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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 105, Part I, 31 May 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 105, Part I, 31 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 * ZADORNOV DISMISSED AS FIRST DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER * CHERNOMYRDIN REPORTS PROGRESS IN BELGRADE TALKS * UNITY ALLIANCE HEADS FOR ABSOLUTE MAJORITY IN ARMENIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA ZADORNOV DISMISSED AS FIRST DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER. President Boris Yeltsin on 28 May signed a decree sacking Mikhail Zadornov as first deputy prime minister. Zadornov, who had been named to that post only three days earlier, said Yeltsin did not support his proposal that he remain finance minister in addition to being first deputy premier. He added that he had also suggested that the finance minister post be given to someone who could continue working on the budget and also oversee the current economic situation. However, that suggestion was also rejected, he noted. Zadornov commented that his resignation will "make negotiations with international financial institutions more difficult." He said he would not recommend that Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov be named finance minister because Kasyanov is currently responsible "for a very important but very narrow sphere: the search for credits, the foreign debt, and negotiations with the Paris and London Clubs," Interfax reported. Government spokesman Aleksandr Mikhailov said Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin is considering at least five candidates to replace Zadornov, including Deputy Finance Minister Viktor Khristenko, NTV reported. PB STEPASHIN'S POWER IN QUESTION... Politicians and the media were critical of the Kremlin after Zadornov's resignation, openly questioning Stepashin's ability to choose his own government. "Kommersant-Daily" wrote on 29 May that "the cabinet has collapsed...whether or not Stepashin resigns, he is no longer head of the cabinet." Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii said "the whole affair means Stepashin has little say in forming the government and the puppet-masters continue to pull the strings guiding the selection of government ministers." Former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar said "it is impossible to have confidence in democracy in Russia if everyone realizes that the government is not in control of anything" and that it is being "manipulated like a puppet." Former First Deputy Premier Boris Nemtsov said "it is hard for me to give any advice to Stepashin, but if I were him I would have resigned." Yeltsin and Stepashin met in the Kremlin on 31 May to reportedly discuss the formation of the government. Presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin also attended the meeting. PB ...WHILE BEREZOVSKII, ABRAMOVICH SEEN AS FORCES BEHIND RESIGNATION. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said on 29 May that "it is no secret" that business magnate Boris Berezovskii, Sibneft head Roman Abramovich, and United Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais control the process of choosing the new government, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Zyuganov said President Yeltsin "is the hostage of these puppeteers" and that the groups competing with one another for control over "Yeltsin's family advisers" cannot decide who will take the most favorable positions in the government. Many observers believe First Deputy Premier Nikolai Aksenenko has close ties to both Berezovskii and his ally Abramovich and that Aksenenko's rapid rise from head of the Railroads Ministry to deputy premier is because of those connections. Nemtsov told an RFE/RL correspondent that the rumor that Aksenenko is "sponsored" by Berezovskii "does not correspond to reality." But he added that Aksenenko has been "on friendly terms with Abramovich for nine years." PB AKSENENKO'S AMBITIONS MAKING HEADLINES. Aksenenko's bold actions and statements in his first few days of being named first deputy premier have caught the attention of many observers, AP reported on 28 May. The daily "Noviye izvestiya" wrote that Aksenenko is "hogging the blanket" and "acting like he's...convinced of his hereditary right to rule the country." The headline of the 28 May "Moskovsii komsomolets" read "Conductor, Hit the Brakes!"--a reference to his lifelong work in the railroad industry. Aksenenko reportedly overshadowed new Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhny's first public appearance on 27 May by outlining plans for the energy sector, while Kalyuzhny simply nodded. He also surprised many by attending a meeting last week in Sochi between Stepashin and Yeltsin. PB STEPASHIN NAMES CUSTOMS SERVICE HEAD. Prime Minister Stepashin named career customs official Mikhail Vanin head of the Customs Service on 28 May, Reuters reported. PB NEW CABINET APPROVES ECONOMIC MEASURES. At a cabinet meeting called by Stepashin on 29 May, the government approved policy plans regarding the Central Bank and relations with international lenders, ITAR-TASS reported. The ministers also addressed plans for meeting World Bank terms in order to secure a third structural readjustment loan for Russia, First Deputy Premier Aksenenko said. First Deputy Finance Minister Khristenko said the entire package of proposals "aimed at getting the loans for the restructuring of the economy" was approved in principle. Aksenenko described the meeting as "good and constructive." Representatives of the State Duma were also reportedly in attendance, including Duma Budget Committee chairman Aleksandr Zhukov. PB CHERNOMYRDIN REPORTS PROGRESS IN BELGRADE TALKS... Russia's special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin held nine hours of talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on 28 May, Reuters reported. Before leaving Belgrade, Chernomyrdin said he is "very pleased" with the outcome of the talks, but observers noted that they produced no obvious breakthrough. After the meeting, Tanjug said Milosevic has accepted "the general principles" laid down by the G-8 nations as a basis for bringing peace to Kosova. Tanjug did not elaborate. But in Belgrade on 30 May, Serbian Information Minister Aleksandr Vucic said that Serbia has "never opposed" an international presence in Kosova. He added, however, that Belgrade "cannot accept...the occupation of our territory." After meeting in Moscow with Prime Minister Stepashin, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and other top officials, Chernomyrdin stressed that Yugoslavia's "sovereignty and territorial integrity" remain inviolable. FS ...WHILE WEST REACTS CAUTIOUSLY. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in London on 30 May that NATO forces "need to see [in] detail" what Milosevic is willing to accept, Reuters reported. He stressed that "we need to go beyond acceptance of general principles." Cook added that "the mere fact [Milosevic] has made such an offer does demonstrate that the pressure is telling on him.... We must now make sure we keep up that pressure until we have achieved our objectives." Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari told CNN in London that Belgrade must make its position clearer if it wants to advance the cause of peace. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said in Brussels that Milosevic is slowly moving away "from the position...of almost total defiance of the international community" but remains far from accepting the key NATO conditions for ending the air campaign "without reservation [and] without negotiation." FS JAPAN MIGHT RESPOND SOONER THAN EXPECTED TO YELTSIN PROPOSAL... Speaking to ITAR-TASS on 28 May, a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tokyo might respond to President Yeltsin's proposal on settling an outstanding territorial issue before the latter's scheduled state visit to Japan this fall. That proposal, made in November 1998, is an official reply to Japan's suggestion on resolving the ownership dispute over the Kuril Islands, which has blocked the signing of a treaty formally ending World War II hostilities between the two countries. The spokesman was speaking one day before Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura met with Russian Premier Stepashin in Moscow to discuss bilateral ties and preparations for Yeltsin's visit. Stepashin stressed his government will continue the policy of building a long-term partnership with Japan. Following his meeting with Komura on 29 May, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov said Yeltsin may meet with Japanese Premier Keizo Obuchi during the G-8 summit in Cologne, Germany, next month. JC ...OFFERS INCREASED HELP IN DISPOSING OF OLD NUCLEAR SUBMARINES. Komura told Ivanov during their meeting that Japan will step up its assistance to Russia in dismantling and scrapping its decommissioned nuclear submarines in the Pacific, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 May, citing sources at the Japanese Embassy in Moscow. The two sides agreed to carry out feasibility studies on a number of projects, including unloading spent nuclear fuel from decommissioned submarines belonging to Russia's Pacific Fleet and constructing a storage site for such fuel at the Zvezda ship-building plant in Russia's Far East. JC STEPASHIN MEETS WITH NORWEGIAN COUNTERPART. Russian Premier Stepashin met with his Norwegian counterpart, Kjell Magne Bondevik, in Moscow on 28 May to discuss bilateral trade and economic cooperation, Russian agencies reported. The two leaders signed agreements on cooperation in training civil servants and enterprise managers and on the construction of a customs checkpoint on the Russian-Norwegian border. With regard to the Kosova conflict, Stepashin told journalists that Moscow and Oslo agree on the need to resolve the Kosova crisis by "peaceful political means." Bondevik's visit was the first by a Norwegian premier to Russia in quarter of a century, according to AP. The following day, Stepashin met with visiting South Korean President Kim Dae-jung to discuss economic cooperation (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 1999), ITAR-TASS reported. JC ZHIRINOVSKII BEATEN IN BELGOROD BALLOT. According to preliminary results, incumbent Governor Yevgenii Savchenko won 53.45 percent of the vote in the 30 May gubernatorial elections in Belgorod Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported the next day, citing a member of the Belgorod Election Committee. Savchenko is an independent who has the backing of some local Agrarians and Communists (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 26 May 1999). The Communist Party candidate, Mikhail Beskhmelnitsyn, garnered 20 percent backing, while Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii was trailing with 18 percent. Turnout was reported at 70 percent. The news agency on 31 May quoted Zhirinovskii as saying he will challenge the election results "in court" because of numerous "irregularities" in the election campaign. JC CHERNOMYRDIN TO RUN FOR STATE DUMA IN YAMAL-NENETS. Former Premier and current special envoy to Yugoslavia Chernomyrdin will run for the State Duma this fall in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Yurii Neelov, governor of the region, told journalists on 28 May, according to ITAR-TASS. Neelov pointed out that Chernomyrdin is well acquainted with the gas-rich okrug since his days as head of Gazprom. Last year, Chernomyrdin had said he would not take part in a parliamentary vote because he did not want to work with his old foes in the Duma. JC RIGHT CAUSE NAMES TOP CANDIDATES. The center-right Right Cause coalition named Young Russia chairman Boris Nemtsov, Boris Fedorov, and Irina Khakamada as its top three candidates, in that order, for the State Duma elections in December, Interfax reported. In a congress held in Moscow on 29 May and attended by 435 delegates and 1,100 guests, the movement also named Chubais as the head of the coalition's election campaign committee. Former Premier Sergei Kirienko, head of the New Force movement, is reportedly still being courted by Right Cause but is also considering joining Golos Rossii. Thirteen parties currently are included within the Right Cause coalition. Speaking at the congress, Nemtsov offered support to Premier Stepashin and said Right Cause should back Russian Patriarch Aleksii II in his call for the removal of Lenin's body from Red Square. Yegor Gaidar, head of the Democratic Choice of Russia party, also addressed the congress. PB SKURATOV'S PASSPORT ANNULLED. Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov said on 28 May that he is prohibited from flying to a conference in Switzerland because his passport has been annulled, Interfax reported. Skuratov said he was turned back at the airport and told that his passport was invalid. He called the incident "a rude violation of all my rights as a citizen--above all my constitutional right to travel freely." The Russian Foreign Ministry said the recently issued passport is invalid because of a "technical mistake" and that he will receive a new one within the next few days. PB UNEMPLOYMENT UP 28 PERCENT SINCE AUGUST CRISIS. The government on 28 May reported that the official number of unemployed has risen by 2.3 million people since the economic crisis in August 1998, reaching a total of 10.4 million as of April, Interfax reported. In other news, the Central Bank reported that gold and currency reserves grew by $300 million in the week ending 21 May, a 2.85 percent increase (from $11.3 billion to $11.6 billion) over the previous week. However, reserves are still down some 5 percent from the beginning of the year. And Russia's Diamond Depository held its first trading session on 29 May to auction uncut and cut natural diamonds. Trading was reportedly brisk. Another seven or eight auctions are due to be held this year. PB TATARSTAN SIGNS COOPERATION MEMORANDUM WITH ROSVOORUZHENIE. Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev and Rosvooruzhenie director, Grigorii Rapota, signed a memorandum of intent in Kazan on 28 May, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Rapota said the agreement is intended to help Tatarstan establish "direct links with the world [arms] market." He noted the "powerful potential" of Tatarstan's military-industrial complex. LF RUSSIA TARGETS ALLEGED CHECHEN GUERRILLA BASE... Russian helicopter gunships belonging to the Interior Ministry on 28 May launched an air attack against a small island in the Terek River that spokesmen claimed is the site of a Chechen terrorist camp, Russian agencies reported. The attack was in retaliation for an assault the previous night on a Russian border post between Chechnya and Dagestan, for which Russian spokesmen blamed Chechen militants. Chechen Security Minister Turpal Atgeriev denied in Grozny on 28 May that Chechens were responsible for the border attack, which he blamed on residents of Dagestan. He said the Russia air attacks were intended to provoke a new conflict, into which the Chechen army and population would be drawn. Chechen presidential spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev told Interfax on 29 May that Chechnya will appeal to the UN to condemn the Russian air attacks. LF ...AS STEPASHIN VOWS TO 'ELIMINATE BANDITS.' Prime Minister Stepashin said in Moscow on 28 May that "there is no place" in Russia for criminal gangs who "kidnap and kill people," Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. He added that such criminals should be "eliminated." Stepashin was speaking directly after a meeting with two Russian Orthodox clergymen who had been released earlier that day after being held captive by their abductors in Chechnya for more than two months. On 29 May, law enforcement officials from Chechnya and North Ossetia met in Vladikavkaz to draft measures to crack down on kidnappings for ransom, Caucasus Press reported. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA UNITY ALLIANCE HEADS FOR ABSOLUTE MAJORITY IN ARMENIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS... According to preliminary results released by the Armenian Central Electoral Commission on 31 May, the Miasnutyun (Unity) alliance received 52 percent of the vote in the previous day's parliamentary elections, ITAR- TASS reported. Miasnutyun comprises Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian's Republican Party of Armenia and the People's Party of Armenia, headed by former Armenian Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchian. The Communist Party of Armenia polled 16.33 percent, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-- Dashnaktsutyun (ARFD) 9.25 percent and the Right and Accord bloc 5.4 percent. The National Democratic Union headed by former Prime Minister Vazgen Manukian failed to surmount the 5 percent minimum required for representation under the proportional system. Voter turnout was 55.7 percent. Millionaire businessman Khachatur Sukiasian and Armenian Pan- National Movement chairman Vano Siradeghian won in single- mandate constituencies. LF ...AS THOUSANDS PREVENTED FROM VOTING. Thousands of voters had to appeal to local courts on 30 May in order to cast their votes after finding their names had been left off local voter lists, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Self- Determination Union chairman Paruyr Hayrikian said late on 30 May that the omissions were so extensive that the outcome of the poll should be annulled. Other opposition parties, including the Communist Party, the National Democratic Union, Hayrenik and Azatutyun, similarly condemned the exclusion of numerous residents from the lists, which the ARFD claimed was deliberate. But Central Electoral Commission chairman Artak Sahradian blamed the omissions on "the negligence of some civil servants," according to ITAR-TASS. The Miasnutyun alliance also condemned the irregularities but denied that they were so extensive as to affect the outcome of the poll. LF AZERBAIJAN MARKS INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY. More than 1,000 opposition supporters gathered on 28 May, the anniversary of Azerbaijan's 1918 declaration of independence, at a monument to Azerbaijan Democratic Republic leader Mamed Emin Rasulzade, Turan reported. Unlike in previous years, the Azerbaijani authorities did not create any obstacles to the meeting. But in Nakhichevan, local police prevented the local branch of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party from holding a commemorative ceremony. In an address to mark the occasion broadcast by Turkish television, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, who is recuperating from cardiac surgery in Antalya, called for expanded ties between Azerbaijan and the West as a means of expediting the repatriation of Azerbaijanis forced to flee their homes during the Karabakh conflict, Interfax reported. LF KAZAKH, UZBEK PREMIERS DISCUSS DISPUTED BORDER, GAS SALES. Visiting Tashkent on 27-28 May, Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev met with his Uzbek counterpart, Utkir Sultanov, to discuss deliveries of Uzbek gas to southern Kazakhstan and the border between the two countries, RFE/RL's Kazakh service reported. Kazakh Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev told RFE/RL correspondents several days earlier that the border demarcation issue is one of the most complicated questions in relations between Astana and Tashkent. Minimal progress was made toward resolving those issues. Tashkent rejected Kazakhstan's request to buy Uzbek natural gas for $30 per thousand cubic meters. Balghymbaev also attended a session of the Kazakh-Uzbek inter-governmental commission and met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov, according to ITAR- TASS. LF KAZAKH OPPOSITION POLITICIAN CALLS FOR CONSOLIDATION. Orleu party leader Seydakhmet Quttyqadam told journalists in Almaty on 28 May that opposition parties should unite in a single bloc to contend this fall's parliamentary elections, Interfax reported. He said that if they do so, opposition parties could form a majority in the next parliament. Quttyqadam added that Orleu is considering cooperating with other opposition parties to monitor the elections. The following day, Interfax quoted Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev as saying that the poll must be "truly democratic" and that "everyone who wants to" must be permitted to participate. In an apparent reference to articles in the new election law that preclude persons convicted of minor offenses from running as candidates, Nazarbaev said that "adjustments" to that law can be made either by presidential decree or by a ruling on the part of the Central Electoral Commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 1999). LF AFGHAN PRESIDENT VISITS KYRGYZSTAN. Ousted Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani met behind closed doors with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev in Bishkek on 28 May, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. According to presidential press secretary Kanybek Imanaliev, the Afghan delegation came to Kyrgyzstan on their own initiative. Imanaliev said the current situation in Central Asia and bilateral relations between Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan were discussed. Rabbani thanked Akaev for his offer to host a conference in Bishkek on the peace settlement in Afghanistan. Many Islamic countries, together with France and Germany, have backed that initiative. Akaev expressed support for Rabbani's proposal to open an Afghan diplomatic representation in Bishkek. The Afghan delegation also met the same day with Prime Minister Amangeldi Muraliev to discuss economic cooperation and with Defense Minister Myrzakan Subanov and Security Minister Misir Ashyrkulov to evaluate the possibility of sending arms to the northern regions of Afghanistan through Kyrgyz territory. LF KYRGYZ CABINET ASSESSES ECONOMIC SITUATION. At a cabinet session in Bishkek on 28 May, Prime Minister Amangeldi Muraliev criticized the Finance Ministry and the National Bank for their failure to keep the Kyrgyz som stable, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He asked ministers to work out urgent measures to support the som within the next five days. First Deputy Finance Minister Malabek Toktobolotov told the meeting that inflation in the first quarter of 1999 was more than 15 percent, while industrial output fell by 4 percent. According to Deputy Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Arzymat Sulaimankulov, trade turnover with Uzbekistan has fallen by 52 percent, with Kazakhstan by 19 percent and with Russia by 15 percent since 1 January. LF TWO KILLED IN NEW FIGHTING IN TAJIKISTAN. Two opposition fighters belonging to a contingent that has pledged its loyalty to the Tajik government were killed in fighting with supporters of a renegade opposition field commander in Kofarnikhon, east of Dushanbe, on 28 May, Reuters and ITAR- TASS reported. Six civilian passengers in a bus, including three children, were also injured in the incident, having been caught in cross-fire. 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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