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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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
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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.
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