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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 146, Part I, 29 July 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 146, Part I, 29 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 * RUSSIA WINS NEW IMF SUPPORT * BATTLE BETWEEN MEDIA GROUP, KREMLIN INTENSIFIES * ARMENIAN PREMIER OUTLINES AUSTERITY MEASURES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIA WINS NEW IMF SUPPORT... As expected, the IMF's executive board has approved a new $4.5 billion loan for Russia. An IMF spokesperson said on 28 July that the money will be disbursed over 17 months, with $640 million available immediately. According to Western agencies, the new IMF funds will be used to pay off part of the debt Russia owes the fund, so the money will not actually leave IMF accounts. "Izvestiya" the next day likened the Russian government's experience winning a new IMF loan to the U.S. movie "Groundhog Day" in which a man lives the same day over and over again. "The IMF knows that the latest macroeconomic program will not be implemented by Russia because of the parliamentary and presidential elections," but "they want us again and again to declare, at least verbally, our commitment to the market and democracy. They are even willing to pay for the privilege." JAC ...PAVING WAY FOR PARIS CLUB DEAL. The day after the loan was approved, Russian Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov was in France for talks with Paris Club creditors. Kasyanov told ITAR-TASS he is confident an agreement will be reached soon-- possibly as early as 30 or 31 July. According to Reuters, negotiations will focus on the rescheduling of about $9 billion of principal and interest due in 1999 and 2000. Russian officials had predicted earlier that talks with London Club creditors would not go as smoothly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1999). JAC BATTLE BETWEEN MEDIA GROUP, KREMLIN INTENSIFIES. Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin has asked Finance Minister Kasyanov to sort out the Media-Most Group's "financial relationships." ITAR-TASS reported on 29 July. Stepashin's instruction follows a strings of accusations and denials by Kremlin and government officials on the topic of Media-Most's finances. A group of editors from a variety of media outlets owned by Media-Most signed an open letter accusing the Kremlin of using tax inspectors to punish them for negative coverage (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 1999). Meanwhile, Kremlin officials have privately accused Media-Most of engaging in an information war in order to "extort even more money to resolve its own financial problems," Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 July. Presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin publicly said the company has received substantial financial assistance from the state, which the company denies. "Kommersant-Daily" concluded that the "nature of the mutual accusations leaves little hope for reconciliation." JAC STEPASHIN SAYS VISIT NOT ONLY HELPED IMPROVE BILATERAL RELATIONS... Upon returning to Moscow on 28 July, Russian Prime Minister Stepashin declared his trip to the U.S. a success, calling the visit "a major step in improving Russian-American relations." Stepashin told reporters that his meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton the same day had touched on the subject of the provision of humanitarian aid to Yugoslavia. According to Stepashin, Russia and the U.S. must have a coordinated position on the issue. During his visit, Stepashin also met with U.S. Vice President Al Gore, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, and U.S. Jewish group leaders. Stepashin promised the latter to intensify efforts to combat anti-Semitism. JAC ...BUT ALSO ADVANCED RUSSIAN ECONOMIC INTERESTS. Meeting with Gore, Stepashin raised the issue of the recent agreement on increasing the Russian quota of U.S. commercial space launches and Russian titanium exports to the U.S. The two leaders also agreed to renew arms control talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1999). During Stepashin's visit, top officials from the Khrunichev space research center and U.S.- based Lockheed-Martin signed an agreement on cooperation in the use of booster rockets, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 July. "Segodnya" reported the same day that a new U.S.-Russian trade dispute may be in the offing: The Association of American Producers of Nitrogen Fertilizers has sent a complaint to the Commerce Department accusing Russian fertilizer manufacturers of dumping. According to the daily, exports of nitrogen fertilizers to the U.S. during the first quarter of 1999 earned $7.4 million. JAC ALL KOSOVA PEACEKEEPERS TO BE IN PLACE BY NEXT WEEK. Talking to journalists in Moscow on 28 July, Colonel-General Georgii Shpak said that the deployment of all 3,616 Russian peacekeepers in Kosova will be complete by 6 August. The following day, according to Shpak, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev will visit Bosnia-Herzegovina to hand over medals to the 200 paratroops who marched from Bosnia to Kosova in mid-June, becoming the first foreign forces to enter the province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 1999). Shpak added that all those who took part in the march are now back in Bosnia. JC YELTSIN PARTICULARLY PARTIAL TO IVANOV? President Yeltsin has awarded Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov the "For Service to the Fatherland" order of the second degree. Citing unidentified political analysts, "Segodnya" on 28 July notes that in bestowing this award--the second highest in Russia after the Order of St. Andrew, with only the president himself having the first-degree Fatherland order--the Kremlin may want to show that it has a "special affection" for the foreign minister. The newspaper points out that the award is normally reserved for "round" birthdays of officials who have distinguished themselves in their posts for a significant period. Ivanov, however, is due to turn 54 soon, has not been foreign minister very long, and, like most career diplomats, was not widely known before taking over that portfolio. JC ANOTHER RESIGNATION TENDERED AT PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE. The Federation Council member will consider the resignation of acting Prosecutor-General Yurii Chaika after their summer recess, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 July. According to the agency, President Yeltsin has asked Chaika to transfer to the position of first deputy secretary of the Security Council. Current Prosecutor-General for the Caucasus Vladimir Ustinov will take over Chaika's position. According to "Kommersant- Daily," which first reported Ustinov's imminent transfer, Prime Minister Stepashin got to know Ustinov in the Caucasus and proposed his candidacy, assuring the Kremlin of Ustinov's loyalty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1999). JAC COUP D'ETAT FAILS IN VORONEZH. Accompanied by a group of men wielding submachine guns, municipal deputy Vasilii Kochergin forced his way into the Voronezh Mayor's Office on 28 July in a bid to seize power in the oblast capital, ITAR-TASS and "Izvestiya" reported. According to the daily, the armed men were OMON officers. The incident ended without violence later the same day, and Mayor Aleksandr Tsapin broke off a tour of the raions to return to the capital. Earlier this year, Kochergin had been proclaimed mayor by his mostly Communist supporters in the city council but was "deposed" one day later pending a ruling by the federal Supreme Court (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 28 April 1999). "Izvestiya" reported that Tsapin had recently won over two Kochergin supporters, giving him and his supporters a quorum in the council with which to enact legislation. JC 'MIR' COSMONAUTS TAKE LAST SPACE WALK. Two Russian cosmonauts aboard the space station "Mir" completed a space walk on 28 July, successfully installing a new aerial antenna, Interfax reported. Five days earlier, the cosmonauts tried unsuccessfully for six hours to install the antenna. Deputy flight director Viktor Blagov told the agency that the walk was likely to be the last one for "Mir" cosmonauts, since the station will remain unmanned after the cosmonauts leave late next month. Unless funds are found to keep the space station going, "Mir" will be lowered into the earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean next February or March. Yurii Koptev, director-general of the Russian Space Agency said earlier in the month that "it is better to bring the station down to the bed of the Pacific Ocean with honor rather than prolong its service life until serious troubles...mar the history of this unique example of Russian space engineering." JAC WHAT RHYMES WITH NATO AGGRESSION? "Krasnaya zvezda" reported on 29 July that Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, head of the Defense Ministry's department for international military cooperation, has won acceptance to the federation Writers' Union. Ivashov, a prolific poet, told the newspaper that even though he has an extremely busy schedule, he finds time to write by using every spare minute on flights, "waiting at the airport, and in cars." Ivashov also revealed that a compact disc of songs whose lyrics he had written would be released within days. Purchasers of the disc can hear songs with titles such as "Officers of Russia." Ivashov was one of Russia's most outspoken critics of NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, saying before the campaign began that NATO "has no diplomatic, legal, political, or economic levers in its arsenal, only naked military force" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February 1999). JAC CHECHEN OPPOSITION LEADER ACCUSES RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE OF PLANNING ASSASSINATIONS. Former acting Chechen Premier Shamil Basaev told journalists on 28 July that Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) has recruited ethnic Tatars and Bashkirs who infiltrated Chechen opposition military units, Interfax reported. Basaev said 38 such agents have been intercepted, of whom 18 were present at the press conference. Basaev said the agents planned to assassinate himself, radical field commander Khottab, and President Aslan Maskhadov in order to provoke a civil war in Chechnya. FSB spokesman Aleksandr Zhdanovich denied Basaev's allegations, which he termed a provocation intended to torpedo the planned meeting between Maskhadov and President Yeltsin. LF MORE DEATHS IN DAGESTAN. Three Russian soldiers were killed by a remote-controlled bomb on 28 July. At the time of the blast, they were headed for a training ground near their base in the town of Buinaksk, Interfax reported. The following day, one Chechen militant was killed and a second injured in a pre-dawn attack on a police post on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PREMIER OUTLINES AUSTERITY MEASURES. In his first television address since his appointment as prime minister last month, Vazgen Sargsian on 28 July explained his proposed measures to overcome Armenia's budget crisis, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Sargsian said that budget revenues for the first half of 1999 were 33 billion drams ($61 million) less than planned, which is equal to some 10 percent of projected government spending for 1999. Characterizing the situation as "extremely difficult but not hopeless," Sargsian vowed to raise some taxes, crack down on tax evasion, and increase excise duties on cigarettes and gasoline. He said those measures will help to bridge the budget shortfall without seriously affecting the poor and the middle class. During talks in Yerevan last week, IMF representatives gave the Armenian government until late August to bridge the budget gap, which has delayed disbursement of planned IMF and World Bank loan tranches totaling some $55 million. LF AZERBAIJAN, TURKEY AT ODDS OVER OIL EXPORT PIPELINE. Azerbaijan's State Oil Company SOCAR issued an official statement on 27 July saying that talks between Azerbaijani and Turkish working groups have failed to reach agreement on four draft documents that would constitute the legal basis for the construction and use of the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, "Izvestiya" reported on 29 July. Representatives of the two countries had signed a protocol in Istanbul in April pledging to finalize and sign the four documents in question by the end of July. The points of disagreement, according to "Izvestiya," are over transit tariffs and the requirement that Turkey meet additional construction costs if the total cost of building the pipeline exceeds $2.4 billion. Turkey is demanding a tariff fee of $21 per metric ton of oil, while Azerbaijan and Western oil companies engaged in the Caspian refuse to pay more than $18- 19. LF KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADER ACCUSED OF INSULTING PRESIDENT. Seydakhmet Quttyqadam, who heads the Orleu (Progress) Party, told journalists in Almaty on 28 July that he has been formally charged with insulting President Nursultan Nazarbaev, an RFE/RL correspondent in the former capital reported. Quttyqadam had said at a rally in February that he considered that Nazarbaev has failed to fulfill his obligations as president and should resign, adding that Kazakhstan needs a "strong leader" like Ataturk or de Gaulle. Quttyqadam also argued on 28 July that the presidential system should be replaced by a parliamentary one and that the parliament should be empowered to form a government and to appoint regional leaders, according to Interfax. He said that the parliamentary elections scheduled for this fall, in which he will run in a single-mandate district in Almaty, offer "the last chance" for the development of democracy in Kazakhstan. LF GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE COMPLETED IN KYRGYZSTAN. Prime Minister Amangeldy Muraliev on 26 July presented to the cabinet three new ministers appointed to replace those dismissed by President Askar Akaev three days earlier, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Former State Property Fund director Sultan Mederov replaces Marat Sultanov as finance minister and is himself replaced by former Customs Director Tashkul Kereksizov. Jalalabad University rector Tursunbek Bekbolotov takes over from Sovetbek Toktomyshev as minister of education, science, and culture, and Imankadyr Rysaliev, a former presidential administration department head, succeeds Mira Jangachareva as minister of labor and social issues. Jangaracheva was named deputy governor of Chu Oblast on 26 July. LF OPPOSITION IN KYRGYZSTAN PLANS JOINT COUNCIL. Meeting in Bishkek on 28 July, representatives of five opposition parties (Free Kyrgyzstan, the Communist Party, the People's Party, the republican Party and "My Country") announced they will form a joint political council on which each party will have one representative, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They also expressed their objection to President Akaev's proposal to amend the election law passed by the parliament in April in order to reduce from 12 months to six the period for which a political party must be officially registered prior to parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May and 22 June 1999). Akaev's proposed amendment is presumably intended to facilitate the participation in the February 2000 parliamentary elections of the Adilet Party, created as a support base for the president. The Jalalabad regional branch of Adilet held its founding conference on 24 July and elected as its head Kubanychbek Djumaliev, the governor of Jalalabad Oblast and a former premier. LF MORE ANTHRAX CASES REPORTED IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN. Kyrgyzstan's First Deputy Minister of Public Health Viktor Glinenko told Interfax on 28 July that six more cases of anthrax been reported in Osh Oblast over the past nine days, Interfax reported. The victims had eaten infected beef. A total of 957 people have been placed under medical observation. Meanwhile, 10 people have been hospitalized with anthrax in the Bazar-Korgin district of Jalalabad Oblast, which borders on Osh, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF DEMILITARIZATION, REFERENDUM PREPARATIONS ON TRACK IN TAJIKISTAN. United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri told journalists in Dushanbe on 28 July that the opposition will meet the 31 July deadline for disarming its forces, Reuters reported. That deadline is stipulated in the protocol that he and President Imomali Rakhmonov signed on 17 June. Of a total of some 6,000 opposition fighters who have been screened by the Central Attestation Committee, 4,500 have opted for service in either the army or the police. Meanwhile, preparations are continuing for the 26 September referendum on constitutional amendments that will remove the present ban on political parties with a religious orientation, AP-Blitz reported on 27 July. Acting UN Special Representative Joges Saksena told journalists in Dushanbe on 27 July he hopes the constitutional amendments will be approved, paving the way for a special parliamentary session that will schedule new parliamentary elections for January. The opposition has retracted its demand that those elections be held before the 6 November presidential poll. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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