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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 149, Part I, 3 August 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 149, Part I, 3 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 * MORE TOP EDITORS COMPLAIN OF POLITICAL PRESSURE * PRIMAKOV TO GO IT ALONE? * FORMER ARMENIAN PREMIER BLAMES PRESIDENT OVER CONTROVERSIAL TELECOM DEAL xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA MORE TOP EDITORS COMPLAIN OF POLITICAL PRESSURE... Editors- in-chief of magazines and newspapers controlled by a wide variety of entities appealed to Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 2 August to meet with them to discuss the "abnormal situation" within the country's mass media. According to the editors, "high-ranking officials are putting pressure on the mass media and on journalists," using their "clout" and "even the name of the president" during the run- up to the State Duma election campaign. The letter follows a recent appeal to the president signed by editors of publications controlled by the Media-Most Group, that complained about pressure from tax service officials operating under the orders of Kremlin officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 1999). This latest missive was signed by the editors of 14 newspapers and magazines, including "Kommersant-Daily" and "Rossiiskaya gazeta." Some of the publications are controlled or influenced by the government, Media-Most, Gazprom, Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. JAC ...AS TOP KREMLIN OFFICIAL CLAIMS MEDIA PRESSURING HIM. In an interview published by "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 3 August, presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin accused the Media-Most Group of trying to pressure the Kremlin and of targeting him personally with "kompromat" because of his "uncompromising" position. Voloshin added that "these days, the media always cites 'an anonymous source in the Kremlin' and any rubbish may follow that.... Do [these Kremlin insiders] really exist?" In its 29 July issue, "Kommersant- Vlast" argued that the Kremlin's three goals in the recent media war are to compel Media-Most head Vladimir Gusinskii to abandon his support for Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, force NTV into bankruptcy so that it can be nationalized later, and achieve increased control over Gazprom partly through "loyal and even pro-presidential coverage" concerning the company. JAC TELEVISION STATIONS RUNNING POLITICAL ADS AHEAD OF ELECTIONS. Political factions have already begun televising thinly- disguised campaign advertisements in defiance of election laws prohibiting campaigning for the Duma elections before 19 August, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 2 August. The advertisements, which have been aired since May, finally caught the attention of Central Election Commission chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov last month, who met with the heads of top television channels and asked them to avoid broadcasting political advertisements until the official start of the campaign. Yulii Nisnevich, head of the Center for Legislative and Parliamentary Activity, told RFE/RL that new legislation is needed that would clarify existing electoral laws since the latter do not address the issue of political advertising. Under the current system, top television executives say they expect to receive offers of free, ready-to-broadcast programs as well as money for the television appearance of various politicians. JAC GUSINSKII ALLY SACKED FROM KREMLIN JOB. Four days after presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told reporters that no document dismissing presidential administration deputy head Sergei Zverev had been drawn up (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 1999), the presidential press service told ITAR-TASS that Zverev has been sacked. Speaking to Interfax on 2 August, Zverev revealed that he had sent a letter to President Yeltsin criticizing some of the activities of presidential staff members and asking for a personal meeting. Zverev, who is seen as an ally of Media-Most head Gusinskii, spent less than three months in his post. Presidential aide Vladislav Surkov, who previously worked at Menatep, Rosprom- YUKOS, and Russian Public Television, will replace Zverev. Yeltsin also relieved Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Proshin of his duties overseeing the economic aspects of foreign policy, Interfax reported on 2 August. JAC PRIMAKOV TO GO IT ALONE? Citing only "rumors," "Kommersant- Vlast" reported in its 29 July issue that former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov has a three-prong plan for becoming president and that the plan does not include an alliance with either Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Otechestvo or the so-called governors' bloc, Vsya Rossiya. First, he will win a seat in the State Duma from a single-mandate district, while simultaneously lending his support to 40-45 other candidates from single-mandate districts. Second, once in the Duma, he will form a deputies' faction that promotes him to Duma chairman. And third, early in 2000 he will launch his presidential campaign as Duma chairman, without needing the support of party structures. Interfax reported on 16 July, citing "a source close to Primakov," that the premier will not make a decision about joining either Otechestvo or Vsya Rossiya before the fall. JAC YELTSIN URGES INCREASED ROLE FOR RUSSIA IN MID-EAST PEACE PROCESS... Meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in Moscow on 2 August, Russian President Boris Yeltsin urged a greater role for Russia in the Middle East peace process, saying that Moscow and Washington--both co-sponsors of that process--must cooperate to achieve peace in the region. Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who also met with Barak, stressed that Russia can help normalize Israeli-Syrian relations. Barak reportedly welcomed these calls for an increased Russian role, but in his meetings with both Russian leaders, he expressed concern about the alleged "leakage" of Russian nuclear technology to Iran and Iraq. Stepashin is quoted as having said that the acquisition of nuclear weapons by any country--including Iran--is not in Russia's interest. JC ....DENOUNCES ANTI-SEMITISM. During his meeting with Barak, Yeltsin also condemned anti-Semitism in Russia. According to Interfax, presidential aide Sergei Prihodko quoted Yeltsin as telling the Israeli premier that those guilty of "ugly manifestations of anti-Semitism" will be punished. The same day, Interfax-Eurasia reported that unidentified persons desecrated six Jewish graves in a cemetery in the city of Tomsk. This is the latest in a series of recent acts directed against Russia's Jewish community (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 26 July 1999). Last month, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, commenting to NTV on the so-called media war between Berezovskii and Gusinskii, said "two Jews get into a fight and the whole country has to watch." JC/JAC BARAK IN MOSCOW TO REPAY 'DEBT' VIS-A-VIS GUSINSKII? "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 3 August cited the Political News Agency as reporting that Barak was in Moscow to promote not only Israeli-Russian relations but the case of Media-Most Group owner Gusinskii, who is also president of the Russian Jewish Congress. According to a "source within the presidential structures," Gusinskii took an active part in organizing the visit and expected Barak to seek to persuade the president to write off the holding's debts and to call off the "attack" against his company orchestrated by the presidential administration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 29 July 1999). Gusinskii reportedly invested $7-12 million in "ensuring" Barak's victory over Benjamin Netanyahu in the May Israeli elections. JC KEY LEGISLATOR PREDICTS START-II PASSAGE IN 2000. State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin told ITAR- TASS on 2 August that although the Russian government is likely to increase its efforts to persuade the lower chamber to ratify the START-II treaty in the fall, "there is very little chance that it will pass before January 2000." He explained that Duma members are "preoccupied with the upcoming elections" and the left-wing majority, "while understanding that the treaty has to be ratified, is unlikely to do so now because it has spent so much time explaining to its electorate that [the treaty's] ratification would be a betrayal." Lukin, who is a member of the Yabloko faction, added that the treaty should be ratified only when all questions concerning anti-missile defense systems have been worked out. In August, U.S. and Russian officials are expected to meet in Moscow to discuss the START-III and ABM treaties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 1999). JAC RUSSIA DEVELOPS NEW SHORT-RANGE MISSILE. ITAR-TASS on 2 August reported that Russia had developed a new short-range missile that has "far greater precision" than its predecessors. The Iskander-E missile was described as a "deterrent weapon" to be used in local conflicts. Meanwhile, Commander of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces Colonel- General Vladimir Yakovlev said in Belarus on 2 August that another rocket regiment will "undoubtedly" be formed by the end of the year and will be equipped with 10 Topol-M missile systems, Interfax reported. The new regiment would be attached to the Tatishchevskaya division based in Saratov Oblast, where the first such regiment, also with 10 Topol-M missile systems, was established last year. JC ROSVOORUZHENIE HEAD REPLACED YET AGAIN. President Yeltsin on 2 August fired Grigorii Rapota as director of Russia's largest arms export agency and appointed Kremlin deputy chief of staff Aleksei Ogarev as his successor, Russian media reported. Ogarev, who also served as deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, is the fourth head of Rosvooruzhenie in less than two years. He had been tipped to take control of Rosvooruzhenie a year ago, but Rapota, a former deputy director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service and a protege of then Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, was named to that post (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 1998). LF LUZHKOV BACKS DJUKANOVIC. Moscow Mayor Luzhkov told Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic in Moscow on 2 August that the international community must not tolerate any "arbitrary moves" against Montenegro by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Reuters reported. Luzhkov and Djukanovic discussed possibilities of increasing economic and other, unspecified cooperation. Djukanovic said that Luzhkov had "shown understanding for the idea of [promoting] greater democracy and openness not only in Montenegro, but the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in general," Interfax reported. In Belgrade, the Serbian opposition Democratic Party issued a statement hailing Djukanovic's visit to Moscow as a sign that Russia intends to reduce ties with the Serbian and Yugoslav authorities and to forge direct links with democratic forces in Yugoslavia, BETA reported. Russian Prime Minister Stepashin told Djukanovic that the international community must not neglect Yugoslavia, adding that "we favor assistance to all victims." FS DID RUSSIA EXPORT MISSILES TO YUGOSLAVIA? Valentin Zapevalov, spokesman for Rosvooruzhenie, on 2 August denied a report in "Jane's Defence Weekly" that Russia exported up to 20 SA-10 anti-aircraft missiles to Yugoslavia in early 1999. The magazine reported that Russia shipped missile parts to Yugoslavia hidden in railway cars carrying scrap metal and in fuel tanks. Zapevalov argued that "SA-10 parts are impressive in size.... Their deliveries by air, sea, or rail to Yugoslavia would have been detected by NATO intelligence services," ITAR-TASS reported. He added that the report contains "non-scientific fantasies" and stressed that "if we suppose that such deliveries had taken place, NATO aviation would have lost several dozens of its planes in each raid." The S-300 is a mobile radar and missile launching system designed to hit both airplanes and cruise missiles. FS CHERNOMYRDIN RESIGNS AS BALKAN ENVOY. Former Premier Chernomyrdin quit as Russian President Boris Yeltsin's special envoy to Yugoslavia on 3 August. He told ITAR-TASS after meeting with Yeltsin that he had "stopped doing the job right after peace was restored in Yugoslavia." Chernomyrdin said that "the world has seen that such questions cannot be solved without Russia. We proved it by our work.... Russia managed to stop the Balkan war. We worked as mediators, as a country that could speak with both sides." Meanwhile, the first group of Russian policemen taking part in the international police force in Kosova left Moscow on 3 August. Russia will send a total of 210 policemen to Kosova. FS MENTAL ILLNESS, POVERTY INCREASING. According to a new report submitted to Russia's human rights commission, the number of Russian citizens who are suffering from mental illnesses has more than tripled in the last decade, Interfax reported on 2 August. According to the human rights commissioner Oleg Mironov, 4 million Russians registered at outpatient clinics are suffering from mental disorders. Moreover, 4.5 percent of Russian children are afflicted by such disorders. The Russian Statistics Agency reported on 30 July that during the first half of 1999, 35 percent of Russians were living below the minimum subsistence level of 872 rubles per month ($36). During the same period last year, 22 percent of the population was earning what was then considered the minimum subsistence level wage of 429 rubles a month. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA FORMER ARMENIAN PREMIER BLAMES PRESIDENT OVER CONTROVERSIAL TELECOM DEAL. Speaking at a news conference in Yerevan on 30 July, Hrant Bagratian denied any share of the responsibility for the creation of the telecommunications monopoly ArmenTel or the activities of its former monopoly shareholder Trans- World Telecom, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Bagratian pointed out that ArmenTel acquired full ownership of the country's telecommunications network only in July 1997, when current Armenian President Robert Kocharian was prime minister, and that Kocharian endorsed the company's privatization in December 1998. An ad hoc commission formed by Kocharian earlier this year said on 27 July that TWT's acquisition of a 49 percent stake in Armenia's telephone network several years ago violated Armenian law. Commission chairman David Vartanian accused Bagratian, who served as prime minister from 1993-1996, of complicity. LF ARMENIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR EXPEDITING CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM. Kocharian on 30 July chaired the first meeting of a newly-created commission charged with amending the country's constitution, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That commission, which is headed by Justice Minister David Harutiunian, replaces a larger body created in spring 1998 and disbanded last month. Defining the aim of the proposed amendments as ensuring "balanced relations" between the branches of government, Kocharian instructed the new commission to draft and present its proposals by the end of the year. Parliamentary speaker Karen Demirchian has similarly expressed his intention of establishing a parliamentary commission to draft amendments to the constitution. Demirchian favors limiting the powers of the president and augmenting those of the legislature. LF NEW KARABAKH DEFENSE MINISTER APPOINTED. President Arkadii Ghukasian released General Samvel Babayan from the post of defense minister of the unrecognized Republic of Nagorno- Karabakh on 2 August and appointed Major-General Seiran Ohanian to replace him, Noyan Tapan reported. Latent tensions between Ghukasian and Babayan resurfaced last month after Ghukasian sacked the enclave's Prime Minister Zhirair Poghosian and his entire cabinet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June and 12 July 1999). Ghukasian also appointed Bako Sahakian as interior minister, replacing Artur Aghabekian. In recent years Sahakian had served as the Moscow representative of the Armenian Interior and National Security Ministry. LF IRANIAN PROVINICIAL GOVERNOR VISITS AZERBAIJAN. Yahja Mohammedzade, head of the Iranian province of Eastern Azerbaijan, which borders on Azerbaijan's exclave of Nakhcihevan, held talks in Baku on 2 August with parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov and President Heidar Aliev, Turan reported. Aliev stressed Baku's interest in developing closer relations with Iran, noting at the same time Azerbaijan's displeasure at Iran's flourishing relations with Armenia. Aliev added that, unlike some opposition forces, the Azerbaijani leadership does not consider that the presence of a multi-million ethnic Azerbaijani minority in Iran justifies Baku's interference into Iran's domestic political affairs. Aliev is scheduled to visit Tehran and Tabriz, the capital of Eastern Azerbaijan, next month. But State Foreign Policy Adviser Vafa Guluzade told Turan on 3 August that Iran's refusal to extradite to Baku former Azerbaijani Interior Ministry special forces member Mahir Djavadov could torpedo Aliev's visit. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT PROCLAIMS LIMITED AMNESTY. Nursultan Nazarbaev has issued a decree amnestying some 13,000 prisoners, most of whom are suffering from TB, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 2 August. Deputy Interior Minister Bulat Baizharov had said in early June, when the parliament passed the amnesty law, that some 20,000 prisoners, or 25 percent of the prison population, would be freed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June 1999). But the parliament reduced the number of persons eligible for early release. LF TURKMENISTAN RESUMES TALKS WITH BRIDAS? Interfax on 30 July reported that the Turkmen government has resumed secret discussions with the Argentinean oil and gas company Bridas that are believed to focus on Bridas's participation in the proposed construction of a gas export pipeline from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan to Pakistan. Ashgabat and Bridas began such talks in 1994, and in February 1996 Bridas signed an agreement with the Afghan government on the construction and operation of such a pipeline. But following disagreements between Bridas and the Turkmen leadership, in 1997 the latter granted the U.S. companies Delta and Unocal the exclusive right to form a consortium to build the pipeline. Unocal then withdrew from that consortium in late 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1998 and 26 January 1999). LF 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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