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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 187, Part I, 24 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 187, Part I, 24 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 * BOMBING OF GROZNY CONTINUES * POTENTIAL NEW REGIONAL GROUPING SEEKING ALLIES * KAZAKHSTAN'S PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY AGAIN ON COLLISION COURSE WITH GOVERNMENT End Note: TAJIKISTAN BETWEEN ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA BOMBING OF GROZNY CONTINUES. Russian aircraft continue to bomb targets in Grozny, including industrial and oil facilities and a television tower, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 September. Both the capital and four villages in the Nozhai- Yurt district were targeted the previous day in strikes that inflicted "heavy casualties," Interfax reported, quoting Chechen Deputy Chief of Staff Umar Bankurov. On 23 September, State Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev denied that the Chechen capital was being bombed, explaining that the strikes targeted only "Chechen militants and their military depots," according to ITAR-TASS. Meeting on 23 September in emergency session, the Chechen parliament and government approved the formation of a state defense committee, Interfax reported. Presidential spokesman Said Abdumuslimov said the commander- in-chief of the Chechen armed forces was instructed to convene all field commanders and issue them with instructions on how to counter a Russian invasion. LF PUTIN RULES OUT IMMEDIATE LARGE-SCALE GROUND OPERATION. Arriving on 23 September in Astana, where he is to meet with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 24 September, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ruled out a large-scale ground invasion of Chechnya in the near future, Interfax reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the following day argued that inclement weather conditions and the December State Duma elections will militate against such an operation before the end of 1999. But it argued that an invasion could be launched in the spring in the run-up to the presidential poll. LF OFFICERS UNHAPPY WITH RUSSIAN TACTICS. "Noviye izvestiya" on 23 September quoted an unnamed Russian officer as terming the massive defense preparations along the border between Chechnya and neighboring federation subjects to the north as "sheer madness." He argued that the Russian military should use guerrilla tactics against the Chechen militants, sending small, highly mobile groups into Chechen territory to liquidate field commanders Khattab and Shamil Basaev. And he expressed incomprehension and regret that during the 1994- 1996 war, plans to kill field commanders were frequently called off on instructions from politicians in Moscow. LF KVASHNIN TO REPLACE SERGEEV? Amid speculation that Defense Minister Igor Sergeev is about to be dismissed, "Segodnya" on 23 September cited unnamed government sources as tipping Chief of General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin as his successor. According to those sources, Kvashnin, who distinguished himself during the previous Chechen campaign, has already won favor with Prime Minister Putin. His reputation as a "hawk" and eagerness to fight "is exactly what the Kremlin needs" given the "local threat," those sources argue. Sergeev, on the other hand, is considered "not entirely suitable" for the current situation: as former commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, he is seen above all as a "global strategic" thinker, and he is also blamed for the insufficient forces and "technical means" with which to respond to the local, "extremist" threat. "Segodnya" reports that an excessive amount of the defense budget has been used for strategic purposes--primarily "Sergeev's" Strategic Rocket Forces. JC RYAZAN BOMB TURNS OUT TO BE FAKE. In a 12-story apartment building in Ryazan, police on 23 September discovered and defused what they thought was a bomb, but the device turned out to be a dummy. In the basement of the apartment building, police found three sugar sacks with a timer, detonators, and traces of cyclonite, which was also used in other blasts in Russia, according to Reuters. A police spokesman told "The Moscow Times" on 24 September that terrorists frequently plant a few dummies before laying real bombs. JAC MOSCOW'S 'OPERATION FOREIGNER' DEEMED ILLEGAL... Anatolii Kovler, who was recently appointed human rights judge at the European Court of Human Rights, told "Vremya MN" on 23 September that the court may soon be deluged with complaints from Russian citizens about the city of Moscow's policies vis-a-vis non-Muscovites. He noted that "Russia's Constitutional Court has twice passed verdicts declaring registration requirements unconstitutional, but little has changed." The same day, "Segodnya" reported that Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has signed a directive requiring the deportation of non-registered people from the capital. According to the daily, all non-registered persons who are detained by Moscow police will be advised to voluntarily leave the capital within three days. If a person is detained twice within three days, he or she will be put in a "distribution center." That person will then be escorted back to his/ her native city by a police official at his/her own expense. JAC ...AS MORE LOCALITES ADOPT CAPITAL'S METHODS. Earlier this week, Krasnoyarsk Mayor Petr Pimashov signed a decree requiring the re-registration of all people who are living in the city temporarily, "Vremya MN" reported on 23 September. According to the daily, local police are conducting inspections of retail and wholesale markets and other locations in the city where Asians and Caucasians frequently gather. The Krasnoyarsk city authorities told the newspaper that the krai prosecutor-general will cancel the decree within a few days, but the local police chief said the measures--even if only implemented over a short period-- should be sufficient to clear the city of Caucasians. The same day, the head of the Chechen diaspora in Volgograd told the daily that the heads of various raions in the city have distributed secret orders to local authorities to find new tenants for apartments and offices now occupied by Chechens and other persons of Caucasian origin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 1999). JAC POTENTIAL NEW REGIONAL GROUPING SEEKING ALLIES. Our Home Is Russia (NDR) faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov confirmed on 23 September that some of the 39 regional leaders who signed an appeal to stop dirty political games in the run-up to parliamentary elections are trying to persuade the NDR's leadership to join an alliance that they are putting together, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Federation Report," 22 September 1999). The agency, citing unofficial and unnamed sources, claimed that Ryzhkov and NDR head Viktor Chernomyrdin met with Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu the same day. It has been widely reported that Shoigu is likely to become the leader of the new grouping, which at least one member said would be called inter-regional movement Unity (mezhregionalnoe dvizhenie Edinstvo). "Moskovskii komsomolets" suggested on 23 September that this name will be shorted to "Medved," which means bear in Russian. JAC LIGACHEV TO SEEK DUMA SEAT FROM TOMSK... Gorbachev-era Politburo member Yegor Ligachev intends to run in the State Duma elections from Tomsk Oblast, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 22 September. For many years, Ligachev was head of the Tomsk Oblast Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. JC ...AS COMMUNISTS TO BACK AGRARIANS IN 22 DISTRICTS. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 23 September that the Communist Party (KPRF) will back 22 members of the Agrarian Party in single-mandate districts during Duma elections. In the Gorno-Altai okrug, the KPRF will nominate one of its own local members to compete against Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin. Lapshin earlier announced that the Agrarians will align with Fatherland-All Russia bloc rather than with their traditional partner, the KPRF. On 24 September, Lapshin announced that the Agrarian Party leadership will not try to "settle scores" with those party members who participate in the elections with the KPRF. However, he noted that under the Agrarian Party's charter, members who violate party discipline may be expelled, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC RUSSIAN ECONOMY SET TO GROW NEXT YEAR? In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 24 September, Economics Minister Andrei Shapovalyants predicted that real incomes will grow by 3 percent in 2000 and retail trade turnover by 5-7 percent. He also forecast that GDP will increase by 2 percent next year. The previous day, IMF Economic Counselor Michael Mussa had suggested that the Russian economy will grow by 2 percent in 2000 and will finish 1999 with zero percent growth--a significant improvement over last year's minus 4.6 percent, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported. Mussa cautioned that the positive benefits of the ruble devaluation experienced by domestic industry will not last forever and that "a reinvigorated effort" by Russian authorities with regard to reforms in the banking sector and other areas is needed. JAC RELEVANT PARTIES AGREE BUDGET TO BE PASSED BEFORE NEW YEAR. The State Duma's Budget Committee recommended on 23 September that the lower chamber reject the draft 2000 budget in its first reading, scheduled for 28 September. Earlier in the week, the committee recommended rejecting a number of the tax laws submitted with the budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 1999). First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko declared that the government is willing to work with legislators round the clock on a compromise budget so that the draft is passed before the end of the year, ITAR- TASS reported. Budget Committee chairman Aleksandr Zhukov echoed Khristenko's concern, saying "to enter presidential elections without a budget would be dangerous," "Vremya MN" reported on 24 September. After consulting with Khristenko on 23 September, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that "although leftists do not agree with its concept, technically the budget will be passed." JAC TATAR RELIGIOUS INSTITUTE TEMPORARILY CLOSED. Tatarstan's Ministry of Education on 23 September suspended the license of the Yoldiz Islamic Institute in Chally, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the following day. A former student of that institute, Denis Saytakov, is suspected of involvement in last week's bombing of a Moscow apartment building (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 1999). LF GOVERNMENT BUILDING IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA BLOCKADED. Ethnic Cherkess and Abazin supporters of defeated presidential candidate Stanislav Derev continue to prevent anyone entering the government building in Cherkessk, which is guarded by OMON troops, Caucasus Press reported on 24 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 1999). Derev's supporters are demanding that the outcome of the 16 May run- off, in which according to official data Derev's rival Vladimir Semenov polled more than 70 percent of the vote, be ruled invalid. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PREMIER APPEALS TO DIASPORA FOR MORE INVESTMENT. Addressing the Armenia-Diaspora conference in Yerevan on 23 September, Vazgen Sargsian called upon ethnic Armenians from abroad to invest more heavily in Armenia, promising financial and tax incentives and a crackdown on corruption, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Sargsian said the recently created Armenian Development Agency will provide would-be investors with a wide range of services, including legal counseling, registration of enterprises, and information about business opportunities. The agency plans to open offices in London, New York, Los Angeles, Moscow, and Beirut. Conference participants adopted two statements calling for closer ties between Armenia and the diaspora. One expresses support for the Karabakh Armenians' drive to become a "subject of international law," while the other reaffirms the continued pursuit of international recognition of the 1915 genocide of more than 1 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. LF HUNGER-STRIKE FOR KARABAKH ENDED IN AZERBAIJAN. Members and sympathizers of the Coordinating Council of Political Parties on Karabakh have ended the hunger strike they began last month to protest the Azerbaijani leadership's apparent readiness for compromise in resolving the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported on 23 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 1999). Nureddin Askerli, who is press secretary to the Coordinating Council, told Turan the previous day that the council will resort to more active methods of protest. "Hurriyet" reported on 23 September that under political pressure, a high-school director in Khirdalan Raion expelled a 10th-grade student for having participated in the hunger strike. LF AZERBAIJAN'S SUPREME RELIGIOUS LEADER DENIES RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTRICTED. The head of Azerbaijan's Muslim Spiritual Board, Sheykh-ul Islam Allahshukur Pashazade, has rejected the conclusions of a U.S. Congress report on restrictions on religious freedom in Azerbaijan, Turan reported on 23 September. Pashazade acknowledged that the activities of religious missionaries are limited, but he argued that those limitations are justified because such proselytizing leads to tensions between adherents of various religious faiths. He added that some missionaries offer cash incentives to prospective converts. And he acknowledged that one reason for missionaries' success is the low level of Islamic propaganda. LF GEORGIAN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE NAMES PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CANDIDATE. The so-called Batumi alliance of five opposition parties on 23 September named Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze as its candidate for next year's presidential elections, Caucasus Press reported. Abashidze is considered virtually the only Georgian politician capable of posing a real challenge to incumbent President Eduard Shevardnadze, who has already signaled his intention to run for a second term. A spokesman for Abashidze quoted him as saying that his decision was motivated by the desire "to save Georgia, which has been ruined by the policies of the president and current authorities," according to AP. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY AGAIN ON COLLISION COURSE WITH GOVERNMENT. Marat Ospanov, who is speaker of the lower house and deputy chairman of the pro-presidential Otan Party, told Interfax on 23 September that his party hopes to vote down the government's proposed draft budget for 2000 at a 25 September joint session of the two chambers of parliament. The draft budget envisages cuts in expenditures, including pensions, a budget deficit of 3 percent of GDP, and GDP growth of 1 percent. Ospanov has repeatedly criticized the government's financial policy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 June 1999). He is regarded as a possible successor to Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev. LF COMISSION TO COMBAT RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM CREATED IN KAZAKHSTAN. A spokesman for Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev said on 23 September that the president has decreed the formation of a commission to counter the threat of religious extremism, Reuters reported. The commission will be headed by Security Council Secretary Marat Tazhin. LF ARMS HAUL SEIZED IN KAZAKHSTAN. Police in Almaty have arrested a group of Chechens and confiscated from them 17 new Kalashnikov submachine guns and Makarov pistols with silencers as well as $2,300 in forged banknotes, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported on 23 September. The weapons have a black market value of $30,000. LF INCUMBENT NOMINATED AS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IN TAJIKISTAN... As earlier announced, a 23 September congress of the People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan named incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov as its candidate for the 6 November presidential poll, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 1999). Two rival candidates have also been registered. The Justice Party of Tajikistan nominated Congress of People's Unity chairman Saifiddin Turaev as its candidate at a congress on 20 September, Asia Plus-Blitz reported three days later. Former presidential adviser for legal issues Zafar Ikramov will also contend the poll, according to ITAR-TASS. The Union of Youth of Tajikistan intends to select its candidate at a congress in Dushanbe on 24 September, according to Asia Plus-Blitz. LF ...AND IN UZBEKISTAN. Meanwhile in Tashkent a congress of the Fidorkorlar (Dedicated Ones) on 22 September nominated incumbent President Islam Karimov as its candidate for the 9 January presidential elections, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. LF END NOTE TAJIKISTAN BETWEEN ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY? by Liz Fuller On 26 September, the citizens of Tajikistan go to the polls to vote on proposed changes to the country's 1994 constitution. The referendum marks a milestone in the painful and protracted search by the Russian-backed leadership and the Islam-oriented United Tajik Opposition (UTO) to reach a modus vivendi. That search began more than two years ago, following the signing in Moscow in June 1997 of the Common Agreement on Peace and National Accord, which ended five years of civil war. The peace provided for the return from Iran and Afghanistan of opposition leaders and their armed units, whose members were to be disarmed and given a choice of serving in the Tajik army or police force. In exchange, the UTO was to be given 30 percent of posts in the central government and on local councils. Hopes that the disarmament process and the formation of a new coalition government would be completed in time for elections to be held in mid-1998 proved over-optimistic, however. The peace process and tenuous political stability were repeatedly threatened by local insurrections, political assassinations. and the inability of government and opposition representatives to reach agreement on the opposition's proposed candidates for 14 ministerial posts. In part, instability was the consequence of the exclusion from the peace process of representatives of strong regional elites. On three occasions--in August 1997, January 1998, and last November--Colonel Mahmud Khudoiberdiev, whose base is in the largely Uzbek-populated Kyurgan-Tyube region of southwestern Tajikistan, launched an unsuccessful insurrection. Tajik officials publicly accused Uzbekistan of supporting the most recent coup attempt by Khudoiberdiev, in Leninabad, in the northwest of the country. In particular, they claim that the Uzbek leadership offered refuge and possibly assistance to the man identified as the "third force" in Tajik politics, former Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdulladjonov. Khudoiberdiev reportedly receives both his orders and funding from Abdulladjonov, The assassination in September 1998 of Otakhon Latifi, a widely respected opposition politician, similarly threatened to derail the peace process. That murder prompted the UTO to suspend temporarily its participation in the work of the Commission for National Reconciliation, on which the UTO and the Tajik government have equal representation. Those disruptions notwithstanding, by November 1998 the UTO had reached agreement with the Tajik leadership on candidates for 11 of the 14 ministerial posts the opposition was claiming, including the first deputy premiership, which went to UTO Deputy Chairman Hodja Akbar Turandjonzoda. But the Tajik government's steadfast refusal to condone the appointment of former opposition field commander Mirzo Zioev to head the Defense Ministry prompted the opposition to threaten to withdraw from the peace process in May. After weeks of negotiations, and under pressure from the UN and OSCE representatives in Dushanbe, Zioev was named minister for emergency situations in early July, and some 90 imprisoned opposition members were released from jail. In the following weeks, the UTO reciprocated by completing the disarmament of its military units, a key precondition for holding presidential and parliamentary elections. Those elections, however, are to be preceded by the 26 September referendum, on which the parliament decided in late June. The electorate is to vote on a package of three constitutional amendments: replacing the unicameral parliament with a bicameral one, extending the president's term in office from five to seven years, and legalizing the participation in domestic politics of political parties of a religious nature. Of the three proposed amendments, the third is clearly the most controversial. The law on political parties, enacted by the parliament in May 1998, bans religious parties, including the Islamic Renaissance Party. That group forms the backbone of the UTO. In August, following the disarmament of the last opposition military units, the Tajik Supreme Court lifted the ban it had imposed in 1993 on four opposition formations: the Islamic Renaissance Party, the Democratic Party, and the Rastokhez and Lali Badakhshan movements. Those parties, however, must re-register with the Justice Ministry in order to contest the 6 November presidential poll (assuming that the referendum does not extend the president's term by two years) and the January 2000 parliamentary elections. In theory, that requirement could serve as a pretext for preventing the Islamic Renaissance Party from nominating a candidate to run against incumbent Imomali Rakhmonov in the presidential poll. But the deputy leader of the ruling People's Democratic Party, Abdulmadjid Dostiev, told Reuters last week that "opposition participation is important because it will prove that the elections were democratic." The present Tajik leadership, along with its backers in Moscow, are presumably confident that the country's war-weary population will opt for stability and continuity, rather than risk precipitating a new civil war. Such stability may prevail in the short term, provided that support for the Islamic opposition does not become a groundswell. If that were to happen, either Moscow or Tashkent, which regards any overtly Islamic force with extreme suspicion, might be tempted to intervene to thwart the avowed long-term goal of the Islamic Renaissance Party. According to its newly elected chairman, Said Abdullo Nuri, the party aims to come to power by peaceful democratic means. Alternatively, tensions may emerge between the moderate Nuri and more radical members of the Islamic Renaissance Party over the optimum strategy for assuming power and over the desirability of imposing an Islamic state. 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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