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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 137, Part I, 16 July 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 137, Part I, 16 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 * BATTLE OVER GAZPROM CONTINUES * GRAIN STOCKS STILL DWINDLING, WHILE LIVESTOCK ENJOY WESTERN FOOD AID * ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT OBTAINS COURT INJUNCTION AGAINST GREEK TELECOM xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA BATTLE OVER GAZPROM CONTINUES... Despite the Fuel and Energy Ministry's insistence that Gazprom's board of directors must be altered less than a month after it was elected, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters on 15 July that the board's make-up will not be changed that dramatically. He added that the Finance, Fuel and Energy, and State Property Ministries will have representatives on the board. According to Interfax, the state is currently represented by the state property minister, a deputy finance minister, Yamalo Nenets Autonomous Okrug governor, and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin Chernomyrdin. JAC ...AS COMPOSITION OF BOARD OF DIRECTORS DEBATED. However, "Kommersant-Daily" speculated the same day that dark forces were behind the Fuel and Energy Ministry's desire to alter the board's composition--namely, business magnate Boris Berezovskii and Sibneft head Roman Abramovich. According to the daily, both are increasingly seeking to gain control over Gazprom, and recently compromising materials about the company were televised on Russian Public Television, which Berezovskii reportedly controls. Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii, whom "Kommersant-Daily" and other newspapers have described as a Berezovskii/Abramovich protege, announced on 16 July that he personally would like a seat on the company's board. New candidates to the board of directors will be discussed at a meeting on 20 July, according to Interfax. "Vremya MN" reported on 13 July that the Kremlin wants to reestablish the board of state representatives at Gazprom, which was abolished after the dismissal of Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko's cabinet. JAC GRAIN STOCKS STILL DWINDLING, WHILE LIVESTOCK ENJOY WESTERN FOOD AID. As of 1 July, Russian grain stocks plummeted by 76.8 percent to 3.8 million tons, compared with the same period last year, according to the Russian Statistics Agency on 16 July. Meanwhile, "The Moscow Times" reported on 14 July that Russian agricultural officials throughout the region have concluded that the hundreds of thousands of tons of wheat that arrived as humanitarian assistance from the U.S. and EU might better be classified as high-quality animal fodder. According to Russian government standards, wheat must be at least 23 percent gluten to be considered third-class quality, while the wheat the U.S. provided is 20-22 percent and the EU 18-19 percent. In order to make bread, high- quality wheat must be added. However, according to Nikolai Lugovov, the head of Nizhnii Novgorod's agriculture department, "finding high quality wheat is a real problem now, because no one planned for this in advance," the daily reported. JAC RUSSIAN INDUSTRY REBOUNDING? Industrial output increased 3.1 percent during the first six months of 1999, compared with the same period last year, according to the Russian Statistics Agency on 15 July. The agency also reported that average daily inflation rose to 0.126 percent from 6-12 July compared with 0.063 percent in June, according to ITAR-TASS. Interfax reported that experts believe inflation in July could reach 4.0 percent, compared with 1.9 percent in June. First Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko was more optimistic, predicting that inflation in July will total 2.2 percent. JAC KREMLIN ALLEGEDLY PRESSURING MOSCOW MAYOR THROUGH CAPITAL'S FIRST LADY. "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 16 July reported that the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Vladimir is conducting a criminal investigation of "commercial structures connected with Inteko," a company owned by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's wife, Yelena Baturina. According to the daily, those commercial structures are managed by Baturina's brother, Viktor, who is also prime minister of the Republic of Kalmykia. FSB agents reportedly seized all documents relating to Inteko from the Russian Land Bank in what one official from the State Duma's Committee for Legislation on Security, Intelligence, and Borders said was an illegal search. The newspaper alleges that the activities of the Vladimir FSB directorate are politically motivated and part of an overall campaign by the Kremlin to pressure Luzhkov, a likely presidential contender. JAC RUSSIA REJECTS EARLY RESUMPTION OF FULL NATO TIES. An unnamed senior official at the Russian Defense Ministry told Interfax in Moscow on 15 July that Russia will maintain its "freeze" on relations with NATO. The official said that there will be "no exchanges, visits, talks, or meetings between Russian and NATO representatives...at least until the fall." The official said that Russian participation in the Kosova peacekeeping force (KFOR) is the exception. He added that Colonel-General Viktor Zavarzin will visit NATO headquarters in Brussels soon to coordinate KFOR operations. Zavarzin was Russia's military representative at NATO headquarters until 24 March, when NATO began its bombing campaign of targets in Yugoslavia. Moscow responded by suspending relations with NATO and withdrew Zavarzin. He led the Russian advance command into Prishtina airport on 11 June, before the arrival of NATO troops in Kosova. FS RUSSIAN GROUND TROOPS ARRIVE IN KOSOVA. Some 500 Russian troops arrived from Thessaloniki at the Russian logistical support camp in Fushe Kosova on 16 July, ITAR-TASS reported. They brought with them 124 armored personnel carriers and more than 100 tons of cargo. The previous day, two Russian planes brought 100 paratroopers, an Mi-8 helicopter, a crane, and other heavy machinery to the Prishtina airfield. These were the 15th and 16th flights of Russian military aircraft to Kosova. A total of 50 flights are scheduled by late August, Interfax reported. Elsewhere, Aeroflot resumed regular flights to Skopje on 15 July. FS RUSSIA TO SEEK TO PREVENT PROLIFERATION OF LASER WEAPONS... Russia will "actively contribute" to international efforts to prevent the proliferation of laser weapons, according to a statement released by the Russian Foreign Ministry on 15 July, Russian media reported. The statement stresses that "unlike various Western countries," Russia is neither developing nor producing such weapons. It also points out that on 25 June, the Federation Council approved a bill, passed by the State Duma, ratifying a protocol on banning or limiting the use of laser weapons. JC ...TO 'WAIT AND SEE' ON CHINA NEUTRON BOMB ANNOUNCEMENT. Speaking in Tashkent on 15 July, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said his country wants to receive all relevant information from China about its neutron bomb capabilities before it formulates its stance on that issue, Russian agencies and AFP reported. Earlier the same day, China had announced it has the technology to make neutron bombs. Ivanov stressed that Moscow's position is to strengthen nuclear non- proliferation and international strategic stability. JC SECRET CHEMICAL WEAPONS PLANT IN MURMANSK? The Norwegian daily "Verdens Gang" claimed in its 15 July issue that for the past 15 years, Russia has had a secret chemical weapons plant just 2 kilometers outside Murmansk, Reuters reported. The newspaper quoted unnamed "international experts" as saying that photographs of the site published in the daily show "without doubt" that chemicals are being produced at the plant. The Norwegian environmental group Bellona said it has heard rumors of chemical weapons stores on the Kola Peninsula, adding that the article is "logical" because the site is close to the Northern Fleet's ammunition storage facilities. A Norwegian Foreign Ministry official told Reuters that the Russian authorities' position remains the same--namely, that there is "no storage, research, or decommissioning of chemical weapons in the Kola region." JC PERUVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. During Fernando de Trazegnies's 13-14 July visit to the Russian capital, a number of bilateral documents, including a joint political declaration, were signed, "Nezavisimaya gazeta' reported on 15 July. De Trazegnies met with his Russian counterpart, Ivanov, and Premier Sergei Stepashin, who said later that the two countries have a created a sound basis for "mutually advantageous cooperation, including military-technical cooperation," according to ITAR-TASS. AP quoted the Peruvian minister as saying that Lima will continue buying spare parts from Russia for its Soviet and Russian-made weapons. Last year, trade turnover between the two countries totaled $220 million. JC ANOTHER FAR EAST REGION HIT BY FUEL CRISIS. A severe shortage of fuel is threatening to isolate the Southern Kuril islands from the outside world, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 15 July. Phone services have been cut off on the island of Shikotan, while the rapidly dwindling fuel supply at a electricity plant in Vladimir Zema Raion threatens phone services there. According to the agency, the Southern Kuril administration has appealed to those Japanese citizens wishing to visit the island to bring canisters of diesel fuel with them. JAC ONE ACCUSED JOURNALISTS DELIVERS LAST WORD AT HIS TRIAL... Military journalist Grigorii Pasko said on 16 July in closing comments at his espionage and treason trial that he was guilty only of doing his job as a journalist. Pasko is charged with supplying classified information to Japanese television about the Pacific Fleet's hazardous waste-dumping practices. Pasko added that the charges were brought against him as revenge for disclosing the environmental damage caused by the fleet, according to AP. Pasko's attorney told dpa that he expects the military court to announce its verdict on 20 July. JAC ...WHILE ANOTHER FACES ADDITIONAL CRIMINAL CHARGE. Lawyers for another military journalist, Aleksandr Nikitin, told reporters on 15 July that the Russian Supreme Court's decision to bring an eighth charge against their client is purely political, according to Interfax. Like Pasko, Nikitin is accused of treason and espionage. He allegedly disclosed classified information about the environmentally hazardous practice of the Northern Fleet. Nikitin said the same day that his lawyers are finding it difficult to prepare their case because of new secrecy restrictions. JAC KRASNODAR OFFICIALS DECLINE TO REGISTER HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP... "Vremya MN" reported on 15 July that officials at the Justice Ministry's regional directorate in Krasnodar Krai have refused to register the local Association for the Protection of Human Rights, which has been operating in the area for the past five years. According to the daily, the group has 89 members including lawyers who--among other things--examine whether the region's legislation corresponds to that of federal and international laws. The director of the Krasnodar Justice Ministry directorate, Natalya Ivashchenko, said that the group's "intention to participate in elections violates existing legislation." JAC ...AS LARGE NUMBER OF ORGANIZATIONS IN MARII EL FACE EXTINCTION. Meanwhile, in the Republic of Marii El, more than 100 public organizations face liquidation because they have not been reregistered by the Justice Ministry, Interfax- Eurasia reported on 15 July. By law, public organizations were required to reregister with the Justice Ministry by 1 July or face loss of certain legal rights, such as that of participating in elections or owning property or a bank account (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). JAC PECHENEV PROPOSES MORATORIUM ON BORDER CHANGES BETWEEN FEDERATION SUBJECTS... Russian First Deputy Nationalities Minister Vadim Pechenev has made several proposals aimed at defusing tensions in the North Caucasus and increasing stability in the region. Those proposals are contained in a confidential memorandum on the situation in North Ossetia following the 5 March bombing in Vladikavkaz, which killed 50 people and injured more than 100. The memorandum was addressed to then Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 July. Pechenev advocates a 25-year moratorium on any changes in existing borders between federation subjects (not only in the North Caucasus) in order to "calm the present generation of extremists who are trying to extract political capital from tragedies and historical slights." LF ...AND 'GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT' FOR DUMA ELECTIONS. Pechenev also suggests that the Russian government should convene a meeting with representatives of major political parties to seek an agreement not to "play the nationalism card" by stressing issues that could exacerbate interethnic tensions during the upcoming Duma elections. The Duma, Pechenev proposes, could even introduce a draft bill to that effect. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT OBTAINS COURT INJUNCTION AGAINST GREEK TELECOM. The Armenian government has obtained a court order against Greece's OTE, which owns a 90 percent in Armenia's ArmTelecom monopoly, allowing it to seize shares worth $140 million in ArmTelecom, Noyan Tapan reported on 15 July. Armenia brought a lawsuit against OTE in late June for non- payment of at least $18 million in profit tax. OTE acquired its share in ArmTelecom when the communications monopoly, previously owned by the Armenian government and the U.S. registered Trans World Telecom, was privatized in 1997. LF SUSPECT IN ARMENIAN ELECTION VIOLENCE RELEASED AFTER QUESTIONING. Ashot Aghababian, whose supporters are accused of opening fire on supporters of a rival candidate during the local elections in Yerevan's Ajapniak district on 11 July, was taken into custody for questioning on 15 July but released later the same day, Noyan Tapan reported on 16 July. A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office told the agency that Aghababian has not been formally arrested (as erroneously reported in "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1999). LF AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL SHEDS LIGHT ON ALIEV-KOCHARIAN MEETING. Presidential administration department head Novruz Mamedov told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 15 July that the 16 July meeting in Geneva between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan was arranged at the urging of the U.S. Mamedov also said that in a letter to both presidents following their meeting in Washington in late April, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright outlined additions to the most recent Karabakh draft peace plan proposed by the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group. He added that one of those additions deals with the repatriation of refugees and displaced persons. The two presidents had planned to met in Luxembourg last month, but Aliev's doctors dissuaded him from making that trip (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1999). LF AZERBAIJAN OPPOSITION DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN CUSTOMS POST INCIDENT. Husein Djavadov, a leading member of the Nakhichevan branch of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, has rejected allegations by Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov that members of his party arriving in Nakhichevan from Ukraine instigated the violence at the Sadarak border crossing between the Azerbaijani exclave and Turkey earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1999). A spokesman for residents of Sadarak similarly denied any involvement by the Popular Front, attributing the clash to customs officials' unfair treatment of local residents, Turan reported on 16 July. The Azerbaijan Popular Front Party's Nakhichevan branch and some Azerbaijani newspapers have attributed the fighting to rivalry between mafia groups. LF ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT-IN-EXILE CHAIRMAN DEMANDS PUNISHMENT FOR KODORI KIDNAPPERS. Tamaz Nadareishvili, who is chairman of the Abkhaz parliament-in-exile (composed of the ethnic Georgian deputies to the Abkhaz parliament elected in late 1991, has cancelled international travel plans and will remain in Tbilisi until the persons responsible for the 9 July kidnapping of the entire Abkhaz government-in-exile are found, Caucasus Press reported on 16 July. Nadareishvili blamed the abduction on "those who cannot reconcile themselves to the existence of legitimate Abkhaz authorities, especially on the eve of parliamentary elections" (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 28, 15 July 1999). He has founded his own political party to contest those elections. Nadareishvili planned to visit Azerbaijan and Ukraine to discuss the possible participation of those countries in an international peacekeeping force for Abkhazia. He also intended to address the UN Security Council in New York. LF MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT VISITS KAZAKHSTAN. Petru Lucinschi arrived in Astana on 14 July at the head of a government delegation that also included First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolae Andronic and Foreign Minister Nicolae Tabacaru, INFOTAG reported. Lucinschi held talks on 15 July with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev on boosting bilateral trade and Kazakhstan's repayment of its $5.5 million debt to Moldova. Nazarbaev noted that some Kazakh bankers believe the breakaway Transdniester Republic has outstanding debts to Kazakhstan that accumulated before 1991, but his country will not press for repayment, according to Interfax. The two presidents expressed satisfaction at the overall level of bilateral relations and reached agreement on setting up a joint commission for economic cooperation. They also signed a convention on avoiding dual taxation. LF KAZAKHSTAN PROTESTS RUSSIAN BAN ON MEAT IMPORTS. Kazakhstan's Veterinary Agency issued a statement on 16 July terming Moscow's recent imposition of a ban on imports of meat from Kazakhstan "politically motivated," RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Russia had said the ban was prompted by the discovery of hoof-and-mouth disease among cattle in the Qostanay Oblast of northern Kazakhstan. The Kazakh agency claimed the ban was in retaliation for Astana's temporary ban on the launching of Russian rockets from the Baikonur cosmodrome. LF RUSSIAN, UZBEK FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. Igor Ivanov met with his Uzbek counterpart, Abdulaziz Kamilov, in Tashkent on 15 July to discuss bilateral relations, regional problems, and the conflicts in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, Interfax reported. The two ministers also assessed preparations for Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin's planned visit to Uzbekistan and for the 19-20 July meeting in Tashkent under UN auspices of the "Six Plus Two" group of states (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, and Pakistan, all of which border on Afghanistan, plus Russia and the U.S.) to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Representatives of both rival factions in Afghanistan have also been invited to that meeting, but it unclear whether the Taliban will send a representative (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 4 June 1999). 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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