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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 208, Part I, 27 October 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 208, Part I, 27 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 Note to readers: RFE/RL Newsline will not appear on 28 October, a public holiday in the Czech Republic. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN'S HEALTH SPOTLIGHTED AGAIN * DEMONSTRATORS RALLY AGAINST CHECHEN PRESIDENT * UNITED TAJIK OPPOSITION STILL TROUBLED BY 'SECULAR' STATE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN'S HEALTH SPOTLIGHTED AGAIN... The abrupt cancellation of Russian President Boris Yeltsin's trip to Austria for a meeting with the EU has renewed speculation about his health (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 22 October 1998). Yeltsin's doctors found that the president's bronchitis combined with overworking had resulted in "asthenia" or fatigue, presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushin told Interfax on 26 October. The doctors advised him to take a two-week vacation, his third official vacation this year. Oleg Sysuev, deputy head of the presidential administration, told NTV that Yeltsin did not want to risk another "display of weakness" such as occurred during his trip to Uzbekistan, when he stumbled during an official ceremony. In response to a question about requiring a medical examination of the president, Sysuev said "all these actions must take place within the framework of a law and the constitution. As far as I know, there is currently no such law." JAC ...AS PRIMAKOV PRESENTS ECONOMIC PLAN IN VIENNA. Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, filling in for the fatigued president in Vienna on 27 October, met with Austrian President Tomas Klestil. Primakov called for promoting Austrian-Russian relations and lauded Austria for the important role it plays in European affairs. Primakov was also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Viktor Klima, EU President Jacques Santer, and EU Commissioner Hans van den Broek. The previous day, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov met with ambassadors from EU members states in Moscow to discuss Russia's economic problems. NTV suggested that Primakov and his ministers are "quite likely to present his government's anti- crisis program [to the EU meeting], because continued [EU] support for our country will depend on its content." A spokesman for Maslyukov told reporters that a version of the program published by "Kommersant-Daily" on 27 October is only a preliminary version. JAC DEMONSTRATORS RALLY AGAINST CHECHEN PRESIDENT. Despite government calls for people to stay home, more than 2,000 people demonstrated in Grozny on 27 October to mark the seventh anniversary of the election of Dzhokar Dudaev as president of the republic and to demand that President Aslan Maskhadov be driven from office, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian news agency also reported on 27 October that two militiamen were wounded on the Chechen-Dagestani border. PG CHECHENS PLEDGE CRACKDOWN AGAINST KIDNAPPERS. Following the murder of Chechnya's anti-kidnapping chief and an attempt on the life of the republic's chief mufti, Deputy Prime Minister Premier Kazbek Makhashev said on 26 October that Grozny will soon begin large-scale operations against all criminal groups that take hostages, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Dagestan's Interior Ministry offered to help find the kidnappers, and Russian Duma Deputy Speaker Mikhail Gutseriyev called for taking "the toughest coercive measures." The same day, Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, co-chairman of the Russian Federation Council of Mufties, expressed his indignation at the attack on Chechen Mufti Ahmed Khadzhi Kadyrov. PG OUTSIDERS BLAMED FOR CHECHEN VIOLENCE. Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov told ITAR-TASS on 26 October that the recent violence in his republic was unleashed by unnamed "foreign secret services" that he said are "seeking to destabilize the situation and unleash a civil war in Chechnya." Others were more explicit: Ziyaudi Beloyev, who resigned as television chief in Grozny following threats to his station, said that he has turned over what he called a Russian-prepared plan to kill President Aslan Maskhadov and set fire to the republic's parliament, ITAR-TASS reported. In contrast, Ivan Rybkin, who earlier served as Moscow's chief negotiator with Chechnya, blamed "outsiders from Jordan and Saudi Arabia" for the violence, AP reported. PG MISSILE STILL READY FOR DUTY. Strategic Rocket Forces Commander General Vladimir Yakovlev told Interfax on 26 October that his forces will still receive single- warhead Topol-M missiles, despite an "incident" during the missile's fifth test launch in which its self- destruct system was activated. Yakovlev said that non- test combat missiles are not equipped with a self- destruct system. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 October that according to its sources, "the self- destruct system should operate either when the missile deviates from its course or when the engine of one of three stages fails." The missile reportedly exploded after its first launch stage, but "whether this happened because of the failure of the second-stage engine" or because of a defect in the self-destruct system "is not yet known." A sixth test of the Topol-M will be carried out soon, Yakovlev reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" disclosed that after this test the missile will be place "on combat alert duty." JAC NEW PARTY, COALITION FORMING. State Duma Deputy Vladimir Semago launched a new political party called the "New Leftists" at a conference in Nizhnii Novgorod on 24 October. Semago had until recently been a member of the Communist Party, which he quit with much fanfare after declaring his candidacy for mayoral elections in that city (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 1998). The conference was attended by 700 delegates, including Andrei Klimentev, who was elected to the mayor's office but then had to step down when he was sentenced to prison for embezzlement and forgery. The party advocates the return of "morality" to Russian political life. Meanwhile, right-wing democratic parties and movements are forming a coalition in preparation for 1999 Duma elections, Duma Deputy and member of the Democratic Choice Party Sergei Yushenkov told Interfax on 26 October. Yushenkov said that leaders of various parties are working on a common platform, while more than 10 regions, including Kaliningrad, Perm, Ryazan, Arkhangelsk and Komi, have formed various unions of "democratic forces." JAC NATO BACKED INTO CORNER, RUSSIA SAYS. A Russian foreign policymaker said the continued possibility of NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia if Belgrade does not withdraw its troops from Kosova is "odious." Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev also told Interfax on 26 October that with the deadline expiring for a Yugoslavia troop withdrawal, NATO has backed itself into a corner with no way out. Avdeev added that NATO will be "unable to carry out its threat" because "thanks to the efforts of Russian diplomacy, the developments in and around [Kosova] started moving toward a settlement. Avdeev told ITAR-TASS that Russia "does not rule out that the OSCE, as a regional organization, may turn to NATO for assistance in providing security" for the fulfillment of agreements reached with Yugoslavia. JAC TURKEY REQUESTS KURDISH LEADER'S RETURN. Turkey on 27 October officially requested that Russia extradite Abdullah Ocalan, head of the Kurdish Workers Party. However, Russia's Federal Security Service said that it has no information on Ocalan's whereabouts, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. On 20 October, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said that he could not confirm that Ocalan was in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1998). On 29 October, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will travel to Ankara for ceremonies celebrating the anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey. JAC MISSIONARIES LABELED SPIES. "Segodnya" on 22 October suggested that the two Mormon missionaries arrested in Krasnoyarsk for illegally entering the premises of a military unit may "work for [a foreign] intelligence service" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1998). The newspaper cited a source in the Federal Security Service who said that "foreigners are frequently found in Russian military units" and "more often than not pose as missionaries." NTV showed film footage of the men climbing over a wall of the base the previous day. A spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints said the missionaries were not sneaking into the base but had been invited by someone interested in their faith, the "Moscow Times" reported. In February, two Mormons were detained after entering a military base in Saratov but were later released. JAC VETERAN SPEECHWRITERS DEPART. Three of President Yeltsin's speechwriters, Aleksandr Ilin, Konstantin Nikiforov, and Vladimir Kadatskii, were dismissed from the Kremlin staff "at their own request" on 23 October. All three had worked for the president for several years. According to "Kommersant-Daily" the next day, the president no longer used their services. In other personnel changes, Prime Minister Primakov appointed Tatyana Aristarkhova, former head of the press service of the Ministry for Foreign Economic Relations, as his press secretary. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 24 October, Aristarkhova is "famous among journalists for not letting anyone close to her boss." JAC YELTSIN RECOVERING FROM SHORT DEATH? The Duma has instructed its Security Committee to investigate the claim by parliamentary deputy and Communist Party member Igor Bratishchev that President Yeltsin had been clinically dead for 17 minutes on 15 October, Ekho Moskvy reported on 23 October. Bratishchev cited a report in the "Novii Petersburg" newspaper. On 14 October, Yeltsin reported for work at the Kremlin unexpectedly and chided "people who won't even let [him] sneeze" without questioning his health. JAC MOSCOW ART THEATER TURNS 100. The Moscow Art Theater celebrated its 100th anniversary on 26 October with a special performance attended by Prime Minister Primakov. The theater is perhaps best known for launching the careers of writer Anton Chekhov and actor-director Konstantin Stanislavsky. Novelist-playwright Mikhail Bulgakov wrote about the theater, poking fun at Stanislavsky, in his novel, "Black Snow". Bulgakov was given a job at the theater after writing a letter to former Soviet leader Josef Stalin saying he wanted to emigrate because he could not get his plays produced in Russia. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA FORMER COMMUNIST CHIEF SAYS ARMENIA IN 'DEEP CRISIS.' Speaking to the first major gathering of his new political party on 25 October, the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), Karen Demirchian said the group must work to help the country overcome what he called "a deep political and economic crisis," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Failure to do that would have "catastrophic consequences for the people," added Demirchian, who served as first secretary of the Armenian SSR Communist Party from 1974 to 1988. The party's first task, he continued, is to ensure that the parliamentary elections in 1999 will be genuinely free and fair. "This time there will be no pardon" for those who violate election laws, Demirchian said. PG KARABAKH CONDEMNS COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S 'RETREAT.' The government of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno- Karabakh released a statement on 26 October deploring the Council of Europe's decision to delay a hearing on the Karabakh dispute, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Arguing that Azerbaijan's position was weakened by "the recent presidential elections," the Karabakh authorities deplored what they called the Council of Europe's "retreat" as a result of "Azerbaijani pressure." PG PIPELINE ACROSS GEORGIA TO BEGIN OPERATIONS IN APRIL 1999. Natik Aliev, the head of Azerbaijan's state oil company, said in Tbilisi on 26 October that the Baku- Supsa pipeline intended to carry oil from the Caspian basin to the West will begin operations in April 1999, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that the Azerbaijani portion is now ready to carry oil. Speaking on national radio the same day, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said he has received a draft treaty on oil transit from Azerbaijan. Thanking the U.S., Turkey, and world oil companies, Shevardnadze said the accord will be signed "within days." PG SHEVARDNADZE SAYS MUTINEERS TRIED TO DESTROY DEMOCRACY. Also during his 26 October radio address, President Shevardnadze said that the military mutiny on 19 October was yet another effort by those seeking to undermine the country's independence and democracy. "Such attempts," the Georgian leader said, "are predictable at the transitional stage of development" and will likely take place in the future as well. But he expressed confidence that Georgians will rebuff all such attempts, citing a recent poll that showed 90 percent of Tbilisi residents condemned the mutiny. Meanwhile, Shevardnadze has accepted the resignation of the country's security minister, Dzhemal Gakhokidze. And Georgian officials continued on 26 October to look for coup leader Akaky Eliava, who is believed to be hiding out in the Chkhorotskusk district in western Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported. PG UNITED TAJIK OPPOSITION STILL TROUBLED BY 'SECULAR' STATE. The leadership of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) wants the issue of changing the constitutional article that refers to a "secular state" resolved by the time the parliament meets on 12 November, Reuters reported on 26 October. Since the return of UTO deputy leader Hoja Akbar Turajonzoda in February, the topic has been a sticking point between the government and the UTO. The UTO argues Tajikistan is a majority Muslim state, while the government maintains the issue is not open for discussion. Also on 26 October, a meeting of the National Reconciliation Commission resulted in a promise from the government to give another 19 UTO members government posts, which would complete the second phase of the Tajik peace process. BP CANDIDATES FOR KAZAKH PRESIDENCY REGISTER. Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin and independent candidate Engels Gabbasov have both applied to register for the January presidential elections, Interfax reported on 26 October. Abdildin was the first candidate to announce his intention to run following the Kazakh parliament's 8 October decision to hold early elections. The two passed the Kazakh language test, a prerequisite for running. Incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev and former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin have already passed that test. On 23 October, Baltash Tursunbayev, the Kazakh ambassador to Turkey, who also announced his intention to run earlier in October, was named deputy premier. This means he will not run in the elections. Interfax reports that the Kazakh presidential press service "did not say exactly what Tursunbayev will be in charge of." BP CUSTOMS UNION PARTNERS WORRY ABOUT KYRGYZSTAN, WTO. The deputy chairman of the Russian State Customs Committee, Vladimir Meshcheryakov, has said that Kyrgyzstan's recent admission to the WTO has raised "serious concern" within the integration committee of the four customs union countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Russia), Interfax reported on 26 October. Meshcheryakov said that when Kyrgyzstan applied for WTO, membership, it did not specify preferential treatment in trade with the other customs union countries. He added that it is now too late to make changes because the WTO has approved Kyrgyzstan's membership documents. Meshcheryakov said he did not think there will be any problems in trade with Russia but added that there will be "lots of problems and questions within the framework of the customs union." BP TURKMEN PRESIDENT RECEIVES NATIONAL AWARD FOR THIRD TIME. Saparmurat Niyazov received the Golden Moon award on 26 October, on the eve of Turkmen Independence Day, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported . The decision to award the medal to Niyazov was made by the cabinet and parliament in July following reports that country had fulfilled its target figure for the grain harvest for the first time since 1991. It is the third time that Niyazov has received the medal. He was first awarded it in 1992, on the occasion of the first anniversary of independence, and then in 1995 when Turkmenistan was recognized by the UN as a neutral country. BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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