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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 162, Part I, 20 August 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 162, Part I, 20 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 RETAINS MOST OF STEPASHIN'S CABINET * MOSCOW PROPOSES BIGGER ARMS CUTS UNDER START-3 * UZBEKISTAN SCHEDULES PARLIAMENTARY, PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN RETAINS MOST OF STEPASHIN'S CABINET... Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 19 August reappointed Deputy Prime Ministers Valentina Matvienko and Vladimir Shcherbak as well as the ministers for fuel and energy, federal affairs and nationalities, CIS, media, railways, trade, transportation, labor, atomic energy, health, culture, sports, science, and education. The only new faces are Minister for Natural Resources Boris Yatskevich, Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev, and chief of government staff Dmitrii Kozak. Gordeev was most recently former first deputy agriculture minister; he replaces Shcherbak, who will now occupy only the post of deputy prime minister. Yatskevich was former first deputy natural resources minister and replaces his superior, Viktor Orlov. Kozak was first deputy chief of the government staff, and like Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, came to Moscow from St. Petersburg. There, he served as deputy governor of St. Petersburg from 1994-1998, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC ...KEEPS ECONOMIC TEAM INTACT. Analysts had expected President Yeltsin to retain most of the country's economic policy-making team, although the fate of First Deputy Prime Ministers Nikolai Aksenenko and Viktor Khristenko and presidential envoy to international financial institutions Mikhail Zadornov had been the subject of much speculation. But Aksenenko, Khristenko, Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Economics Minister Andrei Shapolyants, Tax Minister Aleksandr Pochinok, Anti-Monopoly Minister Ilya Yuzhanov, State Property Minister Farit Gazizullin, and Aleksandr Livshits, presidential envoy to the G7 countries with the rank of minister, were all renamed to their positions. "Kommersant- Daily" reported on 20 August that Zadornov has resigned, but Interfax said that he will meet Putin on 21 August to discuss "future work" in the same capacity. JAC. MOSCOW PROPOSES BIGGER ARMS CUTS UNDER START-3... Unnamed diplomatic sources told Interfax on 19 August that at the U.S.-Russian disarmament talks that concluded in Moscow the same day, Russia proposed slashing the number of nuclear warheads each side would be allowed under START-3 from 2,500- 2,000 to 1,500 or fewer. Those sources suggested that the "more radical cut [is] sufficient for the continuation of mutual stable deterrence." "The Washington Post" on 20 August reported that many experts believe Russia's nuclear arsenal will decline to fewer than 1,000 warheads in the next decade owing to a lack of funds to build new systems. In a statement released at the end of the talks, the two sides expressed their readiness to begin START-3 talks immediately after the State Duma ratifies START-2. Undersecretary of State John Holum, who headed the U.S. delegation to the talks, told Reuters that the atmosphere during the negotiations was "businesslike and productive." JC ...STRESSES OPPOSITION TO ABM TREATY REVISION. While the official statement released after the talks stresses that the U.S. and Russia affirm that the 1972 ABM treaty is the "cornerstone of strategic stability," the head of the Russian delegation made it clear that Moscow remains opposed to any modifications to that treaty. Grigorii Berdennikov, director of the Department for Security and Disarmament at the Foreign Ministry, warned that the U.S. plans to implement a national ABM system "might renew the arms race," according to Interfax. He stressed that Russia sees "no reasons, practical needs, or possibilities" for changing any key aspects of the ABM treaty. And he added that if the U.S. were to deploy such a system, Moscow would "be forced to raise the effectiveness of its strategic nuclear armed forces and take several other military and political steps to guarantee its national security under new strategic conditions." He did not specify what those steps might be. JC RUSSIAN FORCES CONTINUE STRIKES IN DAGHESTAN. Russian federal forces on 19 August continued their air and artillery bombardment of Islamist guerrillas' position in Botlikh Raion, Interfax reported. In Moscow, Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov told journalists that Russian losses stand at 40 killed and some 160 wounded, most of those killed being members of the Daghestan Interior Ministry troops. Eighteen Russian servicemen were said to have died over the previous 24 hours. Echoing earlier Russian pronouncements, Zubov denied that there is any need to impose a state of emergency in Daghestan, adding that the federal forces have already achieved a partial victory by splitting the guerrilla forces into isolated groups. Also in Moscow, unnamed Russian power ministry sources told Interfax that Moscow is prepared to deploy its newest military hardware against the Islamists should the latter attempt to broaden the area they currently control. The weapons that could be used include cruise missiles and high-yield gas bombs, those sources said. LF RUSSIAN MEDIA URGED NOT TO BROADCAST FOOTAGE OF ISLAMIST MILITANTS. Russia's Press Ministry has officially warned the heads of central television companies that they should avoid broadcasting footage of inflammatory statements by Chechen field commanders fighting in Daghestan. It added that such coverage could be construed as propagandizing war and violence, which constitutes a violation of existing legislation on the media. Meanwhile, the kidnappers of ITAR- TASS photographer Vladimir Yatsina, who disappeared shortly after flying from Moscow to Nazran on 19 July, have demanded a $2 million ransom for his release, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 August. LF GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT BUDGET... The Russian government approved the draft 2000 budget on 19 August, Interfax reported. The budget, which anticipates a 57.87 billion ruble ($2.4 billion) deficit, is based on the following assumptions: 18 percent annual inflation, a 32 ruble per dollar exchange rate, industrial output growth of 3-4 percent, and GDP growth of 1.5 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 1999). Sergei Prudnik, macroeconomic adviser to Troika Dialog, told "The Moscow Times" on 20 August that the government is trying to understate real revenues in the 2000 budget so that it can spend additional proceeds as it likes. This year's GDP could wind up well above 4.5 trillion rubles instead of the forecasted 4.1 trillion rubles, he added. JAC ...AS IMF OFFICIALS ARRIVE IN CAPITAL. IMF officials landed in Moscow on 19 August in advance of the arrival of the formal mission early next week, Interfax reported. The mission will discuss with the Russian government the 2000 budget, among other things. Finance Minister Kasyanov announced on 19 August that in 2000, Russia will borrow $2.6 billion from the IMF, more than $1 billion from the World Bank, and $500 million from the Japanese government, in addition to tied loans worth $1.65 billion, Interfax reported. State Duma Budget Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov's figures were a little different. He said that the government will borrow $5.9 billion from abroad, including $4.3 billion from the World Bank and IMF, according to Prime-Tass. Kasyanov noted that his foreign and domestic borrowing figures are only provisional and will be fine-tuned after negotiations with the IMF. JAC IMPORTS PLUMMET DURING FIRST HALF. Foreign trade turnover sank 25.4 percent during the first six months of the year, compared with the same period last year, according to the State Customs Committee and Russian Statistics Agency. Exports to all countries slipped 12.1 percent in the first half of 1999, while exports to other CIS members plummeted 37.8 percent. Meanwhile, imports slid 43.5 percent. The country's resulting trade surplus was $16.7 billion, Interfax reported. JAC STEPASHIN, YABLOKO TO TAKE SEPARATE PATHS FOR NOW. Former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin failed to reach an agreement with Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii about joining that party's election list for the State Duma. Yavlinskii told reporters on 19 August that Stepashin, as an officer, would feel behooved to withdraw from an election race if ordered or pressured to do so by President Yeltsin. Such an outcome would be too costly for Yabloko, since the election law requires a party to drop out of a race if one of its top three leaders withdraws. Yavlinskii added that "if Stepashin is successful in the State Duma elections, we will consider possible cooperation in presidential polls." JAC FIRST BLOC OFF THE BLOCK WANTS TO BE THE ONLY VOICE. The Voice of Russia (GR) on 18 August became the first election bloc to be registered for the State Duma elections, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. The group's registration follows the decision of six of the eight movements that had comprised the GR to leave that bloc and join the Fatherland-All Russian alliance under the name of Voice of Russia (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 18 August 1999). At a press conference on 19 August, members of the two remaining movements within the original Voice of Russia vowed to defend their exclusive right to use that name. Samara Governor Konstantin Titov was the informal leader of the original GR and was recently elected the official leader of the new, slimmed-down bloc that has been registered by the election commission. JAC LEBED CALLS WORLD BANK-SPONSORED PLANS DESTABILIZING. Addressing a meeting of 300 striking coal miners, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed said on 19 August that the planned privatization of the local coal company, Krasugol, is an attempt to destabilize the situation in his region, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Thousands of miners in the krai had stopped work the previous day to protest plans to privatize Krasugol (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 1999). Lebed continued that the company is the only energy base in Siberia, excluding the Kuzbass, and that its sale should therefore be prohibited. Other participants in the meeting said that if Krasugol is turned over to private owners, there is no guarantee that they will observe the interests of the region, make new investment in the company, or reduce the backlog of unpaid wages, which has reached 35 million rubles ($1.4 million). Krasugol is scheduled to be privatized under a coal sector restructuring program financed by the World Bank. JAC PEOPLE'S POWER RULES OUT NATO COOPERATION. The Presidium of Nikolai Ryzhkov's People's Power party issued a statement on 19 August saying that Russia must not restore relations with NATO, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the statement, Ryzhkov, who was in Yugoslavia last week, has collected evidence of "mass killings of non-Albanians and their expulsion [from Kosova] with the connivance of NATO peacekeepers and under actual political cover by the UN" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1999) The statement demanded a special UN Security Council session to discuss "the non- fulfillment of Resolution 1244 [and] NATO aggression against Yugoslavia." FS RUSSIAN DEPUTY UN AMBASSADOR SAYS KFOR FAILS TO STEM 'TERROR.' Gennadii Gatilov told ITAR-TASS in New York on 19 August that KFOR is "not coping with the wave of terror that has gripped [Kosova]." Gatilov warned that "there is a risk that the agreement on disarmament of the Albanian extremists...will not be fulfilled by deadline.... We call on the international community to take energetic measures to straighten the dangerous tendencies in the development of the situation." Gatilov also urged a "political settlement with full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." FS KRASNOYARSK JOURNALIST VICTIM OF ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. Sergei Zhabinskii, a journalist in Achinsk in Krasnoyarsk Krai, found a grenade under the bumper of his car that would have exploded as soon as the car moved, ITAR-TASS reported. Zhabinskii started receiving death threats following his broadcasts on local television station that were critical of the Achinsk Alumina Plant, according to the agency. JAC CANDIDATES GALORE IN LENINGRAD GUBERNATORIAL BALLOT. A total of 20 candidates will run in the 19 September gubernatorial elections in Leningrad Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 August, the final day for registration of candidates. Thirty- six people had originally applied to take part in the ballot, but only 20 of them met the criteria to be accepted as candidates. That figure, however, is twice the number of candidates who ran in the 1996 elections, according to the news agency. Currently ahead in the opinion polls is former Leningrad Governor and ex-Russian First Deputy Premier Vadim Gustov. The incumbent, Valerii Serdyukov, is also taking part in the vote. JC FORMER FIRST LADY MAY HAVE BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT. Raisa Gorbachev, who is currently being treated for leukemia at a Germany hospital, may soon undergo a bone marrow transplant. "The Moscow Times" on 20 August cited Russian Public Television as reporting that the sister of the patient, the wife of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, will be the donor. Raisa Gorbachev is reported to be feeling "slightly better" after the initial phase of chemotherapy but will continue that treatment for two to three weeks, dpa quoted her doctor as saying. Meanwhile, "Moskovskie vedomosti" reported in its No. 32 (August) issue that her sickness may be attributed to radiation exposure during her youth. Raisa Gorbachev was born and spent almost 20 years in Rubtsovsk, Altai Krai, just 100 kilometers from a site where the Soviet Union began nuclear testing in the 1940s. Radiation levels there were the same as those in the "alienation zone" following the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear accident, according to the publication. JC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS TO HOLD FURTHER TALKS. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev will meet his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, in Geneva on 22 August for a second round of confidential talks aimed at trying to resolve the Karabakh conflict, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 19 August. Azerbaijani State Foreign Policy Adviser Vafa Guluzade told RFE/RL's Armenian service on 19 August that the meeting bodes well for peace in the disputed enclave. Following an earlier meeting in Geneva in mid-July, President Aliev said both sides should be prepared to compromise in order to achieve a settlement of the conflict. LF AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST MURDERED. Telman Didirov, a journalist with the independent television station DM in Balaken Raion, was stabbed to death on the station's premises by unknown persons on 17 August, according to a press release issued two days later by Reporters sans Frontieres. That organization has called on Azerbaijan's Justice Minister Sudabah Hassanova to launch an investigation into the crime and determine whether the murder was directly related to Didirov's journalistic activities. LF ABKHAZ PRESIDENT TO RUN FOR SECOND TERM. Vladislav Ardzinba has agreed to run as a candidate in the 3 October presidential elections, Caucasus Press reported on 20 August, quoting Central Electoral Commission chairman Vyacheslav Tsugba. Ardzinba's candidacy has been proposed by numerous public organizations in the unrecognized breakaway republic. No other challenger has yet been registered for the poll, the legality of which is not internationally recognized. The deadline for registration is 24 August. Candidates must have lived in Abkhazia for five years prior to the poll. LF A GEORGIAN POLICEMAN'S LOT IS NOT A HAPPY ONE. Police in several districts of western Georgia continue to perform their constabulary duties without being paid. Policemen in Terjola and the town of Kutaisi have not received wages for one year, while their colleagues in Sachkhere Raion have not been paid for 42 months, according to "Rezonansi" on 19 August. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY CONFIDENT OF VICTORY IN PARLIAMENTARY POLL... Leading members of the Otan (Fatherland) Party, which was formed shortly after the January 1999 presidential elections to support Nursultan Nazarbaev, told journalists in Almaty on 19 August that they are confident Otan will win a majority in the parliamentary elections on 17 September and 10 October, Reuters reported. OTAN plans to field 10 candidates to contest the 10 seats allocated under the proportional system. It will also field 55 candidates in the 67 single-mandate constituencies. Otan's election campaign is spearheaded by parliamentary speaker Marat Ospanov, who has consistently criticized the cabinet of Nurlan Balghymbaev. Ospanov said on 19 August that Balghymbaev's cabinet has "failed miserably" and "turned the majority of the people against economic reform." He added that Otan advocates radical changes to the government's present economic policy. LF ...WHILE OPPOSITION PARTY THREATEN TO BOYCOTT BALLOT. Vitalii Voronov, who heads the election campaign staff of former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin's People's Republican Party of Kazakhstan, told journalists in Almaty on 19 August that the party will boycott the poll if Kazhegeldin is not permitted to register as a candidate, Interfax reported. Kazhegeldin was barred from running in the January presidential poll because earlier he had been found guilty of an administrative offense. Under the new election law, such offenses do not disqualify potential candidates, but it is unclear whether Kazhegeldin's conviction for contempt of court makes him ineligible. Voronov said the new election law is inconsistent with international democratic standards. Meeting with President Nazarbaev in Astana on 18 August, U.S. Ambassador Richard Jones expressed approval of the amendments to the election law and said he hopes that all political parties will be granted an equal opportunity to participate, RFE/RL's bureau in the capital reported. LF KAZAKH OFFICIAL CASTS DOUBT ON RESUMPTION OF BAIKONUR LAUNCHES. Kazakhstan's Aerospace Agency Director Meirbek Moldabekov told Interfax on 19 August that he doubts whether Kazakhstan will lift by 31 August the current ban on launches of Russian Proton rockets from the Baikonur cosmodrome. Kazakhstan imposed the ban last month after a Proton rocket exploded shortly after blast-off (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 July 1999). On 18 August, Russian Space Agency First Deputy Director Valerii Alaverdov predicted the imminent lifting of the ban. But Moldabekov said that prediction reflects only Alaverdov's "personal prognosis." Moscow made the first $12.5 million payment last week toward its annual $165 million lease for the Baikonur facility (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1999). LF KAZAKHSTAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER WRAPS UP INDIA VISIT. Visiting New Delhi on 17-18 August, Kasymzhomart Toqaev met with Indian Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee and with senior government officials to discuss expanding and economic trade cooperation, including in the oil and gas sector, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 19 August. The two sides signed several agreements including one on cooperating to fight international crime. LF KYRGYZSTAN BOMBS GUERRILLAS' ASSUMED POSITIONS. Kyrgyz military helicopters on 18 August bombed the region of southern Kyrgyzstan where Uzbek guerrillas had held four Kyrgyz officials hostage earlier this month, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 19 August, quoting Presidential Administration official Bolot Dzhanuzakov. It is unclear whether the guerrillas remain in the region or whether any of them were injured in the bombing raids. LF KYRGYZSTAN RE-REGISTERS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE. Ramazan Dyryldaev, who is chairman of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (KCHR), told a press conference in Bishkek on 19 August that the Justice Ministry has finally re-registered his committee, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The committee's registration was revoked in September 1998 after its members had criticized the planned referendum on amendments to the country's constitution. Dyryldaev said the Justice Ministry also withdrew the registration certificate issued to a body formed by members who broke away from the KCHR and registered a rival body with the same name in April 1999. Dyryldaev and his supporters have been campaigning since then for the re-registration of their committee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 May and 2 June 1999). LF U.S. CALLS FOR FOUR-WAY AGREEMENT ON TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINE. Speaking to journalists in Ashgabat on 19 August following his talks with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson urged Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey to sign a legal agreement committing their support for the planned Trans-Caspian gas export pipeline, ITAR-TASS reported. Richardson said the swift signing of such an agreement would expedite the solution of financing problems. A protracted dispute between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan over ownership of Caspian oilfields is perceived as an obstacle to such an agreement. Richardson also told journalists that Niyazov had agreed that Azerbaijan should be entitled to an unspecified amount of the pipeline's estimated annual throughput capacity from its recently discovered Shah Deniz reserves, according to Interfax. Also on 19 August, the U.S. Agency for Trade and Development gave Ashgabat a $150,000 grant toward consulting services for drafting the legal foundations for the pipeline project, AP reported. LF UZBEKISTAN SCHEDULES PARLIAMENTARY, PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. President Islam Karimov told journalists on 19 August that a new parliament and local councils will be elected on 5 December and presidential elections will take place on 9 January, Reuters and Interfax reported. The parliament, which reconvened on 19 August following the summer recess, must endorse those dates. Karimov did not confirm that he will run for re-election. He was elected to that post in 1991, and his mandate was prolonged in a 1995 referendum. LF UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS TAJIK AUTHORITIES CANNOT CONTROL SITUATION... During a break in the 19 August parliamentary session, President Karimov criticized the government of neighboring Tajikistan, which, he said, is unable to control the situation in the eastern part of the country. Noting that states are obliged to ensure the safety of their borders, Karimov blamed the Tajik authorities for permitting a group of armed militants, including ethnic Uzbeks, to cross into neighboring Kyrgyzstan, where they took four Kyrgyz officials hostage. Also on 19 August, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed its regret at the 15 August bombing by Uzbek combat aircraft of border districts in Tajikistan, describing that action as a violation of Tajikistan's sovereignty. The Russian statement expressed the hope that the raid will not adversely affect relations between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The Kyrgyz authorities had asked Uzbekistan to bomb the region of southern Kyrgyzstan where the guerrillas were entrenched (see above). LF ...SAYS ETHNIC UZBEKS FIGHTING IN DAGHESTAN. President Karimov also said that his government knows that an unspecified number of young Uzbeks are currently fighting in Daghestan on the side of the Islamists, Interfax reported. He said the young men concerned had been trained by Jordanian- born field commander Khottab. LF HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION CONDEMNS UZBEK SENTENCES. Human Rights Watch on 19 August accused Uzbekistan of torture and political persecution following the sentencing the previous day of six men accused of participating in the February bombings in Tashkent, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 1999). Five of the six were members of the Erk Party, which was banned in 1992. All had been repeatedly tortured during the pre-trial investigation. According to Human Rights Watch, their only transgression was ownership of a banned newspaper and their political convictions. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. 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