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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 143, Part I, 26 July 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 143, Part I, 26 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 * NEW 'RIGHT-CENTER' COALITION EMERGES * ANOTHER SYNAGOGUE BOMBING ATTEMPTED * KAZAKHSTAN RELEASES MORE MUSLIMS End Note: PASKO FREED FOLLOWING CLOSED-DOOR TRIAL xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA NEW 'RIGHT-CENTER' COALITION EMERGES... The leaders of three self-proclaimed "right-center" groups announced on 23 July that they have formed a coalition to participate in the State Duma elections in December. The new bloc is composed of Pravoe Delo (Right Cause), led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, Novaya Sila (New Force), headed by former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, and Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia), whose informal head is Samara Governor Konstantin Titov. According to Interfax, the three groups have agreed to present a common party list. A name for the new coalition will be chosen by 28 July. Political observers had been skeptical that the groups would manage to forge a coalition. "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 24 July that the leaders "did the impossible," in part by "leaving out the question of leadership, which is ruinous for democrats." JAC ...AS FATE OF LUZHKOV'S ALLIANCE WITH GOVERNORS STILL UNSETTLED. Meanwhile, Otechestvo (Fatherland) election campaign head Georgii Boos told Interfax that the leadership of Otechestvo and Vsya Rossiya (All Russia) will meet on 29 July to discuss their future cooperation. Otechestvo is headed by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, while Vsya Rossiya's informal head is Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev. Analysts and media have also become increasingly skeptical that these two groups will forge an alliance. The "EWI Russian Regional Report" noted on 22 July that clear differences exist between Luzhkov, who is at war with the Kremlin, and Shaimiev, who tries to cultivate a closer relationship with the Russian president. Meanwhile, the head of the Islamic Committee, Geidar Dzhemal told "Kommersant- Daily" of 24 July that his group will form an alliance with the Movement in Support of the Army, which is headed by Duma deputies Viktor Ilyukhin and Albert Makashov. According to the newspaper, the committee supports the activities of radical Islamic groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah and Palestine's Hamas. JAC PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION HEAD'S PAST SCRUTINIZED... "Moskovskii komsomolets," a newspaper that is close to Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, has joined NTV, a television station owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most group, in making allegations against presidential administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin. In a front page article on 23 July, the daily said Voloshin was involved in an illegal bond purchase in the mid-1990s when he headed the Esta Korp joint-stock company. The transaction attracted the attention of a regional prosecutor's office, which ruled that the bond should be confiscated from Esta Korp. However, that decision was overruled by the Moscow Prosecutor-General's Office on 30 September 1998. The newspaper alleges that Voloshin engineered this ruling as chief of the presidential staff, but he did not occupy that post until March 1999, when he was promoted from deputy head (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 1999). JAC ...AS GUSINSKI-OWNED MEDIA COMPLAIN OF KREMLIN HARASSMENT. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 July that Gusinskii has requested that the Prosecutor-General's Office conduct an investigation into Voloshin for urging state agencies, such as the tax service, to pressure independent mass media organizations. Gusinskii's action follows complaints from editors at NTV, Ekho Moskvy, the weekly magazine "Itogi," and "Segodnya" that high-ranking Kremlin officials, such as Voloshin, are trying to pressure them by instigating investigations into their finances. In an open letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin published in "Segodnya" on 24 July, editors from those outlets write that following a number of critical stories they ran on the Kremlin, "the directors of the Russian Tax Police Service received instructions to institute legal proceedings" against their organizations. The Media-Most Group owns NTV, "Segodnya," "Itogi," and Ekho Moskvy. JAC ANOTHER SYNAGOGUE BOMBING ATTEMPTED. An explosive device discovered on 25 July inside a synagogue in Moscow was defused before it could explode, Interfax reported. According to the agency, a celebration had been planned that day in which a number of children as well as influential members of the city's Jewish community were to have taken part. JAC GOVERNMENT PROMISES WORLD BANK IT WILL ELIMINATE BARTER. The World Bank has approved new loans to Russia under its Structural Adjustment program and for its coal sector, Interfax reported on 26 July. A key plank of the structural adjustment program for Russia involves increasing payments in cash to energy and transportation monopolies so that barter transactions are completely eliminated by 2001, "Segodnya" reported on 24 July. According to the newspaper, cash payments to Unified Energy Systems (EES) should amount to 75 percent by 1 January 2001. This year they have increased from 15 percent in April to 28 percent in June. The government also agreed that the EES, Gazprom, Transneft, and the Road and Transportation Ministry must "start publishing their accounts in accordance with 28 international standards in the near future," according to the daily. JAC STEPASHIN SAYS HE WON'T SEEK PRESIDENCY... Russian Premier Sergei Stepashin told reporters on 25 July that running for president of Russia in 2000 "is not part of his plans," Interfax reported. Stepashin's statement appears to contradict an earlier one by chief of the presidential administration Voloshin, who concluded in an interview with "Izvestiya" on 8 June that "a man who becomes prime minister a year before the elections must have presidential ambitions." In a CBS interview shown on NTV the same day, Stepashin's answer to the same question about his presidential plans was less definitive. "At the moment I am more concerned about the State Duma elections," he said. "This is a very important stage for forming the parliament and relations between the branches of authority. This will be a point of departure for the presidential elections next year." JAC ...STRESSES NEED TO MODERNIZE ARMY... "The events in Yugoslavia, the NATO bombings, showed that we need new, high precision weapons, new equipment and new electronics," Prime Minister Stepashin told journalists in Nizhnii Tagil, Sverdlovsk Oblast, on 23 July. His comments came after the government commission on the defense industry recently met to set priorities for developing the military-industrial complex. JC ...CALLS RELATIONS WITH U.S. 'STABLE.' Following a stopover in Vladivostok to inspect Russia's Pacific Fleet, Stepashin arrived in the U.S. on 25 July at the start of a visit that he says has primarily economic goals. In an interview with "Newsweek" released on the eve of his visit to the U.S., Stepashin stressed that relations between Washington and Moscow are "stable," despite the "serious damage" done by NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. JC 'IZVESTIYA' PREDICTS DEMISE OF NAVY. Under the headline "Russia May Be Without a Navy by 2010, " Izvestiya" on 24 July detailed those conditions that it believes may lead to the force's demise over the next decade or so. The newspaper bemoaned wages in the 180,000-strong force, noting that assistant officers receive on average 1,300 rubles ($54) a month, captains 2,600 rubles, and admirals 3,500 rubles. It pointed out that officers and warrant officers are only now receiving ration allowances for 1997-1998. And it noted that on average, every fourth officer lacks accommodation or has housing in need of improvement. JC RUSSIA-NATO COUNCIL CONVENES IN BRUSSELS. The Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council convened on 23 July for the first time since NATO launched air strikes against Yugoslavia some four months ago. A NATO official said the meeting dealt only with cooperation on the ground in Kosova, Reuters reported. In a brief statement, the two sides said they are determined to "do their utmost" to ensure the security of everyone in Kosova. They condemned all acts of violence and stressed that those responsible should be brought to justice. And they also expressed concern over the continuing departure from Kosova of large numbers of Serbs, whom they urged to return home. In an interview with "Vremya MN" published on 26 July, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said it is very important that healthy relations are restored between Russia and the alliance, noting that both sides are seeking to "overcome difficulties" in those ties. JC ZHIRINOVSKII'S PARTY FORGING SIGNATURES IN SVERDLOVSK? Election commission officials in Sverdlovsk Oblast have determined that many of the signatures collected to support the candidacy of Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii in upcoming gubernatorial elections are fakes, according to Russian Public Television on 24 July. Of the 29,000 signatures that were submitted, 2,000 had been written by one person and more than 200 lists of signatures violated electoral laws, according to the station. Zhirinovskii told Russian Television that his party will conduct its own investigation and if the signatures do appear to be invalid, a thorough purge of the regional organization will result. Elections are scheduled to take place on 29 August. So far, the only officially registered candidates are 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. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 1999). JAC TARGETTED BY FSB, PROMINENT SCIENTIST FEARS RETURNING HOME. Vladimir Soifer told Reuters on 23 July that he fears returning to Vladivostok because Federal Security Service (FSB) investigators raided his home and laboratory earlier in the month, accusing him of misusing classified documents in his research on the ecological effects of a nuclear submarine accident in 1985 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1999). Soifer said "my work as a the head of the research group is under threat and also the work in our lab is being interrupted by this investigation." According to Interfax, the warrant used to search Soifer's home and laboratory said Soifer's actions "threaten the state and national security of Russia" (see also "End Note" below). JAC ZYUGANOV WANTS 'LONG-TERM PARTNERSHIP' BETWEEN U.S., RUSSIA. On the eve of Stepashin's visit to the U.S., Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told U.S. Ambassador to Moscow James Collins during an hour-long meeting in the State Duma that Russia and the U.S. should have a long-term partnership," Interfax reported on 23 July. Zyuganov said that Moscow and Washington must "join forces" to tackle such important issues as nuclear nonproliferation, technological progress, and environmental protection. In an interview with Interfax, Collins confirmed that he and Zyuganov had agreed on the need to expand Russian-U.S. relations. JC VIOLENCE CONTINUES ACROSS NORTH CAUCASUS. Four people were killed when their car was attacked near the Chechen-Ingush border on 23 July, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, three Russian soldiers were wounded in Dagestan, and 13 actors were kidnapped in Chechnya, the Russian agency reported. At the time of their abduction, the actors were involved in negotiating the release of hostages there. The new round of violence prompted Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to say that he will take new measures to protect Georgians from kidnapping, while one Georgian politician said that the proposed Georgian-Chechen highway should not be built, Caucasus Press reported. But Azerbaijani Ethnic Affairs Adviser Hidayat Orujov told Baku's ANS television on 24 July that he does not believe events in the North Caucasus will affect Azerbaijan. PG YELTSIN APPOINTMENT SPARKS PROTESTS IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA. Russian President Boris Yeltsin's appointment of an aide to serve as acting governor of Karachaevo-Cherkessia led at least 12,000 people to protest in that North Caucasus republic on 25 July, Reuters reported. Yeltsin named Valentin Vlasov to that post following a Russian Supreme Court decision on 23 July voiding a decision of the Karachaevo- Cherkessia Supreme Court to recognize General Vladimir Semenov as the victor in disputed presidential elections there. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GAS SHORTAGE HITS ARMENIA. The most serious fuel crisis to hit Armenia since the winter of 1993 brought motor traffic to a virtual standstill on 24 July, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The authorities blamed a storm on the Black Sea for delaying deliveries, warned against panic, and said the situation will return to normal by 26 July. PG SARKISIAN SAYS ARMENIA NO THREAT TO GEORGIA. In an interview with Georgia's Prime News agency on 25 July, Armenian Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian said Yerevan will not use its new Typhoon missile launchers to attack pipelines in Georgia, as some people in Georgia, he said, have suggested. In purchasing these new weapons from China, the Armenian leader said, Yerevan is "simply trying to protect its airspace, people, and state." PG AZERBAIJAN GETS TURKISH FUNDS FOR KOSOVO MISSION. Turkey has given Baku approximately $3.5 million to support the modernization of Azerbaijan's military forces in general and the dispatch of 30 Azerbaijani soldiers to participate in the Kosova peacekeeping operation, Reuters reported on 24 July. PG AZERBAIJAN OPPOSITION CRITICIZES U.S. In a statement released to the Turan news agency on 23 July, Azerbaijan's Democratic Congress, an umbrella group uniting most of that country's opposition parties, criticized the U.S. for what the ADC said is a "double standard" in treating Azerbaijan and Armenia. The ADC said that Washington is pushing Azerbaijan to make concessions even as it maintains Section 907, a provision in U.S. law that prevents Washington from providing most kinds of assistance to Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, on the same day, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry criticized Armenian Americans for the pressure they have put on the U.S. Congress to maintain Section 907 and thus for promoting what it said is confrontation in the Caucasus. PG GULUZADE SAYS MOSCOW NERVOUS ABOUT ARMENIA. Azerbaijani Foreign Policy Adviser Vaga Guluzade told Baku's Trend agency on 23 July that Russia is seriously worried about the possibility of a rapprochement between Armenia and Western countries. He suggested that was why the Russian government had given such a warm welcome to Armenian Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian last week. The Russian authorities, Guluzade said, are especially concerned that there might be a settlement of the Karabakh dispute without Moscow's direct involvement. "In fact," he said, recently all conflicts have been settled by the U.S. with Russia and earlier the Soviet Union as only honorary observers. But in Karabakh and Armenia, Russia has more opportunities to jump in, just as it did in Prishtina, if Armenia suddenly decides to settle the conflict jointly with other countries." PG GEORGIA REJECTS RUSSIAN STATEMENT ON GUUAM. On 23 July, the Georgian Foreign Ministry released a statement that "no one has the right to tell Georgia with whom it can cooperate and in which spheres," Caucasus Press reported. The statement came in response to Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov's remark that GUUAM (a cooperative group including Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) is becoming a military-political union. PG GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA SQUARE OFF DIPLOMATICALLY. Prior to a UN Security Council session to be devoted to Abkhazia, Tbilisi, and Sukhumi laid out their positions, ITAR-TASS reported. On 24 July, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said that Abkhaz elections scheduled for October will be illegal and represented an attempt to subvert UN and OSCE resolutions on the conflict. A day earlier, Sergei Shamba, the foreign minister of the breakaway Abkhaz republic, sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggesting that "there are no grounds to persuade CIS or NATO peacekeepers to use force against Abkhazia." PG GEORGIA TO SHAVE HEADS OF PICKPOCKETS? As part of a crackdown on pickpockets in the Georgian capital, the Tbilisi police have decided to shave the heads of pickpockets who are caught in the act, Caucasus Press reported on 23 July. The police believe that they have the legal right to do so, but the country's legal ombudsman has already suggested that such punishments would be a violation of human rights. PG KAZAKHSTAN RELEASES MORE MUSLIMS. The police in Taraz have released another 25 members of a religious group arrested last week after relatives of those belonging to the group began a hunger strike in front of the regional center administration building, Kazakhstan's Khabar TV reported on 24 July. But lawyers for those still detained said the authorities are considering charging those detainees with forming an illegal paramilitary organization. PG CHINA TO PROVIDE MILITARY AID TO KAZAKHSTAN. A Chinese military delegation told Kazakhstan authorities on 24 July that Beijing was prepared to provide Kazakhstan with military aid. But it provided no details beyond suggesting that the aid will include communications equipment and textiles for uniforms, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. PG BAIKONUR INVESTIGATOR FOUND DEAD. Igor Bogatyrev, the 33- year-old deputy governor of Qaraghady Oblast and the head of the Kazakhstan commission investigating the Russian PROTON rocket explosion over Kazakhstan earlier this month, was found dead in his apartment on 23 July, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. There was no immediate evidence as to whether his death was an accident or suicide. PG KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA TO COOPERATE AGAINST LOCUSTS. Agricultural officials from Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation have agreed to cooperate in the fight against locust infestations in both countries, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 23 July. The two sides said "locusts know no borders." PG FORMER KAZAKHSTAN PREMIER WILLING TO TALK TO INVESTIGATORS-- IN SWITZERLAND. Akezhan Kazhegeldin, the former prime minister and presidential hopeful, has volunteered to meet Kazakhstan investigators "on neutral ground," namely in Switzerland, where he is vacationing, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 23 July. Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General Yuri Khitrin said Kazhegeldin's behavior is inadmissible and that the former premier must explain the sources of his income. PG TAJIKISTAN, U.S. DISCUSS DEMILITARIZATION. The U.S. embassy military attache in Dushanbe met with Tajikistan's Deputy Prime Minister Abdurahmon Azimov to explore ways how Washington might help Tajikistan remove weapons and landmines from its territory, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 July. PG 1,000 FROM UZBEKISTAN ILLEGALLY SETTLE IN TAJIKISTAN. More than 1,000 people from Uzbekistan have illegally settled in eastern Tajikistan, Tajik officials told ITAR-TASS on 23 July. The officials, representing both the government and opposition, spent three days in that region last week. PG UZBEKISTAN TO MEMORIALIZE 'MARTYRS OF COLONIALISM.' The Uzbekistan government has decided to build a special memorial in Tashkent to those who suffered under the Soviet regime in order to inculcate in young people "respect for their forefathers' heroism and selflessness, belief in the victory of social justice, and devotion to the ideas of independence and patriotism," Uzbek Television reported on 22 July. The memorial project will also involve the establishment of a special fund to support research activities on the lives of these people. PG UZBEKISTAN JAILS CHRISTIANS. Three Christians working for the Full Gospel Church in Nukus, the capital of the Karakalpak Autonomous Republic in Uzbekistan, have been jailed for long periods, Keston Institute reported on 23 July. All three were convicted for possessing drugs, but both they and their supporters say those drugs were planted on them by the police. One was also convicted for illegal religious activities. PG UZBEK OPPOSITION LEADER DENIES FUNDING SUBVERSIVE LITERATURE. Speaking on Iranian Radio's Uzbek Service on 24 July, Mohammad Solih, the leader of the banned Erk Democratic Party, denied Tashkent's charges that he funded the dissemination of subversive literature in Uzbekistan and was involved in the 16 February bombings in the Uzbek capital. PG END NOTE PASKO FREED FOLLOWING CLOSED-DOOR TRIAL by Matt Frost The Russian military journalist Grigorii Pasko was freed from a Vladivostok jail last week after a military court ruled that he had misused his office but was entitled to amnesty. Pasko, a former officer in the Russian Navy and a reporter for the Pacific Fleet newspaper, was arrested in November 1997. Pasko was found guilty of abuse of power for personal gain and violating the interests of society and the state. He was sentenced to three years in prison but immediately set free under an amnesty bill signed into law last month by President Boris Yeltsin. The Pacific Fleet military court ruled that the treason and espionage charges against Pasko were unfounded, saying the information he had given Japan's NHK television station was not secret. In a telephone interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service shortly after his release, the 37-year-old journalist spoke about how he felt after more than 20 months in jail and after escaping a potential 12-year prison sentence for treason: "In the first place, the decision was not totally unexpected, because it would have been scandalous to sentence an innocent man to 12 years' imprisonment," he said. "The only correct decision was to release me. Therefore, to use football jargon, you can say the score is a tie (1:1)." The court found that much of the evidence against Pasko had been collected in violation of the law and that two of the documents submitted as evidence by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB)--heir to the Soviet-era KGB--had been falsified. Asked if he agreed with the verdict that found him guilty of abuse of power, Pasko replied: "No way. In the criminal case, there is no evidence for the charge of Article 275 [abuse of power under the Russian criminal code], but not even under Article 285 on the misuse of office, for one very simple reason. I am not a public servant." Much of the trial was held behind closed doors, but prosecutors said publicly that Pasko had handed over 10 documents containing state secrets to Japanese television and divulged information about the combat readiness of Russia's Pacific Fleet. Pasko said the case was fabricated by the FSB to punish him for reports he filed on Japanese Television about the Pacific Fleet's nuclear-waste dumping practices. Pasko said his material documented environmental hazards at several fleet facilities but did not involve classified information. Pasko said the aim of the trial was to silence him. He said the FSB had been trying to get him to collaborate with it for some time but that he had refused. He said the FSB knew he had a wide circle of people who shared information with him: "From simple sailors to foreign correspondents, including generals and admirals. Because I have always been an honorable journalist. [The FSB] wanted to exploit this." Asked about the prison conditions during his 20-month detention in Vladivostok, Pasko said they were the "same" as everywhere in Russia. "For the last year, I was held in solitary confinement, and in as much as I was on my own, then it was more or less bearable. But where people are held 50 or 40 in a cell, then these are very difficult conditions." The Pacific Fleet's branch of the FSB said it still wants to review the results of Pasko's case, but it appears to have accepted the verdict. Pasko qualified for the amnesty because he had already served more than one-third of his full three-year sentence and was a first-time offender. Pasko's case is not the only one where Russia's FSB appears to be attempting to quash Russia's budding environmental movement. The Federal Security Service recently raided the Vladivostok laboratory and home of Vladimir Soifer. Soifer is an internationally known scientist who has been investigating the problem of nuclear waste and storage in Russia's Far East. Alexander Nikitin, a retired navy captain, was also accused of espionage. He allegedly helped the Norwegian environmental organization Bellona document nuclear pollution by Russia's Northern Fleet. Nikitin was later released from prison but the FSB is moving to renew the case. And Vladimir Putin, director of the Federal Security Service, recently defended his agency's vigilant stance against environmentalists, claiming that foreign agents are penetrating ecological organizations and endangering state security. Environmentalists say the FSB is simply trying to help the military cover up an embarrassing legacy of neglect. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague. 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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