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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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Headlines, Part I

* TALBOTT, CHERNOMYRDIN BEGIN TALKS ON RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPER IN
KOSOVA

* STEPASHIN, DUMA PREPARE FOR SHOWDOWN?

* ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW SPEAKER
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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

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