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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 168, Part I, 30 August 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 168, Part I, 30 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 * MORE SCANDAL CHARGES, DENIALS * COURT RULING TRIGGERS NEW PROTESTS IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA * UZBEK PLANES KILL KYRGYZ VILLAGERS IN BOMBING RAID xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA MORE SCANDAL CHARGES, DENIALS... Charges and denials about various Russian scandals continue. On 27 August, business magnate Boris Berezovskii said that accusations in the Western press that President Boris Yeltsin had bank accounts in the West are an "absolute provocation" organized by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Interfax reported. Luzhkov responded that he is pleased to learn that he has power even over the Western press. On 29 August, Democratic Choice of Russia leader Yegor Gaidar denied that former First Deputy Primer Minister Anatolii Chubais has had foreign bank accounts. Earlier, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said Moscow has no "confirming information" that there has been any official involvement in the Bank of New York money- laundering affair, Russian agencies reported. Former Central Bank of Russia Chairman Sergei Dubinin denied that IMF money was channeled through that bank. PG ...WHILE KARAGANOV SEES WESTERN PLOT BEHIND BANK SCANDAL. Many Russians have suggested that the charges about money laundering at the Bank of New York are politically motivated. Such people include Konstantin and Natasha Kagalovskii, who are implicated in the affair. But Sergei Karaganov, a leading Russian political analyst and head of Russia's Foreign and Defense Policy Council, has gone further. In an interview with Interfax on 27 August, Karaganov said the scandal is "quite probably" part of "Western leading circles' desire to divorce [from] the current Kremlin leadership." He based that conclusion on the fact that the current scandal charges target people around Yeltsin rather than more junior figures. PG MORE CASES MAY BE LAUNCHED. On 27 August, acting Prosecutor- General Vladimir Ustinov said he does not rule out criminal indictments in the Bank of New York money-laundering case, Interfax reported. But he said that "first everything has to be carefully examined, primarily by all special services, Russian and foreign." The U.S. authorities have offered to conduct a joint investigation, the Russian federal tax police said the same day. Meanwhile, the tax police have opened a criminal investigation into a number of former Rosneft oil company executives for tax evasion. PG INVESTIGATORS OF HIGH PROFILE CASES REPLACED. Vladimir Minaev, chief of the main investigative department of the Prosecutor-General's Office, told Interfax on 27 August that several of the investigators looking into major cases have been replaced by "more experienced" officers. Among those replaced are investigators looking into the Mabatex case and the case of former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak. The officials looking into the murder of journalist Dmitrii Kholodov, however, have been kept on the job. Minaev stressed that these shifts do not reduce the personal responsibility of those who launched the investigations. PG RUSSIAN FOREIGN DEBT TO RISE. Russia's foreign debt will be $166.2 billion on 1 January 2000, up from $156.6 billion a year earlier, Interfax reported. But its foreign borrowing is scheduled to increase to $177.6 billion by 1 January 2001, Interfax reported on 27 August. Meanwhile, the government said that it will meet all its obligations on Treasury bills during 2000. Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Russia announced on 27 August that it is considering increasing its discount on gold purchases from 2 percent to 5-6 percent of the London quote, the Russian news agency reported. PG AKSENENKO COMPLAINS GAS EXPORTS TOO CHEAP. First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko told ITAR-TASS on 27 August that Gazprom is exporting its gas too cheaply and thus inflicting "big losses on the country." He said that middlemen are making enormous profits as a result. Meanwhile, the government commission on trade protection on 27 August recommended doubling the export duty on crude oil to 10 euros ($10.45) per ton beginning 1 October 1999. PG YELTSIN BACKS HIGHER SOCIAL SPENDING TO CALM ELECTORATE. First Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko told ITAR- TASS on 27 August that the Russian president backs higher social spending and tough action against wage arrears. She said the authorities seek to stabilize the social situation lest Russia see "protest-type voting" that could harm the country. But Yeltsin's and the government's budgetary proposals may face tough opposition in the parliament, Konstantin Titov, the chairman of the Federation Council Budget Committee, told ITAR-TASS on 28 August. PG AGRARIANS LINK UP WITH OVR BLOC. Some 275 of 390 delegates at a congress of the Agrarian Party on 27 August decided to end their alliance with the Communists and link up with Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance, RIA reported. The remaining delegates left the session and said they will continue to work with the Communists. On 29 August, the Communist Party Central Committee agreed to form an election alliance with the 16 regional organizations of the Agrarian Party whose representatives bolted from that group when it tied itself to the OVR bloc, Interfax reported. PG UNION OF RIGHTIST FORCES FORMED. The parties of former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko (New Force), former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov (Young Russia), former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar (Democratic Choice of Russia), and Saratov Governor Konstantin Titov (Voice of Russia) officially formed the Union of Rightist Forces on 29 August, Russian agencies reported. In a related move, Nemtsov has asked that Kirienko not run for Moscow mayor lest he dissipate the energies of the group. PG YABLOKO LIST ANNOUNCED. Grigorii Yavlinskii will top the State Duma election list of the Yabloko party, Interfax reported on 27 August. He will be followed by former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin and Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin. Stepashin said he and the Yabloko party are ready to "assume responsibility for the country." He denounced all threats to the personal security of President Yeltsin, and he said that he is ready to run for president in 2000. PG PRIMAKOV OUTLINES PLANS. Former Prime Minister and now leader of the OVR bloc Yevgenii Primakov said on 28 August that he will work in the Duma if he is elected but will "never" become speaker of that body, Interfax reported. He rejected charges that his bloc colleague, Georgii Boos, said that a "Romanian variant" awaits Yeltsin. Such claims are a complete misreading of Boos's statement published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Primakov said. In other comments, Primakov said his bloc is prepared to unite all "centrist, patriotic, and democratic forces" and will not seek any redivision of property, even as it works to strengthen the state. Another of Primakov's bloc colleagues, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, however, attacked the IMF, saying that "the country needs to correct its course. We cannot solve its problems only according to the prescriptions of the IMF, which regards Russia as a field for its experiments." PG OUR HOME IS RUSSIA SEEKS INSTITUTIONALIZED GOVERNMENT. NDR Duma faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov said on 28 August that "it is impossible to run the country via a politically helpless government, a politically irresponsible parliament, and a politically prevailing president" on whom the entire state must function, Interfax reported. At the same session, ITAR-TASS reported, NDR leader Viktor Chernomyrdin said the NDR is "shedding a shabby skin of the party of power" and that its future as a presidential party depends on the outcome of the parliamentary vote. Meanwhile, the NDR and Boris Fedorov's Forward Russia! movement agreed to cooperate in the upcoming elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 August. PG PUTIN WELCOMES BLOCS, HAS LITTLE SUPPORT. Speaking in Makhachkala during a one-day visit to Daghestan on 27 August, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that he welcomes the formation of new electoral blocs because they represent the "development of civil society in Russia," ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, a poll released by the Public Opinion foundation the same day showed that Putin himself has little support: Only 1 percent would vote for him if the presidential elections were held now, and only 10 percent think he has any real chance of becoming president. PG ZHIRINOVSKII DENOUNCES ALL BLOCS AS 'PERVERSE.' Speaking on 27 August, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii said that "all the coalitions are perverse," especially those involving Yabloko. "They found pensioner Stepashin, who was kicked out of the Kremlin," he commented. He denounced Moscow Mayor Luzhkov's Fatherland as "a crazy house" in which "all the world's gangsters, drug addicts, prostitutes, and thieves" have been gathered. And he denounced Primakov as "a sick man who should not be assuming such a heavy burden as competing in parliamentary elections." PG COURT RULING TRIGGERS NEW PROTESTS IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA. Thousands of supporters of Cherkessk Mayor Stanislav Derev congregated on the town's central square on 27 August after the republic's Supreme Court ruled that the results of the 16 May presidential runoff are valid, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Derev had appealed the official election results, according to which he received only 20 percent of the vote and his rival, former Russian Army ground troops commander Vladimir Semenov, more than 70 percent (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol.2, No. 30, 30 July 1999). Derev's supporters attacked Semenov's jeep on 27 August as he was driving to a meeting with the republic's acting president, Valentin Vlasov. They continued their protest demonstration on 28 and 29 August in spite of a ban on such meetings issued by Vlasov on 27 August. Supporters of Derev, who is currently in Israel, met with Vlasov on 29 August in an attempt to defuse the situation. The next day, Caucasus Press reported that Derev's supporters will launch a campaign to split the republic into Karachai and Cherkess territories unless Vlasov's mandate is extended for four years. LF PUTIN VISITS DAGHESTAN. During his one-day visit to Daghestan on 27 August, Prime Minister Putin traveled with State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov to Botlikh Raion to meet with Russian troops who participated in the military operation against Islamic militants and to see first-hand the extent of the damage to local villages. Putin presented medals to an unknown number of Russian servicemen and Daghestani volunteers, expressing gratitude on behalf of the Russian people. But he also warned of the possibility of further attacks by the militants, underscoring that Moscow will continue trying to negotiate peacefully with the Chechen leadership. On 27 August, the Russian government approved 100 million rubles ($4.1 million) in emergency reconstruction aid for Daghestan and 12 million rubles to assist displaced persons, ITAR-TASS reported. LF RUSSIAN FORCES TARGET RENEGADE VILLAGES. Russian Interior Ministry troops in Daghestan engaged in what are euphemistically known as "mopping up" operations. They began confiscating weapons on the morning of 29 August from the inhabitants of the villages of Kara-makhi and Chaban-makhi in Daghestan's Buinaksk Raion. They then launched artillery and air strikes against the villages later the same day, apparently on the assumption that some of the Islamist guerrillas had taken refuge there. The inhabitants of the two villages are devout Muslims who proclaimed an independent Islamic territory in August 1998 but retracted that declaration after receiving assurances from the Daghestan leadership that they would not be punished for their proclamation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 1998). They told journalists from "Nezavisimaya gazeta" at that time that they needed weapons to protect themselves against reprisals by Daghestani officials. LF INCUMBENT AHEAD IN SVERDLOVSK BALLOT. According to preliminary results, incumbent Governor Eduard Rossel won 39 percent of the vote in the 29 August gubernatorial ballot in Sverdlovsk, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. Aleksandr Burkov, an oblast legislative assembly deputy and leader of the leftist regional movement May, came second with 18 percent, beating out Rossel's expected challenger in the run- off elections, Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii, who polled only 15.4 percent. Turnout was estimated at 41 percent. The oblast Election Commission chairman told reporters that the run-off is likely to take place on 12 September. JC MOSCOW REMAINS CONCERNED ABOUT KOSOVA STANDOFF. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright by telephone on 29 August that Moscow remains concerned about what he called "provocations against the Russian contingent of peacekeepers," Reuters reported. His comments follow a Russian Foreign Ministry statement on 27 August that Moscow will respond "properly" to armed provocations "regardless of who stages them," Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Russian, Dutch, and German officers failed to end the standoff between Albanian and Russian forces in the city of Orahovac, ITAR-TASS reported. PG YELTSIN TO VISIT BEIJING IN FALL. The official Xinhua news agency said on 28 August that Russian President Boris Yeltsin will visit Beijing sometime this fall for meetings with Chinese leader Jiang Zemin. Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 27 August that the Rosvooruzhenie arms exporting firm has reached agreement to sell 60 Su-30 fighters to the Chinese government. China bought 22 Su-27 planes in 1996. PG RUSSIA PREPARED TO LEASE AIR DEFENSE SYSTEMS TO CIS COUNTRIES. General Anatolii Kornukov, Russia's air force commander in chief, told ITAR-TASS on 27 August that Moscow is now prepared to provide anti-aircraft systems and fighters to CIS countries on a "long-term lease" basis. He said that talks are already under way with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and others. PG 'MIR' ENDS ACTIVE LIFE. On 27 August, the last regular crew of "Mir" shut down the space station's major systems and began their return to earth. The crew landed safely on 28 August. The victim of funding shortages, "Mir" will be programmed to crash into the Pacific in February 2000. PG LIVSHITS SAYS G-8 SUMMIT MAY BE HELD IN RUSSIA IN 2003. Aleksandr Livshits, Moscow's envoy to the G-8, told NTV on 29 August that the leaders of the major industrialized countries now support holding one of their summits in Moscow or St. Petersburg, possibly in 2003, Interfax reported. PG RUSSIANS REMAIN DIVIDED ON BURYING LENIN. According to a nationwide poll conducted by the Public Opinion foundation, 47 percent of Russians oppose burying Lenin, while 33 percent support that idea, Interfax reported. Supporters of Yabloko's Yavlinskii are most strongly in favor of burying Lenin and the others interred on Red Square (52 percent for, 35 percent against), while backers of Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov are most opposed (13 percent for, 70 percent against). PG HARE KRISHNA TEMPLE IN MOSCOW ATTACKED. Ten to 15 unidentified youths broke into the Hare Krishna temple in the Russian capital on 28 August and beat those who were inside praying, Interfax-Moscow reported. The news agency said that the police are currently looking for those responsible. PG NIKITIN APPEALS TO EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT. Aleksandr Nikitin, a retired Russian navy officer who has been indicted for allegedly passing classified information to a Norwegian environmental group, has now appealed to the European Human Rights Court, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 August. In October 1995, the authorities charged Nikitin with high treason for allegedly divulging secret information about radiation leakages in the Russian Northern Fleet. In October 1998, a St. Petersburg court returned the case to prosecutors for further investigation. PG RUSSIA MAY HAVE 2 MILLION HIV CASES BY 2002. Russian medical experts said that the AIDS epidemic in Russia is becoming a "national catastrophe," Interfax reported on 29 August. They said 5,000 new cases of HIV infection were reported in the first half of 1999, more than the total reported for 1998. And they added that under a worse case scenario, the number of people infected with HIV may rise to 2 million by 2002. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES AUSTERITY MEASURES. Deputies voted overwhelmingly on 28 August to endorse the measures that Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian proposed in late July to bridge an anticipated 31 billion dram ($58 million) budget shortfall, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Those measures include higher excise duties on gasoline and cigarettes and cuts in some infrastructure projects and non-essential expenditures in the social and education sectors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July and 19 August 1999). In addition, the government needs to divert more than 17 billion drams toward paying state enterprises' debts to the energy sector. The IMF and World Bank have said that disbursement of some $55 million in new loans is contingent on that latter step. LF DATE SET FOR TRIAL OF ARMENIAN FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER. The trial will begin in a Yerevan district court on 9 September of former Yerevan Mayor and Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 27 August. Siradeghian is charged with ordering several contract killings in 1994-1996 when he was interior minister. Some 229 people will be summoned as witnesses in the trial, which the presiding judge Samvel Torosian denies is politically motivated. The previous Armenian parliament voted in February to strip Siradeghian, chairman of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement, of his deputy's immunity. The previous month, it had failed to raise the majority needed to do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January and 18 February 1999). LF ARMENIA SENDS EARTHQUAKE RELIEF TO TURKEY. The Armenian government dispatched a plane load of emergency supplies, including medication and mobile generating stations, to Turkey on 27 August for victims of the 17 August earthquake, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Turkish authorities failed to respond to the Armenian government's earlier offer to send a rescue team (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1999). LF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION SLAMS PRESIDENT'S KARABAKH POLICY... The Movement for Democracy, which is composed of 23 opposition parties, issued a statement on 27 August announcing it will begin protest actions on 10 September against what it termed President Heidar Aliev's "defeatist policy" aimed at resolving the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. The previous day, the opposition Democratic Congress had issued a statement in which it rejected as a "violation of national interests" the proposal contained in the most recent OSCE Minsk Group Karabakh peace plan whereby Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic form a "common state." The statement called for Armenia's immediate compliance with four 1993 UN Security Council resolutions on Karabakh demanding the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territory. It also argued that autonomy for Nagorno-Karabakh should be balanced by autonomous status for the estimated 200,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis who fled Armenia in 1988. LF ...AS SUPPORT GROWS FOR HUNGER STRIKE. Some 180 members of Ashraf Mehtiev's Geyrat Party staged a one-day hunger strike on 28 August as a gesture of solidarity with nine members of the opposition Coordination Council on Karabakh who began fasting on 23 August to demand Armenia's compliance with the four UN Security Council resolutions, Turan reported. The hunger-strikers have also condemned the 22 August meeting in Geneva between President Aliev and his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, and have demanded that Aliev make public the content of those talks. Several opposition party leaders, editors of several independent and opposition newspapers, and the heads of two independent journalists' unions met with the hunger-strikers on 27 August. LF GEORGIA DECIDES TO REQUEST EXTENSION OF CIS PEACEKEEPERS' MANDATE. Meeting behind closed doors on 29 August, Georgia's National Security Council approved extending the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under a CIS mandate along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. The force's mandate expired on 31 July and must be renewed by CIS heads of state at their next summit, scheduled for October. Revaz Adamia, chairman of the parliamentary committee on defense and security, had argued last week that the peacekeepers' withdrawal could precipitate a new outbreak of fighting. According to Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, the Security Council decision to approve an extension of the peacekeepers' mandate is conditional on their redeployment throughout Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion and the southern part of neighboring Ochamchire Raion. CIS heads of state had endorsed that deployment in March 1997, but the Abkhaz authorities opposed it (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 1997). LF FOUR HOSTAGES RELEASED IN KYRGYZSTAN. The Islamic militants who seized several villages in Kyrgyzstan's Osh Oblast last week released four of their hostages late on 28 August. The four released hostages confirmed that the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry general and the four Japanese geologists taken hostage on 22-23 August are still alive. On 27 August, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev issued a decree on mobilizing reservists, some 2,000 of whom were sent the following day to fight the militants. Meeting with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev in Osh on 28 August, the defense, foreign, and security ministers of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan offered assistance, including sending troops to neutralize the guerrillas. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman had told ITAR-TASS on 27 August that the CIS Collective Security Treaty provides a legal basis for Russian participation in such an operation, but as of 28 August Moscow had not officially responded to Bishkek's appeal for Russian military assistance. LF UZBEK PLANES KILL KYRGYZ VILLAGERS IN BOMBING RAID. President Akaev told journalists in Bishkek on 30 August that 12 Kyrgyz villagers were killed and 40 homes damaged in a bombing raid by Uzbek aircraft on villages in the Chong-Alai district of Osh Oblast on 29 August, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Subsequent reports give a lower death toll. Uzbek aircraft had mistakenly bombed Kyrgyz territory two weeks earlier in a similar attempt to destroy the guerrilla band (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 August 1999). Akaev sent Prime Minister Amangeldy Muraliev and Presidential Administration Defense and Security Department head General Bolot Djanuzakov to Osh to assess the situation. In Tokyo, a cabinet spokesman told journalists on 30 August that Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi has written to the presidents of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan requesting their assistance in locating and releasing the four Japanese hostages, ITAR-TASS reported. LF U.S. WATCHDOG PROTESTS HARASSMENT OF KYRGYZ NEWSPAPER OWNER. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has written to President Akaev to protest the harassment by the Kyrgyz State Tax Police of Aleksandr Kim, owner and chief editor of the independent daily "Vechernii Bishkek," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 28 August, citing the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights. The State Tax police opened a criminal case against Kim last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 1999). LF THREE KILLED IN TAJIK SHOOTOUT. Three people were killed and nine wounded on 29 August during a 10-minute gun battle in a Dushanbe market between Tajik Interior Ministry forces and guards to the Commission for National Reconciliation, Reuters and Interfax reported. The reason for the clash is not known. 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. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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