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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 121, Part I, 22 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 121, Part I, 22 June 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 * RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET SOARS * LUZHKOV ACCUSES OLIGARCHS OF CARVING UP THE MEDIA * KAZAKH GOVERNMENT, PARLIAMENT ON COLLISION COURSE END NOTE: HAVEL--THE PEOPLES OF THE BALKANS MUST DECIDE THEIR OWN FATE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET SOARS... The Russian stock market continued its several-day climb on 21 June as the benchmark RTS index closed at 129.28, a rise of 6.7 percent over the previous day. Stocks in Mosenergo, Unified Energy Systems, and Rostelekom lead the way, gaining 14.8 percent, 8.6 percent and 7.4 percent respectively, according to AFP. Russia is now the best-performing market in the world, Loren Bough, head of Brunswick Warburg Brokerage, told the agency. Bough attributed the market's rise to the departure of Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's leftist cabinet. Traders also responded warmly to news from the weekend's G-8 meeting, including that group's call for a debt restructuring deal for Russia. JAC ...AS UNEMPLOYMENT RISES. Unemployment rose to 10.44 million as of early June--a 26 percent hike over the same period last year and a 7 percent increase since January, according to the State Statistics Committee. The number of unemployed persons in Russia amounts to 14.2 percent of the country's economically active population, Interfax reported. In the meantime, the number of people officially registered as unemployed with the State Employment Service fell by more than 7 percent in June from the same period last year, according to the agency. JAC GOVERNMENT FINALLY POISED TO TAKE MORE DECISIVE ACTIONS IN BANKING SECTOR? The Russian government is showing signs of being ready to confront the problem of restructuring Russia's largest commercial banks, "Izvestiya" concluded on 22 June. As evidence, the newspaper cites Central Bank chairman Viktor Gerashchenko's recent warning that Oneksimbank is in danger of losing its license. More recently, the Agency for Restructuring Credit Organizations (ARKO) announced on 18 June that it is prepared to rescue Rossiiskii Kredit and Promstroibank. According to the daily, ARKO officials recently admitted that the agency could stretch its meager resources to restructure one or perhaps two large banks. Both Rossiiskii Kredit and Promstroibank have massive debts, including more than 3 billion rubles ($124 million) owed to the federal budget, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 19 June. "Vremya MN" reported earlier that despite systemic problems, the number of banks in Russia declined by only 5 percent during the first five months of the year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1999). JAC NATO COUNCIL APPROVES COHEN-SERGEEV AGREEMENT. The NATO Council in Brussels approved on 21 June the Helsinki agreement between Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and his U.S. counterpart William Cohen on Russia's role within the Kosova peacekeeping force (KFOR) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 1999), ITAR-TASS reported. In Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin told AP that his cabinet sent the agreement to the Federation Council, which must approve the peacekeepers' deployment. He added that the government will send Russian peacekeepers to Kosova as soon as the council approves the deployment. FS UNCERTAINTY REMAINS OVER RUSSIAN KFOR FUNDING. State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev told ITAR-TASS in Troitsk on 21 June that the deployment of the 3,600 Russian peacekeepers "is not a cheap action and the [Defense Ministry's] budget does not provide a kopek for this." Seleznev stressed, however, that there can be "no doubt" that the Finance Ministry will find ways to fund the mission. Seleznev said that the Duma will discuss the Helsinki agreement in the presence of Sergeev and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 23 June. In Moscow on 22 June, Lieutenant-General Nikolai Staskov, who is the head of Russia's airborne forces, said that these forces will be increased by 5,600 to a total of 37,600, reflecting needs caused by the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in Kosova, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. The government reduced the airborne forces from 46,000 to 32,000 in 1998 to reduce costs. FS RUSSIA PLEDGES TO REPAIR BUILDINGS IN BELGRADE AND NOVI SAD. "Moskovskii Komsomolets" reported on 21 June that a group of Russian construction and design specialists left Moscow for Belgrade on 21 June to assess the damage caused by NATO's air campaign to several buildings and bridges in Belgrade and Novi Sad. The daily suggested that "the specialists will restore several historical buildings...[including] the Opera House, the buildings of the Foreign Ministry and the government of Yugoslavia, and the television centers and railway bridge." It also said that "Moscow has promised to restore the bridge across the Danube near Novi Sad" but did not elaborate. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that "the damage to [Yugoslavia's] national economy and infrastructure exceed all the destruction seen during World War II," ITAR-TASS reported. The statement added that "Russia will actively cooperate" in the reconstruction. FS LUZHKOV ACCUSES OLIGARCHS OF CARVING UP THE MEDIA. In a speech to the first World Congress of the Russian Press on 21 June, Moscow Mayor and likely presidential contender Yurii Luzhkov accused the country's so-called oligarchs of carving up media outlets into spheres of influence. He said that oligarchic capital "wants to have its own press and influence it through financial methods," Interfax reported. Luzhkov also called the pressure of state authorities and large financial groups on mass media unacceptable and expressed concern about the decreasing number of Russian-language publications in the CIS, particularly Ukraine. "They have a right to get information in their own language," he said. On the same day, Unified Energy Systems chairman Anatolii Chubais denied reports that his company had provided $12.5 million to the publishers of "Kommersant-Daily" to reduce the company's debts, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC KREMLIN SEEKS TO CREATE COUNTERBALANCE TO LUZHKOV. Meanwhile, "Versiya" reported in its 15-21 June issue that the presidential administration is trying to organize a "future presidential party" composed of All Russia (Vsya Rossiya), Voice of Russia (Golos Rossii), and other parties that are capable of becoming a major rival of Luzhkov's Otechestvo (Fatherland) party in upcoming presidential elections. According to the publication, "total information support" will be provided by nationwide TV channels such as Russian Public Television, Russian Television, and TV-6. In the meantime, the Kremlin is reportedly considering canceling the licenses of pro-Luzhkov outlets such as NTV and Moscow's TV- Center networks. JAC UNGUARDED WEAPONS CACHES LEADING TO SCOURGE OF ILLEGAL GUNS. The spread of unlicensed firearms is a growing problem, "Trud" reported on 19 June. According to the daily, weapons are being stolen in large quantities from military or police storage facilities. In fact, every third illegally owned firearm was stolen from Defense Ministry stocks. In addition, one out of every nine Russian men owns a weapon, and the number of crimes in which firearms were used in 1998 was double that recorded in 1996. The newspaper calls on the Defense and Interior Ministries and local police stations to upgrade security at facilities where weapons are stored and it appeals to State Duma deputies to enact tougher gun- control legislation. JAC STEPASHIN CALLS FOR WTO MEMBERSHIP BY YEAR END. Speaking at the G-8 summit in Cologne over the weekend, Prime Minister Stepashin announced that Russia could join the World Trade Organization before the end of the year, Interfax reported on 21 June. However, "Vremya MN" on the same day suggested that Stepashin's "optimism" was difficult to explain. According to the daily, Russia began the process of trying to join the organization in 1994 and only in the first quarter of this year completed the first "informational" stage of negotiations. A minimum of two stages remain--including bilateral consultations with 30 member-countries with whom "Russia does not agree on many points." In addition, Russian legislation would require eight new laws and amendments to 36 existing laws in order to bring its trading systems in line with WTO norms, according to the newspaper. JAC FEDERAL, LOCAL OFFICIALS PLAY BLAME GAME OVER KAMCHATKA. Prime Minister Stepashin criticized the Fuel and Energy Ministry on 21 June for failing to take prompt steps to ensure continuous energy supplies to Kamchatka Oblast, where residents have been restricted to three hours of electricity every other day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 17 June 1999). Stepashin added that "I do not understand the position of the [oblast] administration, which shifts local problems to the federal level," noting that "the mechanism for federal intervention into regional governance should be revised," Interfax reported. Meanwhile, oblast administration head Andrei Chernenko said he will find out who is responsible for unnecessary red tape and take the appropriate steps, including dismissals if necessary. On 22 June, a tanker filled with 5,000 tons of diesel fuel left Nakhodka for Kamchatka, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC SKURATOV GETS MORE BAD NEWS. The Supreme Court ruled on 22 June that a criminal case against Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov has legal grounds and may continue, ITAR-TASS reported. A lower court in Moscow had ruled earlier that the investigation was illegal and had to be stopped. However, the Supreme Court upheld the appeal of the Military Prosecutor's Office and overruled that decision. On 9 June, Federation Council members--who had earlier rejected two efforts by President Yeltsin to dismiss Skuratov--voted to ask the Constitutional Court to decide whether President Yeltsin has the constitutional right to suspend Skuratov from office pending the outcome of a criminal investigation without the approval of the upper legislative chamber. Last month, the embattled prosecutor-general reported that he had been turned away at the airport because his passport had been annulled; the Foreign Ministry claimed the passport was invalid because of a "technical mistake" and would be reissued. JAC CHECHEN SECURITY OFFICIAL ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. National Security Committee head Ibragim Khultygov escaped injury when gunmen opened fire on his home in Grozny on the night of 20-21 June, Russian agencies reported. Khultygov's brother, Lecha, who had also served as Security Committee chairman, was shot dead in Grozny during a standoff with supporters of maverick field commander Salman Raduev exactly one year ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 1998). Ibragim Khultygov suggested the attempt to kill him was in response to a recent crackdown on criminal gangs. On 21 June, President Aslan Maskhadov placed all top defense and security personnel on 24-hour alert. Speaking in Moscow on 21 June, Mayor Luzhkov argued that Chechnya should be given independence from the Russian Federation if the majority of the population demand it, Interfax reported. LF DEFEATED KARACHAEVO-CHERKESS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SEEKS COMPROMISE SOLUTION. Cherkessk Mayor Stanislav Derev has appealed to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation against the ruling by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia confirming as legal and valid the outcome of the 16 May presidential runoff, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 19 June. According to official data, Vladimir Semenov, a Karachai, was elected president of the republic with some 75 percent of the vote. Addressing a "mini-congress" of his supporters in Cherkessk on 19 June, Derev, who is a Cherkess, advocated requesting Moscow to name as interim president for four years an ethnic Russian with knowledge of Karachaevo-Cherkessia. Derev said that during that time the Cherkess, who account for only some 10 percent of the population, would consider whether to proceed with their demand that the republic be split and the Cherkess- populated territory be given the status of an autonomous republic within neighboring Stavropol krai, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 22 June. LF STEPASHIN UPBEAT ON CIS'S PROSPECTS. Speaking in Moscow on 21 June at the first World Congress of the Russian Press, Prime Minister Stepashin said that the CIS "is by no means moribund" and has a good future ahead of it, Interfax reported. But Stepashin added that it is time to abandon "the theory of older and younger brothers." LF TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRESIDENT GIVES INTERVIEW TO TURKISH NEWSPAPER. In an interview published by "Milliyet" on 16 June and circulated by Noyan Tapan on 21 June, Robert Kocharian downplayed the importance of Armenia's ongoing military cooperation with Russia, noting that in the economic sphere Armenia gives priority to cooperation with Europe. He expressed concern that the establishment of a Turkish military presence in Azerbaijan would provoke a reaction from Russia and Iran and thus lead to "additional tensions" in the region. Kocharian said there has been a minimal easing in relations with Turkey since his election as president in March 1998, but expressed regret at Ankara's insistence on setting conditions for establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. He said the absence of such relations was the reason why he had not accepted an invitation to the 1998 celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic, adding that he will definitely attend the OSCE summit in Istanbul this fall. LF UN AGENCY DISCLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR ARMENIAN VOTER LIST ERRORS. In a statement released on 21 June, the Yerevan office of the United Nations Development Program rejected charges that the software it provided to the Central Electoral Commission to computerize voter registers contributed to widespread omissions from voter lists, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Tens of thousands of people were prevented from casting their votes in the 30 May parliamentary elections because their names had not been included in the voter lists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 1999). The UNDP said that the computerization of voter lists was carried out under the supervision of CEC officials and that the completed lists were endorsed by local authorities. Also on 21 June, the Constitutional Court annulled the voting in a constituency in the northern city of Gyumri because of inaccuracies in the vote tally and stripped the Communist Party deputy of his mandate. LF RUSSIA DENIES VIOLATION OF GEORGIAN AIRSPACE. The press service of the Russian Air Force informed ITAR-TASS on 21 June that no Russian fighter or other aircraft penetrated Georgian air space on 18 June. The Georgian Defense Ministry had issued a statement on 19 June saying that four Russian fighters overflew Georgia the previous day en route from an air base in Rostov to Armenia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 1999). LF GEORGIANS INCREASINGLY INTOLERANT OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES. Georgians of widely varying political persuasions have advocated banning or restricting the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses in Georgia, arguing that those activities undermine Georgia's statehood and the position of the Georgian Orthodox church, Caucasus Press reported. In the south Georgian district of Akhaltsikhe, some 100 local Christians picketed the local police headquarters last week to demand the destruction of six tons of religious tracts and video cassettes produced by the Jehovah's Witnesses that were confiscated by customs officers on the Georgian-Turkish frontier in late April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 1999). LF KAZAKH GOVERNMENT, PARLIAMENT ON COLLISION COURSE. Both houses of Kazakhstan's parliament rejected on 21 June the budget cuts proposed by the government following the devaluation of the tenge in April, Interfax reported. Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev responded, as Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Oraz Dzhandosov had warned last week that the government would, by demanding a confidence vote in his cabinet. Meeting with deputies from the Aul faction on 15 June, Dzhandosov had said that the amount by which the budget must be sequestered is not negotiable, although compromise is possible over the specific items of spending to be targeted. Balghymbaev also denied that the budget cuts were dictated by the IMF as a condition for assistance. Under the constitution, if two thirds of all parliament deputies vote no confidence in the cabinet, the president must decide within ten days whether to dismiss the government or dissolve parliament. LF KAZAKH PARLIAMENT AMENDS ELECTION LAW. Kazakhstan's parliament passed on 21 June in the first and second readings amendments proposed by President Nursultan Nazarbaev to the election law, Interfax reported. Those amendments abolish the penalties hitherto incurred by involvement in unregistered public organizations, which disqualify persons who have incurred such reprimands from running as candidates in elections at any level. Nazarbaev also proposed reducing by half the registration fee for parliamentary candidates from 132,000 to 66,000 tenges ($4,100). LF KYRGYZ PRESIDENT PROPOSES RELAXING ELECTION REQUIREMENTS. Askar Akaev has appealed to both chambers of the Kyrgyz parliament to consider amending Article 92 of the new election law passed last month, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 21 June, citing the presidential press service. Akaev proposed reducing from 12 to six months the minimum period prior to parliamentary elections for which a political party must be officially registered. A presidential spokesman said the present requirement infringes on the interests of newly-created parties by rendering impossible their participation in the parliamentary elections due in early 2000. Former Bishkek Mayor Feliks Kulov, who on 21 June published an appeal to citizens of Kyrgyzstan to join his new movement Ar-Namys, had stated his intention of appealing to the Constitutional Court to abrogate that article of the election law as unconstitutional (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 1999). LF TAJIK COURT HANDS DOWN DEATH SENTENCES ON TWO INSURGENCY PARTICIPANTS. Two close associates of rebel Colonel Makhmud Khudoiberdiev were sentenced to death on 21 June on charges of treason and attempting to seize power for the role in the abortive uprising in Khujand in November 1998, ITAR-TASS reported. LF END NOTE HAVEL--THE PEOPLES OF THE BALKANS MUST DECIDE THEIR OWN FATE Remarks by Czech President Vaclav Havel to RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 21 June 1999. I believe unequivocally that human rights take precedence over state sovereignty. Man is the creation of God and has existed tens of thousands of years. The state is the creation of man and is an administrative unit existing several hundred years in the form we know today. It seems that in the future, in the next millennium, in view of the global nature of our civilization and other factors, the importance of people and their rights will grow in significance over the rights of the state. Many functions now carried out by the state will in the future be handled at a lower level by various civic groups, others will become functions of higher, super-national or transregional units, as is now taking place within the European Union. ... It's absolute nonsense to criticize bombing as one evil trying to stop another evil, namely ethnic cleansing. Alas, the world is such, and people are such that evil has to be checked with fire and sword--evil must be met by force. That's why all countries except Costa Rica have armies. That's the way the world is. In this case, a great evil was met with the relatively least of evils. Not one of the critics offered a better solution, except one Czech who said: "Let them all murder each other, and we should take no notice." If a government takes over a state as in Yugoslavia, the only way to check its evil is to destroy the structures that support it. That means military structures, transport, communications, and others that serve the regime. NATO conducted thousands of raids and hit some civilian targets, regrettably killing innocent civilians. But compared to most previous wars, the percentage of innocent victims was relatively small. It's hard for me to imagine that peace and stability can be established while [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic remains in power. He was behind several Balkan wars now for more than a decade, resulting in thousands of deaths. I am afraid that with him it would be very hard to build a good peace based on justice and civic co-existence, all the more because he stands accused by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. This is a court that has no political biases, because it was created by the United Nations on the decision of the Security Council, with the agreement of both the Russian Federation and China. I think that an earlier intervention might have meant fewer victims in this past decade and the bombing need not have been so devastating. ...Of course that's hindsight, and everyone is a general after a battle. NATO must do all it can to create confidence in the international civil administration or protectorate that will be established in Kosova so that people will trust the law and order forces there sufficiently for some Serbs to return to the region, just as some ethnic Albanians are now returning. That is the great task before us. The question is what will be done now and will happen now. There is an endless circle of blood and revenge that must be broken. That is an unusually hard and difficult task. It's hard to explain to Kosova Albanians, who were forced out of their homes at gunpoint. I spoke to some of them in refugee camps, and they said: "We were told you must leave in three minutes or you will be shot and you can take only what you can carry." They thus had to leave with no food, no clothes, nothing. They then had to witness their homes being looted and burned. It is hard to explain [to them] that now that they are back, they cannot steal from abandoned Serbian homes. Nevertheless, it is the duty of the international community to try to do this and stop this endless circle of bloodshed, revenge, and settling of accounts. Kosova must decide its future--by referendum or election--not now, but after heads have cooled and can make reasoned decisions. I think at least three years should go by in negotiations. Then, calmly and sensibly, the decision can be made--but it has to be by Kosovars themselves. I feel some responsibility for the intervention of NATO and the international community in Yugoslavia and Kosova. The action had only one goal, namely to create conditions for civic co-existence and democratic development, as well as to stop human rights violations, murders, and massacres. I feel responsibility for the action and what it led to, regardless of whether or not it achieved its goal. That is why I want to visit Kosova and find out what must be done further to achieve that aim, if it hasn't already been achieved. One can't create a situation through bombing and then lose interest in the situation. On the contrary, now is the time to get interested. The bombing was not an end in itself but merely the means to create conditions for people to live in dignity. The international community must do all within its power to make the Balkans a region of peace and peaceful co- existence among ethnic groups. A beginning could be the planned conferences in the region: the first is supposed to held in Sarajevo. I welcomed the news because I have been saying from the beginning that one cannot decide the Balkans' future in Alaska or Washington or Paris or Moscow. The conferences have to be there in the Balkans. These are proud peoples who would not easily tolerate their fate being decided far away. (Translated from the Czech by Sonia Winter) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 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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