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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 116, Part I, 15 June 1999


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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

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Headlines, Part I

* MORE RUSSIAN TROOPS HEADING FOR KOSOVA

* BAD WEATHER THREATENS HARVEST

* ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI TROOPS CLASH
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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

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               Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
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