Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 138, Part I, 19 July 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 138, Part I, 19 July 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

* OLIGARCHS LOCKED IN ANOTHER BATTLE OVER MEDIA OUTLET

* THINNER REVENUES COULD PINCH BUDGET IN THIRD QUARTER

* ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS MEET

End Note: A NEVER-ENDING UNIFICATION STORY
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

RUSSIA

OLIGARCHS LOCKED IN ANOTHER BATTLE OVER MEDIA OUTLET...
Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin on 19 July declared
that Russian television channels "do nothing but attack one
another" and therefore neglect covering important events, as
if there were no other problems in the country. Three days
earlier, Oleg Dobrodeev, the director-general of NTV, told
"Kommersant-Daily that "it is clear that an information war
has been launched against Media-Most [which owns NTV] by
television channels and printed publications of [business
magnate] Boris Berezovskii." The attacks and counterattacks
are part of new war over NTV launched by so-called oligarchs
Berezovskii and Media-Most Group head Vladimir Gusinskii,
"Vremya MN" concluded on 16 July. Berezovskii has reportedly
managed to enlist the Kremlin's support in this effort, since
its officials are irritated at the station's continuing
positive coverage of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and
increasingly negative coverage of Russian President Boris
Yeltsin. NTV authorities claim that they are just reporting
objective reality. JAC

...AS GAZPROM BELIEVED TO BE FINAL ARBITRER. Meanwhile,
according to "Vremya MN," Gazprom, which is a leading
creditor of Media-Most, is reportedly ready to purchase 25
percent of the company, but a group of Gazprom's shareholders
have asked for clarification about the company's
expenditures, particularly with regard to Media-Most. The
newspaper implies that recent government pressure on Gazprom
may be related to its support for Media-Most (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 16 July 1999) and concludes that if Gazprom head
Rem Vyakhirev "resigns himself to the necessity of increasing
the number of state representatives on Gazprom's board of
directors, Gazprom will have to stop being Gusinskii's ally
and Media-Most will have to surrender to Berezovskii." JAC

RUSSIA AFLAME. On 16 July, Russia broke the record for the
number of forest fires occurring on a single day,
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 July. On that day, 763 new
fires were registered --typically about 100-130 occur within
24 hours. According to the daily, from the beginning of the
so-called fire season to the middle of July 20,000 fires were
recorded, causing an estimated 2 billion rubles ($82 million)
worth of damage. During the same period last year, which was
considered a particularly bad year for forest fires, 14,500
fires had occurred. The regions hardest hit are in the Far
East and Northwest. So far, the fires have barely affected
residential dwellings, but some neighborhoods in cities such
as St. Petersburg and Moscow have been wrapped in a thick
smog caused by smoke from nearby fires. On 13 July,
Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed declared a state of
emergency because of the rapid spread of fires in his region.
JAC

THINNER REVENUES COULD PINCH BUDGET IN THIRD QUARTER.
Economic policymakers will face difficulties managing the
budget in the third quarter, "Vremya MN" reported on 16 July.
Three factors will be the continued absence of a final
agreement with the IMF, the seasonal decline in business
activity, and a traditional slump in tax collections. Also
troubling for budget revenues is the drop in customs
collections, which usually provide as much as a third of
state revenues but more recently have accounted for only 20
percent. According to the daily, collections of the State
Customs Service depend on the volume of imports, which has
shrunk since the devaluation of the ruble last August.
Foreign trade turnover slid 25.4 percent in the first quarter
of 1999, compared with the same period the previous year,
Interfax reported on 16 July. "Vremya MN" concluded that the
main problem for the government during the period from August
and September will be paying the vacation wages of state
sector workers, particularly in the poorer, "troubled"
regions. JAC

LUZHKOV CLAIMS KREMLIN'S PLOTS NOW ENSNARE HIS WIFE... Moscow
Mayor and Otechestvo [Fatherland] leader Luzhkov has
denounced the criminal investigation launched by the Federal
Security Service (FSB) in Vladimir against his wife's firm,
Inteko, as a "political provocation," Interfax reported on 16
July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1999). Luzhkov also
accused the Kremlin of initiating the investigation, saying
that "I am sure of it even if they deny it at the
presidential administration. Moscow is one big village where
all secrets come out." In an interview with NTV two days
later, Luzhkov also mentioned Berezovskii as an author of the
plot to smear him and his wife. FSB spokesman Aleksandr
Zdanovich told NTV on 17 July that the investigation into the
unlawful transfer of $146 million from Moscow and Vladimir to
foreign banks was not politically motivated. According to
Zdanovich, the money was transferred using fake contracts
with non-existent companies around the CIS. JAC

...WELCOMES PRIMAKOV TO HEAD MOVEMENT. In his interview with
NTV, Luzhkov also said he is considering granting former
Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov the top spot on Otechestvo's
list. On 16 July, "Novye Izvestiya," which receives financial
backing from Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, reported that
frictions are developing within Otechestvo between the
mayor's old and newer supporters, such as former presidential
spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii and former Tax Minister
Georgii Boos. The account, which cites anonymous sources
within the movement, claims that the recent establishment of
an additional press service for Otechestvo is part of a
continuing effort by the new arrivals to establish parallel
structures and gain more and more control over Luzhkov. JAC

BULK OF RUSSIANS AVOID PAYING TAXES. Only 1 percent of
Russia's population pay their taxes in full, while the
remainder either pay too little or nothing at all, Federal
Tax Police head Vyacheslav Soltaganov said on 16 July, ITAR-
TASS reported. According to Soltaganov, the tax police
uncovered 6,000 tax crimes during the first six months of
1999 but needs to become five to six times more efficient.
One problem is the ineffective recovery of tax monies after a
violation has been discovered, according to "Vremya MN" on 19
July. For example, in Tatarstan tax violations worth about 17
million rubles ($70,000) were uncovered, but only 2.5 million
rubles made their way back to the budget. The situation is
even worse in other regions, according to the daily: in
Ulyanovsk, only 63,700 rubles were recovered, 35,700 in
Volgograd, and 3,800 rubles in the Chuvash Republic. JAC

JACKSON SAYS RELATIONS BETWEEN RUSSIAN, NATO KFOR TROOPS
'GOOD.' KFOR Commander General Sir Mike Jackson told ITAR-
TASS in Prishtina on 17 July that relations between Russian
and NATO soldiers within KFOR are "good." He stressed that
the Russian troops "want to achieve successes.... They know
what they should do." Jackson added that the deployment of
Russian soldiers in Rahovec is under discussion. Ethnic
Albanians in that town have recently protested the planned
deployment of Russian peacekeepers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12
July 1999). Meanwhile, an unnamed Defense Ministry official
told ITAR-TASS on 16 July in Moscow that Russian and NATO
peacekeepers will soon conduct joint patrols. He added that
all "peacekeepers...are on the same side of the barricade." A
total of 1,670 Russian peacekeepers are currently in Kosova.
Their number is scheduled to reach 3,616 by early August. FS

STEPASHIN ORDERS NAVAL MANEUVERS IN REACTION TO 'YUGOSLAV
EVENTS.' During his visit to Sevastopol on 17 July, Russian
Prime Minister Stepashin ordered Admiral Vladimir Komoedov,
commander of the Black Sea Fleet, to hold naval exercises in
the near future, ITAR-TASS reported. Stepashin said the "navy
should practice all measures to counteract...aggressive
actions [similar to those] undertaken by NATO forces" against
Yugoslavia. Stepashin said that Russian President Boris
Yeltsin had the "idea" of holding the exercises. ITAR-TASS
quoted Komoedov as saying that "especially [on the
southwestern flank], Russia and its allies can be drawn into
conflicts." FS

'MIR' SUPPLY SHIP MAKES ONE OF ITS LAST VOYAGES? An unmanned
cargo vessel filled with supplies docked with the "Mir" space
station on 18 July. The supply run had been delayed for two
days owing to the Kazakh authorities' ban on Russian launches
from the Baikonur space complex (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15
July 1999). The vessel delivered food, oxygen, scientific
equipment, and other supplies to the station, whose current
mission will end on 28 August, Interfax reported on 17 July.
According to the agency, the crew will start operations to
mothball the station's systems in August and prepare it for
unmanned functioning. JAC

CHECHEN SECURITY MINISTER DETAINED, RELEASED... Turpal-Ali
Atgeriev was released from a Moscow prison on 18 July, after
being arrested at Moscow's Vnukovo airport two days earlier,
together with Chechen Deputy Prosecutor-General Adam
Torkhashev and two officials from the Moscow office of the
Chechen Interior Ministry, ITAR-TASS reported. Atgeriev, whom
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 July termed that last remaining
member of the Chechen leadership who is unequivocally loyal
to President Aslan Maskhadov," is accused of participating in
an attack and hostage-taking in the Dagestan town of Kizlyar
in January 1996. An unidentified source at Russia's Interior
Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 18 July that Atgeriev has been
released not only because of "the good will of Prime Minister
Stepashin, who is now preparing for the meeting between
[President Boris] Yeltsin and Aslan Maskhadov," but also
because of "the information that [Algeriev] gave, which can
be used in future police investigations." LF/JAC

...FOLLOWING ARREST IN MOSCOW UNDER UNCLEAR CIRCUMSTANCES. AP
quoted a Chechen representative in Moscow as saying that
Atgeriev had been in the Russian capital for a week holding
talks with Russian officials on preparations for Maskhadov's
planned meeting with Russian President Yeltsin. But Russian
envoy to Chechnya Georgii Kurin told ITAR-TASS that neither
he nor any other Russian government officials responsible for
relations with Chechnya had been informed of Atgeriev's
presence there. Former Russian Security Council Deputy
Secretary Boris Berezovskii told ITAR-TASS on 17 July he
considers Atgeriev's arrest "an irresponsible step." LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS MEET. Robert Kocharian and
Heidar Aliev held talks on 16 July in Geneva on the Karabakh
conflict. AP quoted Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian
as telling Armenian National Television after the meeting
that the two presidents had "attempted to remove the
obstacles" impeding work on a document that would lay the
basis for talks. Azerbaijan rejected the most recent draft
peace plan by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen because it
objected to the proposed concept of a "common state" composed
of both Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh
Republic. Oskanian said it is too early to speak of a
breakthrough, and he expressed the hope that talks will
continue "at the highest level." LF

GEORGIAN FACTION LEADERS DISCUSS AMENDMENTS TO ELECTION LAW.
Georgian parliamentary speaker held talks in Tbilisi on 16
July with representatives of parliamentary factions on the
proposed amendment to the existing election law raising the
threshold for parliamentary representation under the
proportional system from 5 percent to 7 percent, Caucasus
Press reported. The parliament is to debate that amendment at
an extraordinary session on 20 July. Under another proposed
amendment, five of the 19 members of the Central Electoral
Commission are to be appointed by the president, five by the
parliament, seven by the parties that polled the largest
number of votes in last November's local elections, and one
each by Abkhazia and Adjaria. LF

TURKEY TO GIVE GEORGIA THIRD GRANT FOR DEFENSE PURPOSES.
Senior Turkish and Georgian military officials are to sign an
agreement on Ankara's allocation of a further $3,700,000 for
the Georgian Defense Ministry and border guards, Caucasus
Press reported on 16 July. Turkey allocated $5.5 million to
Georgia in 1998 and another $1.7 million last month (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 1999). LF

LEBED IN ADJARIA. Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed
arrived in Batumi on 17 July for a two-day visit, Caucasus
Press reported. "Dilis gazeti" on 11 May had quoted Adjar
State Council chairman Aslan Abashidze as saying that "Lebed
adores Adjaria." Lebed's deputy, Shalva Breus, visited
Adjaria in May to discuss prospects for joint ventures,
including a joint airline, for which Krasnoyarsk intended to
invest 25 percent of the necessary funding. LF

GAZPROM CHAIRMAN IN KAZAKHSTAN. Rem Vyakhirev met in Astana
on 16 July with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Nurlan
Balghymbaev to discuss a natural gas swap, Interfax reported.
Under the proposed deal, Russia would receive natural gas
from the Karachaganak field in western Kazakhstan in exchange
for Russian gas delivered to Kustanai and Aktyubinsk Oblasts
in the north of the country. LF

RUSSIAN, TAJIK, UZBEK FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. Meeting in
Tashkent on 16 July, Igor Ivanov, Talbak Nazarov, and
Abdulaziz Kamilov assessed implementation of the Cooperation
Declaration signed by the three countries' presidents in
Tashkent on 12 October 1998, Interfax reported. The
declaration pledged cooperation in combating religious
extremism in Central Asia. In a joint communique, the three
foreign ministers called for further efforts to stabilize the
political situation in Tajikistan and stressed the need for
concerted actions to end the conflict in Afghanistan through
constructive dialogue under the aegis of the UN. They pledged
to continue regular trilateral meetings. LF

RUSSIA PRAISES TAJIK RECONCILIATION PROGRESS... Ivanov told
journalists in Tashkent after the meeting that Tajikistan's
experience of national reconciliation and repatriating
refugees since the signing of the General Peace Agreement two
years ago deserves greater publicity and wider application,
Interfax reported. LF

...ACKNOWLEDES PROBLEMS IN RELATIONS WITH UZBEKISTAN. Ivanov
also told journalists that he and Uzbekistan's President
Islam Karimov had a "very frank" discussion on 15 July about
all outstanding problems in bilateral relations, including
the failure to implement previously signed agreements,
Interfax reported. Karimov, for his part, told Interfax that
the two countries should define their priorities more clearly
in order to achieve an improvement in bilateral relations.
Uzbekistan in April joined the GUAM alignment, which Moscow
perceives as pro-Western and intended to undermine the CIS
from within. LF

TAJIK FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS 'NO PROBLEMS' IN RELATIONS WITH
UZBEKISTAN. In an exclusive interview with ITAR-TASS
following the trilateral talks in Tashkent on 16 July, Talbak
Nazarov said he sees "no problems for now" in relations with
Uzbekistan, adding that the two countries have in recent
years built "very good relations both politically and
economically." Relations between the two countries cooled
late last year after Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov
accused Uzbekistan of abetting an insurgency by rebel Tajik
Colonel Mahmud Khudoiberdiev. LF

RUSSIA, TURKMENISTAN PLEDGE TO INCREASE COOPERATION. Visiting
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Interfax on 16 July
in Ashgabat that he agreed with Turkmen President Saparmurat
Niyazov to create an intergovernmental commission aimed at
increasing bilateral political, trade, economic, and military
cooperation. He added that the current level of cooperation
"can hardly satisfy either side..., our potential is much
greater." Niyazov stressed that "our doors are open, and we
are willing to cooperate with great Russia. It is Russia that
has so far not been coming here." He argued that Russia has
isolated itself from other CIS countries and is "acting as if
it were hurt" by the break-up of the Soviet Union. Niyazov
also urged Russia to help Turkmenistan mediate in the
Afghanistan conflict. He noted that representatives of both
warring sides were in Ashgabat on 16 July for consultations
with Turkmen officials. Ivanov said Russia will send a
delegation to a conference on Afghanistan that is to take
place next week in Tashkent. FS

END NOTE

A NEVER-ENDING UNIFICATION STORY

by Jan Maksymiuk

	Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin announced on 5
July that Russia will sign a treaty with Belarus this fall,
allowing the two countries "to enter the 21st century as a
union-state." For those who may have lost count of Russian-
Belarusian integration initiatives, this will be the third
major agreement on a single Russian-Belarusian state. The
first was signed in April 1996, the second one year later, in
April 1997. There are many signs that this year's proposed
document--heralded by Belarusian President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka and Russian President Boris Yeltsin in a joint
declaration on 25 December 1998--will not be the ultimate
unification pact either.
	Stepashin's pledge of quicker unification was preceded
by attempted blackmail on the part of the Belarusian
president. Addressing the 2 July session of the Belarusian-
Russian Parliamentary Assembly in Minsk, Lukashenka
threatened to seek rapprochement with the West if Russia
continued to drag its feet on a closer union with his
country. Following consultations with Yeltsin, Stepashin
hastened to assure Lukashenka that the treaty will be ready
within a month and will not be of simply a "declarative
character."
	As for Lukashenka's threat to repair relations with the
West, Stepashin commented: "We would welcome that [move], and
a union between Russia and Belarus should not in any case
stand as an obstacle to creating a unified Europe." Both
Yeltsin and Stepashin are perfectly aware that, as one
Russian newspaper put it, "there is no way to the West" for
Lukashenka.
	Lukashenka's attempt at blackmailing Russia is rather a
sign of his weakness and frustration as his presidency nears
the completion of its fifth year on 20 July 1999. European
democracies have not recognized Belarus's 1996 controversial
referendum, by means of which Lukashenka extended his
presidential term until 2001. So far, he has not appeared to
pay much attention to what the West thinks about his
legitimacy after 20 July. Rather, he seems to have scented
another danger: What if Moscow strongmen--embroiled in their
intricate wars for power--begin openly questioning his
legitimacy and, consequently, his right to sign any
interstate documents? Such a turn of events cannot be ruled
out as Russia nears parliamentary elections in December and
presidential elections next year.
	There has been much speculation in the Russian media
that Yeltsin is willing to repeat the "Milosevic scenario" in
order to stay in power beyond 2000. The creation of the
Russian-Belarusian union could serve Yeltsin's political
longevity in the Kremlin in the same way as the 1994 creation
of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia helped Serbian
President Slobodan Milosevic remain at the helm in Belgrade
as the head of the unified state of Serbia and Montenegro.
	Lukashenka is ready to accept Yeltsin as the union
president provided that he himself is given the post of vice
president. However, Kremlin planners have not envisaged any
union presidency or common government. And what is more
important, even such staunch proponents of Russian-Belarusian
integration as Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev,
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, and Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov have not insisted on the introduction of a
union presidency. This should be taken by Lukashenka as a
disappointing, if not alarming, state of affairs: Russian
political elites have so far not devised any major role for
him in the struggle for power in Russia. Moreover, it is
unclear whether they ever intended to.
	Yeltsin recently announced that he is ready to step down
when his terms expires next year. Whether or not that is
true, he may at least be willing to wait to take a final
decision until after Russia's parliamentary elections in
December. If the elections suggest that his preferred
candidate will win the presidential race next year, he will
most likely leave the political scene, placing the future of
further integration with Belarus into the hands of his
successor. If not, a "union option" that would prolong his
rule might be used by him in earnest. In any case, no one
should expect a treaty this fall that would allow Lukashenka
to obtain the real levers of power in Russia.
	Lukashenka recently declared that he will not accept a
non-presidential power structure in the union-state. But it
seems he will have no choice. If he refuses to sign another
watered-down union treaty proposed by Moscow, he will find
himself on the sidelines of the integration process, which he
has so ardently championed. What is more, he may well find
himself on the sidelines of all politics. Neglecting and even
rejecting normal relations with Western democracies, he has
become hostage to his one-sided policy of rapprochement with
Russia. On the other hand, if he signs such a treaty, he will
hardly get what he wants--namely, more power and more Russian
resources to bail out the sinking Belarusian economy.
	"From the very beginning [of his term], Lukashenka was
nothing more than a puppet.... The real power was in the
hands of the puppeteer behind the screen. The only person who
could allow himself [to move the puppet] was Boris Yeltsin
with his family," the Belarusian independent weekly "Nasha
Niva" commented on 28 June. That comment appears all the more
bitter in light of the fact that most Belarusians still show
no tendency or desire to stop being entertained in such a
way.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
               Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE
Send an email to newsline-request@list.rferl.org with
the word subscribe as the subject of the message.

HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE
Send an email to newsline-request@list.rferl.org with
the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message.

For subscription problems or inquiries, please email
hermanoval@rferl.org
________________________________________________
CURRENT AND BACK ISSUES ON THE WEB
Back issues of RFE/RL Newsline and the OMRI Daily Digest
are online at: http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/
_________________________________________________
LISTEN TO NEWS FOR 25 COUNTRIES
RFE/RL programs are online daily at RFE/RL's 24-Hour
LIVE Broadcast Studio.
http://www.rferl.org/realaudio/index.html
_________________________________________________
REPRINT POLICY
To receive reprint permission, please contact Paul Goble
via email at GobleP@rferl.org or fax at 1-202-457-6992
_________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE STAFF
* Paul Goble, Publisher, GobleP@rferl.org
* Liz Fuller, Editor-in-Chief, CarlsonE@rferl.org
* Patrick Moore, Team Leader, MooreP@rferl.org
* Jan Cleave, CleaveJ@rferl.org
* Julie A. Corwin, CorwinJ@rferl.org
* Jan Maksymiuk, MaksymiukJ@rferl.org
* Fabian Schmidt, SchmidtF@rferl.org
* Michael Shafir, ShafirM@rferl.org

FREE-LANCE AND OCCASIONAL CONTRIBUTORS
* Pete Baumgartner, Jeremy Branston,  Victor Gomez, Mel
Huang, Dan Ionescu, Zsolt-Istvan Mato, Jolyon Naegele, Matyas
Szabo, Anthony Wesolowsky

RFE/RL Newsline Fax: (420-2) 2112-3630
_________________________________________________
RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

[English] [Russian TRANS | KOI8 | ALT | WIN | MAC | ISO5]

F&P Home ° Comments ° Guestbook


1996 Friends and Partners
Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole
Please visit the Russian and American mirror sites of Friends and Partners.
Updated: 1998-11-

Please write to us with your comments and suggestions.

F&P Quick Search
Main Sections
Home
Bulletin Board
Chat Room
F&P Listserver

RFE/RL
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
Search

News
News From Russia/NIS
News About Russia/NIS
Newspapers & Magazines
Global News
Weather

©1996 Friends and Partners
Please write to us with any comments, questions or suggestions -- Natasha Bulashova, Greg Cole