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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 171, Part I, 2 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 171, Part I, 2 September 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 * IVANOV SAYS MOSCOW WON'T TOLERATE WEST'S 'CASTING SHADOW' ON RUSSIA... * ...WARNS RUSSIA WILL PROTECT ITS INTERESTS IN CAUCASUS * AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT BLASTS OSCE FOR INACTIVITY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA IVANOV SAYS MOSCOW WON'T TOLERATE WEST'S 'CASTING SHADOW' ON RUSSIA. Speaking to students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations on 1 September, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the Russian government will not accept "the use of unverified facts to cast a shadow on our country," Interfax reported. While acknowledging that corruption remains a problem in Russia, Ivanov said the current manner of addressing it in "some Western mass media is not about fighting corruption but rather targeted politics." He said that the entire scandal about "Russian money laundering" had been developed by "certain circles that do not want Russia to reclaim its role as a great power in the international arena." PG SCANDAL COVERAGE DOMINATES MOSCOW PRESS. Russian newspapers continued to focus on the money-laundering scandal. "Segodnya" said "Russia has no place to retreat to in the bank scandal-- next are economic sanctions." It quoted Our Home Is Russia faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov as saying that "Russia shouldn't pretend that it doesn't notice anything" and that Moscow should investigate the charges fully Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" said that "the investigation of the Russian financial scandal has already had one result--a blow to the reputation of all domestic banks and companies." PG RUBLE FALLS OWING TO U.S. PLAN TO PROBE IMF LOANS. The ruble fell sharply against the dollar on 1 September following a statement by U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers that Washington will not support the extension of any new IMF credits to Russia until there has been an examination of what happened to earlier monies sent to Moscow, Interfax reported. Aleksandr Livshits, Moscow's special envoy to international financial institutions, said he is bewildered by Summers's statement: "I am not sure at the moment what Summers wants to check," he told Interfax. And First Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin said on 1 September that he believes Summers's statement reflects political pressures in the U.S. PG FOREIGN MINISTRY ACCUSES U.S. OF KOSOVA COVER-UP. In a statement released on 1 September, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused U.S. forces of engaging in a month-long cover-up of the murder of 15 ethnic Serbs there, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement said that "we are speaking about an odious occurrence" involving the concealment of a crime committed in the village of Ugljar, which is within the U.S. zone of responsibility. The statement said Moscow believes that "this cover-up must be a subject of detailed discussion at the upcoming UN Security Council meeting." But the Russian news agency said there has been no progress in resolving the stand-off between Russian troops and ethnic Albanians in Rahovec. PG YELTSIN OUTRAGED BY MANEZH EXPLOSION. Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told Interfax on 31 August that Boris Yeltsin is outraged by what he called the barbaric terrorist act at Moscow's Manezh square Shopping mall. Mayor Yurii Luzhkov was equally angry: he called the still-unidentified attackers "beasts" and said that "these people need to be shot," ITAR-TASS reported on 1 September. The authorities reported finding materials linking the bombing to an anti- consumer goods group called the Union of Revolutionary Writers, about which no one has heard until now. But various officials suggested that those responsible might range from the Chechens to economic or political groups in the Russian capital. In Grozny, Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Kazbek Makhashev denied any Chechen involvement in the bombing, Interfax reported. PG/LF AIR FORCE SETS UP SPECIAL UNITS POR NORTH CAUCASUS FIGHTING. The Russian air force has established several experimental units as part of its effort to combat guerrillas in the North Caucasus, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 September, citing a source in the defense industry. These groups will include specially outfitted Mi-24 gunships and Mi-8 cargo helicopters. PG IVANOV WARNS RUSSIA WILL PROTECT ITS INTERESTS IN CAUCASUS... Foreign Minister Ivanov told journalists in Moscow on 1 September that "Russia has been and will be a power in the Caucasus" and that conflicts in the region will not be resolved without Russian input or to the detriment of Russian interests, Interfax reported. He said it is in Russia' s interest to develop comprehensive, balanced and mutually beneficial relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. He added that Moscow expects those countries to cooperate in helping to fight terrorism in Daghestan, which, he said, poses a threat to the Transcaucasus as well as Russia. Sergeev said Russian will continue playing an effective peacekeeping role in Georgia, and he welcomed the dialogue between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. But he also warned that Russia "will draw the appropriate conclusions" if the GUUAM alignment, of which both Georgia and Azerbaijan are members, "becomes explicitly military by nature." Ivanov departs on 2 September for a tour of all three South Caucasus states, but he admitted that he does not anticipate "any breakthroughs" during his talks there. LF ...SLAMS BAKU-CEYHAN, TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINES. Also on 1 September, Ivanov questioned the economic viability of the oil export pipeline from Baku to Ceyhan and that of the planned Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, arguing that if those projects were indeed viable, work on their implementation would have begun long ago. Ivanov said that no pipeline routes are a priori unacceptable to Moscow, but they become so if political, rather than economic, considerations prevail to Russia's disadvantage, according to Interfax. Ivanov added that the presence of military bases in Georgia is in the interests of that country. LF RUSSIAN FORCES TAKE KARAMAKHI. Russian and Daghestani Interior Ministry forces took control of the village of Karamakhi in Daghestan's Buinaksk Raion late on 1 September after hours of heavy fighting, Russian agencies reported. The following day, they also took the village of Chabanmakhi, Caucasus Press reported, quoting Russian Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Kolesnikov. In Moscow, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said operations are continuing in the district of Kadar. He predicted that the "second stage" of the Russian military operation in Daghestan will be completed "in the next few days." LF STALIN ELECTORAL BLOC APPLIES FOR REGISTRATION. The Central Election Commission on 1 September announced that it will review the registration application submitted by the electoral Stalin Bloc: Workers' Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. The new bloc is lead by Trudovaya Rossiya's Viktor Anpilov, the Union of Officers' Stanislav Terekhov, and the grandson of Joseph Stalin, Yevgenii Dzhugashvili. PG INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT, INFLATION RISE. The Ministry of Economics said industrial output in Russia grew by nearly 5.3 percent in the period from July to August 1999, compared with the same period in 1998, Interfax reported on 1 September. The ministry predicted that the 1999 annual inflation rate will be 45 percent, with real incomes falling 15-18 percent over that period. PG TAX POLICE OPEN CASES AGAINST THREE OIL COMPANIES. The Russian Federal Tax Police has opened criminal cases for tax evasion against Rosneft, Sidanko, and an unnamed third oil company, Interfax reported on 1 September. The police said the amounts of money involved are substantial. PG GOVERNMENT TO SEEK DUMA RATIFICATION OF START-2. Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov said the Russian government will press the State Duma to ratify the START-2 arms limitation treaty when the parliament resumes work later this month, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that "ratification of the START-2 treaty meets the interests of strategic stability," and he also called for proceeding with START-3 talks. PG MOSCOW PLEDGES NOT TO DUMP RADIOACTIVE WASTE INTO SEA OF JAPAN. Primore Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko said in Tokyo on 1 September that Russia will never dump liquid radioactive waste into the Sea of Japan, ITAR-TASS reported. He then cut short his visit to the Japanese capital because of the impact of torrential rains in his home area. PG RUSSIA SEIZE SIX TRYING TO SELL RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS. Authorities in Vladivostok arrested six people who sought to sell 6 kilograms of Uranium 238 and nickel to undercover officers, AP reported on 1 September. The six had stolen the material from a plant that repairs and dismantles nuclear submarines and wanted to sell it for $130,000. PG MOSCOW TO SELL TWO NUCLEAR SUBS TO CHINA. According to the "Hong Kong Standard," as reported by dpa on 1 September, China has reached a tentative agreement with Russia to purchase two Typhoon-class nuclear submarines. Such ships can carry up to 20 SSN-20 ballistic missiles with a maximum range of 8,300 kilometers. PG ITAR-TASS TRACES ITS ORIGINS TO NICHOLAS II. ITAR-TASS on 1 September marked what it said was its 95th birthday. According to a press release, today's ITAR-TASS began as the St. Petersburg Telegraph Agency with the approval of Tsar Nicholas II, who wanted the agency "to report within the Empire and abroad political, financial, economic, trade and other news of public interest." The St. Petersburg agency was renamed the Petrograd Telegraph Agency in 1914 and became the Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA) after the Communist revolution. It was rechristened TASS in 1925 and assumed its current name in January 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to ITAR-TASS, it is one of four world news agencies. Its motto is: "Accuracy and Efficiency First!" PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA. Visiting Tokyo on 29-31 August at the head of a government delegation, Vartan Oskanian met with government and banking officials and the heads of major corporations to discuss establishing a Japanese-Armenian economic committee and improving bilateral relations, Noyan Tapan reported. On 31 August, Oskanian and his Japanese counterpart, Masahiko Komura, signed a joint communique pledging to boost ties through regular dialogue. Oskanian thanked Komura for Tokyo's economic assistance to Armenia and stressed the importance of a balanced approach toward the three South Caucasus states. He reaffirmed Armenia's commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the South Caucasus. On 1 September, Oskanian met with South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Hon Sun-Yeng in Seoul to discuss international and regional affairs and the prospects for political and economic cooperation. LF CONVICTED ARMENIAN NEWSPAPER EDITOR CONSIDERS SERVING PRISON TERM. Nikol Pashinian, who was sentenced to one year in jail on 31 August by a Yerevan district court, told a news conference on 1 September that he may considering going to jail, rather than appealing that sentence, as a gesture of protest against the present Armenian leadership, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 1999). Pashinian was found guilty of obstructing the police, of refusing to comply with a court order that he publish a retraction of materials printed in his newspaper, "Oragir," and of two counts of libel. The independent daily "Aravot" on 1 September condemned the sentence as "provincial-style repression," while National Democratic Union chairman Vazgen Manukian termed it "intimidation" that could set "a dangerous precedent." LF AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT BLASTS OSCE FOR INACTIVITY. Meeting in Baku on 1 September with Carey Cavanaugh, the new U.S. co- chairman to the OSCE Minsk Group, Heidar Aliev complained that the hopes generated by the 1997 appointment of U.S. and French co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group have not borne fruit and that the Minsk Group has been "passive" since last year, Turan reported. Aliev added that the Minsk Group's proposal that Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic form a "common state" is unacceptable to Baku as it constitutes a "concealed form" of recognition of the enclave's independence, according to ITAR-TASS. Cavanaugh had said at a meeting earlier on 1 September with Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov that he believes the recent meetings in Geneva between Aliev and his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, will contribute to the peace process, Turan reported. LF AZERBAIJAN'S DEFENSE MINISTER DENIES CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS OPENED AGAINST HIM. Safar Abiev told Turan on 1 September there is no truth to a report published that day in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" that the Azerbaijani military prosecutor has opened criminal proceedings against him. In July, President Aliev decreed the creation of a special commission to investigate the finances of the Defense Ministry following allegations that Abiev had engaged in embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 35, 26 August 1999). LF AZERBAIJANI, GEORGIAN PEACEKEEPING CONTINGENTS LEAVE FOR KOSOVA. An Azerbaijani platoon of 32 soldiers, together with one senior lieutenant and one warrant officer, and a Georgian platoon of 34 soldiers and one officer departed for Turkey on 1 September for one month's training with the Turkish army. Thereafter, the two detachments will be deployed in Kosova as part of the Turkish contingent with KFOR in the German sector, Turan and Caucasus Press reported on 1 September. The Georgian contingent will remain in Kosova for eight months. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 30 August that Georgia decided to participate in the Kosova peacekeeping operation partly as a matter of prestige and partly in the hope that the international community may decide to deploy a similar force in Abkhazia if one is needed, Caucasus Press reported. LF LEADING AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTIES DECIDE TO PARTICIPATE IN LOCAL ELECTIONS. Meeting in Baku on 1 September, the opposition parties united in the Democratic Congress, including the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party and the Musavat Party, announced they will field candidates in the 12 December local elections, Turan reported. The same day, Gerard Stoudman, who is director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, urged Azerbaijani parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov to amend the law on the Central Electoral Commission to ensure that all political forces are represented on that body. Stoudman also offered assistance in drafting amendments to the law on municipal elections to "eliminate ambiguities," according to Turan, and urged Alesqerov to bring other legislation into line with OSCE principles. Opposition representatives claim that the municipal election law is undemocratic. But Alesqerov insisted to Stoudman that it takes account of recommendations by the OSCE and other international organizations and complies with international standards. LF CUSTOMS OFFICER SHOT DEAD IN ABKHAZIA. One Abkhaz customs officer was shot dead and three wounded in an ambush on 1 September, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. The incident took place 5 kilometers from the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia in the security zone patrolled by CIS peacekeepers. A local Abkhaz official blamed Georgian guerrillas for the shootings. The previous day, an Abkhaz military court sentenced a Georgian to death on charges of organizing terrorist attacks in Tkvarcheli in January 1998, Interfax reported. Two other Georgians received prison sentences of 12 and 15 years. LF GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS OPPOSE EXTENSION OF PEACEKEEPERS' MANDATE. Vakhtang Orzhonia, who is a spokesman for ethnic Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war and who now live in Zugdidi Raion, told Caucasus Press on 1 September that the displaced persons are unhappy with the Georgian leadership's 29 August decision to endorse an extension of the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 1999). The displaced persons have no faith in the peacekeepers' ability to guarantee the safety of Georgians wishing to return to Abkhazia. Orzhonia said the displaced persons will register their dissatisfaction with the Georgian leadership's decision when casting their votes in the 31 October parliamentary election. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT LOOKS AHEAD TO ELECTIONS... Addressing a parliamentary session on 1 September, Nursultan Nazarbaev said that Kazakhstan will enter the 21st century "as a country respecting democratic principles," RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. He said the parliamentary elections scheduled for 17 September and 10 October will be held according to "real democratic principles." But Nazarbaev warned that unnamed politicians contending the poll have no creative programs and seek only to satisfy personal ambitions that might "lead to the collapse of the Kazakhstan"s unity, its sovereignty, and statehood." In a possible allusion to former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin, whose participation in the poll is uncertain, Nazarbaev castigated "those who want revenge,...politicians who used to be officials until just recently, and who failed to meet their duties and obligations, who committed numerous mistakes." LF ...ASSESSES ECONOMY. While giving an overall positive assessment of the country's economic performance in 1999, Nazarbaev criticized the cabinet and the National Bank for what he termed "tactical mistakes" in 1998 and 1999, in particular the de facto devaluation of the national currency in April of this year. "It was a big mistake to let the tenge float," Nazarbaev said. He called on the cabinet and National Bank to formulate a more flexible and fruitful policy in keeping with the current world economic situation. Given the impact of world economic processes on Kazakhstan's economy, he said, it is inappropriate to continue implementing reforms in the pension and taxation systems. Nazarbaev downplayed fears of a further deterioration of the economic situation, affirming that "there will be no hunger and cold in Kazakhstan. We will pay our debts," Reuters reported. LF ELEVEN POLITICAL PARTIES REGISTERED FOR KAZAKH PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. Speaking at a press conference in Astana on 1 September, Central Electoral Commission chairwoman Zaghipa Balieva said that a total of 11 political parties have registered to contend the 10 October elections to the lower house of the parliament, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. Ten of the 77 seats in the lower house will be allocated under the proportional (party list) system. According to Nazarbaev, an average of nine candidates will compete for each seat in the lower house, while 35 candidates will contest the 16 seats in the Senate (upper house) elections on 17 September. LF KAZAKH, RUSSIAN OFFICIALS BEGIN TALKS ON BORDER DEMARCATION. The first round of Kazakh-Russian talks on delineating the state frontier between the two countries opened in Moscow on 31 August, RFE/RL's Kazakh service reported the following day, citing a Kazakh Foreign Ministry press release. LF UZBEK GUERRILLAS IN KYRGYZSTAN RELEASE ANOTHER HOSTAGE... Late on 1 September, the Uzbek guerrillas entrenched in southern Kyrgyzstan released another of the Kyrgyz police officers they took hostage 10 days earlier, Reuters reported. They continue to hold 13 hostages, including four Japanese geologists and a Kyrgyz Interior Ministry general. National Guard commander Abdygul Chotbaev told RFE/RL in Bishkek on 1 September that there has been no fighting between Kyrgyz forces and the guerrillas for several days. He added that several residents of villages in Batken and Chon-Alai Raions that are occupied by the guerrillas have managed to escape. LF ...AMID CONFUSION OVER THEIR OBJECTIVES. Kyrgyzstan's acting Defense Minister General Esen Topoev said in Bishkek on 2 September that the guerrillas have still not made any demands on the Kyrgyz leadership, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. On 31 August, a man claiming to be a spokesman for Tohir Yuldashev, military commander of the Uzbek Islamic Movement, told the BBC that the guerrillas want to exchange their hostages for members of the Uzbek Islamic Movement currently imprisoned in Uzbekistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September 1999). LF RUSSIA, UZBEKISTAN DISCUSS RESPONSE TO KYRGYZ HOSTAGE CRISIS. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev flew to Tashkent on 1 September at President Yeltsin's behest to discuss the Kyrgyz hostage taking with President Islam Karimov. He told Interfax on arriving in Tashkent that "it will be very difficult to solve the problem of Islamic extremism and terrorism in Central Asia if regional leaders do not coordinate their moves." Sergeev later told journalists that a special team of military experts from Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan has been charged with assessing the situation, including the number of the guerrillas, and formulating a plan of action. He added that Russia will supply Kyrgyzstan with arms, ammunition, Su-24 bombers and Su-25 fighter aircraft and teach Kyrgyz troops how to wage war in mountain conditions, according to Interfax. Sergeev stressed that "Uzbekistan, the largest Central Asian state, cannot distance itself from the situation in Kyrgyzstan." LF UZBEKISTAN CELEBRATES INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY. In a 1 September address to the people of Uzbekistan to mark the eighth anniversary of the country's independence, President Karimov said "we will have to do a lot of work and overcome numerous obstacles" in order to achieve the country's top priority of creating " a just and civilized democratic society," Interfax reported. LF TAJIK OPPOSITION TO NOMINATE JOINT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE? At a five-hour meeting in Dushanbe on 31 August, representatives of the political parties and movements aligned in the United Tajik Opposition agreed that they will each nominate a candidate for the upcoming presidential elections, ITAR-TASS reported the following day. They will then agree on a single candidate to represent the opposition in that poll. 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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