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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 157, Part I, 13 August 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 157, Part I, 13 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 * RUSSIAN FORCES CONTINUE OFFENSIVE IN DAGHESTAN * PUTIN SETS OUT TO WOO GOVERNORS * DID KAZAKHSTAN SELL MIGS TO NORTH KOREA? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIAN FORCES CONTINUE OFFENSIVE IN DAGHESTAN. Russian forces on 12 August continued to strengthen their control over Tsumadin Raion. Daghestani police killed eight militants in fighting in the village of Godoberi in Botlikh Raion, which the militants claimed on 12 August to control fully, according to Interfax. Russian troops also launched massive air and artillery strikes against the village of Tando in Botlikh on 12 August. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" noted the next day that Russian military spokesmen no longer refer to their objective as annihilating the guerrillas but merely to driving them back across the border into Chechnya. The newspaper comments, however, that the Russian forces are clearly numerically inadequate to achieve either objective. An additional 600 troops from the North Caucasus Military District, including paratroopers and a special operations battalion, were flown to the combat zone on 12 August. LF CASUALTY REPORTS CONTRADICTORY. A Daghestani Interior Ministry official said on 12 August that the militants shot down a Russian helicopter two days earlier, killing an officer and wounding six servicemen. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," it is the fifth helicopter destroyed since the fighting began. A Russian Interior Ministry official told Interfax on 12 August that the militants' losses to date are 150 killed and 300 wounded. The wounded reportedly include Jordanian-born Chechen field commander Khottab, whom Shamil Basaev appointed commander of the so- called Daghestan Islamic Army on 11 August. In Grozny, however, a spokesman for the guerrillas said only five of their men have been killed and 15 wounded since hostilities began earlier this month. Interfax reported on 12 August that the guerrillas have summoned reinforcements from Chechnya. LF CHECHNYA REFUSES TO JOIN RUSSIAN OPERATION IN DAGHESTAN. The Chechen leadership has rejected invitations by the Russian Interior Ministry to send a contingent of troops to join the Russian forces currently fighting against Islamic militants in Daghestan, presidential press spokesman Said Abdulmuslimov told Interfax on 12 August. He added that the Chechen people "have nothing to do with what is going on" in the neighboring republic. Meanwhile, the Chechen Foreign Ministry has written to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warning of the danger of a new war between Russia and Chechnya as a result of what it terms "the Russian leadership's attempts to extend the armed conflict in Daghestan to the territory of the independent Chechen state." Chechnya has also addressed a note to the Russian Foreign Ministry protesting the alleged violation by Russian troops of Chechnya's borders. The note claims that Russian aircraft have carried out rocket attacks and bombing raids against three districts in Chechnya, killing an unspecified number of civilians. LF RUSSIAN MUSLIMS EXPRESS CONCERN AT FIGHTING IN DAGHESTAN. In a joint address to Russia's Muslims on 11 August, the Russian Council of Muftis and Muslim Religious Board for European Russia called for measures to prevent an escalation of the fighting in Daghestan and expressed support for initiatives by religious boards in Chechnya and Daghestan to resolve the conflict peacefully, ITAR-TASS reported. The previous day, the leader of North Ossetia's Muslims, Dzankot-hadji Khekilaev, denounced the militants' call to establish an independent Islamic state in the Caucasus. Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board issued a statement on 12 August urging a halt to combat operations in Daghestan and condemning the participation of Muslim militants in a fight against fellow Muslims, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The statement also called on Moscow to develop a state policy toward ethnic and religious minorities in Russia. LF PUTIN SETS OUT TO WOO GOVERNORS... Acting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told members of the interregional association Siberian Accord on 13 August that the federal government "has devoted and will continue to devote close attention" to Siberia but added that "the federal center must remain strong. Otherwise there can be no federation, just an almshouse," ITAR-TASS reported. Putin noted that the Finance Ministry has submitted the 2000 federal budget to the government and that "the opinion of Russian governors about the document is important." Former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin had been scheduled to appear at the meeting, but his successor filled in for him--an action that "Izvestiya" on 13 August suggested illustrates how Putin is attempting to retain the economic course of the previous government while trying to establish working relations with the regional elite. According to the daily, many regional leaders are dissatisfied with the draft budget. JAC ...WHILE GOVERNORS ARGUE THAT GOVERNMENT DISMISSAL DELAYS REAL WORK. Former Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Valerii Zubov told "Izvestiya" on 13 August that the "Finance Ministry simply did not consider the importance of political factors this year and...we lack revenues again and the only thing left to do is...to reduce expenditures." Sakhalin Governor Igor Farkhutdinov's press secretary told RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondents on 10 August that Stepashin's dismissal will further delay the efforts of regions dependent on federal assistance to prepare for the winter. He noted that now a least a month will pass before the Finance Ministry begins paying for supplies of fuel and food as part of its northern delivery program. A month's delay could prove critical for areas, such as Magadan, that must take advantage of the thawed sea before it freezes over again in October. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko told a local television station that his government will now have to renegotiate contracts with the federal government for fuel delivery. JAC PRIMAKOV KEEPS MUM ABOUT FUTURE PLANS. Despite reports that he has agreed to head the Fatherland-All Russia alliance, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov is so far resisting making his own announcement. On 12 August, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev revealed Primakov's alleged future plans, as did Agrarian Party member and former Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1999). "Nezavisimaya gazeta" noted on 12 August that while Primakov's addition to the alliance led by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev would likely attract many votes, the combination might be problematic in that Primakov does not support greater sovereignty for the republics, unlike many members of All Russia. The daily also noted that Primakov is not a person of "iron health" and that "it is too naive to think that dirty election tricks won't be applied against [him]." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives financial support from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. JAC KALYUZHNII REJECTS ALLOWING ROSVOORUZHENIE TO EXPORT OIL. Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii told Interfax on 12 August he has officially rejected a request by the arms export giant Rosvooruzhenie to be allowed to export 30,000 tons of oil per month. He added that he might reverse that decision if his ministry is allowed to enter the weapons market. The following day, newly appointed Rosvooruzhenie Director-General Aleksi Ogarev told Interfax after meeting with President Yeltsin that the latter will soon sign a decree enabling the Russian defense industry to sell more weaponry on international markets. LF PUTIN REASSURES U.S. OVER COOPERATION, ECONOMIC REFORM. Speaking by telephone to U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger on 12 August, acting Prime Minister Putin confirmed Russia's desire to strengthen U.S.-Russian relations and cooperation and stressed that his government intends to follow the Yeltsin-Clinton agenda mapped out at the G-8 meeting in Cologne, Germany, earlier this year. Berger, for his part, emphasized the importance of making progress on arms control, non-proliferation, and economic issues. U.S. and Russian experts are due to meet in Moscow next week to discuss the Start-III arms reduction treaty as well as possible changes to the 1972 ABM Treaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1999). JC RUSSIAN EXPERT SAYS MOSCOW MUST DEFEND ABM TREATY. In an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 12 August, arms control expert Valerii Alekseevskii argued that it is Russia's task to prevent the "destruction" of the ABM Treaty. "In its desire to deploy a national ABM system," Alekseevskii wrote, the U.S. is steering a course toward the revision of that treaty, as a result of which the agreement could be "derailed." Russia must defend a position whereby the two sides fully implement their commitments, he added. "If Russia were to go halfway to meet American attempts to revise the fundamental obligations under the ABM treaty, this would be not only a military blunder but also an unforgivable foreign- policy error," Alekseevskii concluded. JC LATEST GOVERNMENT SACKING INSPIRES NEW CALLS TO CHANGE CONSTITUTION. Former Prime Minister and head of New Force Sergei Kirienko told reporters on 12 August that his party has formed groups in Moscow, Tver, Novosibirsk, and Arkhangelsk to gather signatures in order to hold referenda on a new constitution, "The Moscow Times" reported on 13 August. Kirienko is proposing that before the upcoming presidential elections, three referenda be held to determine whether citizens would support limiting the power of the president and the parliament in favor of the cabinet. Two million signatures are needed for a referendum. The same day, former presidential advisers Georgii Satarov and Mikhail Krasnov offered a new draft version of the constitution under which the prime minister would be nominated not by the president but by a majority of votes in the State Duma, ITAR- TASS reported. JAC GOVERNMENT MAKES MORE PROGRESS REDUCING PENSION BACKLOG. Pension Fund head Mikhail Zurabov reported on 12 August that the pension backlog stood at 7.0 billion rubles ($280 million) as of 1 August, down from 26.3 billion rubles on 1 January, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Zurabov, the backlog has been halved over the past three months. Zurabov said last month that the average lag in payments to pensioners is roughly one week and that only in a few regions does it reach a month. In addition, he said, 49 regions have wiped out all pension arrears. JAC IS THE VOICE OF RUSSIA CRACKING? Following up on earlier reports, "Moskovskii komsomolets" wrote on 13 August that members of the political council of Voice of Russia have not only voted against joining a coalition composed of Right Cause and New Force but also have declared their desire to join the Fatherland-All Russia bloc (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1999). Samara Governor Konstantin Titov is the informal leader of Voice of Russia. Vladimir Medvedev, a member of the political council of All Russia, told "Vremya MN" on 11 August that the Voice of Russia never really existed, adding that it has no philosophy and Titov does not have the support of other regional leaders. He also noted that the Democratic Party of Russia, a group which earlier abandoned Voice of Russia, is now actively working with All Russia (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 28 July 1999). JAC NDR REJECTS RIGHT-CENTRIST ALLIANCE. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 August that Our Home Is Russia (NDR) leader Viktor Chernomyrdin has definitively rejected any alliance with Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais's Right Cause and New Force. On 6 August, Chubais told reporters that no decision to unite with the NDR had yet been made but there "is movement in this direction." According to the newspaper, Chernomyrdin told journalists that the NDR has ruled out supporting a common electoral list with Right Cause in upcoming parliamentary elections. The newspaper linked Chernomyrdin's firm dismissal of such an alliance to the NDR leader's meeting with acting Prime Minister Putin the previous day. Putin, it noted, was formerly a member of the NDR, serving on its political council in 1996. JAC RUSSIAN DEPUTY UN AMBASSADOR WANTS SERBIAN POLICE AND MILITARY BACK IN KOSOVA. Gennadii Gatilov told ITAR-TASS in New York on 12 August that "it is necessary to launch constructive cooperation with the Yugoslav and Serbian authorities. The return of the limited contingent of Yugoslav military and police forces to Kosova should be ensured without artificial delays. The Yugoslavs must, in particular, participate in immigration and customs control on the border with Albania and Macedonia." Gatilov argued that KFOR actions are "clearly insufficient" and that no serious action is being take to counter the "large-scale ethnic cleansing carried out by [Kosovar] Albanians.... The Kosova Liberation Army [UCK] is actually working to preserve itself as a military organization for the de facto seizure of power." FS YUGOSLAV MOSCOW AMBASSADOR SAYS BELGRADE WANTS 'MULTI-ETHNIC' KOSOVA. Borislav Milosevic, who is Yugoslav ambassador to Moscow and brother of the Yugoslav president, told Interfax on 12 August that the Yugoslav government "invariably stands for a multi-ethnic and multi-religious [Kosova] with extensive autonomy within the Yugoslav Federation." He added that "some NATO countries, especially the U.S., are in effect supporting the intentions of the UCK to become the basis for a future government in the province." Milosevic argued that this violates UN Security Council Resolution No. 1244, which guarantees Yugoslav sovereignty over Kosova. He added that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia "is part of an aggression mechanism that, disregarding...justice, protects those who bear the true blame for the genocide brought against the Yugoslav people, the leaders of NATO, the U.S., and Great Britain." FS CHERKESS VOW TO SECEDE FROM KARACHEVO-CHERKESSIA. A congress of supporters of defeated Karachaevo-Cherkess presidential candidate Stanislav Derev has decided at a congress in the republic's capital, Cherkessk, to appeal to President Yeltsin to restore the Cherkess autonomous formation that existed as part of Stavropol Krai until 1957, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 12 August. Meanwhile, the republic's Supreme Court is again examining the outcome of the presidential poll, in which Derev's rival, former Russian army ground forces commander Vladimir Semenov, who is an ethnic Karachai, polled more than 70 percent of the vote. The newspaper reports that the republic's parliament, government, and administrative bodies are split between supporters of the two rival candidates. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT CALLS FOR EMERGENCY PARLIAMENT SESSION. The government on 12 August requested that President Robert Kocharian convene an emergency parliament session on 23 August to debate its proposed budget cuts, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In late July, Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian had proposed measures to overcome the 33 billion dram ($61 million) budget shortfall incurred during the first six months of 1999. Those measures included cracking down on tax evasion and increasing duties on gasoline and cigarettes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 1999). The parliament, which is loyal to Sargsian, is likely to endorse those proposed measures. Also on 12 August, the government announced the firing of 15 town and village council heads for allegedly failing to ensure the planned level of local budgets. Minister for Local Government Khosrov Harutiunian said that the dismissed local officials had also failed to cooperate with tax authorities. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. DELEGATION. Heidar Aliev held talks in Baku on 12 August with a visiting delegation of five U.S. Congressmen who had previously visited Yerevan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Interfax and Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 August 1999). Aliev noted that bilateral relations are expanding but complained at Congress's failure to repeal Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which bars direct U.S. economic and military aid to Azerbaijan as long as the blockade of Armenia and Karabakh remains in force. The Congressmen called for the continued observance of the existing cease-fire and for further direct contacts between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in order to find a political solution to the Karabakh conflict. LF FORMER GEORGIAN FINANCE MINISTER ON TRIAL. The trial of Guram Absandze, who served as finance minister in 1991-1992 under the late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, opened in Georgia's Supreme Court on 12 August, Caucasus Press reported. Absandze, along with 12 others, is accused of planning the attempt to assassinate Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 9 February 1998. Three people, including two of Shevardnadze's bodyguards, died in a mortar attack on the presidential motorcade. Absandze has rejected almost all the charges against him as politically motivated, according to Interfax. LF DID KAZAKHSTAN SELL MIGS TO NORTH KOREA? Kazakhstan's National Security Committee on 12 August opened a criminal investigation into the circumstances of the abortive sale of six obsolete MiG fighters, an RFE/RL corespondent in Almaty reported. The same day, South Korea's Foreign Minister Hong Soon-Young summoned the Kazakh ambassador in Seoul and expressed "serious concern" that the ultimate destination of the MiGs, which Kazakh officials say were bound for the Czech Republic, was North Korea, according to AP. A Russian transport aircraft carrying the disassembled fighters was impounded at Baku's Bina airport in March. The Azerbaijani authorities later returned them to Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March and 21 April 1999). On 11 August, the U.S. similarly expressed "serious concern" that Kazakhstan may have exported dozens of MiG-21 fighters to North Korea. Meanwhile, U.S. Vice President Al Gore telephoned Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 12 August to discuss bilateral relations and regional and international security issues, according to ITAR-TASS. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PARLIAMENT SPEAKER CRITICIZES NEW MEDIA LAW. Addressing an international conference on the media in Almaty on 12 August, Marat Ospanov said he thinks the new media law passed by Kazakhstan's parliament last month contains "many undemocratic norms," adding that he would welcome the postponement of its adoption, according to Interfax. Conference participants agreed on the wording of an appeal addressed to President Nazarbaev, which points to restrictions on media openness and freedom of speech in Kazakhstan, especially with regard to journalists' attempts to spotlight corruption. It also calls on the president to suspend the law so that it can be reformulated to "ensure the observance of the constitutionally guaranteed principles of openness and the ban on censorship." LF GUERRILLAS RELEASE ONE KYRGYZ HOSTAGE, TAKE ANOTHER. The militants from Tajikistan who took four Kyrgyz officials hostage last week in the Batken district of southern Kyrgyzstan seized a fifth hostage on 12 August, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. They later released one of the original four hostages, who told the Kyrgyz authorities that the band is demanding a large sum of money. Speaking at a press conference in Tashkent on 12 August, Uzbekistan's Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov confirmed earlier reports that some of the militants are Uzbek citizens and members of the armed military formation of Djuma Namangani. Kamilov said that the situation in Kyrgyzstan is the internal affair of that country, but at the same time he expressed the hope that the Kyrgyz authorities will not allow the guerrillas to enter Uzbekistan until they have been disarmed. LF TAJIKISTAN DENIES ITS NATIONALS FIGHTING IN DAGHESTAN. Tajikistan's Security Council secretary Amirkul Azimov told ITAR-TASS on 12 August that there is no truth to Russian media reports that some Tajik nationals are fighting on the side of the Islamic militants in Daghestan. He added that the Tajik people, having themselves experienced civil war, "will never take part in any unfavorable actions against friendly Russia." LF TURKMENISTAN THREATENS TO TAKE UKRAINE TO COURT. Turkmenistan's Foreign Ministry released a statement on 12 August warning that it will take Ukraine to an international arbitration court if that country fails to pay its debts for this year's supplies of Turkmen natural gas soon, ITAR-TASS reported. As of 12 August, Ukraine had paid for only some 10 percent of the 8.76 billion cubic meters of gas supplies between 1 January and 21 May, when gas transports were suspended (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 1999). LF U.S. EXPERTS INSPECT UZBEK FORMER CHEMICAL WEAPONS PLANT. A team from the U.S. Defense Ministry on 12 August toured the Nukus chemical plant in northwestern Uzbekistan, which until 1993 served as a testing ground for Soviet and Russian chemical weapons, AP and Interfax reported. The U.S. team will decontaminate the test laboratories and then set about trying to locate and neutralize hundreds of tons of germ- warfare cultures, including pulmonary anthrax, which are buried on an island in the Aral Sea, according to the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 11 August. Those measures are foreseen in a U.S.-Uzbek agreement signed in May 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 1999). 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. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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