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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 148, Part I, 2 August 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 148, Part I, 2 August 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

* RUSSIA, PARIS CLUB REACH AGREEMENT

* STEPASHIN SLAMS MILOSEVIC

* TAJIK OFFICIAL DENOUNCES UZBEK 'CRIMINAL GROUPS'
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RUSSIA

RUSSIA, PARIS CLUB REACH AGREEMENT. The Russian government
and Paris Club creditors reached an agreement on 1 August to
restructure payments on Soviet-era debts. According to
Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, some $8 billion of
payments due to be made between 1999 and 2000 will now be
repaid over 15-20 years, Reuters reported. Russia will have
to pay only some $600 million in 1999-2000. Paris Club
chairman Francis Mayer told reporters that the creditor
governments will begin talks by the fall of next year to find
"comprehensive solutions" to the Soviet-era debt problem, but
he added that "at this point in time, for us a comprehensive
solution does not mean a reduction or cancellation" of
Russia's debt. Kasyanov hailed the agreement, noting that the
sums Russia will now have to pay "comply with the parameters
of the current budget and the draft budget for 2000 and will
not force us to cut spending on social needs once again,"
according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

LUZHKOV, REGIONAL GROUP CLOSE TO AGREEMENT? The recent
positive pronouncements of the leader of Otechestvo and the
informal leader of Vsya Rossiya about progress in forming a
single election bloc has led some Russian media, including
"Kommersant-Daily," to conclude that an agreement in
principle about the new election bloc has already been
reached. Vsya Rossiya's Mintimer Shaimiev, who is also
Tatarstan president, told Interfax on 30 July that
"consultations have brought our positions together in many
respects." The next day, Otechestvo leader and Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov was similarly positive, saying that
negotiations on forming a single election bloc are close to a
conclusion and are proceeding successfully. An unidentified
source told Interfax on 29 July that the new coalition may
include other parties and organizations, such as the Agrarian
Party, which decided recently not to participate in an
election bloc with the Communist Party. JAC

TOP BREAD OFFICIAL CALLS WESTERN FOOD AID ESSENTIAL.
Roskhlebprodukt President Leonid Cheshinskii told Interfax on
1 August that Russia should petition the West for more food
aid now, rather than wait for the end of the 1999 harvesting
campaign. Roskhlebprodukt experts are predicting this year's
grain harvest will range from 50-55 million tons, compared
with the official Agriculture Ministry forecast of 60 million
tons. According to Cheshinskii, 14-15 million tons will
therefore have to be imported just to meet the population's
need for bread. Grain for livestock and poultry breeding
would raise this figure even higher, he added. Last week,
Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Vladimir
Sherbak said that Russia is not planning any large-scale
centralized grain imports this year, but Russia will ask the
U.S. to donate 2-3 million tons of high-protein animal feed
in 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1999). JAC

STEPASHIN SLAMS MILOSEVIC... During the Balkan reconstruction
summit in Sarajevo on 30 July, Russian Prime Minister Sergei
Stepashin told "Kommersant-Daily": "I do not cherish kind
feelings for [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic. The
sufferings of the Yugoslav population were caused not only by
the [NATO] bombings but chiefly by the regime of Slobodan
Milosevic." Stepashin, however, urged western representatives
to give humanitarian assistance to Serbia. He argued that "10
million Yugoslavs must not become hostages of one
politician." The same day, President Boris Yeltsin told
"Kommersant-Daily" in Moscow that "we have to resolve the
situation in Yugoslavia and establish friendly relations with
the U.S., Germany, France, and other Western countries." The
daily noted on 31 July that both statements mark a "radical
change" in Russia's policy toward Yugoslavia, which until now
was based on friendly relations with Milosevic. FS

...BUT BLOCKS 'CRITICAL' REFERENCE IN DECLARATION. The
Russian delegation to the Balkan summit --led by Stepashin--
blocked plans, however, to include a critical reference to
Milosevic in the summit's declaration, Reuters reported (see
Part II). The final declaration spoke only of "regret" that
Yugoslavia could not be invited to attend the meeting and
called on Serbs to implement democratic reforms. Stepashin
said: "We did not come here to discuss that person.... It's
an internal affair of Yugoslavia." Russia plans to give $150
million in credit to Yugoslavia. FS

DJUKANOVIC VISITS MOSCOW. Montenegrin President Milo
Djukanovic arrived in Moscow for a two-day visit on 1 August.
The Yugoslav embassy in Moscow issued a statement saying that
it had been "neglected" in the arrangements for the visit. It
suggested that the visit violates diplomatic protocol but
added that Russia "has the right to hold meetings in the way
it considers appropriate," Reuters reported. Yugoslavia's
ambassador to Russia is Milosevic's brother, Borislav.
Djukanovic said he will discuss with Prime Minister Sergei
Stepashin, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov "economic and political transformations within
Yugoslavia" as well as ties between Montenegro and Russia.
Montena-fax quoted Djukanovic as saying that Moscow's
invitation is "an expression of support for and recognition
of Montenegro's principled state policy." Djukanovic repeated
earlier warnings that Montenegro will declare independence
unless Serbia introduces substantial reforms leading to
democracy and a market economy. FS

YUGOSLAV, RUSSIAN, BELARUSSIAN LEGISLATORS FORM JOINT
COMMISSION. Parliamentary deputies from Russia, Belarus, and
Yugoslavia agreed in Belgrade on 31 July to set up a joint
commission that will help Belgrade prepare to join the loose
union between Russia and Belarus, Reuters reported. The
commission will hold its first meeting in early September. It
will include four Yugoslav, two Russian, and two Belarusian
legislators as well as two members of the Russian-Belarusian
Interparliamentary Assembly. FS

RIGHT-CENTRISTS SEEKING TO WIN MILITARY VOTE. "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" reported on 30 June that plans are under way to set
up a round-the-clock military television channel funded by
businessmen close to the Kremlin and Pravoe Delo (Right
Cause). The newspaper cited "military sources" as saying that
the aim of the new channel will be to "form a positive image
of the current authorities in the eyes of servicemen." It
also cited the same sources as saying that Defense Ministry
officials are holding "unofficial negotiations" on
servicemen's participation in Vsya Rossiya (All Russia)
during the elections. Officers and generals are reported
already secretly combining their military duties and work
with Vsya Rossiya's electoral staff. And with regard to
Otechestvo (Fatherland), military experts believe that the
movement enjoys "ever-growing popularity" among the troops
but that its leader, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, is unpopular
among military leaders, according to the daily. JC

CRIME DOWN, DRUGS UP IN ARMED FORCES. According to data
released by the Main Military Prosecutor's Office, the crime
incidence in the armed forces was down 12.4 percent in the
first six months of this year, compared with the same period
in 1998, "Krasnaya zvezda" reported on 29 July. The total
number of crimes registered during the period January-June
1999 stood at 9,174. However, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 July,
citing Chief Military Prosecutor Colonel-General Yurii Demin,
that the number of drug addicts drafted into the army and
navy has increased. More than 200 crimes registered during
the first half of this year were linked to drug-trafficking.
JC

PRIMORSKII GOVERNOR EXTENDING SCARE TACTICS TO JUDGES...
Tatyana Loktionova, chairwoman of the Primorskii Krai's
arbitration court, told reporters on 29 July that Primorskii
Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has been interfering with
the activities of the court for the past two year, and that
she and her colleagues are now afraid for their own safety,
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 July. Nazdratenko has
accused the court of destroying the krai's economy because of
its role in bankrupting local enterprises. Loktionova says
her court has only been following the letter of the law and
that the reason for the attacks against her "is to pass the
responsibility for the collapse of the local economy during
the past few years to the arbitration court," "The Moscow
Times" reported. Loktionova claims that the local police,
acting under orders from Nazdratenko, are fabricating
criminal cases against her and her family. JAC

...AS NEWSPAPERS DIFFERENTLY ASSESS HIS ROLE VIS-A-VIS
FOREIGN INVESTORS. Meanwhile, Russian newspapers are devoting
more attention to the governor's relations with foreign
investors following the flurry of coverage in U.S. media
during Nazdratenko's recent visit to the U.S. as a member of
Prime Minister Stepashin's delegation (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
27 July 1999). "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 30 July that the
governor's "peculiar understanding of his role in attracting
foreign investment to Primorskii Krai ended up wrecking
certain projects" such as the construction of a Canada
Business Center and a new highway that would have been partly
funded by Canadians. "Tribuna," on the other hand, credits
Nazdratenko with saving the Far East Sea Navigation company
from British investor Andrew Fox, who it claims is "an agent
of British special services" and who "privatized what ought
to have been privatized by Russian citizens." "Tribuna," a
national daily widely read in Russian regions, is financed by
Gazprom. JAC

TATARSTAN OPPOSITION GROUPS TO APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL
COURT. The hunger strike initiated by leaders of opposition
groups in Tatarstan to protest a new election law ended on 30
July, "Segodnya" reported. The new law, which passed
Tatarstan's legislative assembly on 21 July in its third and
final reading, abolishes the use of party lists in elections
to that body (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 28 July
1999). According to "Segodnya," a roundtable assembly of
Tatarstan's opposition groups intends to appeal the law to
the Russian Constitutional Court. It also plans to hold a
protest meeting in Moscow. On 20 August, a protesters from
districts within Tatarstan will march to Kazan. On 30 August,
Tatarstan Independence Day, all members of Tatarstan's
opposition will hold a meeting in Kazan. JAC

FAR EAST ENERGY WORKERS CALL STRIKE. Workers at Dalenergo in
Primorskii Krai began a strike on 2 August to demand full
payment of back wages, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Chairman of
the strike committee said the workers plan to cut off
electricity to about 1,000 enterprises that have not paid
their electricity bills. According to the agency, municipal
enterprises and organizations alone owe Dalenergo around 1.4
billion rubles ($56 million). Striking workers do not plan to
turn off water and electricity to residences during the first
stage of their protest; however, if 140 million rubles worth
of unpaid wages are not reduced at least in part during the
first week of the protest, they do not exclude the
possibility that all personnel at the plant will walk off the
jobs and/or declare a hunger strike. JAC

RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION DE FACTO UNDER WAY? The Belarusian
regions of Minsk, Homel, Vitsebsk, and Mahileu have been
accepted as members of the Central Russia interregional
association for economic cooperation, following a decision
taken at a meeting of the association near Moscow,
"Izvestiya" reported on 30 July. The newspaper comments that
from now on, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka can
demand that Moscow charge "inter-Russian tarrifs" for oil and
gas since four regions of his country have become part of
"Central Russia." JC

LEBED WARNS NORTH CAUCASUS COULD DESTABILIZE RUSSIA.
Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed told Interfax on 1
August that "complications in the North Caucasus may lead to
the introduction of a state of emergency in the whole of
Russia" and that "Russia needs airborne troops, as problems
may arise in the North Caucasus." According to Lebed, "two
thirds of [Russia's] airborne troops are located outside of
Russia--in Abkhazia, Bosnia, and Kosovo." JAC

CHECHEN LEADER SAYS WEST SEEKS TO PUSH RUSSIA OUT OF NORTH
CAUCASUS. President Aslan Maskhadov said on Grozny television
30 July that the West is seeking to drive Russia from the
North Caucasus, just as it already has from the South
Caucasus, Interfax reported. He suggested that some Russian
groups may be cooperating with the West first "to undermine
Russia from the inside and later oust it from the Caucasus."
In other comments, Maskhadov said the West is currently
supporting a Dagestani group in order to spread instability
and isolate Chechnya. PG

RUSSIAN NATIONALITIES MINISTER WARNS AGAINST PROVOCATIONS.
Vyacheslav Mikhailov told NTV on 31 July that the
"provocative statements" by some Chechens about a possible
Russian attack on Chechnya are intended to block a meeting
between Russian President Yeltsin and Chechen President Aslan
Maskhadov, ITAR-TASS reported. Mikhailov said that these
forced are not under the control of Maskhadov and should not
be allowed to get in the way of the meeting. PG

CHECHNYA, STAVROPOL SIGN ACCORD. Representatives of Chechnya
and Stavropol Krai signed an agreement in Nazran, Ingushetia,
on 31 July to cooperate in maintaining order on their common
border, ITAR-TASS reported. The news agency gave no further
details but suggested that the accord could lower tensions
there. Meanwhile, Chechen officials expressed the hope that
the Grozny-Tbilisi highway will soon open, allowing Chechnya
access to the Black Sea, the Caucasus Press agency reported
the same day. PG

DEMONSTRATIONS CONTINUE IN KARACHAYEVO-CHERKESSIA. Supporters
of both former presidential candidates--Vladimir Semenov and
Stanislav Derev--continued to demonstrate in Cherkessk and
other cities of the republic over the weekend, ITAR-TASS
reported. PG

INGUSHETIA SUSPENDS TALKS WITH NORTH OSSETIA. Ingush
President Ruslan Aushev on 30 July announced that he has
suspended all negotiations with North Ossetia-Alana until the
latter fulfills its agreements on Prigorodnyi Raion, ITAR-
TASS reported. Aushev added that in his view, "the only way
out of the situation is to implement direct federal rule" the
raion. In response, North Ossetian President Aleksandr
Dzasokhov said on 31 July that he is against "a senseless
escalation of tension" sparked by the return of Ingush to the
disputed region and by their plans to stage a peace march. PG

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIA SAYS TIES WITH RUSSIA TO CONTINUE AT 'HIGH LEVEL.'
Armenia's foreign and defense ministers said on 31 July that
cooperation in the military sphere between Yerevan and Moscow
will continue "at a high level," ITAR-TASS reported. Foreign
Minister Vartan Oskanyan said these ties have deep historic
roots and will grow even stronger in the future. Meanwhile,
Defense Minister Vagarshak Aratyunyan stressed that this
cooperation is not directed at any third country, adding that
officers from the two countries work closely together: "We
have all come out of the same school. We have served together
and graduated from the same schools. We have the same
mentality. And there are no problems in relations." PG

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CALLS FOR RECONVENING PARLIAMENT.
Unhappy with amendments introduced on the law on municipal
elections, the 20 deputies who are members of the Democratic
Bloc have called for an extraordinary session to debate the
matter, the Turan news agency reported on 31 July. PG

AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS PROTEST TV STATION CLOSURES. Ruh, the
independent journalists' organization of Azerbaijan, issued a
statement on 31 July denouncing official interference that it
said has led to the closing of four of the eight local
television stations in the country, the Turan news agency
reported. Meanwhile, an Azerbaijani court fined the
opposition newspaper "Sharg" for insulting parliamentary
speaker Murtuz Aleskerov. And seven members of the
Azerbaijani People's Front were arrested in Nakhchevan on 30
July, Turan said. PG

AZERBAIJAN GRADUATES FIRST OFFICERS. On 30 July, the
Azerbaijan Military Academy graduated its first class,
including 30 officers from the academy itself and another 13
from its special courses on strategic research and state
defense management, Turan reported. Defense Minister Safar
Abiyev told the graduates that he believes they "will play an
important role in raising the fighting efficiency of the
country." PG

UN EXTENDS ABKHAZ MANDATE, IGNORES TBILISI ON ETHNIC
CLEANSING. On 30 July, the UN Security Council extended the
mandate of UN military observers in the Georgian-Abkhaz
conflict zone until 31 January 2000, Prime News reported. But
the resolution failed to include a finding that Abkhazia is
guilty of engaging in ethnic cleansing. Georgia sought such a
finding, but the Russian Federation indicated it is opposed.
PG

U.S. DEFENSE CHIEF PRAISES GEORGIA. During his visit to
Tbilisi on 1 August, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen
praised Georgia for its progress in all areas and said it is
up to Tbilisi to decide whether to replace Russian bases with
American ones. Cohen indicated that Georgia could seek NATO
membership in the future. And he signed agreements to
increase military cooperation, including supplying
helicopters to improve security at Georgia's borders, Prime-
News, Georgian radio, and ITAR-TASS reported. PG

GEORGIAN DEPUTIES SEEK CLOSURE OF RUSSIAN BASES. The Georgian
parliament's Defense and Security Committee on 30 July called
for the closure of Russian military bases in Gudauta and
Vaziani, Prime News reported. The committee said the former
should be closed because it is contributing to a continuation
of the Abkhaz conflict and the latter because its nearness to
Tbilisi raises questions as to its purpose, "especially under
circumstances when there have been instances of illegal arms
trade and the sheltering of terrorist groups on the territory
of the base." The committee took no position on the Russian
bases in Akhalkalaki and Batumi. PG

GEORGIA CANCELS ROUNDTABLE IN ETHNIC ARMENIAN AREA. Georgian
authorities on 30 July cancelled a roundtable of academics to
have been held in the predominantly Armenian area of Javakh,
Noyan Tapan and Caucasus Press reported. It explained that
move by saying the forum might exacerbate ethnic tensions
there. The Georgian authorities suggested that a roundtable
including the same people be held in Tbilisi in the fall. PG

KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA STILL DISAGREE ON BAIKONUR. Another round
of talks between Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation has
reduced the number of disputed issues related to Moscow's use
of the Baikonur cosmodrome, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July.
Among the issues still to be resolved include the weight of
launch vehicles and the scheduling of launches. PG

KAZAKHSTAN PRESIDENT PUTS OFF SALE OF FARM LAND. Following
protests in several cities across the country, Nursultan
Nazarbaev said on 30 July responded to one of the protestors'
demands by saying it is "perhaps premature" to sell
agricultural land, Kazakhstan television news reported.
According to RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, the demonstrators also
are calling for an end to operations at Baikonur, free
transit for the elderly and handicapped, payment of all back
wages and pensions, and the resignation of Nazarbaev. PG

KAZAKHSTAN INCREASES URANIUM PRODUCTION. Kazakhstan's
National Atomic Company forecast on 30 July that it will
produce 37 percent more uranium in 1999 than it did last
year, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. PG

KYRGYZSTAN TO BUY GAS FROM KAZAKHSTAN. Kyrgyzgas announced on
30 July that it plans to purchase natural gas from Kazakhstan
at a price lower than it has been paying to Uzbekistan, with
which Bishkek has had some difficulties, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz
Service reported. PG

BISHKEK MAY RE-REGISTER HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE. President
Askar Akaev has promised Jerzy Wieclaw, the head of the OSCE
office in the Kyrgyz capital, that his government will re-
register the Kyrgyz Committee for Human rights in the near
future, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service Reported. The committee was
registered in 1996 but stripped of that registration in
September 1998. Meanwhile, in what may prove to be a related
development, Akaev vetoed legislation governing non-
commercial organizations. PG

TAJIK OFFICIAL DENOUNCES UZBEK 'CRIMINAL GROUPS.' Deputy
Prime Minister Abdurakhmon Azimov told Interfax on 1 August
that some Uzbek citizens living illegally in eastern
Tajikistan are members of criminal groups and are "armed to
the teeth." While he gave no figures concerning such groups,
approximately 500 Uzbek citizens are known to have refused to
register with the Tajik migrant commission, the news agency
added. PG

TAJIK OPPOSITION MAY LEAVE ELECTORAL COMMISSION. The United
Tajik Opposition will pull out of the Central Electoral
Commission unless a UTO representative is appointed deputy
chairman of that group and at least 25 percent of CEC staff
in the capital and in the regions, Asia Plus reported on 30
July. Meanwhile, the UTO said that it is not yet in a
position to say that it no longer has any armed formations,
Interfax reported. PG

UZBEKISTAN TO RAISE WAGES, PENSIONS. President Islam Karimov
issued a decree raising wages, pensions, and student stipends
as of 1 August, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July. The decree
sets 1,750 soms (approximately $13 U.S.) per month as the
minimum wage. This is the second such increase so far this
year. PG

ERK SAYS UZBEK PRESIDENT BENEFITED FROM BOMBINGS. An article
in the newspaper of the Erk Democratic Party, which has been
banned in Uzbekistan, says that President Islam Karimov "hit
the jackpot" as a result of the 16 February bombings, Iran's
Mashhad radio in Uzbek reported on 28 July. That is because
the bombings gave him the chance to introduce a "terror
movement" of "unprecedented oppression." Erk said that "if it
was not Karimov himself who organized these bombings, then
most likely he is currently handing out rewards to those who
did. PG

UZBEK DENOUNCES 'POISONOUS' RUSSIAN IDEOLOGY. An Uzbek state
radio commentator on 27 July said that the Uzbek people must
be "vigilant" against "pseudo-cultural goods brought from
Russia" that "are aimed at making the people spiritually
blind and deaf," BBC monitoring reported on 31 July. The
speaker said that this "poisonous ideology" is being brought
in "by colonialists" and has already overwhelmed Kazakhstan.
PG

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