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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 139, Part I, 20 July 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 139, Part I, 20 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 * LEBED DENIES HE'S RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT * IMF, WORLD BANK BOARDS TO CONSIDER FUNDS FOR RUSSIA THIS MONTH * KAZAKHSTAN STEPS UP PRESSURE OVER BAIKONUR xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA LEBED DENIES HE'S RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed told a Tbilisi-based television station on 19 July that "regarding any such idiocies that I am running for president--I have made no announcement," ITAR- TASS reported. Lebed called reports that he will participate in presidential elections "smoke without fire." The Public Opinion Fund reported last month that Lebed dropped from second or third place to sixth in the popularity ratings of Russian national leaders, citing polls it conducted from May 1998 to May 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 1999). JAC IMF, WORLD BANK BOARDS TO CONSIDER FUNDS FOR RUSSIA THIS MONTH. As Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin and Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko on 19 July signed a joint statement on development policy, Mikhail Zadornov, presidential envoy to international financial institutions, declared talks with World Bank and IMF completed, Interfax reported. The joint statement was one of the conditions for the bank to approve a third structural adjustment loan. World Bank Country Director for Russia Michael Carter said that the bank expects to resume lending to Russia at the end of July or the beginning of August. According to Carter, the Japanese government is considering co-financing with the bank both that loan and one to the coal sector. The World Bank's board of directors is expected to meet to discuss the loans on 23 July, Zadornov said. Five days later, the IMF's board of directors is expected to discuss the $4.7 billion credit for Russia. JAC LOCAL ELECTRICITY SUPPLIER PULLS PLUG ON MILITARY RADAR. Khabarovskenergo cut off electricity to the 11th air and air defense army troops located in its region because of unpaid bills. Radar units were unable to monitor the country's air border temporarily when the emergency power system failed to kick in, Interfax reported on 20 July. Troops currently not only lack electricity but also cold water since artesian wells have also stopped functioning. Military commanders are concerned that without water supplies, their troops are more vulnerable to the forest fires that have been spreading throughout the region so quickly due to a continued bout of dry hot weather that Khabarovsk Governor Viktor Ishaev declared a state of emergency the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 1999). According to Interfax, the region's air and air defense army forces owe electricity suppliers 27 million rubles ($1.1 million). JAC PASKO WALKS FREE FOLLOWING CONVICTION... Military journalist Grigorii Pasko on 20 July was sentenced to three years in prison for "abuse of power" but was immediately amnestied, under the amnesty legislation passed by the parliament earlier this year. Pasko, who was arrested in November 1997 and spent the last 20 months in jail, had already fulfilled more than one third of his sentence, Interfax reported. According to AFP, the court failed to find Pasko guilty of espionage or treason but ruled that his passing of classified materials to the Japanese media about the Pacific Fleet's handling of nuclear waste was an "abuse of power." Pasko criticized the verdict saying "Here, in Russia, if the KGB takes up a case, there is never an acquittal. I came out today but tomorrow someone else will go to jail. First of all we need a precedent of an acquittal," AP reported. JAC ...AS OTHER ENVIRONMENTALISTS STILL FACE SCRUTINY. "The Moscow Times" reported on 17 July that human rights advocates in Russia believe the Federal Security Service (FSB) is harassing ecologists on behalf of the military, which is responsible for up to 60 percent of toxic contamination within Russia. This month, authorities pulled the passport of noted scientist Valerii Soifer for alleged mishandling of classified documents about the Pacific Fleet's environmental practices, while an American student exchange coordinator was denied a visa to return to Voronezh for having reportedly collected "secret environmental maps for the CIA," according to the daily (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 15 July 1999). FSB Director Vladimir Putin told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 8 July that "foreign secret service organizations use not only diplomatic cover but very actively use all sorts of ecological and public organizations, commercial firms, and charitable organizations. This is why, regardless of pressure from the public and mass media, such organizations will always be a subject of our attention." JAC TATARSTAN OPPOSITION DECLARES HUNGER STRIKE. Representatives of 16 opposition parties and movements began a hunger strike on 19 July to protest the adoption of a law on elections to the Tatarstan's legislative assembly or State Council, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The law has already passed the first two readings and will likely be put to a third reading this week. Opposition leaders object to the bill's abolition of election to the State Council on the basis of party lists. They also insist that the legislation should include a provision prohibiting the election of raion administration heads as State Council deputies. Among the 16 parties and movements represented are the nationalist opposition parties Ittifak and Omet as well as Tatarstan's Communist Party. JAC RUSSIA TO END OIL-FOR-SUGAR DEAL WITH CUBA. Valerii Pervukhin, head of the Russian Fuel and Energy Ministry's external economic affairs department, told "The Moscow Times" of 20 July the ministry has decided to end Russia's oil-for- sugar deal with Cuba by the end of this year. Under a 1995 protocol creating two separate programs, Russia is committed to exchanging oil for sugar and to channeling oil revenues to maintain a listening post for spying on the U.S. No oil has been shipped under the oil-for-sugar program for some two- and-a-half years, partly because of the reluctance of oil companies to take part; according to Pervukhin, the ministry is seeking to expedite the transport of the 1.5 million tons of crude remaining under that program. "The Moscow Times" reports, however, that oil exports to fund the listening post are "still going strong." According to the daily, this program is more attractive to the oil companies because, unlike under the oil-for-sugar program, they are allowed to select their own shipping agents. JC MONGOLIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW TO REVIVE CROSS BORDER TIES. At meetings with Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 19 July, Nyam-Osoryn Tuya discussed boosting Mongolia's ties with Russia, particularly with its southern Siberian regions, ITAR-TASS reported. Trade between the two countries has been dwindling recently: according to Russian Trade Ministry data cited by Interfax, turnover totaled $186.4 million in 1998, down 34 percent on the previous year. Top-level diplomatic contacts between the countries have also been below previous levels: as Tuya noted, the Mongolian prime minister's last visit to Russia was four years ago. The two sides reached agreement in principle on a meeting of the two countries' premiers this fall. In a forum on the problems of border regions earlier this month, Belgorod Governor Yevgenii Savchenko complained that Mongolia "was taking its goods to China" rather than Russia because of poor roads and customs regulations, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 10 July. JC/JAC ARMED FORCES TO RECEIVE NEW WEAPONS THIS YEAR? Colonel- General Anatolii Sitnov told Interfax on 17 July that despite financial difficulties, the armed forces will receive new weapons and other military hardware this year. Among the planned acquisitions are 10 Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles for the Strategic Rocket Forces, a TU-160 bomber for the Air Force, a nuclear submarine and anti- submarine vessel for the Navy, 100 armored vehicles and 30 T- 90 tanks for the General Purpose Forces, and 10 satellites for defense needs. At the same time, Sitnov warned that the delivery of these and other items will depend on funding for state defense contracts. That caution may prove well-founded. Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov was quoted in the latest issue of "Vek" as saying that the army will have to upgrade its weapons because it does not have the money to buy new ones, "The Moscow Times" reported on 17 July. JC RARE VIRUS OUTBREAK ISOLATES SOUTHERN TOWN. Oblivskaya, a small town in Rostov Oblast, is experiencing an outbreak of what one top Russian health official called "Congolese- Crimean hemorrhagic fever," "Izvestiya" reported on 20 July. First Deputy Minister of Health and head sanitary doctor Gennadii Onishchenko believes that the virus is transmitted by insects and domestic animals. As of 19 July, 38 children and 52 adults had been hospitalized with symptoms of the virus, such as sudden fevers, severe headaches, and bleeding from different internal organs. Onishchenko told Ekho Moskvy earlier that officials are not planning to introduce quarantine, but Russian Television reported that the town is already in semi-quarantine, with bus services between it and neighboring towns suspended and trains passing through without stopping. Over the past two weeks, six people have died from the illness, Interfax reported. According to "Izvestiya," the last outbreak occurred in 1997 in Khabarovsk Krai, where 225 people fell ill. JAC IVANOV DENIES ETHNIC CLEANSING IN KOSOVA, SLAMS NATO... Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov told "Komsomolskaya pravda" of 20 July that the NATO campaign against Yugoslavia was not justified. "I traveled to Yugoslavia often, there was not a situation which would have required an...intervention, " he said. "There was no massive ethnic cleansing, although of course there were incidents. But the [Western] mass media created an image of [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic, Yugoslavia, and the situation around it, designed to [justify] decisions that NATO had taken in the previous months. First, to use forces without a UN Security Council resolution. Second, to use forces outside NATO's sphere of responsibility." FS ...BUT CALLS FOR BETTER RELATIONS WITH THE WEST. Ivanov also told "Komsomolskaya pravda" that Russia maintained good relations with individual NATO countries throughout the Kosova crisis, despite freezing relations with the alliance itself. He also called on his fellow countrymen to improve relations with the West. Ivanov warned that there is a rise of "anti-American feelings in Russia, especially among young people," adding that it is the "task not only of the president and the government but of entire public opinion to overcome negative [images] by solving concrete problems." FS RUSSIAN EXPERTS ESTIMATE DAMAGE TO YUGOSLAV REFINERIES. Valerii Yevlampiev, director-general of the Nizhnii Novgorod regional department for foreign economic relations, told Interfax in Moscow on 19 July that Russian experts estimate the damage to the Novi Sad and Pancevo oil refineries at about $400 million. He added that three companies in Nizhnii Novgorod designed parts of the refineries in the 1970s and 1980 and are hoping to receive post-war reconstruction contracts. Meanwhile on 19 July, the Russian Emergency Ministry sent a chemical and radiological laboratory to Yugoslavia to assess the environmental impact of the war. Six military trains carrying 682 paratroopers, 39 armored vehicles, 207 other vehicles, and more than 600 tons of cargo left Tula and Ryazan bound for Leskovac. And Russian railways resumed regular passenger traffic between Moscow and Belgrade, ITAR-TASS reported. FS A CANDIDATE FOR ALL SEASONS. "Obshchaya gazeta" reported in its No. 28 July issue that Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii plans to run in not just two upcoming gubernatorial elections but five. According to the newspaper, after a failed bid for the governor's seat in Belgorod, Zhirinovskii is preparing to run in the following elections: Sverdlovsk Oblast on 29 August, Novgorod Oblast on 5 September, Omsk Oblast on 5 September, Leningrad Oblast on 19 September and Tomsk Oblast also on 19 September. The newspaper claims that Zhirinovskii is not seeking victory for its own sake, since the "trash of life in the provinces is not for the LDPR leader." Zhirinovskii "merely wants to tone his reflexes on the eve of federal elections." JAC CHECHENS, RUSSIANS EXCHANGE FIRE. Chechen attacks on Russian border posts on 19 July left two Russian soldiers dead and five wounded, the Russian Interior Ministry told ITAR-TASS. In response, Russian forces launched 40 missiles from helicopters based in Stavropol Krai. PG CHECHNYA CLOSES REGIONAL MISSIONS IN RUSSIA. Chechnya's general representative to the Russian Federation told ITAR- TASS on 19 July that he is temporarily closing all of Chechnya's representational offices in the regions of the Russian Federation. Mairbek Vachagayev, who took up his duties in Moscow the same day, said that these offices will remain closed "until the Russian side provides an official explanation" for the detention and then release of Chechen State Security Minister Turpal Atgeriyev. Meanwhile, Russian prosecutors announced that they lack evidence to charge Atgeriyev with the crimes for which he was detained. PG NEW ZEALAND CITIZEN RELEASED IN CHECHNYA. Cruz Ribeio Geraldo, a citizen of New Zealand and representative of the International Red Cross, who was seized by Chechen gunmen in Nalchik on 15 May 15, has been freed "as a result of a special operation carried out by the North Caucasian department for combating organized crime," the Russian Federation Interior Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 20 July. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN NEWSPAPER PREDICTS EXPANDED WAR WITH AZERBAIJAN. Even as Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev expressed satisfaction with their recent meeting, the Armenian newspaper "Golos Armenii" suggested that Azerbaijan will eventually earn enough money from oil and gas exports to be able to finance a new and larger war against Armenia. Writing in that newspaper's 17 July issue, V. Grigoryan said that "it will then become increasingly harder for Armenia to maintain military parity and a full-scale war will be unavoidable in 10 years' time." PG STALIN WAS 'RUSSIAN' PHENOMENON, SAYS GRANDSON. Speaking in Moscow on 18 July to a meeting of those opposed to burying Lenin, Yevgeny Dzhugashvili said that his grandfather was "not a Georgian but a Russian phenomenon," Caucasus Press reported on 19 July. And he said that those who try to blame Stalin on the Georgians are making a major mistake. PG SHEVARDNADZE WILL 'PROBABLY' RUN AGAIN... At his weekly news conference on 19 July, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that he will "probably" run for a second term but added that "to be serious, I haven't yet decided," Reuters reported. In other comments, reported by Caucasus Press, Shevardnadze expressed his believe that the "president can head a political party," suggesting that he will seek to run as the leader of one. PG ...WELCOMES GROWING TIES WITH U.S. The Georgian leader said that "relations between Georgia and the U.S. are gradually assuming the nature of a strategic partnership," ITAR-TASS reported. But he commented that "this cooperation is not aimed against anyone." He again expressed interest in NATO's participation in finding a solution to the Abkhaz problem. In related developments, Tbilisi announced that the parliament will consider sending 20 Georgian servicemen to Kosova, ITAR- TASS reported. A representative of the Georgian military will go to Italy in August for NATO training, according to Caucasus Press. PG GEORGIA RAISES THRESHOLD FOR PARLIAMENTARY REPRESENTATION. The Georgian parliament on 20 July voted to increase the voting threshold for representation in parliament from 5 percent to 7 percent, Caucasus Press reported. The vote, which will make it more difficult for some smaller parties to gain representation in the parliament, results in the first amendment to the country's 1995 constitution. But President Shevardnadze dismissed it as having little importance for him and his political future. PG CENTRAL ASIANS TO FORM SECURITIES MARKET. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan will form a securities market, the Kazakhstan government announced to Interfax- Kazakhstan on 20 July. PG KAZAKHSTAN STEPS UP PRESSURE OVER BAIKONUR. Meibek Moldabekov, the head of Kazakhstan's Space Agency, told Reuters on 20 July that his government will seek a percentage of profits from all future Russian launches from Baikonur as well as a say in future launch schedules. But he acknowledged that "Kazakhstan does not have the legal right" to limit the number of launches at the site, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported the same day. PG KYRGYZSTAN, RUSSIA SIGN BORDER CONTROL ACCORD. Under the terms of a 17 July agreement, Kyrgyzstan will assume responsibility for parts of its border that have been under the control of Russian border guards, Interfax reported on 19 July. PG TAJJIK MUSLIM LEADER RE-ELECTED. Haji Amanullo Negmatzoda was re-elected to the chairmanship of the Tajik Muslim Religious Board for another five years, Interfax reported on 19 July. PG UZBEKISTAN PRESIDENT PROPOSES AFGHAN PEACE PLAN. Speaking to a meeting of the "Six plus Two" group in Tashkent on 19 July, President Islam Karimov called for a cease-fire, an exchange of prisoners, and the end of all blockades of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, Interfax reported. Karimov said that "our most coveted and greatest desire is to see a peaceful, stable, and secure Afghanistan." PG 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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