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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 120, Part I, 21 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 120, Part I, 21 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 * SERGEEV, COHEN REACH AGREEMENT ON KFOR * YELTSIN READY TO DISCUSS ABM AND START III * KAZAKHSTAN SIGNS PIPELINE AGREEMENT END NOTE: VIENNA CONFERENCE FOCUSES ON NUCLEAR SAFETY IN EASTERN BLOC xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA SERGEEV, COHEN REACH AGREEMENT ON KFOR... Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and his U.S. counterpart William Cohen reached an agreement in Helsinki on 18 June on Russia's role within the Kosova peacekeeping force (KFOR). The agreement provides for a unified KFOR command, but gives the Russian government "full political and military control" over its KFOR contingent. There will be a Russian military representative at NATO headquarters in Brussels and a Russian liaison officer at NATO's southern European headquarters in Naples to deal with KFOR questions. The Russian contingent will consist of 3,600 troops. Out of these, 750 will be based at the Prishtina airfield. The remaining 2,850 troops will be deployed in the U.S., German, and French sectors. The overall KFOR commander has full authority to order NATO forces to execute missions refused by Russian commanders. All KFOR troops will have access to the Prishtina airfield. Russia and NATO will create a joint system for air space control. FS ...WHICH NATO, RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT HAVE YET TO ENDORSE. A NATO spokesman in Brussels told RFE/RL on 21 June that NATO has yet to approve the agreement, but added that approval is "just a formality." Elsewhere, Interfax quoted an unnamed senior military official in Moscow as saying on 20 June that Russia will not send more troops to Kosova before the Federation Council endorses the agreement at its next scheduled meeting on 30 June. The official added, however, that the agreement offers Russia a "solid and equal participation" in KFOR. President Boris Yeltsin said on arrival in Cologne for the G-8 summit meeting that he is "satisfied" with the terms of the agreement. FS YELTSIN READY TO DISCUSS ABM AND START III. Yeltsin agreed during talks with U.S. President Bill Clinton in Cologne on 20 June to consider possible changes in the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, opening the way for the U.S. to install a sophisticated missile-defense system. Clinton, in exchange, agreed to resume negotiations on the START III agreement reducing long-range nuclear arms. The meeting marks a thaw in Russian-U.S. relations after the end of the Kosova crisis. Clinton told Reuters that "the summit gave us a chance to work on what we have in common." The U.S. administration needs changes in the ABM treaty after legislation adopted by the Congress in March commits Washington to put in place a defensive shield against limited missile attacks. The 1972 ABM treaty limits the type of systems Russia and the U.S. can deploy to intercept incoming missiles. FS DUMA READY TO VOTE ON START II. State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev told Interfax on 21 June that the parliament will vote on the 1993 START II agreement upon returning in September from its summer recess. The U.S. has previously insisted that Russia ratify the agreement before resuming negotiations on START III, Reuters reported. It added that START II is designed to bring warheads down to a maximum of 3,500 on each side, while START III could reduce that number to 2,000. The U.S. Senate ratified START II in 1996, but the Russian Duma removed the vote from its agenda in April 1999 after NATO began its air campaign against Yugoslavia. FS G-8 CALLS FOR RESCHEDULING NOT FORGIVING SOVIET-ERA DEBT... Russia's largest international creditor, Germany, ruled out forgiving Russia's Soviet-era debt on 20 June. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that "we want to negotiate seriously on this issue in the Paris Club and also bilaterally, but we simply can't write it off. That would be more than Germany could bear." On the same day, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov said that the U.S. was in favor of a partial write-off of these debts. However, U.S. National Security Advisor Sandy Berger told reporters that President Clinton indicated only that he would raise the issue of debt forgiveness, "but he was doubtful whether this was possible," according to Reuters. In its final communique, G-8 members called on the Paris Club to "act expeditiously to negotiate a debt rescheduling agreement" once an IMF agreement is "in place." JAC ...AS LONDON CLUB DEFAULT DEADLINE STILL LOOMS. Earlier, "The Moscow Times" reported that the latest grace period for Russia to repay some of its overdue debt to the London Club would expire on 16 June, but two days later, it cited bankers who said that the real deadline is 23 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1999). Meanwhile, Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that he is optimistic that the London Club will not declare Russia in default on the 23rd, according to Bloomberg. Kasyanov also said that he expects to reach an agreement with the Paris Club by August or September on restructuring Soviet-era debt payments due this year and next. JAC GORE-STEPASHIN COMMISSION TO "REVIVE." In their meeting on 20 June, President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin agreed to "revive" the Gore-Stepashin Commission, ITAR-TASS reported. Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin will meet with U.S. Vice President Al Gore during a visit to Washington on 6-8 August, according to Interfax. A series of key meetings of the Gore-Primakov Commission in Washington were abruptly canceled when then-Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov turned his plane around upon hearing news of NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia. According to ITAR-TASS, Yeltsin handed Clinton declassified documents recently unearthed from government archives concerning the assassination of President John Kennedy. JAC IMF PACKAGE ON HOLD FOR THE SUMMER... Prime Minister Stepashin reacted calmly on 18 June to the State Duma's rejection of a bill imposing a new tax on gasoline stations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1999), saying the failed vote was "neither a setback nor a tragedy. The package will be passed." Before the vote, Stepashin had threatened to call a vote of confidence in his government if the Duma didn't pass the key piece of legislation, which was prepared to satisfy agreements with the IMF. Duma chairman Seleznev said the same day that it was unlikely that deputies would be able to approve the legislative package before they adjourns for the summer. However, on 21 June, Seleznev said that he hopes the main bills will be discussed by the end of the week. The Economics Ministry said that a delayed disbursement of IMF monies would alter its forecasts for economic growth and inflation. If the money is delayed then GDP will not grow more than 1 percent in 2000 and inflation may reach 45-50 percent. JAC ...AS TWO BILLS ARE CHARACTERIZED AS NON-STARTERS. In an interview with "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 19 June, Yabloko faction deputy chairman Sergei Ivanenko claimed that the IMF is worried about five laws in the legislative package. According to Ivanenko, fund officials believe these laws should be passed by the legislature rather than imposed by presidential decree--a measure that some sources have suggested the government may be forced to resort to (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 1999). One of these laws, the bill imposing a new tax on gasoline stations, was already rejected, and the government will not even try to submit a second one increasing the excise tax on vodka, according to Ivanenko. Ivanenko asserted that if the tax on vodka is too high, it becomes cheaper to engage in illegal production and smuggling. "Regarding the rest of the laws, they may be adopted since they are in essence right," he concluded. JAC NEW EXPORT DUTY DRIES UP EXPORTS OF PALLADIUM. Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest producer of palladium, stopped exporting the metal in mid-April because of the imposition of a 5 percent export duty, Interfax reported. According to the company's deputy general-director, Yurii Kotlyar, the company shipped a "significant" amount of the metal in the week between when the duty was announced and when it was actually imposed. The Russian government on 21 April approved the introduction of a 5 percent export duty on some kinds of ferrous metals and aluminum for a six-month period (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999). At the time, Russian metal producers claimed that the new duty could prove fatal to their industry, given that global metal prices are already declining and approaching the cost of their production in Russia. JAC COSSACKS WARN THEY WILL TAKE OVER LAW ENFORCEMENT IN STAVROPOL. The Council of Cossack Atamans in Stavropol issued an appeal on 18 June to President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Stepashin asking them to take urgent measures to ensure law and order in the area bordering Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. The Cossacks said that the killing of four policemen on 16 June "has undermined faith in the federal authorities' ability to protect the peaceful citizens in the areas adjacent to Chechnya." At a funeral for the policemen on 20 June, local Cossacks declared that unless federal authorities provide effective guarantees of the Stavropol population's safety, then "the Cossacks will themselves assume the responsibility for the fate of their loved ones" (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 March and 4 April 1999). JAC MALEVICH PAINTING RETURNED. The New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) returned a painting by Kazimir Malevich, "Suprematist Composition," to his heirs after years of legal negotiations, "Segodnya" reported on 19 June. In addition, the museum provided an undisclosed amount of money as compensation for five other paintings and several drawings in its collection. The paintings were discovered in Germany in 1935 by a MOMA official who managed to smuggle them out of the country. Last month, Inkombank, which had an extensive collection of avant garde paintings, including Malevich's "Black Square," turned its collection over to the Ministry of Culture in exchange for a reduction in its debts to the state. Malevich painted different versions of the "Black Square" and while one of them is at Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery, the work belonging to Inkombank is said to have been hung on Malevich's grave during the painter's funeral in 1935, "The Moscow Times" reported on 27 May. JAC AYATSKOV PROPOSES ALTERNATIVE TO CIS. During talks in Tbilisi on 17 June with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov proposed creating a confederation of former Soviet republics, "Segodnya" reported the following day. Ayatskov said such a body would contribute to economic integration and to strengthening the security of member states. In an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 15 June, Ayatskov had argued that the CIS has outlived its usefulness. In Bishkek, the Kyrgyz presidential administration announced on 18 June that Turkey, Ukraine, and Georgia may join the Central Asian Union as associate members, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PREMIER SUBMITS PROGRAM TO PARLIAMENT. Vazgen Sargsian outlined his cabinet's program to the new Armenian parliament on 18 June, Reuters and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Sargsian pledged to continue with liberal reforms while seeking to minimize the economic hardships that they have caused to much of the population. He warned that the government will crack down on corruption and tighten its supervision of investment policy, and might take unspecified "unpopular measures" to counter tax evasion. Sargsian also vowed that Armenia will continue to work closely with international financial organizations. Parliament deputies declined to challenge the program, effectively giving it the green light. On 19 June, Minister for State Revenues Smbat Ayvazian told journalists that current 1999 budget projections, especially as regards revenues, are "unrealistic" and spending cuts may be necessary. LF ARMENIA DENIES NEW CLASHES NEAR KARABAKH. A Yerevan-based spokesman for the unrecognized Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh told Reuters on 19 June that Azerbaijani claims that Karabakh Armenian forces had opened fire on Azerbaijani positions on the previous evening with automatic weapons and rocket- propelled grenades were untrue. Also on 19 June, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ara Papyan proposed that OSCE monitors should be deployed permanently along the "Line of Contact" east of the disputed enclave, Interfax reported. Karabakh officials told RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent that the OSCE will conduct an inspection of the Mardakert sector of the line this week. Papyan also said that Armenia opposes NATO involvement in the Karabakh peace process. Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Safar Abiev had advocated such involvement last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 1999). LF RUSSIAN JETS VIOLATE GEORGIAN AIR SPACE. The Georgian Foreign Ministry will officially protest the unsanctioned overflight of Georgian air space on 18 June by four Russian military jets, Deputy Defense Minister Grigol Katamadze told journalists in Tbilisi the following day. The aircraft were en route from a Russian base in Rostov to Armenia. Katamadze also denied rumors that the Georgian air force, which currently has at its disposal 10 military aircraft and four helicopters, is to be liquidated. Interfax on 19 June quoted Rezo Adamia, chairman of the parliamentary committee on defense and security, as stating that the U.S. has allocated $18 million towards the cost of building radar and other navigation facilities that will form the nucleus of Georgia's air defense system. LF GEORGIANS STAGE NEW PICKET OF INGURI BRIDGE. Some 100 Georgians having been blocking motor traffic across the Inguri bridge linking Abkhazia with the rest of Georgia since 18 June, Caucasus Press reported. The protesters are demanding the release of four Georgian residents of Abkhazia's southernmost Gali raion arrested in May 1998 by the Abkhaz authorities on suspicion of maintaining contact with Georgian guerrilla organizations operating in Gali. LF KAZAKHSTAN SIGNS PIPELINE AGREEMENT. The government of Kazakhstan signed a memorandum of intent on 18 June with British Gas, Italy's Agip, Texaco, and Russia's Lukoil on construction of a 460 kilometer, $440 million pipeline from the Karachaganak field to Atyrau. The pipeline will be connected in 2001 to the Caspian Pipeline Consortium from Tengiz to Novorossiisk, and will enable Kazakhstan to export up to 12 million tons of oil and gas condensate per year. Also on 18 June, the president of Kazakhoil State Company, Nurlan Qapparov, told journalists that media reports that Moscow intended to renege on an agreement signed in late 1998 by Kazakh Premier Nurlan Balghymbaev and then Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov allowing Kazakhstan to export 9 million tons of crude in 1999 via the existing Atyrau-Samara pipeline are incorrect, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. LF FOUR MORE TAJIK OPPOSITION REPRESENTATIVES APPOINTED TO GOVERNMENT POSTS... Following the agreement reached on 17 June between Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri on renewed cooperation, the next day Rakhmonov named four opposition candidates to government posts: Mirzokhudja Nizomov as Customs Committee chairman, Khakim Kalandarov as deputy chairman of the Border Guards Committee, Khabib Sanginov as first deputy interior minister, and Khakhnazar Goibnazarov as deputy minister for social protection. A decision is to be reached by 25 June on the UTO's demand that its commander, Mirzo Zioyev, be appointed defense minister. The UTO is also to compile a list of 14 cities and towns in which its nominees will be appointed to head local government bodies, according to Interfax. Arriving in Dushanbe on 18 June, OSCE representative Wilhelm Hoeynck stressed the need for Tajikistan "to conduct the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in compliance with world standards," ITAR-TASS reported. LF ...AS TRIAL OPENS OF INSURGENCY PARTICIPANTS. The trial has begun of 20 people accused of participating in the November 1998 uprising in Khujand, north of Dushanbe, led by rebel colonel Mahmud Khudoiberdiev, Russian agencies reported on 18 June. An additional 80 people are also awaiting trial in connection with their alleged role in the mutiny, in which 200 people died (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 9 November 1998). LF CHILDREN DETAINED FOR DISTRIBUTING ISLAMIC LITERATURE IN UZBEKISTAN. Police in Tashkent detained 25 boys aged from 9- 12 for allegedly spreading leaflets propagating fundamentalist Islam and calling for the overthrow of President Islam Karimov, AP and Interfax reported on 18 June. LF UZBEK, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. Abdulaziz Komilov met in Moscow on 19 June with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov to discuss bilateral relations and the situation in Kosova and Afghanistan, Russian agencies reported. Komilov later told journalists that Ivanov expressed support for the Uzbek initiative to convene an international conference on Afghanistan to which the six countries bordering on Afghanistan and representatives of both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance would be invited (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 4 June 1999). LF END NOTE VIENNA CONFERENCE FOCUSES ON NUCLEAR SAFETY IN EASTERN BLOC By Anthony Wesolowsky In 1986, the world was taught a chilling lesson about the shortcomings of Soviet-designed nuclear reactors when Unit 4 at Ukraine's Chornobyl power station exploded and spewed radiation across a wide swath of Europe. The accident prompted fears that the 67 Soviet-designed reactors in operation throughout Central and Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union itself were fundamentally flawed and needed to be repaired, if not shut down altogether. Prompted by the Chornobyl disaster, the G-7 group of major industrialized nations in 1992 recommended that the 25 most dangerous Soviet-designed reactors in operation-- particularly two older reactor types known as the RBMK and the VVER-230--should not operate any longer than absolutely necessary. The seven Western nations also urged safety upgrades at safer Soviet-designed power stations. Eight years later, however, not one of the suspect Soviet-designed nuclear power stations has been closed. Even an agreement between the G-7 and Kyiv to close the remaining functioning reactors at Chornobyl by next year faces an uncertain future. Lars Larsson is the director of the EBRD's Nuclear Safety Department. He told our correspondent in Vienna that the world community's first mistake was underestimating how long economic and energy-sector reform would take in the former communist states: "One of the most important things also [was] the economic development of these countries has been much, much slower than originally anticipated. And with the slowdown of economic development there also goes, unfortunately, the slowdown of nuclear safety. They all go along. For instance, if you have economic problems, and it is not possible to pay salaries to the operators, of course this is a safety concern." Luke Lederman is a nuclear safety official with the International Atomic Energy Agency. He told RFE/RL that many of the most-pressing improvements have finally been carried out at most of the region's plants. Lederman and other Western officials stress that some of the biggest changes have come in the so-called "safety culture" at nuclear power plants. In other words, Lederman says operators at nuclear power stations in Eastern and Central Europe and in the former Soviet Union are doing a better, safer, and more careful job. Lederman said nuclear regulatory agencies have also been given more power and autonomy, making their job of monitoring nuclear safety much more effective. The EBRD's Larsson singled out Armenia as having made some of the greatest strides in the past four years toward improving its nuclear regulatory regime. Armenia's two Soviet-designed VVER-230 reactors at Medzamor were shut down in 1989 after a devastating earthquake prompted fears of a nuclear disaster because of their proximity to a fault line. In November 1995, Yerevan restarted Unit 2 at the Medzamor plant. Vartan Nersesyan of Armenia's Nuclear Regulatory Authority told RFE/RL that safety upgrades have been made at the plant to protect it against seismic activity. But he said the country has no current plans to restart Unit 1. "The situation was analyzed, the system was re- evaluated, and improvements were made accordingly." Like Armenia, Bulgaria is equipped with the controversial VVER-230 Soviet-designed reactor. There are four of them at the country's Kozloduy nuclear power plant, along with two of the more advanced Soviet-designed VVER- 1000's. Unlike the VVER-1000, the VVER-230 reactor does not have an adequate containment unit. In the event of a nuclear disaster, radiation could leak into the atmosphere. Recently, the EU renewed its pleas for Bulgaria to shut down Kozloduy, considered one of the riskiest nuclear power plants in Eastern Europe. But Grigory Kastchiev of the Bulgarian Nuclear Regulatory Agency told our correspondent that there have been more than 1,000 recent safety upgrades at Kozloduy's four VVER-230 reactors at a cost of $100 million. He said the country is planning another $150 million worth of upgrades. He said Sofia has no plans to shut any of the reactors down soon. "The strategy plan of the Bulgarian State Electric Company is to operate Units 1 and 2 at least until 2005, and Units 3 and 4 until at least 2012. This is really a necessity from the [standpoint of the] energy situation in Bulgaria and the stability of the country." Bulgarian officials also say the western-based Westinghouse company has won a $200 million contract to upgrade the two VVER-1000 reactors at Kozloduy. Westinghouse secured similar contracts in 1995 to modernize the two uncompleted nuclear reactors at the controversial Temelin nuclear power station in the Czech Republic. Officials from the Czech state electricity utility, CEZ, told the Vienna conference that Temelin--which is already facing cost overruns and delays--will incorporate state-of- the-art safety measures. Czech nuclear regulators also announced safety improvements at the country's only working nuclear power station at Dukovany. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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