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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 33, Part I, 17 February 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 33, Part I, 17 February 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * FEDERATION COUNCIL PASSES UKRAINIAN TREATY, ADDS CONDITION * ZADORNOV TAKING OVER IMF PORTFOLIO? * INVESTIGATION INTO TASHKENT BOMBING BEGINS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA FEDERATION COUNCIL PASSES UKRAINIAN TREATY, ADDS CONDITION. The Federation Council voted to ratify the Treaty for Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Russia and Ukraine on 17 February. The vote was 106 to 25 with 17 abstentions. However, the treaty will not go into effect until Ukraine's parliament ratifies three agreements on the Black Sea fleet. Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov suggested that condition to ensure the treaty's passage, according to ITAR-TASS. So far, the three agreements have stalled in Ukraine's Supreme Council. JAC ZADORNOV TAKING OVER IMF PORTFOLIO? Contradicting earlier reports that former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is poised to be named presidential envoy to international financial institutions, "Izvestiya" reported on 17 February that Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov is Russia's new chief negotiator for talks with the IMF and other international organizations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February 1999). Reuters reported that neither the government nor the finance ministry will confirm the report, while Interfax said its sources said Zadornov is likely to receive such an appointment. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the previous day that Zadornov has prepared the most recent package of documents sent to the fund because the "careless and sometimes inappropriate words about the political motives of the negotiations" spoken by First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov and his press spokesman forced the government to find someone else to "prepare documents for the fund." JAC INCOME UNDERREPORTING HIDES ONE-FIFTH OF RUSSIAN ECONOMY. About one-fifth of Russia's economy operates in the "shadows," with businesses concealing or underreporting their income in order to avoid taxes, according to the State Statistic Committee's estimates, Interfax reported on 15 February. The amount of income hidden varies by season and across sectors, with unreported agricultural income rising in the summer and the fall. The trade sector conceals 60 percent of its income, compared with 10-11 percent in industry. JAC RUSSIA BECOMING A WORLD LEADER IN SPREAD OF AIDS. Russia is experiencing one of the world's most rapid spread of AIDS, Vadim Pokrovskii told Interfax on 16 February. The number of registered HIV carriers tripled in 1997 and doubled in 1998 to 10,483, he said. Almost one-tenth of these are living in Moscow, where only about 100 of Russia's AIDS patients receive proper treatment. According to Pokrovskii, the standard multi-drug treatment offered in the West costs from $9,000 to $22,000 a year and is therefore out of reach of most Russian patients. JAC PRIMORSKII KRAI GOVERNOR ENGAGED IN CREATIVE CAMPAIGNING? Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has declared that he won a $1 million cash prize from the Bahamas-based World Aristocratic Academy for being one of the world's outstanding leaders, the "Moscow Times" reported on 16 February. Past winners of the prize were reportedly New York Mayor Rudolf Guiliani, actors Harrison Ford and Demi Moore, King Juan Carlos of Spain, and the Russian pop group Na-na, but Guiliani's office denied ever having heard of the organization when contacted by the newspaper. Repeated attempts to contact the group in the Bahamas failed. Nazdratenko's political foes believe that the World Aristocratic Academy is a fiction concocted by Nazdratenko to boost his popularity before upcoming gubernatorial elections. They also claim that the money, which Nazdratenko said he would donate to needy people in the Krai, came from the region's budget. JAC ST. PETERSBURG DEPUTY ARRESTED ON SUSPICION OF MURDER. Yurii Shutov, a member of the St. Petersburg city assembly, was arrested on 16 February on suspicion of leading a gang and plotting the deaths of three men, among them prominent local businessman Dmitrii Filippov, who was slain in October 1998, ITAR-TASS reported. Eleven other people were arrested and a large cache of weapons and materials for constructing bombs seized. Shutov had been an adviser to former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak. JAC NEW PAUSE IN PASKO TRIAL AFTER INDICTMENT LEAKED. The espionage trial of military journalist Grigorii Pasko has recessed for one day at the request of defense attorneys, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 February. The delay was necessary so that a new lawyer could arrive from Moscow to replace a member of Pasko's defense team who was barred from the trial. The previous day, the agency reported that the document indicting Pasko, which contained classified information, has been leaked to the Glasnost Protection Fund, which is distributing that document via e-mail. Pasko is accused of passing classified materials about the Pacific Fleet to Japanese television media. JAC MURDOCH REPORTEDLY EYEING CHANNEL TV-6. Media magnate Rupert Murdoch has expressed an interest in purchasing shares in TV- 6, "one of Russia's most politically independent central TV channels," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 February. According to the newspaper, Murdoch is primarily interested in TV-6, not Russian Public Television (ORT). Earlier reports of his interest in ORT prompted one State Duma deputy to submit draft legislation stipulating that no foreigner or foreign entity be allowed own shares in ORT. According to the newspaper, the channel, which is owned by Eduard Sagalaev (37.5 percent), Boris Berezovskii (37.5 percent), LUKOIL (15 percent), and the Moscow Science and Technology Committee (10 percent), needs money urgently because of the collapse in its advertising revenues. The newspaper predicts that Moscow Science and Technology Committee head Vladimir Yevtushenko, "a protege of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov," will oppose the sale. JAC VORONTSOV LANDS NEW JOB IN UN. Former Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Yulii Vorontsov has a new assignment as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy for the CIS, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 February. JAC RUSSIA, TATARSTAN REACH COMPROMISE ON PASSPORTS. Tatarstan State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin told journalists in Moscow on 15 February that Tatarstan's authorities are satisfied with the new Russian passport model suggested by Moscow. "We are not going to issue our own identity document," he commented. Mukhametshin added that passports issued in the national republics will contain an extra title page that duplicates, in the language of the republic, the data given on the first page of the standard passport, including the bearer's nationality. In November 1997, Tatarstan suspended issuing the new Russian passports to protest the fact that they were in Russian only and failed to designate nationality and republican citizenship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October and 14 November 1997). According to Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov, passports issued in Russian regions will differ from those issued in national republics and will not contain the supplementary page in the national language, "Segodnya" reported on 16 February. LF CHECHEN PRESIDENT APPEALS ON BEHALF OF CONVICTED TERRORISTS. Aslan Maskhadov has asked Russian President Yeltsin to allow two Chechen women sentenced last week for a terrorist bombing in a Caucasus town to serve their sentences in Chechnya, Interfax reported on 16 February, quoting Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin. Field commanders opposed to Maskhadov last week threatened reprisals against Russia for the sentencing of the two women (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 1999). The local authorities in Stavropol Krai, where the trial took place have introduced special security procedures, including passport checks for all persons entering Stavropol from Chechnya. LF CYPRIOT DEFENSE MINISTER, ROSVOORUZHENIE DISCUSS S-300S. During talks in Moscow on 16 February, Yiannakis Chrisostomis and leading officials from the arms export company Rosvooruzhenie agreed that the S-300 air defense missile systems ordered by Cyprus in 1997 for deployment on that island will instead be deployed on Crete by mid-1999, ITAR- TASS reported. The missiles will remain the property of Cyprus but will be under Greek control. Chrisostomis is to meet with his Russian counterpart, Igor Sergeev, on 17 February to finalize the agreement. Rosvooruzhenie director Grigorii Rapota told Interfax last week that his company will not suffer any financial losses as a result of the change of deployment location. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 February, however, that the U.S., which pressured the Cypriot leadership to abandon its original plans to deploy the missile systems on Cyprus, is now trying to persuade Athens to withdraw its offer to station those systems on Crete. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN AUTHORITIES DENY MURDER SUSPECTS TORTURED. Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian on 16 February explicitly denied allegations by a member of the Armenian Helsinki Association that two of Deputy Interior Minister Artsrun Markarian's bodyguards have been subjected to torture during the investigation into Markarian's death, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The human rights monitor and the mothers of the two bodyguards told journalists earlier that day that the two men have been severely beaten. They also said no charges have yet been brought against the two, who were arrested on 10 February on suspicion of murdering Markarian. Under Armenian law, a suspect may be detained for no longer that 96 hours before being charged with a crime. LF EXPORT OF AZERBAIJANI OIL VIA RUSSIA AGAIN HALTED. The export of oil via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline was interrupted on 16 February for the third time in two weeks, Turan and Dow Jones Newswires reported. Transneft, which operates the Russian leg of that pipeline, attributed the disruption to "technical problems." Chechen officials in Baku told AFP on 12 February that an earlier stoppage was the result of arson (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 1999). They complained that Transneft was failing to pay the guards detailed to protect the pipeline. LF MISTREATMENT OF AZERBAIJANIS WIDESPREAD IN GEORGIAN ARMED FORCES. Kamil Kireji, chairman of the Ozan society, formed in 1998 to protect the interests of Georgia's 250,000 strong ethnic Azerbaijani minority, told journalists in Baku on 16 February that hazing and gratuitous violence against ethnic Azeris serving in the Georgian armed forces have increased dramatically since 1998, Turan and ANS-Press reported. As a result, 70 Azeris serving in Tbilisi deserted from their unit earlier this month. Kireji said that repeated protests to the Georgian president and defense minister have failed to elicit any response to date. LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT... In his annual address to the parliament on 16 February, Eduard Shevardnadze advocated amending the Georgian Constitution to provide for the reintroduction of the post of prime minister, which was abolished in 1995, Reuters and Interfax reported. But he said this change will not affect the existing principle of "strong president--strong parliament." Shevardnadze said that his administration's priorities are establishing "mutual respect, good neighborly relations and cooperation with Russia." He also called on the UN Security Council to undertake unspecified "decisive measures envisaged by UN rules" to resolve the conflict in Abkhazia, arguing that failure to do so will reflect adversely not only on the UN but also on Georgia's international prestige. LF ...LEAVING DEPUTIES UNIMPRESSED. Shevardnadze's remarks received a hostile reception, particularly from opposition deputies, prompting the president to comment that "I had the feeling of attending a pre-election meeting," Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze rejected accusations that he is autocratic, adding that "if they were true, I could change many things." Mamuka Giorgadze of the Popular faction compared Shevardnadze's address with a Soviet-era report that omitted any mention of the most serious problems. National- Democratic Party chairwoman Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia observed that the anti-corruption campaign promulgated by Shevardnadze last year has yielded no results. And Socialist Party leader Vakhtang Rcheulishvili said Shevardnadze "is either misinformed or concealing the truth" when he claims it is possible to revive dormant industrial enterprises in the towns of Chiatura and Tkibuli. LF GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS LAUNCH PROTEST. Bearing placards calling for Georgia to leave the CIS and urging a "Croatian model" in resolving the Abkhaz conflict, some 500 Georgian displaced persons blocked the bridge linking Abkhazia with the rest of Georgia on 16 February, according to Caucasus Press and "Rezonansi." They were protesting the proposal by Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba to allow the return of Georgians to Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion beginning 1 March. In particular, the displaced persons object to Abkhazia's insistence on compliance with the provision of the April 1994 agreement on repatriation that empowers Abkhazia to screen the applications of would-be returnees in order to exclude persons suspected of committing war crimes. LF INVESTIGATION INTO TASHKENT BOMBING BEGINS... Following the bombings in Tashkent on 16 February, President Islam Karimov, the ministers of defense and the interior, as well as officials from the border guards and security service met to discuss the incident, Uzbek Television reported. National Security Service chief Rustam Inoyatov said "we know who organized these incidents" and claimed that "foreign extremist and terrorist organizations and people who have relations with them" were behind the bombings. While he stopped short of naming any particular group, Interior Minister Zohirjon Almatov said that "Uzbek citizens" were responsible but that "their mentors are from elsewhere." He then mentioned in this context "the trends of Wahhabism and Hezbe Tahriri Islomiya, Islamic movements set up in Pakistan." Interfax on 16 February quoted Inoyatov as saying "the republic's borders have been sealed and the capital is surrounded by law-enforcement personnel. Police are conducting raids and searches. All investigations will be completed soon." BP ...WHILE 15 REPORTED DEAD AS SEARCH FOR VICTIMS CONTINUES. ITAR-TASS reported on 17 February that 15 people died in the bombings and 150 were injured. Workers are still trying to remove rubble in areas where the bombs were planted. Some 50 buildings were either razed or damaged by the explosions. Schools have been closed for the remainder of the week. BP UYGHURS DEPORTED FROM KAZAKHSTAN... Three ethnic Uyghurs are being returned to China by the authorities in Kazakhstan. According to a statement issued by Amnesty International on 15 February, the three fled China's western Xinjiang Province late last year and were arrested as they crossed into Kazakhstan's territory. All three are wanted by the Chinese authorities for political activities. BP ...WHILE KYRGYZSTAN KEEPS ANOTHER UYGHUR IN JAIL. Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court on 16 February upheld a ruling by a district court whereby Jalal Kasarji was sentenced to 14 years in prison, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. In December, Kasarji, an ethnic Uyghur and a citizen of Turkey, was found guilty of illegal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest. He and two other Uyghurs were originally charged with possession and distribution of Wahhabi literature, training terrorists, and inciting inter- ethnic hatred. However, none of those charges was made against them in court, and the other two Uyghurs were freed. BP TURKMEN PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON FUTURE GAS EXPORTS. At a ceremony opening a new natural gas compression facility in Kaakhka on 16 February, Saparmurat Niyazov said his country will export 120 billion cubic meters of natural gas by the year 2005, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Niyazov said that by then, the Trans-Caspian and Trans-Iranian pipelines are expected to be functioning, along with the Trans-Russian one. Niyazov said the new compression facility will ensure "stable operation" of the gas turbine at the Bezmenin power plant, installed by the U.S. company General Electric, and ensure "more reliable"supplies of gas to Ashgabat. The Kaakhka facility was built by the Ukrainian company Ukrgazstroi in part payment of that country's debt for Turkmen gas supplies. Niyazov noted that a deal has been struck whereby Ukraine will receive 20 billion cubic meters of gas this year. BP RUSSIA TO REVIEW CONDITIONS FOR TURKMEN-UKRAINE GAS DEAL. The Russian State Duma has invited Minister for CIS Affairs Boris Pastukhov and chairman of Gazprom Rem Vyakhirev to attend a 5 March government session, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 February. The deputies want to find out what the conditions are for Turkmen gas transiting Russian territory en route to Ukraine. BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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