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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 151, Part I, 5 August 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 151, Part I, 5 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 * INFLUENTIAL NEWSPAPER EDITOR SACKED * RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET WINNING BACK SOME INVESTORS * TAJIKISTAN REINFORCES BORDER WITH AFGHANISTAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA INFLUENTIAL NEWSPAPER EDITOR SACKED... Editor-in-Chief of "Kommersant-Daily" Raf Shakirov was dismissed on 4 August. Shakirov told NTV the next day that financier Boris Berezovskii, who recently acquired a 15 percent stake in the Kommersant Publishing house, was behind his dismissal. Shakirov also alleged that the little known U.S. company that acquired a majority stake in the publishing house is actually controlled by Berezovskii. According to Shakirov, Berezovskii is likely to run for the State Duma from the Evenk Autonomous Okrug, a region bordering Krasnoyarsk Krai and over which Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed reportedly wants to extend his control. Berezovskii and Lebed have been allies in the past. JAC ...AS OTHER NEWSPAPERS HEADED FOR MANAGEMENT RESHUFFLE? "Nezavisimaya gazeta," a newspaper financed by Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, had predicted on 4 August that Shakirov would be sacked later in the month and replaced by someone loyal to Berezovskii. The daily also reported that current editor of the government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" will also be replaced around the same time by Andrei Shtorkh, who is currently a consultant to President Boris Yeltsin. On 2 August, Shakirov and the editors of "Rossiiskaya gazeta" and 12 other publications signed a letter appealing to President Boris Yeltsin to discuss the "abnormal" situation in the country's media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999). JAC YELTSIN TRIES TO NUDGE NDR INTO JOINING RIGHT-CENTRIST BLOC. The governing body of Our Home Is Russia (NDR) will discuss on 6 August the possibility of joining the recently formed right-centrist bloc composed of Right Cause, New Force, and Voice of Russia (GR), according to GR's informal leader, Konstantin Titov, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 August. Right Cause is headed by Unified Energy Systems Chairman Anatolii Chubais, and New Force by former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko. At a recent meeting with NDR head Viktor Chernomyrdin, President Yeltsin urged NDR to join the bloc, Interfax reported on 4 August. A source close to NDR's leadership told the agency that NDR is willing to ally with Voice of Russia or New Force but not with Right Cause. Earlier, NDR faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov said that "an alliance with the rightists would be damaging" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1999). JAC RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET WINNING BACK SOME INVESTORS. Standard & Poor's on 4 August raised its rating on Russia's Eurobonds from triple C to double C. Certain types of Finance Ministry bonds issued in 1994 and 1996 were also upgraded. The agency noted that the risk of default of Russia's debt inherited from the Soviet Union remains "substantial." Meanwhile, more and more investment houses are recommending buying Russian stocks, "The Moscow Times" reported on 5 August. According to the daily, London-based investment banks and companies have been issuing either neutral recommendations or advice to buy Russian stocks and bonds. One reason is that share prices are rising: For example, the value of Unified Energy Systems shares rose from 3 cents in January to 7.8 cents on 4 August. Another reason is that the country's economy is performing better than had been expected a few months ago. JAC ANOTHER REGION GRIPPED BY BREAD SCARE... Shoppers in Ufa, the capital of the Republic of Bashkortostan, have been buying up bread, Interfax reported on 4 August. Buyers line up early in the morning and buy two or three loaves to hedge against a further price increase or shortage. Prices recently increased by an average of 30 percent and temporary shortages occurred reportedly because of the shutdown of a main supplier for sanitary treatment. In Kemerovo Oblast, where panic buying was reported last month, the price for a 600 gram loaf of bread increased by 43 percent on 2 August, rising from 3 rubles (12 cents) to 4 rubles and 30 kopeks, Interfax-Eurasia reported (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 7 July 1999). According to the agency, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev had recommended that the price be raised to only 3.5-3.8 rubles, but Kemerovokleb Director-General Vladimir Safyanov noted that the cost of producing one loaf is 4-4.5 rubles. JAC ...AS MILITIA ENFORCES BAN ON GRAIN SHIPMENTS ACROSS REGIONAL BORDER. Local militia stopped Anatolii Kaprov, a farmer in Terbuny in Lipetsk Oblast, from transporting his grain outside of the oblast's boundaries in keeping with Lipetsk Governor Oleg Korolev's ban on such shipments, "Izvestiya" reported on 5 August. Kaprov has threatened to protest the ban by either dumping his grain in a local pond to feed the fish or in the middle of Terbuny's central square at a monument commemorating Soviet authorities' expropriation of grain from peasants. JAC ST. PETE TV DENOUNCED FOR ANTI-SEMITISM. The local watchdog organization Civil Control is to appeal to the St. Petersburg Prosecutor-General's Office to launch criminal proceedings against St. Petersburg Television for its "overt anti-Semitic orientation," "Segodnya" reported on 4 August. According to the daily, anti-Semitic pronouncements have become a frequent occurrence at the television station, whose share-holders include members of the St. Petersburg and regional administration. More recently, that trend peaked in a series of shows in which viewers were invited to take part in polls asking whether "ethnic purges should be carried out in St. Petersburg" and, more specifically, whether in the event of such purges viewers would "take part or defend the victims." JC GASOLINE PRICES CONTINUE CLIMBING... Gasoline prices soared 15.2 percent in July, compared with a 14.5 percent rise the previous month, the Russian Statistics Agency reported on 4 August. The same day, a Fuel and Energy Ministry spokesman reported that local refineries would be required to provide 70 percent of their diesel fuel and fuel oil to domestic customers this month. Two days earlier, Fuel Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii pledged that the problems occurring on the domestic fuel market will be resolved in a number of regions this month or next. He said that the worst situations are in those regions where the fuel supply system is "distorted" and the private sector controls 50-60 percent of the retail gasoline market. JAC ...AS 'MYSTERY' BEHIND SHORTAGE REVEALED. Meanwhile, the recent "gentleman's agreement" between oil companies and the government under which the former will be issued with a monthly plan for oil deliveries is "likely to be torn apart by the laws of supply and demand," the Moscow bureau chief for "Petroleum Argus" concludes in "The Moscow Times" on 3 August. According to Euan Craik, the consequences for violating the agreement have not been spelled out. Craik also argues that soaring world crude prices and increased crude exports are not the primary reasons for the current shortage of gasoline, as Kalyuzhnii has maintained. The true situation is that Russian refineries produce little gasoline because they cannot manufacture sufficiently high quality fuel to export it to Europe. Instead, they manufacture what they can sell abroad-namely fuel oil and gas oil--because since the devaluation of the ruble last August, domestic prices for products such as gasoline remain quite low with 95-octane gasoline retailing at less than 20 cents per liter. JAC MOSCOW'S FIRST LADY CLEARED? Yelena Baturina, the wife of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, told reporters on 4 August that the international accounting firm, Ernst & Young, found no evidence of malfeasance during a recent audit of her firm, Inteka. "Segodnya," which is owned by Luzhkov ally Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most Group, reported on 31 July that the firm found the accusations brought against it by the Vladimir branch of the Federal Security Service to be groundless. On 28 July, the Prosecutor-General's office reported that it will bring no criminal charges against Baturina at present. JAC RUSSIAN DEFENSE OFFICIAL URGES ROBERTSON TO USE MORE DIPLOMACY. An unnamed high-ranking Russian Defense Ministry official told Interfax on 4 August that the Russian government is hoping that NATO will have a "more predictable structure" when British Defense Secretary George Robertson takes over from Secretary-General Javier Solana. He added that "we shall be pleased if under Robertson NATO relies more on military diplomacy and not on military force in matters of cooperation and especially in dealing with conflict situations." The official expressed the hope that NATO will "take into consideration the opinions of other states" in future conflicts. The official said Russia's Defense Ministry has studied an article by Robertson on the issue of military diplomacy, noting that the Kosova crisis highlighted a "gap in the rhetoric and actions of the alliance." FS ROBERTSON PLEDGES TO 'IRON OUT MISCONCEPTIONS.' Robertson told Reuters on 4 August in Brussels that "relations with Russia and with the [sic] Ukraine are going to be enormously important.... We have to iron out some of the misconceptions that some of the Russians have about NATO's motives over [Kosova]. It is very important to make it clear that we are not there as some kind of marching station toward the Russian borders." Robertson said, however, that he hopes to admit more central and eastern European countries to NATO. FS RAISA GORBACHEV STRUCK BY CANCER. Raisa Gorbachev, wife of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, is suffering from acute leukemia, AFP reported on 4 August. Gorbachev, 67, is reportedly in a severely weakened state and has just begun chemotherapy treatment. JAC ORDER RESTORED IN TSUMADIN. Dagestan Security Council secretary Akhmednabi Magdigadzhiev told ITAR-TASS on 4 August that all "criminal armed gangs" have been expelled from Tsumadin Raion and that the Dagestan authorities are in full control of the district. Tsumadin was the scene of fierce fighting between Dagestan Interior Ministry troops and unidentified guerrillas on 2-3 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1999). Also on 4 August, two of five unidentified gunmen who opened fire on a police patrol car in Dagestan's Botlikh Raion bordering Chechnya were killed in an ensuing shootout, Interfax reported. LF COURT DELAYS RULING ON KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA ELECTIONS. The Supreme Court of the North Caucasus Republic of Karachaevo- Cherkessia has postponed a hearing on the disputed outcome of the 16 May presidential runoff, Interfax reported on 4 August. That hearing will now take place on 9 August. Cherkessk Mayor Stanislav Derev appealed the official outcome of the poll, according to which his rival, former Russian army ground forces commander Vladimir Semenov, gained more than 70 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, thousands of Semenov's supporters continue to picket the republic's Interior Ministry to demand that Semenov assume office, according to ITAR-TASS. LF INGUSH PRESIDENT RETRACTS ULTIMATUM. At a meeting in Moscow on 3 August with his North Ossetian counterpart, Aleksandr Dzasokhov, and Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, Ruslan Aushev withdrew his demand that Moscow impose direct presidential rule on North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodnyi Raion, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 5 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 1999). Aushev also retracted his refusal to participate in any further talks with the North Ossetian leadership on expediting the return to Prigorodnyi Raion of an estimated 60,000 ethnic Ingush who fled the district during inter-ethnic clashes in October 1992. Moscow agreed to provide 200 million rubles ($8.2 million) in 1999 to build housing in the district for returning Ingush families, and unspecified other measures were adopted to ensure their safety. LF CONFUSION OVER BOMBING RAIDS ON CHECHNYA. Spokesmen for the Russian airforce on 4 August denied claims by Chechen First Deputy Security Minister Adam Machukaev that two Russian aircraft had bombed the Chechen village of Kenkhi the previous evening, Interfax reported. A Russian Interior Ministry official said, however, that air raids had taken place, but over Tsumadin Raion of neighboring Dagestan, according to Russian Television. Kenkhi residents who arrived in Grozny on 4 August said that some villagers had been injured in the air raids. It is unclear whether anyone was killed. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ LEADERS MEET IN MOSCOW. Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze and Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba met in Moscow on 4 August in the presence of Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin to discuss the repatriation to Abkhazia of an estimated 200,000 ethnic Georgians who fled the republic during the 1992-1993 war. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov subsequently told journalists that although the two sides failed to sign a protocol on repatriation, they succeeded in narrowing differences, and will continue talks on that issue, according to ITAR-TASS. Both ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported that the two sides agreed that the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia should be renewed. That mandate expired on 31 July. At a meeting earlier on 4 August of the Russian- Georgian intergovernmental economic commission, which Lortkipanidze attended, the two sides agreed to a 12-point plan for rebuilding the Abkhaz economy, Interfax reported, quoting Russian First Deputy Premier Nikolai Aksenenko. LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SETS DATE FOR PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION. Eduard Shevardnadze issued a decree on 4 August scheduling parliamentary elections for 31 October, Caucasus Press reported. That date coincides with the Ukrainian presidential poll and may therefore create logistical problems for the OSCE and other organizations intending to monitor both elections. To date, 60 parties have registered with the newly-appointed Georgian Central Electoral Commission to contend the poll. The new parliament, like the outgoing legislature elected in November 1995, will consist of 235 deputies, of whom 150 will be elected from party lists and the remaining 85 in single-mandate constituencies, according to Reuters. LF KAZAKHSTAN SLASHES FUNDING FOR STATE PUBLICATIONS. Minister of Information and Social Concord Altynbek Sarsenbaev has issued a decree abolishing state funding for 23 publications, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported on 5 August, citing "Komsomolskaya pravda." The decree has not been published in the Kazakh press. The staff of the publications affected have been advised to take a one-month vacation without pay, during which their editors are to secure new sources of funding. In future only three newspapers--"Egemen Qazaqstan," "Kazakhstanskaya pravda" and "Zhas Alash"--will receive state funding. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S COSSACKS AGAIN THREATEN TO EMIGRATE EN MASSE. Speaking at a press conference in Almaty on 4 August, Vladimir Ovsyannikov, one of the leaders of the Zhetysu (Semirechie) Cossacks, again said that the entire Cossack community may leave Kazakhstan and seek political asylum elsewhere if the Kazakh authorities "continue to oppress their traditions and culture," RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1999). He estimated that community as numbering 140,000. Recalling that both Canada and China had welcomed Cossack immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century, Ovsyannikov added that the Zhetysu Cossacks may choose to resettle either in Canada or in Moldova's Transdniester Republic. LF KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE TO BE REREGISTERED. Deputy Justice Minister Erkin Mamyrov said in Bishkek on 4 August that the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (KCHR), led by Ramazan Dyryldaev, will be re-registered soon, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Mamyrov spoke after meeting with representatives of both the KCHR and the Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan (HRMK), from which the KCHR split in 1995. The Justice Ministry revoked the registration of the KCHR in September 1998 and has refused to re-register it since, despite the Kyrgyz parliament's recommendation to do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 27 May 1999). LF KYRGYZSTAN DRAFTS NEW LANGUAGE LAW. Almaz Toktomambetov, secretary of the National Commission on the State Language, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 4 August that the commission has prepared a new law draft on the state language, which he added has been submitted to the government. According to Toktomambetov, the draft enhances the role of the state language (Kyrgyz), which would have to be used for all official documentation. Proposals made in 1997 to give Russian the status of either an official language or the language of inter-ethnic communication were rejected. Russians currently account for approximately 15 percent of the country's population of 4.8 million. LF KYRGYZSTAN TO ABOLISH VISA REQUIREMENT FOR WTO STATES. Under a presidential decree published on 3 August and scheduled to take effect on 1 October, citizens of World Trade Organization member states will no longer need a visa to enter Kyrgyzstan, Reuters and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported the following day. President Askar Akaev told Kyrgyzstan's state television that the decision is aimed at encouraging tourism and foreign investment in the Kyrgyz economy. LF TAJIKISTAN REINFORCES BORDER WITH AFGHANISTAN. Alarmed at the intensifying fighting in northern Afghanistan between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, President Imomali Rakhmonov gave orders on 4 August to dispatch Tajik frontier troops to reinforce the Russian border guards deployed along the Tajik-Afghan frontier, Russian agencies reported. Rakhmonov also called on the UN Security Council and the countries of the Six plus Two group to take urgent action to bring about a peaceful settlement of the Afghan civil war, according to Reuters. Afghanistan's ambassador in Dushanbe, Muhaeddin Mehdi, said the same day that an estimated 200,000- 300,000 Afghan refugees have fled the Taliban advance and are now concentrated in the Afghan province of Badakhshan, which borders on Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. LF TURKMENISTAN'S GEOLOGICAL EXPLORATION COMMITTEE CRITICIZED. At a meeting of government ministers and fuel sector officials on 3 August, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov instructed the country's geological exploration committee to "radically restructure its working style" and to intensify prospecting for commercial deposits of hydrocarbons and mineral deposits, Interfax reported. Among the sector's priorities Niyazov named the chemical industry and the construction of three fertilizer plants that will have a planned combined annual capacity of 800,000 tons. Niyazov fired committee chairman Ezismukhamet Abdyllaev, appointing Orazmukhamet Atageldiev to replace him. LF 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. 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