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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 190, Part I, 29 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 190, Part I, 29 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 * TENS OF THOUSANDS FLEE AIR RAIDS ON CHECHNYA * DUMA REJECTS BUDGET * ARMENIAN CLERICS PROTEST GOVERNMENT PRESSURE OVER NEW CATHOLICOS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA TENS OF THOUSANDS FLEE AIR RAIDS ON CHECHNYA. A government official in Ingushetia appealed on 28 September for assistance from the UNHCR in coping with the estimated 60,000 fugitives who have fled Russian bomb attacks on Grozny and other Chechen towns over the past week. Those air raids continued on 28 September. An official with Russia's Federal Migration Service cited lower figures, claiming that 25,000 Chechens have entered Ingushetia, 3,000 Stavropol Krai and North Ossetia and 1,000 Daghestan. He said his organization is shipping beds, blankets, and emergency food supplies to Ingushetia. LF RUSSIAN OFFICIALS SAY THERE'S NO CRISIS... Visiting the former Ingushetian capital, Nazran, on 28 September, Russia's Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu gave orders to set up camps for the fugitives in Ingushetia but rejected Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev's characterization of the fugitive situation as "a humanitarian crisis," Interfax reported. While owning that the situation is "serious," Shoigu affirmed that Moscow can cope with it. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whom Shoigu subsequently briefed on the situation in Ingushetia, likewise said that he sees no need for Russia to ask the UNHCR for help, according to ITAR- TASS. LF ...WHILE ELECTION COMMISSION CHAIRMAN SAYS DUMA ELECTIONS IN CHECHNYA MAY BE CANCELLED. ITAR-TASS on 28 September quoted Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov as saying that to date no preparations have been made in Chechnya for holding elections to the Russian State Duma on 19 December. He added that the commission may rule that doing so is impossible if the situation does not change within the next two days. In an interview published in "Le Figaro" on 29 September, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed said he believes the bombing of Chechnya is intended to destabilize Russia and thus create a pretext for postponing the Duma elections. LF YELTSIN BRIEFED ON MILITARY SITUATION IN CHECHNYA. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev met with President Boris Yeltsin for more than an hour on 28 September to inform him about operations in Chechnya, the situation within the armed forces, and funding for the military, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Colonel-General Anatolii Sitnov, who heads the armed forces armaments department, told journalists in Moscow the same day that the army has all it needs to continue operations in Chechnya. He explained that combat operations, such as those in Daghestan and Chechnya, currently require only 25 percent of the range of available armaments, adding that Russian troops will be issued with new types of weapons to test in battle conditions in the event of a full-fledged invasion of Chechnya, Reuters reported. Presidential First Deputy Chief Of Staff Igor Shabdurasulov told a press conference at Interfax's head office on 28 September that the military already has "the green light" to undertake whatever actions are necessary to "suppress...gangs in the North Caucasus." LF RUSSIA ASKS AZERBAIJAN TO CRACK DOWN ON AID TO CHECHNYA. Azerbaijan's Ambassador in Moscow Ramiz Rzaev was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on 28 September where he was notified of instances of financial and other assistance to Chechnya and Daghestan by unnamed organizations in Azerbaijan under the guise of humanitarian aid, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Rzaev agreed that there is a need for cooperation to prevent the spread of terrorism in the Caucasus. LF MOSCOW EXPRESSES APPRECIATION OF IRANIAN OFFER OF HELP. Interfax on 28 September quoted an unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman as expressing appreciation of Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi's offer to assist Moscow in resolving the crisis in Daghestan. In a message conveyed last week at a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Safari last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 1999), Kharrazi said that as chair of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Iran condemns terrorism and affirms its recognition of Russia's territorial integrity. The Russian source told Interfax that Iran could provide Russia with invaluable information on terrorist organizations, possibly including the putative links between Chechnya and the Taliban. LF DAGHESTAN AUTHORITIES LAUNCH QUIET CRACKDOWN. The massive Russian air raids on Chechnya have deflected world attention from events in Daghestan. That republic's leaders have apparently taken advantage of this opportunity to begin rounding up individuals suspected of links with the Chechen militants and, in particular, with the self-styled prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Daghestan, Sirazhudin Ramazanov, according to Turan of 28 September. Russian military and Daghestani Interior Ministry officials have arrested an unknown number of people in Daghestan's Gunib Raion, including several of Ramazanov's relatives. Arrests and searches are also reported in Makhachkala among circles suspected of disloyalty to Daghestan's current leadership. LF DUMA REJECTS BUDGET... As widely predicted, State Duma deputies have rejected the 2000 draft federal budget in its first reading. The 28 September vote was 356 opposed, 11 in favor, and one abstention. The government has sent the budget to a conciliatory commission composed of representatives of the government, the Duma, and the Federation Council. Echoing earlier criticism of their colleagues in the upper chamber, some Duma deputies criticized the budget for its unequal split of revenues between the center and regions. They were also critical of the low spending on defense and considered certain indicators, such as a projected annual inflation rate of 18 percent and ruble exchange rate of 32 rubles to $1, too optimistic. Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov told Ekho Moskvy that if commission members can reach agreement on the budget's basic indicators, then the Duma may reconsider the budget as early as 20 October. JAC ...AS END OF YEAR DEADLINE LOOMS. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev expressed confidence on 28 September that the budget will be passed before the end of the year. Missing this deadline would mean that "all financial flows will be controlled by the White House, which suits Prime Minister Putin's team," and that "it will be possible to keep regional governors on a short leash," "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported, citing unidentified White House sources. (The daily is controlled by the Interros financial group and LUKoil.) Putin told the Duma on 28 September that it is time to "centralize federal budget allocations for the armed forces" and to transform the military into a professional army, according to Interfax. National security "costs a lot" and this program should not be regarded "as cheap," he added. Under the current draft, 119.3 billion rubles ($4.7 billion) are devoted to national defense and 77.8 billion rubles to law enforcement out of total spending of 803.0 billion rubles. Revenues are set at 745.1 billion rubles. JAC FUNDING OF ARMED FORCES REMAINS 'COMPLICATED.' According to Colonel General Georgii Oleinik, director of the Defense Ministry's Main Directorate for the Military Budget and Finances, the funding of the armed forces remains "complicated," despite some signs of improvement, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 25 September. While 60 percent of the military's needs were met over the past three years, that figure stands at 75 percent for this year. The military's debt as of 1 September reached some 52 billion rubles ($2.1 billion). Oleinik noted that wage arrears remain widespread and that food subsidies have virtually ceased. And he also rejected recent media reports that on the orders of Defense Minister Sergeev, the Strategic Rocket Forces are better financed than the other armed forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 1999). JC DEFENSE OFFICIAL WARNS OF NEED TO REPLACE NUCLEAR HARDWARE. Colonel General Sitnov, who is in charge of defense hardware supplies to the armed forces, told reporters on 28 September that all land and sea delivery systems of Russia's strategic nuclear forces must be replaced by 2007, when their service life ends, Interfax reported. Only under this condition, Sitnov stressed, will Russia be able to "ensure continuity" and fully abide by the planned START-3 treaty. He also noted that Russia's strategic bombers will remain operational until 2015. A program for the period until 2005 foresees new deliveries and the modernization of existing military technology--undertakings that will account annually for 28 percent of the defense budget, Sitnov noted. JC DUMA REJECTS TAX LAWS. Also on 28 September, Duma deputies rejected a number of tax laws submitted with the 2000 draft budget, including one that would require the substitution of a sales tax for 20 regional taxes and another that would raise excise duties on alcohol and cigarettes, Interfax reported. JAC ZADORNOV DISMISSED AS IMF MONEY DELAYED. Russian President Yeltsin signed a decree on 29 September dismissing Mikhail Zadornov as presidential envoy to international financial institutions. Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin explained that Zadornov "was appointed to carry out a specific amount of work, which he has successfully completed." The previous day, Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov echoed earlier statements by Russian officials that disbursement of the next tranche of IMF money might be delayed until late October. That same day, IMF director Michel Camdessus pledged that the fund will not turn its back on Russia. "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 29 September that former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is under consideration for Zadornov's job. Zadornov told Interfax on 28 September that he will go into politics after leaving government and will seek a seat in the State Duma with Yabloko. JAC TOP RUSSIAN OFFICIALS CALL SCANDAL A PLOT... Shabdurasulov, first deputy head of the presidential administration, on 28 September dismissed allegations in "USA Today" that Russia has withheld information from U.S. investigators on illegal capital exports from Russia, Interfax reported. When asked about the report, he said he has "seriously changed" his attitude toward "several respectable and not very respectable publications." He went on to call such coverage "direct pressure" on Russia, concluding that "there are serious grounds for supposing that a considerable part of all this was inspired by the goal of discrediting Russia, humiliating it and moving it further away from making fundamental decisions." The same day, former Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said that the Bank of New York scandal has the appearance of a broader anti-Russian campaign and could harm U.S.-Russian relations in the long run, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC ...OFFER LOWER ESTIMATES OF CAPITAL FLIGHT. Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko told "Argumenty i Fakty" on 28 September that the bank's specialists estimate that $1 billion of capital flees Russia each month. Zadornov, who has since been dismissed as presidential envoy to international financial institutions, said $700 million to $1 billion in capital leaves Russia each month. However, director of the Institute for International Finance Charles Dallara said last week that institute experts believe that capital flight has averaged $1.5-$2 billion every month since 1992, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported. JAC U.S. FEARS ANOTHER RUSSIAN THREAT. U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (Republican) warned on 28 September that Russia could experience problems associated with the so-called millennium computer bug, AFP reported. Lugar said "we do not know what is going to happen to Russian computer systems when we pass into the millennium and neither do they, but initial estimates do not appear promising." Lugar noted that the chances of an accidental missile launch are almost non- existent but that computer problems would affect Moscow's missile early warning system. U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd (Democrat) said that six out of seven direct key national security communication links that are used from Moscow to Washington could experience failures. A U.S. State Department official told AP that the government is "advising U.S. citizens who will be in Russia over the millennial transition to be prepared for possible disruptions, especially in key sectors like electricity, heat and telecommunications." JAC RUSSIA ASKS U.S. FOR MORE FOOD AID. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman told reporters on 28 September that his department has received an official request from the Russian government for food assistance. Interfax reported the next day that the new aid package is likely to exceed 5 million tons. The last package totaled 3.1 million tons. According to the agency, the Russian government wants to set up an insurance fund for foreign investments in Russian agriculture using the proceeds from selling the food aid. Gennadii Kulik, former deputy prime minister in charge of agriculture, predicted on 24 September that Russia will harvest only 52-55 million tons of grain this year, compared with the official forecast of 60 million tons. JAC MOSCOW'S MAN IN HAVANA. Following talks with a delegation led by Cuban President Fidel Castro, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov told journalists in Havana on 28 September that Cuba's debt to Russia, estimated at some $20 billion, has not harmed relations between the two countries. He noted that the talks did not cover the debt issue but were "political" ones aimed at setting the tone for bilateral meetings at ministerial level, AP reported. ITAR-TASS quoted Ivanov as saying that increased cooperation with Cuba is a "strategic foreign policy choice of the new democratic Russia." He also noted that Moscow will help reach a "settlement" of U.S.-Cuban relations and hopes the U.S. administration will show "realism" over this issue. Ivanov was paying his first visit to Cuba since becoming foreign minister. JC IRAQI OIL POLICY TO FAVOR RUSSIA. Meeting with Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii in Baghdad on 28 September, Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Rashid said his country gives priority to Russia with regard to deliveries of crude oil, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. Rashid noted that Iraq intends to continue to pump and export crude "according to our capacity and independently of any other measures." He explained the priority treatment for Russia by pointing to the "numerous projects" the two countries had before the 1991 Gulf War and the oil and gas agreements they have concluded since then. Kalyuzhnii arrived in Iraq earlier the same day to co-chair, together with Rashid, a meeting of the Russian- Iraqi economic commission. JC TRANSCAUCASUS INTERIOR MINISTERS IN MOSCOW. Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo held talks in Moscow on 28 September with his Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian counterparts: Suren Abrahamian, Ramil Usubov, and Kakha Targamadze, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Rushailo also held separate meetings with Usubov, who complained about the violation of the rights of Azerbaijani citizens in Russian, and with Targamadze, with whom he discussed how to prevent smuggling of alcohol and petroleum products. The latter again denied that arms are being smuggled via Georgia to Chechnya and Daghestan and condemned any manifestations of terrorism, according to ITAR-TASS. Meeting with the four interior ministers, Russian Premier Putin called for the creation of a joint center to coordinate countermeasures against terrorism throughout the CIS, Interfax reported. LF TEACHERS STRIKES IN SIBERIA CONTINUE. The teachers strike that began in the Altai Republic on 1 September continues, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 28 September. Traditionally, 1 September is the start of the school year. More than 100 teachers' collectives are participating in the action to demand payment of back wages. The agency reported on 23 September that the 29 teachers' collectives in Chita Oblast are also continuing the strike they began on 1 September. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN CLERICS PROTEST GOVERNMENT PRESSURE OVER NEW CATHOLICOS. Six Armenian archbishops on 28 September issued a "pastoral appeal" expressing concern that senior members of the government are supporting a specific candidate for the post of Catholicos, Noyan Tapan reported. That post has been vacant since the death of Garegin I in late June. The appeal said such intervention calls into doubt "the moral and legal process" of electing a new catholicos. On 25 September, Archbishop of Artsakh Parkev Martirosian, one of the six signatories to the appeal, told RFE/RL that government officials told two of the other signatories who the Armenian leadership's preferred candidate is, but he declined to divulge that candidate's identity. AP on 28 September quoted Martirosian as saying that Garegin Nersisian, archbishop of the Ararat Diocese, which includes Yerevan, is the government's favorite for the post. Presidential spokesman Vahe Gabrielian has denied any official interference in the election process, AP added. LF ARMENIA, RUSSIA TO CONTINUE DEFENSE INDUSTRY COOPERATION. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on 28 September approved a draft Russian-Armenian agreement on continuing the present production and specialization of firms engaged in the development, production and testing of weapons and materiel, ITAR-TASS reported. LF U.S. CALLS ON AZERBAIJAN TO RESUME KARABAKH TALKS... U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has written to Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev urging him to agree on a declaration of principles for the resumption of talks under the OSCE's aegis on resolving the Karabakh conflict, Reuters and AFP reported on 28 September. Albright said she believes it is possible to agree on a date and venue for the resumption of those talks before the November OSCE summit. She added that the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic should also be represented at those talks. The talks have been deadlocked for almost one year owing to Baku's rejection of the most recent peace plan, proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group. Albright has also written to Armenian President Robert Kocharian welcoming the latter's dialogue with Aliev, Interfax reported on 28 September, quoting presidential spokesman Gabrielian. LF ...TO DISMAY OF OPPOSITION. Opposition party leaders told Turan on 28 September that they consider Albright's proposals detrimental to Azerbaijan's national interests. Azerbaijan National Independence Party Chairman Etibar Mamedov argued that if the Karabakh Armenians are brought into the negotiating process, then Yerevan should withdraw. He claimed that the Azerbaijani leadership is planning to conduct a referendum on the Karabakh peace settlement simultaneously with the 12 December municipal elections. He did not elaborate. Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman Abulfaz Elchibey termed Albright's proposals "unacceptable," noting that they make no mention of four UN resolutions calling for the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territory. Musavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar argued that if representatives of the Karabakh Armenian population are brought into the peace talks, then representatives of the region's expelled Azerbaijani population should also be included. LF GEORGIA PROTESTS DETENTION OF DEFENSE MINISTRY OFICIALS IN ADJARIA. Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 28 September, a Georgian Defense Ministry spokesman condemned the 5 September arrest in Adjaria of two Georgian Defense Ministry officials, Caucasus Press reported. He added that the arrest was intended to discredit the central Georgian authorities in the runup to the 31 October parliamentary elections. The "Batumi alliance" of five political parties, including the Union of Revival of Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze, is considered the most serious challenger to the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia in that poll. Lawyers for the two men said that legal procedures were violated in the course of charging them with possession of drugs. Adjar authorities claim the two officers infiltrated the Adjar Republic in order to destabilize the situation there. LF GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DENY BASAEV PLANNING TO WINTER IN SVANETI. Senior Georgian frontier guard and intelligence officials told Caucasus Press on 28 September there is no truth to Russian military intelligence reports that Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev plans to move his headquarters to the western Georgian mountain region of Svaneti for the winter. Those reports claim that Basaev has already sent envoys to the region for talks with the separatist "Free Svaneti" organization, which has agreed to the temporary Chechen presence. Iveri Chkheidze, governor of the Kodori valley in Svaneti, told Caucasus Press that no such separatist organization exists. He said the Russian reports were intended to create a pretext to increase the Russian military presence in Abkhazia, which borders on Svaneti. LF GEORGIA SEEKS TO EXTRADITE SUSPECT IN PRESIDENTIAL ASSASSINATION BID. Georgian security services are negotiating with their counterparts in North Ossetia over the extradition to Georgia of Nugzar Khuchua, who they believe participated in the February 1998 unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, ITAR-TASS reported. Khuchua is also suspected on involvement in the bomb attack on Vladikavkaz central market in March 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 1999). LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PARLIAMENT APPROVES BUDGET IN FIRST READING... A no confidence vote in Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev's government was averted on 28 September when Constitutional Court Chairman Yuri Kim ruled that the 25 September decision by both chambers of the parliament to reject the cabinet's proposed draft budget for 2000 was invalid, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 1999). Kim explained that the required majority vote was not achieved. The parliament then voted on 28 September to approve the main budget indicators for revenues and spending as well as pegging the deficit at 3 percent of GDP. Balghymbaev told deputies after the vote that Kazakhstan is over the worst of its budget crisis and that there is "a good chance" that the economic situation will improve, according to Interfax. LF ...BUT IMF REPORTEDLY SKEPTICAL. Interfax on 28 September, however, quoted an unnamed senior Kazakh official as saying that the IMF believes that the draft's tax revenue target is unrealistic and should be lowered by $100 million. That target is 23.3 percent higher than the corresponding figure for 1999. LF LEADING KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTY RETHINKS ELECTION TACTICS. Leading members of former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan told journalists in Almaty on 28 September that the party is withdrawing its list of 10 candidates to contest the seats in the lower chamber of the parliament to be allocated on a proportional basis, Interfax and Reuters reported. They said the reason for the move is that the Central Electoral Commission refused to register Kazhegeldin, whose name topped the list, as a candidate. Another 20 candidates from the party who plan to run in the 10 October elections in single-mandate districts may withdraw to protest "strong pressure" from the authorities, they added. But Central Electoral Commission Chairwoman Zaghipa Balieva told RFE/RL on 29 September that a letter submitted by the party informing the commission of its decision to withdraw its list is inadequate. She noted that a written request by the party leadership must be submitted no later than 10 days before the poll. LF NEW FIGHTING IN KYRGYZSTAN. Kyrgyzstan's Security Council Secretary-General Bolot Djanuzakov told journalists in Bishkek on 28 September that a group of the militants who are holding 13 hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan attacked a government post during the night of 27-28 September but retreated after government troops counterattacked, RFE/RL's bureau in the capital reported. Also on 28 September, Prime Minister Amangeldy Muraliev convened a cabinet meeting to assess the readiness of government bodies to provide support for a military operation against the militants, according to ITAR-TASS. Uzbekistan's Defense Minister Khikmatulla Tursunov told journalists in Tashkent on 28 September that Uzbekistan has been informed of the militants' location and movements and is ready to launch operations against the rebels at any time, according to Interfax. Tursunbek Akunov, who has mediated between the militants and the Kyrgyz leadership, arrived in Pakistan on 28 September for talks with Taliban representatives aimed at securing the hostages' release. LF UZBEKISTAN SEEKS TO TIGHTEN SECURITY. The Uzbek government press service reported on 28 September that the cabinet has adopted a special resolution introducing additional security measures both in Tashkent and the provinces, Interfax reported. Those measures include additional passport checks and barring access to cellars and attics. On 20 September, the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan issued a press release reporting the construction of a vast concentration camp for Uzbek Muslims sentenced for their religious belief. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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