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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 126, Part I, 29 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 126, Part I, 29 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 * YELTSIN TAKING UP OLD HABITS? * IMF MISSION TO ENCOUNTER NEW PROPOSALS FROM AKSENENKO * UZBEK COURT HANDS DOWN DEATH SENTENCES FOR BOMBINGS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN TAKING UP OLD HABITS? President Boris Yeltsin on 29 June announced that he is unsatisfied with the way the Justice Ministry is checking whether certain public organizations and political parties, such as the Communist Party (KPRF), are complying with Russian laws. He called on the ministry to redouble its efforts. Yeltsin said he has still not received information that he requested about possible violations by the KPRF of the constitution, Interfax reported. Earlier this month, "Segodnya" reported that Yeltsin had drawn up a decree calling for the removal of the corpse of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin from Red Square, which prompted an angry reaction from KPRF leaders. That report has not yet been verified, however. On 29 June, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported that Yeltsin has been filmed for the first time in recent months with a glass in his hand, toasting Russia's "excellent campaign in Kosovo and Yugoslavia." The daily noted that it is unclear what the president was drinking. JAC IMF MISSION TO ENCOUNTER NEW PROPOSALS FROM AKSENENKO... As IMF officials begin in Moscow on 29 June their review of the government's economic program, they may discover major discrepancies between various documents describing government policy. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 25 June, one document recommends the creation of an investment stabilization fund and cartel agreements on freezing prices. While the latter idea has already been implemented in the form of a pact between energy, rail enterprises, and the government, the former is still unknown to fund officials, according to the newspaper. Under the program, which was championed by First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, the government takes 2 percent of enterprises' revenue and then reinvests the money. On 28 June, Aksenenko pledged to review options for resuming construction of a tunnel between the Russian mainland and the island of Sakhalin. Earlier, Aksenenko had promised funding for the new mining and processing enterprises along the Baikal-Amur railway (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 1999). JAC ...AND ADAMOV. Meanwhile, Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov has his own proposal, which, in his words, "is better than borrowing money from the IMF." Adamov told reporters on 28 June that his ministry wants to get permission to process and bury nuclear waste from all countries--not just those whose nuclear power plants Russia helped build. JAC U.S. SLAMS NEW INSURANCE LAW... The U.S. State Department and U.S.-Russia Business Council (USRBC) have criticized the insurance legislation recently passed by Federation Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 1999). State Department spokesman James Rubin called the bill "contrary to Russia's goal of revitalizing its economy and attracting foreign investment," according to AP. Eugene Lawson, USRBC president, noted that the law will put several prominent U.S. and European firms out of business "in an important segment of the insurance industry, literally confiscating assets they have already invested in the Russian economy." However, Deputy Economics Minister Mukhamed Tsikanov denied that the law entails "any restrictive or confiscatory consequences," although he admitted that participants in the insurance market might pick up some negative signals from the law, according to ITAR-TASS. International insurance companies had considered Russia a large untapped market, with the majority of businesses and individuals underinsured compared with their Western counterparts. JAC ...AS MORE FOOD AID IN THE OFFING? Agriculture Minister Vladimir Shcherbak announced on 25 June that Russia has asked the U.S. for more donations of animal feed, which it will then sell and use the proceeds for investments in agriculture, Reuters reported. However, Shcherbak emphasized that Russia will ask for food aid "only if other measures prove unsuccessful." Duma Agrarian Affairs Committee Chairman Aleksei Chernyshev was more pessimistic, predicting that this year's grain harvest will be between 50-55 million tons and that the shortfall will have to be made up with imports of humanitarian food aid, ITAR-TASS reported. "Izvestiya" noted on 29 June that Russian experts' most optimistic prognosis for this year's grain harvest is 70 million tons, but the newspaper asserted that 60 million tons is more realistic. Russia harvested 47.8 million tons last year, which was the worst yield in 40 years. JAC ELECTION COMMISSION TO REDRAW SOME DISTRICTS. Following President Yeltsin's signing of the new State Duma election bill into law, the Central Election Commission will begin work on a scheme of single-mandate constituencies, according to commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov on 28 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 1999). Veshnyakov told reporters that the total number of constituencies will remain the same but that they may be increased in some areas, such as the Republic of Dagestan and Krasnodar Krai, and decreased in others, such as Chita and Murmansk Oblasts. JAC MORE COAL MINES SLATED FOR CLOSURE. The Russian government is seeking to complete by 5 July its 1999 program for the coal industry in preparation for coal-sector loan talks with the World Bank, Interfax reported on 28 June. In the meantime, the government has decided to increase the number of coal mines slated for closure from 46 to 60, as the World Bank had earlier requested, but those additional closures will require more funds, according to Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii. Kalyuzhnii noted that strike actions in the sector have significantly decreased but that some politicians are trying to play the coal card in the run-up to parliamentary elections. A coal miners' congress on 10 July could destabilize the situation in the industry, he noted. First Deputy Prime Minister Aksenenko was named chairman of the interdepartmental commission on social problems of coal-mining regions. JAC LIVSHITS IS BACK. President Yeltsin on 28 June appointed Aleksander Livshits chairman of the interagency commission for G-8 issues, giving him the rank of minister, ITAR-TASS reported. Livshits is a former finance minister, former deputy head of the presidential administration, and former presidential adviser on economics. Livshits told reporters that he will focus on implementing decisions reached at recent G-8 meeting in Cologne and oversee economic and trade relations with G-7 countries. He stressed that he will not replace the Finance Ministry in its negotiations with the Paris and London Clubs of creditors. JAC RUSSIAN OFFICERS ARRIVE AT NATO HEADQUARTERS. A group of Russian officers arrived at NATO headquarters in Brussels on 28 June to work out details of Russia's participation in the Kosova peacekeeping force (KFOR), ITAR-TASS reported. The delegation is led by Vice Admiral Valentin Kuznetsov, who is deputy chief of the department for international military cooperation at the Russian Defense Ministry. Unnamed NATO officials told ITAR-TASS that they hope the arrival of the officers signals a resumption of cooperation between Russia and NATO, which Russia curtailed when NATO started bombing Yugoslavia on 24 March. Kuznetsov, however, said the arrival of the officers does not mark a return to the level of "interaction and confidence" that followed the signing of the May 1997 Russian-NATO Founding Act. He stressed that cooperation will be limited to the KFOR mission, during which Russian generals and officers will work at NATO's military command near Mons, Belgium. FS JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES LOSE COURT APPEAL. A Moscow court on 28 June rejected an appeal by the Jehovah's Witnesses challenging an earlier court decision to create a panel of experts to study their literature and recommend whether they should be banned, AP reported. A Moscow city prosecutor has been seeking to ban the group from the city under a 1997 controversial law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 1999). According to the agency, the religious group says that the court's panel lacks the qualifications to decide the matter and that numerous materials on and studies of the group by authoritative researchers already exist. JAC ELEVEN INJURED IN NORTH CAUCASUS EXPLOSION. Eleven people were injured, four of them seriously, when an anti-personnel mine exploded outside a railway storage facility in the North Ossetian capital, Vladikavkaz, on 28 June, Interfax reported. Sappers defused another three mines found in the vicinity. Commenting on the explosion, North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov said that such incidents should not delay the planned meeting between Russian President Yeltsin and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Caucasus Press reported on 29 June. Dzasokhov said that the meeting "will certainly contribute" to stability in the North Caucasus. Some 60 people were killed and more than 100 injured when a bomb exploded in the Vladikavkaz central market on 19 March. LF CHECHEN PRESIDENT FIRES FOREIGN MINISTER. Maskhadov issued a decree on 28 June dismissing Akhyad Idigov as foreign minister and appointing Ilyas Akhmadov to take over that post, Interfax reported. Idigov had replaced Movladi Udugov as foreign minister last fall (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 1998). The agency quoted presidential spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev as saying that the Foreign Ministry has proved "useless" during the past 18 months. Vachagaev characterized Akhmadov, who headed Maskhadov's press service during the 1994-1996 war and then served as army chief of staff, as "the only professional political analyst in Chechnya." LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA WAS NAGORNO-KARABAKH PRESIDENT BUGGED? A senior official within the administration of Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, told RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent at the weekend that Ghukasian informed cabinet members on 24 June, before signing a decree dismissing Prime Minister Zhirayr Poghosian, that a surveillance device had been discovered in his office. It is unclear, however, whether that discovery was the primary reason for the firing of Poghosian, who has refused to comment on Ghukasian's allegations. According to unconfirmed reports from Stepanakert, a local electronics engineer who planted the bug is being held in custody in Yerevan. The Armenian National Security Ministry has denied any involvement in the incident. LF AZERBAIJAN POPULAR FRONT PROTESTS INSULTS TO JOURNALISTS. The opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front has released a statement condemning abusive and insulting remarks addressed to journalists by parliamentary deputy Jalal Aliev during a 25 June debate on the new draft law on the media, Turan reported on 28 June. Aliev, whose younger brother Heidar is Azerbaijan's president, reportedly argued that the new law should put an end to "immorality and callousness" in the press. He also accused unnamed media outlets of "betrayal" and seeking to undermine Azerbaijan's statehood. He referred to women journalists working for independent newspapers as "prostitutes" and their male colleagues as "rogues," RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported. Also on 25 June, Reporters Sans Frontieres wrote to Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov to protest the beating by two policemen in Baku on 19 June of Elman Maliev, a journalist with the independent newspaper "Hurriyet." LF FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES DETAINED IN AZERBAIJAN... Ashraf Mehtiev, chairman of the Geyrat Party and of the Association of Victims of Political Repression, was forcibly taken to the Baku City Prosecutor's office on 28 June but later released, Turan reported. Criminal proceedings have been brought against Mehtiev, who according to official results polled less than 1 percent of the vote in the October 1998 presidential elections, for insulting the honor and dignity of President Aliev in his election campaign speeches. LF ...AND GEORGIA. In Tbilisi, Kartlos Gharibashvili, chairman of the Independent Lawyers' Association, said on 28 June that he will file charges for unlawful arrest against local police officials who arrested him on 25 June for hooliganism in connection with an incident in mid-April when his car collided with a bus, Caucasus Press reported. Gharibashvili was held in detention for 50 hours, then brought before a judge who dismissed the case after a 15-hour hearing. Gharibashvili attributed his arrest to his willingness to defend Temur Papuashvili, who is accused of planning a coup against the Georgian leadership. Gharibashvili ran for president in 1995 but polled only 0.4 percent of the vote. LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SEES GREATER EU ROLE IN SOUTH CAUCASUS. In his regular Monday radio broadcast on 28 June, Eduard Shevardnadze said the EU could play a key role in helping to resolve conflicts in the South Caucasus and in providing funds for the reconstruction of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. He added that the EU will shortly receive 13 million Euros ($12 million)from the EU for agricultural development and another 7 million Euros for the construction of a fiber-optics communication line through the South Caucasus. LF GEORGIA TO MONITOR TURKISH SHIPPING. Shevardnadze also said on 28 June that Tbilisi has reached agreement with the Turkish government that all Turkish ships bound for the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia must first undergo customs clearance in the Georgian port of Poti, Caucasus Press reported. Only ships carrying humanitarian aid will be permitted to proceed to Abkhaz ports, Shevardnadze said. Georgian coastguards intercepted a Turkish vessel on 26 June for illegally entering Georgian territorial waters. LF U.S., NATO CONDUCT TRAINING COURSES IN KAZAKHSTAN, UZBEKISTAN. NATO and the Uzbek Defense Ministry began joint training courses on 28 June for civilian agencies engaged in coping with emergency situations, Interfax reported. The following day, a U.S.-Kazakh seminar on defense planning begins in Astana. Participants will compare the two countries' approaches to identifying possible threats and risks in creating a national security strategy, Interfax reported, quoting a Kazakh Defense Ministry official. They will also draft proposals for Kazakhstan's defense budget. LF TAJIK PRESIDENT APPROVES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. Imomali Rakhmonov gave "overall approval" on 28 June to amendments to the Tajik Constitution demanded by the United Tajik Opposition within the framework of the 1997 peace agreement, ITAR-TASS reported. Those amendments will be considered at an emergency parliamentary session on 30 June. No details of the proposals were given. The opposition had earlier demanded the removal from the constitution of an article pledging construction of a secular Tajik state, and the introduction of a bicameral parliament, according to "Vremya-MN" on 22 April. Rakhmonov had rejected the latter proposal on the grounds that it would cost the state budget $25 million. LF UZBEK COURT HANDS DOWN DEATH SENTENCES FOR BOMBINGS. Uzbekistan's Supreme Court sentenced six men to death on 28 June for their role in the 16 February bombings in Tashkent that killed 16 people. Eight more defendants received prison sentences of 20 years, while another eight were sentenced to terms ranging from 10 to 18 years. All those accused pleaded wholly or partially guilty to the charges of terrorism, murder, and attempting to kill President Islam Karimov. In addition to admitting responsibility for the February bombings, some of those accused also admitted to murders committed earlier in the cities of Andizhan and Namangan, according to ITAR-TASS. AFP quoted human rights activists as saying that since the trial opened on 2 June, hundreds of people who sympathized with the defendants have been arrested for handing out leaflets in Tashkent. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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