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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 185, Part I, 22 September 1999


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 185, Part I, 22 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

* NEW REGIONAL BLOC FORMING?

* TOP U.S. OFFICIAL FAVORS CONTINUED IMF ENGAGEMENT IN RUSSIA

* GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ OFFICIALS DISCUSS SECURITY CONCERNS

End Note: FLY THE SCARY SKIES
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RUSSIA

NEW REGIONAL BLOC FORMING? Russian media reported on 21
September that an appeal signed by a group of 39 regional
leaders is in fact a declaration of the formation of a new
electoral bloc. According to "Kommersant-Daily," which is
controlled by media magnate Boris Berezovskii, Berezovskii is
backing the effort and a founding congress of the bloc will
be held in the near future. According to "Tribuna" the next
day, the new bloc is intended as a counterbalance to the
Fatherland-All Russia alliance and should be perceived as
pro-Kremlin. "Tribuna" is financed by Gazprom. Among those
regional leaders who signed the appeal are the governors of
Kursk, Kaliningrad, Belgorod, and Sverdlovsk Oblasts,
Primorskii Krai, and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, according to
the dailies. Chukotka head Aleksandr Nazarov told ITAR-TASS
on 22 September that more than 50 members of the Federation
Council have already joined the new bloc, whose tentative
name is Unity (Edinstvo). According to Interfax, Emergencies
Minister Sergei Shoigu may lead the new group. JAC

REAL WAGES CONTINUE FALLING... The backlog of unpaid wages in
Russia totaled 55.12 billion rubles ($2.2 billion) as of 1
September, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 22 September.
According to the government daily, the state owes only one
quarter of this sum, the remainder being debts of private
firms to their workers. At the same time, the real monthly
average wage continues to fall each month, having slipped 3.2
percent in August. Russian Statistics Agency reported earlier
that real wages fell 35.9 percent during the first eight
months of the year, compared with the same period in 1998
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 1999). Economics
Ministry "experts" told Interfax on 21 September the
situation with regard to the population's living standards is
troubling since the average monthly wage in August of last
year amounted to $156, compared with only $64 last month and
$67 in July 1999. JAC

...AS UNEMPLOYMENT REMAINS HIGH. The total number of
unemployed persons in Russia at the end of August was 9.12
million, up 10 percent on the 31 August 1998 level. According
to "Rossiiskaya gazeta" the next day, unemployment fell in
August, compared with July, but only by 0.1 percent.
Meanwhile, a recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute
shows that labor productivity in Russia is low compared with
the world's best performing economies. Productivity in
Russia's most efficient sector, the steel industry, equals
only one-third of U.S. labor productivity, according to
Reuters on 22 September. JAC

TOP U.S. OFFICIAL FAVORS CONTINUED IMF ENGAGEMENT IN RUSSIA.
Addressing the U.S. Congress during its 21 September hearings
on the Bank of New York scandal, Treasury Secretary Larry
Summers sounded a similar note to that expressed earlier by
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 17 September 1999). He said that the U.S.
presidential administration supports continued IMF engagement
in Russia because "to quarantine, contain, or write off
Russia as too corrupt would ill serve our national interest."
Summers noted that Russia continues to experience problems
associated with the "profound corruption problems [inherited]
from the Soviet era," but "at the same time, the record also
demonstrates that Russia today is in many ways a very
different country than it was a decade ago." Meanwhile,
several Swiss banks have frozen $26 million in Bank of New
York assets as part of the Swiss government's investigation
into money laundering, Swiss police announced on 21
September, according to Western agencies. JAC

IVANOV STRESSES MOSCOW'S POSITION ON ABM... Addressing the
54th annual UN General Assembly in New York on 21 September,
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov urged that body to
support continued adherence to the 1972 ABM treaty. Alluding
to U.S. plans to implement a limited national ABM defense
system, Ivanov said that unilateral steps aimed at
"undermining" that treaty are "fraught with the most serious
consequences," according to ITAR-TASS and an RFE/RL
correspondent in New York. Ivanov also praised UN
peacekeeping efforts, which, he said, have proven important
in ensuring global and regional stability. JC

...AND SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ. With regard to the continued
UN sanctions against Iraq, Ivanov commented that those
measures are "extreme" and "can be applied only when other
means of political influence have been exhausted," RFE/RL's
correspondent in New York reported. He advised the UN
Security Council to adopt clear criteria for imposing and
lifting sanctions and not to allow "any free interpretation
of adopted decisions, much less their use by anyone for
selfish political or economic ends." JC

FIRST-EVER RUSSIAN JUDGE APPOINTED TO EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN
RIGHTS. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council Europe on
21 September voted to approve Anatolii Kovler as a judge at
the European Court of Human Rights. The 51-year-old Kovler,
editor-in-chief of a law magazine, is the first Russian
justice to be appointed to that body. JC

KREMLIN CHANGING ATTITUDE TOWARD DEFENSE, NEWSPAPER SAYS. In
its 21 September issue, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" argues that a
"serious change" is evident in the Kremlin's attitude toward
defense matters and that the administration is intent on
"comprehensively strengthening" the armed forces and
military-industrial complex. The newspaper puts this
development in the context of incidents such as U.S. fighter
jets' intercepting two Tu-95 Russian Bear bombers off the
coast of Alaska (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 1999),
noting that the West, used to the "stupor" of the Russian
armed forces over the past eight to 10 years, is trying to
present any such maneuver in international air space as a
"threat." It also sees as significant Vladimir Putin's recent
trip to Arkhangelsk, where the prime minister attended the
launching of a new submarine for the Northern Fleet and
reportedly stressed that the "new priority" is the production
of arms for Russia's own strategic needs. "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" is funded by media magnate Boris Berezovskii's
LogoVAZ group. JC

ANOTHER CONSPIRACY THEORY FOILED? Central Election Chairman
Aleksandr Veshnyakov appeared to pour cold water on State
Duma deputy Aleksandr Shokhin's theory, outlined in a recent
article, that Russian President Boris Yeltsin will resign
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 1999). Veshnyakov said
on 20 September that a candidate for the parliament has the
right to simultaneously run for president. Shokhin had argued
that Yeltsin would resign on 19 October so that his main
opponents would have to choose between running in the
presidential elections and in the parliamentary elections.
Shokhin speculated that the commission and Russian courts
would likely interpret articles of the law on basic suffrage
guarantees and the right of Russian citizens to participate
in referenda in such a way that a candidate would be barred
from running twice in the same district. JAC

FORMER TRANSNEFT HEAD TO SEEK DUMA SEAT FROM NIZHNII. Dmitrii
Savelev, the ousted head of the energy pipeline company
Transneft, announced on 21 September that he will run for a
seat in the State Duma in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, Interfax
reported. Savelev worked in Nizhnii until 1998 when then
Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko tapped him for the Transneft
post. The previous day, State Duma Property Committee
Chairman Pavel Bunich told reporters that three Duma
committees studied Savelev's ouster and concluded that since
the state owns only 75 percent of the company's shares, a new
director should have been appointed under the law on joint-
stock companies rather than under the law on privatization.
Carnegie Moscow Center's Nikolai Petrov told RFE/RL's Moscow
bureau that the Kremlin was behind Savelev's dismissal in
order to secure the maximum number of the country's resources
before the election. JAC

SOME STUDENTS' SUMMER VACATIONS EXTENDED EVEN LONGER.
Teachers at about half of the schools in the Altai Republic
decided on 21 September to extend their strike, which began
on 1 September, until at least 1 October, ITAR-TASS reported.
About 3,000 teachers from 103 schools are demanding payment
of back wages. According to the agency, the republic owes
teachers and other education workers 82 million rubles ($3.2
million). Meanwhile in Buryatia, teachers are threatening to
go on strike in October if their economic situation worsens,
Interfax-Eurasia reported. Earlier, they had decided not to
disrupt the beginning of the school year on 1 September. The
republic's government owes some 58 million rubles in unpaid
wages. JAC

CHECHEN, NORTH CAUCASUS PRESIDENTS MEET. Ruslan Aushev and
Aleksandr Dzasokhov, the presidents of Ingushetia and North
Ossetia, met with their Chechen counterpart, Aslan Maskhadov,
in the new Ingushetian capital, Magas, on 20 September to
discuss measures to prevent further incursions by Chechen
militants into neighboring North Caucasus republics, Reuters
and dpa reported. Aushev told Russian television that the
three presidents had agreed on the need for an immediate
meeting between Maskhadov and Russian President Yeltsin at
which Maskhadov would propose measures to stabilize the
situation. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 22 September suggested
that at his meeting with Yeltsin, Maskhadov might give Moscow
carte blanche to launch a covert operation to annihilate the
militants' leaders in return for a Russian undertaking not to
send ground troops into Chechnya and to halt the bombing of
Chechen villages. Maskhadov also agreed to the other two
presidents' proposal to convene a meeting of North Caucasus
presidents in Nalchik on 27 September, Interfax reported. LF

RUSSIAN TROOPS, CHECHEN MILITANTS PREPARE TO REPEL ATTACKS.
Russian Defense Ministry sources told ITAR-TASS and Interfax
on 21 September that some 13,000 Russian troops are currently
deployed along Chechnya's borders with other federation
subjects. But they denied that an additional 10,000 troops
have been sent to Mozdok from the Moscow Military District
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 1999). The two agencies
quoted Russian intelligence sources as saying that the
Chechen militants concentrated at three locations on the
Chechen side of the border between Chechnya and Daghestan are
stepping up their attempts to monitor Russian troop movements
in Daghestan. In Grozny, leaders of the militant Chechen
forces, including Shamil Basaev, discussed preparations to
counter an anticipated Russian ground invasion of Chechnya,
according to Interfax. LF

U.S. SEEKS TO REASSURE RUSSIA OVER CASPIAN PROJECTS... John
Wolf, who is special adviser for Caspian energy issues to
U.S. President Bill Clinton, said in Moscow on 21 September
that he has told Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov that the
U.S. is not trying to prevent implementation of the Blue
Stream project to export Russian natural gas to Turkey, AP
and Interfax reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry last
month accused unnamed U.S. officials of systematically trying
to prevent the implementation of that project (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 19 August 1999). The U.S. supports construction of
an alternative Trans-Caspian pipeline to export
Turkmenistan's gas to Turkey via Azerbaijan and Georgia, but
that project may be jeopardized by disagreement between
Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan over how much gas the latter may
export via that planned pipeline. Wolf told journalists in
Moscow that numerous possibilities exist for Russian-U.S.
cooperation in the Caspian. He did not say whether events in
Daghestan will impact on U.S. policy in the Caspian and South
Caucasus, according to Interfax. LF

...WHILE PUSHING FOR BAKU-CEYHAN PROJECT. Wolf told a press
conference at Interfax's main office in Moscow on 21
September that the U.S. shares the view of Azerbaijan,
Turkey, and Georgia that the main export pipeline for Caspian
oil should be routed from Baku to Ceyhan. The president of
the Azerbaijan International Operating Company, the only
international consortium that has begun exporting off-shore
Caspian oil from Azerbaijan, told journalists in Baku the
same day that the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will be profitable
only if construction costs do not exceed $2.4 billion,
according to ITAR-TASS. The AIOC would prefer to expand the
capacity of the existing pipeline from Baku to Supsa on
Georgia's Black Sea coast, but Wolf said in Moscow on 21
September that the U.S. opposes that option. Interfax quoted
Wolf as saying he finds the AIOC's attitude "strange." LF

RUSSIA SLAMS TURKMENISTAN'S CLAIMS TO CASPIAN... The Russian
Foreign Ministry on 20 September issued a statement
expressing concern over a recent decree by Turkmenistan's
President Saparmurat Niyazov defining the Turkmen sector of
the Caspian Sea as an "inseparable part of the state,"
Interfax reported. The statement noted that Russia has
repeatedly warned that it "will not recognize any attempts by
individual Caspian states to extend their sovereignty to any
part" of the Caspian Sea. The deputy foreign ministers of the
five Caspian littoral states are to meet in Tehran in October
in a further attempt to resolve their differences over
dividing the sea into national sectors. LF

...SEEKS TO REASSURE AZERBAIJAN. Russian Fuel and Energy
Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii told Azerbaijan's President Heidar
Aliev in Baku on 21 September that the planned pipeline
transporting Azerbaijan's Caspian oil to the Russian port of
Novorossiisk and bypassing Chechnya will be completed within
six to eight months, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported.
Apologizing for this year's repeated disruptions to exports
of Azerbaijani crude via the existing pipeline from Baku to
Novorossiisk via Chechnya, Kalyuzhnii added that the new
bypass pipeline will have an increased annual throughput
capacity of 12 million tons. He also suggested that some
Azerbaijani crude be refined in the North Caucasus, where
there is a market for it. Aliev affirmed his readiness for
cooperation with Russia in the oil sector, describing that
cooperation as "fundamental." He also hinted that Baku might
modify its present insistence that not only the Caspian Sea
bed but also its waters and surface area be divided into
national sectors. LF

CORRECTION: "RFE/RL Newsline" on 21 September cited an
incorrect report in "The New York Times" stating that the
name of the husband of Russian President Yeltsin's daughter,
Tatyana Dyachenko, is Leonid Dyachenko. The correct name is
Aleksei Dyachenko.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIA MARKS INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY. Thousands of Armenian
troops, accompanied by tanks and new artillery systems,
paraded through the streets of Yerevan on the eighth
anniversary of the referendum on declaring the country's
independence from the Soviet Union, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau
reported. It was the first such military parade since 1996,
when the independence anniversary fell one day before the
presidential elections. President Robert Kocharian said in an
anniversary address that Armenia "is pursuing an active
policy of economic reforms, promoting democracy and promoting
regional and global cooperation," according to Interfax.
Among the world leaders who sent messages of congratulation
were Pope John Paul II and the presidents of the U.S.,
Russia, France, Poland, and Greece. Russian President Boris
Yeltsin noted the importance of the "strategic partnership"
between Russia and Armenia for stability in the South
Caucasus, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

NEW POLITICAL PARTY FORMED IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH. Murat
Petrosian, a deputy to the parliament of the unrecognized
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, told a press conference in
Stepanakert on 21 September that a new nationalist political
party, the Armenian National Democratic Party, will soon hold
its founding congress, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent
reported. Petrosian said the new party will strive to
"consolidate" opposition forces in Karabakh and Armenia with
a "pan-national" agenda. The party's tentative platform calls
for an elected "pan-national parliament" representing ethnic
Armenians from around the world. It is likely to oppose the
policies of the enclave's present leadership. Petrosian is a
key supporter of recently ousted Karabakh Defense Minister
Samvel Babayan. Like Babayan, he takes a harder line than
either Yerevan or the Karabakh Armenian leadership over
resolving the Karabakh conflict. LF

GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ OFFICIALS DISCUSS SECURITY CONCERNS. Abkhaz
Prime Minister Sergei Bagapsh and Security Minister Astamur
Tarba met with Georgian officials in Tbilisi on 21 September,
Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. The talks were held at
the initiative of Abkhazia's President Vladislav Ardzinba,
who had expressed concern at the prospect of Georgian
guerrillas' committing terrorist acts in Abkhazia in the
runup to the 3 October Abkhaz presidential election (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1999). Georgian Minister of
State Vazha Lortkipanidze said after the talks that no such
threat exists. He admitted that "certain forces" are
interested in destabilizing the region prior to the Abkhaz
poll and the 31 October Georgian parliamentary elections, but
he said the Georgian authorities will do everything possible
to preserve stability. A senior member of the UN Observer
Mission in Georgia who attended the talks described them as
"important." Bagapsh said they "proved that Georgia and
Abkhazia can work out a constructive and civilized approach"
to resolving problems. LF

FOUR ARRESTED IN GEORGIA FOR SMUGGLING RADIO-ACTIVE
MATERIALS. Security officials apprehended four Georgian
citizens on 21 September at the Sarpi border crossing between
Georgia's Adjar Autonomous Republic and Turkey, AP and ITAR-
TASS reported. The four were trying to smuggle 1 kilogram of
a radio-active substance, possibly uranium, into Turkey. LF

CONTROVERSIAL KYRGYZ NEWSPAPER EDITOR STEPS DOWN. Aleksandr
Kim, who is owner and editor of the independent daily
"Vechernii Bishkek," has resigned as editor following
disputes with the Kyrgyz tax police and other members of the
newspaper's staff, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital
reported on 21 September, quoting acting deputy editor Sergei
Stepanov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 26 August 1999).
Stepanov said that the tax police continue to examine the
newspaper's financial records and have begun a court case in
which "Vechernii Bishkek" is accused of not paying a fair
price for the purchase of its premises. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION PARETY APPLIES FOR RE-REGISTRATION. The
Islamic Renaissance Party has applied to the Ministry of
Justice to be re-registered, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 21
September. The party's deputy chairman, Muhammedsharif
Himmatzoda, told the news agency that he was assured that
provided the documents submitted are in order, the
registration process will be completed within three or four
days. Re-registration is a necessary precondition for the
party to nominate a candidate for the 6 November presidential
elections. The deadline for doing so is 6 October. LF

TAJIK, UZBEK PRESIDENTS SPAR. During a "traditionally frank"
telephone conversation on 21 September, Imomali Rakhmonov and
Islam Karimov discussed a recent statement by the Uzbek
Foreign Ministry accusing the United Tajik Opposition of
supporting the ethnic Uzbek guerrillas currently holding 13
hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan, ITAR-TASS reported, citing
unidentified "confidential sources." They also discussed
bilateral economic and trade ties as well as possible joint
measures to combat organized crime. In addition, Karimov
reportedly affirmed his support for "Tajikistan's policy of
democratic transformations," Asia Plus-Blitz reported. LF

END NOTE

FLY THE SCARY SKIES

by Julie A. Corwin

	It's hard to pinpoint exactly when the reputation of
Russian passenger air travel hit its nadir, but perhaps it
was when the story first broke in the spring of 1994 about
the downing of an Aeroflot passenger flight over Siberia. The
15-year old son of the plane's pilot was reported to have
accidentally disengaged the plane's autopilot controls during
a "lesson." Or, perhaps it was in March 1997 when the
fuselage of a passenger jet was so rusted that it fell apart
in the air over Stavropol. Also that year, the Tupolev-154, a
mainstay of the Russian airline industry, was involved in
five major accidents, and the International Airline
Passengers Associations advised travelers to avoid flying to
or within Russia.
	More recently, Aeroflot has launched a new slick
advertising campaign in major international cities and even
banned smoking on short flights. But some recent news
report suggest that a few kinks in airline safety remain.
Last week, Russian Air Force Commander Colonel General
Anatolii Kornukov declared that if more funding for the
country's aging air traffic control system is not found,
within 10 years flying in Russia could become four times
more dangerous than in the West. Kornukov's comments
followed advice from the U.S. State Department to avoid
flying in Russia and other CIS countries around 1 January
2000 because of possible computer glitches caused by the
so-called millennium bug.
	My own recent experience flying on four of the baby
flots that sprang up since the break-up of the USSR--
Donavia, Vnukovo, Domodedovo, and Pulkovo--suggests that
safety culture on Russian airlines at least seems more
laissez faire than on Western carriers. On four out of five
flights, I observed during take-off some passengers'
seatbelts remaining unfastened, trays unlocked, and seats
tilted. Only on Pulkovo did I witness a flight attendant
ask a passenger to adjust her seat before take-off or give
instructions on where the emergency exits were located.
	On Donavia, flight attendants continued selling food
and drinks in the aisle during take-off. They kept one hand
gripped on the back of a passenger seat and the other on
the rattling metal cart. And they had to yell because of
noise of the engines inside the cabin after take-off. In
theory, smoking was prohibited on all of the flights I was
on, but in practice--at least on the nine-and-a-half hour
flight from Moscow to Vladivostok--smoking occurred but was
confined to the bathrooms.
	The safety issue aside, the good news about the baby
flots was that the level of comfort was comparable to that
on most Western airlines, the food better than anything I
have ever eaten on KLM or Malev Airlines, and the cost
remarkably cheap. For example, a one-way ticket from Moscow
to Vladivostok cost only 4,900 rubles ($193), while a one-
way ticket from Ulan Ude to Moscow, a six-hour flight, cost
only 3,460 rubles. While 4,900 rubles is several times the
average monthly wage in Primorskii Krai, for example, the
fare nonetheless compares favorably with similar long
distance hauls across Europe or North America.
	The attendants, on the whole, were polite--sometimes
even friendly--but always terse. It was probably just a
coincidence, but it was on Vnukovo, the airline with the
most serious labor problems, that I witnessed a stewardess
sacked out during the flight from Ulan Ude to Moscow,
stretched across several seats on which small black flight
bags had earlier been placed. Curiously, my travel agent
had told me some weeks earlier that I had gotten the last
seat available on that flight. In mid-August, Russian media
reported that a strike at Vnukovo was imminent because
workers had not been paid for four months. At the beginning
of the year, one of the workers' strike leaders was
murdered.
	Perhaps the real drawback to flying within Russia is not
the airplanes but the airports, where seats are a relatively
rare phenomenon and where having to pay to use the bathroom
is no guarantee that it will be remotely clean. Adding to the
discomfort is the screeching noise of packing tape being
wound around each piece of luggage. Not everybody tapes up
their bags. Some people wrap them in paper, like a package
that is going to be mailed, with a flimsy string or thin rope
handle attached; others have it encased in plastic wrap by a
man at the airport who charges 60 rubles for the service.
	But worst of all is the endless number of lines. First,
there is one to check your luggage, one to get your ticket
back, and then, if you're unlucky, one to pay a special
airport tax. Then, once "boarding" begins, you must line up
to enter one of the preliminary boarding areas, line up to go
through security, line up to be herded to some area outdoors,
and then line up for a bus to take you to the airplane, where
you will line up to get on.
	By that point, you're happy to finally sit down in any
kind of seat regardless of whether the tray in front of you
remains perpetually open at quarter-mast. And once you land
safely--without the fuselage falling off somewhere over
Stavropol, let's say--you happily conclude that overall the
flight was a pleasant, repeatable experience.

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