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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 181, Part I, 16 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 181, Part I, 16 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 * RUSSIA ROCKED BY ANOTHER APARTMENT EXPLOSION * ISLAMIC MILITANTS EXPELLED FROM DAGHESTAN? * TBILISI AGAIN DENIES ARMS TRANSPORTED VIA GEORGIA TO RUSSIA End Note: WILL FORMER PREMIER'S DETENTION IMPACT ON KAZAKHSTAN'S ELECTIONS? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIA ROCKED BY ANOTHER APARTMENT EXPLOSION... A truck parked next to an apartment building in the city of Volgodonsk in Rostov Oblast exploded on 16 September, killing 13 and injuring 115, according to the Emergencies Ministry as of the late morning local time. Both Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo and a Federal Security Serviced spokesman said that terrorism is suspected. Two recent explosions at apartment buildings in Moscow left more than 200 people dead. JAC ...AS PRESIDENT RESHUFFLES GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL. Before meeting with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 16 September, Russian President Boris Yeltsin declared that Russia has the strength and means to put an end to terrorism and that one of its most essential tasks is to tighten security along the Chechen border, Interfax reported. Yeltsin also sent a telegram to Rostov Governor Vladimir Chub lamenting "the barbaric act," noting that "more attempts have been made to intimidate Russians, to spread fear and panic," ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 16 September, President Yeltsin dismissed Railways Minister Vladimir Starostenko and appointed First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, who formerly held the job, in his place. JAC MORE SUSPECTS IN MOSCOW BOMBING IN CUSTODY, CHECHNYA IMPLICATED. Moscow deputy police chief Aleksandr Vildyaev told reporters on 15 September that 27 persons are in custody in connection with the two recent bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow. According to Vildyaev, "Chechen fighters" were behind the explosions and were responsible for shipping some 19 tons of explosives, disguised as sugar, to Moscow. However, Interfax earlier cited unidentified law enforcement sources as saying the explosives transported in sugar sacks were labeled by a Cherkessk sugar mill. Federal Security Service spokesman Aleksandr Zhdanovich added the same day that "clues point to Chechnya" and that while investigators "may not yet have identified all" the culprits," he revealed that "officially, for the time being, I can only say that we know of two men." Vladimir Koslov, director of the Interior Ministry's Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime, told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that one of the suspected culprits is known as Denis Saitakov. Reportedly, Saitakov stayed for some time at a base run by Jordanian-born Chechen field commander Khattab. JAC PUTIN AGAIN BLAMES CHECHNYA FOR MOSCOW BOMBINGS... Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on 15 September again accused Chechnya of providing refuge for the perpetrators of the Moscow apartment building blasts, whom he said receive support from "Chechen extremist forces," ITAR-TASS reported. He said that Moscow will demand that Grozny hand over those those responsible. LF ...SAYS BLASTS AIMED AT UNDERMINING CIS. Also on 15 September, Putin told a meeting of CIS defense ministers in Moscow that "international terrorism" masquerading under Islamic religious slogans aims to destroy the CIS and establish military dictatorships in its former member states, Interfax reported. He said that Russia wants to forge a common policy with the Transcaucasus states in order to counter such attempts and hopes that Georgia and Azerbaijan will agree to do so. The defense ministers adopted a statement affirming their readiness to undertake joint actions to eliminate threats to their interests, noting that any actions aimed at undermining the stability of any CIS state will be regarded as a threat to their collective interests, according to Interfax. LF ISLAMIC MILITANTS EXPELLED FROM DAGHESTAN? Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told Prime Minister Putin by telephone on 15 September that all "terrorists" have been driven out of Daghestan. But Sergeev added that several thousand Chechen- led militants are congregated at three locations on the Chechen side of the border between Chechnya and Daghestan. He vowed that the army is "fully ready" to repel any new incursion. Daghestan's State Council chairman Magomedali Magomedov similarly announced in Makhachkala on 15 September that the territory of the republic has been freed from guerrillas. LF ARSON ATTACKS IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA. Explosions damaged two cafes in Cherkessk, the capital of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, and a third was burned down during the night of 14-15 September, Interfax reported. The owners of all three establishments were ethnic Karachais. Meanwhile, Vladimir Semenov, who was unofficially inaugurated as the republic's president on 14 September, has flown to Moscow for talks with the Russian leadership. Valentin Vlasov, whom in late July President Yeltsin appointed as acting president of the republic, has also returned to Moscow for consultations, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 September. LF TATARSTAN HALTS CONSCRIPTION. Tatarstan's parliament on 15 September issued a decree suspending conscription to the Russian armed forces, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The decision was based on a report by military commissioner Rim Mustay that of the 43 draftees from Tatarstan who were sent to serve in Daghestan this summer, seven were killed. Parliamentary speaker Farid Mukhametshin told Interfax that the deputies' demands to halt the sending of conscripts to Daghestan during their first year of service is justified in the light of Russian Defense Ministry statements that only trained volunteers are to sent to serve in trouble spots. LF TATARSTAN'S PARLIAMENT SETS ELECTION DATES... Also on 15 September, the parliament approved holding parliamentary elections on 19 December, at the same time as the elections to the Russian State Duma, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. President Mintimer Shaimiev argued that this will not impinge on Tatarstan's sovereignty and is more convenient for voters. LF ...APPROVES SWITCH TO LATIN ALPHABET. The parliament also passed in the third and final reading legislation on reverting to the use of the Latin alphabet, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The law was approved in the first reading in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 1999). LF PUTIN DISCUSSES CRIME, TERRORISM PREVENTION WITH IRISH PREMIER. Meeting in Moscow on 15 September, Russian Premier Putin and his Irish counterpart, Bertie Ahern, signed an agreement on combating crime and drug-trafficking. The two leaders discussed the recent bomb explosions in Russia, and Putin called for Irish law enforcement agencies to help in fighting terrorism in Russia, noting that those agencies have had "much experience" in this area. Economic issues were also on the agenda. According to Russian Radio, Putin noted that Russia's trade turnover with Ireland totaled almost $1 billion last year. JC NEW RESIGNATION RUMORS DOG YELTSIN... Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev told "The New York Times" on 16 September that "Yeltsin's resignation would benefit the nation, the political parties and himself." He added that the Russian constitution gave Yeltsin "enormous powers, but "he has no authority over the country at all." He continued that if such a system of authority, which "does not extend beyond the Kremlin's walls," is preserved, then "we shall lose Russia." Stroev's remarks follow speculation in the press that Yeltsin is preparing to resign, which some analysts say would strengthen the hand of his anointed successor, Prime Minister Putin. However, "Moskovskii komsomolets," which is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, reported on 15 September that its sources in the Kremlin believe that the presidential administration is now viewing All Russia-Fatherland leader Yevgenii Primakov favorably. They also claimed that Yeltsin's daughter and adviser Tatyana Dyachenko recently inquired about the legal procedure for an early transfer of presidential powers. JAC ...AS PRIMAKOV, LUZHKOV SPLIT TIPPED. The next day, "Moskovskii komsomlets" reported that according to its sources, at its next congress the Fatherland movement, led by Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, will transform itself into a political party with a rigid hierarchical structure and break up its alliance with All Russia. After elections to the State Duma, the new Fatherland party will nominate its own candidate for the 2000 presidential elections, mostly likely Luzhkov, and create its own parliamentary faction, the newspaper predicted. One reason for the pending split, according to the daily, is the vigorous activity on the part of Primakov, who had been expected to play a more ceremonial role not unlike that of a British monarch and leave election campaign work to his younger, healthier colleagues. Instead, Primakov has been going to the bloc's headquarters almost every day, convening meetings on election strategy and ordering the bloc's symbol re-designed. JAC REGIONS REJECT DRAFT FEDERAL BUDGET. Federation Council Chairman Stroev panned the 2000 draft federal budget on 15 September, calling the document a budget "of an anemically sick country," Interfax reported. Stroev suggested that both legislative chambers participate in the drafting a new budget (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 August 1999). Stroev and other senators objected to the uneven split in revenues between the center and regions, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. According to the daily, the split under the current draft is 53 percent for the center, 47 percent for regions, although some governors are claiming it is 60-40. Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin told the legislators that the federal center simply cannot afford a 50-50 revenue split because of its need to service the country's foreign debt. However, senators responded skeptically to that claim, according to the daily, insisting that the budget is unacceptable in its current form. JAC NEW ROUND OF TALKS WITH LONDON CLUB CREDITORS BEGINS. Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 15 September began a new round of negotiations with London Club creditors on restructuring debts Russia inherited from the former Soviet Union. According to Interfax, Kasyanov admitted that the talks are proceeding with difficulty. Earlier, he had said that negotiations are likely to be protracted, requiring five to six rounds. Russia owes London Club creditors some $32 billion. Western sources close to the negotiations told the news agency that the Russia is hoping to have about 30 percent of its debt written off. JAC RUSSIA TO CONTINUE KFOR PARTICIPATION... UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner told Reuters that at a meeting in Moscow on 15 September, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov "did not mention Russian troops leaving KFOR. On the contrary, he reiterated his support for the operation." Ivanov dismissed earlier warnings by a senior Russian Defense Ministry official that Russia would pull out of KFOR. The official had claimed that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) would not meet its demilitarization deadline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1999). Kouchner said: "I hope the man from the Defense Ministry is mistaken and that the disarmament...will be effective as of 19 September." The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that "despite the extremely difficult nature of regulating the situation [in Kosova], it is possible to move ahead with a political solution." Ivanov said that Kouchner can count on "full cooperation with Russia," AP reported. FS ...APPROVES INTRODUCTION OF GERMAN MARK IN KOSOVA. Kouchner said in Moscow on 15 September that he has convinced Russian officials, as well as the UN Security Council, that the German mark should be adopted as Kosova's currency, AP reported. He said: "The money that is coming into [Kosova] is the money of those Kosovars who are working in Germany, Switzerland, America, and other countries. And it is primarily in German marks," according to ITAR-TASS. FS POLICE ENSURE LEADERSHIP TRANSITION AT TRANSNEFT. After Semen Vainshtok, newly appointed head of the giant pipeline company Transneft, was denied entry to his new place of employment on 16 September, a team of police officers forced their way into the company with saws so that Vainshtok could assume his duties, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1999). His predecessor, Vladimir Savelev, announced the same day that he is filing suit to appeal the government's decision to remove him. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA TRANSCAUCASUS PARLIAMENT CHAIRMEN MEET IN TBILISI. Georgian parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania and his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts, Karen Demirchian and Murtuz Alesqerov, took part in a meeting in Tbilisi on 15 September under the aegis of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Caucasus Press reported. PACE President Lord Russell Johnston also attended. Demirchian told journalists after the talks that regional conflicts, including Nagorno- Karabakh, were discussed. Zhvania said that it is planned to hold such meetings regularly. Meeting the previous day, Alesqerov and Zhvania had discussed integration of the South Caucasus states into European structures. Alesqerov told Turan that he asked Zhvania to support his request that Armenia and Azerbaijan be admitted simultaneously to full membership in the Council of Europe. LF TBILISI AGAIN DENIES ARMS TRANSPORTED VIA GEORGIA TO RUSSIA... The Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 15 September denying three senior Russian officials' allegations that arms, ammunition, and mercenaries transit Georgia and Azerbaijan en route for Chechnya and Daghestan, possibly without the knowledge of the Georgian authorities, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian Border Guards Department Head Valerii Chkheidze likewise denied those charges, saying that the demand to close the Russian-Georgian frontier is "groundless." Last week, Chkheidze had rejected Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev's calls to close the border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1999). Since then, Duma Defense and Security Committee chairman Roman Popkovich and senior Russian Defense Ministry official Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov have both repeated the claim that arms are being sent to Chechnya and Daghestan via the South Caucasus. LF ...WHILE NADAREISHVILI SAYS SUCH SHIPMENTS TAKING PLACE. Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile (which is composed of ethnic Georgian deputies to the Abkhaz parliament elected in 1991), told Caucasus Press on 15 September that Abkhazia serves as a transit point for both arms and mercenaries entering Chechnya. Nadareishvili added that he believes the claims by some Russian politicians that Chechen guerrillas maintain training camps in Abkhazia. LF GEORGIAN ANTHRAX EPIDEMIC SPREADS. Caucasus Press reported on 14 September, citing "Rezonansi," that three residents of the western Georgian town of Samtredia have been hospitalized with anthrax. Previous reported cases were confined to Tbilisi and Gardabani Raion, south of the capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 1999). A spokesman for the Georgian Health Ministry said on 15 September that 42 people have been hospitalized with the disease in Tbilisi over the past month, AP reported. LF KAZHEGELDIN'S ARREST WARRANT RETRACTED ON 'HUMANITARIAN GROUNDS'... Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General Yurii Khitrin told journalists in Almaty on 15 September that he annulled the warrant for the arrest of former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin "on humanitarian grounds" because of the latter's poor health, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 15 September 1999). Reuters quoted Khitrin as adding that Kazhegeldin agreed during a telephone conversation to answer the charges against him within one month. Leading members of Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan told journalists in Almaty on 15 September that Kazhegeldin's release constitutes a victory for their party and for nascent democracy in Kazakhstan (see also "End Note" below). LF ...AS MEDIA IMPLICATE HIM IN MIG SALE TO NORTH KOREA. Meanwhile on 15 September, Kazakh newspapers and Russia's "Komsomolskaya pravda" published a statement by Kazakhstan's National Security Committee claiming that Kazhegeldin was involved in the decision to sell MiG fighter aircraft to North Korea. Kazhegeldin's spokesman Igor Poberezhskii told RFE/RL that in 1996, Kazhegeldin had indeed approved the sale of those aircraft in his capacity as prime minister. However, the buyer countries were not specified, Poberezhskii said, adding that responsibility for selling the MiGs to North Korea lies with the present government of Kazakhstan. LF NO BREAKTHROUGH IN KYRGYZ HOSTAGE CRISIS. Human rights activist Tursunbek Akunov, who is mediating between the Kyrgyz government and the ethnic Uzbek guerrillas holding 13 hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 15 September that during his last talks with the guerrillas on 13-14 September, he did not see the hostages. Interfax quoted Akunov as saying that those hostages are "far away," but there is "a real chance" of securing their release. Akunov told RFE/RL that the guerrillas' leader, Yunus Abdrakmanov, demanded free passage into Uzbekistan for himself and his men and repeated his willingness for talks with the Kyrgyz government, without explaining his exact negotiating position. Although Abdrakmanov had promised that the guerrillas would not attack Kyrgyz troops before the next round of talks, tentatively scheduled for next week, a detachment of some 25 Kyrgyz troops came under fire near Batken on 15 September, AP reported. There were no casualties in that attack. LF KYRGYZSTAN'S PRESIDENT MAY NOT RUN FOR THIRD TERM. "Der Tagesspiegel" on 15 September quoted Askar Akaev as saying once again that he may not run for a third presidential term next year. Akaev told the Berlin daily that someone younger should take over the presidential duties, after which he would return to academic work. Akaev told Interfax last December that he has not yet decided whether to seek a third term as president. LF END NOTE WILL FORMER PREMIER'S DETENTION IMPACT ON KAZAKHSTAN'S ELECTIONS? By Liz Fuller On 17 September, the population of Kazakhstan will elect members of the Senate--the upper house of the parliament--in the first round of parliamentary elections. A second round of voting, for the 77 seats in the Mazhilis, the lower house, is scheduled for 10 October. The runup to the elections has been dominated by the uncertainty of whether one of Kazakhstan's most prominent and charismatic opposition figures, former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin, would be permitted to run as a candidate. A 47- year-old economist, Kazhegeldin presided over Kazakhstan's privatization program for three years before resigning as premier in October 1997, reportedly for health reasons. In 1998, he founded a political party to defend the interests of Kazakhstan's industrialists and businessmen and in October of that year declared his intention to contend the pre-term January 1999 presidential election. Kazhegeldin accused incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbaev of authoritarianism, nepotism, and indifference to human rights. He advocated creating a coalition government to reverse the economic downturn, rising unemployment, and the increasing impoverishment of the population, trends that he predicted could result in mass social unrest. Kazhegeldin, however, was barred from running in the presidential elections on the grounds that he committed "an administrative offense" by participating in an unsanctioned demonstration. The OSCE and the U.S. subsequently termed the poll, in which Nazarbaev was re-elected by almost 80 percent of voters, "deeply flawed" and falling far short of OSCE standards. In March, Kazakhstan's parliament adopted an election law that introduced 10 seats in the Mazhilis that are to be contested under the proportional system. But both the OCSE and opposition parties criticized other provisions of that legislation, including the $1,000 registration fee for parliamentary candidates and the ban on persons running for office who have committed an "administrative offense." The parliament in June approved amendments proposed by President Nazarbaev reducing the registration fee and abolishing the ruling on administrative offenses. Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan (KRKhP) was formally registered by the Ministry of Justice in July and announced it would contend the Mazhilis elections. But in April, the Prosecutor-General's Office had brought charges of tax evasion and illegal acquisition of real estate in Belgium against the former premier, who had left Kazakhstan late in 1998. Kazhegeldin has denied those charges, which he terms politically motivated. On 9 September, the deadline for registration, Kazakhstan's Central Electoral Commission refused to register Kazhegeldin's candidacy because the charges of tax evasion against him had not been lifted. He headed the KRKhP list of 10 candidates for the 10 party-list seats in the Mazhilis. His party responded that it will boycott the elections. Six of its members, however, are to run in single-mandate constituencies. On10 September, Russia police detained Kazhegeldin on his arrival at Moscow's Sheremetevo airport, saying the Kazakh authorities were demanding his extradition. Kazhegeldin was hospitalized after suffering a suspected heart attack but told RFE/RL from his hospital bed that he traveled to Moscow en route for Kazakhstan following published assurances by Kazakhstan's ambassador in Washington that he is free to return to Kazakhstan, and that no legal measures will be taken against him if he does so. On 15 September, Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General Yurii Khitrin announced that the charges against Kazhegeldin have been dropped "on humanitarian grounds" and that he is free to return to Kazakhstan. Kazhegeldin's detention sparked protest demonstrations in Almaty and was denounced by prominent opposition figures, including Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin. The Communist Party, together with the Orleu (Progress) movement and the Association of Russian, Slavic, and Cossack Associations, is aligned with the KRKhP in the Republika election bloc formed in July. Those parties have pledged not to compete against one another in the single-mandate constituencies. A total of 565 candidates from 10 parties have registered to contend the parliamentary poll. Russian observers predict that the pro-presidential Otan party and the Civic Party, which claims to represent businessmen and industrialists, will garner the lion's share of the vote in the Mazhilis, followed by the Communist Party. In the Senate elections, 33 candidates will contest 16 seats. The removal of the threat posed by Kazhegeldin and his party does not necessarily guarantee a decisive election victory for Otan, however. (Otan's proclaimed objective is to replace the existing government with one both willing to and capable of implementing Nazarbaev's economic policies.) Kazhegeldin's supporters can vote for whichever opposition party they consider has the best chance of competing with Otan, or they can vote for no one in protest. How many are likely to choose the latter option is difficult to predict. The political situation in Kazakhstan is characterized by a high degree of resentment among the impoverished majority of the population against an oligarchy centered on Nazarbaev. That oligarchy, many observers both in Kazakhstan and abroad believe, is prepared to defy the international community by rigging the elections in order to cling to power. But that resentment is accompanied by widespread political passivity. To date, popular resentment has found an outlet in protest demonstrations against employers' or local authorities' failure to pay wages and pensions rather than in support for opposition parties. Indeed, the results of a recent opinion poll showed that more than half the respondents could not name even a single political party. One in five said they do not support any political party, while Otan received the highest approval rating with 17 percent. 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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