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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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Headlines, Part I

* GOVERNMENT CAUTIOUS OVER KOSOVA PEACE PLAN

* STEPASHIN PRESENTS GOVERNMENT

* AZERBAIJAN WANTS CHINA TO DEMAND RETURN OF ROCKETS FROM
ARMENIA
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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

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