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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 201, Part I, 16 October 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 201, Part I, 16 October 1998 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 * YELTSIN ISSUES INSTRUCTIONS ON KOSOVA * RUSSIAN FOREIGN TRADE DOWN * ALIEV CONFIRMED AS AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN ISSUES INSTRUCTIONS ON KOSOVA... Meeting with Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev on 14 October, Russian President Boris Yeltsin "gave instructions on how to act to settle" the situation in Kosova, Ivanov told reporters the following day, before departing for Paris to attend a meeting of the International Contact Group. Interfax quoted him as saying that the instructions were "not to slacken attention or vigilance" because the threat of the use of force in Kosova has not been fully removed. Yeltsin called for "Russia to take a most active part" in the OSCE mission in Kosova, Ivanov said, adding that it was Russia's idea to send the OSCE mission to the province. JN ...WHILE DEFENSE MINISTRY DECLARES READINESS TO PARTICIPATE IN OSCE MISSION. Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the international military cooperation department of the Russian Defense Ministry, told reporters in Moscow on 16 October that Russia is ready to participate under the auspices of the OSCE in monitoring Belgrade's implementation of the UN Security Council's resolution on Kosova. But he said it would be premature to speak about the specific forms of Russian involvement because the subject is still under negotiation. Ivashov said the Defense Ministry is ready to offer AN-30 aircraft to participate in air monitoring. He did not rule out sending Russian officers as international observers to Yugoslavia, Interfax reported. JN RUSSIA PLANS TO STEP UP ITS ROLE IN PALESTINIAN-ISRAELI TALKS. Ivanov also told reporters that Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Yulii Vorontsov has been instructed to step up Russia's participation in the coming Palestinian-Israeli talks in Washington, D.C. During his recent visit to Moscow, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat invited Russia to take a more active part in the talks. Ivanov said Vorontsov has "received corresponding instructions," Interfax reported. JN RUSSIA RATIFIES MILITARY SECURITY AGREEMENT WITH BELARUS. The Russian Federation Council on 14 October ratified a Russian-Belarusian agreement on joint efforts to ensure military security in the region. The agreement defines the procedure to create a regional unit, Interfax said, adding that the document outlines structures responsible for the formation of the military group, strategic planning, and the use of air space and military infrastructure. The agreement supplements the clauses on collective security in the Union Treaty of Russia and Belarus and the Union Charter and is in accordance with the CIS Collective Security Treaty. The Federation Council also ratified an agreement on defense cooperation with Belarus that includes preparation of government defense production orders and the planning of joint defense operations. JN FOREIGN TRADE DOWN. The State Customs Committee and the State Committee for Statistics announced on 16 October that Russia's official foreign trade totaled $81.6 billion during the first eight months of 1998 or 7 percent less than in the corresponding period of last year, PRIME-TASS reported. The volume of trade with CIS countries shrank by 5.1 percent. Russian exports dropped by 14 percent to $47.3 billion while imports grew by 4.7 percent to $34.3 billion. Imports from foreign countries were almost three times higher than those from ex-Soviet republics. JN GRAIN HARVEST BELOW LAST YEAR'S. As of 12 October, Russia's grain harvest totaled 49.7 million tons, which is 46.7 percent below the 1997 level, according to an official report of the State Committee for Statistics, PRIME-Tass reported on 15 October. Agricultural enterprises, which account for some 90 percent of farmland sown to grain crops, have so far harvested 70.7 percent of the crop, compared with 90 percent at the same time last year. By 12 October, potato output was 30 million tons--down 10.7 percent on 1997. However, the vegetable harvest was 7.4 million tons, up 3 percent on the previous year, while sugar beet output exceeded the 1997 level by 22.9 percent and sunflower seeds output was almost double last year's level. JN GAZPROM SIGNS DEBT SETTLEMENT ACCORD WITH FUEL MINISTRY. Gazprom, the Fuel and Energy Ministry, and the State Tax Service on 15 October signed an agreement on debt settlement by the gas monopoly and the Fuel Ministry. Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Generalov told reporters the accord also covers payment of current tax debts to the federal budget, ITAR-TASS reported. Generalov said the agreement will remain in effect until Gazprom and the state pay their mutual debts for 1998. JN FORMER SOVIET, RUSSIAN JUSTICE MINISTERS ORGANIZE. Russia's Justice Ministry announced on 16 October that Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov has issued an order founding a Council of Domestic Justice Ministers consisting of former Soviet and Russian Federation justice ministers. These include Vladimir Terebilov, Sergei Stepashin, Aleksandr Sukharev, Nikolai Fedorov, and Veniamin Yakovlev. ITAR-TASS said the council will help to ensure continuity of juridical policy, promote the development of legal awareness, foster legal culture, train young legal staff, and monitor the activities of the Justice Ministry. JN SHABDURASULOV NAMED ORT DIRECTOR-GENERAL. Igor Shabdurasulov was unanimously elected director-general of Russian Public Television ORT, at a 15 October shareholders' meeting in Moscow, Interfax reported Shabdurasulov has been acting director-general since 15 September. He is a member of the ORT board of directors and one of the state's representatives at ORT. He succeeds Kseniya Ponomareva who resigned on 1 September after nine-and-a-half months in the post in protest at not having been consulted when Sergei Dorenko, chief producer of the ORT information programs directorate, was made an anchorman on "Vremya." JN MOSCOW PLANS TO ENFORCE BAN ON HARD LIQUOR SALES. The city of Moscow plans to enforce a ban on the sale of hard liquor at produce and wholesale markets. Moscow municipal official Vladimir Malyshkov said the ban, which took effect 16 October, is needed because 80 percent of alcohol sales infractions occur at those markets. He said the city will set up a new network of 100 wholesale and retail alcohol distributors. Meanwhile, the Federal Tax Service announced on 15 October it will audit the tax returns of alcohol producers and revoke the licenses of those who fail to settle their tax debts. The government established a state monopoly on alcohol sales and distribution last month in the hope of boosting tax collections. JN SOBCHAK INCRIMINATED IN FOUR BRIBERY CASES. Prosecutor- General Yurii Skuratov said that an investigation into the case of former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak, currently in France, "has established four incidents of bribery" in an interview with the daily "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 16 October. Skuratov said "forces in opposition," many of whom are convinced of his innocence, have seriously impeded the investigation. The prosecutor-general declined to explain the origins of Sobchak's alleged wealth, saying only that "we have materials that might shock and cause confusion among normal people." JN NEW MAYORAL ELECTIONS IN VLADIVOSTOK SLATED FOR JANUARY. Vladivostok's Municipal Election Committee on 16 October scheduled new mayoral elections for 17 January after declaring the 27 September vote invalid, ITAR-TASS reported. The number of votes cast against all candidates exceeded the combined total in favor of office-seekers. This was an apparent protest after the incumbent, Viktor Cherepkov, was struck from the list of candidates just hours before polling began. The Election Committee ruled that Cherepkov can run for office again but banned all other contenders who competed in the 27 September ballot on the grounds they are untrustworthy. JN URALS LEADERSHIP CHALLENGED? A possible competitor organization to the Urals interregional economic association, set up by Sverdlovsk governor Eduard Rossel several years ago, has emerged, "Nezavisimaya Gazeta Regiony" reported on 13 October. The "Edinenie" organization held its first conference in Perm, which was attended by representatives from Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, and Perm. Heading the organization are directors of large local factories. The next meeting will be held in October in Izhevsk, the capital of Udmurtia. JAC TATAR OPPOSITION ADVOCATES VOLGA-URAL REPUBLIC. The Tatar Public Center (TOC) unveiled its new draft program at a press conference on 12 October, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. TOC chairman Gayal Murtazin summarized the new program, which calls for the creation of a Volga-Ural Republic uniting the national republics of the Volga region. (An Idel-Ural Republic existed briefly in 1918-1919 before the creation of the Bashkir and Tatar ASSRs.) The program also calls for the national and state independence of Tatarstan and for designating the Tatar language as the only state language of the Republic of Tatarstan. Murtazin denied that this latter provision is aimed at curtailing the rights of Tatarstan's Russian population or downgrading the status of the Russian language, which is currently the second official language in Tatarstan. LF ELECTION IRREGULARITIES IN KALMYKIA? The office of the Russian prosecutor-general has predicted that the 18 October elections to Kalmykia's parliament may be declared invalid, "Izvestiya" reported on 15 October. The newspaper reported that candidates loyal to Kalmykia's president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, have had an unfair advantage. One opposition candidate, Yurii Oglaev, an assistant professor at the State University of Kalmykia, received a court order requiring election authorities to register him. However, just days before the election is scheduled to take place, they told him to wait for an invitation. Meanwhile, local law prevents his supporters from campaigning until he has certification of his candidacy. JAC POLICE IN ALTAI ARREST SUSPECTED TAJIK TERRORIST. Police in Altai Krai, southern Siberia, have arrested a Tajik citizen on suspicion of involvement in terrorist attacks, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 October. Amridin Zubaidov had been wanted by the Tajik Prosecutor-General's Office for an attempted overthrow of the constitutional system, involvement in paramilitary groups, and committing violent acts against civilians. Discussions on extraditing Zubaidov have begun. JN FEDERATION COUNCIL CALLS FOR GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE TO DAGESTAN. The Federation Council on 15 October addressed an appeal to Prime Minister Primakov to expedite the transfer of funds to Dagestan, Caucasus Press reported. The appeal noted that over the past five years, the republic has been subjected to an "economic blockade," which led to economic disaster and the impoverishment of the population and changed the republic's status from "a donor region into a disaster region." The repeated orders of the Russian president, resolutions of the Russian government and both chambers of the Russian parliament aimed at improving the situation in the region have been ignored by the Ministry of Finance, the appeal claimed. On 14 October, Dagestan's president, Magomedali Magomedov, had appealed to the Council and expressed the hope that the new Russian government will render Dagestan economic assistance. LF BASAEV STEPS UP CRITICISM OF CHECHEN PRESIDENT. Speaking on Chechen Television on 14 October, former acting Chechen Premier Shamil Basaev accused President Aslan Maskhadov of striking secret agreements with members of the Russian leadership, Interfax reported. Basaev claimed that Maskhadov had assured former Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed that he would refrain from pushing for Chechnya's formal independence for an unspecified period. Basaev also accused Maskhadov of holding covert talks with Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin on supplying Russian arms for Maskhadov's personal bodyguard. Together with fellow field commanders Salman Raduev and Khunkar-pasha Israpilov, Basaev last month accused Maskhadov of violating the Chechen Constitution and called for his resignation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 1998). A parliament commission created to investigate the allegations against Maskhadov dismissed them as groundless on 12 October. LF RUSSIA SURPRISED BY INCLUSION OF NORTH CAUCASUS REGIONS IN POLISH FORUM. The Russian Foreign Ministry has expressed surprise that the list of countries participating in an international human rights conference under way in Warsaw includes "Russia's territories" of Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia, Interfax reported on 15 October. A Foreign Ministry statement said the admission of those territories to the conference contradicts international conventions, including "the letter and spirit of the OSCE, which Poland chairs this year." The statement termed the Polish move "provocative" attempts to present the status of certain Russian territories as unclear. Chechen President Maskhadov is among the participants in the conference. JN TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ALIEV CONFIRMED AS AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT. The Central Electoral Commission released the final results of the 11 October presidential poll on 15 October, Turan reported. Those data differ only slightly from the preliminary returns and confirm the reelection of incumbent Heidar Aliev, who polled 76.11 percent of the vote. His closest rival, Etibar Mamedov, received 11.6 percent and Independent Azerbaijan Party chairman Nizami Suleymanov 8.6 percent. The remaining three candidates each polled less than 1 percent. Reuters quoted Mamedov as saying the results were falsified and that he does not recognize Aliev as president. He predicted that the Azerbaijani people will demand that Aliev step down. Mamedov's representative on the Central Electoral Commission, Fuad Agaev, said that he was barred from participating in the protocol tally and that commission chairman Jafar Veliev refused to accept documentation giving details of vote falsification. LF DASHNAK PARTY CALLS FOR PRE-TERM PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. Meeting on 15 October with Robert Kocharian, leading members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (HHD) again urged the president to dissolve the parliament and convene pre- term elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The HHD representatives argued that the July 1995 parliamentary elections, in which they were barred from fielding candidates, were "undemocratic" and that the present parliament "does not reflect the correlation of political forces." To date, Kocharian has consistently rejected calls for pre-term elections by either the HHD or other opposition parties, reasoning that such elections should be held only in an "emergency situation." LF KAZAKH AUTHORITIES CRACK DOWN ON POTENTIAL OPPOSITION. Leaders of several of Kazakhstan's opposition parties and movements were taken into custody on 15 October and some were fined and/or jailed, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. Pyotr Svoik of Azamat, Irina Savostina of the Pokoleniye [Generation] Movement of elderly citizens, Mels Eleusizov of the Green Party, political activist Dos Koshim, and others were all accused of "taking part in sessions and mass gatherings of an unregistered movement." That movement is called For Fair Elections. Eleusizov and Svoik were sentenced to three days in jail, while Koshim and Savostina were fined 6,600 tenge ($82) and 3,300 tenge respectively. Under Kazakh law, no one who has been fined or imprisoned is eligible to run for public office. JC OPPOSITION CANDIDATES FOR KAZAKH PRESIDENCY RUN INTO DIFFICULTIES... Murat Auezov, a former leader of Azamat, announced the same day that he is unable to run as a candidate in the January presidential elections. Auezov was found guilty of and fined for organizing an unsanctioned demonstration. There are also reports that former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin is wanted for questioning by law enforcement authorities. Kazhegeldin announced his candidacy for the presidency on 14 October. BP ...WHILE A NEW CONTENDER EMERGES. Kazakhstan's ambassador to Turkey, Baltash Tursynbayev, announced his candidacy for the presidency on 14 October, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Tursynbayev made the announcement in Moscow. At the same time, he said he is stepping down from his post as ambassador to Turkey. Tursynbayev is also the former governor of Kostenai Oblast. BP BOMBS GO OFF IN TAJIK CAPITAL. Three bombs exploded in Dushanbe on 15 October, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. The first went off outside the building that is the headquarters of the National Reconciliation Commission. The other two exploded 30-40 minutes later in suburban districts of the Tajik capital. No casualties have been reported to date. BP MORE "WAHHABIS" ON TRIAL IN UZBEKISTAN. Fifteen men from the eastern Uzbek city of Andizhan went on trial on 15 October on charges of, among others, terrorism, possession of arms and drugs, robbery, and extortion, Interfax reported. The men are allegedly Wahhabis, the religious group held responsible for several murders in eastern Uzbekistan last December. Five other men, also reported to be Wahhabis, went on trial in Tashkent the same day on similar charges. All suspects face five to 15 years in jail if convicted. These are the first trials involving Wahhabis since early summer, when a series of trials resulted in 26 people receiving prison terms and one being sentenced to death. 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