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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 154, Part I, 10 August 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 154, Part I, 10 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

* YELTSIN DUBS PUTIN HIS SUCCESSOR

* PUTIN PREDICTS DAGESTAN WILL BE 'NORMALIZED' WITHIN

* KAZAKH PRESIDENT DISMISSES DEFENSE MINISTER
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN DUBS PUTIN HIS SUCCESSOR. Acting Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin told reporters on 9 August, following Russian
President Boris Yeltsin's televised endorsement of him, that
he will seek the presidency in the 2000 elections. When asked
later by NTV why he declared his intentions so early, Putin
said "I think that those who do not state directly what they
want are really not yet ready to do this--or they are people
who say one thing and do another--and they do not deserve to
be trusted." Putin added that former Prime Minister Sergei
Stepashin was dismissed because Russian President Boris
Yeltsin "wanted to change the political configuration inside
the country in connection with forthcoming State Duma
elections." "Izvestiya" noted on 10 August that Putin's
chances of being elected will be "colored by Stepashin's
unnecessary dismissal" and the fact that Putin is little
known (even prime ministers' ratings rise slowly). Reuters
described Putin's manner during his first television
interview as premier as "completely sombre--even chilling."
JAC

PUTIN EXPECTED TO WIN DUMA APPROVAL. State Duma Chairman
Gennadii Seleznev told ITAR-TASS on 9 August that the lower
chamber might hold an extraordinary session on 13 August to
consider the candidacy of acting Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin. Seleznev, a Communist, said he personally will support
Putin and that "the main thing" is that elections to the
State Duma take place on 19 December. Both Aleksei
Mitrofanov, Duma Geopolitics Committee chairman and member of
the Liberal Democratic Party, and Aleksandr Shokhin, former
Our Home Is Russia faction leader, predicted that Putin has a
good chance of being confirmed. Shokhin told "Trud" on 10
August that Putin will be confirmed because "the opposition
wants to emphasize, particularly on the eve of elections,
that [Putin] is the personification of Yeltsin's regime."
Colonel Sergei Glotov, deputy head of the People's Power
faction, said that Putin's candidacy will be approved without
any complications if he presents a clear-cut economic
program, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

GOVERNMENT SAYS ECONOMIC POLICY TO FOLLOW SAME TRACK...
Acting First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko
announced on 9 August that the Russian government will debate
the 2000 budget on 19 August, as planned, despite the
cabinet's dismissal, Interfax reported. The Economics
Ministry announced the same day that the government's
dismissal will not alter the value indicators projected for
next year's budget, such as the ruble/dollar exchange rate,
which will remain at 32 rubles per dollar. Interfax reported
that economists have found that a 3 percent devaluation of
the ruble following a cabinet dismissal "has become normal."
The agency noted that the ruble fell by 2.8 percent when
Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's government fell. However,
few analysts are predicting a major slump in the ruble
because they believe the new prime minister will follow
economic policies very similar to those of his predecessor,
"The Moscow Times" reported on 10 August. JAC

...WHILE SOME PERSONNEL SHIFTS EXPECTED. Despite acting Prime
Minister Putin's assurances the previous day that he is not
going to change posts in the government's "financial bloc,"
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 August that Stepashin
pushed very hard for Khristenko's promotion and therefore his
departure is possible. The daily alleges that according to
"unofficial information" both Khristenko and Mikhail
Zadornov, presidential envoy to international institutions,
will leave the cabinet. On the other hand, Finance Minister
Mikhail Kasyanov is considered very safe in his position,
having just been praised effusively by President Yeltsin for
his handling of negotiations with the Paris Club. JAC

CADRE RESHUFFLE BEGINS. Acting Premier Putin said on 10
August that he will keep Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and
Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo in his new cabinet. The
previous day, government sources told Interfax that Igor
Sechin, former deputy head of the Security Council staff, is
now the acting chief of Putin's secretariat. Sechin replaces
Vladimir Engelsberg. While he was still prime minister,
Stepashin criticized the practice of unjustified cadre
reshuffles and pledged to curb all attempts to replace the
heads of ministries and departments for the sole purpose of
"having one's own men inside ministries and benefiting from
this." JAC

MOSCOW POLITICAL ELITE BLASTS LATEST SACKING... The deputy
head of Yabloko's Duma faction, Sergei Ivanenko, called the
"personnel reshuffle unreasonable" under the current
circumstances, since Stepashin's government "did not make any
serious mistakes." Fellow Yabloko member and Duma Foreign
Affairs Committee chairman Vladimir Lukin concluded "this
tells me that the authorities have no accountability at all."
Independent Trade Union head Mikhail Shmakov condemned the
president's decision, noting that another government change
will further delay talks on a general agreement with trade
unions for 2000-2001. Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii
Chubais reportedly considers Yeltsin's dismissal of Stepashin
a "very risky move," a source close to Chubais told Interfax
on 9 August. Fellow Right Cause member Boris Nemtsov told
"Komsomolskaya pravda" the next day that "everybody in the
White House feels they hold their positions only
provisionally, which is the perfect atmosphere for
corruption." JAC

...AS REGIONAL LEADERS' REACTION IS MORE CAUTIOUS. Tatarstan
President Mintimer Shaimiev said that Stepashin's dismissal
was not entirely unexpected, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported
on 10 August. According to Shaimiev, who is also the informal
leader of All Russia, President Yeltsin has not made Putin's
job any easier by declaring him his successor. Sverdlovsk
Governor Eduard Rossel, who is seeking re-election in a
ballot scheduled for the end of the month, said he is
confident that he will be able to develop a constructive
dialogue with Putin. Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev, who was
formerly allied with a Communist Party-led coalition,
commented that powers in the center "are not capable of doing
anything constructive." JAC

STEPASHIN HEADED FOR SPOT WITH GOVERNORS-LUZHKOV ALLIANCE?
Interfax reported on 9 August that President Yeltsin offered
former Prime Minister Stepashin the post of Security Council
secretary, which Putin has now vacated. But according to
"sources close to Stepashin," the former prime minister will
not accept the position. The next day, Georgii Boos, head of
the campaign staff for the alliance between Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov's Fatherland and All Russia, said that the new
coalition is prepared to offer Stepashin a spot on its
election list if he wants to run for a Duma seat. He added
that leadership of the group by Stepashin "is not even being
discussed." JAC

NORTH CAUCASUS SEEN AS FACTOR IN STEPASHIN'S DISMISSAL.
"Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 10 August that the
situation in Dagestan may have been a factor in Stepashin's
dismissal. The daily claims that according to its sources in
the Interior Ministry, President Yeltsin believed that the
government had "fumbled in this respect." According to the
newspaper, sources in the Defense and Interior Ministries are
perplexed by the president's decision to dismiss the
government "as a new war in the Caucasus is brewing."
However, it notes that the Federal Security Service (FSB) is
"jubilant because its boss has been promoted." The new FSB
chief, Patrushev, reportedly enjoys a close friendship with
Putin that was first established when the two men worked
together for the KGB in Leningrad during the 1980s,
"Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day. According to the
daily, Patrushev had already practically assumed the
leadership of the FSB when Putin became secretary of the
Security Council. JAC

WEST SEES CONTINUITY IN RELATIONS WITH MOSCOW... U.S. State
Department spokesman James Rubin, commenting on the dismissal
of Stepashin and Putin's appointment as premier-designate,
stressed on 9 August that U.S. policy focuses on "Russian
reform and the policies of the government, not the
personalities." He noted that Washington has "some
experience" and a "constructive relationship" with Putin.
Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, whose country holds
the rotating EU presidency, said the EU does not expect ties
with Moscow to change following Stepashin's sacking. He added
that it is important that Russia continue joint projects with
the union. An IMF spokesman said nothing has changed in the
fund's relationship with Russia, while a Japanese government
spokesman said Tokyo will continue to expand relations with
Moscow. Meanwhile, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official said
Beijing hopes for political stability in Russia, but he
declined to comment further on the latest developments in the
Russian capital. JC

...WHILE MOSCOW OFFICIALS SAY IT'S BUSINESS AS USUAL.
Interfax on 9 August quoted the Russia Foreign Ministry as
saying the dismissal of the Stepashin government "will in no
way impact on Russia's main foreign policy strategy." Russian
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who was vacationing at the
Black Sea resort of Sochi at the time of Stepashin's sacking,
retained his post during the previous government reshuffle in
May. Also on 9 August, unnamed "diplomatic sources" in Moscow
told Interfax that the timetable for talks at expert level
with the U.S. on the START-III Treaty and possible changes to
the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty remains unchanged.
Those parleys are due to take place from 17-19 August (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1999). JC

CHAIKA OPTS FOR EARLY RETIREMENT. Acting Prosecutor-General
Yurii Chaika on 9 August re-submitted his resignation from
that post, this time requesting early retirement, ITAR-TASS
reported. The Federation Council had scheduled hearings on
Chaika's resignation in October, according to "Kommersant-
Daily" the next day. By asking to retire, Chaika, aged 48,
now avoids having to wait until October, and Vladimir
Ustinov, head of the Prosecutor-General's directorate in the
North Caucasus, can now assume the post immediately. Under
Chaika, the office for investigating important cases
continued to probe allegations of corruption involving two
members of Yeltsin's inner circle, media tycoon Boris
Berezovskii and Pavel Borodin, head of the Kremlin's
facilities directorate, "The Moscow Times" reported on 30
July. JAC

RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT SAYS MOSCOW IS 'SICK AND TIRED OF
MILOSEVIC...' Senior Russian diplomat and Rambouillet
negotiator Andrei Zagorskii told the "Frankfurter Rundschau"
of 7 August that "Moscow has long been sick and tired of
Milosevic and would be extremely happy if the Milosevic
regime were to fall." He added, however, that "in the
[Kosova] conflict Moscow saw the old world order, in which
Russia had a say, falling apart." He argued that important
for Moscow was not Milosevic but the "change in the world
order." Zagorskii said that Russia's main aim is stopping
NATO from acting as "the decision-making body in European
affairs" at the expense of the OSCE and UN. He stressed that
"Russian diplomacy...is doing all in its power to strengthen
the UN Security Council's position." He acknowledged,
however, that "unofficial bodies" such as the Balkans Contact
Group are necessary and that the G-8 is an acceptable
substitute. FS

...AND WILL SIGN START II. Zagorskii told the "Frankfurter
Rundschau" that the Russian State Duma postponed the
ratification of the Start II disarmament agreement over the
Kosova crisis but added that "the disarmament process is by
no means dead." He acknowledged that "Russia has...no choice.
We have to disarm because our missiles are old and no longer
safe." He added that he does not believe there will be a
union of Russia and Belarus, noting that the CIS "has always
been a dead entity." FS

PUTIN PREDICTS DAGESTAN WILL BE 'NORMALIZED' WITHIN TWO
WEEKS. Acting Russian Prime Minister Putin chaired a 9 August
session of the Russian Security Council that adopted measures
to stabilize the situation in Dagestan and throughout the
North Caucasus. No details of those measures have been
released. Earlier on 9 August, Putin had ordered the
Dagestani authorities to proceed with the implementation of
measures agreed on at a meeting in Makhachkala the previous
day with then Prime Minister Stepashin. Those measures
included the formation of volunteer brigades of 50-100 men,
who are being issued with hunting rifles, and the
registration of illicitly acquired weapons, including
machine-guns and grenade-launchers. Following a meeting with
President Yeltsin on 10 August, Putin predicted that order
will be restored in Dagestan within two weeks, after which
more time will be needed to "stabilize" the authorities
there. He added that Moscow's actions in Dagestan are in
response to a request by that republic's leadership. LF

MILITARY SITUATION IN BOTLIKH REMAINS UNCLEAR. An unnamed
Dagestani Interior Ministry official told Interfax on 9
August that the federal army and Interior Ministry forces
sent to Botlikh Raion at the weekend are regrouping and
carrying out reconnaissance missions and have not yet
launched "large-scale" attacks on the Islamic militants who
have occupied several villages there. ITAR-TASS quoted
another anonymous source in Makhachkala on 10 August as
saying that no fighting was reported overnight. On 9 August,
however, ITAR-TASS reported that Russian troops had launched
missile and artillery strikes against the militants. Putin,
too, said on 10 August that "combat operations are going on
in Dagestan," adding however that the field commanders had
split their men up into small groups. Caucasus Press reported
on 10 August that some of the militants have begun to retreat
from Botlikh to Chechnya. LF

DID KVASHNIN HAVE A NARROW ESCAPE? ITAR-TASS reported that
the helicopter carrying Russian Army Chief of Staff General
Anatolii Kvashnin was shelled both when it landed and then
took off from an airfield in Botlikh on the morning of 9
August. Two helicopters on the ground were destroyed and two
more seriously damaged. Interfax reported later that day that
both the Russian Defense Ministry and the Dagestani Interior
Ministry declined to confirm that Kvashnin's helicopter had
come under fire, although Dagestani officials confirmed that
two helicopters were damaged by mortar fire at the airfield
in question. Kvashnin is coordinating the operation to
neutralize the Islamic militants in Botlikh. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER OFFERS TO MEDIATE IN KARABAKH
CONFLICT. On a one-day visit to Yerevan on 9 August, Kamal
Kharrazi met with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and
with his Armenian counterpart, Vartan Oskanian, to discuss
bilateral political and economic relations and regional
problems, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kharrazi told
journalists after the talks that he and Oskanian agree that
expanding bilateral relations may serve to promote stability
in the South Caucasus. He reaffirmed Tehran's readiness to
facilitate a dialogue between the Armenian and Azerbaijani
leaderships on resolving the Karabakh conflict. Acknowledging
that offer to promote dialogue, Oskanian said that the OSCE
(of which Iran is not a member) will remain the main mediator
the conflict. According to Oskanian, the two sides also
discussed ways of underwriting construction of the planned
$120 million gas pipeline from Iran to Armenia. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. CONGRESSMEN. President
Kocharian and Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian met separately
in Yerevan on 9 August with a visiting group of five U.S.
Congressmen, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The talks
reportedly focused on U.S.-Armenian relations and regional
issues, including the Karabakh conflict. Kocharian noted that
over the past 18 months (that is, since he became acting
president in February 1998) Armenia's foreign policy has
become more dynamic but that activity seeks to mitigate
rather than to exploit conflicts of interest in the South
Caucasus. Both Kocharian and Sargsian expressed optimism that
the former's meeting last month in Geneva with Azerbaijani
President Heidar Aliev could herald a breakthrough in the
deadlocked Karabakh peace process. Kocharian left Yerevan
later on 9 August for a 10-day vacation at an undisclosed
location, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION TO DEMAND AMENDMENTS TO LOCAL ELECTION
LAW. The Movement for Electoral Reforms and Democratic
Elections (MERDE) has presented to the presidential apparatus
a list of proposed amendments to the law on municipal
elections, Turan reported on 9 August. Those proposals
include increasing the number of persons to be elected to
local government bodies at all levels, electing 50 percent of
those officials under the proportional and 50 percent under
the majoritarian system, and banning the presence of police
officials within 100 meters of polling stations. MERDE has
also created a three-strong committee to negotiate on those
proposals with the presidential administration. The elections
are scheduled for 12 December. LF

RUSSIA DENIES BOMBING GEORGIAN VILLAGE. Georgian Border
Guards said on 9 August that a Russian SU-25 aircraft dropped
several bombs on the village of Zemo Omalo in eastern Georgia
injuring three people. The village is close to Georgia's
border with Chechnya and Dagestan. A spokesman for the
Russian Air Force General Staff denied those reports, adding
that Russian fighters are not conducting operations in
Dagestan's airspace and thus could not inadvertently overfly
Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian Minister of State
Vazha Lortkipanidze telephoned acting Russian Premier
Vladimir Putin to complain about the incident. Putin
expressed regret and promised to investigate the incident.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has likewise requested
clarification from President Yeltsin of the bombing. In June,
Moscow rejected Georgian claims that its fighters had
violated Georgian airspace (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 28
June 1999). LF

CENTRAL ASIAN OFFICIALS UNFAZED BY STEPASHIN DISMISSAL.
Spokesmen for the Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Tajik presidential
staff expressed confidence on 9 August that Sergei
Stepashin's dismissal and the appointment of Vladimir Putin
as acting Russian premier will not negatively affect their
countries' relations with Russia, according to Interfax. A
Kazakh official said it is too early for an official
statement, but he expressed the personal opinion that there
will be no changes in Russia's policy towards Kazakhstan.
Unnamed Kyrgyz officials said they are confident Russia's
next government will promote bilateral economic and political
relations. Tajik presidential press secretary Zafar Saidov
termed Stepashin's firing "a purely internal Russian affair,"
adding that Tajikistan's leadership is confident that the
dismissal will in no way affect the "alliance and strategic
partnership" developing between Russia and Tajikistan. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT DISMISSES DEFENSE MINISTER. Following a
meeting of Kazakhstan's Security Council on 9 August,
Nursultan Nazarbaev issued a decree dismissing that body's
chairman Nurtai Abykaev, Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbaev,
and an unspecified number of lower-level defense and security
officials for their handling of the sale of six
decommissioned MiG-21 fighter aircraft, Interfax and AP
reported. Azerbaijani authorities impounded the fighters when
the Russian transport aircraft exporting them to the Czech
Republic landed in Baku. The fighters were subsequently
returned to Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March and
21 April 1999). Nazarbaev subsequently named Chief of General
Staff Bakhytzhan Yertaev acting defense minister and promoted
Security Council Deputy Chairman Alnur Musaev to head the
council. LF

SQUATTERS STAGE PROTEST IN KYRGYZ CAPITAL. Some 1,000
homeless young people gathered along the administrative
border between Bishkek and Chu Oblast on 9 August to demand
permission from the city authorities to build their own homes
on waste ground on the city outskirts, RFE/RL's bureau in the
Kyrgyz capital reported. Bishkek Deputy Mayor Abdraim Kulbaev
told RFE/RL following a similar demonstration by some 500
squatters on 6-7 August in the south of Bishkek that the
protesters' demands are illegal. Meeting with homeless young
people in June, President Askar Akaev promised to form a
government commission to consider their demand to create a
new parliamentary constituency whose deputy would represent
their interests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June 1999). LF

TAJIK MILITANTS TAKE KYRGYZ OFFICIALS HOSTAGE. On 6 August,
some 21 guerrillas who had entered southern Kyrgyzstan from
Tajikistan in late July took hostage four Kyrgyz officials
sent to negotiate with them, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek
bureau reported. Bolot Dzhanuzakov, who heads the defense
department within the Kyrgyz presidential administration,
told journalists on 9 August that the guerillas, who are
armed with submachine-guns and grenade-launchers, are
demanding safe passage to Uzbekistan. Kyrgyz Security
Ministry official Talant Razzakov told RFE/RL on 6 August
that the guerrillas are part of the religious extremist
forces of Jumabai Namangani, an ethnic Uzbek field commander
based in Tajikistan who opposes Uzbekistan's President Islam
Karimov. LF

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                     All rights reserved.
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