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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 175, Part I, 8 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 175, Part I, 8 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 * FEDERAL FORCES HALT ADVANCE ON KHASAVYURT * YELTSIN DEMANDS TOUGHER ACTION AGAINST INSURGENTS * KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT MULLS MEETING WITH MILITANTS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA FEDERAL FORCES HALT ADVANCE ON KHASAVYURT. Russian Defense and Interior Ministry forces, together with Daghestani Interior Ministry troops, succeeded on 7 September in halting some 1,000 advancing Chechen militants 5 kilometers south of the strategic town of Khasavyurt, Interfax reported, citing the Russian Defense Ministry press center in Makhachkala. In Vladikavkaz, the commander of the Russian 58th Army, General Shamanov said Russian military forces are being concentrated in Khasavyurt, from where a key highway leads to Makhachkala. He added that some of the town's estimated 100,000 population are ethnic Chechens who support the invading force. The Chechens still occupy six villages in Novolaksk Raion, south of Khasavyurt, but Russian forces managed to dislodge the Chechens from their fortified positions on a strategic mountain. LF HEAVY FIGHTING CONTINUES FOR CHABANMAKHI, KARAMAKHI. Meanwhile, Russian forces continued their intensive air and artillery bombardment of Chechen positions near the villages of Chabanmakhi and Karamakhi on 7 September. Later the same day, ground forces entered Karamakhi, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Daghestani Interior Ministry forces repelled two attempts by Chechen forces to cross the border into Daghestan's Kazbek and Kizlyar Raions, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 September. In Grozny, Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev's press service said the attacks on Novolaksk were intended to divert federal forces from their punitive operations against Wahhabis in Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi. LF MORE RUSSIAN AIR RAIDS ON CHECHNYA. Russian air force planes again bombed Nozhai Yurt and Vedeno, in southeastern Chechnya, early on 7 September, killing two people and injuring seven, Interfax reported, citing the office of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Later the same day, the Chechen Foreign Ministry protested to the Russian government over the bombings, which Russian officials say are directed against Chechen guerrilla bases. Chechen Presidential Spokesman Selim Abdulmuslimov told Interfax that no such bases exist in Chechnya and that the militants currently fighting in Daghestan have no links with Chechnya. LF RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY CLAIMS CHECHEN GUERRILLAS USING FEDERAL FUNDS. Major General Kuzma Shalenkov, who is first deputy head of the Russian Interior Ministry's anti-economic crime department, said on 7 September that the Chechen guerrillas receive funding from official and unofficial sources both in Russia and abroad, ITAR-TASS reported. Those sources include federal funds allocated for the development of the education and health sectors in the North Caucasus; donations from Russian businessmen who sympathize with the Chechens, and "extremist organizations" that aim to destabilize the situation in Daghestan, Shalenkov said. LF RIVAL PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA CONTINUE TALKS. Vladimir Semenov, whose victory in the 16 May presidential runoff poll was endorsed last month by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, continued talks in Cherkessk on 7 September with his defeated rival, Stanislav Derev. Derev refuses to recognize either the poll outcome or the court ruling. His supporters have staged daily demonstrations to demand the restoration of the Cherkess Autonomous Oblast, abolished in 1957. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" quoted Derev on 8 September as stressing that neither the Cherkess (of whom he is one) nor the Karachais (including Semenov) want to secede from the Russian Federation. But the newspaper also quoted a spokesman for the republic's Cossack community as saying that the Cossacks oppose any division of the republic, even though they theoretically have the right to demand the restoration of the territorial autonomy they enjoyed until 1927. LF YELTSIN DEMANDS TOUGHER ACTION AGAINST INSURGENTS. At a meeting of the Russian Security Council on 7 September, President Boris Yeltsin demanded greater coordination among and more effective action by Russian forces operating in Daghestan, Russian agencies reported. He lashed out at the insurgents, saying that "it is incorrect to call those bandits Islamists. They are fighting against Muslim peoples in Daghestan." He added that "the terrorists have no faith and no Allah." In other comments, Yeltsin said that he has drawn three conclusions about the Daghestani events: "First, the defeat of the bandits has led them to resort to especially cruel actions.... Second, we have not been able to destroy the roots of the virus of terrorism.... And third, up to now federal forces have been acting in a favorable information environment, but the longer the confrontation takes place and the more victims there are, the less trust there will be." PG SECURITY COUNCIL MAKES NO PERSONNEL CHANGES. Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev told ITAR-TASS on 7 September that the Russian Security Council sharply criticized the heads of the country's defense and law enforcement agencies but decided not to dismiss anyone for now. "It is time to coordinate efforts, not dismiss officials," Stroev said. He added that the council decided to expand "work with neighboring countries" from which a large quantity of weaponry enters Russia. But he added that "there can be no combat operations against Chechnya." PG PUTIN SAYS MOSCOW MUST 'BRUSH AWAY' GUILT SYNDROME. Calling for harsh measures in Daghestan, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told Interfax on 7 September that "we must brush away the syndrome of guilt developed in previous years," an apparent reference to reluctance to use force after the Chechen war. "We have been attacked," Putin said, arguing that Russia should move quickly to eliminate the bandits in Daghestan. He said that "much time" will be needed to resolve the socioeconomic problems in the North Caucasus but "we cannot afford to spend too much time on eliminating the bandits." Meanwhile, Oleg Mironov, Moscow's human rights ombudsman, said in London on 7 September that Russia has already prepared a package of aid for Daghestan, ITAR-TASS reported. PG YELTSIN, AUSHEV FEAR FOR INTEGRITY OF RUSSIA. Presidential press spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin said on Russian Television on 7 September that Yeltsin believes the developments in Daghestan constitute "a real threat to the integrity of Russia," Interfax reported. Yakushkin added that there are no simple or quick solutions to the problems in the North Caucasus. Meanwhile, Ingushetia President and Federation Council member Ruslan Aushev told ITAR-TASS the same day that "the latest events in Daghestan and the scandal over the elections in Karachaevo-Cherkessia may trigger a total Caucasian war," as a result of which the entire region "will then be lost to Russia, despite heavy sacrifice and bloodshed." In other comments, he rejected suggestions that Chechen President Maskhadov has been passive, noting that the Chechen leader has expelled Movladi Udugov and Shamil Basaev from the republic's Security Council. PG DAGHESTAN FIGHTING CONTINUES TO CAUSE CONCERN IN MOSCOW. Russian politicians and news outlets continued to focus on the events in Daghestan and their implications for Russia as a whole. State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev repeated his view that there is no need to impose a state of emergency in Moscow, Interfax reported on 7 September. He lashed out at Yeltsin's criticism of the military, noting that "the easiest thing is to accuse servicemen of being negligent." Meanwhile, Vladimir Ryzhkov, the leader of the Our Home Is Russia faction in the Duma, warned that the war in Daghestan will go on for a long time, ITAR-TASS reported. And Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said the army is fighting a "just war" in Daghestan and deserves the country's support, according to Interfax. PG GOVERNMENT SETS UP MEDIA CENTER, HOTLINE. In order to ensure that its message gets out on Daghestan, the Russian government has established a media center to coordinate reporting, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September. The news agency also said that a special telephone hotline has been set up to allow families to learn about the status of their relatives in the fighting. According to a press spokesman in the North Caucasus military district, it takes only a few minutes for family members to find about the fate, health, and whereabouts of Russian soldiers there. PG MORE CHARGES THAT NEW YORK SCANDAL POLITICALLY MOTIVATED. Presidential spokesman Yakushkin told ITAR-TASS on 7 September that people interested in making the political situation worse in both Russia and the U.S. are responsible for coverage of the Bank of New York scandal. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Putin said corruption is "transnational" and that Russia will cooperate with the U.S. in investigating the current charges, Interfax reported. These comments were echoed by other Russian political figures. Duma Speaker Seleznev said that "Russiangate" is "undermining the prestige of Russia" as a whole, a development that he said is "absolutely groundless and unfair." PG YABLOKO BLAMES REGIME, CHUBAIS DENIES INVOLVEMENT. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii told Interfax on 7 September that the Yeltsin regime is behind the current scandal, having "abused the patience of the whole world." He suggested that the West is simply waking up to what has been going on for a long time. "For 10 years, the West has found Russian partners whom Russia itself considered absolutely useless. This has ended in such a scandal." Meanwhile, Unified Energy Systems Chairman Anatolii Chubais has denied any involvement with Treasury bill fraud and said he will sue those who have suggested otherwise, Interfax reported on 7 September. PG COLLINS SAYS SCANDAL WON'T HARM U.S.-RUSSIA TIES. Speaking on Ekho Moskvy on 7 September, U.S. Ambassador James Collins said the scandal about money-laundering at the Bank of New York will not harm U.S.-Russian relations. He said that these are based on a solid foundation, although he acknowledged that corruption and crime are serious problems. PG SCANDAL AFFECTS INVESTORS, RUSSIAN BANKING ABROAD. The International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank group, told Interfax on 7 September that it will be "more prudent in selecting investments in the Russian banking market" following the ongoing scandal charges. Meanwhile, Interfax reported, at least one U.S. bank has refused to honor a payment made through one of its Russian correspondent banks. PG VOLKOV RETURNS FROM SWITZERLAND, DOCUMENTS TO FOLLOW. Nikolai Volkov, who is investigating the Aeroflot case, returned to Moscow on 7 September, Interfax reported. He said that the Swiss authorities will be sending documents seized by police there but that these documents are unlikely to reach Russia prosecutors before the end of 1999. PG SKURATOV CLARIFIES HIS CHARGES. Suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov told Interfax on 7 September that he did not tell journalists that Yeltsin's daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, was involved in the alleged theft of IMF loans. Such assertions, he said, "are too straightforward and not entirely precise." In other remarks, he said that Mabetex President Behgjet Pacolli gave more than 15 million Swiss francs ($10 million) in bribes to senior Russian officials and their families. And he called for a thorough investigation, although he expressed doubts about whether this will be possible given that he does not know the fate of documents he had before being suspended from office. PG SELEZNEV SEES NO CHANCE OF EARLY PRESIDENTIAL VOTE. Duma speaker Seleznev told Interfax on 7 September that he does not believe that Yeltsin will hand over office to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on 19 September, as some have suggested, and thus trigger a presidential vote at the same time as the Duma elections. But he said "Russia would benefit" if Yeltsin took that step. In other comments, he said the Duma may soon take up a number of constitutional amendments aimed at limiting the power of the presidency. PG LIBEL CHARGES LODGED AGAINST ST. PETERSBURG NEWSPAPER. Leningrad Oblast prosecutors have brought libel charges against a St. Petersburg newspaper for materials the officials alleged defame Fedor Shkrudnev, former presidential representative to the city and a candidate in the 19 September gubernatorial ballot in Leningrad, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September. PG MOSCOW LOOKS TOWARD ASIA. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 7 September issued a statement saying that "acts of violence in East Timor must be stopped immediately," Russian agencies reported. Meanwhile, shortly before departing for the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in New Zealand, Prime Minister Putin signed a directive for increasing oil supplies to China over the next year, And Moscow received the first $50 million of a $1.5 billion Japanese credit line on 7 September, Interfax reported, while First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said that no date has been set for Yeltsin's visit to Japan. PG MOSCOW UNHAPPY WITH WEST'S APPROACH ON KOSOVA. Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, the chief of the Russian Defense Ministry's Department for International Military Cooperation, told ITAR-TASS on 7 September that Moscow is unhappy with KFOR operations in Kosova. He argued that KFOR has not moved to disarm the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). According to unnamed Russian diplomats cited by Interfax, Moscow believes the UCK must be disbanded as well as disarmed and will oppose "all plans to retain the UCK as an organization of any kind." PG NIKITIN CASE SENT BACK TO COURT. The St. Petersburg Prosecutor-General's Office has returned the case of naval officer Aleksandr Nikitin to the courts for trial, Interfax- Northwest reported on 7 September. According to that office, a new examination of the facts of the case revealed that Nikitin handed over secret information to a foreign outlet, in this case the Norwegian Bellona organization. Nikitin was first arrested in February 1996, but at his trial, the judge sent the case back to prosecutors for further consideration. PG NEW RUSSIAN BUSINESS NEWSPAPER LAUNCHED. The "Financial Times" and "The Wall Street Journal" have joined forces with a Dutch publisher to launch a new Russian-language business paper, "Vedomosti," in Moscow, Reuters reported on 7 September. The newspaper claims to be the only "truly independent" publication of its type in the Russian capital. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION OBJECTS TO THIRD PRESIDENTIAL TERM FOR ALIEV. The leaders of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party, Musavat Party, Democratic Party and Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Etibar Mamedov, Isa Gambar, Ilias Ismailov and Abulfaz Elchibey, told Turan on 7 September that they do not consider the results of the October1998 presidential elections valid. They added that President Heidar Aliev's statement that he may run in 2003 for a third term is therefore inappropriate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 1999). Elchibey noted that many Azerbaijani citizens likewise believe that Aliev's re-election was not legitimate. LF AZERBAIJAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY PROTESTS FALSE REPORTS OF LEADER'S DETENTION. Also on 7 September, the Democratic Party announced it will hold a demonstration outside the U.S. Embassy on 14 September to protest the erroneous report circulated by the Azerbaijani authorities that the party's co-chairman, Rasul Guliev, was detained in the U.S. by immigration officials, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 1999). Senior Democratic Party official Nuraddin Mamedli has filed suit against the Prosecutor-General's Office and demanded a published official refutation of the report. LF NO ARMS REACHING DAGHESTAN VIA AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA. Georgian Border Guard Service chief Valerii Chkheidze on 7 September rejected Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev's call earlier that day to close Russia's borders with Georgia and Azerbaijan in order to prevent the shipment of arms to the Chechen militants fighting in Daghestan, Caucasus Press reported. Chkheidze said that Georgia's borders with Chechnya and Daghestan are reliably controlled. There are no longer any Russian border guards deployed along the Chechen side of that border. In Baku, a National Security Ministry official similarly told Interfax that Seleznev's charges are unsubstantiated. Moscow closed its borders with Georgia and Azerbaijan in December 1994 at the start of the war in Chechnya. LF GEORGIA SAYS RUSSIAN OBJECTIONS TO WARGAMES UNFOUNDED. Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze said on 7 September that the two-day military maneuvers that began the same day at the Kulevi training ground in western Georgia do not violate any regional peace agreements, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. Colonel-General Sergei Korobko, who commands the Russian peacekeeping force deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, wrote to Tevzadze to object that the maneuvers entail bringing heavy military equipment into a zone from which such weapons are banned under the Georgian-Abkhaz cease-fire agreement of May 1994. Russian Foreign Ministry special envoy for Abkhazia Lev Mironov termed the maneuvers an "outrageous violation" of the 1994 agreement. But Georgian parliamentary defense and security committee chairman Revaz Adamia pointed out to Caucasus Press that Kulevi is the only suitable training ground available to the Georgian forces. LF DATE SET FOR PAPAL VISIT TO GEORGIA. Pope John Paul II will visit Georgia on 8-9 November, Caucasus Press reported on 8 September. The visit had originally been planned for early summer but was postponed because of the pontiff's poor health. Agreement that the pope would visit Georgia before the end of 1999 was reached during a visit to Tbilisi last month by Vatican Assistant Secretary of State Giovanni Battista Re (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 1999). LF KAZAKH OPPOSITION TERMS ELECTION PROSPECTS DISCOURAGING. Alash Party leader Zhaqsybay told journalists in Almaty on 7 September that he has decided to withdraw his candidacy for the 10 October elections to the lower house of the parliament, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. Bazylbaev explained he has received telephone threats. At another press conference in Almaty, Serikbolsyn Abdildin, who heads the Kazakh Communist Party, said he does not believe his party has any chance of success in that poll. He predicted that international observers, including the OSCE, will prove incapable of ensuring free and fair elections since the existing election law enables election commissions to falsify the vote count in favor of the two "parties of power," according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 September. Those parties are Otan (Fatherland) and the Citizens' Party. A recent opinion poll showed 21.4 percent support for Otan, 9.4 percent for the Communists, and 4.6 percent for the Citizens' Party, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 2 September. LF KAZAKH DEPUTY PREMIER DISCUSSES TENGIZCHEVROIL SALE. Daniyar Abulgazin told journalists in Astana on 7 September that the precise date for the sale of part of Kazakhstan's 40 percent stake in the Tengizchevroil consortium will depend on fulfillment of the state budget, Interfax reported. "If the budget situation is okay, the Kazakh stake will not be sold before the end of 1999," he said, adding that current tax revenues "give grounds for optimism." Abulgazin confirmed that Kazakhstan will sell 40 percent of its stake, which is equal to a 10 percent stake in the consortium, and that some 20 oil companies have been invited to participate in the tender. But he declined to specify the asking price. LF KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT MULLS MEETING WITH MILITANTS. General Bolot Djanuzakov told journalists in Bishkek on 7 September, after President Askar Akaev named him to head the Kyrgyz Security Council, that the government will not conduct official negotiations with the ethnic Uzbek guerrillas who still hold a dozen hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Djanuzakov did not rule out lower-level talks with the guerrillas and suggested that some members of the Kyrgyz government might participate. The guerrillas have sent a letter to the Kyrgyz authorities, via intermediary Tursunbek Akunov, proposing talks either in southern Kyrgyzstan or the Djirgtal region of neighboring Tajikistan to discuss the release of the hostages. Four Japanese geologists who are among the hostages have also sent a letter to the Kyrgyz leadership urging that everything possible be done to secure their release, Reuters reported. Meanwhile the situation in the south of the country remained calm on 7 September. LF UZBEKISTAN REJECTS MILITANTS' DEMANDS... The Uzbek Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 7 September rejecting as a "provocation" and "scandalous outrage" the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan's demand for the release of 50,000 Muslims imprisoned in Uzbekistan in exchange for freeing the hostages held by the movement's guerrillas in southern Kyrgyzstan, Reuters and Interfax reported. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan faxed that demand to the Kyrgyz leadership on 4 September, insisting that the Kyrgyz leadership allow the guerrillas to cross unimpeded into Uzbekistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 1999). Uzbek National Security Council Secretary Mirakbar Rakhmankulov told Uzbek Television on 7 September that the militants aim to destabilize the whole of Central Asia, according to Interfax. He added that they are supported by the Afghan Taliban movement and other organizations with the same goal. LF ...WHILE CHINA OFFERS HELP. An unnamed government official told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 7 September that China has offered help to Kyrgyzstan to resolve the hostage crisis. The official said Beijing is ready to block the state frontiers between China and Kyrgyzstan and between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. An agreement on strengthening frontier security measures was signed by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan in April 1996. LF TAJIK RENEGADES SENTENCED. Tajikistan's Supreme Court has handed down sentences ranging from three to 15 years in prison to 12 members of a gang headed by Rezvon Sodirov, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September. The gang was charged with murder, gangsterism, and hostage-taking in 1997 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 10 October 1997). LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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