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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 197, Part I, 8 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 197, Part I, 8 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 * CHECHEN PRESIDENT APPEALS FOR NATO HELP * TAX MINISTER SAYS ONE BANK AT CENTER OF BONY SCANDAL * AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER RESIGNS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA CHECHEN PRESIDENT APPEALS FOR NATO HELP. Aslan Maskhadov has sent a message to NATO Secretary-General George Robertson asking the alliance to "assist in normalizing relations between the Chechen Republic and Russian Federation in accordance with international law," Reuters reported the following day, citing RIA. ITAR-TASS on 8 October quoted an unnamed senior NATO official as saying that the alliance has not yet received any such appeal from Maskhadov. Meanwhile Russian forces halted their ground advance into Chechnya on 7 October but continued their intensive air and artillery bombardment of villages both north and south of Grozny. In an interview in "Kommersant-Daily" of 8 October, Maskhadov claimed that the 100 Russian troops have been either killed or wounded to date, while Chechen losses are 20 dead and 40 wounded. LF EU CALLS FOR DIALOGUE BETWEEN MOSCOW, GROZNY. Meeting in Moscow on 7 October with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, EU Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten called for the resumption of dialogue between the Russian and Chechen leaderships but did not propose that the EU act as mediator in such talks, the "Financial Times" reported on 8 October. Patten also expressed concern over the "humanitarian consequences" of the fighting. Ivanov, for his part, said that Moscow is ready for such a dialogue but that "terrorists and bandit forces" are creating "obstacles" to it, according to ITAR-TASS. Ivanov again said that no external mediation is needed to resolve what he termed an internal Russian problem. LF RUSSIA DENIES BOMBING FUGITIVES. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Colonel General Valerii Manilov denied on 7 October that Russian aircraft had bombed a bus carrying Chechen fugitives north of Grozny on 5 October, Reuters reported. Putin said that no such attack took place. Reuters Television had acquired film footage from an amateur photographer in Nazran showing a burned-out bus in which Chechen officials claim 41 Chechens died. "The New York Times" on 8 October published an eye-witness report of the attack by a woman who survived. Chechen officials say at least 450 people have been killed since the Russian bombing raids began one month ago. LF CHECHEN PUPPET GOVERNMENT UNVEILED. The pro-Russian Chechen parliament elected in the summer of 1996 has formed a 23- member State Council of the Chechen Republic in Moscow, ITAR- TASS reported on 7 October. The parliament's mandate had expired last year. Malik Saidullaev, a 35 year-old businessman, was elected council chairman. Commenting on those developments, Prime Minister Putin said on 7 October that Moscow will cooperate with "all forces in Chechnya intent on a constructive dialogue," ITAR-TASS reported. But he added that "I would not want to create the impression that Moscow is staking on anyone in particular." Saidullaev told ITAR-TASS that he considers the council's most important task to be "purging Chechnya of all those who are a disgrace to the nation." Chechnya's representative in Moscow, Mairbek Vachagaev, told ITAR-TASS that no one in Chechnya will ever support Saidullaev. LF DAGHESTAN MAVERICK ARRESTED. Russian State Duma deputy Nadirshakh Khachilaev, who played a leading role in the Chechen-led invasions of Daghestan in August, was arrested at an undisclosed location and brought to Moscow on 6 October, Prime Minister Putin announced the following day. The Russian Interior Ministry issued a warrant for Khachilaev's arrest last year following his supporters' failed attempt to seize the government building in Makhachkala (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 May 1998). LF TAX MINISTER SAYS ONE BANK AT CENTER OF BONY SCANDAL... In an interview with "The New York Times" of 8 October, Tax Minister Aleksandr Pochinok said that "there is one main bank that was at least the ideological center" of the transfer of billions of dollars through the Bank of New York. The aim of the scheme was to hide income from tax authorities. Pochinok did not name the bank in the article but did reveal that investigators began to focus on Sobinbank after discovering payments made to the bank by Flamingo Bank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1999). In an earlier interview with "Vedomosti," Pochinok said that his ministry's investigations could take many months in part because of the ministry's small staff. JAC ...AS MOST BANK RAIDED. On 5 October, tax police and customs officials raided the offices of Vladimir Gusinskii's Most Bank which owes customs authorities some 650 million rubles ($25.3 million, see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 1999). A State Customs Committee spokesman told "The Moscow Times" on 7 October that if investigators find that Most has "parked funds abroad instead of paying off debts, then sanctions will be imposed against the bank." A Most Bank spokesman accused the Kremlin of trying to pressure the Media-Most group through the bank. JAC SBERBANK INVESTIGATION AT CENTER OF IMF LOAN DELAY? IMF officials are delaying the release of the next installment of a loan to Russia because of a dispute over an investigation into Sberbank, the "Financial Times" reported on 8 October, quoting officials close to the investigation. According to the daily, the investigation should have begun a year ago, but fund and Russian officials have failed to agree on terms of the audit. Last week, Mikhail Zadornov, former presidential envoy to international financial institutions, was appointed an adviser to Sberbank. On 7 October, Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko told NTV that the IMF's insistence that the Central Bank sell its stakes in banks in other countries is "far-fetched and unrealistic." He added that the bank is ready to sell these stakes should anyone want to buy them. JAC NEW MILITARY DOCTRINE ALLOWS NUCLEAR WEAPONS USE IN 'CRITICAL' SITUATIONS. Interfax reported on 7 October that the draft of Russia's new military doctrine states that nuclear arms are an "effective factor of deterrence, guaranteeing the military security of the Russian Federation and its allies, supporting international stability and peace." The draft notes that "the Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear or other mass destruction weapons against it or its allies and also in response to large-scale aggression involving conventional arms in situations critical for the national security of Russia and its allies." Among the key security threats listed in the document is the "expansion of military alliances to the detriment of Russian military security." The full text of the draft is to be published soon in "Krasnya zvezda." The 1997 security doctrine also allowed for the first use of nuclear weapons. JC GOVERNMENT PUSHING FOR RATIFICATION OF TEST BAN TREATY. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin announced on 7 October that the government is putting the final touches to documents needed to submit the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the State Duma for ratification. Reuters quoted him as saying that Moscow wants the treaty to take effect as soon as possible and be backed by a "viable verification system." Of the five major nuclear powers (the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, and China), only Britain and France have ratified the document. The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on ratification early next week. JC RUSSIA TAKES 'ANOTHER STEP' TOWARD UNION WITH BELARUS. Russian Prime Minister Putin told reporters on 8 October that publication of the draft treaty on the union of Russia and Belarus is the first step toward the true unification of the two countries, Interfax reported. Putin added that unification is "a complicated matter" and that while the two countries "will not be rushing into it," neither will they remain in one place. The Russian government newspaper, "Rossiiskaya gazeta," and "Sovetskaya Belorussiya" published the treaties on 8 October. Belarus's permanent envoy to the CIS, Sergei Posokhov, called the treaty a "very impressive document" that "removes many worries of Belarusians," according to ITAR-TASS. However, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka had a different opinion, calling the document "a laughing stock, not a treaty" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1999). JAC PUTIN'S STAR IS RISING. A number of recent opinion polls in Russia show that Prime Minister Putin's public approval ratings are rising. Commentator Otto Latsis, writing in "Novye izvestiya" on 7 October, reported that according to data obtained by the Agency for Regional Political Investigations, Putin rose from fifth place last week to third place this week in popularity ratings, overtaking Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. Latsis concludes that a considerable number of Russian citizens "have revised their attitude toward Putin" because of "his precise and effective actions to rebuff terrorists." "Novye izvestiya" receives funding from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, while Latsis is reportedly a member of the interregional bloc Unity. Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais said on 6 October that Putin is a "maximally realistic" presidential candidate, who could find himself even more popular if he "stabilizes the situation in the North Caucasus without serious losses." JAC ANOTHER BANK FOR THE DUSTBIN... A Moscow court on 7 October declared Agroprombank bankrupt, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Agroprombank lost its operating license on 30 July, and soon afterward its sister bank, SBS-Agro sought to have it declared bankrupt. SBS-Agro was also one of Agroprombank's largest creditors, according to "Vremya MN." As of 7 October, Agroprombank owed its creditors a total some 17.7 billion rubles ($688 million), the daily reported. In an interview with "Argumenty i Fakty" (No. 39), Central Bank Chairman Gerashchenko said that his bank has provided 6.5 billion rubles to SBS-Agro since last October and that his bailout was justified because SBS-Agro is "a large system-forming bank with a large number of branches." JAC ...AS PUBLIC TRUST IN COMMERCIAL BANKS REMAINS LOW. Meanwhile, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 7 October that the number of Russian families with savings has declined from 14 percent last year to 11 percent this year, according to polling data from the Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion. The data also reveal that 53 percent of respondents believe that savings should be kept in hard currency, compared with 48 percent last year. The number of those keeping savings in cash declined to 16 percent from 21 percent, while only 1 percent use commercial banks, compared with 2 percent last year. JAC LUZHKOV'S WIFE TURNS TO LITIGATION. Yelena Baturina, the wife of Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, filed a lawsuit against the regional directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Vladimir Oblast and local prosecutors there for their failure to provide a reasonable explanation for why their agents seized financial documents from her firm, Inteko, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 October. Baturina's lawyer has also threatened to sue Sergei Dorenko of Russian Public Television for his claims that Andrei Baturin is a brother of Baturina and holds several accounts in foreign banks, "The Moscow Times" reported on 8 October. Both Baturin and Baturina deny that they are even related. Earlier in the week, Yurii Luzhkov repeated his denial that he intends to run for president in 2000. "I am not going to become president or put myself up for this post," he told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 4 October. Luzhkov also repeated his accusations that the Kremlin is conducting a propaganda war against him so that he "would not think about the presidential election." JAC ECONOMIC CRIME RISING IN ARMED FORCES... Military Prosecutor Yurii Demin said on 7 October that economic crime is steadily rising in the armed forces and other military branches of the Russian Federation, thereby endangering national security. Crimes uncovered by military prosecutors in the first six months of this year cost the armed forces more than $4.7 million, he said. The number of officers found guilty of theft and graft leaped from 1,017 from 1993-1999, compared with 185 over an unspecified period up to 1993, Reuters quoted him as saying. Also from 1993-1999, the number of known cases of bribery in the army rose 82 percent. Two months ago, Demin had announced that some 20 lawsuits against generals and admirals are being considered by military prosecutor's offices around the country. "Izvestiya" reported on 8 October that the average amount embezzled by those officers is 2.23 million rubles ($87,000). JC ...WHILE COMBAT-READINESS PUT AT LESS THAN 10 PERCENT. Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Moscow-based Center for Strategic and Technological Analysis, told "Vremya MN" of 7 October that of the 1.2 million members of Russian armed forces, no more than 100,000 are combat ready. The Russian military is largely composed of military conscripts who serve for two years. Reuters on 7 October quoted defense experts as saying that those conscripts spend the first year training and the last six months preparing to leave. JC SCIENTOLOGISTS IN MOSCOW LOSE LICENSE TO OPERATE. A Moscow court has declared the registration of the Hubbard Humanitarian Center in Moscow invalid, "Vremya MN" reported on 7 October, citing Ekho Moskvy. In addition, criminal proceedings have been instituted against the Hubbard center and the Church of Scientology under several articles of the criminal code. A Russian Orthodox Church spokeswoman welcomed the ruling, telling Reuters that "our Church is strongly critical of [the Church of Scientology]. We define them as a totalitarian sect." Hubbard center spokesman Aleksei Danchenkov told "The Moscow Times" on 8 October that he believes the center's difficulties with registration and with the tax police are linked with the Orthodox Church's struggle "to re-establish its complete dominance." He added that the center will appeal the court's ruling. JAC RUSSIAN COMPANIES SIGN CONTRACTS WITH IRAQ WORTH $57 MILLION. Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi told Interfax on 7 October that Russian companies have signed contracts with Iraq on supplying equipment necessary to increase Iraqi oil output. Those contracts, which are worth $57 million, were signed during Kalyuzhnyi's recent trip to Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). The minister did not name the Russian companies involved or provide any other details. The two sides also concluded a deal on the drilling of 100 wells in the Northern Rumeila oil field. According to a protocol signed during Kalyuzhnyi's trip, Russia and Iraq may set up a joint drilling company. JC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER RESIGNS. Vafa Guluzade, who served as foreign policy adviser to successive Azerbaijani presidents, has tendered his resignation to Heidar Aliev for reasons "connected with his age and deteriorating health," Turan reported on 8 October. In recent months Guluzade has repeatedly called for a NATO, U.S. or Turkish military presence in Azerbaijan to counter Russian- Armenian military cooperation. LF AZERBAIJANI POLICE, PICKETERS CLASH IN BAKU. Members of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party and Musavat Party were forcibly dispersed by police on 7 October when they tried to picket the Russian Embassy, Turan reported. The picketers were protesting the 1 October Russian missile attack on a village in northern Azerbaijan, discrimination against ethnic Azerbaijanis in Russia, and the Karabakh policy of the OSCE Minsk Group, of which Russia is one of the three co-chairs. LF FORMER ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SEES 'NO PROGRESS' ON KARABAKH. In a rare public appearance in Yerevan on 7 October, Levon Ter- Petrossian told journalists he perceives no progress toward a solution of the Karabakh conflict, despite the direct talks over the past three months between his successor, Robert Kocharian, and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ter-Petrossian said he does not currently follow domestic political developments in Armenia and currently has no plans to return to politics. He said that the present instability in the North Caucasus constitutes a potential threat to Armenia, just as the Chechen war of 1994-1996 did. LF PREPARATIONS CONTINUE FOR ELECTION OF NEW ARMENIAN CATHOLICOS. Dioceses of the Armenian Apostolic Church worldwide have elected 451 delegates to participate in the 26-31 October National Ecclesiastical Assembly that will elect a new Armenian Catholicos, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 7 October. The Church's 47 bishops, all of whom have the right to be elected catholicos, are ex officio delegates. In an interview with Noyan Tapan on 7 October, interim Catholicos Nerses Pozapalian confirmed that two senior Armenian government officials, whom he declined to identify, have informed Church officials of their preferred candidate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1999). Archbishop Mesrop Mustafian, who is patriarch of Istanbul, told a U.S. radio station on 3 October that President Kocharian and Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian have informed archbishops that they would like to see Garegin Nersisian, archbishop of the Ararat Diocese (which includes Yerevan), elected catholicos. They added, however, that the Armenian government will not interfere in the election process. LF GEORGIA REFUSES TO CONDONE DEPLOYMENT OF RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS ON CHECHEN BORDER. The commander of Georgia's Border Guards, Lieutenant General Valerii Chkheidze, said on 7 October that Tbilisi has categorically rejected Moscow's proposal to station Russian border guards in the Georgian village of Shatili, close to Georgia's frontier with Chechnya, Caucasus Press reported. Chkheidze said if it did so, it would run the risk of Chechen attacks on Georgian territory. He again denied that arms are being transported to Chechnya via Georgia. Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze, for his part, told Russian Television that there is no need for additional Russian border guards on that section of Georgia's border as there are enough Georgian border troops deployed there. Lortkipanidze added that Tbilisi would be grateful for Russian help in providing those Georgian border guards with additional equipment. LF ADJARA RELEASES PRISONERS. A senior official of the Adjar Autonomous Republic told journalists in Tbilisi on 7 October that the reason for the Adjar authorities' delay in releasing 28 prisoners whom Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze amnestied on 1 October was that they have not received the relevant documentation from Tbilisi, Caucasus Press reported. He added that 27 prisoners have now been discharged, while no documentation has been received on the eligibility for amnesty of the 28th, who is serving a sentence for the attempted assassination of Adjar Supreme Council chairman Aslan Abashidze. The amnesty does not extend to persons sentenced for terrorism. The Georgian Prosecutor-General's Office had threatened legal proceedings against Adjar prison directors if the men were not released (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 1999). The Adjar authorities have also released two Georgian Defense Ministry officials detained last month for possession of drugs, "Meridian" reported on 8 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1999). LF MORE KAZAKH ELECTION HARASSMENT REPORTED. Amirzhan Qosanov, who is deputy chairman of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, told RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty on 8 October that tax police raided the office of the party's executive committee chairman Ghaziz Aldamzharov on 6- 7 October without a search warrant. As a registered candidate for the 10 October election to the lower house of parliament, Aldamzharov technically enjoys immunity under the election law. LF GUERRILLAS CONTACT KYRGYZ LEADERSHIP. Senior Kyrgyz Security Ministry official Talant Razzakov said in Bishkek on 7 October that one of the leaders of the ethnic Uzbek guerrillas holding 13 hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan has sent a missive to the Kyrgyz military leadership, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Razzakov did not disclose the contents of that document but said the author is believed to be Juma Namangani, an Uzbek citizen who is wanted by the Uzbek authorities on suspicion of masterminding terrorist attacks in that country in 1997. ITAR-TASS on 7 October reported that no large-scale hostilities between the guerrillas and government troops took place over the previous 24 hours. It quoted Kyrgyz official sources as denying media reports that the Kyrgyz troops have opened a second front against the guerrillas near the Uzbek exclave of Sokh. LF OPPOSITION CANDIDATES TO BOYCOTT TAJIK PRESIDENTIAL POLL. Three opposition candidates told journalists in Dushanbe on 7 October that they will boycott the 6 November presidential election to protest restrictions and harassment by the government, which, they said, prevented them collecting the required 145,000 signatures for registration, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. The three candidates are Economics and Foreign Economic Relations Minister Davlat Usmon (Islamic Renaissance Party), Sulton Kuvvatov (Democratic Party/Tehran Platform), and Saiffidin Turaev (Justice Party). Turaev told RFE/RL that the three will hold talks with the Tajik parliament and representatives of international organizations in the hope of reaching a "political solution" that would allow them to contest the poll. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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