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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 104, Part I, 28 May 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 104, Part I, 28 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 ADMITS FRUSTRATION WITH LACK OF RESULTS

* CENTRAL BANK TO REMOVE IMPEDIMENTS TO FOREIGN EXCHANGE
TRADING

* KAZAKH PRESIDENT LAMBASTS GOVERNMENT
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RUSSIA

CHERNOMYRDIN ADMITS FRUSTRATION WITH LACK OF RESULTS...
Presidential envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin, who had
delayed his trip to Belgrade until 28 May, told journalists
the same day that he is "unsatisfied that "all of our
negotiations [with Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott] have failed to
yield results," Interfax reported on 28 May. "If they
continue in this vein, then their continuation would be
senseless," he added. However, he noted that there is
currently no alternative to such negotiations and that they
therefore must proceed. "Izvestiya" the same day called
Chernomyrdin's planned meeting in Belgrade with Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic pointless since news of the
latter's indictment for war crimes. The daily cited Russian
Ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov as saying that the West is
making the same mistake as it made against Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein, "demanding the implementation of resolutions
from a person who is not considered a negotiating partner."
JAC

...CLAIMS NEGOTIATIONS 'COMPLICATED' BY INDICTMENT.
Chernomyrdin said that Russia will continue to negotiate with
Milosevic since the Yugoslav president is the elected leader
of his country. He acknowledged that the indictment "has
complicated talks on a settlement in the Balkans for
everyone," ITAR-TASS reported. Citing unidentified military
and diplomatic sources, Interfax reported on 28 May that one
of the main purposes of Chernomyrdin's trip was to probe the
Belgrade leadership's attitude toward a peace-keeping
operation in Kosova. The previous day, similarly described
sources told the agency that Russia could provide up to
10,000 troops as part of a future international peace-keeping
force in Kosova. ITAR-TASS reported a similar figure citing
its own military source. That source claimed that Russia
might agree to a NATO-dominated force but would insist it be
headed by a general from a neutral country, such as Finland.
JAC

MOSCOW, SEOUL STRESS NEED TO REVIVE NORTH-SOUTH KOREAN
DIALOGUE. Noting that the Korean peninsula continues to be a
potential source of instability in northeastern Asia, Russia
and South Korea agree that the Korean problem must be solved
by the "interested parties"--namely, North and South Korea--
and that a dialogue between the two countries must be revived
as soon as possible, Interfax reported on 28 May. That stance
was outlined in a statement issued after a meeting the same
day between the Russian and South Korean presidents, Boris
Yeltsin and Kim Dae-jung, in the Kremlin. The two leaders
signed agreements on mutual legal assistance in criminal
cases, on the creation of a Russian-South Korean industrial
complex in the Nakhodka free economic zone (see "RFE/RL
Russian Federation Report," 26 May 1999), and on cooperation
in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, ITAR-TASS reported.
Kim is on a three-day visit to the Russian capital. JC

FOREIGN MINISTRY SLAMS U.S. CONGRESS FOR APPROVING NEW
MISSILE SYSTEM. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a
statement on 27 May accusing the U.S. Congress of undermining
the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty by approving a bill
to deploy a national anti-missile defense system. The
statement reads that "by its ABM actions, [the U.S.]
stimulates the emergence and global spread of more advanced
missiles [and contributes] to the unleashing of a new arms
race." It continues that such actions "threaten the whole
disarmament process, including the preservation and
consolidation of the key regimes of the non-proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction and their means of trade." JAC

CENTRAL BANK TO REMOVE IMPEDIMENTS TO FOREIGN EXCHANGE
TRADING. Mikhail Zadornov, whose status in the government as
first deputy prime minister and possibly finance minister as
well still had not yet been confirmed by the late morning of
28 May, announced the previous day that Russia may have to
hold new talks with the IMF if the fund does not approve a
compromise reached on supplementary budget revenue, Interfax
reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 1999). Zadornov
explained that only some of the bills sent to the State Duma
in accordance with the government's agreement with the IMF
have been approved, while others face a likely tough
reception requiring compromise legislation to be hammered
out. Zadornov also announced that the Central Bank will
return to a single trading session on the Moscow Interbank
Currency Exchange and lift its ban preventing foreign banks
from buying hard currency from their ruble correspondent
accounts. JAC

AKSENENKO SKETCHES OUT NEW PRIORITIES IN ENERGY POLICY...
First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko suggested at a
meeting at the Ministry for Fuel and Energy on 27 May that
Russia should increase its coal production to increase
employment and allow for bigger exports of oil and gas, AP
reported. He added that it is also important for Russia to
increase its production oil and refined products. The same
day, former Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Generalov told
reporters that the government is increasing Sibneft's quota
for oil imports from Iraq under the UN's Oil for Food
Program, Interfax reported. Under the program, a narrow list
of companies are allowed to take delivery of Iraqi crude and
collect a commission. "Kommersant-Daily" reported the same
day that Sibneft head Roman Abramovich is Aksenenko's patron.
JAC

...AS STEPASHIN ASSERTS HE'S IN CHARGE. The previous day,
Aksenenko told Ekho Moskvy said that he will be in charge of
every field of the cabinet's activities. He also commented
that he is not sure whether Central Bank Chairman Viktor
Gerashchenko will retain his post, explaining that he needs
time to see how well the bank performs. The next day, Prime
Minister Sergei Stepashin appeared to react to Aksenenko's
claim of responsibility for all fields of cabinet activity,
saying "in order to avoid various sorts of talk about who is
the boss in the government, I state that the prime minister
leads the government and he is responsible for all that
happens." JAC

NEW GOVERNMENT COMMISSION FOR DEFENSE INDUSTRY CREATED. As
President Yeltsin and others cast about for the appropriate
candidate to fill the spot designated for a deputy prime
minister to oversee defense issues, a special government
commission for the military industrial complex has already
been created, "Segodnya" reported on 27 May. The heads of
regions with a large defense industrial base, such as St.
Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev and Sverdlovsk Oblast
Governor Eduard Rossel, reportedly urged Stepashin to
establish the committee even before he had been confirmed as
premier by the Duma. According to the daily, the state
commission will oversee six entities: the Russian Space,
Shipbuilding, Systems of Administrations, Conventional
Weapons, and Ammunition Agencies as well as the Atomic
Ministry. The commission will encourage these agencies to
develop technologies that can be exported to foreign markets,
develop new areas of work for military-industrial
enterprises, and boost their profitability. JAC

NEW PENSION FUND HEAD NAMED... President Yeltsin signed a
decree on 27 May appointing Mikhail Zurabov chairman of the
Pension Fund, Interfax reported. Zurabov is a former first
deputy health care minister and presidential adviser on
social issues. The same day, Yeltsin signed another decree
specifying that the government will have five deputy prime
ministers, including two first deputy prime ministers. JAC

...AS BULGAK LANDS AT SVZAYINVEST. Former Deputy Prime
Minister Vladimir Bulgak was named a state representative to
the board of directors of Svyazinvest, Interfax reported on
28 May. The same day, Prime Minister Stepashin introduced to
his staff the new head of the government apparatus, Andrei
Chernenko. Chernenko is a former deputy interior minister.
JAC

BORDYUZHA SHOWN THE DOOR AGAIN. Prime Minister Stepashin on
28 May dismissed former presidential administration head
Nikolai Bordyuzha from his post as chairman of the State
Customs Committee and appointed Mikhail Vanin in his place,
ITAR-TASS reported. Vanin has spent most of his career in the
Customs Service. JAC

SO-CALLED DONOR REGIONS ENUMERATED. Citing unidentified
sources in the federal Finance Ministry, "EWI's Russian
Regional Report" reported that Russia currently has 13
"donor" regions on its territory, that is, regions who
contribute more to the federal budget than they receive in
return. They are St. Petersburg, the City of Moscow, Moscow
Oblast, the Republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan,
Lipetsk, Samara, Perm, Sverdlovsk, and Irkutsk Oblasts,
Krasnoyarsk Krai, and the Khanty-Mansi and Yamalo-Nenets
Autonomous Okrugs. JAC

TATARSTAN'S PARLIAMENT DEBATES SWITCH TO LATIN ALPHABET. The
State Council has passed in the first reading a law on
introducing a Latin-based alphabet for the Tatar language,
RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 27 May. According to the
draft, the transition to the Latin alphabet in educational
institutions will be made gradually and will be finished by
September 2011. The cost of implementing the law is estimated
at 115 million rubles (about $5 million.) The Latin alphabet
for written Tatar was replaced by Cyrillic in 1939. In an
interview with TatarInform earlier this month, parliamentary
deputy Renat Kharisov rejected the protests of some members
of the Tatar intelligentsia who argue that the planned
reversion to the Latin script will mean that future
generations will not have access to the last six decades of
literature printed in Cyrillic. Kharisov pointed out that
future generations will retain their familiarity with the
Cyrillic alphabet as Russian will continue to be a compulsory
subject in schools. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

KARABAKH MILITARY COMMANDER TO MONITOR ARMENIAN ELECTIONS?
The commander-in-chief of the defense army of the
unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is currently in
Yerevan, together with the enclave's defense minister, Samvel
Babayan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 28 May, citing
"Oragir." The commander intends to monitor the 30 May
parliamentary elections in order to preclude irregularities,
the newspaper writes. Babayan is backing the Right and Accord
bloc. His Armenian counterpart, Vazgen Sargsian, one of the
two leaders of the Miasnutyun alliance, which is tipped to
win the polls, appealed to the Armenian military in a
statement in "Hayastani Hanrapetutyun" on 27 May. Sargsian
warned the armed forces not to try to interfere with the
voting, arguing that another flawed election would deal "a
heavy blow to the country's interests." LF

PICKETERS DEMAND AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST'S RELEASE. Some 50
people picketed the Supreme Court building in Baku on 27 May
to demand the release of Fuad Gakhramanly, who was sentenced
last November to 18 months in prison for an unpublished
article considered subversive, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 30 November 1998). Acting Supreme Court judge
Gulzar Rzaeva promised to review the case. Also on 27 May,
Ali Mustafaev, chairman of Azerbaijan's Helsinki Human Rights
Committee, told journalists that the granting of an amnesty
to mark Azerbaijan's 1918 Independence anniversary is not
solely the prerogative of the president and that the
parliament should proclaim such an amnesty in the president's
absence. Mustafaev also criticized the continued detention of
62 people for taking part in opposition demonstrations in
October-November 1998, saying it violates the
constitutionally guaranteed right of Azerbaijani citizens to
participate in rallies. LF

OIL TRANSIT THROUGH BAKU-SUPSA PIPELINE HALTED. The western
oil export pipeline from Baku to the Georgian Black Sea port
of Supsa has been shut down for scheduled maintenance for
several days, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported on 27 May.
Extraction by the Azerbaijan International Operating Company
of crude from 12 off-shore Caspian wells has been halted as a
result. The Baku-Supsa pipeline went into operation early
this year, and some 500,000 tons of crude have been
transported through it since then (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12
March 1999). The alternative pipeline from Baku via the
Russian Federation to Novorossiisk has been out of commission
for most of the past month. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT LAMBASTS GOVERNMENT. Speaking at a financial
conference on 28 May, Nursultan Nazarbaev criticized the
country's government for its lack of both concrete ideas for
developing the economy and qualified economists, Interfax
reported. Nazarbaev also accused officials from ministries
responsible for specific branches of the economy of
interfering in the work of other agencies. "Izvestiya" on 20
May had predicted the government's imminent resignation,
noting specifically intrigues and back-biting among its
members and the inability of Premier Nurlan Balghymbaev to
implement decisive measures to revive the economy. LF

KAZAKH CURRENCY NOSEDIVES. The tenge fell by 7.8 percent
against the U.S. dollar on 27 May, closing trading on the
Kazakhstan Stock Exchange at 131.41 to the dollar compared
with 121.85 the previous day, Interfax reported. Commercial
banks suspended trading in dollars on the morning of 27 May.
Interfax quoted an unnamed Finance Ministry spokesman as
saying that on 28 May, Kazakhstan will begin selling some $24
million in hard currency raised from privatization and grain
exports. The Kazakh government set a floating exchange rate
for the tenge in early April after it fell from 88 to 100 to
the dollar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 1999). LF

KYRGYZSTAN RESUMES WATER SUPPLIES TO KAZAKHSTAN. An official
from Kyrgyzstan's Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources
told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 27 May that the water supply
to Kazakhstan's Jambyl and Chimkent Oblasts from Kyrgyzstan's
Kara-Bura water reservoir has been resumed. Those supplies
were cut 10 days ago in retaliation for Kazakhstan's failure
to deliver coal, as agreed, in payment for those supplies
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1999). LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE ADVOCATES REREGISTERING HUMAN
RIGHTS BODY. The parliamentary Committee on Legal Issues
recommended on 27 May that the Ministry of Justice should
reregister the Kyrgyzstan Committee for Human Rights,
RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. That committee was
originally registered in 1996, but the Ministry of Justice
revoked the registration last year, and the committee has
been unable to reregister since then. After two
demonstrations by committee members in Bishkek earlier this
month, government and parliament representatives formed a
committee to look into the issue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13
and 20 May 1999). LF

KYRGYZ PENSIONERS PROTEST PRICE RISES. Some 70 pensioners
picketed the government building in Bishkek on 27 May to
protest recent hikes in the price of bread and flour and to
demand that pensions be raised and paid on time, RFE/RL's
bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. The Kyrgyz government
owes several million dollars in back pensions. On 26 May, the
chairwoman of Kyrgyzstan's teachers trade union told RFE/RL
that the government owes teachers 42 million soms (about $1
million) in back wages for 1999, including 30 million soms
for the month of April. An additional 90 million som in
salaries for 1998 remains unpaid. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER REAFFIRMS DEMANDS. Following a
meeting on 27 May with Jan Kubis, who is the UN Secretary-
General's special envoy for Tajikistan, United Tajik
Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri told journalists that the
opposition will not withdraw the conditions it has set for
continued participation in the work of the Commission for
National Reconciliation, Reuters and Interfax reported. Nuri
said that those demands, including the allocation to the
opposition of 30 percent of posts in national and local
governments and the release of 93 imprisoned opposition
figures, do not exceed concessions contained in the 1997
peace agreement. At a meeting with President Imomali
Rakhmonov earlier on 27 May, Kubis suggested a meeting
between Nuri and the president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May
1999). LF

U.S. ENVOY IN TURKMENISTAN. Stephen Sestanovich, who is
special adviser for the Newly Independent States to the U.S.
Secretary of State, met with Turkmen President Saparmurat
Niyazov in Ashgabat on 27 May, ITAR-TASS and Interfax
reported. Sestanovich expressed continued U.S. support for
plans to build an underwater Trans-Caspian pipeline to export
Turkmenistan's natural gas to Turkey via Azerbaijan and
Georgia. At the same time, he steadfastly opposed the idea of
a gas export pipeline via Iran. Sestanovich also expressed
approval of Turkmenistan's ongoing efforts to mediate talks
between the two rival factions in Afghanistan, but he
suggested that a new meeting under UN auspices of the
countries bordering on Afghanistan plus Russia and the U.S.
could also promote a settlement. Also discussed were the
prospects for broadening bilateral defense cooperation, human
rights issues, and the Turkmen parliamentary elections due in
December, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported. LF

GAZPROM BOSS VISITS UZBEKISTAN. Rem Vyakhirev held talks on
"matters of mutual interest" with President Islam Karimov in
Tashkent on 27 May, according to Interfax. No other details
were revealed. Uzbekistan is one of the world's 10 largest
gas producers but has no export route to world markets other
than via Russia. LF

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