|Some things have to be believed to be seen. - Ralph Hodgson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 191, Part I, 30 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 191, Part I, 30 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 * PUTIN SPELLS OUT TERMS FOR TALKS WITH CHECHNYA * TOP BANK IS NO MORE * KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT LOBBIES FOR REGIONAL UNITY End Note: CONTROVERSY DOESN'T END WITH SACRED TEXT'S RETURN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA PUTIN SPELLS OUT TERMS FOR TALKS WITH CHECHNYA. Visiting Cheboksary on 29 September, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia is still prepared to begin negotiations with the Chechen leadership on certain conditions. Those conditions are that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov condemns terrorism "clearly and firmly," that he rids Chechen territory of armed bands, and that he expresses his readiness to extradite "criminals," Interfax and Reuters reported. Putin said that the Russian leadership "will never allow a replay" of the 1994-1996 Chechen war, which, he added, could lead to "unnecessary casualties among troops." But he added that he still does not exclude a ground attack to "solve the main task--destroy the bandits, their camps and infrastructure," ITAR-TASS reported. LF OTHER RUSSIAN POLITICIANS OPPOSE GROUND ATTACK. Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said in Arkhangelsk on 29 September that he opposes any ground attack on Chechnya because numerous Russian soldiers would be killed, Interfax reported. Russian Communist Party Chairman Gennadii Zyuganov on 29 September argued that there is "no military solution" to the crisis in the North Caucasus, according to ITAR-TASS. State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich conceded that a ground operation is feasible but argued that it is "inexpedient" at present. He ruled out any territorial division of Chechnya. Popkovich added that if Maskhadov is incapable of disbanding the "guerrillas," he should step down and make way for a new government. Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev advised against Russian troops invading Chechnya "like a bull in a china shop." He suggested that instead Moscow should coopt those forces in Chechnya that also seek to fight terrorism, Reuters reported. LF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER BOMBINGS. U.S. State Department Spokesman James Foley said in Washington on 29 September that the U.S. does not question Moscow's right to crack down on those responsible for terrorist attacks, Reuters reported. But Foley added that Washington considers the ongoing Russian bombing of Chechnya inappropriate as the Chechen leadership has no jurisdiction over the militants. The German Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 29 September expressing concern that the bombing puts civilians' lives at risk and could lead to further military escalation that could destabilize the entire Caucasus. Czech Presidential Spokesman Ladislav Spacek told CTK that President Vaclav Havel is concerned that a further escalation of the Chechen conflict could ultimately threaten not only Russia but also Europe. LF AIR RAIDS ON CHECHEN TARGETS CONTINUE. Russian aircraft continued bombing raids and artillery strikes against Chechen targets on 29 September, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Ten people were killed in bombing raids on the town of Argun and on a state farm between the villages of Mesker-Yurt and Belgatoi. An unconfirmed report claimed that 11 people died when planes strafed a highway near Germenchuk. All those locations are east or southeast of Grozny. Two bridges on the Grozny-Georgia highway, one bridge on the Grozny-Shali road, and a fourth bridge over the River Terek at Znamenskoye in the northwest were destroyed. LF INGUSHETIAN PRESIDENT DENIES REQUESTING UN HELP FOR DISPLACED PERSONS. Aushev told Interfax on 29 September that he has requested assistance in coping with the influx of displaced persons fleeing Chechnya only from the Russian authorities and Prime Minister Putin, Interfax reported. Reuters on 28 September had quoted a spokeswoman for the UNHCR office in Moscow as saying that the Ingushetian authorities asked them for such assistance, but Putin later said it was not needed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1999). AP quoted an UNHCR spokesman in Geneva as saying that the organization is still waiting for a formal request for aid from the Russian government. A second UNHCR official in Moscow told that he still has no precise information on the number of fugitives or the type of emergency aid they need, Interfax reported. LF MEETING OF CHECHEN, DAGESTANI LEADERS THWARTED. Chechen President Maskhadov was prevented from travelling to Khasavyurt on 29 September for talks with Daghestan's State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov by residents of Daghestan's Novolaksk and Khasavyurt Raions who blocked all roads leading into the town. They argued that Maskhadov should have met with Magomedov earlier, meaning when Chechen militants invaded those raions in early September. ITAR-TASS quoted Magomedov as saying that he had been unable to persuade the protesters to reconsider. He also expressed regret that the meeting could not take place, Interfax reported. LF MOSCOW CLAIMS 10,000 DEPORTED... Moscow Deputy Mayor Valerii Shantsev told reporters on 29 September that 10,000 non- Muscovites have been deported from the city and 526 have left it of their own free will, according to ITAR-TASS. According to the agency, Shantsev admitted that in some cases, law enforcement agencies used unnecessary force and exceeded their powers. However, according to "Novye izvestiya", Russia's presidential plenipotentiary for human rights Oleg Mironov, Moscow's Municipal Court, and the Constitutional Court have so far received no complaints from citizens who have been deported from Moscow. The newspaper, which is owned by Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, concludes that "taught by bitter experience, our citizens prefer not to be indignant at the tyranny of the police and authorities, even when their constitutional rights are violated." Berezovskii is a political rival of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. JAC ...AS RE-REGISTRATION POLICY TO CONTINUE. Mayor Luzhkov stated that the current process of re-registering nonresidents in Moscow will continue until the situation in the country, including in the North Caucasus, becomes less tense, "Vremya MN" reported on 29 September. He added that 19,000 non-residents have been denied registration because they could not explain their reason for living in the capital. According to "Novye izvestiya," 12 Moscow confinement cells are ready to accept people who are not in compliance with city registration requirements. JAC TOP BANK IS NO MORE... A Moscow court declared Menatep bank bankrupt on 29 September. Menatep was the country's seventh largest in terms of assets, before last August's economic crisis. The same day, a top official with the Agency for Restructuring Credit Organization (ARKO) announced that it would be unable to revive SBS-Agro without a further injection of government monies, ITAR-TASS reported. According to "The Moscow Times" on 30 September, the Central Bank has already disbursed 6.5 billion rubles in soft credits to SBS- Agro to try to keep the failing bank alive. JAC ...AS TAX AGENCY DECLARES WAR ON DEADBEAT BANKS. Meanwhile, the State Tax Committee announced that a number of commercial banks owe customs authorities $242 million and that it will take harsh measures to force the banks to return state monies, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 September. Rossiiskii Kredit and Most Bank are the largest debtors, owing 746 million rubles ($30 milion) and 650 million rubles respectively. Other debtors are Mosbisnessbank, Inkombank, Promstroibank, and Menatep. The daily noted that of all the banks owing money, only Rossiiskii Kredit and Most Bank still have a banking license; therefore, the newspaper continues, the announcement must be primarily directed at Most Bank, which is close to Moscow Mayor Luzhkov. It predicts that as elections grow closer, the Kremlin will intensify its efforts to interfere with financing for the Mayor's campaign. "Kommersant-Daily" is controlled by Berezovskii. JAC GOVERNMENT MISSES SEPTEMBER REVENUE TARGETS. "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 30 September that the chief revenue- collecting agencies of the federal government--the Tax Ministry and State Customs Committee--managed to collect only 64 percent of targeted revenues. Citing Finance Ministry data, it claims that the Tax Ministry collected only 30.9 billion rubles ($1.2 billion) or 71 percent of planned amounts, while the State Customs Committee gathered 8.9 billion rubles or 49.5 percent. ITAR-TASS quoted State Customs Committee Chairman Mikhail Vanin the same day as saying that customs agencies collected 12 billion rubles in September instead of the 17.5 billion rubles planned. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily," Vanin explained that the gap occurred because imports have now fallen in dollar terms by 50 percent compared with the same period last year. JAC FUEL PUMP PRICES STABILIZE. The price of gasoline increased by less than 1 percent from 20 to 26 September, Interfax reported on 29 September. In August, it was rising 3 percent each week, compared with less than 2 percent a week at the beginning of September. Regions that have recently experienced the biggest leaps in gasoline prices were Kalmykia and Kemerovo, which both saw leaps of 10 percent a week. JAC OVR ACCUSED OF MOSCOW BIAS. State Duma deputy Vladimir Tetelmin, who is a member the Russian Regions faction, announced on 29 September that he is resigning as a member of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) bloc and will run in State Duma elections as an independent. In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 30 September, Tetelmin, who was originally a member of All Russia, said that he and many of his regional colleagues feared that his party's merger with Fatherland would be a mistake. Now, he says, 50 of 100 people on the bloc's federal list are Moscow city or oblast residents, and a Moscow resident even has the top spot on the regional list for his home base, Krasnoyarsk Krai. JAC CRIME RATE GROWING. Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo announced on 29 September that the country's crime rate jumped by 28 percent during the first eight months of this year, compared with the same period last year, Interfax reported. According to the agency, the number of premeditated murders increased, while crimes against property and fraud are the most frequent offenses. JAC U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY TOURS THE NORTH. Speaking to ITAR-TASS in Murmansk on 29 September, Bill Richardson said that he is satisfied with cooperation between the U.S. Energy Department and the Russian Nuclear Energy Ministry in ensuring the security of nuclear materials in Russia's North. Richardson toured Site 49, near Severomorsk, where nuclear fuel for Russia's Northern Fleet is stored and where the Energy Department recently concluded a security upgrade. "The New York Times" the next day quoted Richardson as saying that Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov, commander in chief of the Russian Navy, asked the U.S. to expand the joint projects on securing nuclear materials. In return, Kuroedov said, Moscow is offering greater access for the U.S. to highly sensitive sites from which Moscow has barred foreigners or allowed limited entry only. Richardson arrived in Ulyanovsk on 30 September following a stopover in Vologda. JC BORODIN TO RUN FOR DEPUTY? "Izvestiya" reported on 30 September that Pavel Borodin, head of the Kremlin's facilities directorate, is rumored to be planning to run for a State Duma seat from Tula. Those rumors surfaced after Borodin visited children's centers in the city, making donations to those facilities and promising more funds in the future. And according to "Izvestiya," his visit was preceded by a spate of articles in the local press depicting him as a "hard worker, ardent patriot, and charitable man." Borodin has been under investigation for his alleged involvement in accepting bribes from the Swiss firm, Mabetex. Aleksandr Korzhakov, Yeltsin's former bodyguard, and former Minister of Defense Pavel Grachev are also expected to run for the Duma from Tula. "Izvestiya" is owned by Interros financial group and LUKoil. JC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA, GEORGIA PLEDGE CLOSER TIES. Following talks in Yerevan on 29 September, Armenian President Robert Kocharian and his visiting Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, signed a "Declaration on the Main Principles of Cooperation at the New Stage of Georgian-Armenian relations," Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze said the document raises those bilateral relations to a new level of friendship and cooperation, while Kocharian added that they clarify the two states' foreign policy and bring their respective reforms into closer harmony with one another. The two presidents also discussed the situation in the North Caucasus and in Georgia's southern, predominantly Armenian-populated region of Djavakhetia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Georgian businessmen accompanying the Georgian delegation met in Yerevan the same day with Armenian business circles to discuss expanding cooperation, including joint ventures. LF ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. Vartan Oskanian and Tofik Zulfugarov met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on 29 September in a continued effort to find a mutually acceptable framework for resuming OSCE- mediated talks on resolving the Karabakh conflict, Reuters reported. The agency quoted a senior U.S. diplomat as saying that those talks reflect both sides' desire to reach a solution to that conflict. Zulfugarov had said the previous day that Azerbaijan is not prepared to make any compromises over its territorial integrity, according to Turan. He also denied any knowledge of plans to hold a referendum on Karabakh simultaneously with the 12 December municipal elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1999). LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT LOBBIES FOR REGIONAL UNITY... Addressing a gathering of prominent scientists and cultural figures from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan in Astana on 29 September, Nursultan Nazarbaev argued that although those countries will enter the 21st century as independent states, there are no obstacles to their becoming "a single region geopolitically and economically," Interfax reported. "Our strategic, economic goal is to form a single economic environment, a single trade and customs zone, a single currency union and a single economic strategy," he said. However, he did not specify how that objective can be reconciled with the creation of a single economic space by members of the CIS Customs Union, of which Russia and Belarus are also members (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 1999). LF ...WARNS AGAINST NATIONALISM. Nazarbaev told the same gathering on 29 September that while a process of national awakening is only natural, the states of Central Asia should make every effort to harmonize their national interests in order to preclude "the national supremacy disease," Interfax reported. He said that part of the Soviet legacy is "a huge mass of negative stereotypes" that contributes to each state in the region perceiving its culture as unique and isolated. Also, Nazarbaev warned that political terrorism could pose a real threat to the region in the 21st century, according to ITAR-TASS. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S CIVIC PARTY DENIES RECEIVING FOREIGN FUNDING. Azat Peruashev, leader of the pro-presidential Civic Party, told journalists in the northern city of Pavlodar on 29 September that there is no truth to the Azamat Party's allegations that his party is using funds provided by foreign investors to finance its parliamentary election campaign, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 30 September. Azamat party leader Ghalym Abilseitov made those allegations at a press conference earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 1999). But Peruashev admitted that the Civic Party has received financial support from heads of industrial enterprises in Aqmola, Aqtobe, Pavlodar, Petropavlovsk, and Qostanay Oblasts. LF KYRGYZ TROOPS INTERCEPT INFILTRATORS. The Kyrgyz Defense Ministry issued a statement in Bishkek on 29 September saying that its forces intercepted nine people, one of them armed, in Batken Raion the previous night, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The nine are suspected of having illegally crossed the border from neighboring Tajikistan. Also on 29 September, senior Kyrgyz Defense Ministry officials meeting in Batken gave the go-ahead for air raids on the guerrillas who are holding 13 hostages in that district, Interfax reported. At the same time, they said that caution is to be exercised in order to avoid harming either local residents or the hostages. LF TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY RE-REGISTERED. A spokesman for the Islamic Renaissance Party told Reuters on 29 September that the previous day the party had successfully completed the process of re-registering with the Ministry of Justice. Continuing its emergency congress on 29 September, the party again endorsed Minister of Foreign Economic Relations Davlat Usmon as its candidate for the 6 November presidential elections. LF END NOTE CONTROVERSY DOESN'T END WITH SACRED TEXT'S RETURN by Julie A. Corwin The Atlas of Tibetan Medicine is back in Buryatia, the southern Russian republic bordering Mongolia, but a dispute over the atlas is likely to resurface and spill over into regional politics. Local Buddhists, who consider the atlas sacred, last year objected to the republic's decision to send it to North American art museums without what they believed sufficient safeguards and a guarantee of its eventual return to Ulan Ude, Buryatia's capital. At the time, their objections led to a clash between police and Buddhist monks, which many predicted (wrongly, as it turned out) would cost Buryatia President Leonid Potapov reelection. The atlas in question is not an atlas in a conventional sense, but a series of 76 paintings, measuring 32 by 26 inches, copied by Tibetan artists in the 1920s from a 17th century medical treatise that was subsequently lost. It somehow survived former Soviet leader Josef Stalin's assault on the Buddhist Church in the 1930s. And the U.S.-based Pro Cultura foundation, which sponsored the atlas's tour of North America, is working with Ulan Ude's Museum of the History of Buryatia to ensure its future preservation. Museum workers say that the paintings should and will remain at the museum. But the head of Russia's Buddhist Church, Pandito Xambo Lama, also known as Damba Ausheev, apparently has other ideas. When asked about the museum's likely opposition to having the atlas removed, he told RFE/RL in Ulan Ude this month that "museum directors and government heads change. New people will take over and our republic will have democratic leaders who understand the values of democracy.... State officials have no moral or spiritual right to control this property." At the present time, the atlas is formally the property of the Russian federal government, but Ausheev says that "it would be very desirable for the atlas to become our property again and return to our possession." He also reported that the head of the Aginskii datsan (temple), which originally commissioned the work, is gathering documents and will file a petition to have the atlas returned to the temple. But Lidia Nimaeva, head of the Department for the North, Siberia and Far East at the federal Ministry for Nationalities Policy, says just the opposite. She told RFE/RL in Moscow that the head of the datsan understands that it "would be too much of a burden" to care for the atlas and provide "adequately for its storage and safekeeping." The head of the datsan and the Museum of the History of Buryatia, she added, are in complete agreement on this issue. She also suggested that Ausheev's past and present stance regarding the atlas is based more on political grounds than religious ones and that it was no coincidence that the monks challenged Buryatia President Leonid Potapov's decision to send some of the paintings abroad just weeks before presidential elections took place in the republic. Ausheev counters that taking the atlas out of the country "would have been a problem for us at any time, although perhaps we were lucky that the conflict occurred when it did." Noting that neither the Aginskii datsan nor the Buddhist Church received one ruble from the proceeds of the exhibition, he argues that the primary motivation for President Potapov's agreeing to the atlas's exhibition was monetary, since the federal Ministry of Culture, the republic's government, and the museum all received hard currency in return. Nimaeva, however, says the amount of money involved was small since the atlas was shown only at university museums, each of which paid only $5,000. A renewed conflict over the atlas would likely affect not only local politics in Buryatia but could also deepen the rift that currently exists within Russia's Buddhist Church. Ausheev's chief rival, Lama Nimazhap Ilyukhinov, head of the Spiritual Agency of Buddhists of Russia, came out in support of Potapov following the clash with police last year. Ilyukhinov, who leads the Buddhist communities in St. Petersburg and Moscow, criticizes what he calls Ausheev's nationalist tendencies and suggests that Ausheev and his followers should be more open to exchanges with Buddhists in other regions and countries and less confrontational with political authorities, such as Potapov. Ausheev, on the other hand, remains adamant not only that the atlas be returned to its original owner but that Buryat Buddhism be allowed to develop independently of the influence of other traditions. "We do not like it very much when missionaries come over from other Buddhist countries," he told RFE/RL. At the same time, he stressed that it is wrong to accuse him of being undemocratic for opposing their incursions into his territory. "I understand the word democracy to mean the right of a person to live in a traditional milieu, in the embrace of the religion practice by his parents, the religion that helped them to survive," he says. "If you want Russia to become a democratic state, then you must give its traditional religions a chance to develop on their own." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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