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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 161, Part I, 19 August 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 161, Part I, 19 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 WANTS NEW GOVERNMENT TO FOLLOW ORDERS * RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS DAGHESTAN * U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY VISITS AZERBAIJAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN WANTS NEW GOVERNMENT TO FOLLOW ORDERS. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with three of his predecessors on 18 August: Viktor Chernomyrdin, Sergei Kirienko, and Sergei Stepashin. Former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais also participated in the meeting. When asked by reporters about the goal of the meeting, Stepashin quipped "the main thing is for Putin to stay in his job for more than three months." Kirienko, for his part, said the main issues to be discussed were ensuring continuity and "helping Putin," according to RIA-Novosti. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported the same day that Russian President Boris Yeltsin wants this cabinet to coordinate its activities more closely with the presidential administration. It cited Yeltsin as saying on 17 August that "We must establish such discipline that the president's decision can never be stopped anywhere in the government; those who try to do this must be removed from their posts at once." On 19 August, Putin announced that he and the president had reached agreement on his cabinet's composition. JAC OVR'S TOP DUMA CANDIDATES NOT TO SERVE IN DUMA. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced on 18 August that the top three candidates on the party list for the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance will not take up seats in the State Duma if elected, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. According to Luzhkov "the first three names on the list are mainly symbols" for the electorate. Andrei Pointkovskii, director of Moscow's Center for Strategic Studies, told RFE/RL that former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov who tops the list is instead aiming for the Russian presidency. Primakov will run for president, while Mayor of Moscow Yurii Luzhkov "would become prime minister and enjoy broad new powers," Pointkovskii added, noting that Primakov recently suggested "constitutional changes in this direction" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1999). The third top candidate is St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev. Writing in "Izvestiya," Maksim Sokolov noted that the Duma elections take the form of a "plebiscite, in which citizens have the opportunity to express their opinions on different groups of leaders." JAC RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS DAGHESTAN... Addressing a session of Daghestan's State Council on 18 August during a one-day visit to Makhachkala, Igor Sergeev expressed confidence that the combined Russian forces will eliminate the Islamist militants "within a very short period," Interfax reported. He added that the Russian units have enough manpower and arms to do so. But Interfax also cited unnamed Russian military sources in the North Caucasus as predicting that a final victory over the militants could take months. Those sources said they expect the number of Russian troops in Daghestan to be increased to 10,000-15,000, including five airborne battalions and special units. They estimated the guerrillas' strength at 2,000. LF ...AS RUSSIA INCURS LOSSES IN FAILED ASSAULT ON TANDO. Eight Russian servicemen were killed and 20 injured in a repeat attempt to storm the strategically located village of Tando in western Daghestan, Daghestani Interior Minister Adilgirey Magomedtagirov told the State Council meeting in Makhachkala on18 August, Russian agencies reported. But the Russian Interior Ministry issued a statement the same day claiming that federal forces had succeeded in taking control of the Kharami pass, on the border between Daghestan and Chechnya, and thus cutting an important supply route for the Islamists. LF INGUSH GIVE ISLAMIST EMISSARY COLD SHOULDER. Ingush residents of a village in North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi Raion expelled an emissary sent by Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev on 11- 12 August to assess the degree of support they could be counted on to give to an incursion by Islamist militants into North Ossetian territory, Russian agencies reported on 18 August. Also on 18 August, the presidents of Ingushetia and North Ossetia, Ruslan Aushev and Aleksandr Dzasokhov, issued a joint statement warning that unnamed "destructive forces" are reportedly planning to provoke new tensions between the Ossetian and Ingush peoples. The two leaders called on the populations not to yield to such provocations, Interfax reported. LUKIN SAYS START-2 RATIFICATION DEPENDS ON COMPROMISE OVER ABM. State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin told ITAR-TASS on 18 August that the Duma will ratify the START-2 treaty only if a compromise is reached on modifying the ABM treaty. Lukin, a member of Yabloko, was commenting on the U.S.-Russian disarmament talks that began in Moscow earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1999). He noted that the talks focused on the "preparation of the START-3 treaty and therefore the chances for ratification of the START-2 treaty." "The Russian side made it clear that ratification will be possible only if a mutually acceptable position is reached on the adaptation of the 1972 ABM Treaty," he stressed. JC RUSSIA ACCUSES U.S. OF SABOTAGING GAS PROJECT. In an 18 August statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused unnamed U.S. officials of systematically trying to prevent the implementation of the Russian-Turkish "Blue Stream" project to build a gas pipeline under the Caspian Sea, Russian agencies reported. The ministry expressed incomprehension over U.S. arguments that Russian fuel deliveries could reduce the political and economic independence of unnamed countries in the region, noting that the U.S. has expressed support for regional cooperation with Russia in exporting hydro-carbons. Russia and Turkey signed an agreement in 1997 on the 400 kilometer Blue Stream pipeline from Djubga, on the Russian Black Sea coast near Novorossiisk, to Samsun. On completion in 2001, the pipeline would have an initial throughput capacity of 5 billion cubic meters a year. LF RUSSIA, GERMANY TO MODERNIZE EASTERN EUROPE'S MIG-29S. Russia's MAPO aircraft manufacturer and the Rosvooruzhenie state arms-trading company have signed a cooperation memorandum with Germany's DASA aerospace concern on jointly modernizing MiG-29 fighter planes serving with the air forces of Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia, Interfax reported on 18 August. Under the agreement, the planes' service life will be extended to 2015 and operating costs reduced. A working group is now considering ways in which Central and East European factories can participate in the program. The German air force has 24 MiG-29s, which Russia earlier helped modernize. JC RUSSIA SENDS BORDER GUARDS TO KOSOVA. Unidentified sources in the Russian Defense Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 18 August that Russia will send 30 border guards to Kosova. Those troops will become part of the 210-strong Russian contingent within the international police force, Meanwhile, Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic welcomed the appointment of Vladimir Putin as Russian premier and expressed confidence that "Yugoslavia will continue to develop traditionally close cooperation with Russia." FS RUSSIAN GENERAL WANTS BETTER AIR DEFENSE AFTER KOSOVA WAR. Colonel-General Gennadii Vasilev, who is the commander of air defense in Moscow and central Russia, told ITAR-TASS that his office has sent a detailed report to the Security Council suggesting improvements to the national air defense network. He added that the plans are based on lessons learned from this year's NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. Vasilev acknowledged, however, that Economy Ministry officials have raised unspecified objections to the plans. FS GOVERNMENT SET TO HAGGLE WITH IMF OVER 2000 BUDGET SURPLUS... The primary surplus of the draft budget for 2000 may be raised from 3 percent to 3.5 percent in line with demands from the IMF, a well-informed source told Interfax on 18 August. The next day, acting Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced that the government has raised the primary surplus to 3.18 percent. According to the current draft, revenues will total 743.6 billion rubles ($30 billion), expenditures, 801.4 billion rubles, with a resulting deficit of 57.8 billion rubles, which is 1.13 percent of GDP, Interfax reported. First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said the previous day that expenditures totaling 220 billion rubles (4.32 percent of GDP) are earmarked for debt servicing, while defense spending is planned at 119 billion rubles (2.34 percent) and spending on law enforcement and security at 77 billion rubles (1.51 percent). JAC ...AS FINANCE MINISTER ADMITS LIVING STANDARDS TO REMAIN LOW. Kasyanov said earlier that while the 2000 budget is "strict," it should help overcome the situation that resulted from the economic crisis in August 1998, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 18 August. However, Kasyanov added, even if the 2000 budget is fully implemented, the country will not be able to return to the living standards of 1997 for another three or four years, according to the daily. Prime Minister Putin said on 16 August that the government will submit the budget to the Duma by 25 August. JAC PROTESTING COAL MINERS BACK UP LEBED IN FIGHT WITH MOSCOW, WORLD BANK. Thousands of miners in the towns of Borodino, Nazarovo, and Sharypovo in Krasnyarsk Krai stopped work on 18 August to protest plans to privatize the local coal company, Krasugol, "Tribuna" reported on 19 August. The miners are appealing to Prime Minister Putin to reverse the decision. Strike leaders said the planned privatization will lead to drastic job reductions and lower revenues for cities whose economies depend on the company's coal production, ITAR-TASS reported. Krasugol is scheduled to be privatized under a coal sector restructuring program financed by the World Bank. Prime Minister Putin recently criticized Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed's attempt to retain control over Krasugol, noting that the region's retention of a controlling stake in the company would not represent an increase in the coal industry's effectiveness "from the point of view of international financial organizations" (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 18 August 1999). JAC BEREZOVSKII EXPERIENCING CASH FLOW PROBLEMS? A spokesman for Switzerland's federal prosecutor's office told reporters on 18 August that Swiss authorities have frozen bank accounts for certain individuals following a request from Russian law enforcement officials. The spokesman declined to comment on a recent report in the Swiss magazine "Facts" that accounts worth 100 million Swiss francs ($66 million) belonging to media magnate Boris Berezovskii have been frozen on suspicion of fraud and money-laundering. Meanwhile, "Novaya gazeta" reported in its most recent issue that companies and structures close to Berezovskii owe an estimated combined total of $3 billion. According to the publication, last year's economic crisis hit hardest those banks owned by Berezovskii: according to preliminary estimates, Avtobank and United Bank lost almost $180 million. "Novaya gazeta," which is reportedly financed by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most group, concluded that "Berezovskii's whole empire lives on borrowed money" that flows from one structure to another and makes new loans and new purchases possible. JAC SIBERIANS APPLYING PRESSURE FOR BELARUS-RUSSIA UNION. Governors belonging to the interregional association Siberian Accord have decided to launch a campaign to gather signatures for a referendum on the unification of Belarus and Russia, "Segodnya" reported on 18 August. One Siberian Accord official told the daily that the necessary signatures will be gathered no later than early October. "Vremya MN" reported on 19 August that in Novosibirsk entire workers collectives are being threatened that if they do not sign, their gas will be turned off. According to the daily, each governor is personally responsible for overseeing the signature drive and will be embarrassed before his fellow members of Siberian Accord if his region fails to deliver the agreed number. For example, Novosibirsk must supply 100,000 signatures. JAC LEARNING THE HARD WAY IN SIBERIA. Under a program initiated by a German social pedagogue, juvenile delinquents from Germany are being sent to a special settlement in Omsk Oblast, rather than detention centers in their home country, to be reformed, "Vremya MN" reported on 17 August. The aim of the program is to seek to change the youths' attitude toward life and other people--in an environment that it is much harder than in Germany. The program is financed partly by the delinquents' parents and partly by the German government. As the newspaper points out, keeping the youths in a detention center would cost the German state several times more than sending them to Siberia under the reform program. JC LINGUISTS ARE STANDING BY. The Russian Language Institute in Moscow offers callers free-of-charge assistance with knotty grammar, composition, and even pronunciation problems, "The Moscow Times" reported on 19 August. One recent caller asked for help with an extremely long sentence with four consecutive uses of the genitive case, while another wondered which syllable in the past tense feminine form of the verb "zadat" should be stressed, according to the daily. While the service is free, callers will be responsible for any long- distance charges. The Russian Language Hot Line operates from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Moscow time on 7095-202-6543. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE DISCUSSES PROPOSED BUDGET CUTS. Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian on 18 August urged the parliament's economic committee to endorse his proposed measures to overcome the 31 billion dram ($58 million) budget shortfall, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Those measures include tax hikes, cuts in "non-essential" expenditures in the social, education, and health sectors, and increased excise duties on gasoline and cigarettes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 1999). At the same time, under pressure from the IMF and World Bank, the government must find 17 billion drams to compensate for consumers' unpaid debts to the energy sector. The parliament is expected to convene an emergency session on 23 August to discuss the proposed measures. LF U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY VISITS AZERBAIJAN... Bill Richardson held talks with Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, Prime Minister Artur Rasi-zade and with Natik Aliev, president of the state oil company SOCAR, in Baku on 18 August, Turan reported. Richardson defined the purpose of his visit as strengthening and stabilizing bilateral relations, noting that the U.S. wants to cooperate with Azerbaijan on issues "going beyond the Caspian region." He reaffirmed Washington's support for the proposed Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, adding that Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan should also use that facility. Turkish and Azerbaijani government working groups are due to meet in Washington on 22-23 August with U.S. and international financial institutions in an attempt to finalize funding for that project, the estimated cost of which is at least $2.7 billion. The Azerbaijan International Operating Company, the largest international oil consortium operating in Azerbaijan, is reluctant to contribute to the Baku-Ceyhan project and would prefer to expand the existing export pipeline to Supsa on Georgia's Black Sea coast. LF ...AND TURKMENISTAN. Meeting with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov on 19 August in Ashgabat, Richardson affirmed his support for the planned Trans-Caspian pipeline to transport Turkmenistan's natural gas to Turkey via Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's correspondent in the Turkmen capital reported. Noting that Shell has recently joined the consortium to build that pipeline as the upstream partner (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 1999), Richardson said that negotiations have begun on the financing and route of the pipeline. Richardson expressed the hope, as he had done the previous day in Baku, that the Trans-Caspian pipeline will promote cooperation, not rivalry, between the countries of the region. John Wolf, who is adviser on Caspian issues to the U.S. president and secretary of state, had said in Baku on 18 August that the Trans-Caspian pipeline is not intended as competition with Russia's "Blue Stream" project (see above). LF AZERBAIJAN CREATES WORKING GROUP ON GAS EXPORT. President Aliev has decreed the creation of a working group composed of senior Azerbaijani officials and representatives of international oil companies engaged in Azerbaijan to determine the choice of route for and the construction of gas pipelines to transport gas from the Shah Deniz offshore Caspian field to world markets, Turan reported on 18 August. The creation of such a group suggests that Azerbaijan will be able to use the planned Trans-Caspian pipeline to export only part of its gas. LF GEORGIA SATISFIED WITH RUSSIAN APOLOGY FOR BOMBING. State Minister Vazha Lortkipanidze told journalists in Tbilisi on 18 August that the Georgian leadership has no reason to doubt the sincerity of the official apology received earlier that day from Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov for the 9 August incident in which Russian planes dropped mines on the village of Zemo Omalo, close to the Georgian border with Daghestan, Interfax reported. Parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania similarly commented that Moscow's acknowledgment of responsibility indicates a desire for "new neighborly and civilized relations with Georgia," according to Caucasus Press. A bilateral commission will be established to estimate the extent of the damages caused by the bombing, in which four people were injured and several homes destroyed. Moscow has expressed its readiness to pay compensation for the damage. LF KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTY OUTLINES ELECTION PROGRAM. Meeting in Almaty on 18 August, the People's Republican Party of Kazakhstan selected 10 candidates to contest the part list seats in the 10 October election to the lower chamber of the parliament, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. Party chairman and former Premier Akezhan Kazhgeldin heads the list. Another 20 candidates will run in single-candidate constituencies, according to Interfax. Party Deputy Chairman Gazis Aldamzharov said the party believes that improvements in social and economic conditions will be possible only if the country's leadership structure is radically changed. He therefore advocated a referendum on amending the constitution in order to remove President Nursultan Nazarbaev from office. The powers of the government and parliament would then be strengthened at the expense of the president. Aldamzharov also said his party wants to annul the 1998 border agreement under which Kazakhstan ceded part of its territory to China. LF HOSTAGE-TAKERS BELIEVED TO HAVE LEFT KYRGYZSTAN. An anonymous Osh Oblast administration official told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 18 August that the 21 guerrillas who held four Kyrgyz officials hostage in southern Kyrgyzstan earlier this month have probably already left the country. He said that Kyrgyz troops have combed the mountains where the guerrillas were entrenched but have failed to locate them. The Kyrgyz authorities have released no new information on the hunt for the guerrillas for two days. LF TURKMEN PRESIDENT CHAIRS CABINET SESSION. Saparmurat Niyazov chaired a cabinet session to discuss agriculture and the development of the textile industry on 18 August, Interfax reported. The previous day, Niyazov was scheduled to undergo a medical checkup by the German cardiologist who performed heart bypass surgery on him two years ago. Also on 18 August, Niyazov announced that Turkmenistan will donate $100,000 to victims of the Turkish earthquake and is prepared to send a team of doctors to the devastated area, according to Interfax. LF UZBEK COURT SENTENCES ANOTHER SIX IN CONNECTION WITH TASHKENT BOMBING. A provincial town court on 18 August handed down sentences ranging from eight to 15 years imprisonment on six men accused of participating in the 16 February bomb attacks in Tashkent, RFE/RL's bureau in the Uzbek capital reported. Two of the accused are brothers of Mohammed Solih, one of the leaders of the banned Erk opposition party, whom Uzbek President Islam Karimov has accused of masterminding the bomb attacks. Western journalists and diplomats and OSCE representatives were barred from the trial, but Reuters quoted an OSCE representative as saying that some of the accused pleaded guilty to charges of insulting the president and organizing criminal groups. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations had expressed concern that at least one of the defendants, prominent writer Mamadali Mahmudov, was systematically tortured during the pretrial investigation. Six men were sentenced to death in June for their alleged role in the bombings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 1999). LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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