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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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?
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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.

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