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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 113, Part I, 10 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 113, Part I, 10 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 * TALBOTT, CHERNOMYRDIN BEGIN TALKS ON RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPER IN KOSOVA * STEPASHIN, DUMA PREPARE FOR SHOWDOWN? * ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW SPEAKER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA TALBOTT, CHERNOMYRDIN BEGIN TALKS ON RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS IN KOSOVA... U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott arrived in Moscow on 10 June to meet with Russia's special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin, Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, and Defense Ministry officials to discuss Russia's role in a peace-keeping force for Kosova, Reuters reported. The talks follow the agreement the previous day reached by NATO and Yugoslav military officials on Serbia's withdrawal from Kosova (see Part II). Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Vyacheslav Sedov on 9 June said that "the peacekeeping force should be under the aegis of the UN. This is the firm Russian position." He added that "the strength, the structure and the line of command" are on the agenda at the Moscow talks. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said the Russian military could send up to 10,000 troops to take part in the peacekeeping force. FS ...IVASHOV HOPES TO 'CORRECT' EARLIER AGREEMENT. Colonel- General Leonid Ivashov, who is a senior Defense Ministry official expected to head the Russian military delegation at the talks, told ITAR-TASS on 9 June that the Russian military is unhappy with the draft UN Security Council resolution. Ivashov said: "We are determined to look for...a compromise on the issue, to correct negative things that were done earlier" during negotiations on the G-8 agreement. An unnamed high-ranking Defense Ministry official told Interfax that the Russian delegation will propose that Russia be given one of four sectors that will be in northwest Kosova. The official added that the proposal envisages the deployment in the sector of forces from neutral countries and several former Soviet republics, but not of NATO units. The following day, Talbott stressed that "there will be specific arrangement for a division of labor within [Kosova] but nothing that would bear any resemblance to partitioning or dividing [Kosova] up into different national sectors." FS DID ALBRIGHT, IVANOV MAKE BREAKTHROUGH POSSIBLE? An unnamed U.S. official told Reuters that the breakthrough to reaching a military agreement between NATO and Yugoslavia came in Cologne on 9 June. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov reportedly gave last-minute "categorical assurances" to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that Russia will vote for the draft resolution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1999) as soon as NATO suspends its air campaign. The official added that once the U.S. received the Russian promise, NATO agreed to strike from the military agreement a sentence that would have given NATO the right to resume bombing after 24 hours if the UN Security Council does not pass the resolution. FS UN SECURITY COUNCIL SET TO ADOPT RESOLUTION. The Security Council on 9 June in New York put the finishing touches on the draft resolution authorizing an international force to move into Kosova. Western diplomats told AP that they expect China to abstain from the vote, rather than veto the resolution. Russian President Boris Yeltsin held telephone conversations with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to express his support for the resolution. Security Council President Babouccar- Blaise Jagne of Gambia said he will call for a meeting as soon as he receives a fax from Secretary General Kofi Annan detailing an order by NATO Secretary General Javier Solana advising that the NATO bombing of targets in Yugoslavia has stopped. FS DUMA WANTS CHERNOMYRDIN SACKED. The State Duma on 10 June called on Yeltsin to sack Chernomyrdin as his special envoy to Yugoslavia. The communist faction initiated the non- binding vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 1999), which was backed by 271 to 92 with one abstention. FS RUSSIAN CONTINGENT FOR KOSOVA TO PUT FURTHER STRAINS ON BUDGET. Prime Minister Stepashin declared on 10 June that the defense capabilities of the Russian army are "in a catastrophic state," noting that next year's budget must address this issue. Stepashin added that the "additional burden of preparing and deploying a Russian contingent in Kosova" would put additional strain on the country's financial resources. "Izvestiya" reported the previous day that President Yeltsin had tasked Stepashin with seeking to prevent any disruption in funds to the armed forces and finding additional monies for research and development. The head of the Defense Ministry's Directorate for the Military Budget and Financing, Georgii Oleinik, told the daily that budget monies in the first half of 1999 were devoted entirely for "tasks that could not be delayed" such as clearing soldiers' wage arrears, ensuring the timetable of work on the Topol-M missile system, and updating computers to cope with the millennium bug. JAC STEPASHIN, DUMA PREPARE FOR SHOWDOWN? Stepashin on 10 June said he is prepared to raise the issue of confidence in his cabinet if the Duma rejects the package of legislation prepared by the government in accordance with its agreement with the IMF. If Stepashin lost such a vote, President Yeltsin would have to name a new prime minister or dissolve the lower chamber. The previous day, the Duma postponed until 16 June consideration of a bill that would tax gasoline stations. Numerous Duma factions, including the Communist group, which is the largest, have said they will vote against the bill because they believe its passage will result in higher gasoline prices (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 1999). In his address to Duma members, Stepashin repeated his government's willingness to "introduce state regulation of the gasoline market." JAC FINANCE MINISTRY PREDICTING RUBLE WILL SINK FURTHER AGAINST DOLLAR. Prime Minister Stepashin on 10 June said his cabinet will consider the final version of the 2000 budget on 9 August. Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that so far budget revenue is planned at 687.2 billion rubles ($28.3 billion) and expenditures at 763 billion rubles. The "primary" budget surplus is forecast at 2.8 percent. According to ITAR-TASS, the Finance Ministry expects the ruble to trade on average at 32 rubles to $1 next year, while annual inflation is predicted to hover between 18-22 percent. JAC NEW ELECTION BILL CLEARS UPPER CHAMBER. The Federation Council on 9 June passed a bill regulating elections to the State Duma. The vote was 133 in favor, 5 opposed, and one abstention, according to Interfax. The law is part of a package of legislation sponsored by the Central Election Commission, which is attempting to reduce possible voter fraud and other irregularities during upcoming parliamentary elections. The new law limits the number of absentee voters and bars elected officials from using public funds and property for campaigning, "The Moscow Times" reported on 10 June. "Segodnya" reported on 5 June that Konstantin Titov and Sergei Kirienko, leaders of the Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia) and Novaya Sila (New Force) movements, respectively, agreed to establish a citizen monitoring system that will allow voters in the Duma elections "to gain access to information on the elections and how they are organized." The two leaders encouraged other parties to join their effort. JAC MOSCOW MAYORAL RACE TO TAKE PLACE EARLY. A majority in Moscow's legislative assembly voiced its approval on 9 June for moving mayoral elections from June 2000 to December 1999, ITAR-TASS reported. A formal vote on the matter will likely take place on 11 June. "Segodnya" suggested on 9 June that former Prime Minister Kirienko will challenge Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov in that election, despite the certainty that he will lose, to gain political experience for future races. On 8 June, Luzhkov proposed that all retiring Russian presidents be given permanent membership in the Federation Council, Interfax reported. The suggestion is being widely interpreted by analysts as Luzhkov's attempt to mend a fraying relationship with the Kremlin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 1999). As a senator, Yeltsin would be immune from criminal prosecution. JAC BEREZOVSKII MEDIA EMPIRE SET TO EXPAND. Influential business tycoon Boris Berezovskii will soon own a controlling share in Moscow's TV-6 television company, "Segodnya" reported on 9 June. TV-6 President Eduard Sagalaev, according to the daily, said he has decided to sell a "sizable portion" of his shares to Berezovskii and the companies that he controls. Sagalaev declined to name either the amount of the shares he will sell or the price. Currently, he and Berezovskii each possess a 37.5 percent stake in the company. According to ITAR-TASS, the issue will be decided at a shareholders' meeting on 10 June. JAC FEDERATION COUNCIL PUNTS SKURATOV ISSUE TO COURT. Members of the parliament's upper chamber voted on 9 June to appeal to the Constitutional Court to settle the issue of Prosecutor- General Yurii Skuratov's dismissal, Interfax reported. Senators voted 109 in favor and 6 against to ask the court to decide whether under the Russian Constitution, President Yeltsin has the right to suspend Skuratov from office, pending the outcome of a criminal investigation, without the approval of the Federation Council. Senators have twice rejected attempts to remove the controversial prosecutor. On 8 June, Skuratov attended a meeting of the council's anti- corruption commission and briefed its members on the activities of the companies Mabetex and Aeroflot. According to ITAR-TASS, the Constitutional Court is expected to take a decision on 22 June on a Moscow city court's initiative to institute criminal proceedings against Skuratov. JAC IVANOV SAYS RUSSIAN-U.S. RELATIONS HAVE WORSENED... Following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Albright on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in Cologne, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov told journalists that Russian-U.S. relations have worsened as a result of the Kosova crisis and "the atmosphere surrounding them remains negative," Interfax reported. "We will certainly take steps to repair the damage" to those ties, he commented, adding that Russia "has done a lot" to promote "partnership relations" with the U.S. JC ...REVEALS RUSSIA TO SIGN LAND MINE TREATY. Also in Cologne on 9 June, Ivanov said that Russia intends to sign the international treaty banning land mines, ITAR-TASS reported. The report did not indicate whether he specified when, however. Earlier, Russia declined to add its signature to the treaty, saying it needs the mines for defense purposes, according to AP. JC FOUR ROYAL FAMILY MEMBERS REHABILITATED. The Prosecutor- General's Office announced on 9 June that four members of the royal family have been rehabilitated as victims of political persecution. Princes Nikolai Mikhailovich, Dmitrii Konstantinovich, Georgii Mikhailovich, and Grand Duke Pavel Aleksandrovich were executed in January 1919 as enemies of the state. An official at the Prosecutor-General's Office told ITAR-TASS that records show that the men had neither faced concrete charges nor had a proper criminal trial. JAC PRIMAKOV COMMENTS VAGUELY ON NEXT CAREER PHASE. Asked about his plans, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov told reporters at a Moscow airport on 9 June that "the future will show. I do not exclude anything." Primakov was leaving Moscow to attend a conference in Switzerland and undergo a medical check-up. JAC STEPASHIN, SHAIMIEV MEET. Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev met with Russian Prime Minister Stepashin on 9 June to discuss the political situation in the federation, Interfax reported. Shaimiev briefed Stepashin on the activities of the Vsya Rossiya bloc, which he heads. He said that Stepashin shared his concern over the possibility that falling living standards will lead to instability in the runup to the December State Duma elections. Shaimiev said that after those elections, Russia "will have to reach a civilized level" by forming a government of the parliamentary majority that would "delegate equal responsibilities for bodies of the [Russian] government and abolish the grounds for possible conflict...between them." Addressing the Federation Council the same day, Shaimiev rejected the draft federal law on the principles of power-sharing treaties between the center and federation subjects, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported, citing TatarInform. Shaimiev said that draft is "aimed at limiting the rights of members of the Russian Federation." LF CHECHNYA TO CRACK DOWN OF THEFTS FROM OIL TRANSIT PIPELINE. Chechen National Guard commander General Magomed Khambiev told Interfax on 9 June that his men will immediately take over responsibility for guarding the Chechen sector of the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk pipeline to prevent further thefts of oil. Khambiev said that 120,000 tons of oil have been siphoned off since the pipeline went into operation in the fall of 1997. He added that Grozny will compensate for those losses with crude extracted in Chechnya. The Russian pipeline company Transneft has repeatedly halted operation of the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline in recent months, most recently on 8 June, citing "technical reasons." But Khambiev said Transneft will not resume pumping oil through the pipeline until it receives guarantees from Chechnya that there will be no further thefts. Chechnya receives $15.67 in transit fees per metric ton of oil transported through the pipeline. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW SPEAKER. As widely anticipated, the new parliament elected former Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchian as speaker at its first session on 10 June, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Demirchian and Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian head the Miasnutytun alliance, which has some 65 seats in the 131- deputy parliament. Addressing deputies, President Robert Kocharian said there can be "no alternative" to political and economic reform. He added that he expects "close cooperation" between the legislature and the executive. Demirchian, for his part, said he will strive to "increase substantially" the role of the parliament in policy-making, and he called for "greater transparency' in the work of the government. LF DEFENDANT IN ARMENIAN TRIAL IMPLICATES FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER. Only one of the eight former Armenian police officials accused of belonging to a death squad allegedly set up by former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian has pleaded guilty to that charge, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 9 June. Arshak Shukian confirmed his earlier testimony that he received orders from the alleged gang leader, Armen Ter-Sahakian, in 1992-1993 to assassinate several prominent officials and that he participated in one such murder. Ter-Sahakian and the remaining six accused have pleaded not guilty to the murder charges. Ter-Sahakian said his earlier confession was made under pressure from the Armenian authorities. LF AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT RETURNS TO BAKU. Heidar Aliev on 9 June flew home to Baku from the Turkish resort of Antalya, where he had spent three weeks recuperating from heart bypass surgery in the U.S. in late April. Before his return, presidential administration officials had announced that he will embark on a grueling schedule of public commitments, including the opening of a new airport complex in Baku on 13 June, a ceremony to mark the 1,300th anniversary of the Turkish epic "Kitebi Dede Korkut" on 14 June, and a summit of Turkic states on 15 June. But Novruz Mamedov, head of the foreign relations department within the presidential administration, told Reuters on 9 June that the Turkic summit has been postponed indefinitely because of Aliev's health. Other members of the presidential administration, however, said the postponement was requested by Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, who visited Aliev in Antalya before the latter's departure. LF ABKHAZ, GEORGIAN TALKS CONCLUDE... The confidence-building talks between Abkhaz and Georgian government delegations ended in Istanbul on 9 June with the signing of a declaration on the resumption of talks by three working groups created under UN auspices in late 1997, Caucasus Press reported. Those talks will address security measures in southern Abkhazia and the exchange of prisoners of war. The two sides agreed to convene another meeting on the repatriation to Abkhazia of displaced persons and measures to ensure their safety. LF ...AS LEADER OF DISPLACED PERSONS URGES NATO INTERVENTION. Addressing the NATO Assembly in Brussels on 9 June, Tamaz Nadareishvili, who is chairman of the so-called Abkhaz parliament in exile and unofficial leader of the Georgians who fled Abkhazia in 1992-1993, called for NATO to launch a peace enforcement operation in Abkhazia with a UN mandate under Article 7 of the UN Charter. He also urged the withdrawal from the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed there and its replacement by an international force. Nadareishvili also said the Russian military base in Gudauta, which he characterized as a "source of destabilization," should be closed. Nadareishvili, who has formed his own political party to contend the Georgian parliamentary elections this fall, is seeking to persuade the international community that Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba should be indicted for genocide and ethnic cleansing. LF KAZAKH PRESIDENT SETS PRIORITIES... Addressing cabinet members and regional governors on 9 June, Nursultan Nazarbaev chastized those officials for infighting, which, he said, is undermining the confidence of foreign investors, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1999). Nazarbaev criticized the government, and Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev personally, for the lack of a coherent program for the next three to five years, and he outlined 10 tasks for ministers and regional leaders, Interfax reported. Also on 9 June, the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan joined the OTAN party in calling for the government's replacement. The trade unionists noted that real wages have fallen by 25-30 percent in recent months, while food prices have risen sharply. LF ...AS PREMIER, OTHERS ASSESS ECONOMIC DOWNTURN. Addressing a conference in Astana on 9 June, Balghymbaev said economic output in the first five months of 1999 was down 4.8 percent compared with the same period last year and foreign trade turnover declined by almost 25 percent, Interfax reported. Balghymbaev also criticized the takeover of many large plants by foreign management, which began under his predecessor, Akezhan Kazhegeldin. He accused unnamed foreign investors of failing to meet tax commitments and to pay wages punctually. National Bank Chairman Qadyrzhan Damitov said that Kazakhstan's money base shrank by 20 percent during the first quarter of the year, while gold and hard currency reserves fell by 18.6 percent to $1.6 billion, Interfax reported. And Yerzhan Utembaev, who is chairman of the Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms, summarized the overall economic situation as "a serious crisis." LF TURKMEN PRESIDENT SETS UP PIPELINE WORKING GROUPS. Saparmurat Niyazov on 9 June decreed the formation of two working groups to coordinate talks and the drafting of documents related to the planned construction of gas export pipelines, Interfax reported. One group will deal with the planned Trans-Caspian route via Azerbaijan and Georgia to Turkey, while the second will continue talks with Japanese and European companies on the construction of a pipeline via Afghanistan to Pakistan. Interfax quoted a senior official from the country's Oil and Gas Ministry as saying that Niyazov's decision indicates that at present Ashgabat does not favor one specific pipeline route over others. LF UZBEK BOMBING SUSPECTS ADMIT TO CHECHEN CONNECTION. An unspecified number of the 22 men on trial for allegedly staging the 16 February bomb attacks in Tashkent, in which 16 people were killed, have admitted to undergoing training in camps in Chechnya run by Jordanian-born field commander Khattab, Interfax reported. Several other defendants said they underwent preparations for the attack in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Also on 9 June, Interfax reported that 34 men are on trial in the Uzbek city of Fergana on charges of calling for the overthrow of the present Uzbek leadership. The men hoped to establish an Islamic state, Interfax quotes local court officials as saying. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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