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Russia: EU Slates $500 Million Food Aid Package For 1999

Brussels, 13 November 1998 (RFE/RL) - Russia has formally asked the European Union to provide it with food aid, and has accepted EU-set terms on its distribution. Lousewies van der Laan, EU spokeswoman, said that Russia's request for the aid and its acceptance of the terms was delivered today to the European Commission in Brussels.

The EU aid includes thousands of tons of cereals, meat, and milk powder. It will be sold in Russia at market prices with the proceeds going to a fund to finance social projects. Russia must provide anti-fraud guarantees, it must not export EU food, and has to ensure that the food reaches the needy.

The entire package will be worth about $500 million. It will be finalized in a few weeks, with first shipments expected at the beginning of 1999. The EU will pay its farmers for the food delivered to Russia.

Last week, the U.S. said that it would also supply huge quantities of food to Russia.

Also today, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi signed a document calling for a formal peace treaty between their countries by 2000.

The document, to be called the Moscow Declaration, also defines relations between the two nations into the next century.

Russia and Japan have not yet signed a formal peace treaty ending World War II because of a territorial dispute over four Kurile islands, seized by the Soviet Union from Japan at the end of the war.

Obuchi today also held talks with Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. Details were not immediately available on the talks which had been expected to focus on a $800 million previously-agreed Japanese loan to Russia.

In other news, Russian officials today said Moscow city prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation against a Communist lawmaker for a series of anti-Semitic remarks.

Duma deputy Albert Makashov last month blamed Russia's problems on "zhidy," a slur against Jews. His remarks caused a public outcry.

Vladimir Putin, the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), said prosecutors were considering charging Makashov with calling for the violent overthrow of the government. He said the FSB would also urge prosecutors to bring separate charges against Makashov for his anti-Semitic remarks.

The Duma today debated a vague resolution that criticizes unnamed lawmakers for "inciting ethnic tensions." Last week the Communists, who control the lower house, blocked a resolution that denounced Makashov.