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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 144, Part I, 27 July 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 144, Part I, 27 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 * STEPASHIN STRESSES CONTINUITY IN U.S.-RUSSIAN RELATIONS * PRIMORYE GOVERNOR UNWELCOME GUEST IN U.S. * GEORGIA SEEKS UN FINDING OF ETHNIC CLEANSING IN ABKHAZIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA STEPASHIN STRESSES CONTINUITY IN U.S.-RUSSIAN RELATIONS... Sergei Stepashin arrived in Washington, D.C. on 27 July for his first visit there as head of the Russian government. Stepashin told reporters that among the aims of his visit are "reviving" the Gore-Stepashin Commission and developing personal contacts with U.S. Vice President Al Gore, ITAR-TASS reported. At a dinner in Seattle the previous night, Stepashin told members of the U.S.-Russia Business Council that reports of the "criminalization" of the Russian economy are exaggerated and that he is not dependent on magnates and tycoons. Stepashin also downplayed friction that developed between the U.S. and Russia over Kosova policy, noting that "the economic ties never snapped," AP reported. Stepashin added that his current visit "is a continuation of those head starts [in U.S.-Russian relations] which were made in the Chernomyrdin-Gore Commission and the agreements between [Russian President] Boris Yeltsin and [U.S. President] Bill Clinton." JAC ...AS NEW ROUND OF ARMS CONTROL TALKS IMMINENT. During his meetings with U.S. government officials in Washington, Stepashin is expected to agree on a date and time for consultations on the ABM and Start-III treaties, diplomatic sources told Interfax on 26 July. According to these sources, the first round of talks may be held in August in Moscow. JAC RUSSIA, U.S. ESTABLISH SECOND 'HOT LINE.' Meeting on the sidelines of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional forum in Singapore on 26 July, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said bilateral relations are on the mend following NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia. Both stressed, however, that serious differences remain over that campaign. With regard to the Start-II treaty, Ivanov stressed his government will press for its passage when the State Duma convenes after the summer recess. The two leaders signed an agreement on establishing a "hot line" to avoid future misunderstandings during times of crisis. This will be in addition to the so-called secure communications link that has connected the White House and the Kremlin since 1963. Albright and Ivanov were meeting for the first time since the beginning of the NATO campaign. JC IVANOV SAYS RELATIONS WITH CHINA GROWING STRONGER. Also on 26 July, Ivanov noted in an interview published in a Beijing newspaper and released by the Russian Foreign Ministry that Moscow's relations with China are strengthening and will play an increasingly important role as a stabilizing factor in global politics, Interfax reported. With regard to the "growing cooperation" between the two countries in the military-technological sphere and conversion of the defense industry, Ivanov said this development shows the level of "trust" in the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership. He also referred to "new alarming factors" that have emerged in the Asian-Pacific region, in particular those related to "U.S.- Japanese plans to set up ABM systems in Eastern Asia" and to the "renewal" of those countries' "military union." JC PRIMORYE GOVERNOR UNWELCOME GUEST IN U.S. The "Seattle Post- Intelligencer" reported on 24 July that Washington state officials privately admitted to a great deal of discomfort in hosting Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, who is part of Prime Minister Stepashin's delegation to the U.S., because local investors have had a variety of bad experiences in the krai. They consider Nazdratenko a "crook," "a thug" and the "godfather of Vladivostok," among other things. Elisa Miller, president of the Seattle-based Russian Far East Advisory Group, called Nazdratenko's use of federal police agencies "out of the ordinary behavior, even for Russia." The daily reported on 26 July that Nazdratenko was purposefully seated some distance away from Washington State Governor Gary Locke at a dinner for Stepashin. A spokesman for Locke had said previously "The governor is hosting the dinner with the Prime Minister. We don't have any control over who he brings with him." JAC STEPASHIN MEETS WITH RUSSIAN EMIGRES. On 26 July, Stepashin met with a group of prominent Russian emigres including University of Maryland professor Roald Sagdaev, "Novoe Russkoye Slovo" editor Valerii Vainberg, Russian Orthodox Archbishop of Washington, San Francisco, and U.S. West Coast States Vasilii Rodzyanko, and Princes Vladimir Golitsin and Grigorii Gagarin, ITAR-TASS reported. Stepashin suggested that the emigres "can do a lot to create a favorable climate in the U.S." regarding Russia. According to the agency, Stepashin expressed his verbal support for a proposal to set up a New York-based council to supervise lobbying efforts on behalf of Russia in the U.S., but he quipped that the Russian government does not have the money to fund such an organization. JAC RUSSIAN 'AID' TO YUGOSLAVIA TO REDUCE RUSSIA'S FOREIGN DEBT LOAD. The $150 million that the Russian government is allocating for the rebuilding of Yugoslavia will be taken out of Russia's debt to that country, Aleksei Ginsburg, an adviser to the Economics Ministry, announced on 26 July, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1999). According to Ginsburg, the Russian government decided to earmark $150 million of its debt to Yugoslavia as far back as 1997 for modernizing industries, reconstructing thermal power plants, and other projects. He added that the details of that transaction were settled only in 1999, however. JAC KALUZHNII DENIED SEAT ON GAZPROM'S BOARD... Gazprom on 26 July released a list of 19 names of candidates for members of the board of directors. Noticeably absent was the name of Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii, who had announced 10 days earlier that he would like a seat himself (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1999). Kalyuzhnii had insisted that new elections to the board be held less than a month after previous elections. Board chairman Viktor Chernomyrdin told reporters on 26 July that the federal government wants to secure five seats on the board when new elections are held on 26 August; currently it has four, including Chernomyrdin. Of the 19 candidates, 10 listed were government officials including, deputy ministers of state property, finance, economics, and fuel and energy, as well as the deputy chairman and chairman of the Federal Property Fund, Tax Minister Aleksandr Pochinok, adviser to Prime Minister Stepashin Aleksei Chizhov, former State Tax Service head Boris Fedorov, and Chernomyrdin. JAC ...LEFT OUT OF OTHER IMPORTANT GATHERINGS? "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 27 July that Chizhov was on the short list of candidates for the post of fuel and energy minister, but Sibneft head Roman Abramovich reportedly managed to get Kalyuzhnii appointed instead. The daily, which has written many critical articles about Kalyuzhnii, also noted that Kalyuzhnii was not invited to a recent meeting between Prime Minister Stepashin and the head of Russian oil companies. JAC COURTS TO STOP ACTIVITIES OF UNREGISTERED ORGANIZATIONS. Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov told Ekho Moskvy on 23 July that the activities of more than 700 federal organizations that did not reregister by 1 July 1999 as required by law will be stopped by courts and that his ministry has initiated procedures related to that process. Krasheninnikov added that more than 140 public organizations will not be able to nominate their own candidates to the State Duma this year because they did not apply to re- register their organizations by the 19 December 1998 deadline as required by law. Krasheninnikov also said that the Justice Ministry will tighten the procedure for verifying parties and movements, "Segodnya" reported on 24 July. JAC JEWISH OBLAST WANTS BEREZOVSKII AS STATE DUMA CANDIDATE. The Organization of Entrepreneurs for Economic Development (OPER) in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast has invited influential businessman Boris Berezovskii to run for a seat in the State Duma from their region, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 27 July. OPER President Sergei Leskov said that he believes Berezovskii would be able to attract investment to the region. He added that the written invitation to run was sent to Berezovskii care of Sibneft since it was impossible to find another address for him, "even on the Internet." The oblast is currently represented by Sergei Shtogrin, who is a member of People's Power. JAC RUSSIANS, CHECHENS AGAIN EXCHANGE FIRE. Russian and Chechen units again exchanged fire along the Dagestan-Chechen border on 25-26 July, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian agency said there were no casualties on the Russian side. PG KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA SITUATION UNRESOLVED. Interfax political analyst Natalia Timakov suggested on 27 July that President Yeltsin's decision to appoint his aide Valentin Vlasov as acting head of Karachaevo-Cherkessia postponed rather than resolved problems there. Supporters of the two local candidates, Stanislav Deryev and Vladimir Semyonov, have vowed to continue to press their cases in court. Meanwhile, Semenyov told Interfax on 26 July that "we will not permit a Chechen scenario" in the republic, even though many outsiders are trying to destabilize the situation and people there are "angered" by what he called "the clumsy actions of the federal government." PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN GAS CRISIS EASES. Gasoline was again available in most retail stations in Yerevan on 26 July, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported, but prices were approximately 10 percent higher than a week earlier. Meanwhile, Armenpress reported that Armenian authorities are blaming Romania and Bulgaria for the crisis, noting that Bulgaria is now selling gas to Yugoslavia while Romania's major refinery is undergoing repairs. PG AZERBAIJAN DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIAL SACKED. Colonel Mehman Salimov, the chief of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry's educational department, has been fired "for serious mistakes in his work," the Turan news agency reported on 26 July. The agency suggested that he was released because of an interview he had given to the press supporting military critics of the current defense minister and opposing improved relations between Baku and NATO. PG MUTALIBOV OPPOSES CONCERNS ON KARABAKH. Former Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov told Turan on 26 July that he opposes making concessions to Armenia in order to resolve the Karabakh problem. He rejected proposals for confederation or a "common state" combining Azerbaijan and Karabakh, which, he suggested, "in fact would mean independence" for the disputed region. PG GEORGIA SEEKS UN FINDING OF ETHNIC CLEANSING IN ABKHAZIA. President Eduard Shevardnadze on 26 July said that his government wants the UN Security Council to issue a statement finding that there has been ethnic cleansing in Abkhazia, Interfax reported. But a source in the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow would oppose any such finding and suggested that the Georgian request would likely be turned down. "We have no arguments in favor of recognizing the fact of ethnic cleansing against the Georgian population in Abkhazia," the unnamed source told ITAR-TASS the same day. Meanwhile, Georgian officials told Caucasus Press that the failure of the UN to issue such a finding would be "a defeat of the UN and a great disappointment for Georgia." At the UN, Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended that the UN mandate in Georgia be extended. PG GEORGIAN-ADJARIAN TENSIONS INCREASE. Georgian parliamentary deputies have said that a statement by Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze that the 1921 Kars Treaty should be restored is "treasonous," Prime News reported on 26 July. Abashidze had earlier cited that treaty as justifying his region's right to free trade with Turkey and even to give him the right to stop the collection of customs duties at seaports there. PG TBILISI TO RE-EXAMINE APRIL 1989 EVENTS. President Shevardnadze has instructed his government to re-examine all documents related to the actions of Soviet forces in dispersing a peaceful demonstration in Tbilisi on 9 April 1989, Caucasus Press reported on 26 July. Shevardnadze said he intends to publish a book on that tragic day, in which 16 people were killed and many more wounded. Meanwhile, former Georgian Communist Party leader Jumbar Patiashvili said he welcomes this new investigation and that if he or anyone else is found to have violated the law, those people should be punished. PG SHEVARDNADZE ACCUSES FIVE PARTIES OF BUYING VOTES... The Georgian president told a 26 July news conference that five political parties in his country have sought to bribe voters, Prime News reported. But the deputy chairman of the Central Election Commission, Gia Zesashvili, appeared to limit their legal liability by saying that vote-buying before a poll date is set is not in fact a crime. Shevardnadze told the journalists that he will soon fix a date for the elections. PG ...SAYS HE MET WITH CHECHENS ON HOSTAGES. In other comments at his 26 July press conference, Shevardnadze announced that he has met with Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov, now in Georgia for medical treatment, to discuss the release of Georgian citizens now held captive in Chechnya and the joint fight against kidnapping. PG NAZARBAYEV SAYS KAZAKH MEDIA SHOULD PLAY 'POSITIVE' ROLE. Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev told journalists in his country on 26 July that further democratization there is out of the question without a free media, "the basic institution of any law-abiding state," Interfax reported. But he suggested that journalists should give more attention to "positive" developments" since "shortcomings are present in any society; positive attitudes must be encouraged." PG LOCUSTS DRIVE OUT KAZAKH AGRICULTURE MINISTER. Kazakhstan's Minister of Agriculture Zhanibek Karibzhanov resigned on 26 July after being criticized for failing to prevent the widespread locust infestation in that country, Reuters reported. His resignation was immediately accepted. At present, almost two-thirds of the area under cultivation there is suffering from locusts, the agency noted. PG KAZAKH WOMEN PROTEST LAND PRIVATIZATION. Seven women have declared a hunger strike in Almaty to demand that the country's parliament not act to privatize agricultural land, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 26 July. The women, ranging in age from 30 to 81, said that "we are not frightened by prison and death. We are only afraid of disgrace before future generations." PG KYRGYZ-UZBEK GAS TALKS CONTINUE. An official from the Kyrgyz state gas company told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 26 July that Bishkek is trying to secure agreement with Tashkent on stable deliveries of gas to Kyrgyzstan from Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan owes Uzbekistan some $3.5 million, and gas supplies have been irregular over the last year. PG KYRGYZSTAN TO REMOVE DZERZHINSKY STATUE. The Bishkek city administration has decided to remove the statue of Soviet secret police founder Feliks Dzherzhinsky from the center of the city sometime in the near future, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 23 July. In its place, the city authorities plan to erect a Statue of Liberty. 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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