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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 174, Part I, 7 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 174, Part I, 7 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 * WAR SCARE IN MOSCOW * FEDERAL FORCES FIGHTING ON SEVERAL FRONTS IN DAGHESTAN * UZBEK MILITANTS READY TO NEGOTIATE WITH KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA WAR SCARE IN MOSCOW. Yevgenii Kiselev, the host of NTV's "Itogi" talk show, extended his program by two hours on 5 September because, he said, "war has begun," Reuters reported on 6 September. Other Russian commentators, officials, and experts contributed to the feeling that the fighting in Daghestan is about to expand further. For example, Emil Pain, one of Russia's leading specialists on ethnic conflicts, told Reuters on 6 September that "unfortunately we have to acknowledge the possibility of the start of a war comparable to the Chechen war in scale and possibly even worse in terms of its consequences." He added that "you cannot halt a movement [like the one in Daghestan] with attack aircraft. You only make it grow." Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told Interfax the next day that "even as the situation in the North Caucasus is deteriorating and a major war is escalating in Daghestan, the executive authorities are acting as if nothing extraordinary is taking place." PG OFFICIALS DENY STATE OF EMERGENCY BEING CONSIDERED. Russian Justice Minister Yurii Chaika told Interfax on 6 September that his ministry is not considering the introduction of a state of emergency or martial law as a result of developments in Daghestan. His comments followed remarks on 5 September by Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev that some officials might still be thinking about taking such a step, something he argued would be "illegal" and "unacceptable." The government's next major review of the situation in Daghestan is planned to take place at a 7 September meeting of the Russian Security Council, Interfax reported. PG DUMA SEEKS YELTSIN REPORT ON DAGHESTAN. Roman Popkovich, the chairman of the Duma Defense Committee, told Interfax on 6 September that his group plans to invite President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to make a formal report on the events in Daghestan. "The war now under way in Daghestan will not end any time soon," he said. Moreover, he continued, "as long as the problem of Chechnya is not resolved, the Caucasus will not change for the better because immense amounts of money have been invested in triggering the fighting." PG YELTSIN CONDEMNS MILITARY FOR 'SLOPPINESS' IN DAGHESTAN. Before meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on 7 September, the president condemned the Russian military for "sloppiness" in its campaign against insurgents in Daghestan, Russian agencies reported. "We shall discuss in detail why we lost an entire region in Daghestan," he said. Overall command of military operations in Daghestan has been repeatedly transferred from the Defense Ministry to the Interior Ministry and back to the Defense Ministry. PG/LF FEDERAL FORCES FIGHTING ON SEVERAL FRONTS IN DAGHESTAN. Chechen militants extended their control over Novolaksk Raion on 6 September, occupying two villages and the town of Novolaksk, where a Russian Interior Ministry detachment was surrounded for most of 5 September before reinforcements arrived, Caucasus Press reported. The guerrillas are reportedly advancing northward on the town of Khasavyurt, from where a major highway leads to Makhachkala. Fierce fighting also continued for control of mountain villages fortified by the guerrillas in the Kadar region. And federal forces also continued their air and artillery bombardment of militants' positions near the villages of Chabanmakhi and Karamakhi on 6-7 September. LF DAGHESTANI LEADERSHIP PROTESTS INCURSION. Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 7 September, without naming its source, that the Daghestan leadership is increasingly unhappy with the Russian military's tactics, in particular the de facto loss of Novolaksk and Moscow's refusal to issue weapons to several thousand Daghestani volunteers. The leadership of Daghestan has also lodged a formal protest with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov in connection with the most recent incursion by Chechen guerrillas. The Chechen fighters in question are reportedly commanded by field commanders Shamil Basaev and Khottab. LF RUSSIA BOMBS CHECHNYA IN RETALIATION FOR INCURSION INTO DAGHESTAN. Russian military aircraft launched bombs and missiles against the town of Nozhai-Yurt and the villages of Ishkhoi Yurt and Zamai Yurt in southeastern Chechnya on the night of 5 September, Interfax reported ,quoting Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Kazbek Makhashev. Makhashev said that 25 people were killed and 40 wounded. Russian Interior Ministry spokesman Oleg Antonov told ITAR-TASS on 7 September that Russia will continue to bomb guerrilla bases in Chechnya even when those bases are located in populated areas. Basaev's press center issued a statement on 6 September vowing "impressive" retaliation for the bombing raids, Interfax reported. LF YELTSIN ISSUES DENIAL ON FOREIGN ACCOUNTS. Shortly after presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told Interfax on 6 September that Yeltsin has no plans to speak in public about the Mabatex scandal, Yakushkin went on Russian Television to say that the president has "ordered his press service to make a very short but specific announcement: Neither he nor members of his family has opened foreign bank accounts." Yeltsin, Yakushkin added, believes that his income is "absolutely transparent" as it is published annually. In other comments to Interfax, Yakushkin said that all the charges that have appeared in the media about this case are without any foundation. He added that the media has ignored "the fundamental principle of law" that those charged are presumed innocent until convicted. "One need not go out into the town square and state publicly that he is not guilty," Yakushkin continued, adding that "the methods of the Inquisition should not be restored at the end of the 20th century." PG SKURATOV SAYS 780 OFFICIALS BEING INVESTIGATED FOR INSIDER TRADING. The 7 September "Moscow Times" quotes suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov as saying that some 780 current and former government officials--including former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais--are currently under investigation for using insider information while trading on the Russian treasury bill market. The newspaper also suggested that the scandals around Mabatex and the Bank of New York may be linked. PG SCANDAL INVESTIGATIONS CONTINUE. Nikolai Volkov, the chief investigator in the Aeroflot case, is to remain in Switzerland for "at least" another one or two days, Interfax reported on 6 September. Meanwhile, Russian officials announced they are sending a high-level delegation to the U.S., to participate in the Bank of New York investigation, Russian agencies reported. During a Moscow visit, U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos (D-California) expressed his view that the money-laundering case had been raised to undermine the candidacy of Al Gore for president, Interfax said. Duma member Aleksandr Shokhin said he favors a joint investigation by Russian and U.S. secret services into the multiple channels through which Russian capital has flowed abroad, ITAR-TASS reported. And PricewaterhouseCoopers has begun a second audit of the use of IMF loans by the Central Bank of Russia, Interfax reported on 6 September. PG ENERGY MONOPOLY DENIES REPORTED LINK WITH SCANDAL. A spokesman for Unified Energy Systems rejected as totally false a report in Britain's "The Observer" that the firm is linked with a bank at the center of the Bank of New York money-laundering scandal, Interfax reported on 6 September. The spokesman said the report is "completely and totally false." In another scandal-related matter, German officials on 5 September said that some of the money involved in the Bank of New York money laundering case may have passed through German banks, dpa reported. PG TALBOTT OPPOSES 'QUARANTINE' AGAINST RUSSIA. In an interview with NTV's "Itogi" program, US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said Washington is opposed to any "quarantine" against Russia, Interfax reported on 6 September. He said that that word and "deterrence" are not used in any reasonable discussion of Russian-U.S. relations. Instead, Talbott suggested, one should talk about involvement, cooperation, common interests, mutual respect, and an open and honest exchange of views. The U.S. official added that Washington has repeatedly raised with Russian officials the question of corruption in Russia, and he noted that financial misconduct by some Russians has become an obstacle to future U.S. assistance. PG FIGHT OVER OIL EXPORT DUTIES CONTINUES. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told Interfax on 6 September that the Russian government will decide later this week whether to levy a 7.5 euros ($7.9) or 10 euros duty per ton of oil exported. But oil companies and others who oppose the levy continue to lobby against it. LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov announced that his company will reduce exports by 7 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with the same period last year, because of such export duties. Meanwhile, Rosneft denied reports that it is the subject of a tax audit, Interfax reported on 6 September. PG FIRST FATALITY FROM MANEZH ATTACK. Larisa Itani, 26, died on 5 September as a result of burns suffered during the 31 August attack on the Manezh shopping center in central Moscow, Interfax reported on 6 September. Her husband and another person remain in critical condition, while two other victims are in serious condition, the news agency said. Meanwhile, Russian police have arrested a man described only as "a Muscovite" on suspicion of involvement in the 31 August bombing, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September. PG IVANOV WELCOMES NEW ISRAEL-PLO ACCORDS. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said over the weekend that Moscow welcomes the latest round of agreements between Israel and Palestine, Interfax reported on 6 September. PG KUZBASS MINE DIRECTOR MURDERED. Aleksandr Khavlyuk, the director of the Krasnyi Kuzbass coal mine, was found murdered near his home in Kiselevsk on 5 September, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 September. The next day, "Kommersant-Daily' reported that he died as a result of gun wounds to the head. PG/JC AGREEMENT SIGNED ON GERMAN FUNDING FOR AMBER ROOM RESTORATION. Germany's Ruhrgas, the Russian Culture Ministry, and Tsarskoe Selo Museum signed an agreement on 6 September whereby the German company will spend $3.4 million to help restore the Amber Room in St. Catherine's Palace near St. Petersburg, dpa and Interfax reported. The Amber Room, which dated back to the early 18th century and contained amber panels, was dismantled and carried off by Nazi troops during World War II. Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Yegorov said the Ruhrgas offer is "a positive signal for German-Russian relations." PG/JC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA KARABAKH LEADERSHIP INSISTS ON PARTICIPATION IN PEACE TALKS. Arkadii Ghukasian, the president of the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic, was quoted on 6 September as having told a visiting U.S. Congressman that Armenia is not authorized to try to resolve the Karabakh conflict single-handedly in talks with Azerbaijan and that no peace settlement is possible without the participation and approval of Karabakh Armenian officials, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. Also on 6 September, Karen Mirzoyan, who is Karabakh's permanent representative in Yerevan, told RFE/RL that the most recent peace proposal by the OSCE Minsk Group should not be substantially amended to accommodate Azerbaijan's objections. Meeting in Yerevan two days earlier with the U.S. ambassador and the U.S. co-chairman of the Minsk Group, Karabakh Foreign Minister Naira Melkumian said that while the precise term used to define the future relations between Azerbaijan and the enclave may be changed, those relations must be based on the principle of equality, according to Noyan Tapan. LF AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT MAY SEEK THIRD TERM. President Heidar Aliev, who is 76, told leading members of his Yeni Azerbaycan party in Baku on 5 September that he feels well and may run for a third presidential term in 2003 "if the people want" him to do so, Turan reported. Aliev was elected president in September 1993 and re-elected in October 1998. Turan said the rationale for his statement is that the present constitution, which allows one individual to serve no more than two consecutive terms as president, was adopted only in November 1995. Aliev also praised Social Security Minister Ali Nagiev, leader of one of two rival factions within Yeni Azerbaycan, and defended the right of his son Ilham to a career in politics. Some observers believe that Ilham Aliev is being groomed for the chairmanship of Yeni Azerbaycan as a first step toward succeeding his father as president (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 34, 26 August 1999). LF AZERBAIJAN'S FORMER PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER DENIES HE WAS DETAINED IN U.S. Rasul Guliev told Turan on 6 September that reports by the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry and Prosecutor- General's office that U.S. immigration officials detained him on 3 September are disinformation. Guliev resigned three years ago as parliamentary speaker after harshly criticizing President Aliev's policies. In January 1998, the Azerbaijani Prosecutor's Office and National Security Ministry accused Guliev of conspiring from exile to overthrow President Aliev and of embezzling millions of dollars. Three months later, the Azerbaijani parliament voted to strip him of his deputy's immunity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January and 8 April 1998). LF FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER'S PARTY SPILTS. Lira Bayseitova, one of 15 former members of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan who broke with that party last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1999), told journalists in Almaty on 6 September that the 15 have now registered a new political party named Respublika-2000, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. The new party has already succeeded in registering branches in five of Kazakhstan's 14 oblasts but will not be able contend the 10 October elections to the lower house of parliament as the 31 August deadline for applying to do so has already elapsed. The Republican People's Party is headed by former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin. Meanwhile, several would-be parliamentary candidates in Almaty have appealed to a local court to extend the 9 September deadline for registration, claiming that the Central Electoral Commission "deliberately" mislaid documents to create a pretext for failing to do so. LF IS KAZAKHSTAN RETHINKING SALE OF OIL STAKE? Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev told journalists in Astana on 5 September that the planned sale of part of Kazakhstan's 25 percent stake in the U.S.-Kazakh consortium Tengizchevroil "is not an urgent need," Interfax reported. If the sale does go ahead, it will be "transparent" and Kazakhstan will seek a fair price, Balghymbaev added. Several prominent politicians have expressed their opposition to the planned sale, which Balghymbaev announced three weeks ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August and 3 September 1999). On 6 September, Interfax quoted former KazakhOil head Nurlan Qapparov, who was fired for his opposition to the sell-off, as saying that neither KazakhOil nor any other government agency participated in talks on the sale. He said he cannot confirm that Mobil has offered to buy all or part of Kazakhstan's stake in Tengizchevroil at a price of $100 million for each 1 percent share. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER DISCLAIMS KNOWLEDGE OF MIG SALES. At a meeting in Tokyo on 6 September with his Japanese counterpart, Masahiko Komura, Kasymzhomart Toqaev again said that the government of Kazakhstan had no prior knowledge of the recent delivery to North Korea of some 30 MiG-21 aircraft, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 1999). He added that Astana has asked North Korea to return the planes. Komura and Toqaev also discussed political and economic ties, and Japan undertook to continue to provide financial aid to Kazakhstan. LF UZBEK MILITANTS READY TO NEGOTIATE WITH KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT... At talks with Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan chairman Tursunbek Akunov, the estimated 400-500 ethnic Uzbek militants who still hold 12 hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan expressed their willingness to take part in negotiations in Batken with Kyrgyz government representatives, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 7 September, citing the presidential press service. Akunov returned to Batken on 7 September after meeting with the guerrillas. LF ...WHICH DOWNPLAYS DANGER. The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 6 September saying that the Kyrgyz leadership is taking all necessary measures to neutralize the guerrillas and secure the hostages' release, Interfax reported. It called on the UN and OSCE to condemn "attempts by international terrorists" to "force their ideological views upon the people of Kyrgyzstan." Also on 6 September, presidential administration Defense and Security Department head General Bolot Djanuzakov told journalists that the hostage taking does not pose any danger to foreign residents in Kyrgyzstan. But "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 7 September that police in Bishkek are rounding up Afghans and Pakistanis on suspicion of being connected with the guerrillas. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported that four residents of Aravan Raion in southern Kyrgyzstan were arrested on 5 September for possession of extremist Islamic literature. LF TAJIK OPPOSITION PESSIMISTIC OVER CHANCES OF FAIR ELECTIONS... Opposition party leaders aligned in the United Tajik Opposition and Communist Party head Shodi Shabdolov met in Dushanbe on 3 September to discuss the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 6 September. At an earlier meeting, those opposition leaders said they fear it may prove impossible to create conditions for free and fair elections, in particular to allow all political parties access to the media and representation on election commissions, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4 September. LF ...WHILE WOULD-BE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES PRESSURED. Former Premier Abdumalik Abdulladjonov, who polled over 30 percent of the vote in the 1994 presidential elections, cannot return to Tajikistan to contend the poll as he is charged with masterminding the 1998 insurgency in Leninabad by Mahmud Khudoiberdiev. The Tajik authorities are also pressuring a second presidential hopeful, Congress of Peoples of Tajikistan leader Sayfiddin Turaev. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice has applied to the Supreme Court to disband the Agrarian Party and the Adolat va Taraqqiyot Party. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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