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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 149, Part I, 3 August 1999


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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

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Headlines, Part I

* MORE TOP EDITORS COMPLAIN OF POLITICAL PRESSURE

* PRIMAKOV TO GO IT ALONE?

* FORMER ARMENIAN PREMIER BLAMES PRESIDENT OVER CONTROVERSIAL
TELECOM DEAL
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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

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