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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 100, Part I, 24 May 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 100, Part I, 24 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 * NEW CABINET STARTS TO TAKE SHAPE * CHERNOMYRDIN SUSPENDS KOSOVA PEACE TALKS * GEORGIAN SECURITY OFFICIALS FORESTALL ATTACK ON PRESIDENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA NEW CABINET STARTS TO TAKE SHAPE. As predicted, Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed decrees on 21 May reappointing Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, and Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 1999). In an interview with NTV on 23 May, Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin revealed that Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov and Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko would also retain their positions, and he confirmed that First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov and Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik are definitely leaving the cabinet. Two days earlier, Stepashin had offered Kulik's post to Belgorod Governor Yevgenii Savchenko, who turned down the offer, citing the complex situation in his region, Interfax reported. "Segodnya" reported on 22 May that acting Tax Minister Georgii Boos will lose his post, despite having elicited the strong support of Stepashin and Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais. According to the daily, Aleksandr Pochinok, a former State Tax Service head, will likely assume the position. JAC NEW INTERIOR MINISTER NAMED... Also on 21 May, President Yeltsin named Vladimir Rushailo interior minister. Before that appointment, Rushailo was a deputy interior minister. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 22 May that business magnate Boris Berezovskii and Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev actively supported Rushailo's candidacy. However, Interfax, citing "well-informed Moscow sources," reported the previous day that rumors about Rushailo's close links with Berezovskii are "very far from the truth." Rushailo, a long- serving police officer, headed the Interior Ministry's unit battling organized crime and oversaw the investigation into some of the country's most important cases, such as the kidnapping of top officials in Chechnya and the murder of State Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova, Reuters reported. JAC ...AS NEW FIRST DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER ASKED TO EXPLAIN PAST DEALINGS. Nikolai Aksenenko continues to be the subject of controversy. Duma deputies are demanding that Aksenenko respond personally to allegations of corruption in his former capacity as head of the Railways Ministry at a plenary meeting on 4 June, "The Moscow Times" reported on 22 May. According to the newspaper, relatives of ministry officials-- including Aksenenko--reportedly hold key posts in companies that have or had dealings with the ministry. In addition, accusations of siphoning off money intended for ministry coffers are being levied against Transrail, a Swiss-based company set up by the ministry to act as liaison between the ministry and its foreign clients. JAC CHERNOMYRDIN SUSPENDS KOSOVA PEACE TALKS. Russia's special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin called off talks with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and UN special envoy Carl Bildt on 22 May, citing time constraints, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Both Papandreou and Bildt had arrived the previous day in Moscow and met later with Foreign Minister Ivanov and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. They did not disclose details of those meetings, but Bildt told AP that the Kosova conflict marks "a major failure of the international community." Ivanov told CNN that NATO increased the intensity of its bombing campaign on 20 May, when Chernomyrdin was visiting Belgrade. The foreign minister suggested that NATO is "trying to undermine the negotiations." The previous day, Ivanov told AP that the key remaining differences between Russia and NATO are over the composition of a peace-keeping force and NATO's insistence on the complete withdrawal of Serbian troops from Kosova. FS RUSSIA BLASTS NATO'S SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HUMANITARIAN MISSIONS. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 22 May issued a statement charging NATO officials with "cynicism" for asking the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to notify the alliance in advance about the movements of humanitarian convoys within Yugoslavia. The statement said that NATO is trying to "avoid responsibility for its increasingly frequent mistakes in delivering air strikes," AP reported. The statement called for an end to the air campaign. The previous day, the Russian Foreign Ministry had issued a statement saying that NATO planes have frequently dropped unused bombs in the Adriatic before returning to their bases, thereby posing a threat to navigation and fishing there, ITAR-TASS reported. FS YELTSIN ORDERS ARMY TO REVIEW INTELLIGENCE GATHERING. President Yeltsin ordered leading military officials from the Strategic Rocket Forces to draw up a report on how NATO has used satellites to collect military intelligence in Yugoslavia, AP reported. The forces' deputy head, Valerii Grin, said on 22 May that Yeltsin also asked the army to consider improving Russia's space-based intelligence- gathering abilities. Earlier, Yeltsin ordered the Defense Ministry to review Russia's entire military doctrine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 1999). Meanwhile, a State Duma commission issued a memorandum on 21 May saying that "Russia's policy in the Balkans should be reviewed [and should involve] broader and more active economic, political, military, and propaganda measures" as part of a "long-term strategy." It did not elaborate on what measures should be taken. FS REAL WAGES SHRINKING. Real disposable income in Russia sank 27.3 percent and real per capita wages fell 39.01 percent in the first four months of 1999, compared with the same period last year, according to the State Statistics Committee, Interfax reported on 21 May. On a month-to-month basis, however, real incomes are slowly edging up, gaining 5.2 percent in April over March and 4.7 percent in March compared with February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 1999). Meanwhile, agricultural output slid 4.7 percent in January- April 1999, compared with the same period the previous year, while retail trade dipped 15.01 percent. JAC NEW ELECTION LAW MOVES FORWARD. The Duma on 21 May approved in the second reading a new election law that would give those who run for the parliament in December 1999 the right to run simultaneously on the list of the election bloc with which they are affiliated and in single-mandate districts, Interfax reported. The vote was 354 in favor, four against, and one abstention. Under the current election law, candidates who occupy the top three places of the party's federal list cannot run in single-mandate districts, according to the agency. JAC LARGE NUMBERS OF PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS FACING EXTINCTION? In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 May, Justice Minister Krasheninnikov warned that up to 75,000 public organizations will be dissolved on 1 July if they have not re-registered with the Justice Ministry. According to Krasheninnikov, only 25 percent of Russia's more than 100,000 organizations have so far bothered to re-register. After 1 July, those organizations without valid registration will no longer be able to participate in elections or own property or bank accounts. On 20 May, "The Moscow Times" reported that the city of Moscow's justice department turned down re- registration requests by the Glasnost Foundation, Moscow's Research Center for Human Rights, and the Ecology and Human Rights group. Moscow justice department officials say that Glasnost Foundation made mistakes in preparing its registration documents and needs to only resubmit them. Foundation officials, however, accused the Justice Ministry of wanting to get rid of human rights organizations. JAC NEW INFORMATION OFFICER NAMED. Prime Minister Stepashin on 24 May named Aleksandr Mikhailov chief of the government information department, ITAR-TASS reported. Mikhailov was formerly chief of the Interior Ministry's public relations center. JAC ATTITUDE OF GOVERNORS' PARTIES TOWARD ONE ANOTHER STILL UNCLEAR. Members of Vsya Rossiya held their first constituent congress in St. Petersburg on 22 May. According to ITAR-TASS, more than 500 delegates from 82 regions and some 500 guests, including Otechestvo leader Yurii Luzhkov and Golos Rossii chairman Konstantin Titov, attended. Vsya Rossiya leader Mintimer Shaimiev confirmed earlier announcements that his movement will form an alliance with Otechestvo and that the movement's key goal will be to secure at least 15 percent of votes in parliamentary elections. "Izvestiya" reported on 22 May that the leaders of Vsya Rossiya have not yet decided whether they want to ally themselves with Golos Rossii, whose leadership earlier declared interest in such a partnership. According to the newspaper, relations between Golos Rossii and Otechestvo are frosty, and at that movement's constituent congress, some Golos Rossii members declared their opposition to Luzhkov. JAC KIRIENKO TO RUN FOR MAYOR OF MOSCOW? "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 May that members of the Golos Rossii movement are considering backing the candidacy of former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko in mayoral elections in Moscow. According to the daily, Kirienko's campaign might be bankrolled by members of Moscow's business elite who no longer support Moscow Mayor Luzhkov because "they never received their promised niche in politics." On 24 May, Kirienko told Russian Television that if Moscow mayoral elections were held in December 1999 rather than spring 2000, he would consider running for the post. Kirienko also emphasized that his candidacy will be put forward by his party, Novaya Sila (New Force). He added that Novaya Sila should form a coalition with Pravoe Delo (Right Cause) in order to surpass the 5 percent barrier for parliamentary representation. JAC RUSSIA PROPOSES CLOSER MILITARY COOPERATION WITHIN CIS. At the 20 May CIS defense ministers' meeting in Yerevan, Moscow proposed that the six CIS countries that intend to continue their participation in the CIS Collective Security Treaty should adopt a coalition military strategy, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the next day, without naming its source. The adoption of "Fundamental Tenets of Coalition Strategy of States Participating in the 1992 Collective Security Treaty," which summit participants reportedly support, would entail a closer degree of defense cooperation than has been the case until now. Such cooperation would be comparable to that provided for by the Russia-Belarus Union, the newspaper commented. Also discussed at the meeting was the possibility of creating "coalition groups of forces...to resolve the task of joint (collective) defense." LF CHECHEN PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER INJURED IN ASSASSINATION BID. Danilbek Tamkaev received multiple gunshot wounds and his brother Adam was killed when gunmen opened fire on their car on the outskirts of Grozny on 23 May, Interfax reported. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. LF DISAGREEMENT OVER KARACHAEVO-CHERKESS ELECTION RESULTS CONTINUES. The 14 members of the election commission of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia failed at a 21 May meeting to arrive at a unanimous decision on the validity of the results of the second round of voting on 16 May in the presidential election, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian presidential representative in the republic Ivan Golubev therefore decided to send all the relevant documentation to the Central Electoral Commission in Moscow. The chairman of the local electoral commission, Musa Psikhomakhov, said on 22 May that 1,527 complaints of voting irregularities were received. Meanwhile, Vladimir Semenov, who according to the official results polled more than 75 percent of the vote, accused his rival, Stanislav Derev, of failing to abide by an agreement that the two men had reached in Moscow on 18 May with then acting Premier Stepashin. According to that accord, both were to refrain from actions that would exacerbate tensions, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 22 May. LF MORE ADYGEIS FROM KOSOVA ARRIVE IN NORTH CAUCASUS. A group of 53 ethnic Adygeis, whose ancestors were forcibly resettled first to Ottoman Turkey and then to Kosova in the late 19th century, arrived in Maikop on 23 May, Russian agencies reported. A contingent of Adygeis evacuated earlier told "Die Presse" on 17 May that they are being subjected to discrimination in their ancestral homeland, that housing built especially for them has been occupied by others, and that they are unable to find work. They also expressed alarm at being unable to make telephone contact with other Adygeis who had remained in Kosova in the village of Donji Stanovci. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA U.S. ENVOY VISITS ARMENIA... Stephen Sestanovich, who is special adviser on the Newly Independent States to the U.S. Secretary of State, met with leading Armenian officials in Yerevan on 21 May to discuss the U.S.'s mediation role in the Karabakh conflict, the prospects for Armenia's increased participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, greater military cooperation with the U.S., and the upcoming parliamentary elections, Caucasus Press and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Sestanovich also met with Defense Ministry officials to discuss U.S. proposals for control over the transportation of raw materials that could be used for the manufacture of nuclear weapons. LF ...AND AZERBAIJAN. The following day, Sestanovich held talks in Baku with Prime Minister Artur Rasizade, Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov, and Defense Minister Safar Abiev, Russian and Azerbaijani agencies reported. State Foreign Policy Adviser Vafa Guluzade told Interfax that the issues discussed included the Balkan crisis, the Karabakh conflict, bilateral relations, and the ongoing dispute between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan over ownership of several offshore Caspian oilfields. Sestanovich told journalists that the U.S. supports both the mediation efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group and further personal contacts between Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders in order to resolve the Karabakh conflict. LF AZERBAIJAN HOSTS ECO FOREIGN MINISTERS. Meeting in Baku on 20-21 May, foreign ministers or their deputies from the nine member states of the Economic Cooperation Organization (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) discussed expanding regional cooperation, in particular the development of a network of export pipelines for oil and gas and the implementation of the 1998 agreement on transit cooperation, ITAR-TASS and AP-Blitz reported. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Zulfugarov, who was elected rotating chairman of the ECO foreign ministers' council, noted that such cooperation would serve to promote political stability. LF GEORGIAN SECURITY OFFICIALS FORESTALL ATTACK ON PRESIDENT. Georgian Interior and Security Ministry officials arrested eight people in Tbilisi during the night of 22 May on suspicion of preparing a series of terrorist acts, including an assassination attempt against President Eduard Shevardnadze. Weapons, including machine guns and grenade launchers, were seized. Georgian officials have so far declined to comment on unconfirmed reports that the arrested men were in possession posters of former Security Minister Igor Giorgadze, who is wanted in connection with the 1995 attempt to assassinate Shevardnadze. Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze confirmed on 24 May that senior Defense Ministry official General Gudjar Kurashvili was among those arrested. In his weekly radio broadcast, Shevardnadze said on 24 May that the organizers of the thwarted assassination attempt are abroad, in the first instance in Moscow, according to Caucasus Press. LF GEORGIA WANTS TWO RUSSIAN BASES CLOSED. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili said in Tbilisi on 23 May that it is unlikely that the treaty allowing Russia to maintain military bases in Georgia will ever be ratified in its present form, ITAR-TASS reported. He noted that the treaty allows Russia to maintain in Georgia a larger number of troops than is permitted under the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, adding that Tbilisi insists that all signatory states comply with that treaty. Menagharishvili said that it has not yet been decided which Russian bases in Georgia should be closed. But Rezo Adamia, chairman of the parliamentary Defense and Security Committee, told journalists in Tbilisi on 21 May that Georgia will demand the closure of the Gudauta and Vaziani bases. He noted that the Russian base in the predominantly Armenian-populated district of Akhaltsikhe provides employment for much of the local population, according to Caucasus Press. LF GEORGIAN WARLORD AMNESTIED. Former Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani was released from prison on 22 May under an amnesty for 99 prisoners signed by President Shevardnadze the previous day, Reuters and Caucasus Press reported. Kitovani was sentenced to an eight-year prison sentence in 1996 for allegedly attempting to launch an insurrection. He went on hunger strike in February to demand a review of his case (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 6, 10 February 1999). Kitovani told journalists after his release that he intends to return to active politics and run in this fall's parliamentary elections. According to Interfax, Kitovani also called for the release of fellow warlord Djaba Ioseliani, who is suffering from bone tuberculosis. Ioseliani is serving an 11-year sentence for terrorism and attempting to assassinate Shevardnadze in 1995. The Georgian Supreme Court recently rejected Ioseliani's appeal for clemency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 1999). LF ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT WANTS OBSERVER STATUS IN RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION. Parliamentary deputies of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia voted on 21 May to request observer status for Abkhazia within the Russia-Belarus Union, Caucasus Press reported, citing Abkhaz television. They also addressed an appeal to the Russian government to declare invalid the results of the 16 May presidential runoff in the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia. The Abkhaz are ethnically close to the Cherkess and Abazins, who constitute approximately 10 percent of that republic's total population. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba has called on the Karachaevo-Cherkessia authorities to take measures to preserve stability, while Ingush President Ruslan Aushev has called for legal action against anyone who advocates a violent solution to the standoff. LF KAZAKHSTAN PLANS TO EXPORT MORE OIL VIA AZERBAIJAN. Attending the ECO foreign ministers' meeting in Baku, Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Kazymzhomart Toqaev said his country hopes to increase the amount of crude exported via Azerbaijan and Georgia from 1 million tons to 5 million tons in 1999, and possibly to 10 million tons annually, ITAR-TASS reported. Toqaev said Kazakhstan may acquire its own oil tankers to transport the oil across the Caspian, as the desired construction of an underwater oil pipeline from Aktau to Baku is problematic in the absence of a final agreement among Caspian littoral states on the legal status of the sea. LF KYRGYZ PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTY WANTS NEW COMPENSATION AGREEMENT. Speaking at a news conference in Bishkek on 21 May, Jypar Jaksheev argued that the January 1999 agreement concluded by the Kyrgyz government and the Kumtor Operating Company on compensation for victims of the May 1998 ecological disaster in Kyrgyzstan's Issyk-Kul region should be revoked, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Four people died and thousands suffered from poisoning after a Kumtor-owned lorry spilled toxic chemicals into a local river. Jeksheev accused the Kyrgyz government and the Canadian company Cameco, which owns Kumtor, of failing to pay the promised compensation. And he hinted that he will take the case to international courts. Under the January 1999 agreement, Cameco was to pay the Kyrgyz government $4.6 million, of which $3 million was earmarked as compensation for the victims of the spill. LF KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE DISCUSSES CURRENCY CRISIS. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Silaev, Finance Minister Marat Sultanov, and acting Chairman of the National Bank Ulan Sarbanov took part in a session of the parliamentary committee on economic and budgetary issues on 21 May, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The participants expressed concern that the som has lost 40 percent of its value over the past two months, and they blamed the depreciation on currency speculation by commercial banks. The current exchange rate is 42 soms to the $1, compared with 17 soms in July 1998 and 30 soms in early March 1999. LF KAZAKHSTAN RESUMES GAS SUPPLIES TO KYRGYZSTAN. Northern regions of Kyrgyzstan began receiving gas from Kazakhstan on 22 May after the Kyrgyz government paid the first installment, worth $25,000, of its $2.2 million back debt to Kazakhstan's Intergaz company, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Intergaz cut off supplies to those regions last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 1999). 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. 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