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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 123, Part I, 24 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 123, Part I, 24 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 * STEPASHIN SAYS ECONOMIC RECOVERY ALREADY STARTED * NEW ALLIANCE TIPPED BETWEEN YABLOKO, STROEV * KAZAKHSTAN'S PARLIAMENT VOTES CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA STEPASHIN SAYS ECONOMIC RECOVERY ALREADY STARTED... During a discussion with Danish Foreign Minister Niels Holveg Petersen on 23 June, Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin said that Russia's economic recovery began earlier than forecasted. Stepashin pointed to a rise in industrial output of 1.5 percent during the first five months of the year, the stabilization of the ruble's exchange rate, and a monthly inflation rate of less than one percent. He also declared that the country's foreign investors were now returning. JAC ...AS TRUE STATE OF INDUSTRY REMAINS UNCERTAIN. The same day, "Trud" reported that industrial output in May jumped 6.1 percent compared with the same month last year, but retail trade turnover plummeted 14.3 percent over the same period. At the same time, the average wage in May amounted to 1,465 rubles ($60) a month, which in terms of real purchasing power represents a decline of more than one-third. Noting that industrial output declined last May compared with the previous month, Yevgenii Gavrilov, deputy director of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, told "The Moscow Times" that he is "more inclined to trust the May figure compared with April" because it is calculated on the basis of physical volume of output, which means that industrial production could have contracted. JAC DUMA MEMBERS PASS MORE IMF LEGISLATION... State Duma deputies passed more bills on 23 June that are part of the package of measures drafted by the government in accordance with its agreement with the IMF. The law on the restructuring of credit organizations, which passed on its second reading, sets out the procedure for restructuring banks as well as defining the status and property of the Agency for Restructuring Credit Organizations, according to Interfax- AFI. A second law allows the Central Bank to issue short-term bonds until next year, while a third allows it to purchase gold directly from producers. Both measures were approved on their third and final reading. Duma deputies also approved a bill that taxes luxury vehicles or cars with engines ranging from 2,500 to 3,000 cubic centimeters on its second reading. All bills must pass three readings before they are sent to the upper chamber and later to the president for approval. JAC ...STRENGTHEN GOVERNMENT'S TAX COLLECTION ABILITY... Additional measures approved were amendments to the tax code and the law on the state tax service, both on their third readings. According to ITAR-TASS, the tax service will have the right to recover debts on taxes and fees as well as set up tax inspection posts in organizations that have not paid taxes for three or more months. JAC ...AND GIVE THEMSELVES A 67 PERCENT PAY RAISE. Deputies also approved on 23 June a law that will raise their monthly salaries from 6,000 rubles a month ($248) to 10,000 rubles and grant three months severance pay in the case of a dissolution of the lower chamber by the president, according to "The Moscow Times." The vote was 297 in favor with 77 opposed. According to the daily, before the salary increase deputies received wages four times the national average. According to Russian Public Television, all factions except Yabloko supported the legislation. In addition, the bill provides deputies with a pension that is 75 percent of their salaries, the station reported. JAC ANNAN PROMISES IVANOV RUSSIAN PARTICIPATION IN CIVILIAN KOSOVA MISSION. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Moscow on 23 June that he will include Russian officials in the UN Mission in Kosovo, AP reported. Annan thanked Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Russian special envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin, and Ivanov for helping to end the Kosova crisis, stressing that Russia helped strengthen the role of the UN in the process. Ivanov told ITAR-TASS after talks with his Danish counterpart, Niels Helveg Petersen, that "considering the role [Russia] plays in the settlement in [Kosova]. ...We will seek the post of deputy to the high representative." Annan already appointed two out of the four deputies. The post of deputy representative in charge of reconstruction will go to the EU, leaving only the post of OSCE representative for institution building open to Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 22 June 1999). FS IVANOV URGES UCK DISARMAMENT. After briefing the State Duma about the deployment of Russia's Kosova peacekeeping force (KFOR) contingent, Ivanov told journalists in Moscow on 23 June that KFOR may have problems disarming the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). He said that KFOR must "scrupulously comply with those provisions of the UN Security Council resolution which call for the demilitarization of all bandit groups and terrorist organizations," ITAR-TASS reported. He declined to comment about a "Newsday" report that Russian volunteers committed atrocities in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 1999). Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told the legislators that Russian peacekeepers are ready to leave for Kosova within three hours after the mission's expected approval by the Federation Council on 25 June. Duma deputy speaker Sergei Baburin said that a group of legislators will travel to Prishtina along with the peacekeepers. FS CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS RUSSIA HAS ENOUGH 'HEALTHY FORCES.' Chernomyrdin told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on 23 June that Russia wants to be integrated into Europe and will never be "a closed country" again, ITAR-TASS reported. He underlined that "there are enough healthy forces in our country which have once and for all rejected the stereotypes of the old confrontation mentality and which are capable of securing the country a dignified future in the family of European nations." Chernomyrdin stressed that Russia, "after a series of social experiments and upheavals," is on a course of development. He added that "Russia has gone through serious tests and survived. The country is gathering strength for a historic breakthrough into the future." FS NEW ALLIANCE TIPPED BETWEEN YABLOKO, STROEV... Following earlier reports in "Segodnya," more Russian newspapers are tracking the recent interest of Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii in the Orel Oblast, whose governor is Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev. According to "Novye Izvestiya" on 22 June, Yavlinskii has visited the area three times in the last month and a "coincidence of mutual interests" between the two politicians has been confirmed by the Yabloko faction. According to the daily, Yavlinskii is trying to "tempt" the governor with his party's new agrarian program and Stroev has responded to Yavlinskii's proposals "rather benevolently," lending him one of his advisors on the topic. The next day, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that the two men "exchanged opinions about questions of strategy and tactics in agriculture reform." JAC ...AS LEFT PARTIES STRUGGLE TO FORM COALITION. Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov said on NTV on 23 June that his movement will participate in upcoming parliamentary elections in a single bloc. Commenting on earlier announced plans of Duma deputies Viktor Ilyukhin and Albert Makashov and Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev to run separately, Zyuganov said "they will think about it for a month or so" and agree to run in one strong bloc. "Vremya MN" reported the same day that according to unidentified sources in the KRPF, leaders of radical movements are trying to blackmail them with statements that they will take part in the elections independently so that they can obtain more seats on the board of directors of the KPRF. The Agrarian Party announced on 16 June that it will participate in parliamentary elections as an independent organization. JAC ORT HEAD SAYS ELECTIONS POSE CRITICAL TEST FOR MEDIA... Addressing a congress of Russian-language newspapers in Moscow, Igor Shabdurasulov, general-director of Russian Public Television (ORT), said that upcoming elections will be the touchstone by which the civic maturity of Russia's media will be judged, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 23 June. Shabdurasulov revealed that an unnamed large organization recently tried to buy coverage from his station and that such efforts will not be tolerated. The previous day, Russian Television (RTR) announced that it is canceling "Sovershenno Sekretno" (Top Secret), a show known for its political exposes. Artem Borovik, president of the company that produces the show, declared that a cleansing of the media is underway in advance of the elections. An RTR official said that the show was taken off the air because it dealt in "kompromat," or compromising materials, released by politicians to discredit their opponents, Reuters reported. JAC ...AS SLAIN JOURNALIST'S CASE CLOSED. The investigation of the 1994 assassination of Dmitrii Kholodov, an investigative journalist for "Moskovskii Komsomolets," is "over in principle," according to Vladimir Kolesnikov, deputy interior minister, "Novye "Izvestiya" reported on 19 June. Kolesnikov said that the guilty parties have been identified and will be tried; however, he declined to name them, saying that an official announcement will occur in a month. JAC PROSECUTOR ASKS THAT REPORTER SPEND 12 YEARS IN JAIL. The espionage and treason trial of military journalist Grigorii Pasko adjourned for one week on 24 June, as the prosecutor in the case asked for a verdict of 12 years' imprisonment, ITAR- TASS reported. Pasko is accused of providing classified information to Japanese media about the Pacific fleet's environmentally hazardous handling of nuclear waste. The previous day, "Vremya MN" reported that expert witnesses called by Pasko's lawyers found that certain fragments of the document that was compiled after a search of Pasko's apartment had been falsified. These experts concluded that signatures on one of the pages of the document were not made by the witnesses of the official search. According to AFP, the case is in its final phase and earlier sources had predicted that the tribunal will reach a decision on Pasko's guilt by mid-June. JAC ALTAI LEADER FINDS HIMSELF IN THE HOT SEAT. Deputies in the legislative assembly of the Altai Republic have voted no confidence in the local government head Semen Zubakin, "Pravda" reported on 24 June. According to the daily, a backlog of unpaid wages to state sector employees in the region totals 150 million rubles ($ 6.2 million) and the leadership of the republic has proven "incompetent in handling economic problems." The previous day, Prime Minister Stepashin met with Zubakin and Agrarian party leader Mikhail Lapshin to discuss the republic's economic situation, Interfax-Eurasia reported. The meeting focused on the urgent efforts required to prepare for next year's harvest in light of the worsening weather forecast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1999) as well as the region's chronic financial problems, which include a 7-8 month backlog of unpaid wages to state workers. The republic is among the country's worst performing regions in terms of paying wages on time (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 1999). JAC TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA SOUTH CAUCASUS LEADERS ENTHUSIASTIC OVER AGREEMENT WITH EU. Speaking at a joint news conference in Luxembourg on 22 June, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said the partnership and cooperation agreements he and Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders had signed earlier that day with the EU mark the beginning of a new era for the south Caucasus, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 1999). Both Shevardnadze and his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, noted that the EU stresses the need to resolve regional conflicts as a precondition and incentive for expanded mutual economic cooperation. Azerbaijan's Prime Minister Artur Rasizade said implementation of EU-sponsored projects to develop a regional transportation system and promote the exploitation of Caspian hydrocarbons will increase the importance of the south Caucasus in the 21st century. A joint declaration signed by the three leaders and the EU also underscores the importance of developing good governance and the rule of law, and establishing fair legislation for foreign investment. LF ZHIRINOVSKII PREDICTS NATO INTERVENTION IN CAUCASUS... Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii told journalists in Strasbourg on 23 June that he believes NATO will seize any opportunity to intervene militarily in the Transcaucasus, Interfax reported. Zhirinovskii said he believes new fighting is imminent between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and in Abkhazia. He also predicted that NATO will encourage the Crimean Tatars to pursue an independence drive modeled on that in Kosova, casting Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in the role of villain a la Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic. But the Armenian daily "Yerkir" on 23 June quoted Zhirinovskii as saying that NATO "would not dare" to replicate the Kosova scenario in either Karabakh or Abkhazia. LF ...BUT SOLANA DENIES SUCH PLANS. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told journalists in Brussels on 23 June after a meeting with Armenian President Kocharian that the alliance has no plans to send troops to Azerbaijan as a counterweight to the Russian forces stationed in Armenia. The previous day, Turan had quoted Azerbaijani State Foreign Policy Advisor Vafa Guluzade as saying that Azerbaijan would welcome NATO's input towards resolving the Karabakh conflict. Solana noted that NATO is on good terms with all three south Caucasus states, which he termed partners and successful participants in the Partnership for Peace program. Speaking in Baku on 23 June, British Ambassador Roger Thomas said his country believes that the OSCE Minsk Group (of which the U.K. is not a member) remains the most suitable body to resolve that conflict. "We are not waiting for NATO to bring anything new in the Minsk Group," Turan quoted him as saying. LF ARMENIAN PRESIDENT MEETS EC COMMISSIONER. Before leaving Luxembourg for Brussels, Kocharian met on 22 June with the EC's foreign policy commissioner, Hans van den Broek, Noyan Tapan reported. Their talks focused on efforts by Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, to resolve the Karabakh conflict, EU assistance programs to the Transcaucasus, economic problems in Armenia, the country's Mezdamor nuclear power station, and the situation in Kosova. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT DISCUSSES ENERGY ISSUES. President Aliev met in Baku on 23 June with the outgoing U.S. special envoy for Caspian energy issues, Richard Morningstar, and Morningstar's successor in that post, John Wolf, Turan and Caucasus Press reported. The talks focused on the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil, and a Trans-Caspian pipeline to transport Turkmen gas to world markets via Azerbaijan and Georgia. Natik Aliev, president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, said on 23 June that Turkey is demanding that the estimated cost of the former project be revised upwards by $300 million from the present $2.4 billion. Heidar Aliev told journalists prior to his talks with the two U.S. officials that rumors of his precarious health are "false and immoral," according to ITAR- TASS. But Reuters noted that Aliev appears frail and thinner than before the heart bypass surgery he underwent in the U.S. in April. LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT VISITS NETHERLANDS. On a one-day state visit to The Netherlands on 23 June, Eduard Shevardnadze held talks with Prime Minister Wim Kok on bilateral cooperation, Georgian cooperation with the EU, and the prospects for increased Dutch investment in the Georgian economy, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze also met with Queen Beatrix, and traveled to Rotterdam for the signing of a memorandum on cooperation between that port and the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti. Also signed was a memorandum on cooperation between the Netherlands and Georgian defense ministries. LF TWO KILLED BY LANDMINE IN ABKHAZIA... Two people were killed and at least 13 injured on 23 June when a passenger bus ran over a landmine in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali raion, Caucasus Press reported. The Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia issued a statement blaming Georgian guerrillas operating in Gali for the attack, while a spokesman for the guerrillas said that Abkhaz special services perpetrated the assault to discredit them. Several dozen people, most of them policemen, have died in such incidents over the past year. LF ...AS PEACEKEEPERS' ANNIVERSARY GENERATES PROTEST. Also on 23 June, Russian President Yeltsin sent congratulations to the Russian peacekeeping force on the fifth anniversary of its deployment along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 1999). The Abkhaz parliament- and government-in-exile, which represent ethnic Georgians who fled Abkhazia in 1992-93, issued a joint statement protesting the anniversary celebration, noting that in the past five years 2,000 people have been killed on territory which the peacekeepers control, Caucasus Press reported. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PARLIAMENT VOTES CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT. In a secret ballot on 24 June, the required two thirds of all deputies of both chambers of Kazakhstan's parliament voted confidence in Premier Nurlan Balghymbaev's cabinet, ITAR-TASS reported. Balghymbaev had demanded such a vote on 21 June after deputies rejected further planned cuts in budget spending (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 1999). On 21 June, Marat Ospanov, speaker of the lower house, had argued that the government should not choose the easy option of cutting social programs, especially during the runup to parliamentary elections scheduled for this fall. Instead, the government should work for more effective tax collection and the growth of monetary policy, Interfax quoted him as saying. Speaking in London on 22 June, Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Toqaev assured potential investors that the cabinet "will not allow" default on either domestic or foreign debt, according to Interfax. LF DEPUTIES' ARREST DELAYS KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT SESSION. The People's Assembly--the upper chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament--resumed its session on 23 June with a 36-hour delay following the arrest late on 21 June of deputy Djalgap Kazakbaev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Interfax quoted Deputy Security Minister Kubat Kozhonaliev as saying that Kazakbaev is accused of selling, at dumping prices, uranium concentrate from the Kara-Balta uranium and gold mine of which he is director, and of embezzling $739,500 from state coffers. Some 200 employees of the Kara-Balta mine picketed the government building in Bishkek on 22 June to demand Kazakbaev's release. People's Assembly speaker Abdygany Erkebaev told journalists on 23 June that the arrests of Kazakbaev and of a second parliament deputy, Boris Vorobev, on charges of embezzlement and tax evasion constitute a violation of the constitution. In a referendum in October 1998, the Kyrgyz electorate endorsed restricting deputies' immunity from arrest to when parliament is in session, but the constitution has not yet been amended to incorporate that change. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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