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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 198, Part I, 11 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 198, Part I, 11 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 * YELTSIN LEAVES HOSPITAL AS PUTIN CHEERS * CHECHEN PRESIDENT PROPOSES NEW PEACE PLAN * KAZAKHSTAN HOLDS PARLIAMENTARY, LOCAL ELECTIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN LEAVES HOSPITAL AS PUTIN CHEERS. President Boris Yeltsin checked out of a Moscow hospital on 11 October, two days after being admitted with influenza. Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin reported that Yeltsin's temperature has normalized. He dismissed a report in "Segodnya" on 9 October that Yeltsin requires an operation. The newspaper, which is owned by the Media-Most group, a Kremlin foe, added that Yeltsin requires painkillers every week. Meanwhile, Russian Public Television repeatedly showed Prime Minister Vladimir Putin cheering during Russia's soccer match against Ukraine on 9 October in what is likely an effort to boost Putin's already growing popularity, "The Boston Globe" reported on 10 October. According to NTV the same day, Russian media and public are so used to Yeltsin's frequent illnesses that the soccer match, which resulted in a 1-1 draw, was the evening news' top story, not Yeltsin's hospitalization. NTV is also owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most. JAC CHECHEN PRESIDENT PROPOSES NEW PEACE PLAN. Aslan Maskhadov has called for a halt to Russian air raids and the withdrawal of federal forces from the regions they have occupied over the past two-and-a-half weeks, in return for which he undertook to neutralize the Chechen radicals, Reuters reported on 10 October. But the following day, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo both denied any knowledge of Maskhadov's initiative. LF PUTIN, SERGEEV VOW TO LIQUIDATE CHECHEN 'TERRORISTS'... Interviewed on 10 October on Russian Television's "Zerkalo" program, Prime Minister Putin again said that the federal forces' goal in Chechnya is to "restore order" and "eliminate all gangs on Chechen territory," Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Both Putin and Defense Minister Sergeev stressed that Russian military losses will be kept to a minimum. On 9 October, Putin had told RTR that the federal forces' top priority is to create a security zone around Chechnya and to expand the extent of Chechen territory currently controlled by Russian forces. LF ...WHILE AIR RAIDS CONTINUE. Russia continued its intensive air and artillery bombardment of selected targets in Chechnya over the past three days. On 10 October, it attacked the villages of Meskety, Nozhai-Yurt, Zandak, Serzhen-Yurt, Goragorsky, Gerzel, Bamut, and Yandi, Chechen sources told Turan. Nine people were killed in similar attacks the previous day. Russian agencies claimed that federal forces are still tightening their control over Shelkovskii, Nauri and Nadterechnyi Raions, and have taken the strategic rail junction of Chervlennaya-uzlovaya. But Turan on 11 October reported that fighting for control of that junction has been going on for three days and is still continuing. On 9 October, Chechen militants burned the home in Alkhan-Yurt of newly appointed Chechen puppet government head Malik Saidullaev and beat up several of his female relatives, ITAR- TASS reported. LF RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY WARNS ARAB COUNTRIES NOT TO ABET CHECHENS. The ambassadors in Moscow of a number of unidentified Arab countries have been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry and acquainted with evidence that foreign Islamic organizations are organizing aid to the Chechen radicals from the territory of those states, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Citing Foreign Ministry sources, Interfax also reported that Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov plans to send envoys to Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait to hand over a message explaining Russia's policy in Chechnya and seeking support for it. Speaking in Kyiv on 9 October, Ivanov admitted that the Russian incursion into Chechnya has resulted in what he termed "minor civilian casualties," but he added that Moscow is endeavoring to keep those casualties to a minimum, according to Interfax. Ivanov also rejected an 8 October U.S. claim that Russia is violating the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe by deploying in Chechnya hundreds more pieces of military equipment than is provided for by that accord. LF THOUSANDS CONTINUE TO FLEE CHECHNYA. Some 5,000 Chechens fled to Ingushetia on 10 October, raising the total number currently in Ingushetia to 155,000, Reuters reported on 11 October. Some 9,000 people had fled Chechnya on 8 October, according to Interfax. The pre-war population of Ingushetia was approximately 340,000. Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev told Interfax on 9 October that his republic cannot cope with the influx. Reuters the next day quoted a border guard on the internal border between Ingushetia and neighboring North Ossetia as saying he has orders from Russian chief of staff General Anatolii Kvashnin not to allow persons to leave Ingushetia if they are registered as residents of Grozny. LF TAX POLICE BEING DEPLOYED TO ISOLATE CHECHNYA ECONOMICALLY. The Moscow Department of the Federal Tax Service has started examining the activities of some 15 Russian companies suspected of financing and supporting Chechen insurgents, "Segodnya" reported on 9 October. According to the daily, all the companies are registered in Tatarstan. Unidentified sources within the tax service told the newspaper that money is being transferred to Chechen "guerillas along a very long but well thought out chain," including "pocket banks" created specifically for this purpose. According to the same sources, tax inspectors will soon turn their attention to various banks located in Moscow and the regions as well as certain companies registered in the Republic of Ingushetia and Kaliningrad Oblast. JAC MOST OVR CANDIDATES REGISTERED FOR ELECTIONS... The Central Election Committee registered the party list of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance on 9 October. According to Interfax, 261 names remained on the list for upcoming State Duma elections after the commission removed 10 candidates who had submitted false reports on their cars and real estate. In addition, 27 candidates, including Russian Regions faction leader Oleg Morozov, Sistema head Vladimir Yevtushenkov, and Union of Russian Industrialists and Entrepreneurs head Arkadii Volskii, will be submitted to further scrutiny, "Vremya MN" reported on 11 October. According to the daily, OVR is in a somewhat precarious position, since if 25 percent of its candidates (65) are rejected, it will be unable to participate in the elections. A total of 21 candidates have already been removed from the list or have withdrawn their names voluntarily. Also on 9 October, the commission gave preliminary approval to OVR's list of candidates for single-mandate districts. JAC ...AS MOSCOW LOSES A MAYORAL CANDIDATE. The commission will consider the party list of Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party at a meeting on 11 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Convicted felon and St. Petersburg lawyer Dmitrii Yakubskii withdrew his name from the party's list on 9 October. Two days earlier, the City of Moscow's Election Commission refused to register LDPR member and Duma Geopolitics Committee Chairman Aleksei Mitrofanov for mayoral elections in the capital. Mitrofanov allegedly violated campaign fund regulations, according to "Segodnya" on 8 October. Also eliminated from the race was Mitrofanov's running mate, deputy-mayoral would-be Andrei Brezhnev, who is the grandson of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. JAC ST. PETE GOVERNOR GETS OWN WAY OVER ELECTIONS--FOR TIME BEING. The St. Petersburg legislature on 8 October voted to bring forward gubernatorial elections from April 2000 to 19 December 1999, after deputies in the 50-member chamber lowered the quorum from 34 to 26. That latter figure corresponds roughly to the number of supporters of incumbent Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, who is expected to benefit from an early ballot. Opposition deputies representing Yabloko and the Yurii Boldyrev Bloc, who walked out before the vote took place, claim the electronic voting system was tampered with so that votes were "cast" by opposition deputies who were not present. The opposition has filed a complaint with the Prosecutor-General's Office, accusing Yakovlev of attempting to seize legislative power in the northern capital, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 9 October. Earlier, opposition deputies repeatedly prevented a vote on the issue by ensuring there was no two-thirds quorum (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 29 September 1999). JC SOBINBANK OFFICIAL SAYS HE'S OBJECT OF SMEAR CAMPAIGN. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 8 October, Aleksandr Mamut, a member of the board of directors of Sobinbank, accused the Moscow-based media of spreading false rumors about himself and the banks he is associated with in order to discredit the executive branch (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1999). Mamut is an adviser to presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin and is chairman of the board of directors of MDM-bank, which also has been accused of exporting capital to the Bank of New York (BONY). He said that although MDM-bank has had a correspondent account with the BONY for almost two years, it has never used it for any active transactions. He also said reports that Sobinbank was involved in dubious transactions with the BONY are "lies." JAC INKOMBANK DEPOSITORS SEEKING MONEY FROM BONY. Four individuals and a Bulgarian firm that had accounts in the insolvent Inkombank filed suit in a New York court against the BONY on 8 October, "Vremya MN" reported. They accuse the BONY of playing a leading role in the illegal removal of assets from Inkombank. They are seeking $165 million in compensation, according to the daily. Inkombank's depositors have faced long delays in getting their money returned as Inkombank's bankruptcy case makes its way through the Russian legal system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 1999). JAC BEREZOVSKII'S TRAVEL PLANS THWARTED. Switzerland refused an entry visa to media magnate Boris Berezovskii three weeks ago, AFP reported on 9 October. According to the agency, Swiss legal authorities are currently conducting an investigation into what assets Berezovskii may have in their country. On 10 October, Swiss officials told the agency that aluminum magnate Lev Chernyi, who is reportedly close to Berezovskii, is also being investigated. JAC YELTSIN CONFIRMS DRIVE FOR START 2 RATIFICATION. In a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, President Yeltsin confirmed that Moscow is making "considerable efforts" to achieve the speedy ratification of START 2, Interfax reported on 8 October, citing the presidential press service. He added that Russia is prepared to begin negotiations on START 3 if the 1972 ABM Treaty is complied with. And he noted that the government has almost finished drawing up documents necessary for the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1999). Yeltsin also praised Russian-Japanese relations, particularly joint economic projects. JC RUSSIA TO EQUIP SECOND TOPOL-M UNIT. Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Aleksandr Kosovan told journalists on 8 October that in the second half of December, another strategic rocket regiment will be equipped with the Topol-M ballistic missile, Interfax reported. Like the first such regiment, equipped in December 1998, this second unit will have 10 Topol- M missiles. The report did not specify where the second unit is located. JC IVANOV DENIES MOSCOW, BEIJING SEEKING TO FORM 'POWER CENTER.' Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov told the Chinese news agency Xinhua on 8 October that there is no basis to speculation that Russia and China want to create a "kind of independent power center" that might grow into a military and political alliance, according to Interfax. Ivanov stressed that both Moscow and Beijing favor a "multipolar" world, and he argued that Russian-Chinese relations have entered their "best period." From 7-10 October, Communist Party of the Russian Federation leader Gennadii Zyuganov was in China heading a KPRF delegation that had been invited by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 October. JC GORBACHEV TO MAKE ANOTHER POLITICAL COMEBACK BID? Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev confirmed on 9 October that he will participate in the formation of a united Social Democratic party, according to Interfax. Former Moscow Mayor and leader of the Social Democratic movement Gavriil Popov said Gorbachev has been offered the opportunity to head a commission to establish the new party. Gorbachev, however, said that he is uncertain about whether he will accept that offer since he is already committed to a number of international projects that he cannot abandon, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Popov, the Social Democratic movement will participate in the upcoming State Duma elections. JAC TATARSTAN'S PRESIDENT CONCURS WITH ACCUSATIONS AGAINST MEDRESE. In interviews with the "Moscow Times" and Tatarstan's radio and television, President Mintimer Shaimiev conceded that charges that the Islamic religious school in Chally has contributed to the propagation of radical Islamic views are not unfounded, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 11 October. Shaimiev said that representatives of unnamed Arab countries were deported from Tatarstan but had returned and resumed teaching at the medrese. He said that loopholes in Russian immigration legislation have facilitated the return of such individuals to Tatarstan. On 6 October, the chairman of Tatarstan's Council on Religious Affairs, Renat Nabiev, had told Tatarstan Radio that there are no grounds to close the medrese, and that an investigation has concluded that it did not "train extremists." The school was closed last month after one of its former students was implicated in the apartment bombings in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 September 1999). LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRESIDENT AGAIN PLEDGES NO INTERFERENCE IN ELECTION OF CATHOLICOS. Meeting on 8 October with members of the board of the Republican Party of Armenia, one of the partners in the majority Miasnutyun coalition, Robert Kocharian again ruled out any interference by the Armenian leadership in the election later this month of a new head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Noyan Tapan reported. Several senior clerics have recently claimed that the Armenian leadership has made clear that it wants the present archbishop of the Ararat diocese elected to that post (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September and 8 October 1999). Kocharian also called for "every effort" to be made to preclude fraud, violence, or falsification during local elections scheduled for 24 October. Candidates from Miasnutyun heavily outnumber opposition candidates in the elections for heads of 936 towns and villages, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF ARMENIA PROPOSES PAN-ARMENIAN TV STATION. Armenian state television has submitted to the government plans to create a diaspora-funded "pan-Armenian television channel," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 8 October. The proposal was endorsed by all participants at the Armenia-diaspora conference held in Yerevan last month. Armenian state television director Tigran Naghdalian estimated the cost of launching the channel at $7 million. He added that at present Armenian state television can be accessed with satellite dishes in Europe and the Middle East but that his top priority is to extend its range to North America. LF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CONVENES DEMONSTRATION. Some 5,000 people attended a 9 October rally on the outskirts of Baku to protest the Azerbaijani leadership's Karabakh policy, ITAR- TASS and Turan reported. Participants adopted a 16-point resolution calling, among other things, for Armenian compliance with UN Security Council resolutions on Karabakh; the repatriation to Armenia of Azerbaijani refugees and the creation of an autonomous formation for them; stripping Russia, which is seen as pro-Armenian, of its the co- chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group; and barring the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic from participating in the peace process. The demonstrators also condemned the Baku police's intervention on 9 October to halt broadcasting by the private Sara TV station, Turan reported. On 8 October, Sara TV had broadcast an appeal by two opposition party leaders to take part in the rally. LF AZERBAIJANI COURT RULES NEWSPAPER SLANDERED OPPOSITION LEADER. A Baku district court has ordered "Yeni Azerbaycan," the newspaper of the eponymous ruling party, to apologize to opposition Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar. It also order the newspaper to publish a refutation of two articles it printed in July and August 1999 alleging that Gambar and his brother Rovshan have connections with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Turan reported on 8 October. LF GEORGIA BEGINS REGISTERING REFUGEES FROM CHECHNYA... The Georgian authorities will begin formally registering refugees from Chechnya on 11 October, Caucasus Press reported. Since 26 September, an estimated 1,500 people have fled south from Chechnya into Georgia; some 500 of those people are Georgian citizens who had earlier sought employment in Chechnya. An unspecified number of the refugees have traveled from Georgia to Azerbaijan or Turkey. Also on 11 October, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said in his weekly radio broadcast, that "there are no misunderstandings" between Moscow and Tbilisi over Chechnya thanks to talks between Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Interfax on 9 October similarly quoted Shevardnadze's adviser Levan Aleksidze as affirming that "Georgia wants to maintain friendly relations with Russia while refraining from a quarrel with the Chechen people and their President Aslan Maskhadov." LF ...AS CHECHEN OFFICIAL CLAIMS GEORGIAN MILITARY SUPPLIED ARMS TO CHECHNYA. Newly appointed Chechen State Council Chairman Malik Saidullaev told journalists in Moscow on 8 October that he has information that arms were airlifted from Georgia to Chechnya by helicopters with Georgian Defense Ministry markings, ITAR-TASS reported. But Colonel General Leonid Ivashev, who heads the Russian Defense Ministry's Department for International Military Cooperation, told Interfax the same day that "one cannot speak of a mass flow of mercenaries" from Georgia and Azerbaijan to Chechnya. Ivashev said both those countries' leaderships appreciate the danger posed by terrorism and extremism and are taking all possible measures to tighten control over their borders and preclude the transit of terrorists to Russia. LF KAZAKHSTAN HOLDS PARLIAMENTARY, LOCAL ELECTIONS. Some 61.5 percent of Kazakhstan's 8 million voters participated in the 10 October elections to the lower chamber of the parliament and to city and local councils, ITAR-TASS reported, quoting an unnamed Central Electoral Commission official. A total of 65 candidates representing nine political parties contested the 10 seats that are to be allocated under the proportional system, while 484 candidates competed for 67 seats in single- mandate constituencies. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 6 October cited a recent opinion poll suggesting that the pro- presidential OTAN party enjoys 23.6 percent support, followed by the Civic Party (8.6 percent), the Communist Party (8.1 percent), and the Agrarians (3.4 percent). LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT WRAPS UP IRAN VISIT. During his visit to Iran from 5-7 October, Nursultan Nazarbaev held talks with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Hatami, on bilateral and regional cooperation and bilateral economic ties, Interfax reported. The two presidents expressed concern that bilateral trade fell from $160 million in 1997 to $120 million the following year, and they discussed increasing sales to Iran of Kazakhstan's oil, metals, coke and grain. Kazakh officials expressed preliminary approval of plans to expand oil exchanges whereby Kazakhstan delivers crude to northern Iran and takes delivery of refined oil at the Persian Gulf, but they noted that the price Iran is demanding for transporting that oil is "too high," according to Interfax. Plans were also approved on the supply of electricity from Kazakhstan via Iran to Turkey. Nazarbaev is reported to have visited the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini. LF U.S. SEEKS TO WIN KAZAKH COMMITMENT TO BAKU-CEYHAN PIPELINE... U.S. State Department special envoy for Caspian energy issues John Wolf told journalists in Astana on 8 October that the U.S. wants Kazakhstan to play "a major role" in the development of the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil, Interfax reported. Wolf said he told President Nazarbaev that that pipeline would enable Kazakhstan to begin developing new oilfields and expand production at those currently operating. But in order to export oil via that pipeline, Kazakhstan would have to transport crude to Baku by tanker or a Trans-Caspian oil pipeline would have to be built in tandem with the planned Tras-Caspian gas pipeline. LF ...WHILE ASTANA FAVORS DIVERSIFICATION. Also on 8 October, Kazakhstan's acting Deputy Foreign Minister Medina Djarbusynova told a meeting of Caspian oil and gas sector executives in Astana that Kazakhstan takes a "pragmatic and non-political approach" to the export of hydrocarbons by multiple pipelines. Acting Energy, Industry and Trade Minister Mukhtar Ablyazov told the same gathering that by 2010, the member state of the Economic Cooperation Organization will become a major producer of oil. LF KYRGYZSTAN'S PRESIDENT VISITS SOUTH... Askar Akaev traveled on 9 October to the Batken and Leilek Raions of southern Kyrgyzstan, the scene of hostilities over the past two months between government troops and ethnic Uzbek guerrillas who continue to hold 13 hostages, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Akaev told local officials that raising the status of those two raions and another district to that of an oblast will strengthen security in the region. He called for the swiftest possible expulsion of the guerrillas from Kyrgyz territory, warning that intelligence reports indicate that up to 5,000 guerrillas could enter Kyrgyzstan next spring, according to Interfax. But the previous day, General Abdygul Khotbaev, who commands the Kyrgyz troops deployed in the south, said that he cannot begin military operations against the guerrillas without endangering the hostages, AP and ITAR- TASS reported. Khotbaev accused Tajikistan of failing to take any measures to prevent gunmen and arms entering Kyrgyzstan from Tajik territory. LF ...AS NEGOTIATIONS ON HOSTAGES' RELEASE CONTINUE. Kyrgyz parliamentary deputy Tursunbai Bakir Uulu met with representatives of the United Tajik Opposition in Tajikistan on 9 October to enlist their help in securing the release of the hostages, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri had assured Japan's ambassador to Dushanbe the previous day that he is willing to try to assist in negotiating the release of the four Japanese geologists among the 13 hostages. A second mediator, human rights activist Tursunbek Akunov, returned to Bishkek on 9 October following an abortive trip to Pakistan, where he failed to establish contact with members of the exiled Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan which masterminded the hostage-takings. LF RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS CONDEMN AFGHAN SHELLING OF TAJIK TERRITORY. A spokesman for the Russian Border Guards contingent deployed along Tajikistan's frontier with Afghanistan expressed concern on 8 October over the recent explosion in Tajikistan of a mine and eight tank shells fired from Afghan territory amid the ongoing fighting between Taliban and Northern Alliance forces, ITAR-TASS reported. Two shells exploded on the Tajik side of the border late on 8 October. No one was injured in any of the explosions. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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