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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 111, Part I, 8 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 111, Part I, 8 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 * G-8 KOSOVA TALKS DEADLOCKED * PREMIER FAILS TO PERSUADE DUMA LEADERS TO BACK IMF BILLS * ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER TO BE NAMED NEW PREMIER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA G-8 KOSOVA TALKS DEADLOCKED... Foreign ministers of the G-8 countries, meeting in Bonn on 7 June, failed to agree on a draft UN Security Council resolution on ending the Kosova crisis. "Izvestiya" reported the next day that Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov "de facto presented NATO with an ultimatum: Until the moment that NATO ends its bombing [of targets in Yugoslavia], Moscow will block the adoption of the Security Council resolution." Unnamed diplomats, however, told AP and dpa that the talks were suspended to allow Ivanov time to consult with Moscow over sticking points. CNN on 8 June quoted unspecified Russian media as reporting that Ivanov tried to meet with President Boris Yeltsin on 7 June but that Yeltsin was "indisposed." A presidential spokesman denied the report. FS ...OVER NATO'S ROLE, CEASE-FIRE TIMING, WAR CRIMES. The unnamed diplomats also told AP in Bonn on 7 June that Russian and Western diplomats disagreed over whether a peace force would be under NATO or UN command and whether its role would be peacekeeping or peace-enforcement. Other points of disagreement included the timing of a cease-fire in relation to the withdrawal of Serbian forces and whether the UN resolution must mention that Yugoslav leaders have been charged with war crimes. FS YELTSIN WANTS TO CONTINUE NEGOTIATIONS. Russian President Yeltsin told his U.S. counterpart, Bill Clinton, by telephone on 7 June that he will instruct Ivanov to work quickly to resolve the remaining problems, National Security Council spokesman David Leavy told AP in Washington. State Department spokesman James Rubin said the Western allies will not accept a peacekeeping mission under UN control, calling that position "our red line." Meanwhile in Bonn, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said he is "optimistic" that the G-8 foreign ministers will agree to a final text at their meeting on 8 June in Cologne. He stressed that they have already agreed to 17 out of 20 points in the draft. He did not elaborate. Meanwhile, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who is the EU's special envoy to Yugoslavia, arrived in Beijing on 8 June to seek Chinese backing for the resolution. FS ZYUGANOV WANTS CHERNOMYRDIN SACKED. Russian Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told Interfax on 7 June that his party is preparing a State Duma resolution urging Yeltsin to sack Viktor Chernomyrdin as his special envoy to Yugoslavia. Zyuganov said that Chernomyrdin "has gone from special representative to special destroyer," claiming that his peace plan will lead to a "further breakup" of Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, Chernomyrdin adviser Valentin Sergeev said in Moscow that "any talk" about the collapse of the talks is "unjustified and counterproductive." Meanwhile, Vladimir Ryzhkov, the head of the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) faction, charged NATO with acting "in a destructive way." He added that as soon as a "political agreement is reached, the [Western] military kill it." Yabloko member Vladimir Lukin, who is chairman of the Duma's International Affairs Committee, similarly charged NATO with being "actively engaged in arm-twisting at the talks," ITAR-TASS reported. FS PREMIER FAILS TO PERSUADE DUMA LEADERS TO BACK IMF BILLS... After a meeting between Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin and Duma faction leaders on 7 June, NDR faction leader Ryzhkov told reporters that his faction will not support some of the draft legislation submitted by the government in accordance with its agreement with the IMF. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii said his faction "can support a considerable number of the draft laws, but we will not support all draft legislation connected with rise in gasoline and alcohol prices and other such measures." The same day, leader of the largest faction, Communist Party head Zyuganov, said that his group will vote against the bulk of the economic legislation package. Stepashin will address the Duma on 9 June, when it is scheduled to consider a number of tax measures, including a bill that would impose a new tax on gasoline stations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 1999). JAC ...THREATENS TO IMPOSE CEILING ON GASOLINE PRICES. According to Russian agencies, Stepashin told Duma leaders that a strict moratorium on further increases in fuel prices and railroad tariffs should be imposed by the end of the year and that companies that raise refined product prices will have their access to export outlets cut off. A number of regions have reported rising gasoline prices (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report,"19 May 1999). For example, in the Republic of Bashkortostan, prices of gasoline have risen an average of 7-9 percent since 15 May, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 7 June. JAC CABINET OFFICIALS DUTIES OUTLINED... In a series of decrees issued on 8 June, Prime Minister Stepashin detailed the responsibilities of top cabinet officials. First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko will oversee the so-called "real" sector of the economy, including energy, construction, and transportation, as well as the work of the ministries dealing with anti-monopoly policy, transportation, fuel, and railways. He will also fill in for Stepashin when the latter is absent. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko will manage budget and tax policy and oversee the Ministries of Finance, Economics, State Property, Tax, and Trade, ITAR-TASS reported. Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov will direct the work of the Ministries for Atomic Energy and Science, Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shcherbak the Ministries for Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko, the Ministries for Labor, Health, Education, and Culture. JAC ...AS MISMATCH WITH EXPERIENCE ASSERTED. Prime Minister Stepashin also reappointed Georgii Tal chief of the Federal Bankruptcy Service on 7 June. The next day, President Yeltsin signed a decree creating a new Ministry for Sport and Tourism, ITAR-TASS reported. In its analysis of the cabinet appointments, "Komsomolskaya pravda" noted on 5 June that there is a mismatch between appointees' experience and expertise and their current duties. For example, First Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko, who "is a skillful specialist in budgetary relations with the regions," is in charge of macroeconomics. Mikhail Zadornov, presidential envoy to international financial institutions, is an expert in budgetary affairs, while Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who oversaw debt negotiations with foreign creditors, will now tackle budgetary matters. JAC LUZHKOV TO FACE NEW CHALLENGE ON POLITICAL FRONT... The emergence of former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko as a possible candidate in the Moscow mayoral elections has added fuel to media speculation that the Kremlin is waging a campaign against Moscow Mayor and likely presidential contender Yurii Luzhkov. On 7 June, Luzhkov responded to Kirienko's critical remarks about the management of Moscow City in an 5 June interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" by threatening to sue the former premier for slander. Kirienko said that "it is not customary to talk about how contracts are distributed in Moscow and how effectively the Moscow bureaucracy is working when not even the smallest problem can be resolved without a bribe." According to "Kommersant-Vlast" on 1 June, Kirienko "has been entrusted with the propagandistic element" of revealing Luzhkov's failures as mayor. JAC ...AND ECONOMIC ONE, TOO? "Kommersant-Vlast" also predicts that those of the "mayor's enemies" with the requisite economic leverage will re-register large taxpayers outside Moscow and increase demands on city agencies to transfer tax monies to the federal government in a more timely fashion. In this way, the city of Moscow, which is facing a crush of payments to foreign creditors, will have to declare a default (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 5 May 1999). JAC VOLOSHIN CONFIRMS STEPASHIN'S PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS. In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 8 June, chief of the presidential administration Aleksandr Voloshin said that he believes Prime Minister Stepashin is a possible successor to President Yeltsin. "A man who becomes prime minister a year before the elections must have presidential ambitions," Voloshin continued. Voloshin also denied media reports about the alleged influence of Sibneft head Roman Abramovich on Kremlin decisions, saying that Abramovich appears at the Kremlin "very rarely." In an article on 4 June, "Kommersant- Daily" alleged that President Yeltsin's plans for retirement include heading a new federation formed on the basis of Russia and Belarus. JAC EES PLANNING COMPUTER SHOPPING SPREE BEFORE 2000. Russia's electricity giant, Unified Energy Systems, revealed on 7 June that it needs to replace 15,000-17,000 of its 50,000 computers because of anticipated problems stemming from the so-called millennium computer bug, ITAR-TASS reported. Deputy chairman of the company's board, Aleksandr Remezov, told reporters that the company needs to spend $15 million on the purchase of new computers and new software. As an additional precaution before the new year, the company plans to conduct training sessions at all nuclear power plants to prepare their personnel for possible breakdowns if the Y2K problem is not solved completely. JAC RUSSIAN, BULGARIAN PREMIERS PRAISE BILATERAL RELATIONS. Following their meeting in Moscow on 7 June, Stepashin and Ivan Kostov told reporters that there are no "political differences" between their two countries, while Stepashin stressed the need to begin implementing "concrete economic projects," Russian agencies reported. Bilateral annual trade has halved during the past three years, plummeting from $2.5 billion to $1.2 billion in 1998, which Kostov, in talks with Russian industrialists, attributed to frequent changes in trade regulations. With regard to Kosova, Stepashin urged Bulgaria to play a more active role in settling the conflict: "You should put things in order in the Balkans on your own," he commented, adding that "this is more efficient and less painful." Among the documents signed during Kostov's visit-- his first to Moscow since becoming premier in 1997--were an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the fight against illegal financial transactions and a memorandum on cooperation between the two countries' Justice Ministries. JC HE WHO GAVE IS TAKING AWAY. U.S. financier George Soros announced on 7 June that he is planning to slash funding for a science education program that issues grants to professors and students at high schools and universities across Russia. He explained that move by saying the Russian government failed to meet its commitment to contribute to financing the program. According to Interfax, Soros is considering a number of new programs in Russia, which is one of the reasons why funding will be cut. Under the new programs, major regional Russian libraries will be automated and a 100-volume edition of the best works of Russian literature published, according to ITAR-TASS. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 5 June, Nikolai Karpov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, reported that Russia is losing most of its young scientists through emigration to the U.S. and Canada. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER TO BE NAMED NEW PREMIER. President Robert Kocharian on 10 June will formally name Vazgen Sargsian to head the new government, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 8 June, quoting an unnamed senior government source. Kocharian will sign the appropriate decree immediately following the election at the opening session of the new parliament of the parliamentary speaker. The most likely candidate for that post is former Armenian Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchian, who, together with Sargsian, leads the Miasnutyun alliance. The alliance has a majority in the new parliament. LF ABKHAZ, GEORGIAN DELEGATIONS MEET IN ISTANBUL. Representatives of the government of Georgia and that of the country's breakaway Black Sea region of Abkhazia began consultations in Istanbul on 7 June aimed at kickstarting the deadlocked peace process. Since late last year, the two sides having been trying to reach agreement on two documents, one on the non-resumption of hostilities and the other dealing with both the repatriation to Abkhazia of an estimated 200,000 Georgian displaced persons who fled during the 1992- 1993 war and measures to revive the region's economy. Speaking in Tbilisi on 7 June, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that if it proves impossible to arrive at a peace settlement through diplomatic means, Tbilisi will consider other, unspecified measures. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba told the Istanbul meeting that Shevardnadze's comparison between the Abkhaz and Kosova conflicts is inappropriate, given that it was the Georgian army that began the war by invading Abkhazia in 1992. LF TURKEY GRANTS GEORGIA FUNDS FOR ARMY MODERNIZATION. Major- General Serafetddin Elci, who is head of the Financial Department of the Turkish armed forces General Staff, and Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Grigol Katamadze signed an agreement in Tbilisi on 7 June under which Ankara will grant Georgia $1.7 million in 1999 toward modernizing its armed forces, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. Part of those funds will be allocated to the Georgian Frontier Guard Service. Last year, Turkey granted Georgia $5.5 million for defense purposes. Turkey will also assist Georgia in organizing multinational maneuvers in 2001 within the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. LF PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY CRITICIZES KAZAKH GOVERNMENT. Leading members of the OTAN (Fatherland) party, including parliamentary speaker Marat Ospanov, issued a statement on 7 June castigating the government for failing to protect domestic industry, stem rising unemployment, and pay pensions and social allowances on time, Reuters and Interfax reported. The statement said that as a result of its "incompetent actions," the present government has forfeited public support. It called on parliamentary deputies to vote no confidence in the present cabinet, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev responded by characterizing the problems facing his government as the legacy of the policies pursued by former Premier Sergei Tereschenko, who now heads OTAN. LF KAZAKHSTAN FACES BUDGET CUTS. Prime Minister Balghymbaev on 7 June presented to the lower house of parliament plans for cutting budget spending in 1999 by more than 18 billion tenge ($151 million), ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Revenues are to be revised downward by 11.5 billion tenge. Balghymbaev said that the decrease in revenues is the result of falling exports to the country's most important trading partners, especially Russia, and lower prices for oil and metals on world markets. LF ANOTHER PROTEST DEMONSTRATION IN KYRGYZSTAN... Some 50 people picketed the regional administration building in the northern Kyrgyz town of Talas on 7 June to protest deteriorating living conditions and delays in paying wages and pensions, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The same day, the lower house of the parliament began considering government-proposed amendments to the Law on Pensions and Social Guarantees, which would double the minimum salary from 100 soms ($2.3) to 200 soms. Deputies rejected that proposal as inadequate, noting that the minimum per capita subsistence level is 950 soms. LF ...AS BISHKEK YOUTH DEMAND OWN PARLIAMENTARY CONSTITUENCY. Meeting on 5 June with President Askar Akaev, representatives of young people engaged in building their own homes on the outskirts of Bishkek suggested creating a new constituency to enable them to vote for a parliamentary deputy to represent their interests, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They complained that the district where they live is without roads, running water, electricity, or public transport to the city center. The district is home to some 100,000 young people from rural areas, 80 percent of whom are unemployed. Akaev promised that a government commission will be formed to address the problem. In 1990, homeless residents of Bishkek founded the first informal political organization in the then Kirghiz SSR. LF TAJIK OPPOSITION SEEKS TO BRIDGE RIFT WITH GOVERNMENT. The United Tajik Opposition will create a working group headed by National Reconciliation Commission member Muhammad Sharif Himmatzoda to discuss conditions for renewing cooperation with the government on implementation of the 1997 peace agreement, Interfax and Reuters reported. UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri said he anticipates that the working group will make its proposals within five or six days. The opposition suspended its work in the National Reconciliation Commission two weeks ago to protest the government's failure to implement key points of the 1997 peace agreement, including the release of 93 imprisoned opposition fighters and the appointment of opposition nominees to 30 percent of all national and local government posts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1999). LF TAJIKISTAN, CHINA DISCUSS TRADE, BORDER DEMARCATION. Visiting Dushanbe on 6-7 June, Chinese Deputy Premier Qian Qichen met with Tajik First Deputy Prime Minister Khodja Akbar Turadjonzoda and President Imomali Rakhmonov. The talks focused on measures to expand bilateral trade and economic relations, including Tajikistan's accession to the agreement between China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Pakistan on the transit of goods. They also dealt with outstanding points of disagreement in a draft document demarcating the frontier between the two countries. Rakhmonov and Qian discussed regional security and the situation in Afghanistan, on which their views proved "almost identical," according to presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov. The two sides also signed an intergovernmental agreement whereby China will grant Tajikistan 10 million yuan (about $1.2 million) in humanitarian aid. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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