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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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
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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."
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                     All rights reserved.
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