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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 126, Part I, 29 June 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 126, Part I, 29 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

* YELTSIN TAKING UP OLD HABITS?

* IMF MISSION TO ENCOUNTER NEW PROPOSALS FROM AKSENENKO

* UZBEK COURT HANDS DOWN DEATH SENTENCES FOR BOMBINGS
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN TAKING UP OLD HABITS? President Boris Yeltsin on 29
June announced that he is unsatisfied with the way the
Justice Ministry is checking whether certain public
organizations and political parties, such as the Communist
Party (KPRF), are complying with Russian laws. He called on
the ministry to redouble its efforts. Yeltsin said he has
still not received information that he requested about
possible violations by the KPRF of the constitution, Interfax
reported. Earlier this month, "Segodnya" reported that
Yeltsin had drawn up a decree calling for the removal of the
corpse of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin from Red
Square, which prompted an angry reaction from KPRF leaders.
That report has not yet been verified, however. On 29 June,
"Moskovskii komsomolets" reported that Yeltsin has been
filmed for the first time in recent months with a glass in
his hand, toasting Russia's "excellent campaign in Kosovo and
Yugoslavia." The daily noted that it is unclear what the
president was drinking. JAC

IMF MISSION TO ENCOUNTER NEW PROPOSALS FROM AKSENENKO... As
IMF officials begin in Moscow on 29 June their review of the
government's economic program, they may discover major
discrepancies between various documents describing government
policy. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 25 June, one
document recommends the creation of an investment
stabilization fund and cartel agreements on freezing prices.
While the latter idea has already been implemented in the
form of a pact between energy, rail enterprises, and the
government, the former is still unknown to fund officials,
according to the newspaper. Under the program, which was
championed by First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko,
the government takes 2 percent of enterprises' revenue and
then reinvests the money. On 28 June, Aksenenko pledged to
review options for resuming construction of a tunnel between
the Russian mainland and the island of Sakhalin. Earlier,
Aksenenko had promised funding for the new mining and
processing enterprises along the Baikal-Amur railway (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 1999). JAC

...AND ADAMOV. Meanwhile, Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii
Adamov has his own proposal, which, in his words, "is
better than borrowing money from the IMF." Adamov told
reporters on 28 June that his ministry wants to get
permission to process and bury nuclear waste from all
countries--not just those whose nuclear power plants Russia
helped build. JAC

U.S. SLAMS NEW INSURANCE LAW... The U.S. State Department
and U.S.-Russia Business Council (USRBC) have criticized
the insurance legislation recently passed by Federation
Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 1999). State
Department spokesman James Rubin called the bill "contrary
to Russia's goal of revitalizing its economy and attracting
foreign investment," according to AP. Eugene Lawson, USRBC
president, noted that the law will put several prominent
U.S. and European firms out of business "in an important
segment of the insurance industry, literally confiscating
assets they have already invested in the Russian economy."
However, Deputy Economics Minister Mukhamed Tsikanov denied
that the law entails "any restrictive or confiscatory
consequences," although he admitted that participants in
the insurance market might pick up some negative signals
from the law, according to ITAR-TASS. International
insurance companies had considered Russia a large untapped
market, with the majority of businesses and individuals
underinsured compared with their Western counterparts. JAC

...AS MORE FOOD AID IN THE OFFING? Agriculture Minister
Vladimir Shcherbak announced on 25 June that Russia has
asked the U.S. for more donations of animal feed, which it
will then sell and use the proceeds for investments in
agriculture, Reuters reported. However, Shcherbak
emphasized that Russia will ask for food aid "only if other
measures prove unsuccessful." Duma Agrarian Affairs
Committee Chairman Aleksei Chernyshev was more pessimistic,
predicting that this year's grain harvest will be between
50-55 million tons and that the shortfall will have to be
made up with imports of humanitarian food aid, ITAR-TASS
reported. "Izvestiya" noted on 29 June that Russian
experts' most optimistic prognosis for this year's grain
harvest is 70 million tons, but the newspaper asserted that
60 million tons is more realistic. Russia harvested 47.8
million tons last year, which was the worst yield in 40
years. JAC

ELECTION COMMISSION TO REDRAW SOME DISTRICTS. Following
President Yeltsin's signing of the new State Duma election
bill into law, the Central Election Commission will begin
work on a scheme of single-mandate constituencies,
according to commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov on 28
June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 1999). Veshnyakov told
reporters that the total number of constituencies will
remain the same but that they may be increased in some
areas, such as the Republic of Dagestan and Krasnodar Krai,
and decreased in others, such as Chita and Murmansk
Oblasts. JAC

MORE COAL MINES SLATED FOR CLOSURE. The Russian government
is seeking to complete by 5 July its 1999 program for the
coal industry in preparation for coal-sector loan talks
with the World Bank, Interfax reported on 28 June. In the
meantime, the government has decided to increase the number
of coal mines slated for closure from 46 to 60, as the
World Bank had earlier requested, but those additional
closures will require more funds, according to Fuel and
Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii. Kalyuzhnii noted that
strike actions in the sector have significantly decreased
but that some politicians are trying to play the coal card
in the run-up to parliamentary elections. A coal miners'
congress on 10 July could destabilize the situation in the
industry, he noted. First Deputy Prime Minister Aksenenko
was named chairman of the interdepartmental commission on
social problems of coal-mining regions. JAC

LIVSHITS IS BACK. President Yeltsin on 28 June appointed
Aleksander Livshits chairman of the interagency commission
for G-8 issues, giving him the rank of minister, ITAR-TASS
reported. Livshits is a former finance minister, former
deputy head of the presidential administration, and former
presidential adviser on economics. Livshits told reporters
that he will focus on implementing decisions reached at
recent G-8 meeting in Cologne and oversee economic and
trade relations with G-7 countries. He stressed that he
will not replace the Finance Ministry in its negotiations
with the Paris and London Clubs of creditors. JAC

RUSSIAN OFFICERS ARRIVE AT NATO HEADQUARTERS. A group of
Russian officers arrived at NATO headquarters in Brussels on
28 June to work out details of Russia's participation in the
Kosova peacekeeping force (KFOR), ITAR-TASS reported. The
delegation is led by Vice Admiral Valentin Kuznetsov, who is
deputy chief of the department for international military
cooperation at the Russian Defense Ministry. Unnamed NATO
officials told ITAR-TASS that they hope the arrival of the
officers signals a resumption of cooperation between Russia
and NATO, which Russia curtailed when NATO started bombing
Yugoslavia on 24 March. Kuznetsov, however, said the arrival
of the officers does not mark a return to the level of
"interaction and confidence" that followed the signing of the
May 1997 Russian-NATO Founding Act. He stressed that
cooperation will be limited to the KFOR mission, during which
Russian generals and officers will work at NATO's military
command near Mons, Belgium. FS

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES LOSE COURT APPEAL. A Moscow court on 28
June rejected an appeal by the Jehovah's Witnesses
challenging an earlier court decision to create a panel of
experts to study their literature and recommend whether they
should be banned, AP reported. A Moscow city prosecutor has
been seeking to ban the group from the city under a 1997
controversial law on freedom of conscience and religious
organizations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 1999).
According to the agency, the religious group says that the
court's panel lacks the qualifications to decide the matter
and that numerous materials on and studies of the group by
authoritative researchers already exist. JAC

ELEVEN INJURED IN NORTH CAUCASUS EXPLOSION. Eleven people
were injured, four of them seriously, when an anti-personnel
mine exploded outside a railway storage facility in the North
Ossetian capital, Vladikavkaz, on 28 June, Interfax reported.
Sappers defused another three mines found in the vicinity.
Commenting on the explosion, North Ossetian President
Aleksandr Dzasokhov said that such incidents should not delay
the planned meeting between Russian President Yeltsin and
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Caucasus Press reported on
29 June. Dzasokhov said that the meeting "will certainly
contribute" to stability in the North Caucasus. Some 60
people were killed and more than 100 injured when a bomb
exploded in the Vladikavkaz central market on 19 March. LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT FIRES FOREIGN MINISTER. Maskhadov issued a
decree on 28 June dismissing Akhyad Idigov as foreign
minister and appointing Ilyas Akhmadov to take over that
post, Interfax reported. Idigov had replaced Movladi Udugov
as foreign minister last fall (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2
November 1998). The agency quoted presidential spokesman
Mairbek Vachagaev as saying that the Foreign Ministry has
proved "useless" during the past 18 months. Vachagaev
characterized Akhmadov, who headed Maskhadov's press service
during the 1994-1996 war and then served as army chief of
staff, as "the only professional political analyst in
Chechnya." LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

WAS NAGORNO-KARABAKH PRESIDENT BUGGED? A senior official
within the administration of Arkadii Ghukasian, president of
the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, told RFE/RL's
Stepanakert correspondent at the weekend that Ghukasian
informed cabinet members on 24 June, before signing a decree
dismissing Prime Minister Zhirayr Poghosian, that a
surveillance device had been discovered in his office. It is
unclear, however, whether that discovery was the primary
reason for the firing of Poghosian, who has refused to
comment on Ghukasian's allegations. According to unconfirmed
reports from Stepanakert, a local electronics engineer who
planted the bug is being held in custody in Yerevan. The
Armenian National Security Ministry has denied any
involvement in the incident. LF

AZERBAIJAN POPULAR FRONT PROTESTS INSULTS TO JOURNALISTS. The
opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front has released a statement
condemning abusive and insulting remarks addressed to
journalists by parliamentary deputy Jalal Aliev during a 25
June debate on the new draft law on the media, Turan reported
on 28 June. Aliev, whose younger brother Heidar is
Azerbaijan's president, reportedly argued that the new law
should put an end to "immorality and callousness" in the
press. He also accused unnamed media outlets of "betrayal"
and seeking to undermine Azerbaijan's statehood. He referred
to women journalists working for independent newspapers as
"prostitutes" and their male colleagues as "rogues," RFE/RL's
Baku bureau reported. Also on 25 June, Reporters Sans
Frontieres wrote to Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil
Usubov to protest the beating by two policemen in Baku on 19
June of Elman Maliev, a journalist with the independent
newspaper "Hurriyet." LF

FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES DETAINED IN AZERBAIJAN...
Ashraf Mehtiev, chairman of the Geyrat Party and of the
Association of Victims of Political Repression, was forcibly
taken to the Baku City Prosecutor's office on 28 June but
later released, Turan reported. Criminal proceedings have
been brought against Mehtiev, who according to official
results polled less than 1 percent of the vote in the October
1998 presidential elections, for insulting the honor and
dignity of President Aliev in his election campaign speeches.
LF

...AND GEORGIA. In Tbilisi, Kartlos Gharibashvili, chairman
of the Independent Lawyers' Association, said on 28 June that
he will file charges for unlawful arrest against local police
officials who arrested him on 25 June for hooliganism in
connection with an incident in mid-April when his car
collided with a bus, Caucasus Press reported. Gharibashvili
was held in detention for 50 hours, then brought before a
judge who dismissed the case after a 15-hour hearing.
Gharibashvili attributed his arrest to his willingness to
defend Temur Papuashvili, who is accused of planning a coup
against the Georgian leadership. Gharibashvili ran for
president in 1995 but polled only 0.4 percent of the vote. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SEES GREATER EU ROLE IN SOUTH CAUCASUS. In
his regular Monday radio broadcast on 28 June, Eduard
Shevardnadze said the EU could play a key role in helping to
resolve conflicts in the South Caucasus and in providing
funds for the reconstruction of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,
Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. He added that the EU will
shortly receive 13 million Euros ($12 million)from the EU for
agricultural development and another 7 million Euros for the
construction of a fiber-optics communication line through the
South Caucasus. LF

GEORGIA TO MONITOR TURKISH SHIPPING. Shevardnadze also said
on 28 June that Tbilisi has reached agreement with the
Turkish government that all Turkish ships bound for the
unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia must first undergo customs
clearance in the Georgian port of Poti, Caucasus Press
reported. Only ships carrying humanitarian aid will be
permitted to proceed to Abkhaz ports, Shevardnadze said.
Georgian coastguards intercepted a Turkish vessel on 26 June
for illegally entering Georgian territorial waters. LF

U.S., NATO CONDUCT TRAINING COURSES IN KAZAKHSTAN,
UZBEKISTAN. NATO and the Uzbek Defense Ministry began joint
training courses on 28 June for civilian agencies engaged in
coping with emergency situations, Interfax reported. The
following day, a U.S.-Kazakh seminar on defense planning
begins in Astana. Participants will compare the two
countries' approaches to identifying possible threats and
risks in creating a national security strategy, Interfax
reported, quoting a Kazakh Defense Ministry official. They
will also draft proposals for Kazakhstan's defense budget. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT APPROVES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. Imomali
Rakhmonov gave "overall approval" on 28 June to amendments to
the Tajik Constitution demanded by the United Tajik
Opposition within the framework of the 1997 peace agreement,
ITAR-TASS reported. Those amendments will be considered at an
emergency parliamentary session on 30 June. No details of the
proposals were given. The opposition had earlier demanded the
removal from the constitution of an article pledging
construction of a secular Tajik state, and the introduction
of a bicameral parliament, according to "Vremya-MN" on 22
April. Rakhmonov had rejected the latter proposal on the
grounds that it would cost the state budget $25 million. LF

UZBEK COURT HANDS DOWN DEATH SENTENCES FOR BOMBINGS.
Uzbekistan's Supreme Court sentenced six men to death on 28
June for their role in the 16 February bombings in Tashkent
that killed 16 people. Eight more defendants received prison
sentences of 20 years, while another eight were sentenced to
terms ranging from 10 to 18 years. All those accused pleaded
wholly or partially guilty to the charges of terrorism,
murder, and attempting to kill President Islam Karimov. In
addition to admitting responsibility for the February
bombings, some of those accused also admitted to murders
committed earlier in the cities of Andizhan and Namangan,
according to ITAR-TASS. AFP quoted human rights activists as
saying that since the trial opened on 2 June, hundreds of
people who sympathized with the defendants have been arrested
for handing out leaflets in Tashkent. LF

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