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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 196, Part I, 7 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 196, Part I, 7 October 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 * RUSSIAN MILITARY ASSESSES OPERATIONS IN CHECHNYA * RUSSIA FEARS CONSEQUENCES OF IMF LOAN DELAY * KAZAKHSTAN'S CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION WARNS PRO- PRESIDENTIAL PARTY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIAN MILITARY ASSESSES OPERATIONS IN CHECHNYA. Russian forces continued their air and artillery bombardment of northern and eastern Chechnya on 6 October, as President Aslan Maskhadov called on Chechnya's religious leaders to declare a holy war "to defend the country's sovereignty," Reuters reported. In Moscow, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told journalists that the first stage of the operation, in which a security zone is to be created around Chechnya, is not yet over. He said federal forces have advanced as far as the Terek River "in some places" and that plans have been approved to cross that river if and when circumstances dictate. Chief of General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin said in Moscow that the first phase of the Chechen operation also includes establishing a new administration in the zone controlled by Moscow. He cast doubt on the expediency of trying to negotiate with the Chechen leadership in Grozny, according to Interfax. In Mozdok, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said the federal forces are proceeding "successfully," but he added that his ministry is also engaged in maintaining law and order in the north of Chechnya and screening fugitives to identify potential "terrorists." LF POLITICIANS ADVISE AGAINST EXTENDED GROUND OPERATION. Former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin told journalists on 6 October that federal forces should not advance across the Terek, as doing so would incur large-scale battles and heavy losses. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii issued a statement expressing support for the Russian government's actions to combat terrorism but warning that they should not evolve into "a large-scale war against the population of the Chechen republic." Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin similarly backed government policy but predicted that there will be no storming of Grozny such as took place in 1994. LF INGUSHETIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR TALKS. Speaking at a news conference in Magas on 6 October, Ruslan Aushev called for "intensive talks between the federal center and Chechen leaders represented by President [Aslan] Maskhadov," ITAR- TASS reported. "We should make the Chechen nation our ally in the fight against terrorism," Aushev added. Yavlinskii similarly argued that Maskhadov is incapable of coping single-handedly with "terrorist groups" in Chechnya but that Russia could and should help him to do so, even though Maskhadov "cannot turn directly to Russia for help for political reasons," Interfax reported. LF EXODUS FROM CHECHNYA CONTINUES. As of early 6 October, the number of displaced persons who had arrived in Ingushetia from Chechnya had reached 124,000, while that republic had food supplies for only 5,000, President Aushev told Interfax. Radzhab Abdulatipov, head of Daghestan's Migration Service, told the same news agency that there are currently 3,200 fugitives from Chechnya in Daghestan, most of them ethnic Nogais and Kumyks. Another 1,000 fugitives are waiting at the Chechen-Daghestan border, which Daghestan closed last week. President Maskhadov's wife Kusami has fled to Tbilisi with some members of her family, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting Mamuka Areshidze, the chairman of the Georgian parliamentary group for relations with the North Caucasus. LF IRAN CONDEMNS VIOLENCE IN CHECHNYA. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman has described Russia's recent policy in Daghestan and Chechnya as "inappropriate," while stressing that Tehran respects the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, Reuters reported on 6 October quoting the "Iran News." The Foreign Ministry statement affirmed Iran's readiness to cooperate with Moscow to resolve the Chechen crisis through peaceful means. LF RUSSIA FEARS CONSEQUENCES OF IMF LOAN DELAY... Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin told "Vedomosti" on 6 October that the delay in disbursing the next tranche of an IMF loan to Russia could fuel inflation and weaken the ruble. The same day, Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that he is concerned about the postponement of an IMF board meeting to discuss releasing the $640 installment. "We are doing everything and receiving nothing," he noted. "We cannot go on this way for long. We will have to cut something from the budget." JAC ...AS IMF CONCERNED ABOUT COST OF CHECHEN ACTION. Meanwhile, an IMF official in Washington told RFE/RL that the fund is troubled by the economic cost of the Chechnya operation: "We're concerned that it could undermine progress in improving public finances," the official said. Last week, the State Duma's conciliatory commission recommended a 22 percent hike in defense spending in the 2000 draft budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich said on 7 October that given the latest developments in Chechnya and Dagestan, "the state defense order has been completely reviewed, and an additional 4 billion rubles ($154 million) has been allocated to it." He said that the money would be spent on buying new weapons, including fire arms, armored vehicles, and personal protection equipment for armed forces personnel. JAC STAVROPOL TO ACCEPT NO MORE CHECHEN FUGITIVES. Stavropol Krai will not offer shelter to any more refugees from Chechnya, according to a joint decision of the krai authorities and migration service, "Izvestiya" reported on 6 October. Those who are arriving in Mineralnye Vody and in the krai's Kursk Raion will be given the means to travel to one of 17 other regions in the country. The rationale for the decision, according to the daily, is that the krai already received about 370,000 fugitives and migrants from Chechnya during the mid-1990s. This increased the krai's population by about 25 percent and strained local infrastructure. JAC GRAIN HARVEST FORECAST AGAIN ADJUSTED DOWNWARD... Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shcherbak said on 6 October that this year's grain harvest will be about 57 million metric tons, some 5 percent lower than the official forecast of 60 million metric tons, according to ITAR-TASS. Shcherbak added that Russia will not need to import food grain and will buy about 8-10 million tons of fodder grain. According to Interfax the same day, Russia imported $69.3 million worth of grain in September, 1.8 percent less than in August. Imports of food and tobacco products soared in September by 65.9 percent, compared with the same period last year. JAC ...AS SOME REGIONS CONTINUE TO IMPOSE GRAIN EMBARGOS. Meanwhile, Russia will negotiate a package of humanitarian food aid from the U.S. that might include 1.5 million tons of fodder grain, 1.5 million tons of fodder corn, 500,000 tons of soybeans and 500,000 tons of soy meal as well as 1 million tons of food grain for the Far East, where delivery of grain from the European part of Russia is prohibitively expensive, according to Interfax. Shcherbak said that 15 Russian regions have produced enough grain to meet their own needs and share with other parts of the country, but some regional administrations have banned the shipping of any excess grain outside these regions. He called such actions illegal and said the country's prosecutors are demanding that such decisions be rescinded (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 6 October 1999). JAC NEW MEDIA POLICY TAKING SHAPE. Minister for the Press, Television, and Radio and Mass Communications Facilities Mikhail Lesin told ITAR-TASS on 6 October that he shares the view of some regional leaders that "there is much aggressiveness in the mass media" and that "things happening now are consequences of an imperfect policy vis-a-vis the mass media." He continued that his ministry will propose a new state policy and strategy toward the media. According to Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, the upper chamber will consider two new bills on the mass media that will "clearly define the limits of what is permissible," "Izvestiya" reported the same day that the draft of the new national security doctrine discussed recently by the Security Council includes the new concept of "information security," which could entail the introduction of centralized military censorship as a result of the war in the North Caucasus. JAC BELKA TRADING DENIES CONNECTION WITH BONY. Belka Trading's Moscow office issued a statement on 6 October saying that reports that Russian President Boris Yeltsin's son-in-law Leonid/Aleksei Dyachenko has been subpoenaed to appear before a New York grand jury are false (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1999), ITAR-TASS reported. The statement acknowledged that Dyachenko works for one of Belka's companies in Russia but said he has never headed a company identified as East Coast Petroleum. The statement also denied any link with the Bank of New York scandal. "The New York Times" reported from Omsk the next day that Dyachenko has "either overseen or played a leading role in Belka's dealings with the Omsk refinery" and that the Omsk government and the management of Belka and Sibneft enjoy close relations. JAC ELECTION REGISTRATION PROCEEDING WITH A FEW HITCHES. The Central Election Commission on 6 October delayed registering the election list of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance because the State Traffic Police had queries regarding certain candidates and their cars. According to ITAR-TASS, traffic police said that some high-ranking OVR officials have not given the exact details about their cars. On 4 October, the commission deleted one name from the OVR's list of top 20 candidates; earlier, nine others had been deleted. Five names have been dropped from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia's list and 10 from the Communist Party's list. According to commission chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, "our review of data relating to the candidates is probably one of the grounds for candidates to apply for dropping their names, but there are other grounds as well such as political differences in party ranks." JAC COMMUNISTS WANT DUMA DEBATE ON POSSIBLE U.S. REVISION OF ABM TREATY. The Communist Party faction in the State Duma has said it will submit to the lower house "in the very near future" a proposal on "revising some of the provisions of Russia's national security doctrine" in the light of the U.S.'s possible revision of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 October. The faction stressed that such a revision would "not remain unanswered in Russia" and that it would call on legislative bodies to take "urgent measures." JC MOSCOW WON'T GIVE UP IRAQI 'TASTY MORSEL.' Speaking to "Vremya MN" on 6 October, Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi expressed the opinion that Russian oil companies must be allowed to work in Iraq. The minister, who was in Baghdad last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999), commented that the government cannot prevent a largely private company such as LUKoil from operating in Iraq. "Oil there is cheap and easy to obtain," he noted, "Why should we give up such a tasty morsel?" Kalyuzhnyi noted that in two months' time, the government will make clear its position on the UN sanctions against Iraq. And he also accused the U.S. of violating the embargo by not exercising control over countries such as Turkey that buy oil from Iraq. Meanwhile, the "Financial Times" of 7 October quoted a LUKoil spokesman as saying that the company has no intention of breaking the embargo. JC IVANOV SUGGESTS CASTRO TILTING AT WINDMILLS? Following his visit to Cuba last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1999), Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told "Komsomolskaya pravda" of 6 October that it was a "mistake" of Russian foreign policy to have underestimated relations with Cuba, which, he stressed, is a "very active player in the international arena." With regard to Cuba's leader, Fidel Castro, whom Ivanov had met in Havana, the minister commented that he is "probably one of the last Don Quixotes of the 20th century." JC/JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJAN PROTESTS RUSSIAN MISSILE STRIKE. Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry on 6 October protested the Russian denial of any responsibility for an explosion in the village of Gymir in Azerbaijan's northern Zakatala Raion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999), Turan and Interfax reported. Initial reports claimed that a bomb dropped by a Russian aircraft caused the explosion, which damaged several houses, but a subsequent Azerbaijan Defense Ministry investigation established that the cause was a ground-to-ground missile. The Azerbaijani statement called on the Russian Defense Ministry to acknowledge responsibility for the attack and launch an investigation. LF GEORGIA POISED TO JOIN WTO. A meeting of the World Trade Organization General Council in Geneva on 6 October ruled that Georgia has fulfilled all requirements for membership in that organization, Reuters reported. The Georgian parliament must now ratify the terms of entry agreed with the WTO, according to AP. LF TBILISI, BATUMI AT ODDS OVER AMNESTY. Georgia's Deputy Prosecutor-General Anzor Baluashvili said in Tbilisi on 6 October that the Prosecutor-General's Office will open criminal proceedings against the governors of prisons in Batumi, the capital of the Adjar Autonomous republic, if they fail to release 28 prisoners pardoned under Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's 1 October amnesty, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). LF GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS QUERY ACCURACY OF ABKHAZ POLL DATA... The Tbilisi-based Information Center of the Abkhaz Autonomous Republic, which represents ethnic Georgians who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war, told Caucasus Press on 6 October that the Abkhaz authorities overstated the number of voters eligible to participate in the 3 October presidential elections by including in voter registers the names of 2,500 residents of the Russian Federation. The center also disputed official poll returns according to which turnout in the predominantly Georgian-populated Gali Raion was 65 percent. The White Legion Georgian guerrilla organization claimed that no more than 13 percent of Abkhazia's population participated in the poll. A turnout of 50 percent was required for the election to be valid. Meanwhile the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry have issued statements terming the poll illegal, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. LF ...AS ABKHAZ OFFICIAL SAYS REPATRIATION SUCCESSFUL. Otar Kakalia, who heads the Abkhaz presidential commission overseeing the repatriation of ethnic Georgian displaced persons to Gali Raion, issued a statement on 6 October claiming that the process is now completed, ITAR-TASS reported. Kakalia said some 65,000 ethnic Georgians have returned to Gali in response to Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba's appeal to them to do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 8 March 1999). He added that schools have been opened for thousands of Georgian children and that water-supplies and roads in the district are being repaired. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION WARNS PRO- PRESIDENTIAL PARTY... The Central Electoral Commission warned the Civic Party on 6 October to stop distributing free gifts to voters in the runup to the 10 October elections to the lower chamber of the Kazakh parliament, Interfax reported, quoting commission deputy chairman Kuandyk Turgankulov. He added that the Azamat (Citizen) and Communist Parties and an OSCE mission have complained about those activities. But Kuandykov rejected as untrue claims by the Azamat Party that the Civic Party used foreign funds to finance its election campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 30 September 1999). LF ...AS DOUBTS EXPRESSED THAT POLL WILL BE FREE AND FAIR. Azamat party leader Petr Svojk, speaking to journalists in Almaty on 6 October, said he expects that local administrators will falsify the outcome of the 10 October polls, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. Svojk urged that domestic observers be permitted to monitor the vote count. An RFE/RL correspondent who accompanied OCSE Chairman-In-Office Knut Vollebaek on his recent tour of Central Asian capitals quoted ODIHR official Hrair Balian as expressing concern that some local Kazakh election officials may be either ignorant of the new improved election law or may simply choose not to observe those articles of the law providing for monitoring of the vote count and tabulation. LF KAZAKH FINANCE MINISTER ASSESSES ECONOMIC SITUATION. Oraz Zhandosov told journalists in Almaty on 6 October that the IMF believes Kazakhstan is experiencing a deep economic crisis and will consider the possibility of further loans and credits only after sending a team to the country later this month, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. The fund and the Kazakh government failed to reach agreement on a new loan program two months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1999). Zhandosov said that Kazakhstan's current deficit is $550 million and that it is unlikely that the country can get through the next fiscal year without new foreign credits. Zhandosov said no final decision has yet been taken on whether to sell part of Kazakhstan's 25 percent equity stake in the Tengizchevroil project, but he proposed privatizing KazTelecom and the People's Bank as soon as possible in order to help bridge the budget deficit. Zhandosov estimated Kazakh citizens' combined deposits in foreign banks at $3-4 billion. LF PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY REGISTERED IN KYRGYZSTAN. The Adilet Party, which supports President Askar Akaev, was registered by the Minister of Justice on 22 September, five days after holding its founding conference, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 6 October. The party already has 33,000 members, including oblast and city heads. The party's chairman is former Finance Minister Marat Sultanov. LF KYRGYZ MEDIATORS CONTINUE EFFORTS TO SECURE HOSTAGES' RELEASE. A prominent Kyrgyz religious leader, International Islamic Center Director Sadykzhan Kamalov, has arrived in Dushanbe on a private visit to meet with Tajik religious leaders in an attempt to secure the release of 13 hostages held by ethnic Uzbek militants in southern Kyrgyzstan, ITAR- TASS reported on 6 October. Kamalov met in Dushanbe with Tajikistan's Minister for the Economy and Foreign Economic Relations Davlat Usmon, who last week was nominated as presidential candidate for the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party. Also on 6 October, Kyrgyz Human Rights Movement Chairman Tursunbek Akunov told RFE/RL by telephone that he has still failed to make contact in Pakistan with representatives of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who had promised to help him travel to Afghanistan to meet with the hostage takers' leaders there. LF TAJIKISTAN PROTESTS UZBEK BOMBING RAIDS. The Tajik Foreign Ministry on 6 October sent an official note to its Uzbek counterpart protesting the air raids by Uzbek aircraft on villages in eastern Tajikistan, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 October 1999). AP quoted Tajik officials as estimating that 80 bombs were dropped from 2-4 October. LF TURKMENISTAN WILL EXPORT GAS VIA RUSSIA, IRAN IF TRANS- CASPIAN PIPELINE DELAYED. Meeting in Ashgabat on 6 October with Turkish Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov said that if construction of the Trans-Caspian pipeline to export Turkmen gas to Turkey via Azerbaijan and Georgia is not begun within six or seven months, then his country will begin exporting gas via Iran and Russia, Turan reported. Niyazov held talks in Ashgabat on 4 October with representatives of the U.S. company PSG, which will be the pipeline operator. He also met with representatives of Royal Dutch/Shell, which is the upstream partner in the project. Construction of the Trans-Caspian pipeline is contingent on the signing of a political agreement by Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are at odds over how much Azerbaijani gas will be exported via that pipeline. LF 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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