Change is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast. In the pool where you least expect it, will be a fish. - Ovid
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 164, Part I, 24 August 1999


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 164, Part I, 24 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 TO BISHKEK

* 'KOMMERSANT-DAILY' CLOSURE SPARKS CHARGES, DENIALS

* KYRGYZ DEFENSE MINISTER SACKED AS TROOPS BATTLE GUERRILLAS
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RUSSIA

YELTSIN TO BISHKEK. President Boris Yeltsin is scheduled to
depart on 24 August for a meeting of the Shanghai Five in
Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. He is to meet with the
leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, who
have committed themselves to confidence-building measures
along the borders between their countries. The two-day
session is expected to end with a declaration of continued
cooperation but no new agreements. PG

YELTSIN PINS HOPES ON PUTIN. The Russian president admires
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's "great firmness [of mind],
independence in a broad sense, as well as decisiveness and
consistence," presidential press secretary Dmitrii Yakushkin
told Ekho Moskvy on 21 August, according to Interfax two days
later. Yakushkin said that Yeltsin remains committed to
ensuring that "the elections to the State Duma and of a new
head of state be as civilized as possible." He added that
Yeltsin's health remains satisfactory and that the president
has not yet begun to focus on his post-presidential life. PG

LUZHKOV DEFERS TO PRIMAKOV ON PRESIDENCY. Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov said on 23 August that he will not run for the
presidency if former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov decides
to do so, Interfax reported. Luzhkov said that he intends to
run for mayor because "Moscow has problems I want to solve in
exactly four years." He added that those who hope to see him
"squabble" with Primakov out of ambition "won't live long
enough" to do so. PG

KIRIENKO TO TOP RIGHT-WING COALITION LIST. Former Prime
Minister Sergei Kirienko, leader of New Force, Boris Nemtsov,
former First Deputy Prime Minister and Young Russia chairman,
and Irina Khakamade, a leader of Common Cause, will head the
election list of a coalition to be called the Union of
Rightist Forces, Interfax reported on 24 August. Kirienko
commmented that Right Cause and New Force have both joined
the new coalition. According to the news agency, Kirienko
also said that Russia's Voice, led by Samara Governor
Konstantin Titov, has agreed in principle to join the
coalition. JC

CHERNOMYRDIN HEADS NDR ELECTION LIST. Former Prime Minister
and Our Home Is Russia (NDR) leader Viktor Chernomyrdin, NDR
parliamentary faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov, and one of
several governors will head the NDR's electoral list, Ryzhkov
told Interfax on 23 August. Among the governors on the list
are Sverdlovsk's Eduard Rossel, Saratov's Dmitrii Ayatskov,
and Samara's Konstantin Titov. PG

OTHER ELECTORAL MOVES. Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed
told Interfax on 23 August that he "strongly objects" to "any
union with NDR." Communist Party chief Gennadii Zyuganov
denounced as a "provocative lie" reports that Kemerovo
Governor Aman Tuleev had been removed from his party's
electoral list, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 August. Primore
Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko said he has no plans to become
a State Duma deputy, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. And
former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin said that it is no
tragedy that he failed to create a center-right electoral
bloc, but he promised that he will continue to talk with
Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, Interfax reported.
Stepashin denounced the Fatherland-All-Russia alliance as "a
purely tactical" group intended only to "get as many votes in
the Duma as possible." PG

'KOMMERSANT-DAILY' CLOSURE SPARKS CHARGES, DENIALS. The
closure of "Kommersant-Daily," ostensibly for violation of
fire safety regulations, has sparked charges and denials that
Moscow Mayor Luzhkov or others took this step for political
reasons. The newspaper's director-general, Leonid
Miloslavskii, said he does not have proof that Luzhkov was
responsible, but he added he is "totally sure" that people
around the mayor were behind the move, Reuters reported on 23
August. Luzhkov responded that such claims are "absolutely
absurd." But the temporary closure of the newspaper may
already have had an impact on how it will act in the future.
Andrei Vasilev, the new editor, said his news paper should
report but not become part of "intramural media infighting,"
according to ITAR-TASS. PG

FEDERAL FORCES SAID TO LIBERATE THREE VILLAGES. Daghestani
Security Council Secretary Akhmednabi Magdigadzhiev told
journalists in Makhachkala on 24 August that over the past 24
hours, federal forces liberated the villages of Tando,
Rakhata, and Ashino after heavy fighting, ITAR-TASS reported.
He said that Islamic militants retain control of Ansalta and
Shodroda. The previous day, Russian military spokesman
Colonel Yevgenii Ryabtsev rejected as disinformation
militants' claims to have withdrawn their forces from all
villages in Botlikh Raion on orders from field commander
Shamil Basaev in order to regroup. Fifty wounded Russian army
and Interior Ministry troops were evacuated by air from
Daghestan to Volgograd on 24 August, according to ITAR-TASS.
LF

RUSSIAN, DAGHESTANI LEADERS MEET. Meeting in Moscow on 23
August with Magomedali Magomedov, chairman of Daghestan's
State Council, President Yeltsin expressed concern that the
Russian government has not yet endorsed a relief program for
the thousands of Daghestani civilians who fled from villages
in the western regions of the country seized earlier this
month by Islamic militants, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on
24 August. Last week, the government of Daghestan drafted
such a program, whose implementation will cost an estimated
300 million rubles ($12 million). Also on 23 August, Russia's
human rights envoy Lev Mironov met at a Moscow mosque with
Sheikh Ravil Gainutdinov, chairman of the Council of Muftis
of the Russian Federation, to discuss the situation in
Daghestan, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

STROEV SAYS PLANNED YELTSIN-MASKHADOV MEETING POINTLESS.
Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev told Interfax on 23
August that the proposed meeting between the presidents of
the Russian Federation and Chechnya is "absurd and useless"
in view of what he termed "the flow of hatred" directed at
Russia. Stroev was speaking after a meeting with Prime
Minister Putin and presidential Chief of Staff [Aleksandr]
Voloshin to discuss the situation in the North Caucasus,
which Stroev said the Federation Council will work actively
to stabilize. LF

COURT CANCELS EXTENSION OF SKURATOV INVESTIGATION. A Moscow
city court on 23 August ruled that Russia's chief military
prosecutor acted illegally in extending his investigation
into the case of suspended Russian Prosecutor-General Yuri
Skuratov. The court said that the prosecutor had no right to
extend the investigation. This decision can be appealed
within seven days. Observers suggested that this is a blow
for Yeltsin and the Kremlin, which have actively sought
Skuratov's removal, AP reported. Meanwhile, Federation
Council Chairman Stroev said that the legislature is prepared
to honor acting Prosecutor-General Yurii Chaika's request to
be relieved of his responsibilities. Chaika was recently
appointed justice minister. PG

RUSSIAN GENERAL TO RETURN TO NATO HQ. Colonel-General Viktor
Zavarzin, the Russian military representative to NATO, who
was withdrawn from that post by Moscow to protest the Western
alliance's actions in Kosova, will return to NATO's Brussels
headquarters "shortly," unidentified Russian "military-
diplomatic sources in Moscow" told Interfax on 23 August. The
agency said he will hold consultations with NATO only on
matters concerning peacekeeping in Kosova and that his return
does not indicate that Moscow is restoring military ties with
the Western alliance. PG

RUSSIA SEEKS VOICE ON EU EXPANSION. Speaking in Paris on 23
August, the Russian official responsible for working with the
G-8 said Moscow does not oppose the eastern expansion of the
EU but wants a voice in the process so that nothing will be
done that will "make anything worse for Russia," ITAR-TASS
reported. Aleksandr Livshits said that EU expansion could
mean the inclusion of countries that "have historically
served as major markets for Russia" and that the West
acknowledges that "there is a problem" if expansion proceeds
in ways that fail to take Moscow's concerns into account.
Livshits said talks between Russia and the EU must begin
immediately. PG

G-8 TO CONSIDER SOVIET-ERA DEBT AT OKINAWA SUMMIT. Also on 23
August, Livshits said that the G-8 countries have agreed to
consider "a comprehensive settlement" of Moscow's Soviet-era
debt during the Okinawa summit in July 2000, ITAR-TASS
reported. The Russian minister said no formula has been
agreed to but that he believes it should proceed from
Russia's ability to pay its debts. PG

WORLD BANK REVISES RUSSIAN LOAN PORTFOLIO. Michael Carter,
the head of the World Bank's Moscow office, said on 23 August
that the World Bank has reduced the amount of resources
promised to Russia by $228 million, ITAR-TASS reported.
Carter indicated that the reduction is by mutual agreement
and reflects decisions to end funding for ineffective
projects. PG

POPKOVICH SAYS U.S. SEEKING TO OBSTRUCT START-2
RATIFICIATION. State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman
Popkovich of the NDR told Interfax on 23 August that the U.S.
is "in essence putting obstacles in the way of [the Duma's]
ratification of the START-2 treaty" by planning its own
national ABM system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 23 August
1999). Washington, he said, seeks to portray Russia as a
"kind of nuclear monster that does not want to disarm."
Pointing to the fact that the shelf life of Russian missiles
will expire some 15 years before their U.S. counterparts,
Popkovich argued that "Russia needs START-2 more than the
U.S. does." Washington's intention to amend the ABM treaty
"casts doubts on ratification" of START-2 by the Duma since
the danger of "disrupted balance" may arise, he stressed. JC

MOSCOW NOT PLANNING TO BUY GRAIN ABROAD THIS YEAR. Deputy
Prime Minister Vladimir Shcherbak told Interfax on 23 August
that the Russian government does not plan to make any
centralized grain purchases abroad this year. But he noted
that some regions may have to do so on their own because the
60 million ton harvest the authorities have projected will
not meet all needs. Meanwhile, the U.S. has now delivered
more than half of the 3.1 million tons of food aid to Russia,
according to the news agency. This assistance has reached 60
of the country's regions. PG

NEW TAX CODE UNDER PREPARATION. The Finance and Tax
Ministries are preparing draft income tax codes that would
reduce the number of rates and raise the level of income at
which the minimum tax rate would be applied, Interfax
reported on 23 August. The two plans do not coincide but are
very similar: the Tax Ministry is calling for four rates
ranging from 12 percent to 35 percent, while the Finance
Ministry wants three ranging from 12 percent to 30 percent.
PG

LUKOIL OPPOSES EXPORT DUTIES. LUKoil President Vagit
Alekperov told the Fuel and Energy Ministry on 23 August that
the imposition of export duties on crude and fuel oil is
unnecessary because bringing fuel to domestic customers
during the winter is "our responsibility." Russia's Unified
Energy Systems has been calling for just such a step.
Meanwhile, the Fuel and Energy Ministry said that CIS
countries owe Moscow 60 billion rubles ($2.2. billion) for
fuel purchases during the first half of 1999 alone, while
Gazprom reported that Russian gas production equaled 322
billion cubic meters over that period, 0.5 billion cubic
meters less than planned but equal to last year's level.
Energy shortages, however, continue in parts of Russia. On 23
August, ITAR-TASS reported that power cutoffs have lengthened
in Arkhangelsk Oblast by another hour per day (see "RFE/RL
Russian Federation Report," 18 August 1999). PG

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES MEET AS COURT CASE PROCEEDS. Some 15,000
Jehovah's Witnesses are meeting in Moscow this week as part
of a country-wide series of sessions organized by the
Christian group, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, however, a
Moscow city court is considering a suit filed by the
Committee for the Rescue of Young People to ban the group
because of its intense missionary activities. The committee
claims such activities are totalitarian in nature. PG

TULA MINERS SUSPEND MARCH ON MOSCOW. Miners from Tula Oblast
have halted preparations to march on Moscow to protest wage
arrears (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1999), Interfax
reported on 23 August. According to a local trade union
official, that move follows the transfer to the oblast of
some 32 million rubles ($1.3 million), which will cover back
pay for the past three months. The total sum owed employees
at the Tulaugol company is 115 million rubles. The official
noted that during Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko's
visit to the oblast last week an agreement was reached
whereby consumers will pay part of their debts to the mining
company by 15 September. JC

STEPASHIN GETS 'POLICE TO POLICE' MEDAL. The University of
Illinois has awarded former Premier Stepashin a medal and
certificate for his work in drafting a long-term "From Police
to Police" program, which connects Russian and American
higher educational institutions, ITAR-TASS reported on 24
August. Stepashin was given the award in St. Petersburg. PG

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

GEORGIAN, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET. David Tevzadze held
"consultative" talks in Moscow on 23 August with his Russian
counterpart, Igor Sergeev, Russian agencies reported. The
main topics of discussion were bilateral cooperation, the
Russian peacekeeping force deployed in Abkhazia under a CIS
mandate, and the future of the four Russian military bases in
Georgia. Georgian parliamentary deputies have repeatedly
demanded the closure of two of those facilities. A further
bone of contention between the two sides are the conditions
for Moscow's return to Georgian jurisdiction of 44 buildings
previously used by Russian troops (see "RFE/RL Caucasus
Report," Vol. 2, No. 25, 25 June 1999). LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT MEETS WITH SOUTH KOREAN, JAPANESE DIPLOMATS.
Nursultan Nazarbaev met with South Korea's ambassador Lee Yen
Minh in Astana on 23 August to discuss bilateral trade and
economic ties, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. It is
unclear whether the alleged sale by Kazakhstan of MiGs to
North Korea was also on the agenda. Nazarbaev held talks the
same day with visiting senior Japanese diplomat Takemi Keizo
on the ecological situation at the former nuclear testing
ground at Semipalatinsk, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported.
Japan is a major participant in a UN-funded program to clean
up the territory adjacent to the site and will host an
international conference on that problem next month. LF

TOP OIL OFFICIAL FIRED IN KAZAKHSTAN. President Nazarbaev
fired KazakhOil State Oil Company President Nurlan Qapparov
on 23 August for "exceeding his authority in deciding
important strategic issues," AP reported. Qapparov's deputy,
Uzaqbay Qarabalin, was appointed acting president. Also on 23
August, Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Toqaev confirmed that
in order to plug an anticipated budget shortfall next year,
Astana may be constrained to sell part of its 25 percent
stake in the Tengizchevroil joint venture, which is
developing the vast Tengiz oilfield, according to Interfax. A
spokesman for Russia's LUKoil told Interfax on 20 August that
his company is interested in increasing the 5 percent stake
in Tengizchevroil owned by the U.S.-Russian joint venture
LukArco. LF

KYRGYZ DEFENSE MINISTER SACKED AS TROOPS BATTLE GUERRILLAS.
President Askar Akaev sacked Defense Minister Myrzakan
Subanov on 24 August and appointed Chief of Staff General
Nurdin Chomoev to replace him, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau
reported. Late on 23 August, Kyrgyz forces attacked the group
of guerrillas who took hostage Kyrgyz Interior Ministry
forces commander Major-General Anarbek Shamkeev and four
Japanese geologists in southern Kyrgyzstan earlier that day.
According to unconfirmed reports, both sides incurred
casualties during that fighting. A second group of guerrillas
has seized control of two more villages, raising the number
under their control to four. Parliamentary deputy Dosbol Nur
Uulu told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau that the guerrillas'
strength exceeds 200. In Dushanbe, Tajik Security Council
Secretary Amirkul Azimov told Interfax that the guerrillas
are loyal to ethnic Uzbek field commander Djuma Namangani,
who refused to comply with the deadline to disarm issued by
Tajikistan's National Reconciliation Commission. That
deadline expired last month. LF

KYRGYZ NEWSPAPER EDITOR ARRESTED. Aleksandr Kim, editor of
the independent and outspoken daily "Vechernii Bishkek," has
been arrested on charges of tax evasion, ITAR-TASS reported
on 24 August. LF

TAJIKISTAN HOSTS FRUITLESS AFGHAN TALKS. Representatives of
Afghanistan's ruling Taliban movement and opposition Northern
Alliance met for a second round of Pakistan-mediated talks in
Dushanbe on 23 August, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. As at the
18 August round, no agreement was reached on adopting
proposals made by Pakistan as a basis for ending the civil
war. The North Alliance reportedly argued that Pakistan is
incapable of acting as a disinterested mediator and called on
Islamabad to stop interfering in the conflict, withdraw its
forces from Afghanistan, and end its support for the Taliban.
LF

UZBEKISTAN RELEASES JAILED CHRISTIANS. Under an as yet
unpublished decree signed by President Islam Karimov on 20
August, one Jehovah's Witness and all five known Christians
imprisoned in Uzbekistan have been freed, Keston News Service
reported on 23 August. Three of the five were Pentecostalists
serving sentences of 10-15 years. The Uzbek authorities are
also reportedly preparing to register several local Baptist
and Pentecostalist congregations. Observers believe the
gesture of leniency is intended to improve the country's
image before the U.S. State Department presents to Congress
on 1 September its annual assessment of religious freedom
worldwide. LF

HOSTAGES TAKEN, RELEASED IN UZBEKISTAN. Unidentified
guerrillas seized control of a meteorological station in
eastern Uzbekistan on 23 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The
guerrillas released the staff of the facility and five local
tourists after robbing them of documents, money, clothing,
and food and fuel supplies. LF

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