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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 161, Part I, 19 August 1999


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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

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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN WANTS NEW GOVERNMENT TO FOLLOW ORDERS

* RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS DAGHESTAN

* U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY VISITS AZERBAIJAN
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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

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