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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 158, Part I, 16 August 1999


________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 158, Part I, 16 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, PUTIN PLEDGE NO STATE OF EMERGENCY

* RUSSIAN FORCES BOGGED DOWN IN DAGHESTAN

* KAZAKHSTAN WANTS NORTH KOREA TO RETURN MIGS
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN, PUTIN PLEDGE NO STATE OF EMERGENCY... Russian
President Boris Yeltsin on 16 August ruled out imposing a
state of emergency in Russia. He said that "in my capacity as
president of the country I repeat, firmly and resolutely,
that there will be no emergency rule." He added that "the
situation [in the country] is calm, normal and there will be
no emergency measures." Yeltsin also noted that his latest
hospital check-up confirmed his "heart works like clockwork."
The previous day, acting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told
Russian Television that "there are no domestic political
conditions for introducing a state of emergency." The
president's and prime minister's comments follow a number of
recent articles in newspapers such as "Kommersant-Daily" and
"Segodnya" saying that the Kremlin is contemplating imposing
a state of emergency and using the situation in Daghestan as
a pretext. JAC

...AS KREMLIN ASKS DUMA TO APPROVE LAW ON STATE OF EMERGENCY.
Aleksandr Kotenkov, presidential envoy to the State Duma,
recently called on deputies to "urgently adopt the law on a
state of emergency, regulating all of its aspects" because
"the situation in the North Caucasus suggests that this law
is essential," "Izvestiya" reported on 14 August. According
to the daily, Kotenkov said regional officials are currently
appealing to central authorities "to introduce a state of
emergency" in this or that region but it is hard to do so
because the law has not yet been approved. However, the
newspaper argues that under existing laws, a state of
emergency can be introduced in any region, if a majority of
Federation Council members supports its introduction.
According to "The Moscow Times," the president can also
declare a state of emergency by decree, which must then be
confirmed by the Federation Council. But even if the upper
chamber approves the decree, the Duma still cannot be
dissolved. JAC

RUSSIAN FORCES BOGGED DOWN IN DAGHESTAN. Russian forces on
13-15 August carried out intense air and artillery
bombardment of villages in Daghestan's Botlikh Raion
controlled by Islamic militants but failed to dislodge those
militants from Ansalta, Rakhata, Shadroda, and Tando,
Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. The militants, for
their part, have reportedly responded with guerrilla tactics,
operating in small highly mobile groups that control mountain
paths and cut off the retreat of advancing federal forces,
according to ITAR-TASS. According to an unconfirmed Caucasus
Press report, on 16 August, the guerrillas launched
coordinated attacks on federal posts along virtually the
entire length of the border between Chechnya and Daghestan.
Russian Interior Ministry spokesmen on 14 August estimated
Islamist losses at more than 200 killed and 300 wounded.
There is no confirmation of reports that some 60 militants
headed by Shamil Basaev's brother Shirvani were buried alive
by a rockslide detonated by local inhabitants seeking to
repulse an attack on the village of Gagatli during the night
of 14-15 August. LF

AZERBAIJANI MUSLIM LEADER BLAMES DAGHESTAN FIGHTING ON
RUSSIA. Sheikh ul-islam Allakhshukur Pasha-zade told Turan on
14 August that he believes the Russian authorities bear the
responsibility for the conflict in Daghestan because they
created the conditions for the spread of radical Islam in the
North Caucasus. He added that "the military confrontation in
Daghestan was planned in advance." Pasha-zade said he had
begun talks in Baku the previous day with a Chechen religious
leader, but he did not clarify whether the cleric in question
represents the leadership of President Aslan Maskhadov or the
rival body set up by Shamil Basaev and other field
commanders. He expressed concern that Azerbaijan could be
drawn into the events in Daghestan. But Movladi Udugov, who
served as spokesman for Djokhar Dudaev from 1994-1996 and is
currently aligned with Basaev, told Turan on 14 August that
"those powers that struggle for the restoration of the
Islamic idea in the Caucasus stand for the preservation of
stability in Azerbaijan." LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY. Aslan
Maskhadov on 15 August proclaimed a one-month state of
emergency and called for heightened controls along Chechnya's
borders, Interfax and AP reported. AP quoted Maskhadov's
spokesman, Selim Abdulmuslimov, as saying that the move was
in response to recent threats by Russian officials to use
force against Chechnya. In Moscow, acting Premier Putin told
RTR television on 15 August that while he does not believe
there is any need to declare a state of emergency in Russia
(see above), unspecified "special procedures" may nonetheless
be needed in the conflict zone in Daghestan, where, he said,
"the local authorities do not function any longer." Putin
stressed that Moscow considers Maskhadov the legitimate
Chechen leader and will continue to try to reach an agreement
with him on future relations between Moscow and Grozny, based
on "the priorities of Russia's statehood," ITAR-TASS
reported. LF

PUTIN'S NOMINATION EXPECTED TO SAIL THROUGH DUMA. The
candidacy of acting Prime Minister Putin was expected to win
easy approval on 16 August. Putin needs only a simple
majority in the 450-seat lower chamber, and leaders of most
of the Duma's largest factions earlier declared their support
for his nomination (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 August
1999). Political analyst Vyacheslav Nikonov told "Kommersant-
Daily" on 14 August that he expects around 240 deputies to
vote in favor of Putin, meaning he would be confirmed in the
first vote. JAC

DISCUSSION OF TINKERING WITH CONSTITUTION CONTINUES... In an
interview with "Segodnya" on 13 August, Sergei Shakrai, a
former legal adviser to ex-Prime Ministers Yevgenii Primakov
and Sergei Stepashin, predicted that the Russian Constitution
will be significantly amended in the near future. Shakrai,
who was one of the authors of the constitution, said that
State Duma deputies and Federation Council members are likely
to muster enough votes to curb presidential authority. On 14
August, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev told
reporters that the constitution needs to be amended to limit
the power of the Russian president to reshuffle the
government. He added that "we must make a correction to the
constitution sooner or later, otherwise we shall not have a
stable central authority." JAC

...AS ELECTION CHAIRMAN RULES OUT REFERENDUM FOR NOW.
Aleksandr Veshnyakov, chairman of the Central Election
Commission, said on 13 August that his commission does not
support the proposal that a referendum on altering the
constitution be held simultaneously with elections for the
State Duma. New Force leader Sergei Kirienko proposed
recently holding separate referenda to determine whether
Russian citizens support limiting the power of the president
and the parliament in favor of the cabinet (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 13 August 1999). According to Veshnyakov, four-
and-a-half to six months are necessary to prepare for a
referendum and a presidential decree on holding the
referendum must be signed at least two months before the vote
is to take place. Elections to the lower chamber are
scheduled for 19 December. "Considering how little time is
left before State Duma elections, it does not seem possible"
to fulfill all the necessary requirements, he noted. JAC

PUTIN, LEBED CLASH AT GOVERNORS' MEETING... Addressing a 14
August gathering of the interregional association Siberian
Accord, acting Prime Minister Putin criticized Krasnoyarsk
Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed's attempt to retain control
over the local coal company Krasugol, which is slated to be
privatized under a World Bank-financed program to restructure
Russia's coal sector. Putin said "the Krasnoyarsk
administration sees the aim of the privatization of the
region's coal industry as keeping the controlling stake. From
the point of view of the international financial
organizations, such privatization cannot raise the
effectiveness of the region's coal industry," according to
Prime-Tass. Lebed, for his part, called on governors to
"develop their muscles," and he reminded "the visitors from
Moscow" attending the meeting that "the Kremlin is a symbol
of the country but the regions are a synonym," "Izvestiya"
reported on 14 August. JAC

...AS PUTIN INDIRECTLY PRESSURES CHUBAIS? The newspaper also
reported on 14 August that Putin was received most cordially
by other governors and showed an "almost surprising
knowledge" of the regions' economic problems. According to
the daily, Putin "appraised the policy of Finance Ministry
[with regard to interbudgetary relations] most skillfully."
"Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day that while Putin
appeared to be supporting Unified Energy Systems (EES) head
Anatolii Chubais in his clash with Governor Lebed over
Krasugol, acting First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai
Aksenenko was arguing in Moscow in favor of lowering
electricity tariffs received by Primorskii Krai's chief
electricity supplier, Dalenergo. Chubais has argued that
those tariffs should be raised in order to improve the
company's finances. Workers at Dalenergo recently declared a
strike to protest the growing backlog of unpaid wages (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 1999). JAC

GOVERNMENT TO START OVER AGAIN WITH BANK FOR AGRICULTURE? The
government is considering creating a new bank to service the
agriculture sector that would take the place of the troubled
SBS-Agro and Agroprombank, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 14
August. Bankruptcy proceedings have been launched against
Agroprombank. According to the daily, France's Credit
Agricole made the proposal for the new bank, in response to
which acting Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shcherbak ordered
the Agriculture Ministry to draw up the necessary document
for negotiating with the French company. The newspaper
reports that the French bank may provide a long-term credit
to establish the new financial institution. "Vremya MN"
reported earlier that foreign creditors, along with officials
from the World Bank and IMF, support declaring SBS-Agro
bankrupt, since the bank has made little progress
restructuring its debts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August
1999). JAC

STEPASHIN TO HEAD RIGHT-CENTRIST BLOC? Former Prime Minister
Stepashin announced on 14 August that he has no intention of
taking a government post in the current cabinet, Interfax
reported. Stepashin said he will make an announcement within
days about his future political plans. One offer he is likely
considering is that from former Prime Minister Kirienko, who
told reporters on 12 August that he has given Stepashin the
opportunity to head the right-centrist alliance composed of
Right Cause, New Force, and Voice of Russia but has not yet
received an answer. Kirienko heads New Force, while former
First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais is leader of Right Cause
and Samara Governor Konstantin Titov is the informal leader
of Voice of Russia. With regard to the recent differences
inside the Voice of Russia movement, Kirienko attributed
those differences to growing pains (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13
August 1999). JAC

PUTIN PLEDGES COOPERATION WITH NATO. Acting Prime Minister
Putin said in an interview with Russian Television on 15
August that "Russia should be and will be an integral part of
the civilized world and in this context we will cooperate
with NATO," Reuters reported. Putin did not elaborate. He
added that "we will also keep...relations [with Yugoslavia]
and we will insist [that NATO respect] the position of our
country. We have our geopolitical interests and we will stand
up for them." Meanwhile, Colonel-General Georgii Shpak, who
is commander of the Russian paratrooper units, told Interfax
in Moscow that the situation in Kosova "will more or less
normalize within half a year." He added that ethnic Albanians
in Kosova are hostile not only toward Russian peacekeepers
but also toward French and U.S. troops. An unidentified
sniper shot and wounded a Russian soldier near Gjilane on 13
August, ITAR-TASS reported. FS

RUSSIAN, YUGOSLAV OFFICIALS DENY ARMS SMUGGLING. Foreign
Ministry officials told Interfax on 13 August that "Russia
did not send any weapons or their components to
Yugoslavia.... Russia strictly observed and continues to
observe the embargo on arms deliveries to Yugoslavia, imposed
by...UN Security Council resolutions." The officials argued
that a report in "Jane's Defence Weekly" of 2 August saying
that Russia delivered rocket components to Yugoslavia was
intended "only to justify the...arming of the Kosova
Liberation Army (UCK), which...led to the failure of the
negotiations for a [peaceful] settlement in the area" (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999). Yugoslav Ambassador to
Moscow Borislav Milosevic, a brother of the Yugoslav
president, called the report "misinformation and absolute
rubbish." FS

ONE IN SIX COMPANIES DODGING TAXES. Seventeen percent of
Russian companies violate Russia's tax laws, Tax Minister
Aleksandr Pochinok told reporters on 13 August. The Federal
Tax Police estimated earlier that only 1 percent of
individuals pay their taxes in full (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
19 July 1999). The same day, Pochinok repeated his pledge to
review the tax payments of the country's largest taxpayers,
Gazprom and EES. JAC

CABINET DISMISSAL DELAYS PLANNED PRIVATIZATIONS. The planned
sale of shares in Rosneft, the Tyumen Oil Company, and
LUKoil, which was announced in July by the Stepashin
government, is now likely to be delayed, Interfax reported on
13 August. Prior to his dismissal, Stepashin was poised to
sign ordinances setting investment conditions as well as the
starting price for 9 percent of shares in LUKoil. Now, those
documents have been returned to the State Property Ministry
for revision at the request of presidential administration
officials, according to the agency. Tender terms for the sale
of shares in Rosneft and the Tyumen Oil Company were also to
have been announced in August. JAC

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

AZERBAIJANI AUTHORITIES RULE OUT CHANGES TO MUNICIPAL
ELECTIONS LAW. Senior Azerbaijani presidential administration
official Ali Hasanov told Turan on 14 August that the
amendments to the law on municipal elections proposed by the
U.S. National Democratic Institute and the Azerbaijani
opposition Movement for Electoral Reform and Democratic
Elections are "belated" and counter-productive. Hasanov
argued that the present version of the law gives local
councils a greater degree of independence than they would
have if the amendments were adopted. He added that the
proposal that half the seats on local councils should be
allocated under the proportional system is inappropriate
since not all political parties have branches in all
localities. Therefore, Hasanov concluded, there is no need to
convene the emergency session of the parliament demanded by
the opposition to debate the proposed amendments. The
previous day, President Heidar Aliev chaired a meeting to
discuss preparations for the elections, "Azerbaycan" reported
on 14 August. LF

AZERBAIJANI CONNECTION CLAIMED IN UZBEK BOMBINGS. "525-
gazeti" reported on 13 August that Azerbaijan's National
Security Ministry has confirmed that the organizers of the 16
February bombings in Tashkent held secret consultations in
Baku several days prior to that attack. Uzbek officials have
claimed that the organizers of the attack include former
Uzbek dissidents currently living in Turkey. LF

DEADLINE SET FOR RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS TO LEAVE GEORGIA.
Meeting in Tbilisi on 13 August, commander of Georgia's
border troops Lieutenant-General Valerii Chkheidze and
Russian deputy border guard commander Aleksandr Manilov
agreed that the remaining Russian border guards deployed in
Abkhazia and Adjaria will leave Georgian territory by 1
November, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. They also agreed that
the Russian border troops' weapons and facilities will be
divided on a 50:50 basis between Russia and Georgia. The
following day, Manilov traveled to Abkhazia for talks with
the breakaway republic's President Vladislav Ardzinba, who
opposes the withdrawal of the Russian border troops, Caucasus
Press reported. The Abkhaz authorities refused admission to
Chkheidze's deputy, Gela Khutsishvili, and to Georgian
journalists accompanying Manilov, Caucasus Press reported. LF

RUSSIAN EXPERTS CONCLUDE INSPECTION OF BOMBED GEORGIAN
VILLAGE. A Russian military delegation confirmed on 14 August
that the cluster bombs dropped on the village of Zemo Omalo
in northeastern Georgia's Akhmeta Raion were Soviet-
manufactured and of a type banned by international
conventions, AP and Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 10 August 1999). It failed to confirm, however,
that the two aircraft that dropped the mines belonged to the
Russian air force. LF

POPE TO VISIT GEORGIA THIS FALL. Pope John Paul II will visit
Georgia this fall, Vatican envoy Giovanni Battista Re
announced in Tbilisi on 15 August, following talks with
Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and the head
of the Georgian Orthodox church, Catholicos Ilia II, Reuters
and AP reported. The date of the visit has still to be
determined. The pontiff postponed a planned visit to Armenia
last month because of the terminal illness of Catholicos
Garegin II. LF

THREE GEORGIAN POLICE SHOT DEAD. Three senior police
officers, including the heads of the Zugdidi anti-drug
trafficking department and the local special purpose troops,
were shot dead "while fulfilling their duties" on 13 August,
Caucasus Press reported, citing the Georgian Interior
Ministry. LF

KAZAKHSTAN WANTS NORTH KOREA TO RETURN MIGS. Kazakhstan's
ambassador to Japan, Tleubek Kabdrakhmanov, told the Japanese
Foreign Ministry on 13 August that Astana has asked North
Korea to return some of the MiG-21 fighter jets that it
purchased from Kazakhstan at a cost of $40 million, Reuters
reported. It is unclear whether North Korea has agreed to
that request. On 12 August, South Korea officially complained
to the Kazakh embassy in Seoul over the sale (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 13 August 1999). In Astana, Kazakhstan's Foreign
Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev said on 13 August that his
country will issue an official statement on the sale of the
MiGs to North Korea once the criminal investigation into that
transaction is completed, Interfax reported. Under an
international convention that Kazakhstan has signed, it has
pledged not to sell arms to North Korea. LF

FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER MAY RUN IN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS.
Akezhan Kazhegeldin told Reuters in a telephone interview
summarized on 13 August that he may soon return to Kazakhstan
and participate in the 10 October elections to the lower
house of the Kazakh parliament. But Kazhegeldin added that he
does not anticipate any letup in the official campaign to
compromise him. The Prosecutor-General's Office has charged
him with tax evasion. Kazhegeldin rejects those charges. Also
on 13 August, Interior Minister Kairbek Suleimanov claimed to
have information that some opposition leaders plan to provoke
mass disturbances on the eve of the polls, according to ITAR-
TASS. He said that police will be placed on alert a few days
before the 10 October election to the lower chamber of the
parliament. LF

HOSTAGES RELEASED IN KYRGYZSTAN. The presidential press
service on 14 August announced that the four hostages being
held by a group of 21 guerrillas from neighboring Tajikistan
in southern Kyrgyzstan's Batken district were released
unharmed the previous evening, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau
reported. Kyrgyz government officials declined to release any
information on the whereabouts of the kidnappers or the
circumstances of the hostages' release. But Interfax on 14
August quoted "unofficial sources" as saying that the Kyrgyz
leadership had complied with the kidnappers' demand for a
ransom. And a police official from Batken told RFE/RL's
Bishkek bureau that Kyrgyz authorities are continuing talks
with the guerrillas in the hope of persuading them either to
surrender their weapons or to leave Kyrgyz territory. The
country's top law enforcement officers remain in Batken. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT IN CHINA. During a four-day working visit to
China, Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov met on 12
August with Premier Zhu Rongji for talks that focused on
bilateral trade and economic relations. The following day,
Rakhmonov and Chinese President Jiang Zemin signed an
agreement on the demarcation of one section of their disputed
common border but failed to resolve Chinese territorial
claims on parts of Tajikistan's Gorno-Badashkhan Autonomous
Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported. They also signed a joint
declaration on combating drug trafficking and an inter-
governmental agreement on automobile travel between the two
countries. The joint declaration affirmed the two presidents'
concern at the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and
their rejection of "national separatism, religious extremism,
and international terrorism." Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak
Nazarov told ITAR-TASS that China is worried by Islamic
extremism, which it views as a "global problem," according to
ITAR-TASS. LF

UN WELCOMES LIFTING OF BAN ON TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTIES. In a
statement released on 13 August, UN Secretary-General Kofi
Annan termed the lifting by the Tajik Supreme Court of its
1993 ban on four Tajik opposition parties and movements a
"significant step" toward implementation of the 1997 peace
accord, Reuters and AP reported. ITAR-TASS on 13 August
quoted Tajik Justice Minister Shavkat Ismoilov as promising
that there will be no delay in reregistering those parties.
LF

CORRECTION: "RFE/RL Newsline" on 13 August cited the
"Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" as reporting that the U.S.
Defense Ministry experts currently inspecting the Nukus
chemical plant in northwest Uzbekistan will also survey an
island in the Aral Sea where germ warfare cultures are
believed to be buried. The FAZ report is incorrect. The
bilateral agreement under which the U.S. team operates covers
only the Nukus facility.

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               Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
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