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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 107, Part I, 2 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 107, Part I, 2 June 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 * STEPASHIN COMPLETES MINISTRY APPOINTMENTS * LONDON CLUB CONSIDERING RESCHEDULING RUSSIA'S DEBT * THREE ARMENIAN PARTIES CALL FOR ELECTIONS TO BE ANNULLED xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA STEPASHIN COMPLETES MINISTRY APPOINTMENTS. Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin has completed a series of appointments at government ministries and agencies, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 June. Oleg Vyugin and Aleksei Kudrin have been named first deputy finance ministers, Mikhail Ivankov first deputy railways minister, and Georgii Gabunia first deputy trade minister. JB PRESS SPOTLIGHTS ABRAMOVICH... "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 2 June features a long profile of oil magnate Roman Abramovich, a close associate of business magnate Boris Berezovskii, who is rumored to have become a key member of President Boris Yeltsin's entourage. The newspaper, like several other publications, identifies the publicity-shy Abramovich as the architect of the new cabinet and credits him with lobbying for the appointment of Nikolai Aksenenko as first deputy prime minister. "Moskovskii komsomolets" notes that Abramovich's close links with the transport and oil monopolies may enable him to shed Berezovskii's patronage and soon make him the ultimate powerbroker in Russia. JB ...WHILE SKEPTICISM PREVAILS ON AKSENENKO. "Kommersant- Daily," for its part, says the outlines of Aksenenko's economic policies are already becoming clear. In its June 2 issue, the newspaper writes that Aksenenko, who was railways minister before his appointment as first deputy premier, appears to want to restructure the Russian economy in a similar way to the railways so that each sector will be controlled by one large monopoly with close links to the government. JB LONDON CLUB CONSIDERING RESCHEDULING RUSSIA'S DEBT. Russia on 2 June missed a $578 million payment on its commercial debt to the London Club of creditors and has asked the organization for a six-month extension. The London Club brings together some 600 commercial banks and investors who are owed more than $20 billion by Moscow from loans dating back to the Soviet era. The club is to consider the request by 6 June, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia's foreign debt totals about $150 billion. JB CHERNOMYRDIN, AHTISAARI DELAY BELGRADE VISIT. Russian special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin and his EU counterpart, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, postponed a scheduled visit to Belgrade on 2 June after failing to agree on a set of terms to present to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, AP reported. The two envoys continued negotiations that they had begun the previous day with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott near Bonn. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told ZDF television on 1 June that differences of opinion remain among the mediators about "who must get out [of Kosova], who must go in to protect the refugees," and over when NATO must stop its air campaign. Minister of State in the German Foreign Ministry Ludger Volmer said: "If the two delay their journey, it indicates a degree of skepticism about the Yugoslav assertion that [Belgrade] is ready to come to an agreement," Reuters reported. FS RUSSIAN, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTERS DEMAND END TO NATO AIR CAMPAIGN. Meeting in Beijing on 1 June, Igor Ivanov and his Chinese counterpart, Tang Jiaxuan, demanded an end to NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia, ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov said that a halt to the bombing is "an indispensable condition for achieving a political settlement." He added that "Russia and China regard with anxiety the new trends toward creating a world with only one center of power and imposing the policy of dictate." He pledged to "closely coordinate [Russian-Chinese] cooperation in order to block the development of those dangerous trends, to promote the consolidation of international law, and to enhance the role played by the UN." During his three-day stay in Beijing, Ivanov will also meet with Chinese President Jiang Zemin. FS RUSSIA CALLS URGENT UN SECURITY COUNCIL SESSION OVER IRAQ. Russia requested an urgent UN Security Council meeting on 1 June to demand that UNSCOM chairman Richard Butler submit a report on what chemicals UNSCOM left behind in its Baghdad laboratory shortly before the U.S.-British airstrikes last December, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. The demand was made at the request of Iraq, after UNSCOM recently talked to UN officials about dismantling the laboratory. UNSCOM say it is known that the laboratory had "miniscule samples" of nerve gas necessary to calibrate testing equipment as well as one liter of mustard liquid gas "stored tightly." Russian Ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov, however, commented "we do not know what '[miniscule] quantities' are, [nor] which substances specifically" are stored there. Reuters reported on 2 June that Butler will tell the Security Council in his report that the laboratory needs to be dismantled, while denying Russian allegations that inspectors left nerve gas unprotected. JC FEDOROV TO RUN FOR MOSCOW OBLAST GOVERNOR. Anatolii Chubais, head of Unified Energy Systems and a leader of the Pravoe Delo movement, said on 1 June in Yekaterinburg that former Federal Tax Service chief Boris Fedorov will run as the movement's candidate in the Moscow Oblast gubernatorial elections, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, Chubais noted that he himself will not run in the State Duma elections scheduled for this fall. JC MORE THAN 1 MILLION HOMELESS CHILDREN IN RUSSIA. Russia marked International Children's Day on 1 June. Deputy Labor Minister Galina Karelova says there are currently more than 1 million homeless children in Russia and more than 13 million single-parent families, ITAR-TASS reported. JB POLICE ON RUSSIAN-LATVIAN BORDER SEIZE ANOTHER ILLEGAL ICON SHIPMENT. Police on the Russian-Latvian border recently stopped a truck laden with a large quantity of undeclared antique icons, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 June. The value of the icons is currently being assessed by museum experts. The latest seizure once again puts the spotlight on the problem of icon smuggling. This was the seventh such find by customs officers on Russia's western border since the start of 1999. Some 800 religious works of art intended for smuggling have been seized so far this year. JB RUSSIA BUILDING GIANT MOAT ON CHECHEN BORDER. The Russian military is building a 113-kilometer moat on the border with the breakaway republic of Chechnya, "Izvestiya" reported on 2 June. The border moat, 16 km of which has already been completed, is deeper and wider than a previous moat which was attempted to be built two years ago. Its purpose will be to help Interior Ministry forces in their battle against cattle rustlers and equipment thieves who cross the border, raid villages in Stavropol, and then slip back into Chechnya. Russian news agencies reported on 2 June that at least one policeman was killed and three wounded in renewed border fighting between Russian police units and armed bands from Chechnya. JB CHECHEN PRESIDENT SEES 'INTERNATIONAL CONSPIRACY.' Addressing Shariah Court officials on 1 June, Aslan Maskhadov claimed that the international community is seeking to destabilize Chechnya out of fear that other nations will follow the Chechen example and establish independent Islamic states, Interfax reported. Maskhadov said the recent failed assassination attempts against Mufti Ahkmad-hadji Kadyrov and presidential adviser Danilbek Tamkaev were part of that conspiracy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 26 May 1999). Two days earlier, Maskhadov had blamed unnamed Western intelligence services for provoking the attack on a Russian border post on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 1999). LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA THREE ARMENIAN PARTIES CALL FOR ELECTIONS TO BE ANNULLED. Self-Determination Union chairman Paruyr Hayrikian said on 1 June he will appeal to the Constitutional Court to declare the results of the 30 May parliamentary elections invalid, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Hayrikian and the leaders of the Hayrenik and Intellectual Armenian parties addressed a statement to that effect to the Central Electoral Commission, according to Noyan Tapan. Hayrikian said that he will file a similar appeal with the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg. Hayrikian said that more than 100,000 potential voters were unable to cast their ballots because their names had been left off voter lists. An Armenian UN official who oversaw the computerization of the voter lists blamed local district administrators for the omissions, according to "Respublika Armeniya" on 1 June. LF U.S. MONITORS CRITICIZE ARMENIAN POLL SHORTCOMINGS. In a statement issued on 1 June, the National Democratic Institute said the 30 May poll showed that despite unspecified "positive developments," Armenia "failed to meet the international standards and commitments that it has accepted as the basis for organizing genuinely democratic elections," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The statement said that the incomplete voter lists increased the potential for illegal voting and disenfranchised a large number of voters. The NDI assessment was harsher than those of either the OSCE monitoring mission or the Council of Europe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 1999). LF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION, PARLIAMENT FAIL TO REACH MODUS VIVENDI. During talks on 31 May, the 17 opposition deputies aligned in the Democratic Bloc reached a preliminary agreement with parliamentary leaders to stop their boycott of parliamentary proceedings, which they began in mid-April, Turan reported. But the following day, the Democratic Bloc annulled the agreement. A parliamentary spokesman told Turan that the opposition deputies have put forward new demands, while Party of National Independence of Azerbaijan member Nazim Imanov said the parliamentary leadership insists details of the 31 May agreement should not be made public. LF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PROTEST FORCIBLY DISPERSED. Some 50 members of the Democratic Party were beaten by police on 1 June when they tried to picket the Prosecutor-General's Office to protest the arrest of Etibar Guliev, Turan reported. Guliev is nephew of the party's chairman, exiled former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ELECTED TO PARLIAMENT. Social Prosperity Party chairman Khanhuseyn Kazymly, who polled less than 1 percent in the October 1998 Azerbaijani presidential election, was elected to the parliament in a by- election on 30 May, Turan reported, citing "Yeni Azerbaycan" on 1 June. A defeated rival candidate alleged that the poll was rigged and that domestic observers were refused permission to monitor the voting. LF TWO MORE ABKHAZ POLICE OFFICERS SHOT. Two Abkhaz police officers were shot dead and a third injured when their car was ambushed on 1 June in Abkhazia's Gali Raion, Russian agencies reported. Abkhaz Interior Minister Amazbei Kchach told Caucasus Press that the attackers were Georgian guerrillas who subsequently crossed back over the Inguri River, which marks the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. At least 20 Abkhaz police have been killed in similar attacks over the past year. LF ACCUSATIONS AGAINST FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER TERMED 'GROUNDLESS.' U.S. attorney Charles Butt told journalists in Almaty on 2 June that the charges of tax evasion and illegally acquiring property abroad brought against Republican People's Party chairman Akezhan Kazhegeldin are groundless, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April and 26 May 1999). Butt said that Kazhegeldin paid all the taxes for which he was liable in 1998. Those taxes totaled some 1 million tenge ($9,200). He also claimed that villas, which were said to be Kazhegeldin's and photographs of which were published in the Kazakh press, belong to the children of a prominent Kazakh metallurgy plant director. Butt denied that his client owns any property in Belgium. LF KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION STILL NOT RE-REGISTERED. Kyrgyz Commitee for Human Rights chairman Ramazan Dyryldaev told journalists in Bishkek on 1 June that the Ministry of Justice has still not re-registered his organization, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The committee's original registration was revoked in October 1998, and its members staged two protests in Bishkek last month to demand re- registration. The parliamentary commission on legal issues recommended on 27 May that the Ministry of Justice comply with the committee's request (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 1999). LF TAJIK PRESIDENT 'READY TO MEET' WITH OPPOSITION LEADERS? Yevgenii Belov, who is Moscow's ambassador to Tajikistan, told ITAR-TASS on 1 June that Imomali Rakhmonov informed him at a meeting earlier that day of his readiness to meet with opposition representatives to discuss their demands. The United Tajik Opposition has suspended participation in two commissions on which both it and the Tajik government are jointly represented to protest the leadership's failure to comply with specific conditions of the 1997 peace agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May and 1 June 1999). Also meeting on 1 June, UN Special envoy to Tajikistan Jan Kubis and Tajik parliamentary first deputy chairman Abdulmajid Dostiev agreed that the government and opposition should resume direct dialogue, AP-Blitz reported. LF UZBEK FOREIGN MINISTER HOLDS TALKS WITH TALIBAN LEADER. Abdulaziz Komilov travelled to Kandahar on 1 June where he met with Taliban militia leader Mulla Mohammad Omar, dpa reported. The Taliban leader said that his group will not attend a planned meeting of the so-called six-plus-two (the six countries that border on Afghanistan plus Russia and the U.S.) under UN Security Council auspices unless the Taliban are invited as Afghanistan's legitimate government. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. 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