|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 131, Part I, 8 July 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 131, Part I, 8 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 * RUSSIAN, NATO LEGISLATORS PLEDGE TO RESUME RELATIONS * ECONOMIC POLICY STATEMENT 'READY FOR SIGNING' * KAZAKH PRESIDENT SETS PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION DATES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIAN, NATO LEGISLATORS PLEDGE TO RESUME RELATIONS. State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev and NATO Parliamentary Assembly chairman Javier Ruperez told ITAR-TASS in St. Petersburg on 7 July that their respective legislatures will resume relations, which the Duma suspended after NATO launched its air campaign against Yugoslavia. They made the announcement after the eighth annual session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Seleznyov noted that "we have not burnt the bridges because I am sure that the deputies, unlike the heads of executive power bodies, have to communicate with each other, even at the most dramatic and critical moments." Ruperez confirmed that normal relations between the two organizations will be restored "within months." He said his discussion with Seleznev was "very friendly, warm, sincere, and positive". FS RUSSIA TO SEND 210 POLICEMEN TO KOSOVA. Aleksandr Malinovskii, who is the deputy chief of the Interior Ministry's foreign relations department, told ITAR-TASS on 7 July that Russia will send 210 policemen to the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). They will include 110 specially trained officers from OMON and other elite police forces. Meanwhile, Russian President Boris Yeltsin told Russian high-ranking military and Interior Ministry officials in Moscow on 8 July that "we will not clash with NATO, but neither will we flirt with it. We shall closely follow NATO's activities and develop our tactics jointly," Interfax reported. Yeltsin also admonished the officials to "follow one line in life--the line of the president." FS YELTSIN PUTS PRISHTINA GENERAL IN FOR A MEDAL. President Yeltsin instructed Defense Minister Igor Sergeev on 8 July in Moscow to propose Colonel-General Viktor Zavarzin for a medal, ITAR-TASS reported. Zavarzin led 200 Russian paratroopers into Kosova on 11 June, one day before the arrival of NATO troops. On 12 June, Yeltsin promoted Zavarzin to Colonel-General from Lieutenant-General (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 1999). Until March 1999 Zavarzin represented Russia at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Meanwhile in Bucharest on 8 July, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said: "Let me say clearly that I am very, very pleased with Russian participation in KFOR.... The negotiations in Helsinki and Moscow allow for positive, contractual cooperation between the different countries participating," according to Reuters. FS ECONOMIC POLICY STATEMENT 'READY FOR SIGNING.' Mikhail Zadornov, presidential special envoy for relations with international financial organizations, told journalists on 8 July that the statement on economic policy in 1999 is "ready for signing" by the government and the Central Bank, Interfax reported. Zadornov was speaking after meeting with Premier Sergei Stepashin and Central Bank chairman Viktor Gerashchenko. He refused to say when the statement would will be signed, noting that "small details of a stylistic nature" remain to be sorted out. JC DEPUTY SAYS IMF KNEW ABOUT FIMACO 'YEARS AGO.' Independent State Duma deputy Nikolai Gonchar told journalists in Moscow on 6 July that the IMF was informed several years ago that the Central Bank had used the off-shore company FIMACO to manage some of its hard-currency reserves, "The Moscow Times" reported the next day. Gonchar pointed to documents in which the Central Bank's auditors in 1993-1994, Coopers and Lybrand, criticize its use of FIMACO. Those documents, which were obtained from "well-informed sources" in Washington, were handed over to the IMF in 1995 at the latest, Gonchar said. The IMF has consistently denied any knowledge of bank's use of FIMACO since the scandal broke in February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 11 February 1999). On 5 July, Central Bank chairman Gerashchenko announced that the final version of the audit requested by the IMF found no evidence of "significant illegal activity." JC MUSLIMS FOUND BLOC AHEAD OF DUMA ELECTIONS. Four groups representing Muslims in Russia have founded the bloc Mejlis, which will take part in the State Duma elections later this year, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported on 7 July. The bloc consists of the Nur (Light) movement, the All-Russian Islamic Congress, Muslims of Russia, and Refakh (Prosperity). Leonard Rafikov, who leads the bloc, said the new grouping intends to take a centrist line with "healthy conservative traditions," according to AFP. Estimating the number of Muslims in Russia at 20 million, its founders said they hope the bloc will win up to 8 percent of the vote. JC WAGES, PENSIONS BEING PAID ON TIME. Addressing a conference in Moscow on reforming the social sector, Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that delays in paying wages and pensions currently do not exceed "a few days," AP reported on 7 June. Prime Minister Stepashin told the same meeting that pension arrears still owed amount to 12 billion rubles ($490.6 million), which he called "an impermissibly large sum," according to ITAR-TASS. Stepashin pledged that the state's pension debt will be paid by September. JC SPOKESMAN CLARIFIES STEPASHIN'S COMMENTS ON LAND LAW. Speaking to Interfax on 7 July, government spokesman Aleksandr Mikhailov denied media reports that Prime Minister Stepashin "favors a law that would ban the sale of land to foreigners" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1999). Mikhailov said that at a meeting devoted to the problems of Russia's border territories, the premier asked governors to sum up their proposals for a new land law so that the government could discuss them and submit a bill to the parliament in September. Several regional leaders, including Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev and Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov, had spoken against land sales to foreigners. JC INFLATION DOWN IN JUNE. Consumer prices rose by 1.9 percent last month, down from 2.2 percent in May, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 July, citing data released by the State Statistics Committee. Inflation for the first six months of 1999 totaled 24.5 percent, according to the Goskomstat report. "Segodnya" reported on 7 July that during the same period, food prices increased by 26 percent, non-food prices by 23.7 percent, and tariffs for services by 19.3 percent. JC CENSUS POSTPONED. The national census has been postponed from the fall of 2001 to September 2002, Russian media reported on 3 July. Goskomstat officials said the reason for the postponement is that the government does not have the 3 billion rubles ($123 million) required to conduct the census. Interfax on 6 July quoted Goskomstat acting head Vladimir Sokolin as stressing that the decision is not politically motivated. He was responding to media reports that the aim of the postponement was to overstate the number of voters by including so-called "dead souls" in voter lists for the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. Earlier this year, Goskomstat officials had asked for more time to prepare for the census, saying they had been unable to finalize their cost estimates for conducting it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 1999). JC IL-96T WIDE-BODIED AIRCRAFT CERTIFICATED. At a ceremony in Moscow celebrating the certification of the IL-96T wide- bodied aircraft, which was attended by Premier Stepashin, Russian and U.S. officials hailed cooperation on the construction of the plane. Under an agreement partly worked out by former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and U.S. Vice President Al Gore within the framework of the U.S.- Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation, the U.S. pledged to lend $1 billion to Aeroflot to start building a fleet of the wide-bodied jetliners. Those funds covered the sale of jet engines and electronic components that officials from the Ilyushin design and production organization said will help produce three IL-96Ts and 17 IL-96Ms for Aeroflot. U.S. Ambassador James Collins said the project was a test for both countries and the way is now open to cooperation in other fields of high technology, Reuters reported on 7 July. JC U.S.-RUSSIAN COMMISSION TO RECONVENE AT END OF MONTH. Premier Stepashin is to meet with U.S. Vice President Gore in Washington at the end of this month. The 27 July meeting will mark the first gathering in a year of the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation. According to AP, 10 committees will meet on business development, energy, health, environment, science and technology, and other subjects. Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov had been on his way to Washington in March to attend a meeting of the commission when he ordered his plane to be turned around to protest the imminent announcement of NATO air strikes against Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1999). JC NEW HEALTH MINISTER APPOINTED. President Yeltsin on 5 July appointed heart surgeon Yurii Shevchenko as health minister. Until now, the 52-year-old Shevchenko was head of the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy. ITAR-TASS quoted Premier Stepashin as saying that Shevchenko is considered "one of Russia's best surgeons." The appointment filled the last vacancy in Stepashin's government. JC SHAIMIEV URGES TWO 'GOVERNORS GROUPS' TO JOIN FORCES. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, speaking to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 6 July, stressed the "necessity" of forming a union between Vsya Rossiya (All Russia), of which he is the informal leader, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Otechestvo (Fatherland) party before the upcoming State Duma elections. Shaimiev remarked that while Otechestvo is ready to join forces with Vsya Rossiya, some questions remain open about forming such a union. Last week, four right-of-center groups--Pravoe Delo (Right Cause), Novaya Sila (New Force), Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia), and Our Home Is Russia-- agreed to form an election bloc (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 1999). The leaders of those groups are to meet on 12 July to discuss their joint ticket for the elections, Interfax quoted Kirienko as saying on 7 July. JC TULEEV REFUSES YELTSIN AWARD. Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev has turned down the Order of Honor, which President Yeltsin had awarded him in a 6 July decree, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 July. Tuleev explained his decision by pointing out that for many years he has opposed the reform course pursued by the Yeltsin administration: "I cannot accept the award when many people do not receive wages, when more people die than are born in the country, and when...education and healthcare [are] paralyzed." Last year, Nobel Prize-winning writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn turned down the Order of St. Andrew, saying he was unable to receive an award from the authority that had "brought Russia to its present state of ruin" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December 1998).JC INTERIOR MINISTER MEETS CHECHEN SECURITY OFFICIALS. Colonel- General Vladimir Rushailo held talks in Moscow on 7 July with a delegation from the Chechen Interior and Shariah Security Ministries, Russian agencies reported. The two sides discussed joint efforts to reinforce security along the border between Chechen and Dagestan, where Chechen militants again attacked a Russian border post during the night of 6-7 July, wounding several Russian servicemen, one of them fatally. Rushailo told Interfax after the talks that Russia is "not at war" with Chechnya, and that his ministry and its Chechen counterpart agree on the need to eliminate "criminal gangs" that target Russian police posts on the Chechen- Dagestan border and elsewhere in the North Caucasus. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SIGNALS SUPPORT FOR NKR LEADERSHIP. Presidential press secretary Vahe Gabrielian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 7 July that "Armenia will not act as an indifferent observer with regard to Nagorno-Karabakh if any illegal attempts are made against its legitimate authorities." Tensions between Arkadii Ghukasian, the president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and Defense Minister Samvel Babayan rose after Ghukasian sacked the premier and cabinet on 24 June following the discovery of an electronic surveillance device in his office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 29 June 1999). Police in Stepanakert were placed on full alert for several hours on 5 July. But the same day, the enclave's new prime minister, Anushavan Danielian, met with Babayan and asked him to join the new cabinet. Ghukasian reportedly met with senior army officers on 6 July for what one of them subsequently told RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent was a "useful dialogue." LF IMF DELAYS LOAN TRANCHE FOR ARMENIA. Armenian Finance Minister Levon Barkhudarian said on 7 July that the IMF has delayed the release of the final $32 million tranche of a three-year $154 ESAF loan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He listed as the most important reasons for the delay over- optimistic projections by the previous government of anticipated growth rates and budget revenues for 1999, which have not been met. The lasting impact on Armenia of the Russian economic crisis was also underestimated. An IMF mission met in Yerevan on 7 July with Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian to discuss the economic situation, and a decision on the final tranche is to be made by 19 July, according to Interfax. The World Bank has also delayed a $15 million payment from a $65 million loan package it approved in December 1998 and which is intended to cover Armenia's anticipated 1999 budget deficit. LF GEORGIAN-SOUTH OSSETIAN TALKS POSTPONED. Talks between representatives of the central Georgian government and the leadership of the self-proclaimed Republic of South Ossetia that were to have been held in Djava on 7-8 July have been postponed at the request of the South Ossetian side, Caucasus Press reported on 8 July citing "Dilis gazeti." South Ossetian President Lyudvig Chibirov told the newspaper that because of the May parliamentary elections the South Ossetian leadership had no time to create a working group to prepare for those talks, which were to discuss an interim agreement on temporary status for South Ossetia within Georgia, according to "Svobodnaya Gruziya" of 2 July. LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT RULES OUT CLEMENCY FOR JAILED WARLORD. Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 5 July that the preterm release from prison of Mkhedrioni leader Djaba Ioseliani "is not on the agenda," Caucasus Press reported. Members of the Georgian intelligentsia are collecting signatures to lobby for the ailing Ioseliani's release from jail. He was sentenced to 11 years' imprisonment in November 1998 on charges of terrorism, murder and a failed attempt to assassinate Shevardnadze, but denies all those charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 1999). LF GEORGIA TO REPAIR TURKMEN JET FIGHTERS. The governments of Georgia and Turkmenistan have concluded a contract whereby the Tbilisi Aviation Plant will repair 45 Turkmen SU-45 fighter aircraft at a cost of $46 million, Caucasus Press reported on 7 July. But Turkmenistan will pay for those repairs only after Georgia repays its $400 million debt for supplies of Turkmen natural gas. LF DEVOTEES WANT STALIN REBURIED IN GEORGIA. Grigol Oniani, chairman of Georgia's Stalin Society, told journalists in Tbilisi on 7 July that he has discussed with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov the possibility of exhuming Stalin's remains from the Kremlin wall and transporting them to Georgia for reburial at an undisclosed location, Caucasus Press reported. LF KAZAKH PRESIDENT SETS PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION DATES... In a decree made public on 7 July, President Nursultan Nazarbaev scheduled elections to the upper and lower chambers of Kazakhstan's new parliament for 17 September and 10 October respectively, RFE/RL's Astana correspondent reported. Addressing parliament on 31 March, Nazarbaev had assured deputies that the election to the lower house would take place in October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1999). Some observers had nonetheless predicted that they would be held in December 1999, four years after the previous parliamentary poll. Earlier on 7 July, several leading opposition parties and movements, including the Communist Party, the Republican People's Party headed by former premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin, the Orleu movement, the Association of Russian, Slavic and Cossack Associations, and some trade unions, announced the creation of a pre-election coordinating bloc that will target "the entire protest electorate," according to Interfax. The parties will not compete against each other in the 67 single- mandate constituencies. LF ... MEETS WITH TURKISH COUNTERPART. Nazarbaev, who left Astana on 5 July for a brief vacation in Turkey, has met with Suleyman Demirel to discuss bilateral relations, unspecified regional problems and the export of Kazakhstan's oil and gas, Interfax reported on 7 July. The two presidents also pledged to take steps to double bilateral trade, which currently stands at approximately $500 million. LF CONFUSION OVER KAZAKH BAN ON BAIKONUR LAUNCHES CONTINUES. Kazakh officials continue to make contradictory statements about the extent of the temporary ban on launches of Russian rockets from the Baikonor cosmodrome. Interfax on 7 July quoted the Kazakh Foreign Ministry's Press Service as stating that the 6 July protest note to Moscow did not specify what types of rocket are banned, but Science Minister Vladimir Shkolnik told the agency that the ban extends to all launches. A third Kazakh government representative said, however, that the ban extends only to Proton rockets, which burn envirnmentally hazardous heptyl fuel, but not Zenit and Soyuz rockets fuelled by kerosene. A spokesman for the Russian Aviation and Space Agency told Interfax that Moscow will ask the Kazakh leadership to make an exception for the launches of a Ukrainian-Russian satellite scheduled for 8 July and a supply craft bound for the orbiting Mir space station scheduled for 14 July. LF TAJIK INTERIOR MINISTRY SPOKESMAN SHOT DEAD. Lieutenant- Colonel Djumakhon Hotami died shortly after being shot at pointblank range by unidentified attackers near his home in Dushanbe on the evening of 4 July, Russian agencies reported. Unidentified sources told Interfax Hotami may have been killed for having identified members of drug-running gangs on his weekly TV program on crime and corruption. LF TAJIK OPPOSITION REPRESENTATIVE APPOINTED TO SENIOR DEFENSE POST. Among the five Tajik opposition representatives appointed by President Imomali Rakhmonov to leading government positions on 6 July was former field commander Gairat Adkhamov, who was named first deputy defense minister, according to Interfax. AP quoted presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov as saying that in accordance with the 1997 peace agreement, opposition nominees will be appointed to 21 of a total of 69 local government posts. LF TWO SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR HOSTAGE-TAKING IN UZBEKISTAN. A regional court in the Uzbek city of Khorezm has passed sentence on 16 men found guilty of hijacking a bus and taking the passengers hostage, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 7 July. Two of the accused were sentenced to death, and seven more received prison terms of 20 years. The hijackers had sought the release of comrades arrested in connection with the 16 February bombings in Tashkent. Nine people were killed during a shootout on 30 March between the hijackers and police seeking to free the hostages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1999). LF UZBEK PRESIDENT CHAIRS MEETING ON SECURITY. Also on 7 July, Islam Karimov chaired a session of the National Security Council devoted to the implementation of government decisions aimed at improving security and reorganizing the armed forces and border troops, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Particular atention was paid to improving cooperation between the army and interior ministry forces, to preventing terrorist and subversive groups from illegally entering Uzbekistan, and to creating "mobile and well-equipped units capable of safeguarding peace and calm," according to Interfax. 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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