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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 102, Part I, 26 May 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 102, Part I, 26 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 * CABINET SELECTION PROCESS NEARS COMPLETION * GOVERNMENT SURVIVOR TAPPED TO STEER ECONOMY * TAJIK GOVERNMENT CONDEMNS OPPOSITION ULTIMATUM xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA CABINET SELECTION PROCESS NEARS COMPLETION... State Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov was not appointed first deputy prime minister on 25 May, as NTV had reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1999). Instead, Mikhail Zadornov, who was finance minister in the cabinets of Viktor Chernomyrdin, Sergei Kirienko, and Yevgenii Primakov, was promoted to First Deputy Prime Minister, while First Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov was tapped for the top spot at the Finance Ministry. According to Reuters, a decree naming Zhukov was prepared but never issued. So far, the futures of acting Economic Minister Andrei Shapovalyants and Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Bulgak have not been clarified. The new finance minister, Mikhail Kasyanov, was earlier responsible for conducting negotiations with Russia's various creditors. JAC ...AS MANY MINISTRIES RETAIN CURRENT LEADERSHIP. Also on 25 May, President Boris Yeltsin appointed Aleksandr Pochinok minister of tax, replacing Georgii Boos. Pochinok is a former head of the State Tax Service. As expected, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko, Transportation Minister Sergei Frank, Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov, Labor Minister Sergei Kalashnikov, Education Minister Vladimir Filippov, State Property Minister Farit Gazizullin, Science Minister Mikhail Kirpichnikov, Culture Minister Vladimir Yegorov, and Natural Resources Minister Viktor Orlov were all reappointed, Interfax reported. Viktor Kalyuzhnii was promoted from first deputy minister for fuel and energy to the top spot at the ministry, replacing Sergei Generalov. Kalyuzhnii, a former executive with Tomskneft, is reported to have close ties with LUKoil, according to "Segodya" and "Vremya MN." Mikhail Fradkov was appointed trade minister, replacing Georgii Gabuniya. JAC GOVERNMENT SURVIVOR TAPPED TO STEER ECONOMY. New First Deputy Prime Minister Zadornov, a former member of Yabloko, is the last remaining member of the team that oversaw Russian monetary policy when the de facto devaluation of the ruble occurred in mid-August 1998. During his tenure at the Finance Ministry, Zadornov has earned harsh criticism from military officials and certain regional leaders for keeping too tight a rein on financial flows. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told Interfax that he feels "positive in principle" about Zadornov's appointment, calling him "a professional who knows his job." Deputy Chairman of the Yabloko faction Sergei Ivanenko called Zadornov's appointment "a reasonable and perhaps most optimal decision." Duma deputy and Communist Party Deputy Chairman Valentin Kuptsov was less pleased, predicting that Zadornov's appointment might elicit "a lot of puzzling questions since he was one of the culprits of the financial crisis of 17 August." JAC STEPASHIN TO CREATE NEW TOP SPOT FOR DEFENSE. Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin said on 25 May that he will appoint a deputy prime minister to oversee defense policy. AFP reported the same day that Federal Security Service head Vladimir Putin and Foreign Intelligence chief Vyacheslav Trubnikov have been "confirmed" in their posts. JAC NEW AGRICULTURAL POLICY HEAD HAILED. Vladimir Shcherbak was named both minister for food and agriculture and deputy prime minister with responsibility for agricultural issues, Interfax reported. Shcherbak had been first deputy minister of agriculture since 1992, before which he headed the Russian branch of Agroprom, "Izvestiya" reported on 26 May. During his tenure at the Agriculture Ministry, Shcherbak was responsible for negotiating with the EU and U.S. for some $1.5 billion in food aid, "The Moscow Times" reported on 26 May. Both AKKOR head Vladimir Bashmachnikov and Leonid Kholod, a former deputy economics minister and agricultural expert, praised Shcherbak's appointment. Kholod called him a "better choice" than his predecessor, former Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik, according to the daily. JAC TALBOTT REAFFIRMS NATO POSITION. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Moscow on 26 May, said that NATO stands by its demands for a complete withdrawal of Serbian and Yugoslav troops from Kosova. He stressed that conditions for the return of refugees cannot be "favorable" as long as Yugoslav soldiers remain there. He also made clear that "NATO will certainly be involved in a very central way in [any] international [peace-keeping] force," Reuters reported. The previous day, Talbott said he is "well aware of the strains the NATO air strikes have created for U.S.-Russian relations." Talbott is due to hold talks later on 26 May with Russian special envoy to Yugoslavia Chernomyrdin and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. FS CHERNOMYRDIN ANNOUNCES ANOTHER BELGRADE MISSION. Chernomyrdin said in Nizhnii Novgorod on 25 May that he will meet with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on 27 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 21 May 1999). Chernomyrdin told Reuters that "the main thing now is to sit both sides down at the negotiating table with the participation of the competent international organizations and not to let Russia be dragged into the war, though many want this." Chernomyrdin also told Interfax that he rejects the suggestions of unspecified "hard-liners in the Russian establishment" to supply military technology to Yugoslavia in defiance of an international embargo. He made clear that "we will not supply anything." FS MORE REPORTS OF RUSSIANS FIGHTING IN KOSOVA. "Segodnya" on 24 May reported that the Russian Guard, the Russian Party of National Revival, Officers for National Revival, and other nationalist organizations have been recruiting volunteers to fight in Kosova. An unnamed volunteer leader said that "a couple of weeks ago" a small group of radio specialists, anti-aircraft gunners, and other anti-aircraft specialists left for Yugoslavia. He added that other military experts are ready to follow them. "There is nothing for us to do there at the moment: the Serbs can manage [the guerillas] by themselves," he said. But at the same time, he warned that "if NATO dares send in its ground forces..., Russian volunteers will immediately go to Serbia." Cossack Colonel Vladimir Simonov told the daily that a Cossack delegation met with Milosevic over Easter and gave him lists of 12,000 volunteers, all of whom reportedly have military experience. FS MOSCOW, DELHI TO SIGN STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP DECLARATION. Russia and India plan to sign a declaration of strategic partnership, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov told journalists following a meeting with his Indian counterpart, Jaswant Singh, in Moscow on 25 May, Interfax reported. The principles of that declaration, expected to be signed at a Russian- Indian summit later this year, will become the "foundation for [bilateral] cooperation in the 21st century," he added. Discussing the Kosova crisis, the two foreign ministers agreed that NATO should immediately stop its bombing campaign and seek a political solution to the crisis. Singh also discussed the Kosova crisis, among other issues, in a telephone conversation with President Yeltsin, who is currently in Sochi. Both leaders expressed satisfaction with the level of bilateral cooperation, which, they said, plays an important role in regional stability and in the creation of a "multi-polar world order." JC PENSION BACKLOG REDUCED... As of 1 May, the level of unpaid pensions --16.5 billion rubles ($670 million)--dropped almost by half, compared with the figure of 30.5 billion rubles recorded on 1 October 1998, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko announced on 25 May. According to ITAR-TASS, Matvienko promised that all pension arrears would be wiped out by October 1999. In the meantime, 32 regions have eradicated their pension debts altogether, while 34 regions are only one or two months behind. According to "Izvestiya" on 26 May, as of 1 May only 10 regions owed no back wages to state workers, while another 17, including Vologda, Murmansk, Leningrad, Bryansk, and Kaluga Oblasts, were experiencing delays of no more than a month. JAC ...BUT TIMELY WAGE PAYMENT REMAINS PROBLEM. First Deputy Chairman of the Pension Fund Aleksandr Kutrin told reporters the same day that the regions with the largest pension backlogs are Altai Krai, the Republics of Buryatia and Khakassia, Tula Oblast, and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. "Izvestiya" reported that regions with wage delays ranging from three to seven months include Kemerovo, Omsk, Chita, Magadan, and Sakhalin Oblasts, the Republics of Altai, Khakassia, and Buryatia, and the Koryak and Chukotka Autonomous Okrugs. JAC PRIMAKOV TO PEN BIOGRAPHY, AS ASSOCIATES SET UP OVERSEAS. Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov has begun writing his memoirs, RIA news agency reported on 25 May. Former Deputy Prime Minister Kulik told the agency that Primakov is considering several possibilities for the future but wants first to deal with his health problems. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 May that two of Primakov's closest associates are to be assigned to diplomatic posts overseas. Former head of the government apparatus Yurii Zubakov will head the embassy in Lithuania, while former head of the Prime Minister's Secretariat Robert Markarian is going to Syria. JAC NATIONAL LEADER CALLS FOR REFERENDUM ON BURYING LENIN. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 25 May welcomed Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II's proposal to bury the embalmed body of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin but added that the issue should be resolved by consensus, Interfax reported. Patriarch Aleksii II had lamented the previous day that the "beautiful Red Square" has been turned "into a cemetery for revolutionaries." "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day that according to its sources, President Yeltsin considers the "'liberation of Russia from the heritage of Communism' to be his mission and intends to clear Red Square of any symbols of Bolshevism before the end of his reign." Konstantin Titov, Samara Oblast governor and informal leader of Golos Rossii, echoed Luzhkov's call for reaching consensus on the issue, telling Interfax that the country "shouldn't act too hastily in trying to resolve this issue." JAC WOULD-BE 'MIR' BENEFACTOR GROUNDED? Head of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center Petr Klimuk told Interfax on 26 May that British businessman Peter Llewellyn will not fly to the "Mir" space station in August 1999. Llewellyn had promised to raise funds for a children's hospital by making that flight as well as attracting new loans for the station. According to Reuters, Llewellyn could not be reached for comment and an official at the training center did not know the businessman's future plans. JAC CHECHEN MUFTI'S BODYGUARDS KILLED BY BOMB. Five men identified as bodyguards of Akhmad-hadji Kadyrov died when their car was destroyed by a bomb blast in Grozny on 25 May, Russian agencies reported. Interior Minister Khizar Mezhidov said the bomb was identical to those used in earlier such attacks. Kadyrov narrowly escaped death in a similar attack last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998). LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA SALE OF ARMENIAN BRANDY PLANT FINALIZED. Representatives of the Armenian government and France's Pernod Ricard group signed an agreement in Yerevan on 25 May finalizing the French concern's purchase of the Yerevan Brandy Factory, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Pernod Ricard won a tender for the factory in 1998, but opposition parliamentary deputies, protesting that the $30 million price tag was too low, tried unsuccessfully to block ratification of the sale. In December 1998, Pernod Ricard requested a six-month postponement in finalizing the deal, saying that the Russian financial crisis had seriously affected the market in Russia for Armenian cognac. A spokesman said on 25 May that Pernod Ricard no longer has any doubts about the factory's economic viability. LF AZERBAIJAN'S LIBERAL PARTY WITHDRAWS FROM OPPOSITION ALLIANCE. The Liberal Party of Azerbaijan issued a statement on 25 May saying it considers "inexpedient" its continued membership in the Movement for Electoral Reform and Democratic Elections, created one year earlier, Turan reported. The statement said the movement's members have become mired in disputes among themselves. Musavat Party Isa Gambar, Democratic Party chairman Ilyas Ismailov, and Azerbaijan Popular Front Party first deputy chairman Ali Kerimov all expressed regret at the decision. LF AZERBAIJAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY CALLS ON OPPOSITION TO JOIN DEBATE ON ELECTION LAW. Fazail Agamaly on 25 May requested parliamentary deputy speaker Arif Ragimzade to ask the 17 opposition Democratic Bloc deputies to participate in the second reading, scheduled for that day, of the draft Law on Municipal Elections, Turan reported. The Democratic Bloc, which has been boycotting parliamentary proceedings for almost a month to protest alleged restrictions on its activities, criticized that bill as "reactionary" and "undemocratic" after its first reading (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 April and 17 May 1999). Meanwhile more than 60 deputies have appealed for an emergency parliamentary session to be convened on 1 June. They fear the municipal elections bill will not be passed before the end of the spring session, on 31 May. Those elections were scheduled to have been held two years ago. LF MORE ALLEGED COUP PLOTTERS ARRESTED IN GEORGIA. Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze told parliamentary deputies on 25 May that 12 people have now been arrested on suspicion of planning terrorist acts and the assassination of President Eduard Shevardnadze with the aim of seizing power, Interfax reported. At least four of them are former Security Ministry officials, according to Caucasus Press, quoting Prosecutor- General Djamlet Babilashvili. Targamadze added that the police have secured evidence of contacts between the plotters and former Security Minister Igor Giorgadze. Security Minister Vakhtang Kutateladze declined to comment on allegations that some Russian servicemen based in Georgia were involved in the conspiracy. LF ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS GEORGIA. Victor Babiuc met with President Shevardnadze in Tbilisi on 25 May, Caucasus Press reported. The two discussed ways of expanding ties between the countries' Defense Ministries, the situation in the Balkans, and the need to strengthen ties between GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova) and NATO. According to unconfirmed reports, Romania, along with Poland, may be interested in joining that alignment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 1999). The previous day, Babiuc and his Georgian counterpart, Davit Tevzadze, had discussed cooperation prospects, including the training of Georgian officers in Romania and cooperation between the two countries' military-industrial complexes. LF FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER SUMMONED TO COURT. Akezhan Kazhegeldin has been summoned to appear at the Almaty City Court on 1 June, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. Kazakh National Security Committee chairman Nurtay Abyqaev told "Kazakhstanskaya pravda" that two criminal cases have been opened against Kazhegeldin, one in connection with alleged tax evasion and the other to determine the origins of Kazhegeldin's allegedly huge fortune in foreign banks. The 31 Kanal Almaty TV channel reported that the National Security Committee has created a special team to investigate Kazhegeldin's case. LF KAZAKH CENTRAL ELECTION COMMITTEE CHAIRWOMAN MEETS POLITICAL PARTY LEADERS. Zaghipa Balieva met with representatives of Kazakh political parties and movements in Almaty on 25 May to discuss the new election law, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Balieva said that any one of 43 minor offenses could disqualify potential candidates from participation in elections at any level. LF KAZAKH HUNGER-STRIKERS RECEIVE INTERIM PAYMENT. Serik Umbetov, governor of Zhambyl Oblast in southern Kazakhstan, has distributed some 50,000 tenges ($450) among workers at the Phosphorus Producing Plant in Taraz who have been on hunger strike for almost three weeks to demand the payment of back wages, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1999). After Umbetov had promised to pay all outstanding wages by 10 June, the protesters agreed to suspend their hunger strike until that date. LF KYRGYZSTAN PASSES NEW LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES. The Legislative Assembly--the lower house of Kyrgyzstan's parliament--passed a law on political parties on 25 May, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported, citing the parliamentary press service. That law no longer designates political parties as public organizations and reduces from 500 to10 the minimum number of persons who need to found a party. Those amendments are unlikely, however, to affect the outcome of the parliamentary elections in February 2000, as only parties that were registered with the Ministry of Justice one year before those elections are eligible to participate. LF KYRGYZ FOREIGN MINISTER IN CHINA. Muratbek Imanaliev held talks in Beijing on 25 May with China's Minister of Foreign Trade Zhang Xiang, ITAR-TASS reported. Both sides expressed their wish and determination to expand economic ties. Imanaliev predicted that in the 21st century, China will become Kyrgyzstan's main trading partner. LF TAJIK GOVERNMENT CONDEMNS OPPOSITION ULTIMATUM. The Tajik government issued a statement on 25 May dismissing as "unacceptable" conditions that the United Tajik Opposition stipulated the previous day for its continued participation in the peace process, Reuters and Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1999). Those conditions include the naming as defense minister of opposition field commander Mirzo Zioev and the holding of parliamentary elections before the presidential poll, which the Tajik government had said will take place before 6 November. The statement blamed the lagging implementation of earlier agreements on the recent two-month absence from Tajikistan of UTO Chairman Said Abdullo Nuri. Earlier on 25 May President Imomali Rakhmonov met with ambassadors from the eight countries, including Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, that are guarantors of the peace process. LF TURKMENISTAN TO TERMINATE BORDER AGREEMENT WITH RUSSIA. The head of the Russian border guard contingent in Turkmenistan, Vladimir Konovalov, told Reuters on 25 May that Ashgabat has informed Moscow it plans unilaterally to revoke the open- ended treaty it signed with Russia in 1993, which allows for Turkmen and Russian border troops jointly to guard Turkmenistan's frontiers with Iran and Afghanistan. Konovalov commented that he considers the Turkmen move justified, as the country's border service is fully capable of performing that task without the assistance of the 300 Russian border guards currently serving in Turkmenistan. LF UZBEKISTAN, U.S. DISCUSS DEFENSE COOPERATION. U.S. special envoy to the Secretary of State for the Newly Independent States Stephen Sestanovich attended a session of the U.S.- Uzbek Joint Commission in Tashkent on 24-25 May. Sestanovich and Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov signed six documents, including a two-year program for defense cooperation and agreements on combating terrorism and the demilitarization of some Uzbek chemical plants that previously contributed to the Soviet chemical weapons program. The U.S. agreed to grant Uzbekistan some $30 million to implement that demilitarization program and to pursue market reform. A joint press release issued after the session noted that the U.S. welcomes Uzbekistan's pledge to make its currency freely convertible next year. 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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