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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 116, Part I, 15 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 116, Part I, 15 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 * MORE RUSSIAN TROOPS HEADING FOR KOSOVA * BAD WEATHER THREATENS HARVEST * ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI TROOPS CLASH xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA MORE RUSSIAN TROOPS HEADING FOR KOSOVA. General-Colonel Georgii Shpak told Interfax in Moscow on 15 June that a Russian convoy of eight trucks and three other vehicles left Bosnia-Herzegovina bound for Kosova on 15 June. The convoy is reportedly bringing supplies and money for the about 200 Russian soldiers who are already in Kosova. The previous day Shpak denied unspecified press reports that the Russian army sent additional troops into Kosova by plane, but he told Interfax that the Defense Ministry has ordered about 2,500 paratroopers to prepare to participate in the international peacekeeping force in Kosova (KFOR). Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania have denied Russian planes an air corridor en route to Kosova until NATO and Russian officials agree on a command structure for KFOR. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 1999 and related stories in Part II). FS FSB CHIEF EXPECTS QUICK SETTLEMENT OF RUSSIAN ROLE IN KFOR... Vladimir Putin, director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), told the members of the Russian Security Council that he expects a settlement of Russia's role within KFOR "within two days at most," Russian Television reported. He added: "As soon as these matters have been agreed on, transportation of major forces will begin." Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin said that "the Russian battalion at the Slatina airfield [in Prishtina] is merely a token of Russia's presence in the Balkans," adding that "Russia [must] carry out its peacekeeping mission fully, not symbolically." He added that non-military aspects of the Kosova problem will be on the agenda of an upcoming G-8 meeting this week. Meanwhile, officials from the Defense Ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, slammed the Foreign Ministry for failing to obtain an air corridor for Russian flights to Kosova, Interfax reported. FS ...AFTER CLINTON AND YELTSIN AGREE TO 'INTENSIFY DIALOGUE.' Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his U.S. counterpart, Bill Clinton, agreed during a telephone conversation on 14 June to "intensify bilateral dialogue," ITAR-TASS reported. Stepashin told AFP on 15 June that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev in Helsinki on 16 June. He added that "I am convinced that all misunderstandings which have come up will be solved by the end of the week." He added that "without a doubt, the UN resolution to disarm the Kosova Liberation Army must be carried out." FS BAD WEATHER THREATENS HARVEST. Because of a cold snap in May and the prospect of a drought this summer, the Russian Agriculture Ministry is predicting that fulfillment of 1999 crop production targets may prove difficult, "The Moscow Times" reported on 15 June. Meteorologists forecast that the nation could experience a drought similar to that which occurred last year and contributed to the country's worst harvest in the last 40 years. Several Russian regions, including Central Russia, the Volga region, Omsk and Novosibirsk oblasts, Stavropol Krai and the Republic of Kalmykia are experiencing unusually high temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) at which point it becomes almost impossible to keep crops sufficiently watered, according to the daily. In addition to bad weather, a successful harvest is also threatened by the usual shortage of fuel and usable farm equipment. While at least 85,000 combine harvesters are needed, only 65,079 are currently functional, the newspaper reported. JAC STEPASHIN TO MEET WITH CAMDESSUS. Prime Minister Stepashin will hold his first meeting as head of the Russian government with IMF Director Michel Camdessus on 15 June. Stepashin said he would inform Camdessus about the government's progress thus far in fulfilling the agreement with the fund negotiated earlier by Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's government, Interfax reported. The two officials are also likely to discuss the government's draft 2000 budget, which was released last week and envisions new financing worth $3-3.85 billion from international financial organizations to cover the deficit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 1999). State Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov told reporters on 15 June that the Duma will consider the controversial bill imposing a tax on gasoline stations on 17 June after it is reviewed by the trilateral commission composed of members of the Duma, Federation Council, and government, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC KAMCHATKA RESIDENTS TO APPEAL TO THE UN. As the Kamchatka Oblast continues to be plagued by energy shortages, residents are collecting signatures on a petition requesting the establishment of UN control over their peninsula, Russian Television reported on 14 June. According to the television station, the region's largest power plant was shut down that day due to a lack of fuel. More than 2,000 signatures had been collected as of 15 June, ITAR-TASS reported. On 12 June, the national holiday, residents were treated to a complete energy blackout, as electricity was being provided only for a three-hour period every other day, ITAR-TASS reported earlier. Fuel supplies dried up after Slavneft, the region's usual fuel provider, declared that it would no longer ship fuel on credit. JAC REGIONS GET NEW INJECTION OF LUZHKOV'S LARGESSE. Amidst reports that the city of Moscow will have difficulty making payments to its foreign creditors, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov submitted an order to the city's legislative assembly for a 125 million ruble ($5.2 million) credit to the Yaroslavl Oblast for the completion of a hockey rink there, "The Moscow Times" reported on 15 June. The newspaper reported earlier that the oblast already owes the city some $8 million for an earlier loan to build the rink that it cannot repay (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 5 May 1999). Now, according to the daily, some city legislators are angry that the mayor is spreading the city's resources too thin in an attempt to expand his political influence before presidential elections. Earlier in June, Luzhkov approved 20 million rubles to Ryazan as "temporary financial aid for spring agricultural projects." JAC GOVERNMENT SUGGESTING DEPOPULATING THE NORTH? First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko announced during a trip to the Komi Republic that a program for moving residents from the city of Vorkuta to southern and central Russia might be resumed as soon as July, "Rossiya" reported in its June issue. According to the publication, Aksenenko said that the government wants the Northerners moved because that would cost less than building living accommodations for them in Vorkuta. Aksenenko has responsibility for resolving the problems of the north under the current division of labor within the Stepashin cabinet. At an April Security Council meeting devoted to "northern" issues a local legislator from the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) said that the north's industrial slump is increasing the outflow of the population to the south and that "a time will come when it will be necessary to return people to work within the Polar Circle and that will be much more expensive to do" (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 7 April 1999). JAC PENSIONS BACKLOG TO BE WIPED OUT BY SEPTEMBER. Labor Minister Sergei Kalashnikov told Ekho Moskvy on 15 June that all of the country's pension arrears will be paid off by September. Already, according to Kalashnikov, pension arrears declined from 30.6 billion rubles ($1.3 billion) in November 1998 to 14.6 billion rubles in June. Pensions are expected to increase by 10 percent on 1 October. JAC SECURITY COUNCIL GETS NEW MEMBERS. President Yeltsin signed a decree on 14 June appointing new members to the Security Council, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin assigned Prime Minister Stepashin, First Deputy Prime Ministers Aksenenko and Viktor Khristenko, Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, Economics Minister Andrei Shapovalyants, and General Director of the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information Vladimir Matyukhin. JAC AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS CALL OFF STRIKE. Air traffic controllers in Kaliningrad suspended their hunger strike hours after it began (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 1999), ITAR-TASS reported on 14 June. The controllers were protesting low wages and management agreed to renegotiate salaries and working conditions. JAC TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI TROOPS CLASH. Azerbaijani and Karabakh Armenian forces engaged in a four-hour exchange of fire on 14 June close to the northeastern border of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Azerbaijani agencies said that 300 Armenian troops mounted an offensive using firearms, mortars, and heavy machine guns in a series of unsuccessful attempts to capture Azerbaijani positions, but retreated after sustaining severe casualties. According to an Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman, Armenian forces opened fire in order to repulse an Azerbaijani attack. He said two Armenian soldiers were wounded in the fighting. Azerbaijani sources give their losses as two killed and four wounded. The exchange of fire was the most serious incident on the line of contact since the summer of 1997. LF U.S. AMBASSSADOR HOPES FOR AMENDMENTS TO AZERBAIJANI ELECTION LAW. Stanley Escudero said after a two-hour talk with first deputy parliamentary speaker Arif Ragimzade that the U.S. government "is absolutely confident" that deputies will introduce four unspecified amendments to the law on municipal elections before it is passed in the third and final reading, Turan reported on 14 June. Opposition deputies have criticized the bill as undemocratic. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT NOT TO ATTEND LUXEMBOURG SUMMIT? Turan on 14 June quoted unnamed sources as saying that on his doctors' advice, President Heidar Aliev will not travel to Luxembourg to attend the 22 June summit of Transcaucasus presidents. Prime Minister Artur Rasizade will represent Azerbaijan at that meeting, which Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists on 14 June is of a "consultative" character. The main objective of the meeting is the ratification of agreements between the three South Caucasus states and the European Union. Aliev was also scheduled to discuss the Karabakh conflict with his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian. LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT UNDERSCORES TIES WITH RUSSIA. Speaking at a press briefing in Tbilisi on 14 June, Eduard Shevardnadze called for a "radical overhaul" of relations with Russia, insisting that "no one is driving Russia out of Georgia," Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Shevardnadze said that Georgia is "open for cooperation with Russian businessmen, politicians, the military." The previous day, Georgian parliamentary chairman Zurab Zhvania had similarly expressed regret that Russia's policies towards Georgia are counterproductive and serve only to undermine bilateral cooperation, according to "Dilis gazeti" of 14 June. LF U.S. INVESTIGATES KAZAKHSTAN'S URANIUM SALES. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan told journalists on 14 June that the U.S. Trade Department has not yet completed the investigation begun earlier this year into allegations that Kazakhstan has violated a 1992 pledge not to sell uranium on the world market at "dumping" prices, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Kazakh National Atomic Company official Murat Zhakishev and Kazakhatomprom Vice President Viktor Yazikov have both denied that Kazakhstan was violating the 1992 agreement. Interfax on 11 June reported that the U.S. has already imposed anti-dumping sanctions on Kazakhstan's uranium suppliers, adding that Kazakh uranium is being sold in the U.S. at 15 percent less than world prices. LF KYRGYZSTAN AGAIN WITHOUT GAS. Intergas, the Kazakh company that supplies gas from Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan, again cut supplies to northern regions of Kyrgzystan, including Bishkek, on the morning of 14 June, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The Kyrgyz government owes Intergas some $3.2 million for past deliveries, and Intergaz has halted supplies several times earlier this year because of Bishkek's failure to meet that debt. A senior Kazakh government official had assured the Kyrgyz government in late May that there would be no further disruptions in supplies. LF KYRGYZ PREMIER'S VISIT TO UZBEKISTAN POSTPONED. A visit to Tashkent by Amangeldy Muraliev scheduled for 12 June has been postponed indefinitely, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 12 June. No explanation has been given for the postponement. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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