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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 122, Part I, 23 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 122, Part I, 23 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 * ANOTHER TERRORIST ACT IN CENTRAL MOSCOW * DUMA IN FLURRY OF ACTIVITY BEFORE RECESS * NEW AZERBAIJANI-ARMENIAN CLASHES REPORTED xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA ANOTHER TERRORIST ACT IN CENTRAL MOSCOW. Law enforcement officials told Interfax on 23 June that a bomb that exploded near the Interior Ministry the previous day was a terrorist device. The bomb, made with an estimated 150-200 grams of TNT, was discovered in a package in the ministry's lobby by a police officer. The explosion was the latest in a series of bombings in the Russian capital. In April, one bomb exploded outside of the Federal Security Service's headquarters and another one in the elevator shaft of the Intourist hotel near the offices of a firm headed by State Duma deputy and popular singer Iosif Kobzon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 27 April 1999). At the time, Kobzon called the act "just an ordinary terrorist act, a terrorist act in the center of Moscow." JAC DOES KFOR PARTICIPATION UNDERMINE RUSSIA'S SECURITY IN CHECHNYA? Russian defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer argues in "Segodnya" on 22 June that the 3,600-strong Russian contingent in the Kosova peacekeeping force (KFOR) will cost up to $500 million, rather than the $150 million previously estimated by Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin. Felgenhauer says that his figure equals estimates by Western countries for similar forces. He warned that the Kosova mission is not covered by the Defense Ministry budget and that Russia needs to keep its forces ready for a possible outbreak of war in Chechnya, rather than the Balkans. "Komsomolskaya Pravda" on 23 June quoted unnamed Defense Ministry officials as saying that the KFOR participation will cost up to $250 million. President Yeltsin formally asked the Federation Council on 22 June to approve the KFOR mission, ITAR-TASS reported. The legislature is scheduled to vote on the issue on 25 June. FS RUSSIAN KFOR CONTINGENT READY TO MOVE IN ON 28 JUNE. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told Interfax on 23 June that the Russian KFOR troops can leave for Kosova on 28 June if the Federation Council approves the deployment. The new soldiers will bolster the 200 Russian soldiers currently at the Prishtina airport. FS MOSCOW MAYOR OFFERS TO REPAIR NOVI SAD BRIDGE. A delegation of Moscow architects visiting Novi Sad on 23 June estimated the costs for the reconstruction of the Danube bridge at $50 million. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov earlier offered to support the reconstruction, ITAR-TASS reported. Luzhkov said he intends to find sponsors for the project among large Russian metallurgical and construction firms. Meanwhile, Aeroflot has postponed the resumption of direct flights to Belgrade until late June. The airline planned to resume flights this week, but European aviation authorities have not yet reopened an air-corridor to Belgrade. FS GOVERNMENT TO TEMPT INVESTORS WITH NEW RUBLE BONDS IN JULY. Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced on 22 June that Russia would write off $1.5 billion worth of debts of developing nations mostly in Africa as part of an agreement reached with G-7 members over the weekend (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 1999). Most of the loans were extended by the Soviet Union; Russia, in turn, has been seeking at least partial forgiveness of debts it inherited from the Soviet Union. Kasyanov also reported that Russia was likely to issue new ruble-denominated government securities in July, but it does not expect to participate in world capital markets again before 2001, ITAR-TASS reported. After months of haggling, foreign investors agreed in April to the government scheme for swapping the defaulted short-term bonds they held, which included an offer of only 10 percent of their value in cash (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 1999). JAC DUMA IN FLURRY OF ACTIVITY BEFORE RECESS. The State Duma passed on 22 June on its third reading a law on export control, ITAR-TASS reported. The bill elaborates state policy on export control and the rights and duties of participants in foreign trade. On the same day, Duma deputies overrode a presidential veto on the law on banks and banking operations. Russian President Boris Yeltsin had rejected the bill earlier because he believed that it did not clearly define offshore zones or specify an organ that would provide a legal definition of such zones, according to ITAR-TASS. The Duma also passed a bill amending the labor code, which requires that wages to state workers be paid once every half month and vacation wages be paid no later than the day before the vacation starts, according to Russian Television. Deputies will be on a 48-day paid vacation from 26 June to 31 August. JAC REVENUE FROM FOOD AID NOT REACHING PENSION FUND... The Pension Fund has so far received less than 1 percent of what it expected from the sale of humanitarian food assistance from the U.S. and EU, "Izvestiya" reported on 23 June. According to the daily, 42.5 million rubles ($1.75 million) were transferred to the fund in May and 83.3 million rubles during the first two weeks of June. Although originally all of the revenues from the sale of aid were supposed to be transferred to the fund, now approximately 20 percent will be spent on "other social needs," such as money for the poorer strata of society and on financing health centers, the newspaper reported. However, total revenue will be higher than forecast because the prices for a number of goods will be reviewed. Sales of food aid will not be completed until August and monies will not be completely transferred to the Pension Fund until the beginning of October, according to the daily. JAC ...AS SOME TEACHERS NOT RECEIVING THEIR WAGES. President Yeltsin told First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko on 22 June to concentrate his efforts on paying off overdue wages and pensions. According to the government, delays in paying current wages and pensions are minimal, but a backlog of unpaid wages of about 16.5 billion rubles ($681 million) still exists. On 17 June, the government ordered the transfer of 1.96 billion rubles to the regions to pay teachers' summer vacation wages. However, according to Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, a number of regions--including Vologda and Kemerovo Oblasts--had not submitted the proper documents and would therefore not receive money for teachers' wages, Interfax-Eurasia reported. "People should know the reason why teachers will not receive their holiday wages," he said. The next day, the agency reported that teachers in Altai Krai received only 35-40 percent of their wages for the summer months. JAC INTERNET USAGE INCREASING DESPITE DECLINING PC SALES. The number of users of the Internet in Russia more than quadrupled over the past three years, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 June. An estimated 1.9 million of Russia's 147 million people are Internet users, according to the agency. Revenue earned from the Internet through telephone calls, advertising, and marketing in 1998 was $160 million--triple the figure for the previous year, "Vremya MN" reported in April. The newspaper cited a Svyazinvest official who reported that some 1.5 million customers had regular access to the Internet. At the same time, the number of personal computers sold in Russia in 1998--950,000--declined 32 percent compared with the previous year, according to Interfax-Vremya in March. The mid-August 1998 devaluation of the ruble was largely responsible for that slump. JAC GAZPROM HEAD SAYS COMPANY APOLITICAL. Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev said on 22 June that his company would stop concluding long-term contracts for delivery of natural gas to Europe because of the significant price drop in fuel over the past year, ITAR-TASS reported. Vyakhirev added that in the future gas prices will not be linked with oil, as is the current practice. Commenting on rumors that he might be replaced by presidential envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin, Vyakhirev said that he was elected for a period ending in 2001. After that, Gazprom First Deputy Chairman Vyacheslav Sheremet is a "probable candidate" to replace him. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" the same day, Vyakhirev said that Chernomyrdin's joining the board of directors of the company was problematic since "he has chosen a political career and Gazprom and politics are very far from compatible." JAC DUMA SPEAKER TO STAY IN DUMA? Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev does not intend to run for governor of the Moscow or Leningrad Oblasts, "Segodnya" reported on 22 June. Seleznev had been widely expected to run for the Leningrad seat, but had recently been making coy statements to the press about not having yet decided (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 23 June 1999). According to the daily, Seleznev intends to participate in Duma elections and will run both on the party list and in a single-mandate district in St. Petersburg. He also reportedly thinks that the Communist Party will not run in elections independently, as had been previously announced, but will form a coalition. JAC SYSUEV FINALLY GETS HIS WALKING PAPERS. Russian President Boris Yeltsin has finally accepted the resignation of Oleg Sysuev, who tried to resign as deputy head of the presidential administration back in May, Interfax reported on 22 June citing government sources (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 1999). Various media suggested at that time that Sysuev had resigned to protest Yeltsin's dismissal of Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov. JAC STEPASHIN EXAMINES DETERIORATING SITUATION IN NORTH CAUCASUS. Russian Prime Minister Stepashin has met with senior defense advisors to consider what to do in response to the deteriorating situation in the North Caucasus, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 June. The situation has already led to the sacking of Major General Mikhail Shepilov as head of the Stavropol Interior Department, the news agency reported, with a Moscow Interior Ministry official, Major General Nikolai Mamontov, taking his place. Moreover, an Interior Ministry commission has begun meeting this week to consider how to strengthen the guarding of the Chechen administrative border. PG TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA SOUTHERN CAUCASUS COUNTRIES, EU ISSUE DECLARATION. Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia issued a joint statement with the European Union in Luxembourg on 22 June, the Turan news agency reported. The declaration noted that the EU is concerned about developments in the Caucasus and wants to expand cooperation with all three countries. It also called for the construction of multiple pipelines to carry the region's oil and gas to the west. PG ARMENIAN CHURCH LEADER IN CRITICAL CONDITION. Garegin I, the catholicos of all Armenians, remains alive but in critical condition, the Snark news agency reported on 22 June. Armenian President Robert Kocharian visited the hospitalized churchman on 21 June, and Archbishop Mesrop Mutafian, the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey, is flying to Yerevan to visit Garegin in the hospital, ITAR-TASS reported. PG BAKU OUTRAGED BY MOSCOW ARRESTS OF AZERBAIJANIS. Fourteen Azerbaijani citizens were "brutally beaten and arrested by Russian militiamen in Moscow," Caucasus Press reported on 22 June. Azerbaijan's ambassador to the Russian Federation, Ramiz Rzayev, said that the Russian and Azerbaijani Interior Ministries were investigating the incident. Meanwhile, the "Express" newspaper reported on the same day that Moscow police have arrested and beaten 34 Azerbaijanis as part of a crackdown against organized crime. The paper said that the reason behind what it characterized as "this barbarian operation" is a search for six criminals who escaped from an Irkutsk penal colony. PG NEW AZERBAIJANI-ARMENIAN CLASHES REPORTED. The Turan news agency on 22 June reported that Armenian troops had fired on Azerbaijani positions in Sadarak the day before. There has been no independent confirmation of this report, but tensions have been rising and incidents have taken place along the ceasefire line in recent weeks. PG AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION ENDS BOYCOTT OF PARLIAMENT. Members of the opposition Democratic Bloc have decided to return to work in the Milli Mejlis, Turan reported on 22 June. The 18 opposition members of that body had been boycotting the parliament's sessions since 17 April. They decided to return to take part in debates over a controversial draft law on local elections. PG CIS TROOPS MARK FIFTH ANNIVERSARY IN ABKHAZIA. Soldiers from countries in the CIS plan to mark their fifth anniversary as peacekeepers in Abkhazia on 23 June, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 June. Their commander, Major General Sergei Korovko said "the peacemakers have fulfilled their mission by providing for the ceasefire, the pullout of heavy armaments and armed units," and by creating "conditions for the return of refugees." Meanwhile, Russian forces on 22 June turned over control to the last of seven Russian frontier posts to Abkhaz forces, the Caucasus Press reported. PG GEORGIAN PRESIDENT EXPRESSES CONFIDENCE IN GUUAM. Eduard Shevardnadze told the Asaval-Dasavali newspaper on 22 June that he had confidence in the viability of the association of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova, ITAR- TASS reported. The Russian news agency described GUUAM as an "unpronounceable acronym," but the Georgian leader said that it would survive even as he expressed doubts about the ability of the CIS to do so. He said the latter organization could flourish only if the CIS "does not turn into an instrument to preserve Russia's influence" in this region. PG SHEVARDNADZE SAYS NEIGHBORS PUSHING GEORGIA TOWARD NATO. In the same interview, President Shevardnadze said that "the more pressure is brought to bear on Georgia, the more will be our country's desire to join NATO." And he added that the timing of Georgia's effort to join the Western alliance "fully depends on some of our neighbors who are hurrying us towards this step." PG GEORGIAN-TURKISH MILITARY COOPERATION EXPANDS. A delegation from the Turkish general staff arrived in Tbilisi on 22 June for a three-day working visit, ITAR-TASS reported. In addition, the first graduates of the Georgian-Turkish border guards' course left their Lilo training center, the Caucasus Press reported on the same day. PG POLITICAL CRISIS KEEPS KAZAKHSTAN PREMIER AT HOME. In the face of a mounting political conflict between the parliament and the government, Kazakhstan Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbaev did not leave for Kyiv on 22 June as was expected, Interfax reported. Balgimbaev had been scheduled to meet with senior Ukrainian officials to discuss a variety of cooperation measures. PG 50,000 DRUG ADDICTS IN KYRGYZSTAN. Bishkek officials told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz service on 22 June that there are now some 50,000 drug addicts in that Central Asian country. Officially, however, only 6,000 addicts are registered. PG xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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