|The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 148, Part I, 2 August 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 148, Part I, 2 August 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 * RUSSIA, PARIS CLUB REACH AGREEMENT * STEPASHIN SLAMS MILOSEVIC * TAJIK OFFICIAL DENOUNCES UZBEK 'CRIMINAL GROUPS' xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIA, PARIS CLUB REACH AGREEMENT. The Russian government and Paris Club creditors reached an agreement on 1 August to restructure payments on Soviet-era debts. According to Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, some $8 billion of payments due to be made between 1999 and 2000 will now be repaid over 15-20 years, Reuters reported. Russia will have to pay only some $600 million in 1999-2000. Paris Club chairman Francis Mayer told reporters that the creditor governments will begin talks by the fall of next year to find "comprehensive solutions" to the Soviet-era debt problem, but he added that "at this point in time, for us a comprehensive solution does not mean a reduction or cancellation" of Russia's debt. Kasyanov hailed the agreement, noting that the sums Russia will now have to pay "comply with the parameters of the current budget and the draft budget for 2000 and will not force us to cut spending on social needs once again," according to ITAR-TASS. JAC LUZHKOV, REGIONAL GROUP CLOSE TO AGREEMENT? The recent positive pronouncements of the leader of Otechestvo and the informal leader of Vsya Rossiya about progress in forming a single election bloc has led some Russian media, including "Kommersant-Daily," to conclude that an agreement in principle about the new election bloc has already been reached. Vsya Rossiya's Mintimer Shaimiev, who is also Tatarstan president, told Interfax on 30 July that "consultations have brought our positions together in many respects." The next day, Otechestvo leader and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov was similarly positive, saying that negotiations on forming a single election bloc are close to a conclusion and are proceeding successfully. An unidentified source told Interfax on 29 July that the new coalition may include other parties and organizations, such as the Agrarian Party, which decided recently not to participate in an election bloc with the Communist Party. JAC TOP BREAD OFFICIAL CALLS WESTERN FOOD AID ESSENTIAL. Roskhlebprodukt President Leonid Cheshinskii told Interfax on 1 August that Russia should petition the West for more food aid now, rather than wait for the end of the 1999 harvesting campaign. Roskhlebprodukt experts are predicting this year's grain harvest will range from 50-55 million tons, compared with the official Agriculture Ministry forecast of 60 million tons. According to Cheshinskii, 14-15 million tons will therefore have to be imported just to meet the population's need for bread. Grain for livestock and poultry breeding would raise this figure even higher, he added. Last week, Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Vladimir Sherbak said that Russia is not planning any large-scale centralized grain imports this year, but Russia will ask the U.S. to donate 2-3 million tons of high-protein animal feed in 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1999). JAC STEPASHIN SLAMS MILOSEVIC... During the Balkan reconstruction summit in Sarajevo on 30 July, Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin told "Kommersant-Daily": "I do not cherish kind feelings for [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic. The sufferings of the Yugoslav population were caused not only by the [NATO] bombings but chiefly by the regime of Slobodan Milosevic." Stepashin, however, urged western representatives to give humanitarian assistance to Serbia. He argued that "10 million Yugoslavs must not become hostages of one politician." The same day, President Boris Yeltsin told "Kommersant-Daily" in Moscow that "we have to resolve the situation in Yugoslavia and establish friendly relations with the U.S., Germany, France, and other Western countries." The daily noted on 31 July that both statements mark a "radical change" in Russia's policy toward Yugoslavia, which until now was based on friendly relations with Milosevic. FS ...BUT BLOCKS 'CRITICAL' REFERENCE IN DECLARATION. The Russian delegation to the Balkan summit --led by Stepashin-- blocked plans, however, to include a critical reference to Milosevic in the summit's declaration, Reuters reported (see Part II). The final declaration spoke only of "regret" that Yugoslavia could not be invited to attend the meeting and called on Serbs to implement democratic reforms. Stepashin said: "We did not come here to discuss that person.... It's an internal affair of Yugoslavia." Russia plans to give $150 million in credit to Yugoslavia. FS DJUKANOVIC VISITS MOSCOW. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic arrived in Moscow for a two-day visit on 1 August. The Yugoslav embassy in Moscow issued a statement saying that it had been "neglected" in the arrangements for the visit. It suggested that the visit violates diplomatic protocol but added that Russia "has the right to hold meetings in the way it considers appropriate," Reuters reported. Yugoslavia's ambassador to Russia is Milosevic's brother, Borislav. Djukanovic said he will discuss with Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov "economic and political transformations within Yugoslavia" as well as ties between Montenegro and Russia. Montena-fax quoted Djukanovic as saying that Moscow's invitation is "an expression of support for and recognition of Montenegro's principled state policy." Djukanovic repeated earlier warnings that Montenegro will declare independence unless Serbia introduces substantial reforms leading to democracy and a market economy. FS YUGOSLAV, RUSSIAN, BELARUSSIAN LEGISLATORS FORM JOINT COMMISSION. Parliamentary deputies from Russia, Belarus, and Yugoslavia agreed in Belgrade on 31 July to set up a joint commission that will help Belgrade prepare to join the loose union between Russia and Belarus, Reuters reported. The commission will hold its first meeting in early September. It will include four Yugoslav, two Russian, and two Belarusian legislators as well as two members of the Russian-Belarusian Interparliamentary Assembly. FS RIGHT-CENTRISTS SEEKING TO WIN MILITARY VOTE. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 June that plans are under way to set up a round-the-clock military television channel funded by businessmen close to the Kremlin and Pravoe Delo (Right Cause). The newspaper cited "military sources" as saying that the aim of the new channel will be to "form a positive image of the current authorities in the eyes of servicemen." It also cited the same sources as saying that Defense Ministry officials are holding "unofficial negotiations" on servicemen's participation in Vsya Rossiya (All Russia) during the elections. Officers and generals are reported already secretly combining their military duties and work with Vsya Rossiya's electoral staff. And with regard to Otechestvo (Fatherland), military experts believe that the movement enjoys "ever-growing popularity" among the troops but that its leader, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, is unpopular among military leaders, according to the daily. JC CRIME DOWN, DRUGS UP IN ARMED FORCES. According to data released by the Main Military Prosecutor's Office, the crime incidence in the armed forces was down 12.4 percent in the first six months of this year, compared with the same period in 1998, "Krasnaya zvezda" reported on 29 July. The total number of crimes registered during the period January-June 1999 stood at 9,174. However, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 July, citing Chief Military Prosecutor Colonel-General Yurii Demin, that the number of drug addicts drafted into the army and navy has increased. More than 200 crimes registered during the first half of this year were linked to drug-trafficking. JC PRIMORSKII GOVERNOR EXTENDING SCARE TACTICS TO JUDGES... Tatyana Loktionova, chairwoman of the Primorskii Krai's arbitration court, told reporters on 29 July that Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has been interfering with the activities of the court for the past two year, and that she and her colleagues are now afraid for their own safety, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 July. Nazdratenko has accused the court of destroying the krai's economy because of its role in bankrupting local enterprises. Loktionova says her court has only been following the letter of the law and that the reason for the attacks against her "is to pass the responsibility for the collapse of the local economy during the past few years to the arbitration court," "The Moscow Times" reported. Loktionova claims that the local police, acting under orders from Nazdratenko, are fabricating criminal cases against her and her family. JAC ...AS NEWSPAPERS DIFFERENTLY ASSESS HIS ROLE VIS-A-VIS FOREIGN INVESTORS. Meanwhile, Russian newspapers are devoting more attention to the governor's relations with foreign investors following the flurry of coverage in U.S. media during Nazdratenko's recent visit to the U.S. as a member of Prime Minister Stepashin's delegation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 1999). "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 30 July that the governor's "peculiar understanding of his role in attracting foreign investment to Primorskii Krai ended up wrecking certain projects" such as the construction of a Canada Business Center and a new highway that would have been partly funded by Canadians. "Tribuna," on the other hand, credits Nazdratenko with saving the Far East Sea Navigation company from British investor Andrew Fox, who it claims is "an agent of British special services" and who "privatized what ought to have been privatized by Russian citizens." "Tribuna," a national daily widely read in Russian regions, is financed by Gazprom. JAC TATARSTAN OPPOSITION GROUPS TO APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. The hunger strike initiated by leaders of opposition groups in Tatarstan to protest a new election law ended on 30 July, "Segodnya" reported. The new law, which passed Tatarstan's legislative assembly on 21 July in its third and final reading, abolishes the use of party lists in elections to that body (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 28 July 1999). According to "Segodnya," a roundtable assembly of Tatarstan's opposition groups intends to appeal the law to the Russian Constitutional Court. It also plans to hold a protest meeting in Moscow. On 20 August, a protesters from districts within Tatarstan will march to Kazan. On 30 August, Tatarstan Independence Day, all members of Tatarstan's opposition will hold a meeting in Kazan. JAC FAR EAST ENERGY WORKERS CALL STRIKE. Workers at Dalenergo in Primorskii Krai began a strike on 2 August to demand full payment of back wages, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Chairman of the strike committee said the workers plan to cut off electricity to about 1,000 enterprises that have not paid their electricity bills. According to the agency, municipal enterprises and organizations alone owe Dalenergo around 1.4 billion rubles ($56 million). Striking workers do not plan to turn off water and electricity to residences during the first stage of their protest; however, if 140 million rubles worth of unpaid wages are not reduced at least in part during the first week of the protest, they do not exclude the possibility that all personnel at the plant will walk off the jobs and/or declare a hunger strike. JAC RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION DE FACTO UNDER WAY? The Belarusian regions of Minsk, Homel, Vitsebsk, and Mahileu have been accepted as members of the Central Russia interregional association for economic cooperation, following a decision taken at a meeting of the association near Moscow, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 July. The newspaper comments that from now on, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka can demand that Moscow charge "inter-Russian tarrifs" for oil and gas since four regions of his country have become part of "Central Russia." JC LEBED WARNS NORTH CAUCASUS COULD DESTABILIZE RUSSIA. Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed told Interfax on 1 August that "complications in the North Caucasus may lead to the introduction of a state of emergency in the whole of Russia" and that "Russia needs airborne troops, as problems may arise in the North Caucasus." According to Lebed, "two thirds of [Russia's] airborne troops are located outside of Russia--in Abkhazia, Bosnia, and Kosovo." JAC CHECHEN LEADER SAYS WEST SEEKS TO PUSH RUSSIA OUT OF NORTH CAUCASUS. President Aslan Maskhadov said on Grozny television 30 July that the West is seeking to drive Russia from the North Caucasus, just as it already has from the South Caucasus, Interfax reported. He suggested that some Russian groups may be cooperating with the West first "to undermine Russia from the inside and later oust it from the Caucasus." In other comments, Maskhadov said the West is currently supporting a Dagestani group in order to spread instability and isolate Chechnya. PG RUSSIAN NATIONALITIES MINISTER WARNS AGAINST PROVOCATIONS. Vyacheslav Mikhailov told NTV on 31 July that the "provocative statements" by some Chechens about a possible Russian attack on Chechnya are intended to block a meeting between Russian President Yeltsin and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, ITAR-TASS reported. Mikhailov said that these forced are not under the control of Maskhadov and should not be allowed to get in the way of the meeting. PG CHECHNYA, STAVROPOL SIGN ACCORD. Representatives of Chechnya and Stavropol Krai signed an agreement in Nazran, Ingushetia, on 31 July to cooperate in maintaining order on their common border, ITAR-TASS reported. The news agency gave no further details but suggested that the accord could lower tensions there. Meanwhile, Chechen officials expressed the hope that the Grozny-Tbilisi highway will soon open, allowing Chechnya access to the Black Sea, the Caucasus Press agency reported the same day. PG DEMONSTRATIONS CONTINUE IN KARACHAYEVO-CHERKESSIA. Supporters of both former presidential candidates--Vladimir Semenov and Stanislav Derev--continued to demonstrate in Cherkessk and other cities of the republic over the weekend, ITAR-TASS reported. PG INGUSHETIA SUSPENDS TALKS WITH NORTH OSSETIA. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev on 30 July announced that he has suspended all negotiations with North Ossetia-Alana until the latter fulfills its agreements on Prigorodnyi Raion, ITAR- TASS reported. Aushev added that in his view, "the only way out of the situation is to implement direct federal rule" the raion. In response, North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov said on 31 July that he is against "a senseless escalation of tension" sparked by the return of Ingush to the disputed region and by their plans to stage a peace march. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA SAYS TIES WITH RUSSIA TO CONTINUE AT 'HIGH LEVEL.' Armenia's foreign and defense ministers said on 31 July that cooperation in the military sphere between Yerevan and Moscow will continue "at a high level," ITAR-TASS reported. Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanyan said these ties have deep historic roots and will grow even stronger in the future. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Vagarshak Aratyunyan stressed that this cooperation is not directed at any third country, adding that officers from the two countries work closely together: "We have all come out of the same school. We have served together and graduated from the same schools. We have the same mentality. And there are no problems in relations." PG AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CALLS FOR RECONVENING PARLIAMENT. Unhappy with amendments introduced on the law on municipal elections, the 20 deputies who are members of the Democratic Bloc have called for an extraordinary session to debate the matter, the Turan news agency reported on 31 July. PG AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS PROTEST TV STATION CLOSURES. Ruh, the independent journalists' organization of Azerbaijan, issued a statement on 31 July denouncing official interference that it said has led to the closing of four of the eight local television stations in the country, the Turan news agency reported. Meanwhile, an Azerbaijani court fined the opposition newspaper "Sharg" for insulting parliamentary speaker Murtuz Aleskerov. And seven members of the Azerbaijani People's Front were arrested in Nakhchevan on 30 July, Turan said. PG AZERBAIJAN GRADUATES FIRST OFFICERS. On 30 July, the Azerbaijan Military Academy graduated its first class, including 30 officers from the academy itself and another 13 from its special courses on strategic research and state defense management, Turan reported. Defense Minister Safar Abiyev told the graduates that he believes they "will play an important role in raising the fighting efficiency of the country." PG UN EXTENDS ABKHAZ MANDATE, IGNORES TBILISI ON ETHNIC CLEANSING. On 30 July, the UN Security Council extended the mandate of UN military observers in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone until 31 January 2000, Prime News reported. But the resolution failed to include a finding that Abkhazia is guilty of engaging in ethnic cleansing. Georgia sought such a finding, but the Russian Federation indicated it is opposed. PG U.S. DEFENSE CHIEF PRAISES GEORGIA. During his visit to Tbilisi on 1 August, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen praised Georgia for its progress in all areas and said it is up to Tbilisi to decide whether to replace Russian bases with American ones. Cohen indicated that Georgia could seek NATO membership in the future. And he signed agreements to increase military cooperation, including supplying helicopters to improve security at Georgia's borders, Prime- News, Georgian radio, and ITAR-TASS reported. PG GEORGIAN DEPUTIES SEEK CLOSURE OF RUSSIAN BASES. The Georgian parliament's Defense and Security Committee on 30 July called for the closure of Russian military bases in Gudauta and Vaziani, Prime News reported. The committee said the former should be closed because it is contributing to a continuation of the Abkhaz conflict and the latter because its nearness to Tbilisi raises questions as to its purpose, "especially under circumstances when there have been instances of illegal arms trade and the sheltering of terrorist groups on the territory of the base." The committee took no position on the Russian bases in Akhalkalaki and Batumi. PG GEORGIA CANCELS ROUNDTABLE IN ETHNIC ARMENIAN AREA. Georgian authorities on 30 July cancelled a roundtable of academics to have been held in the predominantly Armenian area of Javakh, Noyan Tapan and Caucasus Press reported. It explained that move by saying the forum might exacerbate ethnic tensions there. The Georgian authorities suggested that a roundtable including the same people be held in Tbilisi in the fall. PG KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA STILL DISAGREE ON BAIKONUR. Another round of talks between Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation has reduced the number of disputed issues related to Moscow's use of the Baikonur cosmodrome, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July. Among the issues still to be resolved include the weight of launch vehicles and the scheduling of launches. PG KAZAKHSTAN PRESIDENT PUTS OFF SALE OF FARM LAND. Following protests in several cities across the country, Nursultan Nazarbaev said on 30 July responded to one of the protestors' demands by saying it is "perhaps premature" to sell agricultural land, Kazakhstan television news reported. According to RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, the demonstrators also are calling for an end to operations at Baikonur, free transit for the elderly and handicapped, payment of all back wages and pensions, and the resignation of Nazarbaev. PG KAZAKHSTAN INCREASES URANIUM PRODUCTION. Kazakhstan's National Atomic Company forecast on 30 July that it will produce 37 percent more uranium in 1999 than it did last year, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. PG KYRGYZSTAN TO BUY GAS FROM KAZAKHSTAN. Kyrgyzgas announced on 30 July that it plans to purchase natural gas from Kazakhstan at a price lower than it has been paying to Uzbekistan, with which Bishkek has had some difficulties, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. PG BISHKEK MAY RE-REGISTER HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE. President Askar Akaev has promised Jerzy Wieclaw, the head of the OSCE office in the Kyrgyz capital, that his government will re- register the Kyrgyz Committee for Human rights in the near future, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service Reported. The committee was registered in 1996 but stripped of that registration in September 1998. Meanwhile, in what may prove to be a related development, Akaev vetoed legislation governing non- commercial organizations. PG TAJIK OFFICIAL DENOUNCES UZBEK 'CRIMINAL GROUPS.' Deputy Prime Minister Abdurakhmon Azimov told Interfax on 1 August that some Uzbek citizens living illegally in eastern Tajikistan are members of criminal groups and are "armed to the teeth." While he gave no figures concerning such groups, approximately 500 Uzbek citizens are known to have refused to register with the Tajik migrant commission, the news agency added. PG TAJIK OPPOSITION MAY LEAVE ELECTORAL COMMISSION. The United Tajik Opposition will pull out of the Central Electoral Commission unless a UTO representative is appointed deputy chairman of that group and at least 25 percent of CEC staff in the capital and in the regions, Asia Plus reported on 30 July. Meanwhile, the UTO said that it is not yet in a position to say that it no longer has any armed formations, Interfax reported. PG UZBEKISTAN TO RAISE WAGES, PENSIONS. President Islam Karimov issued a decree raising wages, pensions, and student stipends as of 1 August, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July. The decree sets 1,750 soms (approximately $13 U.S.) per month as the minimum wage. This is the second such increase so far this year. PG ERK SAYS UZBEK PRESIDENT BENEFITED FROM BOMBINGS. An article in the newspaper of the Erk Democratic Party, which has been banned in Uzbekistan, says that President Islam Karimov "hit the jackpot" as a result of the 16 February bombings, Iran's Mashhad radio in Uzbek reported on 28 July. That is because the bombings gave him the chance to introduce a "terror movement" of "unprecedented oppression." Erk said that "if it was not Karimov himself who organized these bombings, then most likely he is currently handing out rewards to those who did. PG UZBEK DENOUNCES 'POISONOUS' RUSSIAN IDEOLOGY. An Uzbek state radio commentator on 27 July said that the Uzbek people must be "vigilant" against "pseudo-cultural goods brought from Russia" that "are aimed at making the people spiritually blind and deaf," BBC monitoring reported on 31 July. The speaker said that this "poisonous ideology" is being brought in "by colonialists" and has already overwhelmed Kazakhstan. 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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