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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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Headlines, Part I

* NEW 'RIGHT-CENTER' COALITION EMERGES

* ANOTHER SYNAGOGUE BOMBING ATTEMPTED

* KAZAKHSTAN RELEASES MORE MUSLIMS

End Note: PASKO FREED FOLLOWING CLOSED-DOOR TRIAL
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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.
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               Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
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