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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 157, Part I, 13 August 1999


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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

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Headlines, Part I

* RUSSIAN FORCES CONTINUE OFFENSIVE IN DAGHESTAN

* PUTIN SETS OUT TO WOO GOVERNORS

* DID KAZAKHSTAN SELL MIGS TO NORTH KOREA?
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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

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