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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 184, Part I, 21 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 184, Part I, 21 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 * ARE SWISS, U.S. INVESTIGATORS GETTING CLOSER TO KREMLIN? * DEFENSE MINISTRY KEEPS ALL OPTIONS OPEN IN CHECHNYA * MILITANTS KILL MORE KYRGYZ TROOPS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA ARE SWISS, U.S. INVESTIGATORS GETTING CLOSER TO KREMLIN? An unidentified U.S. presidential administration official told "The New York Times" on 21 September that the FBI has found Bank of New York transactions involving Pavel Borodin, head of the Kremlin's facilities directorate, and Leonid Dyachenko, the husband of Tatyana Dyachenko, Russian President Boris Yeltsin's daughter. According to the official, while earlier there had been only rumors and suspicions, "now U.S. investigators are saying it." Meanwhile, Geneva investigating magistrate Daniel Devaud told Reuters on 20 September that his team has detected ties between bank accounts in the Bank of New York case and accounts frozen in Switzerland as part of a Swiss probe into alleged kickbacks to the Kremlin by the Swiss construction firm Mabetex. Borodin has denied any wrongdoing with regard to Mabetex or having a bank account in Switzerland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 1999). JAC U.S. HEARINGS ON RUSSIAN FINANCIAL SCANDAL OPEN... After meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in New York on 20 September, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters that Russia "has an interest no less than the U.S.'s" in getting to the bottom of the financial scandal involving the Bank of New York, AP reported. Ivanov's declaration comes the same day as hearings into the matter are scheduled to begin in the U.S. Congress. Aleksandr Kulikov, head of the State Duma's delegation to the hearings, told Russian Television on 20 September that delegation members hope to gather documents or information proving corruption. JAC ...BUT SKURATOV, KHODORKOVSKII NOT EXPECTED TO APPEAR. A number of top Russian officials have been invited to the hearings, including suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov. According to Interfax, Skuratov, who has declined the invitation, said that his "status as Russian prosecutor- general makes it impossible to attend hearings in another country." Another invitee, Rosprom head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, notified the U.S. House of Representatives' Banking Committee last week that he is not prepared to appear yet, a committee spokesman told RFE/RL's Washington bureau. Russian investigative journalist and State Duma deputy Yurii Shchekochikhin of Yabloko is expected to testify. JAC 'HE SAID, HE SAID' CONTINUES WITH REGARD TO ALLEGED CENTRAL BANK MISDEEDS. Central Bank First Deputy Chairman Sergei Aleksashenko told Interfax on 20 September that there is "not a single ounce of real fact" in mass media accusations that the Central Bank misused IMF funds in summer 1998. According to Aleksashenko, all transactions selling more than $4 billion from the IMF loan to 18 major domestic banks "were fully documented" and took place at market rates. Andrei Illarionov, director of the Institute for Economic Analysis, told "Ekonomika i zhizn" in September that former Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin "lied" when he said the Central Bank spent $9 billion in summer 1998 supporting the ruble. According to Illarionov, "$6.9 billion was given directly to some private banks when it became clear that the 6 rubles to $1 exchange rate was unsupportable." "In the long run, these operations resulted in the collapse of the ruble and disintegration of the financial system," he added. JAC GOVERNMENT DECLARES PENSION BACKLOG CLEARED. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced on 21 September that the federal government has paid all pension arrears in full. First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin explained the same day that sufficient funds were transferred by 20 September to pay off all debts owned to pensioners by 1 October, according to ITAR-TASS. The pension backlog totaled 1 billion rubles ($39 million) at the beginning of September, according to Pension Fund head Mikhail Zurabov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 1999). With this declaration, the Putin government appears to have made good on an earlier pledge by then Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin to wipe out the debt by September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 1999). JAC NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET MEETS WITH MORE RESISTANCE. State Duma Budget Committee head Aleksandr Zhukov announced on 20 September that his committee will recommend rejecting those provisions of the tax laws submitted with the 2000 budget that would raise levies on tobacco and alcohol and streamline personal income tax regulations, according to ITAR-TASS. The Duma will consider the budget on 28 September and the tax laws on 24 September, the agency reported. Last week, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said the lower house is unlikely to approve the 2000 budget because one-third of the budget will be used to pay foreign debts and "there is no hint that real living standards will improve." Earlier, regional leaders in the Federation Council rejected the budget, objecting in particular to its uneven split of revenues between the center and regions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1999). JAC DEFENSE MINISTRY KEEPS ALL OPTIONS OPEN IN CHECHNYA... Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 20 September, Russian First Deputy Chief of General Staff Colonel-General Valerii Manilov said Moscow will resort to any methods to neutralize terrorist bases in Chechnya, thereby not excluding a ground invasion against Chechnya, which Prime Minister Putin had ruled out last week. Manilov said the "second stage" of the operation to eliminate the threat of a new Chechen incursion into Daghestan would entail deploying two or three lines of troops along the border between Daghestan and Chechnya. Those troops would control all cross-border movement. Manilov estimated the Chechen forces' strength at some 6,000, adding that it could be increased to 10,000. The Chechen forces are equipped with several armored vehicles, 15 air defense systems, and large numbers of grenade launchers and mortars, Manilov added. LF ...AS TROOP BUILDUP CONTINUES ON CHECHEN BORDER. Reuters on 20 September quoted a Russian Defense Ministry source as saying that another 10,000 troops are being brought to the North Caucasus to help "seal" Chechnya's 540-kilometer border with other federation subjects. The number of Russian troops currently deployed in Daghestan alone is estimated at 30,000. LF CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER ANNOUNCES CREATION OF ISLAMIC SUICIDE SQUAD. Shamil Basaev, who is believed to be coordinating the actions of the Chechen forces in Daghestan, announced in Grozny on 20 September that he will create a squad of 400-500 men to undertake suicide terrorist missions in Russia if Moscow continues its bombing of Chechen territory, ITAR-TASS reported. The ultimate objective of that squad will be the "liberation of the Caucasus," Basaev added. ITAR-TASS also quoted unnamed Russian security officials as saying that some 100 Arab militants are to be sent to Chechnya from a training base in Afghanistan in response to an appeal to Saudi-born terrorist Osama Bin Laden by Chechen field commander Khattab. In Riyadh, the state-run Saudi Press Agency on 20 September issued an official denial of Russian claims that Saudi Arabia is financially supporting the Chechen militants, Reuters reported. LF RAISA GORBACHEV LIONIZED AFTER DEATH. The death of Raisa Gorbachev, the wife of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, has triggered an outpouring of sympathy from the formerly critical Russian press as well from top foreign officials. "Izvestiya" on 21 September called her the woman "who changed the world" and "who ennobled our motherland." The daily suggested that "she provoked respect and irritation in equal measure" because "the Gorbachevs had accomplished their own mini-counterrevolution, but we, the masses, had not." German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said he was "devastated" by the death, noting that for Germany, the Gorbachevs represented "the opening of a new world and a new future of cooperation between our two states." Nancy Reagan, the wife of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, called Raisa Gorbachev "an important voice in the friendship that our two countries established." JAC MORE MOVEMENTS REGISTERED... The Central Election Commission has authorized nine political movements and election blocs to collect signatures in support of their candidates for upcoming State Duma elections, Ekho Moskvy reported. These groups include Yabloko, Our Home Is Russia, the Communist Party, Peace and Unity, the Fatherland-All Russia alliance, the Stalin's Bloc, the National Salvation Front, Officers of the USSR, and Communists of Working Russia for the Soviet Union. According to commission chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, the commission is now processing documents for the Liberal Democratic Party, Spiritual Heritage, and the Movement in Support of the Army. Fatherland-All Russia coordinator Oleg Morozov announced on 21 September that 525,000 signatures have already been collected, well above the 200,000 needed for registration. Morozov added that the region with the highest number of signatures is Saratov Oblast, whose governor, Dmitrii Ayatskov, supports another party, Our Home Is Russia. JAC ...AS WOMEN CHOOSE OWN CANDIDATES. Delegates to the congress of Women of Russia approved a list of candidates on 20 September, according to ITAR-TASS. Movement leader Alevtina Fedulova said the party's federal and regional lists are composed primarily of candidates from the regions because the movement does not want to use the regions as an instrument to bring Moscow activists to the State Duma. Women of Russia left the Fatherland-All Russia alliance on 1 September partly because very few women have been included on that alliance's list, according to Fedulova. Those women who were included on the list have poor prospects of being elected, she added. JAC NEMTSOV TO RUN FROM NIZHNII. Boris Nemtsov, former first deputy prime minister and currently a leader of the Union of Rightist Forces, has announced his decision to run in the State Duma elections from a single-mandate district in Nizhnii Novgorod, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 September. Nemtsov was governor of Nizhnii Novogorod Oblast from December 1995 to March 1997. JC ACTING GOVERNOR RE-ELECTED IN LENINGRAD OBLAST... Valerii Serdyukov won the 19 September gubernatorial ballot, garnering some 30 percent of votes, ITAR-TASS reported the next day, citing the Leningrad Oblast Election Commission. Under oblast election regulations, a candidate must gain 25 percent plus one vote to be elected in the first round. Vadim Gustov, who had been head of Leningrad Oblast before quitting that post last year to become deputy prime minister in Yevgenii Primakov's cabinet, received some 23 percent of the vote. A total of 16 candidates contested the ballot. Turnout was estimated at 42 percent. JC ...WHILE TOMSK HEAD WINS HANDS DOWN. Governor Viktor Kress has succeeded in holding on to his post, gaining some 73 percent of the vote in the 19 September ballot to easily beat the five other candidates, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported the next day, citing preliminary data. Turnout was put at 49 percent. Kress, who has been Tomsk Oblast head since 1991, is chairman of the interregional association Siberian Accord and a member of Our Home Is Russia. JC CENTER AGREES TO REDEPLOY TATAR SOLDIERS FROM CONFLICT ZONE. Tatarstan parliamentary speaker Farit Mukhametshin told reporters on 20 September that Prime Minister Putin and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev have given Tatarstan's government assurances that soldiers from the republic will be re-deployed from Dagestan to other areas, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Tatarstan's parliament on 15 September issued a decree suspending conscription to the Russian armed forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1999). Mukhametshin added that this decision may be overruled at an upcoming session on 23 September. Meanwhile, in Moscow, Valerii Astanin, deputy chief of the armed forces' mobilization and organization board said that military recruitment in Tatarstan will be resumed. According to ITAR- TASS, Astanin said the Defense Ministry would "happily satisfy" Tatar parliamentary deputies' request not to send Tatarstan's soldiers to fight in armed conflicts if those soldiers have been in the army less than six months. JAC INITIAL GRAIN HARVEST FIGURES SHOW IMPROVEMENT OVER LAST YEAR. Farmers had gathered 42.7 million metric tons of grain as of 13 September, up 14.2 percent on the same period last year, Russian agencies reported. Farmers have cleared 28.2 million hectares or 68 percent of the planned area. The Agriculture Ministry forecast earlier that the grain harvest would reach 60 million metric tons. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA NEW LEFT-WING ALLIANCE FORMED IN ARMENIA. Nine political parties that failed to win representation in the parliament elected last May announced on 20 September their plans to form a bloc named Artarutyun (Justice), which is intended to fight for "social justice," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The parties in question include the Democratic Party of Armenia, the Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union, and the social-democrat Hnchakian Party, one of the three oldest Armenian political groups represented both in Armenia and within the diaspora. The bloc will hold its founding congress in October, but it is not known whether it will field candidates in local elections later this fall. LF BUDGET COMMITTEE LAMBASTES ARMENIAN CENTRAL BANK. In a 20 September statement, the Armenian parliament's office on budgetary oversight claimed that the Central Bank's 1998 report to the National Assembly is flawed and full of statistical discrepancies, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Oversight Chamber also said that the Central Bank last year exceeded some quotas set by the legislature: in particular, it spent 454 million drams ($857 million) on its employees' salaries instead of the planned 394 million drams. Central Bank chairman Tigran Sarkisian rejected that criticism, explaining that the extra payments to the staff were made after the bank slashed other expenditures. LF AZERBAIJAN MARKS FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF 'DEAL OF THE CENTURY.' Representatives of 10 governments and 24 international oil companies congregated in Baku on 20 September to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the signing of a $10 billion contract, the first of 18 Azerbaijan has concluded with international consortia, to extract off-shore Caspian oil, AFP and Reuters reported. After numerous delays, that first consortium, the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC), began exporting crude via Russia in late 1997 and via Georgia in spring 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 1997 and 19 April 1999). Addressing participants in the celebrations, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev said that a cornerstone of future oil strategy is construction of the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline. The AIOC is not convinced of the viability of that project. LF AZERBAIJANI POLICE PREVENT THIRD DEMONSTRATION. Police in Baku on 20 September prevented members of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party from picketing the Mayor's Office to demand a response to their request for permission to hold a demonstration on 25 September, Turan reported. It was the third time within five days that police have thwarted an opposition action (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 1999). LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS UN APPROACH TO ABKHAZ CONFLICT. Addressing the UN General Assembly on 20 September, Eduard Shevardnadze slammed what he termed the world community's "gross indifference" to the plight of displaced persons forced to flee Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war, Caucasus Press reported. Last March, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba declared that those displaced persons may return to Abkhazia if they wish to do so. Shevardnadze expressed disappointment that UN resolutions on the Abkhaz conflict fail to condemn explicitly what he termed genocide and ethnic cleansing by the Abkhaz. Stressing his support for the NATO intervention in Kosova, Shevardnadze suggested that the UN should condone a similar peace enforcement operation in Abkhazia. A NATO official said in Tbilisi last week that NATO is unlikely to do so as Abkhazia does not constitute a threat to European security (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1999). LF IS GEORGIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTRY TO BLAME FOR ANTHRAX EPIDEMIC? Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 16 September, city council member Djondo Baghaturia accused the Agriculture Minister Bakur Gulua and the head of the veterinary department within the Ministry of Agriculture of embezzling funds allocated for vaccinating cattle against anthrax over the past two years, Caucasus Press reported two days later. Baghaturia said he will ask the prosecutor- general to open criminal proceedings against the two men. Dozens of people have been hospitalized with anthrax in Tbilisi after eating contaminated beef (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 16 September 1999). LF KAZAKHSTAN AGAIN HOPING TO SELL ARMS ABROAD. Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev, who accompanied President Nursultan Nazarbaev to Bulgaria and Ukraine last week, told Interfax in Kyiv on 17 September that Astana hopes to sell with Ukraine's help almost 1,500 pieces of heavy military equipment formerly deployed by the Soviet Army in East Germany. Those vehicles are primarily tanks, which would be sent to Ukraine for repairs. Ukraine would keep three or four and sell the rest to foreign buyers, Toqaev explained. He added that Ukraine could also help to find a market for the output of the Uralsk Small Arms Plant. At an arms fair in Almaty in April 1998, Kazakhstan exhibited former Soviet military hardware, including MiG-21 fighters, for which the asking price was $150,000-$180,000 each. Kazakh government officials have denied any knowledge of the sale of those aircraft to North Korea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August and 13 September 1999). LF KAZAKHSTAN SUSPENDS EXPORTS OF FUEL OIL. Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev signed a decree on 18 September halting exports of fuel oil for three months beginning 25 September, Interfax and AP reported. That measure is intended to ensure that the country has adequate supplies of fuel for domestic heating. The city authorities in Astana and Almaty will be required to report at 10-day intervals on the level of fuel oil reserves. LF MILITANTS KILL MORE KYRGYZ TROOPS... Five government troops were killed and another five wounded on 20 September when guerrillas opened fire on their truck in Osh Oblast, dpa reported. The previous day, one officer was killed and two servicemen wounded when their armored personnel carrier hit a land mine laid by the militants, according to ITAR-TASS. In Bishkek, Security Council Secretary Bolot Djanuzakov told journalists on 20 September that the 13 hostages, including four Japanese geologists, who are currently being held by the guerrillas are alive and well. But he added that the guerillas are constantly moving the hostages from one location to another. Meanwhile, the number of fugitives from the fighting gathered in the raion center of Batken has reached 4,200, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 20 September. LF ...AS RUSSIA PROMISES ARMS. The Russian Defense Ministry will send several war planes and two trainloads of ammunition and arms, including sub-machine guns and grenade launchers, to Kyrgyzstan within a week, an unidentified Kyrgyz military source told ITAR-TASS on 20 September. That decision was taken at a meeting of CIS defense ministers in Moscow last week. Armenia has already sent a plane-load of technical equipment to Bishkek. Kyrgyz parliamentary deputy Dos Bol Nur Uulu told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 20 September that the government forces deployed in the south of the country are short of ammunition. LF ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS ARRESTED IN TAJIKISTAN. Several members of an underground radical Islamist party allegedly founded by Uzbek fundamentalists were apprehended in Tajikistan's Leninabad Oblast on 19 September, ITAR-TASS reported the following day, citing the Tajik Security Ministry. In the town of Khojend, the activists were reportedly handing out leaflets calling for the creation of an Islamic state in Central Asia. LF TURKMEN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES BANKING OFFICIALS. Meeting on 17 September in Ashgabat with banking sector officials, Saparmurat Niyazov criticized the work of both the Central Bank and the Foreign Trade Bank and fired the latter's chairman, Deputy Prime Minister Yula Gurbanmuradov, Interfax reported three days later. Niyazov criticized the Foreign Trade Bank for failing to repay loans on schedule. He added that the information supplied by the Turkmen government to international financial institutions is frequently incorrect, and he called for a review of data on the country's foreign debt. Meanwhile, German Ambassador to Ashgabat Hans-Jurgen Keilholz told businessmen on 20 September that bilateral trade fell by 10 percent over the first eight months of this year, compared with 1998. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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