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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 166, Part I, 26 August 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 166, Part I, 26 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 * SERGEEV DENIES BOMBING CHECHNYA * 'KOMMERSANT-DAILY' BACK ON NEWSSTANDS * 'SHANGHAI FIVE' SIGN SUMMIT DECLARATION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA SERGEEV DENIES BOMBING CHECHNYA. Russian military aircraft launched bombing raids late on 25 August on the villages of Vedeno and Urus Martan, where guerrillas who withdrew from Daghestan were concentrated, Russian agencies reported. It is unclear whether either guerrillas or civilians were injured in the raids, which Chechen government officials confirmed. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman in Makhachkala confirmed on 26 August that Vedeno had been targeted, according to Reuters. But Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told journalists in Astrakhan, where he is attending the joint Comradeship-in-Arms '99 exercise by Russian, Belarusian, Armenian and Kyrgyz troops, that no Russian airstrikes took place, ITAR-TASS reported. LF ...AS SHIRVANI BASAEV INSISTS HE IS NOT DEAD. Shirvani Basaev, whose elder brother Shamil commanded the Chechen-led incursion into Daghestan, told journalists in eastern Chechnya on 25 August that the attack on the Tsumadin and Botlikh Raions of Daghestan was "just training" and that "the real war in Daghestan" is yet to come, Interfax reported. Government officials in Makhachkala similarly predict that the militants will soon launch a wave of terrorist attacks in Daghestan, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 August. Asked to comment on a report circulated by the Daghestan branch of Russia's Federal Security Service that he had died on 16 August of injuries received in a rockslide triggered by the defenders of the village of Gagatli on 14 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 1999), Basaev responded: "I am buried once a week." LF 'KOMMERSANT-DAILY' BACK ON NEWSSTANDS. "Kommersant-Daily" went on sale again on 25 August, two days after it was closed down for allegedly violating fire regulations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 1999). Also on 25 August, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with a group of leading newspaper editors, as well as Kommersant Publishing Director-General Leonid Miloslavskii, who later told Russian Public Television that the dispute over the closure of "Kommersant-Daily" can be considered resolved. Putin was quoted by Interfax as saying that "there must be no media regulation through communal services, and there will not be any." A spokeswoman for the daily declined to tell "The Moscow Times" how the newspaper had managed to appear before the dispute was over, prompting speculation that other publications had come to its assistance. JC PUTIN SIGNS OFF ON DRAFT BUDGET. Prime Minister Putin on 25 August approved the draft 2000 budget and sent it to the State Duma for consideration, ITAR-TASS reported. But First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said the document sent to the lower house is not a final one and that the government will continue to revise it. PG FINANCE MINISTER DENIES MONEY LAUNDERING IN NEW YORK BANK. Mikhail Kasyanov said on 25 August that the Russian government was not involved in any way in an alleged money laundering scheme involving the Bank of New York, Russian and Western agencies reported. But other Russian news outlets continued to discuss the case, with many indicating that they believe the allegations are true. PG IVANOV SAYS RUSSIA AGAINST ANY ABM TREATY CHANGES. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Interfax on 25 August that Moscow continues to oppose any revision in the ABM treaty. He said that Russia considers "the ABM treaty a foundation for strategic stability and that any attempts to revise the treaty jeopardize this stability." Ivanov added that President Boris Yeltsin had discussed this matter during his meeting with Chinese leader Jiang Zemin in Bishkek. PG STEPASHIN CLARIFIES RELATIONSHIP WITH YABLOKO. Former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin told Ekho Moskvy on 25 August that he is cooperating with the Yabloko party in the upcoming elections but has not joined the party itself. He did not rule out close cooperation with Yabloko after the election but indicated that the nature of such ties still has to be worked out. PG SECOND COMMUNIST BLOC SUBMITS DOCUMENTS. The Communist- Workers for the Soviet Union bloc has submitted documents to the Central Election Commission, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 August. Viktor Tyulkin, the leader of the group, commented that "unlike the [Communist Party of the Russian Federation] bloc led by Gennadii Zyuganov, our bloc has been created in order to form a working faction in the State Duma." Its main aim, he said, "is to use parliamentary opportunities to fight against a bourgeois regime." PG VOICE OF RUSSIA BLOC MAY CANCEL ITS REGISTRATION. Because it hopes to form an alliance with the Union of Rightist Forces, the Voice of Russia bloc may revoke its registration with the Central Election Commission, Aleksei Kara-Murza, a leader of the bloc, told ITAR-TASS on 25 August. The reason is that current law does not allow a registered bloc to unite with another one. PG SELEZNEV SEEKS MEETING WITH STEPASHIN. State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev seeks to meet with former Prime Minister Stepashin to discuss the latter's decision to run for the parliament from St. Petersburg, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 August. PG REGIONAL GROUPS SUPPORT AGRARIAN PARTY'S DECISION TO JOIN FATHERLAND-ALL-RUSSIA BLOC. Sixty-three of 79 regional conferences have voted to back the decision of the Agrarian Party board to join the election bloc now headed by former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Interfax reported. The other 16 voted for joining the For Victory national-patriotic bloc now being set up by KPRF leader Zyuganov. PG CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS MIDDLE CLASS, REGIONS WILL BOOST HIS PARTY. Former Prime Minister and leader of Our Home Is Russia (NDR) Viktor Chernomyrdin told "Obshchaya gazeta" on 25 August that his party will rely on support from the middle class and in the regions to surpass the 5 percent hurdle in the Duma elections. He said that an alliance between the NDR and other rightist groups remains possible. "I have no particular allergy to them," he commented. But he added that some of his fellow party members rule out an alliance with Right Cause leader Anatolii Chubais, Democratic Choice of Russia Yegor Gaidar, or Young Russia head Boris Nemtsov. PG LIVSHITS SAYS EBRD TO PROVIDE RUSSIA 1 BILLION EUROS ANNUALLY. In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 August, Aleksandr Livshits, Moscow's coordinator for relations with the G-8 countries, said that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is prepared to increase its annual financing to Russia to 1 billion euros ($1.04 billion). "As soon as Russian banks have been selected that can be trusted with the money, the EBRD will launch the program," he said. PG MOSCOW TO REQUIRE INCOME DECLARATIONS FOR MAJOR PURCHASES. Anna Komardina, the deputy director of the Tax Ministry's personal income tax department, told AP on 25 August that beginning next year, the Russian authorities will require any Russian resident making major purchases, such as of cars and apartments, to declare all sources of their income. PG RUSSIAN COMPANY ACCUSES U.S. INVESTORS OF EXTORTION. Avisma has filed suit in the U.S. Federal Court accusing its U.S. investors of extortion, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 August. The case, which will be heard in New Jersey, is the first of its kind. Avisma said that U.S. investors had forced the Perm ore-processing company to sell its output at dumping prices, costing the firm millions of dollars in income. PG MOSCOW PLEDGES TO HELP YUGOSLAVIA --ALONE IF NECESSARY. Speaking in Brussels on 25 August, Aleksandr Livshits, Moscow's coordinator for relations with G-8 countries, said the Russian government will provide Belgrade with humanitarian assistance even if it has to do so by itself, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that "Russia's expulsion from the process of decision-making has been recognized as erroneous," adding that "Russia will participate in all forms of restoring the Balkans economy on equal terms." PG RUSSIA RESOLVED TO DEPLOY PEACEKEEPERS IN RAHOVEC. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksander Avdeev told Interfax on 25 August that the Russian government is resolved to deploy peacekeepers in the Kosovar town of Rahovec. Ethnic Albanians there have blocked the road to the city for four days (see Part II). Avdeev made clear that the protests "will not influence Russia's position on its peacekeepers' mandatory presence in that district." He added that the deployment of the Russian troops "meets the interest of Russia and of the post-conflict settlement" in Kosova. Avdeev stressed: "We are well aware that the Albanians' continuing demonstrations...are not spontaneous and have their organizers who oppose our presence.... This is one of the problems for which we were prepared. As far as we know, the KFOR command is working on this problem." FS RUSSIANS DETAIN SOUTH KOREAN SHIP. Russian coast guard vessels detained a South Korean trawler for poaching, Interfax reported on 25 August. The action took place as Seoul reportedly is seeking to purchase several Russian submarines and acquire licenses to make others. PG TOKYO DENIES WILLINGNESS TO SIGN INTERIM PACT NOW. The Japanese embassy in Moscow told Interfax on 25 August that Russian media reports that Japan is prepared to sign a peace treaty with Moscow in the absence of an agreement on the disputed Kuril Islands are inaccurate. The Japanese diplomat said Tokyo is studying the issue and will give its answer when Yeltsin visits Japan. PG MOSCOW PREDICTS BUMPER CROP --BY 2002. Even as this year's production falls below earlier projections, the Russian Economics Ministry is predicting that Russian grain production will increase to 77 million tons by the year 2002. PG TV STATION WARNED FOR INCITING RACIAL HATRED. The State Mass Media Committee has issued an official warning to Petersburg Television for violating the federal law on the mass media, which prohibits the incitement of racial violence and hatred, "The St. Petersburg Times" reported on 24 August. Last month, human rights activists protested when the station conducted polls asking viewers whether they would take part in ethnic purges in the city (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 11 August 1999). The audience voted by telephone 1,336 to 959 in favor of ethnic cleansing. Petersburg Television Journalist Sergei Chernadev told the newspaper that the station was not seeking to incite racial hatred but "show the city intelligentsia that there is a problem." JC RETURN OF THE KPSS. The Stavropol Justice Department has registered the Communist Party of Soviet Stavropol, otherwise known by the all-too-familiar abbreviation of the former Communist Party of the Soviet Union--KPSS. The founders of the new group believe the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) is not doing enough to fight for the rights of the workers and the revival of Soviet authority. They also see the KPRF as too "far removed" from the problems of specific regions, "Izvestiya" reported on 25 August. JC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA 'SHANGHAI FIVE' SIGN SUMMIT DECLARATION... At their summit in Bishkek on 25 August, the heads of state of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan signed an 11-point declaration pledging cooperation in fighting terrorism, drugs- and arms-smuggling, illegal migration, national separatism, and religious extremism. They also undertook to "prevent the use of their territories for activities detrimental to the sovereignty, security, and public order" in any of the five countries. At the request of China and Kazakhstan, the draft declaration was amended to state that the signatories undertake not to intervene in the internal affairs of other states under the pretext of protecting human rights. That amendment is presumably intended to give China a free hand in cracking down on its Uighur minority. The heads of state affirmed support for efforts by regional leaders to promote a nuclear-free zone in Central Asia. And they also noted the "positive experience" of reaching a settlement to the civil war in Tajikistan and expressed concern at the current situation in Afghanistan. LF ...DISCUSS SECURITY, ECONOMIC COOPERATION. Discussions between the five leaders focused on regional security problems, expanding trade, and reviewing implementation of earlier agreements signed. Noting that the summit is being held against the backdrop of "a deteriorating international situation," Russian President Boris Yeltsin accused unnamed states of trying "to build a world order suiting their inclusive interests," Interfax reported. Yeltsin stressed Russia's "strategic interest" in security in Asia and called for more intense discussion of regional security issues. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev announced that a conference to discuss a proposed Asian security system modeled on the OSCE will take place in Kazakhstan on 14 September. The five presidents undertook to task their respective governments with creating joint consulting groups to draft proposals on expanding trade and economic ties, according to Interfax. And they agreed that their next summit will be held in May 2000 in Dushanbe. LF PRESIDENTS OF RUSSIA, KAZAKHSTAN RESOLVE BAIKONUR PROBLEM. Meeting briefly in Bishkek on 25 August, Yeltsin and Nazarbaev reached agreement on the resumption of cooperation in the launching of Russian rockets from the Baikonur cosmodrome, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting presidential deputy chief of staff Sergei Prikhodko. Astana had shown reluctance to allow a resumption of the launching of proton rockets of the type that exploded shortly after blast-off from Baikonur in early July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July and 20 August 1999). The two presidents also reviewed economic cooperation, focusing on agriculture and the machine-building and energy sectors. They agreed on the need to embark on Russian-Kazakh joint ventures. (Plans for a Russian-Kazakh joint coal company with the participation of Russia's United Energy Systems are being sabotaged by a local Kazakh official, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 12 August.) LF CHINA, KAZAKHSTAN, KYRYZSTAN SIGN BORDER AGREEMENT. On the sidelines of the Bishkek summit, Jiang Zemin, Nazarbaev, and Askar Akaev signed what Akaev termed "a final agreement" on delimiting the frontiers between the three countries where they converge at the Khan-tengri peak, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. China signed a similar agreement in May 1999 with Russia and Kazakhstan. LF MILITANTS SEIZE 20 KYRGYZ TROOPS... The groups of armed militants who have infiltrated southern Kyrgyzstan from neighboring Tajikistan on 25 August took hostage 20 Kyrgyz troops sent to locate them, ITAR-TASS reported. The militants are also holding a Kyrgyz Interior Ministry general and four Japanese geologists and are occupying several villages. Kyrgyzstan's Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev told journalists in Bishkek on 26 August that Kyrgyz troops are preparing for an operation against the militants, whose strength he estimated at between 400 and 1,000. LF ...AS KYRGYZ, TAJIK, RUSSIAN LEADERS DISCUSSES COUNTER- MEASURES. Kyrgyz President Akaev and his Tajik counterpart Imomali Rakhmonov agreed on the sidelines of the Bishkek summit on 25 August to close border crossings between their two countries, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kyrgyz officials also discussed the hostage situation with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and the head of the Russian Border Guard Service, General Konstantin Totskii. Totskii said that the hostage taking will not affect the withdrawal of the final Russian border guard contingent in Kyrgyzstan. He added that Moscow will almost certainly agree to provide Kyrgyzstan with assistance in resolving the hostage situation if asked to do so, according to Interfax. LF CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS OPENED AGAINST KYRGYZ NEWSPAPER. A spokesman for the State Tax Police said in Bishkek on 25 August that criminal proceedings have been brought against Aleksandr Kim, chief editor and owner of "Vechernii Bishkek," RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Kim had been summoned to the tax police the previous day but did not go because of ill health, according to other members of the editorial board. Kim had convened a news conference on 24 August to rebut reports by colleagues at the newspaper that he has been arrested (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 1999). Some 20 journalists on the staff of "Vechernii Bishkek" launched a hunger strike on 24 August to protest government harassment. LF TAJIKISTAN SEEKS SOLUTION TO UZBEK FUGITIVE PROBLEM... United Tajik Opposition chairman Said Abdullo Nuri told the BBC's Persian Service that Tajikistan should undertake to guarantee the security of fugitives from Uzbekistan who decide voluntarily to return home, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 24 August. Nuri was speaking after visiting the Karategin region of Tajikistan where the majority of those estimated 1,600 Uzbeks are located. But in a clear distinction between genuine fugitives and renegade militants, Nuri added that "not a single armed citizen of Uzbekistan should remain in regions controlled by the UTO." UNHCR mission head Gong Li told journalists in Dushanbe on 24 August that his organization has not yet decided whether the Uzbeks in Karategin qualify for the status of refugees, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. LF ...EXTENDS DEADLINE FOR SURRENDERING WEAPONS. Tajikistan's Interior Minister Humdin Sharipov told journalists in Dushanbe on 25 August, one day after expiry of the deadline for armed groups not subordinate to the UTO to surrender their arms, that only 150 weapons have been handed in, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. He said the deadline for surrendering weapons has been extended, but added that "within a few days" his men will begin special actions to locate and confiscate illicitly owned arms. LF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES ENERGY SECTOR LOANS. The Armenian parliament voted on 25 August to approve two new loans to the energy sector totaling $33 million, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The loans are from the World Bank ($19.5 million) and a Japanese government agency ($13.5 million) and will be used to upgrade the country's power distribution network. First Deputy Energy Minister Karen Galstyan told deputies that the loans will save Armenia $5 million annually in energy lost during transmission, according to AP. LF AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST CAUTIONED OVER REPORTING ON KARABAKH. Khalid Kazimli, a journalist with the newspaper "Reytinq," was summoned to Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry on 25 August and questioned about an article he recently wrote on the Karabakh peace process, according to a Trade Union of Journalists press release. Kazimli was asked who had provided him with details of discussions within Azerbaijan's Security Council on the possibility of ceding to Armenia part of the territory currently occupied by (Karabakh) Armenian forces. He refused, however, to reveal the name of that source. Security officials warned Kazimli not to write any similar articles in future. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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