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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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Headlines, Part I

* INFLUENTIAL NEWSPAPER EDITOR SACKED

* RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET WINNING BACK SOME INVESTORS

* TAJIKISTAN REINFORCES BORDER WITH AFGHANISTAN
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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

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