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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 142, Part I, 23 July 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 142, Part I, 23 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 * PRIME MINISTER CRITICIZES MOSCOW MAYOR * ZYUGANOV CONTINUES TO ASSERT LEFTIST FORCES WILL UNITE * AZERBAIJAN'S ALIEV PURSUES TWO-TRACK PEACE PROCESS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA PRIME MINISTER CRITICIZES MOSCOW MAYOR... Sergei Stepashin has rebuked Yurii Luzhkov for his recent statements alleging that the Kremlin is conspiring against the Moscow mayor and has orchestrated a Federal Security Service (FSB) probe into his wife's firm, Inteka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 1999). Stepashin said on 22 July that "I understand Yurii Mikhailovich [Luzhkov] to be a man who is defending his wife, but the way he has chosen to defend her is incorrect. If there are claims against security organs, then he should go to court, to lawyers, and finally to the prosecutor-general." In an interview in the July issue of "Sobesednik," Gleb Pavlovskii, the political consultant, who according to that publication was reportedly the "major initiator of the anti- Luzhkov campaign," said Luzhkov would make a "weak and cruel" president. Luzhkov, according to Pavlovskii, is "the candidate of the strong and wealthy" and the only opposition that will be allowed "will be that built into the system's design." JAC ...AS CAPITAL'S FIRST LADY HINTS AT RUN FOR STATE DUMA. Luzhkov's wife, Elena Baturina, told "Izvestiya" on 22 July that she has received proposals to run for the State Duma in two constituencies, the Ust-Ordinskii Buryat Autonomous Okrug and the Republic of Kalmykia, where her brother is prime minister. Baturina, who would be eligible for immunity from criminal prosecution as a deputy, hinted that she is seriously considering a run. "The anarchy in which I have found myself makes me hesitate to say that there is no sense in running for the Duma and fighting at least somehow," she said. However, in an interview with NTV on 17 July, Baturina said "I have already chosen my vocation. It's business.... As it is, I have too much on my plate to think about going in for other activities either in Russia or abroad." JAC ZYUGANOV CONTINUES TO ASSERT LEFTIST FORCES WILL UNITE. Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov told reporters on 22 July that the Communist Party, People's Power, the Agrarians, and the People's Patriotic Union win run for the parliament in "one powerful column." Zyuganov's comments follow statements by leaders of the Agrarian Party and the Movement to Support the Army that they will participate in Duma elections independently (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 22 July 1999). When asked how he will unite forces that are now determined to run separately, he said "you will see in the near future," according to ITAR-TASS. JAC NEW MEDIA LEGISLATION TO OFFER STATE 'PROTECTION' FROM PRESS? In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 22 July, Minister for Press, Broadcasting, and Mass Communications Mikhail Lesin revealed that his ministry has drafted amendments to the law on media and on political advertisements. When asked to describe the amendments, Lesin said only that they "concern the rights of the media and the rights of control over them." He added that "the media currently have more powers and opportunities than the state." Lesin denied plans are afoot to "nationalize NTV," and he stressed that ORT and NTV "still exist," even though they "discredit the media" with their latest analytical programs. He concluded that "the media currently have more opportunities to influence the state than vice versa. Therefore, protection of the state from the 'free media' is a more vital problem today," perhaps because "the state does not have its own newsmakers." JAC NEMTSOV TO JOIN BEREZOVSKII AND OTHERS IN LOWER LEGISLATIVE CHAMBER? Former Deputy Prime Minister and one of the leaders of Pravoe Delo (Right Cause) Boris Nemtsov may run in Duma elections in a single-mandate constituency in the Avtozavodskii district in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 22 July. According to the daily, Nemtsov will decide whether to seek the seat by the beginning of August. Meanwhile, influential businessman Boris Berezovskii will shortly visit Primorskii Krai, from which he may be considering seeking a Duma seat, "Tribuna" speculated on 23 July. On 15 July, Berezovskii told "Kommersant-Daily" that if elected, he will suggest abolishing deputies' immunity. Some media sources, not controlled by Berezovskii, speculated earlier that he is himself seeking a seat to gain immunity from criminal investigations such as the one that recently drove him to Paris. JAC RUSSIA, BRITAIN MENDING FENCES. Speaking at the end of his two-day visit to London, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Russia is interested in "greater cooperation with Britain in all spheres of mutual interest, including defense," Russian agencies reported on 22 July. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, with whom Ivanov held talks lasting some five hours, said the visit marked a "step change" in bilateral ties, adding that London wants a "new and stronger relation for the new millennium," Reuters reported. But while the ministers agreed over boosting relations, Ivanov highlighted one remaining difference by stressing Yugoslavia should be given reconstruction aid to avert a "real humanitarian catastrophe ahead of the winter." Britain and the U.S., in particular, oppose such assistance as long as Slobodan Milosevic remains in power. Ivanov had cancelled a planned trip to London in May to protest the alliance's accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. JC U.S. TO HELP FUND NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL. The U.S. Defense Department and the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry have signed an agreement on U.S. assistance in the disposal of spent nuclear fuel rods from Russian submarines, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 July. The U.S. will help pay some of the costs of transporting the nuclear waste to an enterprise in Chelyabinsk Oblast, where enriched uranium will be extracted for use in nuclear power plants. Also on 22 July, the "Wall Street Journal Europe" reported that Russia is looking to the U.S. for help in seeking customers for its proposed nuclear- waste storage business. Russian legislation from 1992 bans the import of nuclear waste, but Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov told the newspaper that his government is drafting amendments to that legislation. The project is due to be discussed by the Gore-Stepashin commission next week during the Russian prime minister's visit to the U.S. JC NEW MEANS OF DECOMMISSIONING CHEMICAL WEAPONS DISCOVERED? "Izvestiya" on 22 July reported that the Vyatka-Eco firm in Kirov Oblast has discovered a means of decommissioning chemical weapons that obviates the need to dismantle the covering of shells, thereby making the process safer. A test is scheduled to be carried out on a Defense Ministry testing site in Saratov, but funds are lacking. According to the newspaper, local experts are hoping that the U.S. will help foot the bill to carry out the experiment. JC POPKOVICH WARNS COLLAPSE OF ARMED FORCES MAY BE 'IRREVERSIBLE.' In an interview with "Segodnya" published on 22 July, State Duma Defense Committee Secretary Roman Popkovich of Our Home Is Russia said that if the government does not take effective measures, the collapse of the armed forces will become irreversible. He slammed the Finance Ministry for not carrying out the president's order to allocate funds equal to 3.5 percent of GDP for national defense. The state owes the armed forces nearly 15 billion rubles ($619 million), he noted, and that figure may grow owing to "unexpected expenditures" in the Balkans. Popkovich ridiculed the recent West '99 exercises as "an advertising stunt." In reality, he commented, combat training programs have been drastically curtailed for lack of funds. JC FSB SPYING ON INTERNET? Many, "if not all," Internet providers in Moscow have voluntarily agreed to grant the FSB access to their servers to "spy on their clients," "Segodnya" reported on 22 July, citing only "evidence" from an undisclosed source. Moscow-based Internet service providers reportedly maintain almost 60 percent of the Russian internet. According to the daily, only one provider, Volgograd-based Baiyard-Slavia Communications, has publicly refused to comply with a June 1998 FSB regulation requiring providers not only to give the FSB full access to their servers but also to provide the necessary equipment for the FSB to monitor their systems. The remaining Internet service providers "want to keep their licenses," the newspaper concludes. JAC SVERDLOVSK ASKS FOR PRIMAKOV, GETS BREZHNEV. Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 19 July officially declined an invitation from Sverdlovsk Oblast to seek the governor's office there in elections scheduled for 29 August. On 22 July, Andrei Brezhnev, the grandson of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and head of the All- Russian Communist Socio- Political Movement, arrived in Yekaterinburg to register as a candidate for gubernatorial elections, Interfax-Eurasia reported. The previous day, the oblast's election commission sent all signatures collected in support of the candidacy of Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii to a handwriting expert for verification, because all members of the commission expressed doubts about the signatures' authenticity, according to the commission's chairman. So far, officially registered candidates include incumbent Eduard Rossel, Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii, State Duma Deputy and member of Pravoe Delo (Right Cause) Andrei Selvanov, and Igor Kovpak, president of a local supermarket chain. JAC STEPASHIN SAYS NO NEW WAR IN CHECHNYA. Prime Minister Stepashin said in Yekaterinburg on 23 July that there will not be another war in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. "Nobody wants to repeat the mistakes twice," he said. At the same time, he reaffirmed that a meeting between the Chechen and Russian presidents will take place. And he dismissed frequent suggestions that the Chechens were a uniquely criminal group: "Bandits have no nationality," he said, "and we must fight against them as against bandits and not as representatives of this or that nationality." Most of the problem in the North Caucasus arises from "joint gangs" that include Chechens, Armenians, and Russians operating in Stavropol Krai. PG CHECHNYA ACCEPTS MOSCOW EXPLANATION. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and the Chechen government on 22 July accepted Moscow's explanation for the temporary detention of Chechen security chief Turpal Atgeriyev last weekend and now consider the matter closed, ITAR-TASS reported. As a result, Chechnya will not close its mission in Moscow, as its chief, Mairbek Vachagayev, had announced on 21 July. Meanwhile, Chechen Deputy Premier Kazbek Makhashev and Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov met in Pyatigorsk to discuss both current problems and a future meeting between the Russian and Chechen presidents. PG RUSSIAN PROSECUTORS EXAMINING INGUSH POLYGAMY DECREE. Russian prosecutors on 22 July began to examine the legality of an Ingush decree permitting polygamy in that region, dpa reported. Representatives of other Muslim regions inside the Russian Federation and the central Muslim Spiritual Directorate issued statements that the polygamy decree is consistent with Islam. Meanwhile, Izvestiya reported on 23 July that the Russian Constitutional Court may consider the question as well. PG DAGESTANIS ATTACK AZERBAIJANI POLICE. Some 200 Dagestanis attacked Azerbaijani police who had arrested a Sadval movement activist on Dagestani territory and were escorting him toward the Azerbaijani border, Baku's ANS television station reported on 22 July. The attackers were able to free Gasym Mahmudov, the station said. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIAN JEWS CONVERTED TO ARMENIAN CHURCH TO AVOID POGROMS BEFORE WWI, NEW BOOK SAYS. According to a new book published this week in Yerevan, thousands of Russian Jews sought to join the Armenian Apostolic Church before World War I in order to escape growing Russian anti-Semitic attacks at that time, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports. The book, by Armenian Academician Vardges Mikaeelian, is based on archival sources, but the author acknowledges that "it is difficult to say how many Jews in fact adopted the Armenian Apostolic faith." PG AZERBAIJAN TO SEND PEACEKEEPERS TO KOSOVA. NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana has invited Baku to send 30 peacekeepers to Kosova, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov told ITAR-TASS on 22 July. Turkey had participated in consultations with NATO that led to this agreement. PG AZERBAIJAN'S ALIEV PURSUES TWO-TRACK PEACE PROCESS. President Heidar Aliev told visiting French Senate chairman Christian Poncelet that Baku will seek to settle the Armenian- Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh "both within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group and by direct talks between heads of state," ITAR-TASS reported. Poncelet welcomed this move, invited Baku to participate in Caucasus-wide talks in Paris later this year, and called for the establishment of a common market in the southern Caucasus. PG NEW SLANDER TRIAL MARS AZERBAIJAN'S PRESS DAY. The trial of a journalist accused of slandering the brother of President Aliev opened in Baku on 22 July, thus casting a shadow over the country's National Press Day, AP reported. Speaking on Azerbaijani television ANS, Aliev said that the country's mass media is strong and "operating freely." Meanwhile, the Trend news agency reported that the country's Russian- language press on 21 July created a new association to help resolve problems that Russian publications face in Azerbaijan. PG ABKHAZ ELECTION PLANS DRAW GEORGIAN CRITICISM. The breakaway region of Abkhazia will hold a presidential election on 3 October, Abkhazpress reported on 22 July. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze denounced the move on 19 July, saying "this is an illegal election. A region from which three- quarters of the population has been evicted.... What kind of legality can we speak of in these conditions?" PG FORMER GEORGIAN SECURITY CHIEF BLAMED FOR COUP. Vakhtang Kutateladze, Georgia's minister of state security, has identified former Georgian security chief Igor Giorgadze as the organizer of a recent coup plot against President Shevardnadze, Prime News reported on 22 July. Kutateladze said that Giorgadze wanted to subvert Georgian independence by leading it into the Russia-Belarus union not as a single country but rather as a set of regions. PG KAZEHGELDIN TO RUN FOR KAZAKHSTAN PARLIAMENT. Former Kazakhstan Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, the leader of the opposition Republican People's Party, will run for the parliament, even though he and his party doubt the vote will be democratic, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 22 July. But there was one positive step with regard to that vote: RFE/RL's Kazakh service reported on 22 July that the Kazakhstan authorities have registered the Republican People's Party, thereby making it fully eligible to participate in the election. PG RUSSIAN SMUGGLING NUCLEAR MATERIALS DETAINED AT KAZAKHSTAN BORDER. Kazakhstan customs officials detained a Russian officer who was attempting to take radioactive materials into Uzbekistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 July. The materials, used as a power source for nuclear reactors, came from the Baikonur space center. PG CLARIFICATION: "RFE/RL Newsline" reported on 22 July that there is a hunger strike at Kazakhstan's Ekibastuz Power Station. There are in fact two power stations there. The strike is taking place at GRES-2, which remains state-owned, not at GRES-1, which has been privatized. RUSSIA TO OPEN MILITARY BASE IN TAJIKISTAN. Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov told Interfax on 22 July that Russia plans to establish a military base in Tajikistan. He added that Tajikistan "maintains balanced relations with all countries but views Russia as a strategically important partner." PG RUSSIAN-KYRGYZ JOINT VENTURE STEALS MEDICAL AID. A Russian- Kyrgyz joint venture that was to deliver humanitarian aid totaling $1.6 million to Kyrgyzstan in fact delivered only $47,000 worth, the Kyrgyz National Security Ministry told Interfax on 22 July. PG 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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