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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 128, Part I, 1 July 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 128, Part I, 1 July 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 * AUDIT REVEALS CENTRAL BANK SHENANIGANS * BANK CLOSURES PUZZLE ANALYSTS, ALARMS MOSCOW CITY OFFICIALS * TAJIKISTAN'S PARLIAMENT SCHEDULES REFERENDUM xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA AUDIT REVEALS CENTRAL BANK SHENANIGANS... According to the unpublished audit prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Russian Central Bank underreported its 1996 foreign currency reserves to the IMF, "The Washington Post" reported on 1 July. According to the daily, the Central Bank granted a $1 billion internal loan to the Russian government and was given in return a promissory note. That note was then dispatched to the Jersey Island FIMACO firm without the fund's knowledge. A anonymous source told the newspaper that the audit uncovered no criminal dealings -- just "some transactions that one should question whether a Central Bank should be doing." One example might be the Central Bank's use of its own pension fund to invest in short-term treasury bonds. "The Moscow Times" on 25 June reported that profits from such trading were then channeled directly through the pension fund, rather than recorded as Central Bank income, bypassing the requirement that 50 percent of Central Bank profits be transferred to the federal budget. JAC ...AS MORE IMF CASH LOOKS IMMINENT. IMF, State Duma, and Central Bank officials have seen the audit but the bank does not want that document to be released publicly. Meanwhile, on 30 June Russian government and IMF officials signed a joint statement on economic policy for 1999. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov told reporters that the IMF mission currently in Moscow approved the preliminary measures that the government is supposed to adopt. Mission head Gerard Belanger told Prime-Tass the same day that "we see rather good success by the government and Central Bank regarding the measures that we agreed on and are ready for further discussions." JAC BANK CLOSURES PUZZLE ANALYSTS, ALARMS MOSCOW CITY OFFICIALS. Banking analysts mostly panned the Central Bank's decision to pull the licenses of four large banks on 30 June. Margot Jacobs of the United Financial Group told AFP that the Central Bank's decision pull Mezhkombank's license after it had just completed a restructuring agreement with its foreign creditors makes "you ask if the Central Bank is not paying attention or is just incompetent." According to the agency, analysts were divided over whether the bank was responding to pressure from the IMF or was trying to undermine the Agency for Restructuring Credit Organizations, which had just announced that it would supply fresh funds for one of the four banks whose licenses were pulled (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 1999). More unnerved than the analysts were Moscow city officials, one of whom told Interfax that the withdrawal of Mosbiznesbank's license "may bring the city to the brink of a default." JAC RUSSIAN MANEUVERS RAISE EYEBROWS IN WASHINGTON. Two Russian strategic bombers flew within striking distance of the U.S. during military exercises last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 1999), the "Washington Post" and "The New York Times" reported on 1 July, citing unidentified U.S. officials. The TU-95 Bear bombers were intercepted by four U.S. F-15 fighters and a P-3 patrol plane near Iceland on 25 June and escorted around the island. Norway also sent jets to meet two TU-140 Blackjack bombers that flew down its coastline, but Russian reports say the bombers turned back before the jets reached them. A National Security Council official said U.S. officials believe the incident was linked to recent tensions over Russia's early intervention in Kosova and debates over its role in the peacekeeping force there. The "Washington Post" quoted Colonel-General Anatolii Kornukov, head of the Russian air force, as saying on 26 June the flights were planned in advance, "nothing more, nothing less." JC IVANOV ACKNOWLEDGES SERBIAN ATROCITIES IN KOSOVA... Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov published an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 June acknowledging that Serbian forces in Kosova used "unacceptable measures with the help of which Belgrade tried to solve the problem of ethnic balance in Kosova by itself." Ivanov said that this was "regrettable." He added, however, that both the NATO air campaign and the "repressive actions in the country" contributed to the "particular internal bitterness in the post-conflict period." FS ...WHILE HIS DEPUTY FEARS WEAK UN ROLE IN KOSOVA. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev told Reuters on 30 June in New York that "tendencies have appeared to...dilute the UN's role in the restructuring of [Kosova] and make...its secretary-general a mere executor of someone else's initiatives and efforts." Avdeev alluded to Western countries, especially the U.S., after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's meeting in New York on Kosova (see Part II). Avdeev stressed that "we are anxious to preserve the multi- ethnic nature of [Kosova], where every nationality is protected politically and economically on the basis of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Yugoslavia." He objected to restrictions on aid being imposed on Serbia as long as Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic remains in office, arguing that such conditions are an "interference in Yugoslavia's domestic affairs." FS NATO, RUSSIA STRUGGLE TO WORK OUT KFOR COMMAND. NATO Military Committee Chairman Admiral Guido Venturoni told ITAR-TASS on 30 June that NATO and the Russian military delegation that arrived at NATO's military command in Mons on 28 June still disagree over several details of Russia's role in KFOR (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 1999). He said the key disputes are over how to integrate Russian troops into local KFOR command structures in the respective zones and the role of the permanent Russian-NATO Council in solving questions related to the operation. Russia also demands a representation of Russian forces in the British sector. NATO currently plans to include Russian troops only in the French, German, and U.S. sectors. FS LEBED WARNS THAT KOSOVA COULD BECOME 'MINI-CHECHNYA.' Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed told Interfax in Moscow on 30 June that Kosova could turn into a "mini- Chechnya" for Russia. Lebed stressed that "Albanians regard Russian troops as a hostile force" and argued that the "disarmament of Albanian units by Russians will inevitably lead to fighting and a mini-Chechnya." Lebed also stressed that "the sending of this contingent will more than halve the number of combat-ready troops in Russia.... The situation in the Caucasus is such that these troops could be needed there very shortly." Colonel-General Georgii Shpak dismissed the warnings, saying that "the truth is that the situation around our peacekeepers is fine and calm, there are no excesses." FS PRESIDENT'S REMARKS PROVE A VACATION SPOILER. Many Duma deputies from the Communist Party (KPRF) have elected to stay in Moscow rather than risk being out of the capital following President Boris Yeltsin's instructions to the Justice Ministry to intensify its efforts to check the KPRF's observance of Russian law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 1999). Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin told ITAR- TASS on 30 June that "serious unconstitutional acts on behalf of the president and his team are under way." Russian newspapers appeared to take the threat less seriously: both "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Vremya MN" speculated the same day that the real party in danger was Minister Justice Pavel Krasheninnikov, who may soon be dismissed. "Kommersant- Daily," on the other hand, suggested the president merely wanted to "rattle the Communists' cage." It wrote: "The president's strategists claim that his poor general state is due to the fact that the opposition never allow him to relax properly on vacation. So why should Yeltsin not return the favor?" JAC PARTY REGISTRATION DEADLINE EXPIRES. The deadline for re- registering public associations, parties and organizations with the Ministry of Justice expired on 30 June. According to ITAR-TASS, only one-third of 70,000 organizations have been re-registered. Justice Minister Krasheninnikov told NTV that day that many of the remaining unregistered organizations, which are now likely to be liquidated, "exist only on paper." JAC POLITICAL, BUSINESS FIGURES BATTLING OVER LEADING NEWSPAPER... Influential business tycoon Boris Berezovskii told Interfax on 30 June that a variety of groups, including his own LogoVAZ, are negotiating to acquire shares in Kommersant Publishing, which issues "Kommersant-Daily." According to Berezovskii, the Alfa Group, Unified Energy Systems, National Reserve Bank are engaged in talks. In addition, Gazprom, the Most Group and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov have also made proposals. On 25 June, Luzhkov's deputy, Sergei Yastrzhembskii was elected chairman of TV Center, in which the Moscow government owns a 90 percent stake, according Interfax. JAC ...AS CONTROVERSIAL FIGURE FROM LAST ELECTION RESURFACES. Also elected to the board of directors was Sergei Lisovskii, head of SV Holding and former presidential campaign aide to Yeltsin. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 26 June, Lisovskii is rumored to be a financial backer for Luzhkov's presidential campaign. In an interview with "Argumenty i Fakty" on 30 June, Lisovskii predicted that the upcoming election will witness more voter fraud than the 1996 ballot. He also said he believes that Yeltsin has not decided to cancel the presidential elections. JAC POLITICAL PRESSURE ON SUPREME COURT ALLEGED. The 10-year term of Russian Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev is expiring and the court will take up the issue of its leadership on 2 July, "Moskovskii Komsomolets" reported on 1 July. According to the newspaper, sources in the presidential administration claim that it is holding off on renominating Lebedev in order to obtain a favorable decision regarding Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov. The Federation Council earlier asked the court to decide whether President Yeltsin had the right to suspend Skuratov pending the outcome of a criminal investigation without the upper chamber's approval (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 1999). "Izvestiya" reported on 26 June that the decree renominating Lebedev has already been signed and that the chairman wants to be named a lifetime member of the court. "Moskovskii Komsomolets" is considered close to Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, who has accused the Kremlin of conspiring against him. JAC CHECHNYA SAYS 11 EXECUTED FOR DRUG DEALING. The Chechen presidential press service issued a statement on 30 June saying that 11 people have been executed so far this year in Chechnya for drug trafficking, Interfax reported. Seven of them were identified as citizens of the Russian Federation, although their nationality was not specified. The statement said that claims by senior Russian officials that there are drug laboratories in Chechnya are untrue and "an exceptionally unfriendly step toward the Chechen people." It also affirms readiness to cooperate with any international organization in the fight against illegal drug trafficking. But Georgian parliamentary deputy Mamuka Areshidze told Caucasus Press that low-grade heroin produced in Chechnya is regularly smuggled across the frontier into Georgia and offered for sale outside schools. Areshidze said that some Georgian police are involved in drug-trafficking with the backing of senior officials, whom he declined to name. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA NEW NAGORNO-KARABAKH PREMIER NAMED. Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has named a Ukrainian citizen of Armenian origin to head the enclave's next government, RF/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported on 30 June. Anushavan Danielian, who is 43, was born in Stepanakert but worked for many years in Crimea, where he held the posts of chairman of the parliamentary committee for state and legal affairs and then deputy speaker of the parliament, according to Noyan Tapan. He was named director of a state-run factory in Yerevan earlier this year. Ghukasian noted Danielian's role in coordinating humanitarian relief to Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s. LF KURDS IN ARMENIA, KAZAKHSTAN REACT TO OCALAN VERDICT. Several hundred Kurds congregated in the center of Yerevan on 1 July to protest the death sentence handed down to Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan and to demand his release, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The previous day, representatives of Kazakhstan's estimated 50,000-strong Kurdish minority met in Almaty but decided to refrain from any demonstrations to protest the Ocalan verdict, according to RFE/RL correspondents in the former capital. Kurds in Shymkent and Zhambyl Oblasts were forbidden to travel to Almaty to attend that meeting. In Azerbaijan, State Foreign Policy Adviser Vafa Guluzade described Ocalan as "a primitive terrorist," adding that the death sentence was "absolutely correct," Turan reported. LF MORE REPRISALS AGAINST PRESS IN AZERBAIJAN. Ten men forced their way into the editorial offices of the newspaper "Hurriyet" on the evening of 29 June and beat up four of its employees, Turan reported. The assailants said the attack was in response to an article published in "Hurriyet" about the oil mafia in Gyanja. "Hurriyet" supports the Democratic Party, whose co-chairman is former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev. On 30 June, three people claiming to be employees of the National Security Ministry intercepted a car in which two journalists from the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" were travelling and abducted the newspaper's deputy editor, Shirzad Mamedli. Mamedli was released one hour later after having been severely beaten. LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT INSPECTS SPECIAL SECURITY DETACHMENTS. Eduard Shevardnadze attended a training exercise in Tbilisi on 30 June in which members of his bodyguard simulated deflecting an attack on a presidential motorcade, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Two of Shevardnadze's bodyguards were killed in such an attack in February 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 1998). The various branches of the Georgian Security Service are responsible for the safety of the president, foreign diplomats stationed in Georgia, and the Baku-Supsa oil export pipeline. LF GEORGIAN INTELLIGENTSIA WANTS CLEMENCY FOR JAILED WARLORD. A group of prominent-Soviet-era Georgian writers has appealed to President Shevardnadze to release Djaba Ioseliani, leader of the Mkhedrioni paramilitary formation, who was jailed for 11 years in November 1998 on charges of terrorism and attempting to assassinate Shevardnadze, Caucasus Press reported. Ioseliani, who denies those charges, recently underwent emergency surgery (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 1999). LF GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY EMPLOYEES FORM TRADE UNION. Some 102 delegates from 51 organizations subordinated to the Georgian Defense Ministry attended the founding congress in Tbilisi on 30 June of a trade union intended to protect their interests, Caucasus Press reported. The ministry is facing a serious funding shortage and intends to fire several thousand military and civilian personnel. LF KAZAKHSTAN TO CREATE POST OF HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER. Bolat Baikadamov told Interfax on 30 June that the presidential commission on human rights, of which he is secretary, has drafted a bill on creating the office of ombudsman. That draft will be discussed at an OSCE-initiated forum in August. The commission has also drafted a report on the human rights situation in Kazakhstan for submission to President Nursultan Nazarbaev. LF PENSIONERS STAGE PROTEST IN KAZAKHSTAN'S FORMER CAPITAL. Some 200 pensioners blocked two main avenues in Almaty on 30 June to demand the restoration of their right to free travel on the city's public transportation system, Reuters and RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. That right had been abolished on 1 June. The pensioners had earlier picketed the city mayor's office to demand that pensions be raised. Deputy Mayor Adil Ibraev told Reuters that the mayor is ready to meet pensioners to discuss their demands, but he said it is highly unlikely that the city can afford at present to fulfill them. Pensioners in the town of Semey (East Kazakhstan Oblast) staged a similar protest on 30 June, RFE/RL correspondents reported. LF TAJIKISTAN'S PARLIAMENT SCHEDULES REFERENDUM. Tajikistan's parliament voted on 30 June to submit to a nationwide referendum a package of constitutional amendments, including some demanded by the United Tajik Opposition, Reuters and AP reported. The referendum is set for 26 September. The amendments extend the presidential term of office from five to seven years but restrict the incumbent to one term. They also provide for the creation of a bicameral parliament and abolish the current ban on political parties with a religious orientation. Addressing the session, President Imomali Rakhmonov sought to allay some deputies' fears that the latter provision could lead to the establishment of an Islamic state in Tajikistan. He assured them that other articles of the constitution ensure that the country will remain a secular state, according to AP. LF 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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