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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 172, Part I, 3 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 172, Part I, 3 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 * BOMB SCARES CONTINUE IN MOSCOW * MEDIA MINISTRY SUSPENDS ST. PETE TV COMPANY * OSCE TO MONITOR PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA BOMB SCARES CONTINUE IN MOSCOW. The Federal Security Service (FSB) said on 2 September that it has not yet arrested all those responsible for the 31 August bombing of the Manezh shopping center, adding that telephone calls to the service by the public have failed to give any real leads. Russian agencies reported. But Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo took the unusual step of asking the press not to belabor suggestions that the Chechens were behind the bombing, Interfax said. Even as that investigation continued, a suspicious-looking object thought to be a bomb was discovered in a Moscow railroad station, but after the station was evacuated, the authorities announced there had been a false alarm. And in an apparently unrelated incident, a World War II landmine was found and then removed from near a Moscow Jewish school, Interfax reported. Caucasus Press on 2 September quoted AFP as reporting that the self-styled Liberation Army of Daghestan has claimed responsibility for the bombing and pledged to continue acts of terrorism in Russian until all Russian forces are withdrawn from Daghestan. PG/LF MORE CHARGES, DENIALS IN SCANDAL STORY. The Bank of New York money-laundering scandal continued to reverberate through the Russian media as well as among Russian politicians. Russian Interior Minister Rushailo said the money-laundering scandal was political in both Russia and the U.S., Interfax reported on 2 September. Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev echoed his words, saying that the scandal reflects American politics more than the campaigns in Russia itself, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko said that the scandal is about theft rather than economics, adding that if crimes are uncovered, "steps must be taken, if [those crimes are] unconfirmed, apologies must be made." And Russian prosecutors said they may soon send a team to New York to expand their investigations. PG U.S. WILL BACK MORE IMF LOANS TO RUSSIA, ITAR-TASS SAYS. The Russian news agency reported on 2 September that an anonymous U.S. Treasury Department official has said that Washington will continue to back IMF loans to Russia and that it is not going to block a future IMF tranche to Moscow. That comment comes on the heels of a statement by Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who said Washington will not back more loans until there is "an adequate accounting" of how earlier monies have been spent. PG FSB DIRECTOR SEES 'NO GROUNDS' FOR EMERGENCY RULE. Nikolai Patrushev told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 2 September that "there are no grounds" for introducing a state of emergency" in Russia. PG MEDIA MINISTRY SUSPENDS ST. PETE TV COMPANY. Mikhail Lesin, the minister who oversees the media in Russia, on 2 September lifted the license of Petersburg Television after the latter broadcast a program that he said was pre-election propaganda, ITAR-TASS reported. The program had first appeared on Russian Public Television, for which ORT had received a warning from the ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 1999). Lesin said the station will get its license back if it submits a written explanation of why and how it broadcast the offending program and what steps it has taken to prevent a repetition, Interfax noted. PG ZADORNOV RESIGNS AS SPECIAL ENVOY TO INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL ORGANIZATIONS. Mikhail Zadornov, President Boris Yeltsin's special envoy to the IMF and other financial organizations, told a Moscow press conference on 2 September that he is resigning from that post and will run for the Duma as part of the Yabloko movement. He said that he leaves the position satisfied with Moscow's work in implementing the IMF program but added that he believes he can do more for the country in politics. PG RUSSIAN RUBLE FALLS, GDP DOWN, BUDGET DEFICIT STABLE. The Russian ruble fell to 25.87 against the dollar, Russian news agencies reported on 2 September. That was a record low for the Unified Trading Session, Interfax said, surpassing the rate of 25.29 to $1 registered on 9 August. Interfax experts said that a $400 million drop in Russia's gold and hard- currency reserves from 20-27 August had limited the ability of the Central Bank to intervene in the currency markets. Meanwhile, the Russian Statistics Agency said Russia's GDP shrank by 1 percent in the first half of 1999, compared with the same period the previous year. And the federal budget deficit was 45.5 billion rubles ($1.8 billion) for the first six months of 1999, compared with 46.2 billion in the same period of 1998. PG STROEV SAYS BUDGET TO BE SIGNIFICANTLY REVISED. Federation Council Speaker Stroev told Interfax on 2 September that the parliament will significantly revise the government's draft budget. He suggested that there will have to be more money for agriculture and the military, among other changes. PG ANTI-WESTERN ATTITUDES FADE IN RUSSIA. Yurii Levada, the director of the VTSIOM public opinion research center, told a Moscow press conference on 2 September that the wave of anti- Western feelings that were provoked by NATO's campaign in Kosova are now fading, Reuters reported. In March, 49 percent of Russians thought "badly" or "very badly" of the U.S., Levada said, while in August, 49 percent had a positive attitude and only 32 percent a negative view. PG U.S. NOT TO TIGHTEN IMMIGRATION POLICIES. Interfax reported on 1 September that US Consul General in Moscow Laura Clerici said Washington has no plans "to toughen" its immigration policies toward Russia as a result of the scandal over "Russian money-laundering" there. Clerici added that 11,000 Russians emigrated to the U.S. in 1998, and she added that in her estimation, most Russian emigrants are "quite law- abiding." PG POLL FINDS PRIMAKOV NOT INCREASING FATHERLAND BLOC POPULARITY. Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's decision to join the Fatherland-All-Russia electoral bloc has not led to the increased popularity some had expected, according to a poll conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Center and reported by Interfax on 3 September. PG STEPASHIN IMPLIES HE WON'T RUN FOR PRESIDENT NEXT YEAR. Former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin told "Obshchaya gazeta" on 2 September that he is "not running for the [State] Duma symbolically, the way some election bloc leaders are," but rather to serve out his term there "if fate does not decree otherwise." While the last clause gives him an escape hatch, his assertion that he plans to serve a full term in the Duma would appear to rule out a run for president in 2000. PG LUZHKOV SAYS DEMOCRACY IMPOSSIBLE WITH MASSIVE POVERTY. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said that the creation of a democratic state will be impossible in Russia as long as half of the population lives below the poverty line, while 5-10 percent of the people account for 90 percent of the country's wealth, Interfax reported on 2 September. He said that new government policies could rectify the situation quickly. PG GOVERNMENT OFFERS TO ASSUME MANAGEMENT OF SIDANKO DEBT. The Russian Fuel and Energy Ministry and the Federal Service for Financial Recovery and Bankruptcy have offered to assume management of Sidanko's debts, Interfax reported on 2 September. But the offer does not include any guarantee of repayment. PG YELTSIN, LUCINSCHI AGREE ON TRADE PACT. Russian President Yeltsin and his Moldovan counterpart, Petru Lucinschi, met in Moscow on 2 September and signed a 10-year economic cooperation accord. They also agreed to work toward a pact that would hasten the implementation of the 1995 agreement on Russian withdrawal from the Transdniester region, ITAR-TASS reported. PG MOVEMENT ON RAHOVEC? The Kosova Temporary Council, a consultative body under the UN mission to Kosova, announced on 2 September that it will dispatch international policemen to Rahovec and decide "with the Russians what should be done next," ITAR-TASS reported. This decision appears to defuse somewhat the standoff between Russian forces and the Albanians in Rahovec. PG SERGEEV SAYS MOSCOW'S MILITARY TIES NOT AGAINST THIRD PARTIES. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said in Seoul on 2 September that Russia's military-technical ties with other countries are in no way directed against third countries, Interfax reported. At the same time, Sergeev said that Moscow will work with South Korea to limit the impact of North Korea's missile program. PG MOSCOW DENIES SALE OF SUBMARINES TO CHINA. The Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax on 2 September that despite press reports to the contrary, "no talks are being held or could be held on the delivery of two Russian nuclear submarines to China. This is an absolute falsehood." But Rosvooruzhenie, the Russian state arms trading company, refused to comment on the reports that had appeared in Hong Kong the previous day. PG MOSCOW PRESSES TEHRAN ON GUSINSKII VISIT. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 1 September told Iran's ambassador to Moscow that Moscow backs Russian Jewish Congress President Vladimir Gusinskii's request for a visa to visit Tehran in order to attend a trial there of 13 Iranian Jews charged with spying for Israel, Interfax reported. PG RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS FIRE ON TAIWANESE SHIP. Russian border guard units fired on a Taiwanese ship caught poaching near the Kuril Islands, Interfax reported on 2 September. Later the Russian guards boarded both boats and towed them into port. Meanwhile, Russian fishermen lodged a protest against the U.S. Coast Guard for its actions in limiting Russian fishing in what they called their economic zone, Interfax- Eurasia reported on 2 September. PG RUSSIA TO SELL FIGHTER-BOMBERS TO ALGERIA. The Novosibirsk Aircraft-building Association told Interfax on 1 September that it will sell three Su-24 fighter-bombers to Algeria for $12 million. The contract was arranged by the Promeksport company. PG RUSSIAN POPULATION SEEN DECLINING FURTHER. The population of the Russian Federation declined by 406,200 during the first six months of 1999, Interfax reported on 2 September, citing a report by the Russian Statistics Agency. That decline has led the agency to predict that the Russian population will fall by 8 million by 2016. At present, every 100 Russian women have only 124 children, 111 fewer than the rate needed to keep the population stable. PG KOMI REPUBLIC TO JOIN BARENTS SEA COUNCIL. A Finnish official told Interfax on 1 September that the Barents Euro-Arctic Council will admit the Republic of Komi at one of its future sessions. The council, an intergovernmental body, currently includes Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the Russian Federation. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA, KAZAKHSTAN PLEDGE TO BOOST ECONOMIC TIES. On a one- day visit to Astana on 2 September, Robert Kocharian met with his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev, to discuss bilateral relations, Interfax and Noyan Tapan reported. Both presidents noted that there are no outstanding political differences between their countries but agreed on the need to expand bilateral trade, which currently totals less that $1.5 million annually. Kocharian noted that Armenia could supply food products and equipment to Kazakhstan, purchasing grain and raw materials in return. He also said Armenia is interested in gaining observer status within the Central Asian Cooperation Organization. A friendship and cooperation agreement and an agreement to establish a joint commission for economic cooperation were signed during the visit. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT WILLING TO AMEND LOCAL ELECTION LAW. Meeting in Baku on 1 September with Gerard Stoudmann, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Heidar Aliev expressed willingness to accept the OSCE's recommendations for amendments to the controversial law on municipal elections, which opposition parties claim is undemocratic. But Aliev predicted that problems might occur during the municipal elections, which are scheduled for 12 December. Azerbaijan parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov told Stoudmann earlier that day that the law takes account of recommendations by the OSCE and other international organizations and complies with international standards (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1999). Also on 2 September, the political parties represented in the Movement for Electoral Reform and Democratic Elections said they will monitor the municipal elections, Turan reported. LF GEORGIAN MINISTERS MEET WITH CHECHEN VICE PRESIDENT. Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanizde and Georgian Intelligence chief Avtandil Ioseliani met on 31 August in Tbilisi with Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov, who is recuperating in Tbilisi from spinal surgery, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported on 2 September. The talks focused on allegations made by Arsanov last week that Russian special services are recruiting Chechens who will be sent to destabilize Georgia's Black Sea autonomous republic of Adjaria in order to create a pretext for Russian military intervention there. Arsanov said the Chechen leadership will do all in its power to thwart those plans. Speaking at a press conference in Batumi on 31 August, Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze downplayed Arsanov's statement, commenting that Russia has no interest in destabilizing the situation in his republic, according to Caucasus Press. LF RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS AZERBAIJAN. On the first leg of a three-day tour of the South Caucasus, Igor Ivanov held talks in Baku on 2 September with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Tofik Zulfugarov, Prime Minister Artur Rasizade and President Aliev. Ivanov tried hard to convince his interlocutors that Russia "is taking very seriously criticism of its Caucasus polices by the Azerbaijani leadership" and wants to develop equitable relations with all three South Caucasus states, according to Interfax. Aliev, for his part, criticized Moscow's military cooperation with Armenia and the failure of the OSCE Minsk Group, of which Russia is a co- chairman, to make progress toward resolving the Karabakh conflict. But Aliev characterized relations between the two countries as "friendly," despite their disagreements. Rasizade said relations with Russia "will remain a priority" for Baku. LF OSCE TO MONITOR PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN. Senior OSCE official Linda Edgeworth told journalists in Almaty on 2 September that the organization will send a full mission to monitor the parliamentary elections on 17 September and 10 October, Reuters and Interfax reported. The OSCE had declined to send such a mission to monitor the January 1999 presidential elections on the grounds that the election law did not create equal conditions for all candidates. Edgeworth noted improvements to that law to ensure the accuracy of the vote tally. But she expressed concern over the practice of invoking administrative offenses to bar potential candidates from running and over restrictions on freedom of speech. Edgeworth stressed that sending an observers' mission does not constitute approval of the conditions under which the elections are held. LF KAZAKHSTAN STILL PLANS TO SELL TENGIZCHEVROIL STAKE... Chevron Oil Company President Richard Matzke told journalists in Atyrau on 2 September that Kazakhstan's government has informed Chevron of its intention to proceed with the planned sale of part of its 25 percent stake in the Tengizchevroil consortium, Interfax reported. That consortium was created in 1994 to exploit the country's largest oilfield. LF ...DESPITE GROWING OPPOSITION. Meanwhile, more senior Kazakh officials have expressed reservations over the planned sale. Uzaqbay Qarabalin, acting president of the state oil company KazakhOil, whose predecessor Nurlan Qapparov was fired 10 days ago for opposing the sale, said on 2 September that the sell-off is "shortsighted" and will weaken KazakhOil. At the same time, he admitted that KazakhOil has no choice but to bow to the government's decision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August and 1 September 1999). Marat Ospanov, chairman of the lower house of the parliament, said that selling part of the stake in Tengizchevroil is not the right way to solve Kazakhstan's financial problems, according to Interfax on 2 September. He pointed out that the value of the 10 percent stake in question may double within 2-3 years from the present $1-1.5 billion. On 1 September, Kazakhstan's Energy, Industry, and Trade Minister Mukhtar Ablyazov told Interfax that the value of Kazakhstan's stake in Tengizchevroil is likely to increase significantly. But he pointed out that the country must repay about $900 million in foreign debts this year. LF KAZAKH OPPOSITION CLAIMS MORE STATE COMPANIES TO BE SOLD OFF. Leaders of the Democratic Azamat (Freedom) Party told a press conference in Almaty on 2 September that the planned sale of part of Kazakhstan's stake in Tengizchevroil is only the first step in what they termed the distribution of state property among the ruling class, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. Party chairman Ghalym Abelseitov said government sources have informed him that the Aqtobe- Munay and Aqtau-Munay oil companies, the Qazaq-Mys copper smelter, the National Bank of Kazakhstan, and KazTeleCom will also be put up for tender. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S STATE PUBLISHING HOUSE REFUSES TO PRINT SOME LOCAL NEWSPAPERS. Following last month's decision by the Kazakh government to suspend financing most official newspapers, the state publishing house in Almaty is refusing to publish some local newspapers, RFE/RL correspondents in the former capital reported on 2 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1999). Although some newspapers have secured alternative sources of funding, they cannot find another publisher. LF KYRGYZ LEADERSHIP DISCUSSES HOSTAGE CRISIS. President Askar Akaev chaired a meeting with power ministers on 2 September to discuss how to deal with the threat posed by ethnic Uzbek militants still holding some 13 hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan. Akaev insisted that those hostages must be freed unharmed. He ordered the army to set up road blocks to prevent the militants advancing further north and charged the government with providing all necessary assistance to villagers who fled or have been evacuated. Also on 2 September, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Silaev told journalists in Bishkek that preparations are being made for a protracted standoff with the guerrillas. Silaev, who held talks in Moscow with Russian government officials earlier this week, said that promised military hardware, including planes and helicopters, will arrive in Kyrgyzstan soon. LF KYRGYZ OFFICIALS DISCUSS DEBT RESTRUCTURING. Also on 2 September, Akaev met with a visiting U.S. delegation to discuss strengthening bilateral economic ties, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The delegation also held talks with Prime Minister Amangeldi Muraliev. At that meeting it was disclosed that in 2000 Kyrgyzstan will have to meet foreign debt repayments equal to 40 percent of the annual budget. The lion's share consists of a $130 million Russian loan. Talks are under way with the governments of Russian and Pakistan on restructuring those loans. LF TAJIKISTAN SETS DATE FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. Meeting on 3 September, Tajikistan's parliament scheduled presidential elections for 6 November, AP and dpa reported. But AP noted that the presidential poll may not take place if the electorate votes in a 26 September referendum to endorse a proposed amendment to the country's constitution that would extend the presidential term from five to seven years. Incumbent Imomali Rakhmonov was elected president in November 1994. 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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