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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 115, Part I, 14 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 115, Part I, 14 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 * CONFUSION OVER RUSSIAN ROLE IN KFOR * OVERLAPPING ALLIANCES COMPLICATE ELECTION BLOC FORMATION * NAZARBAEV TO GET SPECIAL POWERS? END NOTE: Moscow's Third Way xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA CONFUSION OVER RUSSIAN ROLE IN KOSOVA. U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin tried in an hour- long telephone conversation on 13 June to end the standoff between NATO and Russian troops near the Prishtina airport (see stories in Part II). According to Yeltsin's press office, the two leaders "stressed the need for an intensive dialogue, including that between the military, to quickly coordinate decisions in the peacemaking operations," AP reported. White House spokesman Mike Hammer said that the two leaders agreed that their generals must work out details for the role of Russian soldiers in Kosova and that talks on the prospective command structure will continue. FS WILL RUSSIA RECEIVE A 'ZONE OF RESPONSIBILITY?' U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott failed to convince Russian officials in Moscow on 13 June to give NATO full access to the Prishtina airport. Talbott, however, said the U.S. is considering establishing "a zone of responsibility" for Russian peacekeepers in Kosova that will be under NATO control. He stressed that "there will be parts of [Kosova] where Russian participation will be important and manifest," but made clear that there will be no partition of the province. FS SHEA, COOK ENVISAGE SETTLEMENT WITH RUSSIA. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea told Sky News in Brussels on 14 June that "we have to sort out the business of how the Russians are going to be integrated into [the Kosova peacekeeping force] KFOR, where they will be, what role they're going to play, what the command arrangements will be." He added that "this business of the Russian participation is now well on its way to being sorted out," Reuters reported. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the BBC in London that Ivanov promised him during a telephone call that no more Russian troops will be moved into Kosova without prior agreement with the West. He added that "we will be holding the Russian government to that commitment and I have to say in the 24 hours since then they have done so." FS WHO KNEW WHAT IN MOSCOW? Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Talbott on 12 June in Moscow that the Russian troop deployment was an "unfortunate mistake." Ivanov added that the government ordered the paratroopers to leave Kosova immediately, but he did not elaborate on who gave the order. The following day, however, Ivanov told Interfax that "everyone will stay where they are during the transitional stage." ITAR-TASS reported that the Russian Defense Ministry and unnamed high-level Yugoslav military officials took the decision to send the troops into Kosova as the first peacekeeping troops to arrive. Lieutenant-General Viktor Zavarzin commands the troops. Yeltsin promoted him to colonel-general after he led the forces into Kosova. Unnamed Russian officials told Reuters that the troop deployment to Kosova was part of a plan authorized by Yeltsin. Meanwhile, Yeltsin called a meeting of the Russian Security Council for 14 June to discuss Russia's role in KFOR. FS AMNESTY BILL CLEARS FIRST LEGISLATIVE HURDLE... The State Duma approved on 11 June on first reading a bill that would provide amnesty to more than 94,000 prisoners in Russian jails. If the bill passes all legislative hurdles, the amnesty would be carried out over a six-month period, according to Deputy Justice Minister Yurii Kalinin. Those eligible for amnesty would be prisoners who committed non- violent crimes, those who are war veterans or are pregnant, men over 60, women over 55, invalids, or inmates infected with tuberculosis or AIDS. According to Interfax, some 92,000 inmates have tuberculosis and about 2,300 are infected with the HIV virus. JAC ...AS DOES ANOTHER IMF BILL. Duma deputies also approved the same day on first reading a bill that amends existing legislation on the Central Bank and securities market. The legislation is part of a package of laws prepared in accordance with the Russian government's agreement with the IMF. Under the amendment, the Central Bank will be allowed to issue short-term bonds, the size of which will be set by the annual budget. Also in line with the IMF's wishes, the Central Bank plans to abolish twin trading sessions on the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange on 29 June, according to Interfax (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 1999). Presidential envoy to international financial institutions Mikhail Zadornov had announced earlier that the bank would also lift its ban preventing foreign banks from buying hard currency from their ruble correspondent accounts. JAC TAX MINISTRY BEGINS APPLYING MORE OVERT PRESSURE ON BANKS. The Tax Ministry named on 10 June six large banks that will lose their licenses to operate if they do not begin paying back taxes, "The Moscow Times" reported the next day. The list of the banks included SBS-Agro, Rossiiskii Kredit, Inkombank, Promstroibank, Mosbiznesbank and Bank Imperial; however, Inkombank already lost its license earlier this year. According to the daily, the commercial bank sector owes the government some 20 billion rubes ($823 million) in overdue taxes. Tax ministry officials admitted that the threat was somewhat empty, since they do not want to go beyond issuing a warning since a bank with a revoked license will no longer be able to make any tax payments at all. JAC OVERLAPPING ALLIANCES COMPLICATE ELECTION BLOC FORMATION... Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev, the informal leader of Vsya Rossiya (All Russia) movement, announced that talks were continuing with Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia) over the formation of an alliance ahead of parliamentary elections, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11 June. Shaimiev said that forming an alliance with Golos Rossii "could be more beneficial than with any other coalitions or parties." However, Shaimiev rejected the possibility of an alliance with Novaya Sila (New Force) headed by former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, with whom Konstantin Titov, Golos Rossii's informal leader, is also conducting talks on forming an election alliance, according to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau. According to the daily, Shaimiev's objections to an alliance with Kirienko center on the latter's plan to run in Moscow's mayoral elections. Russian media earlier reported that Vsya Rossiya and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Otechestvo party were also discussing forming an election bloc (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 28 April 1999). JAC RUSSIA CELEBRATES NINE YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE. Russian citizens celebrated their country's independence from the Soviet Union on 12 June. In a speech to mark the occasion, President Yeltsin called for the renewal of the nation's "political elite" with "educated people capable of making laws" in a reference to upcoming Duma elections. According to Reuters, Yeltsin looked "wooden" and spoke slowly and in an exaggeratedly measured pace. JAC PRIMAKOV DECLINES TO RULE OUT ELECTION BID. Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov dropped more hints that he is considering a return to politics on 11 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 1999). According to ITAR-TASS, Primakov, who is visiting Switzerland, said that "I do not rule out anything in the future." He continued, "I am very satisfied that after I stopped being prime minister, my ratings have grown. This is a phenomenal occurrence and naturally I cannot be indifferent to it." JAC FORMER TOP AEROFLOT OFFICIAL CHARGED... The office of the Prosecutor General charged on 11 June the former deputy head of Aeroflot, Nikolai Glushkov, with money laundering and illegal entrepeneurship, Russian agencies reported. The charges against Glushkov are part of a broader investigation of Aeroflot and its finances. Glushkov is barred from leaving Moscow. JAC ...AS NEW RIVAL AIRLINE SET TO EMERGE. Two Russian airlines, Vnukovo and Sibir, are set to merge into one company that would be several times larger than Aeroflot in terms of the volume of air traffic it handles in Russia and the CIS, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11 June. The new joint company will serve around 10 percent of all Russian air passengers and control 40 of the existing 150 main air routes, according to the daily. The first step in the process was achieved when Novosibirsk-based Siber's general director, Vladislav Filev, was named director of Vnukovo. According to "The Moscow Times" the next day, Filev has until the end of the year to come up with a merger plan for the two airlines. JAC RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER MEETS CHECHEN PRESIDENT. Russian Premier Stepashin met with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov on 11 June in the new Ingush capital of Magas, Interfax reported. The two reaffirmed their commitment to the "unconditional fulfillment of all previous agreements" and agreed to expand cooperation in the field of law enforcement. Stepashin told the news agency that he would brief President Yeltsin on the meeting. The Russian and Chechen presidents are supposed to meet later this year, but no date has been set. PG AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS STAGE HUNGER STRIKE. Air traffic controllers in Kaliningrad declared on 11 June an indefinite hunger strike to protest low wages, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the head of the local air traffic controllers union, the controllers will continue to report to work but will not eat until their demands are met. JAC BASHKORTOSTAN RIVER EXPERIENCING HEAVY OIL POLLUTION... NTV reported on 13 June that an oil pipeline ruptured the previous day in the Republic of Bashkortostan, spilling at least 1,000 tons of oil into the Ai river. Republic's authorities were not informed about the spill until the next day. According to the television station, the spill could cause a serious ecological catastrophe in the region. JAC ...AS MORE DEAD SEALS TURN UP AT LAKE BAIKAL. Meanwhile, environmentalists in the Irkutsk Oblast reported that 30 dead seals had been discovered on the shores of Lake Baikal, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 10 June. The discovery follows a report earlier in June of another 100 dead seals. The environmentalists noted that the seals were discovered on the southern shore of the lake near a large paper and pulp mill. JAC CHECHEN SECURITY FORCES TAKE CONTROL OF OIL PIPELINE... The Chechen National Guard on 11 June took control of the Chechen portion of the pipeline that carries oil from Azerbaijan to Novorossiisk on the Black Sea, Interfax reported. The National Guard commander, General Magomed Khambiyev, said he had taken this step in order to "free the pipeline from numerous gunmen who have been pilfering oil recently." PG ...BEFORE IT IS ROCKED BY EXPLOSION. Three days later the pipeline was severed by an explosion near the Chechen- Dagestan border, ITAR-TASS reported. Local police say the explosion was most likely the result of an attempt by thieves to tap into the pipeline. The blaze caused by the explosion has been brought under control by firemen. PB TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA NEW ARMENIAN PREMIER TO NAME GOVERNMENT. Vazgen Sarkisian, who was appointed prime minister by Armenian President Robert Kocharian on 11 June, will announce the composition of his government in the next few days, Interfax reported. Sarkisian, whose Unity alliance won 57 of the 131 seats in parliament, will give up his post as defense minister. PG PAPAL VISIT TO ARMENIA ALTERED. The Holy See announced on 14 June that an official visit to Armenia by Pope John Paul II scheduled for 2-4 July has been changed due to the illness of Armenian Catholicos Garegin I, who is recovering from cancer surgery performed in February. Instead of the July meeting, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the pope would fly to Armenia from Krakow, Poland on 18 June to visit the ailing Orthodox patriarch. John Paul will return to Rome that same day. PG/PB AZERBAIJAN RATIFIES JAPAN OIL ACCORD. The Azerbaijani parliament on 11 June ratified a $2.3 billion agreement between Baku's SOCAR oil company and a Japanese oil consortium, Interfax-PIA reported. The agreements will go into effect after Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev signs them. Four Japanese firms control 50 percent of the deal-- SOCAR holds the other 50 percent. The joint enterprise will develop three areas in the Caspian Sea thought to contain upwards of 100 million tons of oil. PG HAS GEORGIAN REBEL LEADER SURRENDERED? Akaky Eliava and nine others involved in an insurrection against Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze in October 1998 reportedly surrendered to Georgian authorities on 11 June, Interfax reported. But on 13 June, Eliava denied that he had surrendered and asked the country's parliament to guarantee his security. The confusion may reflect the fact that Eliava and his men were not formally arrested but simply gave written pledges that they would not flee the country and that they came out of hiding only after the authorities met their demands and released 39 others involved in their movement. PG GEORGIAN SHIP TAKES PART IN PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE EXERCISE. A patrol cutter from the Georgian navy will participate in a NATO Partnership for Peace program near Varna, Bulgaria, from 14-26 June, ITAR-TASS reported. PG NAZARBAEV TO GET SPECIAL POWERS? Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 11 June asked the parliament to grant him the power to issue laws prior to the convocation of the next session of that body, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. His comments came during an address to parliament in which he called for the adoption of a number of bill's prior to the legislature's summer recess. Nazarbaev said that the country's rapidly changing economic situation "requires faster legal steps to enhance the ongoing reforms." Parliamentarians indicated to Reuters that the legislature is likely to go along with the measure, which will further concentrate power in the hands of Nazarbaev. Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbaev said on 14 June that he fully supports the president's request in order to clear a "backlog of legislation" that he said is crucial to lifting the economy out of a worsening slump. PG/PB KAZAKHSTAN'S KURDS DENY PKK ACTIVITY. Nadir Nadirov, the president of the Association of the Kurdish People in Kazakhstan, said on 11 June that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has never been active in his country, Interfax- Kazakhstan reported. But he added that the Kurds of Kazakhstan "cannot be indifferent" to the fate of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is now on trial in Turkey. PG KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA CONSULT ON PIPELINE ROUTES. Russian First Deputy Premier Nikolai Aksenenko met with Kazakh officials in Astana on 12 June to discuss possible pipeline routes for the export of Kazakhstan's oil to foreign markets, ITAR-TASS reported. The two sides also discussed the schedule of Russia's payments for the leasing of the Baikonur space center. Aksenenko reportedly promised that Moscow would make the first payment in July. PG WORLD BANK LOAN FOR TAJIK PRIVATIZATION PROJECTS. The World Bank has approved a $20 million loan to support the privatization of farms in Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 June. The loan was made through the bank's International Association for Development, a program that makes loans to the world's poorest countries. PG KARIMOV STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF SINO-UZBEK TIES. During a visit to Tashkent by Chinese Deputy Premier Qian Qichen on 11 June, Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov called for expanding ties between the two countries as part of an effort to revive "the ancient Great Silver Road" linking Europe to Asia. PG END NOTE Moscow's Third Way By Paul Goble The introduction of some 200 Russian troops into Prishtina and their continuing occupation of the airport there reflect Moscow's continuing effort to navigate between cooperation with NATO and confrontation with Western creditor countries. This essential continuity has been obscured over the weekend both by often apocalyptic Western commentaries and by Western governments anxious to overcome the difficulties that arose when 200 Russian soldiers unexpectedly showed up in the Kosovar capital. Commentators in leading U.S. and West European newspapers speculated that this latest Russian action could mean one of two things: It could be a rogue operation by Russian generals and thus an indication that President Boris Yeltsin is no longer in control of the situation in Moscow. Or, these same analysts suggested, it could mean that Yeltsin has had a change of heart and now shares the nationalist agenda of many of NATO's most vociferous critics in the Russian capital. In either case, the prospects for East-West relations are extremely gloomy. At the other extreme were spokesmen for both NATO forces and Western governments who went to great lengths to suggest the Russian presence in Prishtina was a "bump in the road" and that the differences between Moscow and NATO that it reflected would soon be overcome. Each of these three views--the notion that Yeltsin does not have total control of his government, the idea that Yeltsin's views about the West are evolving, and the belief that this "bump" will soon be overcome--captures part of the current East-West geopolitical reality. And only a combination of the three provides not only an accurate description of what is going on but also a picture of just where Russian policy on Yugoslavia and on the West now is. As reporting from Moscow on Saturday and Sunday shows, few Russians care very much about who ordered the introduction of Russian forces--Yeltsin, the Defense Ministry, or a particular general. Instead, they are pleased that Russia has been able to create a fact on the ground that NATO was earlier unwilling to grant but is equally unwilling to directly challenge. Yeltsin will gain support abroad in at least two ways. On the one hand, the Serbs and other states angry at NATO and the United States will see Russia as their spokesman/protector, even if Moscow eventually backs down. And on the other, the Russian president will almost certainly be able to extract some greater concessions from the West in order to bring the Russian forces into conformance with NATO's plans, something Yeltsin will be better positioned to do if there is confusion about just who gave the order to send them there in the first place. Moreover, reporting from Moscow also makes it clear that Yeltsin is evolving in his views about the West under the impact of NATO's actions in Yugoslavia. Yeltsin is clearly less uncritical of the West than he was a year ago, and he is very much interested in demonstrating his own and his country's power, especially because both have so obviously declined. But Yeltsin also remains very aware of his dependence on the West and also the dependence of his country, an awareness that helps to explain why Moscow has taken such a carefully calibrated action. It also supports the idea that the Russian president was very much involved in the deployment decision. If the introduction of Russian troops into Prishtina had been a rogue action or if it had been the product of a new anti- Western Yeltsin, it might have been both larger and more dramatic than it in fact has proved to be. Indeed, the Prishtina operation appears to reflect a desire to put pressure on the West without taking a step that would totally alienate the leaders of countries to which Moscow still looks for assistance of various kinds. NATO will certainly seek a compromise that will keep the Russians "on board" as various Western leaders have said. Indeed, precisely because some in Moscow--including Yeltsin-- have positioned themselves to deny full responsibility, the West may again as it has in the past give Yeltsin credit for backing away from something that he may have been responsible for starting. And even if that happens--and the odds of a settlement on this point are probably quite good--Moscow and Yeltsin undoubtedly assume they will walk away winners, not only by signaling their support of the Serbs but also by underscoring the West's largely self-imposed requirement that Moscow be included in all future discussions about Kosova. Consequently, Moscow's pursuit of a third way in this conflict appears likely to bring it far greater benefits than either of the extreme alternatives. And that in turn suggests that Yeltsin, who has practiced this style of politics before, almost certainly is heavily involved in this case as well. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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