Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. - Thomas Carlyle
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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
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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

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