleu leader Seydakhmet Quttyqadam
explained that the opposition's primary aim is to campaign
against the existing political system rather than against
either President Nursultan Nazarbaev or Prime Minister Nurlan
Balghymbaev. LF

KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS STAGE NEW PICKET. Some 50
people picketed the parliamentary building in Bishkek on 19
May to demand the resignation of Justice Minister Nelly
Beishenalieva and the re-registration of the Kyrgyz Committee
for Human Rights, RFE/RL correspondents in the Kyrgyz capital
reported. Members of the committee, whose registration was
revoked by the Ministry of Justice in September 1998, had
staged a similar picket last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13
May 1999). Members of the presidential administration met
with the picketers that day and created a joint commission to
investigate the issue. Commission member Beishenalieva
continues to oppose the committee's re-registration. LF

TAJIK AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATE LATEST ARMED CLASH. Members of
the Committee for National Reconciliation and the United
Tajik Opposition are trying to determine the circumstances
that led to fighting between refugees from Uzbekistan and
fighters from an Uzbek opposition group during the night of
16-17 May in a village in Garm Oblast, AP-Blitz reported on
20 May. Some 18 people were killed in the fighting. The head
of the Uzbek opposition group, Juma Namangoni, is reportedly
wanted in Uzbekistan on suspicion of involvement in the
series of bombings in Tashkent in February. Since those
attacks, the number of refugees fleeing from Uzbekistan to
Tajikistan has increased. LF

TURKMENISTAN'S CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION MEETS. The
Central Electoral Commission has held its first session
devoted to preparations for the 12 December parliamentary
elections, Interfax reported on 19 May. Under the schedule
adopted at that meeting, the commission has 10 days after the
elections in which to count votes and announce the names of
new parliamentary deputies. For the first time, international
observers will be on hand to monitor the poll. LF

UZBEKISTAN WANTS FOREIGN INVOLVEMENT IN PRIVATIZATION.
President Islam Karimov has described foreign participation
in the ongoing privatization process as "vital" at the
current stage of the reform process, Interfax reported on 19
May. Revenues from privatization in the first quarter of 1999
were some 20 percent down on the same period last year.
Karimov said that the world financial crisis should not
negatively affect either privatization or the process of
attracting foreign investment. It is unclear whether he
addressed the deterrent effect on potential investors of
restrictions on the convertibility of the national currency.
LF
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