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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 135, Part I, 14 July 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 135, Part I, 14 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 * MOSCOW WITNESSES ANOTHER ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENT * U.S., RUSSIA FORGE LAST-MINUTE STEEL AGREEMENT * KAZAKHSTAN PEGS SUPPLY ROCKET LAUNCH TO DEBT PAYMENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA MOSCOW WITNESSES ANOTHER ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENT... Twenty-year old university student Nikita Krivchun repeatedly stabbed the director of the Jewish Cultural Center in Moscow, Leopold Kaimovskii, in his stomach and face on 13 July, according to Interfax. Krivchun, who reportedly had a swastika drawn on his chest, told NTV that he acted alone and that the attack was "political" and part of his "struggle with evil, that is, with Judaism." Vladimir Gusinskii, president of Media Most group and the Russian Jewish Congress, called the attack a "consequence of the anti-Semitic hysteria provoked by a whole series of provocative statements made publicly by several prominent Communist leaders and their allies from the left wing and Nazi extremist organizations." Kaimovskii's condition is serious, Interfax reported. JAC ...AS EMIGRATION TO ISRAEL CONTINUES TO PICK UP SPEED. Meanwhile, "Novye Izvestiya" reported the same day that emigration to Israel from Russia and other CIS countries is rapidly increasing, with the number of people departing from Russia rising by 128 percent during the first half of the year. Almost one-third of the 1,054 Russian Jews interviewed after emigrating during the first quarter of the year cited rising anti-Semitism as the reason behind their move, according to an informal poll (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 1999). JAC U.S., RUSSIA FORGE LAST-MINUTE STEEL AGREEMENT... After weeks of negotiations, U.S. and Russian trade officials on 13 July signed agreements limiting Russian imports of steel to the U.S. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said the agreements "do not fully meet the interests of Russia's metallurgical industry" but they guarantee access to the U.S. steel market, ITAR-TASS reported. One document limits Russian imports of hot-rolled steel for the period 2000-2003, while a second sets quotas for 15 types of metal products over five years, according to the agency. Prior to the signing, Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin telephoned U.S. Vice President Al Gore to discuss steel trade. JAC ...AS NEXT WTO ROUND CALLED PIVOTAL. "Kommersant-Daily" concluded that Russian membership in the World Trade Organization is crucial to avoiding having to sign similar agreements in the future. It reported that according to Trade Ministry sources, terms for the delivery of commodities will be fully coordinated with the organization by the end of 2000, but negotiations over the services market will take much longer. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said the same day that the next round of talks on WTO admission, scheduled for December, will be decisive in enabling Russia to obtain the same rights as full-fledged members of the organization. JAC GOVERNMENT CLEARS ANOTHER HURDLE TO RECEIVING IMF MONEY... After a series of unexpected delays, Russian Prime Minister Stepashin and Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko on 14 July signed a joint statement of the government and Central Bank on economic policy for 1999. Mikhail Zadornov, presidential envoy to international financial institutions, claimed that the document signed is "basically the same one agreed upon in April." He noted, however, that the budget deficit will be less than was agreed two months ago, Interfax reported. The document reduces the number of goods eligible for value-added tax relief and contains new clauses on restructuring the banking sector. According to Zadornov, the signing of the statement clears the way for Russia to receive credits from the IMF worth about $4.5 billion, to be realeased in seven tranches of roughly $630 million each, after the fund's board of directors takes up the issue on 28 July. JAC ...AS WORLD BANK MAINTAINS PRESSURE? An unidentified Russian negotiator in talks with the World Bank told Interfax on 13 July that the bank is dissatisfied with the government's efforts to restructure the country's commercial banks. According to the source, the bank is also unhappy with work on the law on production-sharing agreements and planned price control agreements. The source claimed that the bank's management has reached an internal decision to disburse the next tranche of Russia's structural adjustment loan "only in the fall, most likely in October," after the release of an IMF tranche. A confidential World Bank report on banking reform harshly criticizes the Central Bank's supervision of the banking sector and its practice of extending credits to weak banks, such as SBS-Agro, "The Moscow Times" reported on 14 July. JAC IVANOV REJECTS PARTITION OF KOSOVA. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told NTV's "Hero of the Day" program on 13 July that "there have not been and there will not be any attempts [to partition Kosova], these are rumors." He said "I want to stress once again: it is a unified peacemaking operation where servicemen of different countries fulfill one and the same tasks and shall act in close coordination.... We are trying to prevent the separation of local residents" along ethnic lines. Ivanov nonetheless accused NATO of committing "endless mistakes." He said that its bombing campaign was "insane," saying the alliance helped build up the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), ITAR-TASS reported. Asked about the future of Yugoslavia, Ivanov predicted that the Yugoslav people will decide the country's leadership "through democratic elections." FS RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY DEMANDS FASTER UCK DEMILITARIZATION. Foreign Ministry spokesman Rakhmanin told Interfax on 13 July that "the NATO contingents in the international peacekeeping forces in Kosova are obviously not doing everything they could" to demilitarize the UCK. He stressed that "the Russian peacekeepers stand for the interests of an interethnic, peaceful, and stable Kosova." Meanwhile, 460 Russian peacekeepers with 100 armored vehicles and 99.5 tons of cargo began to disembark from five navy vessels in Thessaloniki on 14 July, ITAR-TASS reported. They are expected to arrive in Kosova later this week. FS PRIMAKOV FAVORS REGIONAL BLOC ALLIANCE WITH OTECHESTVO... In an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 14 July, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov declined to clear up the mystery surrounding his future political plans. Asked whether he will run in the State Duma elections, Primakov said "it depends a lot on circumstances" and "the most important condition is whether there is a real base created for the unification of [politically] sound centrist forces." Primakov did speak out in favor of the proposed union between Vsya Rossiya (All Russia) and Otechestvo (Fatherland), calling it a "very good idea." Primakov also expressed his support for amending the Russian Constitution to create the post of vice president and to require the next president to cede "part" of his authority to the government. JAC ...AS EFFORT TO FORM COMPETING BLOC FOUNDERS. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" reported on 14 July that at their 12 July meeting, leaders of Pravoe Delo (Right Cause), Novaya Sila (New Force), and Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia) "seemed to agree" to create a single ideological and economic platform but did not even discuss the creation of a uniform election list. The leadership of Our Home Is Russia (NDR) still has to decide whether it will join the potential right-center formation. According to the newspaper, it is rumored that "a number of governors who are members of [NDR] and Golos Rossii say that they will never be on a list with [Pravoe Delo members] Boris Nemtsov and Boris Fedorov." One governor who is a member of both NDR and Golos Rossii is Tyumen Oblast head Leonid Roketskii. Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, who has flirted with the idea of joining a number of different groups, is so far formally only a member of NDR. JAC FSB TARGETS PROMINENT SCIENTIST FOR PACIFIC FLEET INVESTIGATIONS. Federal Security Service (FSB) agents in Primorskii Krai searched the apartment of prominent physicist Vladimir Soifer on 13 July, confiscating documents and letters. According to Russian agencies, the agents presented a search warrant claiming that Soifer's activities "pose a threat to the Russian state and its military security." Accusing the FSB of "persecuting those who care about Russia's ecological safety," the Socio-Ecological Union linked scrutiny of Soifer with another case in the region, the espionage and treason trial of military reporter Grigorii Pasko, who exposed the environmentally hazardous practices of the Pacific Fleet. "Izvestiya" reported the next day that Soifer is suspected of criminal negligence in his handling of classified information. According to the daily, Soifer's passport has been declared void and the laboratory he runs has been sealed. JAC SOBCHAK TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT? Speaking at a press conference on 13 July, former St Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak said he may run for president in 2000, Russian agencies reported. He said he will make a final decision following the upcoming State Duma elections, in which he intends to participate. Meanwhile, citing sources within the law enforcement agencies, Interfax reported the same day that at a meeting in Paris last week, Sobchak had received guarantees from a high- ranking official at the Prosecutor-General's Office of his personal immunity. During that meeting, Sobchak was reportedly interrogated in his capacity as a witness in the criminal case opened against him last September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 1999). JC TATARSTAN'S OPPOSITION PLANS HUNGER STRIKE. Meeting in Kazan on 13 July, leaders of 10 opposition parties and movements vowed to begin a hunger strike on 19 July to protest what they term infringements of voters' rights in the election legislation of the Republic of Tatarstan, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. In an open letter addressed to President Mintimer Shaimiev and parliamentary speaker Farid Mukhametshin, the opposition leaders said that the recently adopted amendments to the constitution and the election law provide the authorities with "huge possibilities" for manipulating the outcome of the poll and preventing the election to the republic's parliament of candidates who oppose Shaimiev's policies. They demand that between one- third and half of all deputies to the new parliament be elected under the proportional system and that the voting be conducted openly in accordance with "the democratic principles set down in the new Russian [election] laws." LF CHECHNYA HALTS GASOLINE SALES. The Chechen government issued a decree on 12 July shutting down all the republic's gas stations after none of those facilities was able to provide documentation proving it had acquired the gasoline on sale legally, ITAR-TASS reported. The move is the latest in a series intended to crack down on the illegal extraction and refining of oil in Chechnya, which has reportedly caused irreversible ecological damage to large areas. It is also intended to halt thefts of crude oil from the Chechen sector of the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk oil export pipeline, which prompted the Russian pipeline operating company Transneft to halt the export of Azerbaijani oil via that pipeline. On 13 July, Transneft President Dmitrii Savelev said his company has been unable to reach an agreement with its Chechen counterpart on a resumption of shipments of Azerbaijani oil, as Chechenneft cannot provide security guarantees. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA KARABAKH EX-PREMIER RELEASED. Zhirayr Poghosian, who was arrested in Stepanakert on 9 July on charges of illegal weapons possession, has been released but will face trial in the next few months, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported on 13 July, quoting an unnamed senior prosecutor. He has also been charged with the "loss of documents containing state secrets." ITAR-TASS quoted the unrecognized republic's prosecutor-general, Mavrik Ghukasian, as denying rumors that a large sum of money was confiscated from Poghosian after his arrest. LF NEW ARMENIAN CATHOLICOS TO BE ELECTED IN OCTOBER. Archbishop Garegin Nersisian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 13 July that the Armenian Apostolic Church has decided to convene a pan-Armenian National Ecclesiastical Assembly from 26-31 October to elect a successor to Catholicos Garegin I, who died of cancer late last month. The assembly will be composed of hundreds of elected clerical and secular delegates from the Republic of Armenia and all Diaspora communities. The Church statutes stipulate that the new catholicos should be chosen no earlier than six months after the death of his predecessor, but Archbishop Nersisian said the Church wants to enter the 21st century with a new leader. He also argued that the next Catholicos will have the urgent task of preparing for the celebrations of the 1700th anniversary in 2001 of Armenia's adoption of Christianity as the state religion. LF ONE KILLED AT AZERBAIJANI-TURKISH FRONTIER. One man was shot dead and four injured on 12 July in a confrontation between local Azerbaijanis and customs officials at the Sadarak border crossing between the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan and Turkey, Turan reported. The following day, some 200 Azerbaijani police forcibly dispersed a crowd of local residents who had congregated at the site of the shooting to pay their last respects to the dead man. Some 15 people, including some police officers, were injured in the incident, during which some 50 mourners were detained by police, according to the agency. ITAR-TASS on 14 July reported that senior Azerbaijani officials are travelling to Sadarak to investigate the incident and that journalists have been banned from visiting the site. LF MORE TERRORIST ATTACKS IN ABKHAZIA. Two Abkhaz police officers were shot dead during an ambush in the breakaway republic's southernmost Gali Raion on 13 July, Interfax and AP reported. Two people were killed and one abducted two days earlier in a similar incident in the village of Pakuash in Ochamchira Raion, north of Gali. In the Abkhaz capital, Sukhumi, three bombs exploded in an abandoned building on the night of 8-9 July, and a further blast blew out the windows of the Gali Raion administration building on 12 July. LF KAZAKHSTAN PEGS SUPPLY ROCKET LAUNCH TO DEBT PAYMENT... Following a telephone call on 13 July from Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev said a decision on whether to allow the planned launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome of a supply rocket bound for the orbiting "Mir" space station can be taken only after Moscow meets specific conditions, Reuters reported. Those conditions include a start to payment of Moscow's $300 million debt for rent of the Baikonur launch site. Kazakhstan's Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Pavlov, who heads the state commission to investigate the aftermath of the 5 July rocket explosion, repeated those conditions on 14 July to his Russian counterpart, Ilya Klebanov, whom Stepashin had sent to Astana to try to persuade the Kazakh leadership to allow the launch on 16 or 18 July of the "Mir" supply ship, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. LF ...AS UKRAINE OBJECTS TO SECOND LAUNCH DELAY. Speaking to journalists in Kyiv on 13 July, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said he cannot comprehend Kazakhstan's decision to block the launch, originally planned for 12 July, of a Ukrainian rocket that is to release a Ukrainian-Russian research satellite into orbit, Reuters reported (see also Part II). Kuchma added that Ukraine is incurring huge economic losses because of the delay. He noted that the Ukrainian rocket does not use the same highly toxic heptyl fuel as Proton rockets. Kazakhstan claims that spills of heptyl fuel have contaminated large swathes of its territory, a claim Russian experts have rejected. The head of Ukraine's space agency, Oleksandr Nehoda, told Reuters earlier on 13 July that Ukrainian Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko had appealed to his Kazakh counterpart, Nurlan Balghymbaev, not to penalize Ukraine for the 5 July Russian proton rocket disaster. LF PENSIONERS IN FORMER KAZAKH CAPITAL WIN CONCESSION ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. The Almaty authorities have reduced to 10 tenges (less than $0.10) the cost of using public transport for pensioners and invalids beginning 14 July, RFE/RL correspondents there reported. Pensioners had staged demonstrations in the city earlier this month to protest the abolition beginning 1 June of their right to free travel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 1999). LF KYRGYZ DEMONSTRATORS DEMAND PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION. Some 50 mostly elderly residents of Naryn Oblast picketed the oblast administration building on 13 July to protest worsening standards of living and demand the resignation of President Askar Akaev, RFE/RL's Naryn correspondent reported. Two local senior officials met with the protesters. LF NEW MAYOR OF KYRGYZ CAPITAL NAMED. At a special session on 12 July, the Bishkek City Council appointed Medetbek Kerimkulov as mayor, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. Kerimkulov had served as acting mayor since the resignation in late April of Feliks Kulov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 1999). Kerimkulov had previously been mayor of the cities of Tokmok and Osh. LF TAJIK SECURITY OFFICIAL SHOT DEAD. The local security chief in Khovaling district, Abdullo Boboradjabov, was shot dead by unknown assailants on the night of 12 July, ITAR-TASS reported the following day. Security Ministry officials have declined to comment on the killing, saying only that an investigation is under way. 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