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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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN, PUTIN PLEDGE NO STATE OF EMERGENCY * RUSSIAN FORCES BOGGED DOWN IN DAGHESTAN * KAZAKHSTAN WANTS NORTH KOREA TO RETURN MIGS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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