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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 129, Part I, 2 July 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 129, Part I, 2 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 ***** Note to Readers: "RFE/RL Newsline" will not appear on 5 and 6 July, which are public holidays in the Czech Republic. ***** xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN PLAYS DOWN WESTERN THREAT, WARNS OF REGIONAL CONFLICTS * CHUBAIS ANNOUNCES FORMATION OF BLOC FOR DUMA ELECTIONS * SOUTH CAUCASUS PRESIDENTS AGREE TO NEW SUMMIT End Note: RUSSIAN DUMA ELECTIONS: THE POLITICS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN PLAYS DOWN WESTERN THREAT, WARNS OF REGIONAL CONFLICTS... President Boris Yeltsin, speaking at a Defense Ministry meeting to review the recently completed "West 99" military exercises, said the prospect of a military campaign by the West against Russia was "from the realm of theory," AP reported on 2 July. Yeltsin said, however, that "the danger of regional conflicts exists." He added that the Kosova crisis showed how difficult international relations could be despite the end of the Cold War. Premier Sergei Stepashin, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, and the head of the armed forces' General Staff, Anatolii Kvashnin, were among those attending the meeting. PB ...WHILE WASHINGTON MINIMIZES RUSSIAN MANEUVERS INCIDENT. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen has downplayed the significance of the recent incident during the "West 99' maneuvers, in which four U.S. fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers off the coast of Iceland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 1999). Cohen said he thinks Moscow probably wanted to learn how quickly the U.S. could respond to such an occurrence as well as prove that Russia is still a force to be dealt with. He added that the incident should not be seen as setting a dangerous trend. Cohen also announced that he will travel to Moscow later this month, noting that "it's all part of maintaining good stable relations with them," AP reported on 2 July. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Russian air force stressed its aircraft did not violate Iceland's air space during the training flights. He added that media reports asserting that the Russian bombers came "within striking distance" of the U.S. were "untruthful," according to ITAR-TASS. JC CHUBAIS ANNOUNCES FORMATION OF BLOC FOR DUMA ELECTIONS. Anatolii Chubais, a leader of the Pravoe Delo (Right Cause) movement, said on 2 July in Salzburg, Austria, while attending the Central and East European Economic Forum that four right-of-center parties have agreed in principle to form one bloc to participate in parliamentary elections scheduled for December, ITAR-TASS reported. Chubais, also the head of Russia's Unified Energy Systems, made the announcement along with ex-Premier Sergei Kirienko, leader of the Novaya Sila (New Force) movement, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, who heads the Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia) electoral bloc; and Vladimir Ryzhkov, leader of the Duma faction of the Our Home Is Russia movement. Chubais said he will act as head of the coalition's electoral headquarters. Grigorii Yavlinskii, head of Yabloko, reportedly turned down an invitation to join the group. PB CHERNOMYRDIN URGES GOVERNMENT NOT TO INTERFERE IN GAZPROM. Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin called on the government not to become involved in the running of the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Chernomyrdin, who was elected chairman of the board of Gazprom earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1999), made his comments on 2 July in Salzburg, where he is attending the international economic forum. The Russian government holds a minority stake of some 38 percent in the concern. Chernomyrdin said he expects the government to sell part of its holdings eventually. Refusing to comment on the Russian presidential race in 2000, he added that the pre- election campaign under way in the State Duma is interesting and could shed some light on the short-term future of the country. PB U.S. INVESTMENT BANK UPBEAT ON RUSSIAN GROWTH. Goldman, Sachs and Co. announced a forecasted growth rate of 7.8 percent in Russia this year, Reuters reported. That estimate is considerably higher than official Moscow's predictions on growth. According to figures released in May, industrial output went up by 6.1 percent, which was the best result since September 1995, the investment bank reported. The bank said the development of industrial enterprises and companies that are benefiting from the advantageous conditions following the ruble crash in August is a major reason for the optimistic forecast. PB YELTSIN MEETS WITH FRENCH PREMIER. President Yeltsin held talks with Lionel Jospin in Moscow on 2 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin said Russia enjoys "privileged relations" with France. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Trade Minister Mikhail Fradkov also joined in the talks, which reportedly focused on the situation in Kosova. Jospin also met with his Russian counterpart, Stepashin (see below), Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov during the remainder of his two-day visit. PB STEPASHIN STRESSES MOSCOW WILL HONOR ALL DEBT OBLIGATIONS... Addressing the annual Central and East European Economic Forum in Salzburg on 1 July, Prime Minister Stepashin stressed that Russia will honor all of its obligations regarding economic restructuring and debt repayment, as demanded by the IMF. He added that in this way, Moscow hopes to regain investor confidence in the country's capital markets. "Russia should not become bankrupt or a pariah at the beginning of the next millennium," he said. During his two-day visit to Austria, Stepashin met with top Austrian officials as well heads of state of several East European countries (see below and Part II). JC ...BLAMES MILOSEVIC FOR KOSOVA EVENTS. Also on I July in Salzburg, Stepashin said that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic "in many respects is guilty for what happened" in Kosova. However, he called on the international community to help people in both Kosova and Serbia proper. He said that "the war has caused a humanitarian catastrophe, and aid to rebuild Yugoslavia...should be unconditional." U.S. and U.K. officials have repeatedly stressed that Serbia must not receive international aid unless it hands over indicted war criminals, including Milosevic, to the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. In Moscow later on 1 July, visiting French Prime Minister Jospin told Stepashin that the Russian and NATO Kosova peacekeeping contingents should "share the same philosophy" yet take into account their own specific "sensitivities" and the reactions of local people to their presence, AFP reported. FS DID RUSSIA'S PARATROOPERS WANT TO PARTITION KOSOVA? "Moskovskii Komsomolets" of 2 July quotes unnamed sources in the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that the arrival of 200 Russian paratroopers in Prishtina on 11 June was part of a plan by the Russian General Staff to partition Kosova. The officials told the daily that the General Staff planned the operation in cooperation with the Serbian government. The paratroopers reportedly intended to establish a bridgehead at the airport and then move an additional 3,000 to 4,000 paratroopers in by plane. These forces would then have occupied the northern area of Kosova bordering Serbia proper and declared it a Russian sector. The alleged plan failed when Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria refused to grant Russian military planes an air-corridor. FS WHY DID NATO NOT MOVE IN? NATO Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark told the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington on 1 July that NATO had enough advance warning to "intercept" the 200 Russian paratroopers but that unspecified political leaders "at levels above mine" decided against blocking the Russians, "The Boston Globe" reported. The daily adds that after the meeting Clark took two Senators aside and expressed his displeasure about the decision. "Moskovskii Komsomolets" of 2 July says that Russian generals have not yet given up the plan to set up a Russian sector in Kosova and are trying to delay the departure of Russian troops from Prishtina to the German, French, and U.S. sectors in the hope of gathering forces at the airfield and eventually moving north. The daily quotes Colonel-General Viktor Zavarzin, commander of the Russian peacekeepers, as arguing that the housing conditions in the respective sectors "do not suit" the Russian paratroopers. FS RUSSIA-NATO NEGOTIATIONS 'BUSINESSLIKE.' Senior Russian Defense Ministry official Valentin Kuznetsov told ITAR-TASS in Brussels on 1 July that the atmosphere at talks between his delegation and officials at the NATO military headquarters in Mons was "favorable and businesslike," (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 1999). Kuznetsov said that both sides agreed to strictly implement the Russian-NATO agreement on the KFOR command structure. He stressed that all KFOR troops will try to "achieve common goals...in compliance with the [18 June] Helsinki agreements and the UN Security Council resolution" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 1999). In other news, Russia's Ambassador to Yugoslavia Yurii Kotov told "Kommersant-Daily" of 1 July that "the UN [arms embargo against Yugoslavia] is still in effect, but I think a legal framework for supplying weapons will be created soon." Kotov added that Yugoslavia turned down a Russian offer to upgrade its air defense before NATO's air campaign. FS GENERALS, ADMIRALS CONVICTED OF CORRUPTION. Russian military prosecutors said on 1 July that 17 army generals and navy admirals were found guilty of corruption in 1998, adding that the incidence of such crimes is rising, Interfax reported. The numbers were released at a conference at the Main Military Prosecutor's Office. No further details of the crimes or the officers were given. PB LEBEDEV APPROVED AS SUPREME COURT HEAD. In a secret vote of 132 to eight with three abstentions, the upper house of the parliament approved reappointing Vyacheslav Lebedev as chairman of the Supreme Court, Interfax reported on 2 July. Lebedev was named by President Yeltsin to continue in that post after his 10-year term expires this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May and 1 July 1999). Speaking to journalists after the vote, Lebedev rejected the suggestion that his appointment by the Federation Council is related to the case of Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov. The Council earlier asked the court to decide whether President Yeltsin had the right to suspend Skuratov from office, pending the outcome of a criminal investigation, without the Council's approval. JC TRIAL OF SLAIN JOURNALIST ADJOURNED. The trial of three suspects in the murder of journalist Larisa Yudina in the southern Republic of Kalmykia opened on 1 July and shortly thereafter adjourned when the defense accused the prosecution of "legal impropriety," AP reported, citing Russian television. The defense argued that the prosecutor must be replaced because he took part in the murder investigation, including interrogations. The court responded by ordering a week-long recess. An outspoken critic of Kalmykian President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and a member of Yabloko, Yudina was found murdered in the regional capital, Elista, one year ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1998). JC HEALTH OFFICIAL SAYS AIDS CASES EXPLODING. Vadim Pokrovskii, head of the Russian Research Center for the Prevention of AIDS, said on 1 July that a lack of prevention and public education in Russia has led to a surge in the number of people infected with the HIV virus, Reuters reported. Pokrovskii said there has been a 12-fold increase in the number of HIV-infected people in the Moscow area during the first six months of this year, compared with the same period in 1998. He said Russia lacks money to keep the disease from spreading, which he said most commonly passes into the heterosexual population via drug-using prostitutes. The Health Ministry said a total of almost 16,000 HIV-positive cases were registered in the country as of last month. PB NATIONALITIES MINISTER SPEAKS OUT AGAINST CAUCASUS POLICY. Nationalities and Federal Policy Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov said on 2 July in Moscow that Russia's policy of having a large military presence in the North Caucasus should be changed because most of the region does not want independence, AP reported. Mikhailov said "this strategically flawed policy should be discontinued." He made his comments at a cabinet meeting. Mikhailov continued: "The North Caucasus is not willing to [secede] and will not do so." Mikhailov said the government should better incorporate the region into federal programs. At the same meeting, Prime Minister Stepashin warned that despite a possible policy change, Moscow would maintain its tough stance in the North Caucasus. "Russia has the ability to instill order," he said. "We have a constitution and anyone who breaches it will be prosecuted." PB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER. Robert Kocharian met with National Democratic Union chairman Vazgen Manukian on 29 June, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 1 July, citing the presidential press office. The subject of their talks is not known. Manukian, who served as prime minister in Armenia's first postcommunist government in 1990- 1991, had queried the legitimacy of last year's presidential poll, in which he received only 12 percent of the vote in the first round. On 30 June, "Aravot" quoted Manukian as denying that he has been offered or would be prepared to accept the post of mayor of Yerevan. LF AZERBAIJAN, UKRAINE SIGN AGREEMENTS. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk held talks in Baku on 30 June with his Azerbaijani counterpart Tofik Zulfugarov, focusing on more intensive cooperation between NATO and the GUUAM member states (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova), Ukrainian arms sales to Azerbaijan, and the possible export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Ukraine, Turan and Interfax reported. The following day, the two ministers signed cooperation agreements on motor transportation, sea trade, and tourism. On 1 July, Tarasyuk met with parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov and with President Heidar Aliev. Describing Ukraine as one of Azerbaijan's most important partners, Aliev expressed support for Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's bid for re-election this fall. Aliev also acknowledged, but declined to divulge the content of, a new Ukrainian proposal for resolving the deadlocked Karabakh conflict, according to Interfax. LF AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS PROTEST BEATING OF COLLEAGUE. Meeting in Baku on 1 July, newspaper editors and news agency heads unanimously condemned the incident on 30 June in which "Hurriyet" journalist Kamil Tagisoy (not the newspaper's deputy editor, as incorrectly reported by "RFE/RL Newsline" on 1 July) was forcibly taken from his car and beaten, Turan reported. Several political parties similarly condemned the incident, as did the head of the public-political department within the presidential administration, Ali Hasanov. A Baku district court has opened a criminal case in connection with the assault on Tagisoy. LF SOUTH CAUCASUS PRESIDENTS AGREE TO NEW SUMMIT. Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 1 July, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili said that Presidents Kocharian and Aliev have expressed support for the proposal by their Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, to hold a summit before the end of this year, ITAR-TASS reported. The date for that meeting has not yet been fixed, but Menagharishvili said it will "probably" be held in Tbilisi. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has written to both Kocharian and Aliev to reaffirm the need for further progress toward implementing the agreement reached by the three Transcaucasus presidents during a meeting in Washington in April on strengthening peace and economic cooperation in the South Caucasus, Noyan Tapan and Turan reported. Albright also stressed the need to resolve the Karabakh conflict on the basis of proposals by the OSCE Minsk Group, according to Noyan Tapan. LF GEORGIA AFFIRMS DESIRE FOR EU, NATO MEMBERSHIP. At the 1 July press conference in Tbilisi, Menagharishvili told journalists that "Georgia's goal is to completely integrate into European economic, political, and defense structures," ITAR-TASS reported. He explained that this aspiration encompasses future membership of the EU and that Georgia considers that European security structures provide a greater guarantee for the country's security than does the CIS Collective Security Treaty, in which Georgia will not renew its participation. Also on 1 July, ITAR-TASS quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Burduli as having told "Svobodnaya Gruziya" that Georgia has requested membership in NATO. But Georgia's eligibility for inclusion in the "second wave" of NATO expansion seems dubious in the light of recent comments by a retired German general and adviser to the Georgian government that both the materiel base and the psychological atmosphere within the Georgian army has deteriorated since 1998. LF GEORGIA, RUSSIA DISAGREE OVER MILITARY COOPERATION. Also on I July, Menagharishvili admitted that there were "differences of opinion" at the Russian-Georgian talks on military cooperation that took place in Moscow on 29-30 June, according to ITAR-TASS. He explained that Russia wanted those talks to focus on the quotas allocated to the two countries under the amended CFE treaty, whereas Georgia considers any discussion of specific figures and quotas "impossible" at the present time and advocates drafting completely new framework for bilateral cooperation. It is unclear whether the issue of closing two or more of the Russian military bases in Georgia was discussed, as originally intended. LF GEORGIAN OPPOSITION HUNGER-STRIKE GATHERS MOMENTUM. Inmates of three Georgian prisons have joined the hunger-strike declared last month by supporters of deceased former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Caucasus Press reported on 1 July. Some 180 people have gathered in Gamsakhurdia's family home in Tbilisi and are fasting to demand President Shevardnadze's resignation and the reinstallment of Gamsakhurdia's government. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT ASSESSES ECONOMIC PROBLEMS. Responding to questions from a RFE/RL correspondent, on 1 July President Nursultan Nazarbaev told journalists in Salzburg, where he is attending the annual Central and East European Economic Forum, that reduced spending on social issues in the 1999 budget does not affect pensioners or state-sector employees. He also said that the campaign launched last month in Almaty Oblast to collect gold jewelry to boost the country's dwindling hard-currency reserves was not organized by the Kazakh government. Nazarbaev said he believes the worst of Kazakhstan's economic crisis is over and that the economic situation will begin to improve before the end of 1999. Nazarbaev also met in Salzburg with Russian Prime Minister Stepashin to discuss economic and trade issues, ITAR-TASS reported. LF KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER FEARS COMMUNIST BACKLASH. Bakyt Beshimov, chairman of the People's Party of Kyrgyzstan, whose membership he estimates at 45,000, told Interfax on 1 July that the rapidly deteriorating social and economic situation could facilitate the return to power of the Communist Party in the parliamentary elections due early next year. He said his party intends to form a "strong opposition" to the present authorities, uniting all those forces that support social democracy, democratic institutions, and a market economy, in order to prevent the return to power of the Communists, who, he said, "could lead the country into even greater deadlock." LF END NOTE RUSSIAN DUMA ELECTIONS: THE POLITICS By Floriana Fossato Until recently, most top Russian politicians have focused their attention on the June 2000 presidential elections. But with the current lack of a presidential candidate who enjoys President Boris Yeltsin's support, the Russian political situation remains unpredictable. As a result, politicians and their advisers now say that the parliamentary elections due in five months have acquired new importance. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin told a meeting of Federal Security Service (FSB) officials that the composition of the next parliament will greatly affect the outcome of next year's presidential elections. Stepashin said that "a great deal in the future...will depend on whom we elect to the parliament." The establishment of new political movements that will participate in the parliamentary elections is now almost complete. Most of the political groups have held founding congresses in the past few months. Many moderate Russian politicians repeatedly use phrases like "consolidation of forces" and "creation of a constructive opposition" in the new parliament when referring to the creation of these new movements. The moderates are seeking a more centrist-based State Duma to replace the present lower house, dominated by communist and nationalist groups. Leonid Raketskii is the governor of the oil-rich Tyumen region and one of the most influential representatives of the centrist movement Voice of Russia, which is led by Samara Governor Konstantin Titov. In a recent interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service, Raketskii commented that several movements look "very similar, like sister organizations: [Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's] Fatherland, Our Home Is Russia, Voice of Russia, and All Russia. I think all the leaders of these organizations should overcome their own ambitions, stop promoting themselves, and understand clearly that we should create a 'golden' centrist group attractive to the electorate. [We should] not choose political leaders, but candidates for the Duma.... Only after that should leaders be chosen, to compete among themselves before next year's presidential vote." One of the leaders of the Our Home is Russia group, Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, foresees the possibility of coalition of centrist and center-right movements. Ayatskov recently told the Interfax news agency that in his opinion. only three or four political blocs are likely to garner the 5 percent of the vote necessary for parliamentary representation. Luzhkov's Fatherland group is not among the movements with which his party is consulting on the formation of a united centrist bloc. He said that consultations with several groups are under way but added that "it is too early to talk about the results." One of the leaders of the center- right Right Cause bloc, economist Yegor Gaidar, made a similar statement last week. In recent days, some Russian media have been speculating that the Kremlin is trying to create its own coalition. They say it would be a kind of new "party of power" that would be called Rossiya and might be led by Stepashin. According to media reports, most moderate blocs would be invited to take part in the new party, with the exception of Luzhkov's Fatherland movement, which the Kremlin is said to actively oppose. Last week, Yeltsin told Stepashin to "consider the place and the role of the government in the next parliamentary election." Stepashin answered that the government "cannot be cut off" from preparations for the parliamentary election campaign. On 29 June, he told FSB officials that Russia's security forces must not allow the Duma elections to be dominated by criminals seeking to influence Russian politics. The daily "Vremya MN" wrote recently that "the recipe for success [in creating a new party] is well-known: [the backing of regional] governors, industrial captains and military men, some small parties and a few intellectuals, plus a lot of money and a huge amount of [television] broadcasting time." But, the newspaper added, Russian politicians have a poor record of agreeing on anything. Also, it said, Russia's bankrupt central government has little to offer to regional bosses. More important, "Vremya MN" noted, in order to create a real "party of power," something else is necessary: "an idea that could unite all [moderate forces]." The newspaper noted that three years ago, the unifying idea was the perceived danger of a communist come-back. But now, it concludes, "this will not work, and for the moment there are no other ideas" that could unite all the possible members of a moderate alliance. Some politicians say that the fragmentation of Russia's centrist and center-right political spectrum could benefit the Communists and their allies in the current Duma. But others doubt that will be the case. According to Ayatskov of Our Home is Russia, substantial differences of opinion are already noticeable among leaders of pro-communist groups. Together with other politicians, Ayatskov believes that the Communist Party "is rapidly losing its political weight, especially after the failed impeachment attempt against Yeltsin." The author is an RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow. This is the first article in a two-part series. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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