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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 153, Part I, 9 August 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 153, Part I, 9 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

* EXIT STEPASHIN

* 'ISLAMIC MILITANTS' OCCUPY VILLAGES IN DAGESTAN

* TURKMEN GAS PIPELINE AGREEMENTS SIGNED

End Note: TILTING THE CHESSBOARD IN MOSCOW
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RUSSIA

EXIT STEPASHIN... Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a
decree on 9 August dismissing Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin
after only three months on the job. As was the case with his
predecessors, three of whom had preceded him in the past 17
months, rumors of his pending dismissal started to dog him
almost as soon as he was confirmed. His visit to the U.S. in
July intensified such speculation both because of the visit's
success and his own impromptu remarks there, such as, the
U.S. has come to understand that "there are not just senile
invalids in wheelchairs" in Russia. On 7 August, "Kommersant-
Daily" characterized Stepashin's recent whirlwind tour
through the Volga region as a last-ditch effort to convince
Yeltsin not to dismiss him: during that tour, the ex-premier
sought to persuade regional leaders to back the Kremlin's
candidates in upcoming parliamentary elections. The newspaper
had reported earlier that a Kremlin-backed effort to place
Stepashin at the head of the election bloc composed of
governors failed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1999). JAC

...ENTER PUTIN... By 9 August, Yeltsin had decided that "the
person who is able to consolidate society and, drawing
support from the broadest political forces, ensure the
continuation of reforms in Russia" is Vladimir Putin. Putin
was director of the Federal Security Service and secretary of
the Security Council until a decree that day relieved him of
those posts and named him first deputy prime minister.
Yeltsin also submitted Putin's name as candidate for the
premiership to the State Duma, which has three opportunities
to approve Yeltsin's choice for prime minister or be
dissolved. Putin, a St. Petersburg native, is reportedly
close to Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais. He
started his career with the Foreign Intelligence Service,
spending many years in Germany. He also served as first
deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. JAC

...AS DUMA ELECTION SEASON OFFICIALLY BEGINS. Also on 9
August, Yeltsin signed a decree stipulating that Duma
elections would be held on 19 December. With the announcement
of that date, the campaign season formally begins. A total of
450 deputies will be elected to the lower chamber, 225 in
single-mandate districts and 225 on party lists. By law,
candidates are allowed to spend only the equivalent of 10,000
minimum monthly wages (about $360,000) on their campaign;
however, "Rossiya" reported in its July issue that political
analysts reckon that a campaign for a Duma seat can cost as
much as $500,000. A successful presidential campaign is much
more expensive, costing between $30-50 million, according to
the publication. JAC

ANOTHER ST. PETERSBURG NATIVE TAPPED FOR FSB. Putin's
replacement at the FSB is First Deputy Director Nikolai
Patrushev, who is also from St. Petersburg. Patrushev, whom
Yeltsin appointed as FSB director on 9 August, has served in
the service since 1974. He spent some three months last year
as deputy chief of the presidential staff, according to ITAR-
TASS. JAC

LATEST YELTSIN MOVE BLASTED. Communist Party leader Gennadii
Zyuganov told reporters that his faction, which is the
largest in the Duma, has not yet decided whether it will
support Putin's candidacy, although he noted that there "is
not much difference between Putin and Stepashin--they are
members of the same team." Zyuganov predicted that the
situation in Dagestan would given Yeltsin the pretext for
imposing emergency rule and postponing State Duma elections.
State Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin
(Communist) suggested that Stepashin's dismissal was
orchestrated by Yeltsin's inner circle: "'The Family'
probably looked for a more reliable figure who could serve as
Yeltsin's successor, the main thing being to preserve the
very existence of the family." "It's hard to explain the
madness," former Deputy Prime Minister and Right Cause Boris
Nemtsov told Ekho Moskvy, adding that "the [Russian] people
have grown tired of watching an ill leader who is not capable
of doing his job." Right Cause recently proposed introducing
an age limit for presidential candidates. JAC

STOCKS PLUMMET ON INITIAL NEWS, BUT REBOUND EXPECTED. Leading
Russian share prices fell 12-14 percent after news of the
government upheaval. By mid-morning local time, shares in
Unified Energy Systems had slipped 13.19 percent and LUKoil
shares were down 10.83 percent. Shares in Gazprom plunged 11
percent. Traders and analysts told Reuters that since the
possibility of Stepashin's firing had already been priced
into the market in recent weeks, the market would quickly
shake off its initial reaction and begin to rebound by the
end of the day. The Russian stock market had recently
experienced a somewhat limited renaissance, with some Western
investment firms recently recommending once again the
purchasing of Russian shares (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August
1999). The ruble also tumbled on 9 August from 24.9 rubles
per dollar to 25.4 rubles. JAC

ALLIANCE OF FATHERLAND-ALL RUSSIA REJECTS SOME MEMBERS...
Fatherland head and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said on 7
August that Our Home Is Russia would not be invited to join
the alliance of Fatherland and the governors' bloc, All
Russia, whose informal leader is Tatarstan President Mintimer
Shaimiev. Luzhkov declared that "the NDR is a fading star and
it hardly makes sense to galvanize it through a union with
Fatherland." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the same day that
the Congress of Russian Communities, led by Dmitrii Rogozin,
has been expelled from Fatherland. Meanwhile, Aleksei
Podberezkin, leader of Spiritual Heritage, told Ekho Moskvy
that his group is continuing to negotiate with both
Fatherland and the People's Patriotic Union. His group's
condition for joining the latter bloc is that it be allowed
to have its own faction in the State Duma so that it would
not have to answer to the Communist Party's Central
Committee, which he says has dictatorial tendencies. JAC

...AS VOLSKII'S GROUP OFFERS TO AUTHOR BLOC'S ECONOMIC
PROGRAM. Union of Russian Industrialists and Entrepreneurs
head Arkadii Volskii told Interfax on 7 August that his group
will support the Fatherland-All Russia bloc in upcoming
elections. According to Volskii, the union's economic experts
have studied the economic programs of six election alliances,
including the one composed of former Deputy Prime Minister
Anatolii Chubais's Just Cause, former Prime Minister Sergei
Kirienko's New Force, and Samara Governor Konstantin Titov's
Voice of Russia. "[The programs] are so primitive that there
is nothing to criticize," he said. According to Volskii, his
group will outline an economic program that an election bloc
expecting his union's support should pursue. JAC

RIGHT-CENTRIST BLOC CHOOSES ITS LEADERS? "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" reported on 7 August that the right-centrist
coalition of Just Cause, New Force, and Voice of Russia will
be headed by Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, former Prime
Minister Sergei Kirienko and former head of the State
Committee for Development and Support of Small Business Irina
Khakamada, with the top three spots on the federal list going
to these candidates. According to the daily, Right Cause
leader Anatolii Chubais decided that three fellow Right Cause
members-- former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, former
Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov, and former State Tax Service
head Boris Fedorov--will not be included on the federal
election list. Instead, Gaidar will be number one for the
City of Moscow regional list, Fedorov for Moscow Oblast, and
Nemtsov for Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast. Former Foreign Minister
Andrei Kozyrev will reportedly head the list for Murmansk
Oblast. The newspaper reported that an official announcement
on the issue can be expected at the coalition's 11 August
congress. JAC

MOSCOW CITY TAX INSPECTORS FACE AUDIT. Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov told reporters on 7 August that the audit being
performed on Moscow city tax authorities by the federal Tax
Ministry is "a political action," Interfax reported.
According to "Segodnya," one reason for the detailed audit,
which will be the first in seven years, is the decreasing
proportion of taxes collected in cash. The newspaper, which
is owned by Luzhkov ally Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most
Group, speculates that the Kremlin initiated the audit to
destabilize the work of the Moscow tax inspectorate and
hinder its plans to collect money for the city budget on the
eve of parliamentary elections. JAC

FORMER SOVIET PREMIER HEADS DELEGATION INVESTIGATING 'NATO
CRIMES.' Nikolai Ryzhkov, former chairman of the USSR Council
of Ministers and chairman of the Duma commission collecting
information on alleged NATO war crimes against Yugoslavia,
arrived in Belgrade on 8 August. Ryzhkov told ITAR-TASS that
his delegation will collect "materials on the harmful effect
of the NATO aggression on the [population] of Yugoslavia and
draft a plan for our parliamentary commission [on] sending
documents to [the International Criminal Tribunal for the
Former Yugoslavia]." He added that "we do not want to be
guided by...the cooling or warming of bilateral relations
with NATO.... We are an independent commission.... Our aim is
to establish the truth and to submit the collected materials
to the State Duma." Ryzhkov stressed that "we are not all
that satisfied by the objectiveness and impartiality of [the
tribunal]." FS

ARE RUSSIAN TROOPS IN KOSOVA DEPLOYING SERBIAN
PARAMILITARIES? According to AP on 8 August, "Scotland on
Sunday" quoted Captain Michael Taylor of the U.S. 82nd
Airborne Division as saying in the village of Dobercan,
southeastern Kosova: "We have had numerous reports, which we
are investigating, of Serb paramilitaries operating in
Russian uniforms." The weekly added that its reporter
witnessed Russian military convoys crossing the border
between Kosova and Serbia in a move that is forbidden under
the KFOR rules of deployment. The reporter also saw Serbian
paramilitary police waving through the Russian forces. FS

MOSCOW APPROVES KYIV'S BOMBERS-FOR-GAS PROPOSAL. Colonel-
General Anatolii Kornukov, commander of the Russian air
force, told Interfax on 6 August that Moscow has agreed to
Kyiv's proposal to repay part of its gas debt to Russia
through the delivery of eight Tu-160 strategic bombers.
Russia puts that debt at $1.8 billion, while Kyiv claims that
it owes only $1 billion and that commercial structures are
responsible for the remainder of the debt. Kornukov did not
say how much each plane would be considered to be worth.
Russia already has six Tu-160 planes as well as some 50 Tu-
95MS long-range bombers, according to Interfax. JC

NO DECREASE IN CRIME AMONG MILITARY COMMANDERS. In an
interview with "Vremya MN" published on 6 August, Main
Military Prosecutor Yurii Demin said that while crime in the
armed forces was down 12.4 percent in the first half of this
year, compared with the same period in 1998, the number of
lawsuits against the forces' top commanders has not
decreased. Currently, some 20 lawsuits against generals and
admirals are being considered by military prosecutor's
offices around the country. Demin added that while the most
frequent crimes committed in the armed forces continue to be
desertion and hazing, the number of "economic crimes" is on
the rise, reflecting the disastrous "material situation" of
the armed forces. JC

'ISLAMIC MILITANTS' OCCUPY VILLAGES IN DAGESTAN... A group of
gunmen seized at least two villages in Dagestan's Botlikh
Raion on 7 August. The gunmen, whose number has been
variously estimated at between 300-600 and 2,000, allegedly
include Arabs, Central Asians. and members of Dagestan's
various ethnic groups. They are reportedly led by former
acting Chechen Premier Shamil Basaev and Jordanian-born field
commander Khottab and have two armored personnel carriers, an
anti-tank gun, and air defense systems. Residents who fled
the villages and officials of the Congress of Peoples of
Chechnya and Dagestan told Interfax on 7 August that the
"Islamic units" are creating local power bodies and Islamic
courts in Dagestan as a first step toward declaring the
republic an independent Islamic state. Basaev founded the
Congress last year with the aim of creating an independent
Islamic state comprising Chechnya and Dagestan. LF

...WHILE MOSCOW SENDS TROOPS TO CONTAIN THREAT... One Russian
army batallion and one Interior Ministry battalion, together
with 1,000 Dagestani police, were sent to Botlikh Raion on 7
August. The Russian forces launched artillery and air strikes
against the mavericks on the evenings of 7 and 8 August. Then
Russian Prime Minister Stepashin flew to Makhachkala on 8
August, where he discussed the situation with local officials
and with Russian Interior Ministry forces commander Colonel-
General Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov, who flew to Dagestan the
previous day. Stepashin subsequently told journalists that
the standoff would be resolved without risking the lives of
either civilians or Russian servicemen. Two days earlier,
Stepashin had ruled out new fighting in the North Caucasus.
ITAR-TASS on 8 August quoted a Russian military source as
saying that the head of Botlikh Raion asked Basaev to
withdraw his forces, but Basaev refused to do so until the
Russian federal troops withdraw. LF

...AND CHECHNYA DISCLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY. Chechnya's official
representative in Moscow, former presidential spokesman
Mairbek Vachagaev, told ITAR-TASS on 7 August that the
"bandit formations" that occupied villages in Botlikh Raion
have no relation to, and are not financed by, the Chechen
leadership. The previous day, the Chechen Foreign Ministry
had issued a statement warning of unspecified countermeasures
unless Moscow halts what it termed "armed provocations on the
Chechen-Russian border," Interfax reported. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

CIS TOP OFFICIAL VISITS AZERBAIJAN. On a working visit to
Baku on 6-7 August, CIS Executive Secretary Yurii Yarov
discussed the ongoing streamlining of CIS executive
structures with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, ITAR-TASS
and Turan reported. Yarov said that the creation of alliances
such as GUUAM by CIS member states does not detract from the
viability of the CIS, which, he argued, would be more
effective if its members could agree on creating a CIS free
trade zone. (Turkmenistan in June rejected that proposal).
Turan quoted Yarov as saying that the CIS Executive Committee
wants individual CIS member states to give Russia plenary
powers to negotiate with international organizations, such as
the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank, on behalf of the
presidents of CIS states. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION POLITICIAN'S TRIAL POSTPONED. The
trial of Geyrat Party chairman and former presidential
candidate Ashraf Mehtiev has been postponed indefinitely,
Turan reported on 6 August. Mehtiev was charged with
insulting the honor and dignity of President Aliev by
alleging the latter is an ethnic Kurd. Mehtiev's trial opened
in Baku last month but was subsequently adjourned. LF

SUSPECTS WALK FREE AS KAZAKH LAWYERS CONTINUE STRIKE.
Criminal suspects are being released from jail without trial
because of the ongoing strike by Kazakhstan's lawyers, AP
reported on 7 August. Under Kazakhstan's constitution,
suspects can be detained without trial for no longer than six
months. The lawyers' union estimates that in Almaty alone,
more than 100 persons charged with violent crimes have been
released. Lawyers in Kazakhstan launched a strike in early
April to demand that the government pay their back wages for
the previous six months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April
1999). LF

KAZAKHSTAN RELEASES DETAINED KYRGYZ. The 17 Kyrgyz detained
three weeks ago at a holiday home near the Kazakh town of
Taraz were released on 6 August, Human Rights Movement of
Kyrgyzstan chairman Tursunbek Akunov told RFE/RL's Bishkek
bureau the following day. The Kyrgyz were among 78 people who
had gathered to hold common prayers (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
20 July and 6 August 1999). LF

RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTER VISITS TAJIKISTAN. On a two-day
working visit to Dushanbe on 6-7 August, Vladimir Rushailo
held talks with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and with
Tajik colleagues on cooperation in combating organized and
economic crime, terrorism, as well as arms- and drug-
trafficking, ITAR-TASS reported. They focused on the
performance of joint working groups created for that purpose
earlier this year. LF

TAJIK COTTON HARVEST A WASHOUT. Minister of Agriculture
Sherali Safarov told Interfax on 6 August that this year
Tajikistan is likely to harvest only 380,000 tons of cotton
or just over half the planned target of 600,000 tons. He
blamed the shortfall on shortages of fuel and spare parts for
agricultural machinery and on the torrential rains in Khatlon
Oblast last month. In 1997, Tajikistan harvested 385,000 tons
of cotton. LF

TURKMEN GAS PIPELINE AGREEMENTS SIGNED... Representatives of
Shell and PSG signed three agreements in Ashgabat on 5 August
on the extraction of Turkmen natural gas and its export via
the planned Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, Interfax reported.
Shell and PSG signed a letter of intent on the implementation
of that project, under which Shell undertook to raise 50
percent of construction costs. Shell also signed an
"agreement of strategic alliance" with the Turkmen government
on exploring and developing gas deposits from which gas can
be exported via the planned pipeline. And PSG signed a
preliminary agreement with the Turkmen government on the
commercial and legal basis for operating the pipeline. LF

...AS AZERBAIJAN EXPRESSES INTEREST. Speaking in Baku the
following day, Azerbaijan state oil company president Natik
Aliev said his country hopes the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline
will transit Azerbaijan and Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported.
Aliev said the pipeline will have an annual capacity of 30
billion cubic meters, and he expressed the hope that
Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan will be able to reach an
agreement allowing Azerbaijan to use part of that capacity to
export its own gas. US State Department adviser for the
Caspian John Wolf said in Baku the same day that PSG will
conduct talks on this issue in Baku "soon." LF

TURKMENISTAN, UKRAINE AGAIN AT ODDS OVER GAS SUPPLIES.
Ukrainian Premier Valeriy Pustovoytenko said on 6 August that
agreement had been reached during talks with Turkmen
government officials the previous day on resuming supplies of
Turkmen natural gas to Ukraine before the end of this month,
Interfax reported. Turkmenistan halted exports to Ukraine in
late May. But in Ashgabat, the chairman of Turkmenistan's
state gas company, Berdymurat Redjepov, said the same day
that supplies will not be resumed any time soon because
Ukraine has not yet made the required payment in hard
currency for 6 billion cubic meters of gas it received
between January and late May 1999. Forty percent of that debt
was to be paid in hard currency and the remainder in barter
goods, not all of which have been supplied. LF

END NOTE

TILTING THE CHESSBOARD IN MOSCOW

By Paul Goble

	Once again, Boris Yeltsin has tilted the political
chessboard in Moscow, giving himself new room for maneuver by
upsetting the calculations of others--at the cost of throwing
the Russian government into turmoil.
	Earlier today, the Russian president fired his prime
minister, Sergei Stepashin, along with the entire government,
and replaced him with Vladimir Putin, until now head of
Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) and a longtime KGB
agent.
	In making this change, Yeltsin said that he wants to put
Putin in a position to succeed him as president, thus
highlighting Yeltsin's growing unhappiness with the political
coalitions now being formed against him and hinting at his
approach in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential
elections. Further, this latest move--particularly in the
context of the renewed fighting in the North Caucasus--raises
the possibility that Yeltsin will seek to postpone those
votes by declaring a state of emergency or will try to gain
more influence over the electoral process by putting himself
in a position to do precisely that.
	But any short-term gains he may have made in the
overheated politics of Moscow may be swamped both by the
probable reaction of his political opponents and the even
more predictable reaction of international financial markets
and Western governments.
	Precisely because most of Yeltsin's opponents are likely
to view his motives as a transparent threat to themselves and
because Yeltsin has used similar tactics in the past,
political leaders in the State Duma and in Russia's regions
are likely to redouble their efforts to gain power at his
expense.
	The electoral coalitions that have emerged in the last
few weeks are likely to consolidate rather than crack as a
result of Stepashin's departure and Putin's appointment.
Those involved in such coalitions will doubtless conclude
that Yeltsin's move is directed not only against their
current clout but also their future power in the Russian
state.
	That may make the confirmation of Putin more rather than
less difficult. It may also lead to new demands for Yeltsin's
impeachment and possibly trigger other kinds of political
maneuvers against an action that many political figures, not
to mention the Russian public, are likely to view as the
latest indication of Yeltsin's arbitrariness and unfitness
for office. Thus, August is likely to once again prove the
hottest month politically in the Russian capital.
	Moreover, this pattern of domestic unhappiness with
Yeltsin's move may be compounded by the reaction of the West.
Both financial markets and international financial
institutions are likely to react negatively to this latest
indication of instability within the upper echelons of the
Russian state.
	The reaction of the markets is almost certain to be both
quick and negative, driving down the ruble's exchange rate,
reducing still further the willingness of private firms to
invest there, and thus further exacerbating Russia's economic
difficulties. All those developments will only highlight the
conditions that are behind the growing opposition to Yeltsin
among the Russian people.
	The initial reaction of Western governments is likely to
be more cautious. On the one hand, many are likely to view
Yeltsin's latest move the same way they viewed earlier ones
of this kind--as a high risk but as perhaps the necessary
step by someone many have come to view as the only reliable
partner they have in Moscow.
	On the other, precisely because Yeltsin has used this
stratagem so often and precisely because it is once again
threatening to destabilize the political situation in Moscow,
ever more voices in Western capitals are likely to begin to
ask questions about Yeltsin's reliability and about relations
with Moscow after Yeltsin.
	The latter response is particularly likely because of
Yeltsin's suggestion that he would like to see Putin as his
successor. Some are certain to be concerned by the prospect
of a longtime Soviet spy at the head of the Russian
government, while others will be worried by the possibility
that Yeltsin may suddenly transfer power to Putin as a means
of avoiding a loss in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
	Each time Yeltsin has tossed the Russian chessboard into
the air in order to maintain power, there have been
suggestions that he has used this strategy once too often.
That is certain to be the case once again this week. And
regardless of whether this is Yeltsin's final August ploy,
the suggestions themselves will cast an ever larger shadow
over Russian politics, the Russian people, and Russia's
relations with the West.
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