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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 176, Part I, 9 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 176, Part I, 9 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 * EXPLOSION RIPS APART MOSCOW APARTMENT HOUSE * FEDERAL FORCES STRENGTHEN POSITIONS IN CENTRAL DAGHESTAN * AZERBAIJAN'S RULING PARTY EXPELS CRITIC End Note: KULIKOV SAYS MONEY SCANDAL COULD SPUR DUMA INTO ACTION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA EXPLOSION RIPS APART MOSCOW APARTMENT HOUSE. An explosion at an apartment house in southeastern Moscow in the early hours of 9 September has left at least 20 people dead. Some 150 have been injured, and more than 100 may still be trapped under the rubble. The nine-story building was destroyed, and windows in neighboring apartment houses blown out. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told a cabinet meeting later on 9 September that the "main version of the explosion" is that it was caused by a gas leak. He added, however, that other versions are being considered. Emergencies Minister Sergei Shogu, who had rushed to the scene during the night, was quoted by Russian agencies after the cabinet meeting as saying that it is unlikely that the tragedy was caused by a gas explosion. JC FEDERAL FORCES STRENGTHEN POSITIONS IN CENTRAL DAGHESTAN. Federal forces dislodged Chechen fighters on 8 September from Mount Ekitebe, which commands the main highway from Novolaksk to Khasavyurt, Interfax reported citing a Defense Ministry source. They also continued systematic air bombardment of several villages in Novolaksk Raion, including Gumiyakh, Tukhchar, and Akhar, and of border districts in Chechnya from where large groups of Chechen militants were preparing to cross into Daghestan's Kizlyar Raion, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta." Also on 8 September, Daghestan's Prime Minister Khizri Shikhsaidov told journalists in Moscow that "large-scale hostilities" in Daghestan should end by the end of September, according to ITAR-TASS. Shikhsaidov accused the Chechen leadership of "extremist aggression" against Daghestan. LF DUMA DEFENSE CHIEF DISMISSES TALK OF REMOVING SERGEEV... Roman Popkovich, the chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee and a leader of the Our Home Is Russia faction, told Interfax on 8 September that the events in Daghestan do not justify talk of the removal of Defense Minister Igor Sergeev. Popkovich said that "normal work continues at the Defense Ministry" under Sergeev and that the minister himself is not to blame for everything that has happened in Daghestan. PG ...WHILE AKSENENKO SAYS EVERYONE TO BLAME FOR DAGHESTAN. Speaking in Nizhnii Novgorod on 8 September, First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko said that "it is not worthwhile" to try to assign responsibility for what has taken place, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that "we are all to blame" for the failure of Moscow to solve the situation. PG PROSECUTORS INVESTIGATE NORTH CAUCASUS ATROCITIES. The Office of the Russian Prosecutor-General has launched an investigation into atrocities and other crimes against humanity in the North Caucasus, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 September. Investigative chief Vladimir Minaev said that he has ordered the start of the probe so that a decision can be made on opening criminal cases. PG U.S. DENOUNCES BUINAKSK ATTACK. State Department Spokesman James Rubin denounced the blast in Buinaksk on 4 September that destroyed an apartment house where the families of Russian officers lived, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 September. He added that Washington continues to oppose the actions by armed detachments against legal authorities and civilians in Daghestan. PG PUTIN DENIES RUMORS OF YELTSIN RESIGNATION. Speaking to journalists in Minsk on 8 September, Russian Prime Minister Putin denied media reports that President Boris Yeltsin may step down before his term expires next summer, Interfax reported. Asked whether the president would resign over Daghestan, Putin said such an idea was "nonsense." He asked reporters to imagine "what would have happened" if someone had demanded that Stalin resign on 22 June 1941, the day Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union. JC YELTSIN, CLINTON DISCUSS CORRUPTION SCANDAL, DAGHESTAN. During an 8 September telephone conversation with his U.S. counterpart, Bill Clinton, Russian President Yeltsin denied media reports of his personal involvement in corruption. U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger told journalists that Clinton had specifically asked about those reports. Russian law enforcement officials are due to arrive in the U.S. next week to discuss the probe into alleged money-laundering through the Bank of New York. Among the other topics discussed by the two leaders were arms control and the ongoing fighting in Daghestan. JC KREMLIN MANAGER TO SUE ITALIAN NEWSPAPER. Pavel Borodin, the manager of the Kremlin, told Interfax on 8 September that he will sue the Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera" for its articles charging him and the Yeltsin family with corruption. "Everything that was written in "Corriere della Sera" was supplied from Russia. It is absolute rubbish and a political order from certain forces." PG FEDERATION COUNCIL WON'T PROBE MONEY-LAUNDERING SCANDAL. Sergei Sobyanin, the chairman of the Federation Council's Constitutional and Legal Committee, said that body will not investigate the scandal around money-laundering at the Bank of New York because his committee "considers only previously launched criminal cases" in Russia itself, Interfax reported on 8 September. To date, Sobyanin noted, there has been no such case related to the scandal. "How can we assume control over a case that does not exist in Russia?" he asked. "It's another thing if a criminal case involving the Mabetex company is opened in our country." PG GORE SAYS U.S. STILL INTERESTED IN COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA. In an interview published in "USA Today" on 8 September and reported in Russia by ITAR-TASS, U.S. Vice President Al Gore said Washington wants to cooperate with Moscow and stabilize the situation in Russia. He said he will back more credits for Russia, despite the recent scandal charges. PG TALBOTT DISCUSSES ABM, START-3 TREATIES. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott met with senior Russian diplomats in Moscow on 8 September to discuss Washington's interest in modifying the ABM treaty, something Russia opposes, and in negotiating a new START-3 accord, something Moscow's defense establishment said it supports. Russian sources cited by Interfax described the talks as "quite difficult." A second round of discussions is scheduled to take place on 9 September. PG/JC SUSPECT IN MANEZH BOMBING FLEES TO POLAND. Dmitrii Pimenov, the head of the unregistered Union of Revolutionary Writers, who is suspected of involvement in last week's bombing of the Manezh shopping mall, fled with his wife to Warsaw on 8 September, Interfax reported. Pimenov said he had nothing to do with the blast but fears persecution by the Federal Security Service. JC MOSCOW MAYORAL VOTE MOVED UP. The Moscow city legislature on 8 September voted to move up the elections for mayor to 19 December. As a result, that vote will coincide with the Russian parliamentary vote and will allowing Mayor Yurii Luzhkov to run for re-election before the presidential elections next summer. PG YELTSIN MULLS CANDIDATES FOR PROSECUTOR-GENERAL. Vyacheslav Khizhnyakov, Yeltsin's representative to the Federation Council, told ITAR-TASS on 8 September that the president is considering a number of candidates to replace suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov. Meanwhile, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said that the upper house, which must approve any change, is willing to work with Yeltsin on this issue. PG DUMA LEFTISTS WON'T SEEK YELTSIN'S RESIGNATION. Sergei Reshulskii told Interfax on 8 September that the Duma's leftist majority will not demand that Yeltsin resign when the parliament resumes work. "It does not make sense to demand what the parliament cannot attain, given its limited possibilities," Reshulskii said. At the same time, he remarked that there are reports that Yeltsin's inner circle might pressure him to resign soon so as to block the rise of anti-Yeltsin forces in the parliament. PG IMF NOW SAYS RUSSIAN GDP TO FALL 2 PERCENT IN 1999. The IMF projects a two percent drop in the Russian GDP and a 92 percent increase in inflation during 1999, Interfax reported on 8 September, citing a Bloomberg report. Earlier, the IMF had projected a 7 percent drop in GDP and a 101 percent rise in inflation. PG YELTSIN SEEKS TO BOOST FOREIGN ARMS SALES. Yeltsin on 8 September signed a decree to increase cooperation among Russian producers for the sale of arms to and military cooperation with foreign countries, Interfax reported. The new 18-member commission overseeing this activity will be chaired by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. PG NATO TO SEND NEW REPRESENTATIVES TO MOSCOW. The German Embassy in Moscow told ITAR-TASS on 8 September that NATO will not send back to Moscow the two officials who left the Russian capital when Moscow suspended cooperation at the start of the Kosova crisis. Instead, the German diplomats said, NATO will name two other officials to come to Moscow. PG RUSSIAN OFFICIAL REJECTS CREATION OF KOSOVA CORPS. An unnamed high-ranking Russian Foreign Ministry official told ITAR-TASS on 9 September that NATO's plan to transform the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) into the planned Kosova Corps is "unacceptable" (see Part II). The official added that Russia will demand the complete "disarmament, liquidation of ammunition depots, and termination of the vertical hierarchy of subordination among [UCK] militants" at an upcoming session of the UN General Assembly. In another indication of Russian unhappiness with NATO, the Defense Ministry official responsible for international cooperation, Leonid Ivashov, said in Moscow on 8 September that the Federation Council "might reconsider" Russia's participation in KFOR given the failure of NATO to disarm and disband the UCK, Interfax reported. FS/PG MOSCOW WOULD CONSIDER SENDING TROOPS TO EAST TIMOR. The Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax on 8 September that Moscow is considering sending its own troops to East Timor if the UN approves a proposed peacekeeping force there. PG LEV RAZGON DIES. Russian memoirist and human rights activist Lev Razgon died in Moscow of a heart attack, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 September. He was 92. Razgon came to prominence for his memoirs on the 17 years he spend in the Soviet GULAG prison camp system. He later said he would "never" forgive those who put him there. But in a recent interview, he said that "strange as it may seem, man becomes more free in the camps." And he said that his hopes for the future lie with those in the first grade "and certainly their future children." PG 'MIR' SPACE STATION BEGINS DRIFT. Russian mission control allowed the "Mir" space station to begin to drift on 8 September, Interfax reported. Russian officials said that the craft will crash to earth in the Pacific next April if no new funding is found to save it. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN, GREEK, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. Meeting in Yerevan on 8 September for the third annual session of the trilateral economic cooperation group established in 1997, Vartan Oskanian, George Papandreou, and Kamal Kharrazi signed a memorandum of understanding outlining joint projects in the energy, transport, and other sectors, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. At a subsequent press conference, all three ministers expressed satisfaction with the present level of trilateral cooperation, stressing that it is not directed against any third party. Papandreou expressed Greece's interest in participating in the planned $120 million gas pipeline project from Iran to Armenia. He also suggested that Iran could participate in the EU's TRACECA program for developing a network of road and rail links across Asia to Europe. The ministers discussed regional problems, including the Karabakh conflict, only at bilateral talks, according to ITAR-TASS. Armenian President Robert Kocharian met separately with both Papandreou and Kharrazi on 7 September, Noyan Tapan reported. LF NAGORNO-KARABAKH PARLIAMENT THWARTS ATTEMPT TO LIFT DEPUTY'S IMMUNITY. Deputies to the parliament of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on 8 September rejected a request by the enclave's prosecutor-general to strip Murad Petrosian of his deputy's immunity, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. Petrosian, who formerly headed the parliament's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, was charged with having assaulted a police officer two years ago. He is a close ally of former Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan and, like Babayan, espouses a hard line on how to resolve the Karabakh conflict. Prosecutor-General Mavrik Ghukasian told RFE/RL that the parliament "had no legal grounds" to reject his request and that he will continue to seek Petrosian's prosecution. LF ANOTHER AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST SENTENCED. A Baku district court on 9 September handed down a one-year suspended sentence on Irada Huseynova, a journalist for "Bakinskii bulvard," whose trial resumed on 6 September, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 1999). Huseynova was charged with slander for an article she published in that newspaper last November referring to Djalal Aliev, the brother of the Azerbaijani president, as "the gas station king." Djalal Aliev brought a civil case against Huseynova last year, after which "Bakinskii bulvard" published an apology. LF AZERBAIJAN'S RULING PARTY EXPELS CRITIC. Siyavush Novruzov, a leading member of the Yeni Azerbaycan party, told Turan on 8 September that Abbas Mustafaev has been expelled from the party for activities aimed at causing a split within its ranks and for leveling groundless accusations against party and national leaders. Mustafaev, who headed a Baku district branch of Yeni Azerbaycan, last year accused Labor Minister and Yeni Azerbaycan deputy chairman Ali Nagiev of corruption. More recently, he claimed that Nagiev was trying to split Yeni Azerbaycan in order to found a political party of his own (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 34, 26 August 1999). Novruzov added that Yeni Azerbaycan will hold a party congress in October. That congress was originally scheduled for early summer and then postponed until September. LF 13 BLOCS TO CONTEND GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. A total of 13 electoral blocs and 37 political parties have applied for registration with Georgia's Central Electoral Committee to contest the 30 October parliamentary elections, according to Caucasus Press. The deadline for blocs to register was 6 September; individual political parties must do so by 6 October. The electoral alliances include the Batumi-based Union for Georgian Revival and two Communist/Stalinist blocs. But the anticipated election alliance between the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia and Tamaz Nadareishvili's Party for the Liberation of Abkhazia has not materialized (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 33, 19 August 1999). LF GEORGIA SEEKS TO CONTAIN ANTHRAX THREAT. Georgia has imposed stringent controls on the transport of meat and dairy products to Tbilisi in order to combat the spread of a major outbreak of intestinal anthrax, Caucasus Press reported on 8 September. All cattle and sheep in eastern Georgia are to be vaccinated against the disease. The first cases of anthrax were reported in the village of Gachiani in Garadabani Raion, southeast of Tbilisi, in August. At least 10 people from that village and the nearby industrial town of Rustavi have been hospitalized suffering from anthrax. One case has been reported in Tbilisi. LF KAZAKH OFFICIAL SAYS FORMER PREMIER'S LAWYER WON'T REPRESENT HIM ANY LONGER. At a news conference in Almaty on 8 September Central Election Commission chairwoman, Zaghipa Balieva produced what she claimed is an official statement addressed to the commission by Vitalii Voronov, a lawyer representing former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. In that statement, Voronov said he intends to sever all connections with both Kazhegeldin and the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, which Kazhegeldin heads. He accused Kazhegeldin of caring more about his personal ambitions than the real needs of the country. The leadership of the Republican People's Party held an emergency session in Almaty later on 8 September to evaluate Balieva's claims. Khabar-TV, which is headed by President Nursultan Nazarbaev's daughter, showed footage on 8 September in which Voronov confirmed that he had sent the statement in question to the Central Electoral Commission. LF KAZHEGELDIN CASTS DOUBT ON AUTHENTICITY OF VORONOV STATEMENT... In a statement addressed to the leadership of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan on 8 September, a copy of which was faxed to "RFE/RL Newsline," Kazhegeldin said that the text of Voronin's alleged statement is worded in a way that raises suspicions as to whether he is in fact the author and whether he appended his signature to the document voluntarily. Kazhegeldin notes that Voronov is bound by legal contract to represent his interests and should have informed him before breaking that contract. He further suggested that Voronov was subjected to either psychological or physical pressure by the Kazakh authorities. Kazhegeldin affirms that, with or without Voronov, the Republican People's Party will continue its struggle for "the people's right to choose." LF ...PROTESTS REFUSAL TO REGISTER HIM AS PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE. In a statement addressed to the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan on 8 September, a copy of which was made available to "RFE/RL Newsline," Kazhegeldin deplored the refusal of the Central Electoral Commission to register him and two leading members of the Workers' Party as candidates for the 10 October election to the lower house of the parliament. In all three cases, the Central Electoral Commission based its refusal on administrative offenses. Madel Ismailov was sentenced to one year in prison for insulting the honor and dignity of President Nazarbaev, while Vladimir Chernyshev was refused registration for having laid flowers at the foot of a monument to Lenin. Kazhegeldin appealed to the judges to reverse their decision to enable him to register as a parliamentary candidate before the 9 September deadline for doing so expires. LF KYRGYZ OFFICIALS DENY NEGOTIATING WITH GUERRILLAS. Presidential press secretary Kanybek Imanaliev and a Security Ministry spokesman both denied on 8 September that Kyrgyz defense and security officials are conducting talks with the ethnic Uzbek militants holding 13 hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. But a police official in Osh Oblast told RFE/RL that eight Kyrgyz officials, led by Colonel Talant Razzakov from the Security Ministry, arrived in the village of Kan by helicopter earlier on 8 September to meet with guerrilla representatives, who failed to show up. Security Council Secretary Bolot Djanuzakov told journalists in Bishkek on 8 September that talks are being held with the guerrillas, but exclusively through the mediation of local officials and NGOs. One Kyrgyz soldier was killed and two wounded on 8 September in an exchange of fire with the guerrillas, ITAR- TASS reported. LF KYRGYZ PRESIDENT WANTS RUSSIAN AIR POWER. Speaking live on ORT, Askar Akaev said that Russian air support would be the most effective weapon against the guerrillas, Interfax reported on 8 September. Akaev said that the Kyrgyz armed forces are strong enough to drive the militants back into Tajikistan but have not attempted to do so in order not to endanger the lives of the hostages. LF KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEBATES HOSTAGE CRISIS. After a one-week debate, the Kyrgyz parliament adopted a resolution on the situation in Osh Oblast on 8 September, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The contents of that resolution have not been made public. But the parliament did vote to provide economic aid to victims of the conflict and to amend budget spending to provide funds for that purpose and additional funds for the Defense Ministry. Deputies voted down a proposal to move the capital from Bishkek to the town of Osh, according to Interfax. LF UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS GUERRILLAS PART OF 'INTERNATIONAL CONSPIRACY.' Addressing foreign diplomats on 7 September, Islam Karimov said that the hostage-taking in southern Kyrgyzstan was prepared long in advance and constitutes part of a major conspiracy orchestrated by Islamic terrorists who aim to establish an Islamic state in Central Asia, Interfax reported. "One cannot be complacent and disregard this threat," Karimov added. On 8 September, Uzbek Defense Minister Khikmatulla Tursunov said that Tashkent has tightened control of its borders and placed its armed forces on alert in response to the hostage-taking. He described the guerrillas as "criminals" who "do not represent any country or political party." LF END NOTE KULIKOV SAYS MONEY SCANDAL COULD SPUR DUMA INTO ACTION By Roland Eggleston Former Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov says investigations into the reported transfer of billions of dollars to a New York bank could spur the Russian parliament into approving legislation on money laundering. Kulikov, who attended a conference in Germany last week on international crime, said Russian law enforcement agencies had been pushing for such legislation for six years but had failed to persuade parliament to act. U.S. and Russian investigators are checking the transfer of billions of dollars in Russian money through the Bank of New York over the past 18 months. There are suspicions that some of the money may be part of a money-laundering scheme to conceal the origin of profits made in illegal operations. "Our opponents claim that if banks had to provide information on their hard currency operations to the authorities it would violate the international covenants on human and civil rights," Kulikov told RFE/RL. "But we take the United States as an example," he continued. "The U.S. is a mature democracy, but they do have a provision in their law which allows the U.S. government to compel banks to disclose information on some activities that might seem illegal and on the basis of this legal provision they can take on even such a powerful institution as the Bank of New York." The U.S. began controlling money laundering in 1970 when Congress passed a law requiring financial institutions to file reports about any transaction exceeding $10,000 and to keep those records on file for five years. Later laws imposed even stricter regulations. Money laundering is now a criminal offense and banks and financial institutions are required to report any transaction that they consider suspicious. Kulikov said he believes the U.S. laws set an example that should be followed by Russian lawmakers. He said corruption in Russia is so pervasive that it has serious consequences for the national economy. "It influences the level of foreign investment in our economy," he said. "I know that firms and companies planning to participate in various economic projects earmark up to 50 percent of their investment to bribe government officials. This is a very serious problem." He said firm government action is needed, adding that the fight against corruption can be effective only with the political will of the government. "No president or government in Russia will succeed in economic reform until it resolves the problem of corruption," he argued. Kulikov said he still favors the creation of an independent anti-corruption panel, which he first proposed in 1997 but has never been implemented, despite initial support from President Boris Yeltsin and then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. "[The commission] would be subordinate to either the president or the prime minister," he said. "It would be independent of all the other law-enforcement agencies. Otherwise it would be impossible to fight corruption within these law-enforcement agencies--to act as police of the police." Kulikov said that his proposal to President Yeltsin in late 1997 was made after he received information about money laundering and financial activities in foreign countries by some Russian government officials. He said his goal was to have this money returned to Russia and to create obstacles for those wanting to move their money out of the country. According to Kulikov, President Yeltsin agreed that the commission should be established. He said it was also supported by Chernomyrdin and by other officials but never implemented. Other Russian officials at the crime conference told RFE/RL that the flight of capital is an important factor in the Russian economic crisis. They estimated that since 1992 as much as $100-150 billion have been sent abroad by various means. Russia has regulations against exporting capital. But the officials said that in recent years Russians at all levels have moved capital and assets abroad with relative impunity. The situation is said to have worsened since the collapse of the ruble a year ago. Some estimates suggest that between $1-2 billion slips out of the country every month. While much of it is considered to be flight of capital from the Russian economy, some of it is believed to be money laundering by criminals. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Munich, Germany. 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. 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