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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 103, Part I, 27 May 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 103, Part I, 27 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 * CHERNOMYRDIN REPORTEDLY PROPOSES PARTITION OF KOSOVA * WHO'S MINDING THE FINANCE MINISTRY? * OTHER CIS STATES IMPLICATED IN ABORTIVE GEORGIAN COUP? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA CHERNOMYRDIN REPORTEDLY PROPOSES PARTITION OF KOSOVA... "Izvestiya" on 27 May quoted unspecified diplomatic sources as saying that Russian special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin's peace plan provides for a de facto division of Kosova. The newspaper also referred to a report in the previous day's "Guardian" quoting unidentified military analysts close to the British government as saying that Russia favors a de facto partition of Kosova, as evidenced by its suggestion to deploy a Russian peace-keeping contingent in northern and western Kosova and a NATO contingent in the central and southern part. The alleged proposal envisages that Peja, Mitrovica, and Podujeva de facto remain under Serbian administration and Prishtina is divided into western and eastern sectors. FS ...WHILE IVANOV DENIES PARTITION PLANS. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 26 May denied that Russia is pursuing plans for the division of Kosova, "Izvestiya" reported. The daily, however, pointed out that "until the conclusion of the negotiations, Ivanov will and must not show all his cards, [nor will he inform] the public about every step and allow the journalists into the diplomatic kitchen." Meanwhile in Paris, French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne Gazeau-Secret stressed that "France and NATO totally rule out partition." FS CHERNOMYRDIN MISSION CONTINUES, DESPITE MILOSEVIC INDICTMENT. Chernomyrdin and Ivanov continued negotiations with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari in Moscow on 26 and 27 May. Russian diplomats in Moscow said that Chernomyrdin will visit Belgrade after the talks, despite the impending indictment by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic (see Part II). They added that Russia regards the indictment as an attempt to "torpedo the peace process," ITAR-TASS reported. For the first time, the talks involved both Russian and U.S. military officials, including Russia's military representative to NATO, Lieutenant-General Viktor Zavarzin, AP reported. Talks focused on the composition of a possible peace-keeping force. Ivanov also paid a short visit to Stockholm on 26 May, where he told UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Russia is opposed to NATO's air campaign and demands that any international peace-keeping force be under UN command. FS STEPASHIN, AHTISAARI DISCUSS BOOSTING TIES. Taking time out from the talks in Moscow on the Yugoslav crisis, Finnish President Ahtisaari met with Russian Premier Sergei Stepashin, to discuss boosting bilateral economic ties, Interfax reported on 26 May, citing the Russian government's Information Department. The two leaders also debated the possibility of "deepening cooperation between Russia, Finland, and the EU" within the context of the union's "Northern Dimension," a Finnish initiative that focuses on economic cooperation throughout Northern Europe, including Russia's Northwest. Finland takes over the rotating EU presidency in July. JC WHO'S MINDING THE FINANCE MINISTRY? As of late morning on the 27 May, Russian and Western media were carrying conflicting reports on the leadership of the Finance Ministry. NTV reported that acting Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov has been reappointed to his post and will now be both first deputy prime minister and finance minister. (Earlier in the week, the television had broken a story, which was later proved false, that State Duma Budget Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov had been appointed to the cabinet.) On 26 May, a various news outlets reported that First Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov would be promoted to head the ministry. Kasyanov has refused to comment on any of the reports about his fate. A Finance Ministry spokeswoman told Reuters that she expects an announcement later on 27 May, adding that at present she does not know who is heading the ministry. JAC A NEW OLIGARCH EMERGES? In an unusual article, the 27 May "Kommersant-Daily" depicts Russian President Boris Yeltsin as a weak, isolated, almost marionette-like figure manipulated by those around him. It adds that since he was "banished" to Sochi, he has been cut off from all information not provided by his family. The newspaper goes on to allege that the real powers pulling Yeltsin's strings and practically determining cabinet assignments are Sibneft head Roman Abramovich and business magnate Boris Berezovskii, with Abramovich in the lead position, not Berezovskii. The article concludes that "who the real figure is leading the government--Yeltsin or Abramovich--will become clear today." JAC TOUGH TIMES PREDICTED FOR IMF BILLS IN BOTH LEGISLATIVE CHAMBERS. Duma deputy and former Our Home Is Russia faction leader Aleksandr Shokhin said on 26 May that the package of legislation prepared by Yevgenii Primakov's government in accordance with its agreement with the IMF faces a "very, very difficult future" in the lower chamber, Interfax reported. He predicted that the "Communists and their supporters may agree with excise taxes only on top-quality fuel and expensive vodka brands so as not to lose their potential voters." He added that it is unlikely that the majority of deputies will support delaying the implementation of a reduction in value-added tax from 20 percent to 15 percent as the fund has requested. Two days earlier, Federation Council member and Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov predicted the bills could also face a difficult passage in the upper chamber from members there "who are sympathetic to the Communists in the Duma," Interfax-Eurasia reported. JAC RUSSIA'S CREDITORS READY TO ACCEPT INEVITABLE? Russia asked its foreign creditors to defer for at least six months an interest payment coming due on its debt inherited from the Soviet Union, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 26 May. Russia is supposed to pay $216 million in interest on 2 June. Kasyanov, who was in London for talks with the London Club of creditors, said that the next round of talks will be held in late June or early July, Interfax reported. Unidentified senior banking sources told Reuters the same day that some creditors are now prepared to accept that Russia can no longer service its $26 billion Soviet-era debt and is forming an economic sub-committee to make projections on what kind of payments it can realistically make over the next three to five years. JAC REGIONAL LEADERS PIN TENTATIVE HOPES ON NEWLY FORMED CABINET. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev commented on 26 May that the cabinet's smooth functioning may have been hampered by the appointment of an additional first deputy prime minister since the existence of two such posts inevitably complicates decision-making, regardless of the personalities involved, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov expressed the hope that now vacancies have been filled the government might--finally--devote its full attention to economic questions. Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel said that the new cabinet will be "better" for the country's regions, adding that Prime Minister Stepashin accepted and approved practically all proposals by the Urals Economic Association connected with the strengthening of the ruble and the legalization of flight capital. Vologda Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev predicted that Zadornov would not allow any lobbying groups to filch money from the federal budget. JAC UDMURTIA TO PUSH FOR MORE AUTONOMY. Aleksandr Volkov, chairman of Udmurtia's legislative assembly, said that republican officials have Russian President Yeltsin's "preliminary" support for a revision of the existing power- sharing treaty between the republic and the federal center, "Izvestiya" reported on 27 May. The public relations department of the assembly told the daily that the specific areas Volkov wants addressed are inter-budgetary relations, property issues, procedures for the appointment of federal officials in Udmurtia, and the adoption of republican laws in the sphere neglected by federal legislation. JAC TATARSTAN AMENDS ELECTION LAWS. Tatarstan's State Council has passed in the first reading amendments to the republic's constitution and election laws to provide for elections to the Russian State Duma and to Tatarstan's parliament and local councils to be held simultaneously in December, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 26 May. The mandate of the present parliament does not expire until April 2000. Several dozen members of the Communist Party and Liberal Democratic Party picketed the parliament building to protest holding elections to the Duma and to the republican parliament simultaneously. They argued that two separate polls would give candidates who did not win election to the Duma a chance to run in the republican elections. Tatarstan's President Shaimiev said the decision to hold national and republican polls simultaneously was based on economic considerations and would entail less "stress" for the electorate. LF CENSUS-TAKERS ASK FOR EXTENSION. The State Statistics Committee has asked Prime Minister Stepashin to postpone the national census from the fall of 2001 to September-October 2002, Interfax reported on 26 May. Goskomstat officials consider the delay necessary because they have not been able to finalize their cost estimates for conducting the census. Preliminary estimates suggest that 2.504 billion ($102 million) will be required from the federal budget and 811 million rubles from local budgets. Committee officials would have to have their costs ensured by the middle of next month in order to guarantee the census would be carried out in the fall of 2001, according to the news agency. JAC AIRLINE PASSENGERS TAKE FLIGHT SCHEDULING INTO THEIR OWN HANDS. After the announcement of the cancellation of a Vladivostok-Krasnoyarsk-Moscow flight on 26 May, some 130 angry passengers blocked the airline counter at which passengers register, causing other flights to be delayed, Interfax-Eurasia reported. AFP explained that the passengers had been waiting for six days to fly to Krasnoyarsk, but the airport had refused to fuel the Krasnoyarsk Airlines' flight reportedly because of the airlines' enormous debts. In March, when another Krasnoyarsk airplane flight was cancelled, a band of angry passengers forced the airport to allow them to leave by trying to demonstrate on the tarmac. Meanwhile, British Airways announced that it will start servicing Yekaterinburg but only once the local economy picks up, "The Moscow Times" reported on 25 May. An airline industry analyst told the daily that the few Western carriers servicing Russian cities other than Moscow and St. Petersburg are doing so at zero profits but are trying to stake a claim to future markets. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST ELECTION FRAUD. Robert Kocharian told law and justice officials on 26 May that he will hold them responsible for the conduct of the 30 May parliamentary elections, adding that anyone attempting to falsify the outcome of the poll will be severely punished, Noyan Tapan and Reuters reported. Assessing the election campaign to date, Kocharian said that conditions exist for an "exemplary" poll. International observers criticized the 1995 parliamentary elections and the presidential polls of 1996 and 1998 as not conforming to international standards. Some opposition politicians have charged that the registration of parliamentary candidates and the compilation of voter registers were marred by irregularities (see also "End Note" below). LF NATO DELEGATION VISITS AZERBAIJAN. Prime Minister Artur Rasimzade and Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov met with representatives of NATO's consulting group on Euro-Atlantic policy in Baku on 26 May, Interfax and Turan reported. ITAR- TASS quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov as saying after the talks that Azerbaijan should develop direct relations with NATO, as Ukraine is doing. He noted that Azerbaijan's concept of relations with the alliance defines those relations as "an integration partnership," which, Azimov said, is the preliminary step to NATO membership. He added that Azerbaijan wants to cooperate with NATO in guarding the oil export pipeline from Azerbaijan via Georgia and in preventing illegal arms trafficking in the Caucasus, according to Reuters. LF GEORGIAN POLICE DISPERSE OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATION. Police prevented some 250 supporters of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia from staging an anti-government demonstration in Tbilisi on 26 May, the anniversary of Georgia's 1918 declaration of independence, AP reported. Six people were temporarily detained, including Gamsakhurdia's widow, Manana Archvadze-Gamsakhurdia. LF GEORGIA ACCUSES ABKHAZ OF POLICE BUILDUP. Representatives of the ethnic Georgian Abkhaz Security Ministry in exile told Caucasus Press on 27 May that an additional Abkhaz 150 Interior Ministry troops have been sent to three locations in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. Abkhaz officials say the deployment was in response to reports that Georgian guerrillas are planning acts of terrorism in the region. Meanwhile on 25 May, Abkhaz armed forces began three days of maneuvers in Ochamchira, which borders on Gali to the north. LF OTHER CIS STATES IMPLICATED IN ABORTIVE GEORGIAN COUP? "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 27 May quotes Georgian Security Minister Vakhtang Kutateladze as claiming that in addition to Russia, two other CIS states were involved to some degree in the plot to assassinate President Eduard Shevardnadze. The newspaper did not name those countries. Meanwhile a total of 17 people are being held in detention for questioning in connection with the plot. Formal charges have been brought against 10 of them. Another three people who were detained for questioning were released on 26 May, Caucasus Press reported the following day. LF U.S. ENVOY MEETS WITH KAZAKH LEADERSHIP. Stephen Sestanovich, who is adviser for the Newly Independent States to the U.S. Secretary of State, met in Astana on 26 May with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev, and Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbaev, RFE/RL bureau in the capital reported. Sestanovich said after the talks that Nazarbaev is committed to improving the new election law, noting that amendments would "be a major step forward" to ensuring that the parliamentary elections scheduled for this fall will be free and democratic elections. He said that the U.S. will give Kazakhstan more than $50 million in aid in 1999, which is the "biggest aid program" Washington has ever implemented in a Central Asian country. Sestanovich also said that an agreement has been signed whereby the U.S. will provide technical assistance to the Kazakh border guards. LF KAZAKHSTAN NOT TO WITHDRAW FROM CIS COLLECTIVE SECURITY TREATY. Speaking on national television on 25 May, Defense Minister Altynbaev said that the 1992 CIS Treaty on Collective Security "is necessary" and that both Kazakhstan and Russia agree that "not one government in the CIS can solve its defense problems on its own," Reuters reported. Altynbaev said he believes that if the treaty were amended, those countries that have suspended their participation (Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan) would decide to prolong it. LF KAZAKHSTAN TAKES U.S. JOINT VENTURE TO COURT. A regional prosecutor in Kazakhstan's Atyrau Oblast has opened legal proceedings against the TengizChevroil joint venture on behalf of the local ecological administration, AP reported on 26 May. The prosecutor is demanding the closure of seven oil wells from which TengizChevroil is currently extracting 2,200 metric tons per day, instead of the agreed 600 tons. TengizChevroil denied ecologists' claims that exceeding the allowed quota has caused serious ecological damage. LF KYRGYZSTAN TO RECEIVE MORE GAS FROM UZBEKISTAN. Deputy Prime Minister Esengul Omuraliev told a parliamentary committee in Bishkek on 25 May that Kyrgyzstan will soon begin receiving increased gas supplies from Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. In addition, Uzbekistan will begin paying rent for a gas pipeline that transits Kyrgyz territory to Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan has cut gas deliveries to Kyrgyzstan several times in 1999. Kyrgyzstan owes Uzbekistan several million dollars for previous supplies. LF UN REPRESENTATIVE CONCERNED AT TAJIK TENSIONS. Jan Kubis, who is the UN Secretary-General's special representative in Tajikistan, proposed that the Tajik government and opposition refrain from further mutual accusations, and that President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposiiton leader Said Abdullo Nuri meet to discuss the latter's demands on the country's leadership, AP-Blitz reported on 27 May. The United Tajik Opposition announced on 24 May that it will suspend participation in the work of the Commission for National Reconciliation until the Tajik authorities comply with its demands (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 May 1999). On 25 May, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov discussed the situation in Tajikistan with his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharrazi, who insisted that both Tajik camps should comply meticulously with the 1997 peace agreement, of which both Moscow and Tehran are guarantors, ITAR-TASS reported. LF TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN SIGN ANTI-TERRORISM AGREEMENT. Meeting in Khojand on 26 May, the foreign ministers of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Talbak Nazarov and Abdulaziz Komilov, signed an inter-state agreement on cooperation to combat terrorism, political and religious extremism, and illegal drug- trafficking, AP-Blitz reported on 27 May. President Rakhmonov characterized the document as testifying to "a high level of trust" in bilateral relations. Those relations were severely strained by Tajik claims that the Uzbek authorities provided clandestine support for the leaders of the unsuccessful insurrection in northern Tajikistan last fall (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 1998). 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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