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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 109, Part I, 4 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 109, Part I, 4 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 * GOVERNMENT CAUTIOUS OVER KOSOVA PEACE PLAN * STEPASHIN PRESENTS GOVERNMENT * AZERBAIJAN WANTS CHINA TO DEMAND RETURN OF ROCKETS FROM ARMENIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT CAUTIOUS OVER KOSOVA PEACE PLAN. President Boris Yeltsin has declined to comment on the Yugoslav parliament's 3 June acceptance of the joint peace plan brought to Belgrade by Russian special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin and his EU counterpart, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari (see Part II). Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, for his part, repeated calls in Moscow for an end to NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Chernomyrdin briefed Yeltsin in Moscow on 4 June about his talks in Belgrade before traveling to Helsinki for a scheduled meeting with Ahtisaari and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, AP reported. On 3 June, Chernomyrdin's adviser Valentin Sergeev said in Belgrade that "NATO generals who will arrive in Belgrade under the auspices of the UN will have to start putting into practice the peace plan," Interfax reported. FS RUSSIAN MILITARY OFFICIAL 'NOT HAPPY' WITH NATO. A Defense Ministry member of Chernomyrdin's delegation, Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, said on arriving in Moscow from Belgrade that "we, the military, deep in our hearts are not happy about many provisions that have been reached during these talks, because a lot of things are left unclear.... We were not quite satisfied with the role of NATO that is being imposed and the diminished role of Russia," AP reported. He stressed, however, that "there were no differences within the Russian delegation during the talks," ITAR-TASS reported. In Minsk on 3 June, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov also denied reports that Chernomyrdin and his military advisers disagree over the peace plan for Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 1999). FS ZHIRINOVSKII, COMMUNISTS SLAM CHERNOMYRDIN. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii accused Chernomyrdin on 3 June of "surrendering Yugoslavia." "A man who specializes in gas should not be working in foreign policy," Zhirinovskii commented, in a reference to Chernomyrdin's former post of Gazprom head. Communist legislator Yurii Nikiforov said Chernomyrdin is "betraying the interests of Yugoslavia," Interfax reported. FS RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY PROTESTS NATO PLANES IN HUNGARY. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 3 June saying that the deployment of NATO planes in Hungary within the framework of NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia violates the 1990 Paris Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe and later agreements (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1999). The statement said the agreement allows NATO to deploy the planes in Hungary only within the framework of peace-keeping missions that have a mandate from either the UN or the OSCE. Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath told MTI in Budapest that the deployment of the planes serve the "principles and values which the UN, the OSCE, and NATO were set up to protect." FS STEPASHIN PRESENTS GOVERNMENT. Prime Minister Stepashin introduced the members of his government at a press conference on 3 June. First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko will act on Stepashin's behalf during his absence and will also substitute for him as secretary of the committee responsible for urgent problems. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko will work on budget policy and macroeconomic issues. Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko, Academy of Sciences President Yurii Osipov, and special representative to international financial institutions Mikhail Zadornov will attend all government sessions. Stepashin stressed that one of the government's main tasks is to secure the State Duma's approval of at least 80 percent of the package of laws required to secure financial assistance from the IMF. DJ BEREZOVSKII DENIES ROLE IN FORMING GOVERNMENT. Influential businessmen Boris Berezovskii has denied that he had any role in the formation of the new government, Interfax reported. "If I had taken part in [that process]," he said at a press conference on 4 June, "it would certainly look different than it does today." Berezovskii said Prime Minister Stepashin was not his choice to succeed President Yeltsin and that he supports Krasnoyarsk governor Aleksandr Lebed in the presidential elections next year. Berezovskii also praised former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov for "consolidating" the country's political elite but criticized him for accomplishing that "from the left"--a reference to Primakov's support in the Communist-dominated Duma. DJ TOPOL MISSILE TESTED AGAIN. The Strategic Rocket Forces on 3 June successfully test-fired a Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile (referred to by NATO as the SS-27), according to Russian media. The missile was launched from the Plesetsk test range in Arkhangelsk Oblast and landed on the Kamchatka Peninsula, in the Far East. It was the seventh launch of the missile in the past three years. Facing with severe financial constraints, which are also affecting the armed forces, the government has decided to concentrate defense spending on developing the Topol-M, which is designed to be fired from either a silo or a mobile platform. Russia plans to deploy 40 such missiles by the end of next year, replacing the current force of heavier, multiple-warhead missiles. A Topol-M system was deployed near Saratov last December. DJ INFLATION RATE SLOWS. Inflation registered 2.2 percent last month, the State Statistics Committee announced on 4 June. Following the August 1998 economic collapse, inflation surged to 84 percent for 1998 as a whole but has slowed this year. Prices were up 3 percent in April and 2.8 percent in March. Overall, prices have risen 22 percent in the first five months of this year. DJ STEEL NEGOTIATIONS AT IMPASSE. Negotiations between Russia and the U.S. over on Russian steel exports are on the verge of breaking off, according to ITAR-TASS A source close to the negotiations told the news agency on 4 May that Russia last week asked the U.S. Department of Commerce to delay until 10 July a decision on anti-dumping tariffs for Russian steel exports but that request has so far gone unanswered (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1999). If the U.S. does not meet the request by 10 June, permanent anti-dumping tariffs on Russian steel exports will be imposed and the U.S. market closed to Russian steel, in accordance with U.S. law. DJ STEPASHIN FORESEES INCREASED RUSSIAN ROLE IN MID- EAST PEACE PROCESS. At his 3 June news conference in Moscow, Premier Stepashin said that Russia intends to increase its efforts as a "co-sponsor" in the Middle East peace process, Interfax reported. Referring to recent meetings with former Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and PLO leader Yasir Arafat in his former capacity as Russian interior minister, Stepashin said that both had privately expressed the desire that "Russia play a more active role in the Middle East." Also on 3 June, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement urging Israel to withdraw its forces from southern Lebanon. The statement follows the death earlier this week of a UN peacekeeper in the region. JC SOBCHAK TO RUN FOR DUMA. Former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak intends to run as an independent for a Duma seat from that city in the December elections, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta." He added that he will also consider standing as a member of a party list. Sobchak has been living abroad since charges of corruption and abuse of power were brought against him last year. Duma members enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution. DJ CARGO TRANSPORT ON NORTHERN SHIPPING ROUTE EXPECTED TO INCREASE. Vladimir Mikhailichenko, head of the Transport Ministry's department for the Northern Shipping Route, told Interfax on 3 June that the volume of cargo transport on the Arctic waterway could rise by 1.5 times this year to some 2 million tons. Mikhailichenko pointed to the expected increase in cargo transport between Asia and Europe as well as from oil and gas deposits along the Arctic coast. He noted that last year, two experimental tanker routes were opened along which 28,000 tons of gas condensate intended for export were transported from Yamal to Europe. In the near future, he said, such routes will become "regular." JC RUSSIANS CELEBRATE PUSHKIN'S BIRTHDAY. Events marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Aleksandr Pushkin are planned throughout Russia this weekend. In Moscow, the celebrations get under way on 4 June with the annual Pushkin assembly at the State Museum A. S. Pushkin, ITAR-TASS reported. The festivities in the capital are to culminate on 6 June with a gala concert on Red Square, dubbed "Golden Voices of Russia--Pushkin," featuring Russian conductor Valerii Gergiev and Spanish tenor Placido Domingo. The Moscow city government is reported to have spent more than $2 million on events commemorating the poet. Pushkin was born in Moscow on 27 May 1799 (6 June according to the new calendar). He died aged 37 as a result of a duel with a French nobleman. JC PIPELINE GUARD KILLED BY BOMB IN NORTH OSSETIA. One security guard was killed and two injured on 3 June when their car hit an anti-tank mine close to the border between North Ossetia and Ingushetia, ITAR-TASS reported. The three men were inspecting the North Ossetian sector of the Baku-Novorossiik oil export pipeline. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA WORLD BANK CHAIRMAN IN ARMENIA. James Wolfensohn, who arrived in Yerevan on 2 June, met the following day with the two leaders of the Miasnutyun bloc that has emerged as the clear winner in the 30 May parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Wolfensohn told journalists on 4 June that he thinks it unlikely that the new Armenian government will retreat from the present policy of economic liberalization. He also said he saw no evidence to substantiate rumors of a rift between Miasnutyun's two leaders and President Robert Kocharian. On 3 June, Wolfensohn visited the northern town of Spitak, which was destroyed by the December 1988 earthquake and where the World Bank has funded several reconstruction projects. He also discussed with Prime Minister Armen Darpinian infrastructure projects funded by loans from his bank, including the construction of highways and irrigation systems. LF AZERBAIJAN WANTS CHINA TO DEMAND RETURN OF ROCKETS FROM ARMENIA. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 3 June expressing the hope that Beijing will demand the return of eight Typhoon rocket systems sold by a private Chinese company to Armenia, ITAR-TASS reported. In a diplomatic note made public in Baku the same day, the Chinese Foreign Ministry denied any government participation in the sale and undertook to ensure that no further such transactions take place, according to Interfax. Turan on 3 June quoted Azerbaijan's Ambassador to Beijing Tamerlan Karaev as saying he received assurances from a senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official that Beijing has recalled all its military instructors from Armenia. LF ANOTHER ABKHAZ SECURITY OFFICIAL SHOT DEAD. Otar Gogia, deputy chief of President Vladislav Ardzinba's bodyguards, was shot dead in Gali Raion on 4 June and a second bodyguard was wounded, Caucasus Press reported. It was the second such ambush in four days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 1999). At their regular meeting on 3 June, UN observers and the commander of the Russian peacekeeping force in Gali appealed to the Abkhaz not to increase their police presence in Gali in response to the earlier killings. Also on 3 June, Otar Kakalia, who is chairman of the Abkhaz Committee for Refugees and Missing Persons, told Caucasus Press that a total of 4,600 ethnic Georgians displaced persons have returned to Gali since the Abkhaz authorities unilaterally began a repatriation program on 1 March. LF KAZAKH PARLIAMENT DEPUTIES JOIN PRESIDENTIAL PARTY. Of the 67 deputies in the lower house of the Kazakh parliament, 44 have joined OTAN, the party created earlier this year as a support base for President Nursultan Nazarbaev, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported on 4 June. Faction chairwoman Mariam Zhuyrikbaeva denied that pressure is being exerted on students and teachers to join OTAN. LF KAZAKH PRESIDENT CALLS FOR JEWELRY DONATIONS. President Nazarbaev has appealed to citizens of Kazakhstan to donate gold and silver jewelry to help shore up the country's gold and hard currency reserves, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 4 June. Net gold and foreign currency reserves in April were $1.01 billion. Some regional governors are imposing a $50 tax on families that refuse to comply with that appeal. Nazarbaev told the population that South Korea recently launched a similar campaign to counter its financial crisis. LF KAZAKHSTAN TO AMNESTY 20,000 PRISONERS. One prisoner in four is to be released over a six-month period under a law passed on 2 June, Reuters reported. More than half of those to be amnestied are suffering from TB. Women, minors, and persons over 55 will also be freed. Kazakhstan's jails are over- crowded, and the measure will save the state budget one billion tenge ($7.6 million). LF KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT DISCUSSES WAGE ARREARS. Amangeldi Muraliev chaired a cabinet meeting in Bishkek on 3 June convened to discuss the economic situation, which he described as "very tense," Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Muraliev expressed concern at the decline in value of the som, rising unemployment, and the government's failure to meet targets for tax collection or to pay salaries to state employees. The Kyrgyz government owes some 200 million soms (about $4.5 million) in overdue wages. LF KYRGYZ PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTY ARRESTED. Businessman and parliamentary deputy Boris Vorobev was arrested in a village near Bishkek on 2 June, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He is suspected of tax evasion and embezzlement. Kyrgyz parliamentary deputies have immunity from arrest only while the parliament is in session. Also on 2 June, the wife of Taalaibek Duishembiev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau that he has written to President Askar Akaev requesting to be stripped of his Kyrgyz citizenship. Duishembiev has been held in pre-trial detention for 10 months on suspicion of having organized the assassination of deputy director-general of the LUK-Oil-Kyrgyzstan company. Duishembiev denies that charge. LF UZBEKISTAN SEEKS TURKMEN SUPPORT FOR AFGHAN MEETING. Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on 3 June, Interfax reported. Komilov handed Niyazov a letter from Uzbek President Islam Karimov soliciting Niyazov's support for a meeting in Tashkent next month of the so-called 6 plus 2 contact group to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. That group comprises the six countries that border on Afghanistan as well as Russia and the U.S. under UN auspices. A source within the Turkmen presidential staff told Interfax that Niyazov said his country will send representatives to the talks only if all Afghan parties, including President Burhanuddin Rabbani, are invited to attend. Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had told Komilov in Kandahar on 1 June that the Taliban will attend such a meeting only if all other states represented formally recognize them as the legitimate government of Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 1999). LF UZBEKISTAN SAYS SOME WANTED TERRORISTS IN TAJIKISTAN. Uzbekistan's Russian-language official newspaper "Pravda Vostoka" has accused the Tajik opposition of supporting three men wanted by the Uzbek authorities in connection with the series of bombings in Tashkent in February, Interfax reported on 3 June. The newspaper said that there is water-tight evidence that the men are currently hiding in Tajikistan on territory controlled by the United Tajik Opposition. The trial of 22 people accused of participating in the bombings opened in the Uzbek capital on 2 June. 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. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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