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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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Headlines, Part I

* CHERNOMYRDIN REPORTEDLY PROPOSES PARTITION OF KOSOVA

* WHO'S MINDING THE FINANCE MINISTRY?

* OTHER CIS STATES IMPLICATED IN ABORTIVE GEORGIAN COUP?
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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

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