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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 210, Part I, 30 October 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 210, Part I, 30 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 MEETS PRIMAKOV, LEAVES FOR SOCHI * PRIMAKOV CLAIMS 'BREAKTHROUGH' IN RELATIONS WITH CHECHNYA * FIVE PRESIDENTS SIGN 'ANKARA DECLARATION' xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN MEETS PRIMAKOV, LEAVES FOR SOCHI. Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 30 October briefed President Boris Yeltsin on his discussions with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov the previous day, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin then departed for the southern resort city of Sochi for recuperation at the state-owned Bocharov Ruchei guest house. PG PRIMAKOV CLAIMS 'BREAKTHROUGH' IN RELATIONS WITH CHECHNYA. Primakov told journalists on 29 October that he and Maskhadov achieved "a breakthrough" during their talks in Vladikavkaz, but he added that progress toward a political rapprochement between Moscow and Grozny will depend on the implementation of previously signed economic agreements. In a joint statement, Primakov and Maskhadov stressed their desire for stabilization of the entire North Caucasus and of Chechnya in particular and agreed to cooperate on the reconstruction of several unnamed Chechen enterprises as well as on joint investment projects. In addition, Moscow pledged, not for the first time, to supply funds for unpaid wages and pensions. The declaration made no mention of the proposal that Primakov's predecessor as premier, Sergei Kirienko, floated at his meeting with Maskhadov in August. According that proposal, Chechnya was to be declared a free economic zone. LF CHECHEN OPPOSITION STEPS UP PRESSURE ON PRESIDENT. At a meeting in Grozny on 29 October, field commanders Shamil Basaev, Salman Raduev and Khunkar-pasha Israpilov criticized Maskhadov's agreement to meet with Primakov and again called on the Shariat Supreme Court to launch impeachment proceedings against him, Interfax reported. Also on 29 October, a bomb was discovered and successfully defused near the Shariat Security Ministry building in Grozny. Deputy Minister Nasrudin Bazhiev told Interfax that the device was similar to those used in the recent killing of anti-abduction squad chief Shadid Bargishev and the attack on Chechen mufti Ahmad Haji Kadyrov. "Trud-7" on 30 October cited unnamed experts as saying that those two attacks, as well as the earlier killings of Russian envoy to Chechnya Oleg Lobov and Dagestani Mufti Said Muhammad Haji Abubakarov, were all masterminded by the notorious Jordanian field commander Khottab. LF THREE OUT OF FOUR RUSSIANS WANT YELTSIN IMPEACHED. A poll of 1,500 urban and rural residents found that 75 percent would approve Yeltsin's impeachment, Interfax reported on 29 October. Only 16 percent were against such a step. Seventy percent said Yeltsin deserved impeachment for his dissolution of the Supreme Soviet in September 1993 and his actions related to the Chechen war. Rural residents were significantly more in favor of impeachment-- 85 percent for, 8 percent against--than residents of Moscow, where 38 percent said they opposed such an action. Politically, supporters of Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii were the most supportive of Yeltsin--only 56 percent of them were for Yeltsin's ouster--while among backers of Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, 91 percent backed such a step. PG MORE BAD ECONOMIC NEWS. Foreign trade turnover in the first nine months reportedly fell 7.3 percent, compared with the same period in 1997, Russian agencies reported on 29 October. Russians spent 6.5 percent of their September incomes to buy dollars, and Russian savings declined by 18.4 percent in August and September. It is projected that GDP will decline 5-5.5 percent for 1998 as a whole. Industrial production was down 14.5 percent from a year ago. Meanwhile, the Central Bank pulled the license of Inkombank because that institution had taken excessive risks and did not have adequate reserves. Nonetheless, some officials tried to suggest that there were some bright spots. Aides to Premier Primakov told Interfax that printing 15-20 billion rubles during the next two months would "not significantly" change the ruble-dollar exchange rate. Other officials reported that state revenues rose 1.75 billion rubles from August to September. And Interfax reported that Deputy Finance Minister Viktor Khristenko will draft the 1999 budget. PG ADDITIONAL IMF MONEY UNLIKELY THIS YEAR. Russian officials involved in negotiations with the IMF this week in Moscow told Interfax on 29 October that the international financial body is unlikely to release the $4.3 billion second tranche of the bailout loan before the end of 1998. Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin said that the recent rounds of talks have not improved the chances that the IMF will act quickly. But a World Bank official indicated that that body may loan Russian another $500 million to develop its agro-industrial sector, Interfax reported on 29 October. PG HARVEST FAILURE FORCES MOSCOW TO TURN TO WEST. Agriculture Minister Viktor Semenov told Interfax on 29 October that Russia has produced only 47.3 million tons of grain this year, down from 88.5 million tons in 1997. While he said that Russians will have enough to eat this winter, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 29 October that the Russian government has been forced to turn to the U.S. for emergency food aid. The newspaper said that unofficial sources in the Russian government have asked for emergency supplies of 2-2.5 million tons of grain and 100,000 tons of meat. And "Izvestiya" reported that Moscow plans to purchase up to another 10 million tons of grain. But even as Moscow was taking these steps, the agriculture minister warned that any humanitarian aid must not be allowed to damage the country's domestic food manufacturers and producers, Russian agencies said. PG JAPAN TO AID KURIL RESIDENTS. A Japanese delegation is scheduled to visit the Kuril Islands during the next few days to provide some humanitarian aid to the Russian population there, ITAR-TASS reported. on 29 October. But the authorities in Russia's Sakhalin region have denounced a petition drive by the residents of one of the Kuril Islands to lease their land to the Japanese for 99 years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1998), Interfax reported. One Russian official described the campaign as "irresponsible." PG RUSSIAN MILITARY PRODUCTION UP. Even as production in defense ministry plants as a whole continues to decline, the output of purely military goods in Russia has increased by 15.4 percent between September 1997 and September 1998, Interfax reported. The news agency also reported that Moscow will demonstrate its new TU-22 medium-range supersonic bomber at a November airshow in China and that the authorities fully expect that they will be able to field new Topol-M strategic missile system by the end of 1998. PG KOMSOMOL QUIETLY TURNS 80. President Yeltsin released a statement on 29 October to mark the 80th anniversary of the Communist youth league, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin said that "for several generations of Russians, the Komsomol was their youth and first test of strength." But he added that its history is "both complex and contradictory, being a blend of victories and tragedies." The Moscow leader of the Komsomol told journalists that he expects perhaps 12,000 former Komsomol members to mark the occasion. Communist leader Zyuganov said that he believes that "this jubilee is not the last one in the glorious annals of the Komsomol." PG JUDGE IN NIKITIN CASE REJECTS FSB INVESTIGATION. The judge hearing the treason and espionage charges against Aleksandr Nikitin for publicizing pollution by the Soviet military returned the case for further investigation by the prosecution on 29 October, according to a Bellona Foundation press release. Judge Golets indicated that the indictment against Nikitin was too unclear and that the court could not accept any of the conclusions drawn by the government experts. Nikitin's lawyer said that the judge's decision represented "a major victory for us and a total defeat" for the Federal Security Service (FSB), even though the charges against Nikitin remain in force subject to a new trial. PG STROEV SAYS SPANISH FEDERALISM A MODEL FOR RUSSIA. While visiting Barcelona on 29 October with a delegation of Russian regional officials, Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev said that Spain's approach to regional issues could serve as a model for the Russian Federation, ITAR-TASS reported. Noting that Madrid has not been afraid to give a great deal of room for its provinces to act, Stroev praised the Spanish government for insisting that the regional governments act in conformity with the constitution. PG FSB, INTERIOR MINISTRY FOIL AMMUNITION FENCING OPERATION. A joint effort by the FSB's economic counter- intelligence department and the Interior Ministry's anti-mafia department has "put an end" to a criminal gang that has been engaged in stealing ammunition and explosives from military warehouses near Moscow and then selling them to Moscow criminals, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 October. When they were caught, the gang had 58 TNT cartridges, nine kilograms of plastic explosives, and three mines, the FSB press service said. PG FAR EAST REGION THREATENS TO TURN OFF POWER TO MILITARY. In a letter to Prime Minister Primakov, the Kamchatka regional authorities said they will have no choice but to turn off electric power supplies to all users, including military bases, one week from now, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 October. The regional officials said that the energy sector there is in "a disastrous condition" and that the shut-off could exacerbate "growing social tension." PG MILITARY BAKERY TO FEED KALININGRAD SOLDIERS. One week after local bakeries stopped supplying Kaliningrad Oblast's 20,000 soldiers with bread, the army has stepped into the breach and assembled a special field bakery designed for war conditions to feed the men, ITAR-TASS said on 29 October. It will go into operation on 31 October. For the past few days, soldiers have had to make do with dried crusts. PG TATARSTAN EXPANDS TIES WITH QUEBEC. Tatarstan's Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov on 29 October said that his recent visit to Canada's Francophone province of Quebec was extraordinarily successful, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. Minnikhanov said that Quebec and Tatarstan will be able to increase their bilateral trade. And he noted that during his visit, the Quebec authorities named a mountain in the province after the Tatarstan capital of Kazan. PG LIFE EXPECTANCY FALLS DRAMATICALLY IN RUSSIAN NORTH. Researchers in Komi Republic told a regional conference on 28 October that life expectancy there has dropped by five years over the last two or three years, ITAR-TASS reported. This decline, even steeper than in the Russian Federation as a whole, reflects Moscow's reduction in the amount of assistance it provides to the region, the scholars said. They labeled it "a national calamity" for the Komi and a "tragedy for Russia." PG RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ANKARA. Igor Ivanov on 29 October conveyed to Turkish President Suleyman Demirel congratulations from Russian President Yeltsin on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey, Russian agencies reported. Ivanov held talks in Ankara the same day with his Turkish counterpart, Ismail Cem, and with Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz on European security, the situation in the Balkans, Cyprus, and the transportation to western markets of Caspian hydrocarbons. Yilmaz and Cem both expressed concern at the Russian State Duma's sympathies for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 29 October, the head of the Kurdistan National Liberation Front, Makhir Valat, suggested that Russia should extend an official invitation to PKK chairman Abdullah Ocalan, whom Russian officials deny is currently in Russia. Valat also denied Turkish press reports that Ocalan has left Russia for Armenia, according to Interfax. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA FIVE PRESIDENTS SIGN 'ANKARA DECLARATION'... Meeting in Ankara on 29 October on the sidelines of the 75th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the Republic of Turkey, the presidents of Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan signed a declaration affirming their support for routing the so- called Main Export Pipeline for Caspian oil from Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. The document notes the possible risks entailed in transporting oil via the Turkish straits, which is one of several alternative export routes. It also affirms that the Baku-Ceyhan route is commercially viable, which many experts dispute. U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson also signed the document, but Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov did not. The U.S. is hoping that the oil companies currently engaged in oil extraction in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan will opt for the Baku-Ceyhan route for the MEP. Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan dispute ownership of several offshore Caspian oil fields. LF ...WHILE RUSSIA EXPRESSES DISPLEASURE. In a clear allusion to the U.S.'s aggressive lobbying for the Baku- Ceyhan route, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 29 October warning against the "excessive politicizing" of the choice of route for the MEP, Interfax reported. The ministry argued that the choice of route should depend on "economic expediency and diversity." It denied that Russia is seeking "a monopoly" on the transportation of Caspian oil via its territory, while affirming that Turkish threats to bar an increase in tanker traffic through the Turkish straits are a violation of international norms. At present, the only functioning pipeline through which Azerbaijan's Caspian oil is being exported is that from Baku via Chechnya to the Russian Black Sea terminal at Novorossiisk. LF GEORGIAN EX-SECURITY MINISTER SAYS PRESIDENT STAGED MUTINY. In an interview with "Obshchaya gazeta" on 29 October, Igor Giorgadze claimed that Georgian President Shevardnadze staged the 19 October mutiny in western Georgia to deflect attention from waning domestic support for his leadership, Interfax reported. Giorgadze added that Shevardnadze was also behind the August 1992 invasion of Abkhazia and the August 1995 car bomb attack, in which Shevardnadze sustained minor injuries. Giorgadze fled Georgia days after that attack, which Shevardnadze accuses him of organizing. Affirming that Georgia is ruled "by the Komsomol and Communist mafia," Giorgadze predicted that Shevardnadze will never resign voluntarily but "will be carried out." LF IRAN DENIES FUNDING AZERBAIJANI ELECTION BOYCOTT. The Iranian embassy in Baku issued a statement on 29 October denying that Iranian intelligence services had provided $14 million to the opposition Movement for Democratic Elections and Electoral Reform, Turan reported. Four Azerbaijani newspapers recently published those claims, quoting one of the leaders of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan (IPA) chairman Mir Mekhti Huseinov. Haji Mekhti Shamilli, chairman of the Supreme Council of the IPA, told Turan that the articles were malicious slander intended to compromise his party. Many of the IPA's leaders were arrested in 1996 and sentenced to lengthy jail sentences on charges of espionage for Iran. The party renewed its activities in 1997 and concluded a cooperation agreement with the Liberal Party of Azerbaijan, whose leader, Lala Shovket Gadjieva, was one of those political figures who boycotted the 11 October presidential election. LF ARMENIA, IRAN REAFFIRM SUPPORT FOR HIGHWAY PROJECT. Meeting in Yerevan on 28 October, Armenian Prime Minister Armen Darpinian and Iranian Deputy Transport Minister Massoud Khansari reaffirmed their respective governments' support for plans to build a major new highway linking Iran with Georgia's Black Sea ports via Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. They also agreed to create a joint working group to implement construction of a transport terminal in Armenia, according to Noyan Tapan. Meanwhile, outgoing Iranian Ambassador Hamidreza Nikkar Esfahani met with Armenian President Robert Kocharian, parliamentary speaker Khosrow Harutunian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, all of whom positively assessed the state of bilateral relations but proposed expanding both interparliamentary ties and economic cooperation, according to Noyan Tapan. LF RUSSIAN PRESS QUESTIONS 'FAIRNESS' OF KAZAKH ELECTIONS. "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 October commented that President Nursultan Nazarbayev's election team has shown "it is prepared to do all so that he will be the only candidate in the elections." A Medeu court recently made a ruling against former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 29 October 1998), which may bar his participation in the elections, and Kazhegeldin's public relations officer and press secretary have both been beaten. Moreover, the editor's office of the pro-Kazhegeldin newspaper "21st Century" was firebombed. Meanwhile, "Noviye izvestiya" on 29 October also reported that the opposition figures Petr Svoik and Dos Koshim were beaten "by members of law enforcement agencies" when they were imprisoned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1998). BP SWISS PULL OUT OF UN MISSION TO TAJIKISTAN. Switzerland has announced it will recall its four citizens from UN operations in Tajikistan owing to "problems that have arisen not only with security but also with discipline," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 October. None of the Swiss workers has been in Tajikistan since the UN decided to withdraw most of its personnel there following the murders of four UN employees in late July. BP TURKMENISTAN, TURKEY SIGN GAS DEAL. Turkmenistan and Turkey signed an agreement on 29 October whereby Turkmenistan will deliver 16 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Turkey annually, ITAR-TASS reported. The 30-year agreement foresees an increase in supplies to 30 billion cubic meters a year in the near future. The gas will be transported via a pipeline that is to be constructed across the bed of the Caspian Sea and then via Azerbaijan and Georgia. Shipments from Turkey to Europe are also foreseen. BP UZBEK PRESIDENT BANS "LAVISH CELEBRATIONS." Islam Karimov has issued a decree banning lavish celebrations, Interfax reported on 29 October. The decree says "excessive pomposity" in celebrations is "at odds with national traditions" and that "false ostentation has a negative effect on the upbringing of our youth." The decree comes one week after two tax officials were sacked for the misuse of funds for festivities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998). 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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