The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 150, Part I, 4 August 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 150, Part I, 4 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

* MOSCOW MAYOR, REGIONAL LEADERS PROCLAIM NEW ALLIANCE

* AKSENENKO'S AUTHORITY WIDENED

* TAJIK OPPOSITION ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF DEMILITARIZATION

End Note: DJUKANOVIC'S MOSCOW VISIT SEEN AS 'TURNING POINT'
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RUSSIA

MOSCOW MAYOR, REGIONAL LEADERS PROCLAIM NEW ALLIANCE...
Members of the Political Council of the so-called
governors' bloc, All Russia, voted on 3 August in favor of
an alliance with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Fatherland
movement. All Russia coordinator Oleg Morozov told
reporters that details of how the union will function still
need to be worked out, but he said the basic principles on
which the two groups can unite "have effectively been 90
percent agreed upon," Interfax reported. Despite Luzhkov's
claims that the Kremlin is conspiring against him, Morozov
ruled out the possibility of a confrontation between the
Kremlin and the new alliance. All Russia's informal leader,
Mintimer Shaimiev, who is also president of Tatarstan, met
with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 4 August, after
which Shaimiev said that the president expressed an
interest in the possible creation of a centrist coalition
based on the new grouping, according to Interfax. JAC

...AS ISSUE OF LEADERSHIP REMAINS OPEN. A final decision on
the consolidation of the two groups will be made at the All
Russia's congress in Bashkortostan on 21 August, according
to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau. On the potentially thorny issue
of leadership, Shaimiev said that an understanding has been
reached that all regional leaders will be equal in the
alliance, according to Interfax. He added that "the main
condition of our unification is equality and Fatherland has
agreed to that." Analysts have suggested that the regional
leaders will resist efforts by Luzhkov to impose his
leadership on the group (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation
Report," 28 July 1999). Meanwhile, Luzhkov has repeated his
invitation to former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov to
head the new alliance. Primakov previously praised the
proposed merger of the two groups but has so far declined
to clarify his future plans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July
and 3 August 1999). JAC

DISMISSED OFFICIAL CALLS KREMLIN DESTRUCTIVE FORCE...
Sergei Zverev, whom President Yeltsin dismissed as deputy
head of the presidential administration on 2 August,
offered reporters the next day a wide-ranging critique of
Kremlin policies. He said that the administration "has
transformed itself into a body that is tearing society
apart." When asked about the possibility of a state of
emergency or postponed elections, Zverev said he "does not
exclude any scenario. They are losing control of the
situation." Zverev predicted that if the Kremlin decides to
fight against the new alliance between Fatherland and All
Russia, then Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin will likely
resign because he will not agree to such a confrontation.
Zverev, who once held an executive post at Gazprom, said
that Gazprom is "begin attacked by media belonging to a
certain political personage [presumably financier Boris
Berezovskii] on the one hand and the presidential
administration on the other." JAC

...SAYS YELTSIN APPEARS HEALTHY. On the subject of
Yeltsin's health, Zverev said that he met with Yeltsin five
or six times during his 15 weeks on the job and saw no
signs of a deterioration in the president's health. JAC

AKSENENKO'S AUTHORITY WIDENED. Prime Minister Stepashin
signed a decree on 3 August that redistributes duties among
his cabinet. First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko
will now oversee the Federal Energy Commission, Federal
Property Fund, and the State Property Ministry, according
to RIA-Novosti. The latter two entities were formally
supervised by Prime Minister Stepashin and First Deputy
Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko. Aksenenko will also
assume some control over the Anti-Trust Ministry, while
Khristenko will continue to monitor certain policy areas at
the Property Ministry and Federal Energy Commission. In
addition, he will oversee the Culture, Sports, and Tourism
Ministries, instead of Deputy Prime Minister Valentina
Matvienko, who now has oversight of the new Media Ministry.
PlanEcon senior economist Ben Slay told "The Moscow Times"
on 4 August that "it looks like Russia has an export
version of the government, which includes [Finance Minister
Mikhail] Zadornov...and a government [for domestic
consumption] that has real powers." JAC

INFLATION PICKS UP SPEED. Inflation in July reached 2.8
percent, compared with 1.9 percent in June, according to
the Russian Statistics Agency on 4 August. According to the
agency, inflation in the first seven months of 1999 was 28
percent, compared with 4.2 percent during the same period
last year. Last month, the Economics Ministry forecast that
inflation could reach 45 percent this year, rather than the
30 percent projected in the 1999 budget (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 30 July 1999). JAC

TAX MINISTRY OVERSHOOTS REVENUE TARGET. The Tax Ministry
collected 29.5 billion rubles ($1.2 billion) in cash in July
according to preliminary figures, Interfax reported on 4
August citing the ministry's press service. This figure is
7.04 billion rubles or 31.4 percent higher than the target
for that month. Last month's reports about the imminent
resignation of Tax Minister Aleksandr Pochinok circulated by
Russian media, such as "Segodnya," have so far proven
incorrect (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 1999). JAC

NO LONDON CLUB AGREEMENT EXPECTED SOON. Mikhail Zadornov,
presidential envoy to international financial institutions,
told Ekho Moskvy on 3 August that the London Club of
creditors will not make a decision on Russian debt in the
near future: "Negotiations will take weeks, maybe months," he
said. Eric Fine, a debt strategist with Morgan Stanley,
agreed, telling AFP on 2 August that the Stepashin
"government doesn't necessarily have an incentive to reach a
quick deal as its term expires soon. Moreover, official and
private creditors may not want a settlement under this
government." However, Finance Minister Kasyanov predicted on
4 August that a deal would be reached by Christmas "with
implementation by the third quarter." It was not clear from
reports which Christmas he meant. First Deputy Prime Minister
Khristenko was even more optimistic, telling reporters on 3
August that Russia can expect an agreement in principle by 19
August, when the 2000 draft budget must be submitted to the
cabinet, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

COMMUNISTS, KREMLIN SWAP THREATS. The Communist Party
intends to ask prosecutors to check whether remarks made by
Prime Minister Stepashin during a recent visit to the U.S.
violated the law, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 August. Stepashin
said that "Communism in Russia will never win, they will
never come back. Nobody will allow it." The party believes
that the remark indicates that federal authorities plan to
meddle with the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary
elections. The next day in an interview with "Komsomolskaya
pravda," presidential administration head Aleksandr
Voloshin said that the corpse of former Soviet leader
Vladimir Lenin will be buried "by all means" but declined
to specify when. Observers have suggested that Kremlin
circulates rumors about burying Lenin from time to time to
irritate the Communists, who invariably react angrily to
such news. JAC

HARVEST FORECAST REVISED UPWARD... The Agriculture Ministry
has revised its forecast for this year's grain harvest,
raising it from 58-60 million tons to 60-62 million tons,
Reuters reported on 3 August. First Deputy Agriculture
Minister said that Krasnodar, Stavropol and central regions
are performing better than expected. A bout of hot dry
weather and swarms of locusts from neighboring Kazakhstan
had earlier caused crop forecasts to be downgraded. JAC

...AS FEWER SPIES, SOLDIERS TO HELP OUT IN FIELDS. Despite
concerns about the country's crops, military and security
organs will send fewer of their personnel to help harvest
potatoes, cabbages, and other vegetables this year,
"Moskovskii Komsomolets" reported. This year, 15,050 staff
will be sent, compared with 15,500 last year. According to
the newspaper, the cuts were made to the benefit of so-
called elite units, such as the Foreign Intelligence
Service. The Border Guards will also send 300 fewer troops.
JAC

RUSSIA, NATO SETTLE DETAILS OF KFOR OPERATION. General Leonid
Ivashov, the head of the department for international
cooperation at Russia's Defense Ministry, told Interfax on 3
August that Russian and NATO officials have settled the last
remaining disputes over Russia's role in KFOR. The disputes
included details about the precise boundaries of the
Russians' areas of responsibility. A NATO spokesman told
RFE/RL the next day that the agreement included merely
technical and operational details and is of minor political
significance. FS

RUSSIA, UZBEKISTAN CONCERNED AT AFGHAN SITUATION. Russian
Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told
journalists in Moscow on 3 August that Russia "resolutely
opposes" the escalation of fighting in northern Afghanistan,
Russian agencies reported. Rakhmanin expressed concern at
unconfirmed reports that volunteers from Pakistan and
militant Arab supporters of Saudi terrorist leader Osama bin
Laden are fighting on the side of the Taliban. In Tashkent,
the Uzbek Foreign Ministry released on 3 August an appeal by
the Uzbek government to both Afghan warring parties to end
hostilities and come to the negotiating table as "no military
solution to the Afghan problem is feasible," according to
Interfax. The statement also called on the member states of
the Six plus Two group, to which Pakistan belongs, to abide
by their commitment not to provide military support to either
of the warring Afghan sides. LF

NEW CLASHES IN DAGESTAN. Four policemen were killed and two
injured in clashes with guerrillas who attacked the Tsumadin
border post on 3 August, Interfax and Caucasus Press
reported. The previous day, Dagestan police had repulsed an
attempt by guerrillas to seize Agvali, which is the largest
town in Tsumadin Raion. Meeting later on 3 August, Dagestan's
government and state assembly issued a statement describing
the attacks as an attempt to overthrow the republic's
leadership and claiming that the guerrillas were led by three
citizens of Dagestan, including Nadir Khachilaev. A former
leader of the Union of Muslims of Russia, Khachilaev has been
in hiding in Chechnya since the fall of 1998 after local
police issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with the
May 1998 storming by his supporters of the government
headquarters in Makhachkala (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22
May 1998). In Moscow, Chechen official representative Mairbek
Vachagaev denied that Chechen detachments were involved in
the fighting. He added that Tsumadin Raion does not border on
Chechnya. LF

KARACHAEVO-CHERKESS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE'S PROXIES
ASSAULTED. Aleksandr Belanov, one of the campaign supporters
of retired General Vladimir Semenov, was hospitalized in
Cherkessk on 3 August with serious head injuries after being
attacked by unknown assailants, ITAR-TASS reported. Two other
Semenov supporters were attacked earlier the same day. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTRY PROTESTS IRAN'S SUPPORT FOR
DJAVADOV. Iranian Ambassador Ali Rza Bikdeli was summoned to
the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on 3 August to hear Minister
Tofik Zulfugarov's formal complaint over the continued
presence in Iran of former Interior Ministry special forces
officer Mahir Djavadov, Turan reported. Djavadov fled
Azerbaijan in March 1995 after a standoff between the
Interior Ministry special forces and Azerbaijani army troops,
in which his brother Rovshan was killed. He traveled to Iran
late last year and has repeatedly announced his intention of
taking power in Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report,"
Vol. 2, No. 12, 23 March 1999). Zulfugarov said that Tehran's
failure to curtail Djavadov's "illegal activities" negatively
affects relations between the two countries. Also on 3
August, Azerbaijani State Foreign Policy Adviser Vafa
Guluzade said that Iran's failure to extradite Djavadov could
lead to the postponement of the planned visit to Iran by
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3
August 1999). LF

AZERBAIJANI POLICE PREVENT PICKET OF U.S. EMBASSY. Police on
4 August thwarted an attempt by political parties aligned in
the Coordinating Council for Karabakh to demonstrate outside
the U.S. embassy in Baku to protest the U.S.'s alleged double
standards in its policy toward Azerbaijan and Armenia, Turan
reported. A similar attempt the previous day by members of
the Liberty Party was also blocked by police. LF

GEORGIAN MINISTER OF STATE IN MOSCOW. Vazha Lortkipanidze met
in Moscow on 3 August with his Russian counterpart, Sergei
Stepashin, First Deputy Premier Nikolai Aksenenko, Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov, Russian Security Council Secretary and
Federal Security Service Director Vladimir Putin, and Moscow
Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. The talks reportedly focused on issues
that have increased tensions in bilateral relations,
including the Abkhaz conflict and the future of the four
Russian military bases in Georgia. Lortkipanidze told
journalists on 4 August that he will meet that evening in
Moscow with Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba, Caucasus Press
reported. LF

ADZHAR LEADER INCRIMINATED IN GEORGIAN MERCHANT FLEET
SCANDAL. Georgian Prosecutor-General Djamlet Babilashvili
told journalists in Tbilisi on 3 August that several leading
officials from the Adjar Autonomous Republic are responsible
for the near bankruptcy of the Georgian merchant fleet,
Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Babilashvili accused
Batumi Mayor Aslan Smirba of misappropriating $120,000
belonging to the fleet, adding that a further $250,000 was
illegally transferred from the fleet's London bank account to
a fund controlled by Adjar Supreme Council chairman and
Georgian presidential candidate Aslan Abashidze. Abashidze's
Revival Union is the second largest faction within the
Georgian parliament, and observers believe the five party
alliance that he heads may pose a serious threat to the
ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia in the October
parliamentary elections. Smirba has denied the accusations
against him. The Georgian merchant fleet owes some $100
million to foreign creditors. LF

MORE REPRISALS AGAINST MEDIA IN KAZAKHSTAN. Court proceedings
are under way in Almaty against the independent weekly
"Nachnem s ponedelnika," RFE/RL correspondents in the former
capital reported on 4 August. The newspaper's staff are
accused of having published false statements critical of the
Almaty City Court. On 3 August, the Committee to Protect
Journalists wrote to Kazakhstan's President Nursultan
Nazarbaev expressing concern at the harassment by
Kazakhstan's National Security Committee of Bigeldy
Gabdullin, who is editor-in-chief of the independent
newspaper "XXI vek." LF

MEDICAL PERSONNEL IN KAZAKHSTAN DEMAND BACK WAGES. Dozens of
doctors and other medical personnel staged a demonstration in
Almaty on 3 August to demand payment of overdue salaries,
RFE/RL correspondents in the former capital reported. They
also demanded the rescinding of a decision by local
authorities to reduce the number of personnel employed in
local hospitals and clinics. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF DEMILITARIZATION.
United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri told a
session of the Tajik Commission for National Reconciliation
on 3 August that the process of disarming opposition fighters
and of their enrolment into the Tajik army or Interior
Ministry forces has been completed, marking the
transformation of the opposition from a military into a
political force. A second senior UTO official, Khabib
Sanginov, stressed that the disarmament process is
irreversible, according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 3 August, the
Commission for National Reconciliation issued an appeal to
all armed bands not subordinate to the UTO to surrender their
arms within three weeks. Under an agreement signed in June by
Nuri and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, the Tajik
government is obliged to lift the 1993 ban on opposition
parties and media within one week of the disbanding of the
UTO's military units. Paolo Lembo, who is acting
representative in Tajikistan of the UN secretary-general,
termed the demilitarization of the opposition a further step
toward democratization. He expressed the hope that the
upcoming parliamentary elections will be free and fair. LF

END NOTE

DJUKANOVIC'S MOSCOW VISIT SEEN AS 'TURNING POINT'

by Floriana Fossato

	Despite the lack of public comment from top Russian
officials following their talks with Montenegrin President
Milo Djukanovic in Moscow on 2 August, most Russian media are
describing the visit as a "turning point" in the country's
foreign policy.
	Djukanovic's official visit was the first time that a
leader who has challenged Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic was warmly received at the top levels in Moscow.
	Ahead of the Moscow trip, Djukanovic had repeated
earlier warnings that Montenegro might declare its
independence unless Serbia--its larger partner in the
Yugoslav Federation--introduces substantial reforms leading
to democracy and a market economy.
	The Russian daily "Kommersant-Daily" wrote on 3 August
that Djukanovic's visit showed that Russia "intends to forge
links with democratic forces opposing Slobodan Milosevic." It
added that "even more important, [the visit indicates that]
Moscow intends to sever ties with the questionable friends it
inherited from its [Soviet] past."
	Djukanovic's talks with Russian Prime Minister Sergei
Stepashin, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov focused on boosting political and economic ties
between Russia and Montenegro. Russia's Foreign Ministry said
in a statement that both sides agreed "on the need to solve
problems in Yugoslavia through dialogue and the existing
constitutional order."
	Luzhkov--a leading presidential candidate in Russia--was
the only Russian politician to comment publicly on
Djukanovic's visit. He spoke in support of Montenegro, saying
that "we must not allow Milosevic's arbitrariness toward
Montenegro. This is the most important thing. It could lead
to a new worsening of the situation." At the same time, the
Moscow major stressed that that he still considers NATO's
bombing campaign against Yugoslavia "an act of aggression."
	Stepashin, in footage broadcast by Russian television
networks, only repeated his view that humanitarian aid should
be provided to all Yugoslavia, not just the province of
Kosova and Montenegro. Western countries, including the U.S.,
say Serbia should be excluded from receiving such aid as long
as Milosevic remains in power.
	"I think that the position of Russia and of its
president has played an important role in putting an end to
military operations," Stepashin commented. "This is something
that everybody acknowledges and was confirmed also in
Sarajevo [at the 29-30 July Balkans reconstruction summit].
Those who, as a result of the military operations, are now in
a difficult situation, independently of the place where they
live, need the support of international organizations and
also of Russia." During the Balkan reconstruction summit,
however, Stepashin did acknowledge that "the sufferings of
the Yugoslav population were caused not only by the [NATO]
bombings but chiefly by Milosevic's regime."
	Djukanovic, for his part, told "Kommersant-Daily" in an
interview published on 3 August that "it is very important
that Moscow recognized Milosevic's responsibility for
Yugoslavia's tragedy. This shattered the illusions of many
Yugoslavs whom Belgrade had convinced that Russia supported
Milosevic and would defend him."
	During NATO's 11-week bombing campaign, Russia clearly
supported Milosevic. Most analysts in Moscow say the new
pragmatism in Moscow shows an understanding of changed
circumstances.
	Andrei Piantkovskii, director of the Moscow Center for
Strategic Studies, told RFE/RL that "this is not the first
time Russia changed position on an issue. Simply, Russian
officials have finally understood that support for Milosevic
leads nowhere and it is time for a change."
	Sergei Rogov, director of the U.S. and Canada Studies
Institute, told "The Moscow Times" that Russia now is
"interested in participating in the Balkan settlement and not
in being associated with anti-Western regimes."
	Russian news agencies reported that in the talks with
Djukanovic, emphasis was given to the issue of reconstructing
war-torn Yugoslavia. Russia has promised some $150 million
from its budget to finance fuel and food supplies this year
and to promote Russian companies' efforts to win contracts
for reconstruction in Yugoslavia. Much of the country's
energy infrastructure was built with Soviet and Russian
assistance.
	Economy Minister Andrei Shapovalyants said recently that
his ministry will be in charge of controlling the funds and
that a special commission focusing on Russia's participation
in the reconstruction of Yugoslavia will have only a
"consultative character."
	"Kommersant-Daily" on 3 August reported that the work of
the special commission--chaired by Stepashin--will likely be
aimed at facilitating the participation of Russian companies
in the rebuilding works. It also quoted controversial
businessman Vladimir Potanin, appointed as Stepashin's deputy
on the commission, as saying that in order to be able to join
the group of Western donor countries, Russia "will have to
convince the West that [by] rebuilding Yugoslavia, it does
not aim at strengthening Milosevic."

The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.
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