|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 199, Part I, 12 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 199, Part I, 12 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 * ZHIRINOVSKII'S PARTY BARRED FROM ELECTIONS * MOSCOW OFFERS LUKEWARM RESPONSE TO CHECHEN PEACE BID * OSCE CRITICIZES KAZAKH ELECTIONS End Note: A REAL BATTLE ON THE VIRTUAL FRONT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA ZHIRINOVSKII'S PARTY BARRED FROM ELECTIONS... The Central Election Commission on 11 October declined to register the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) for the upcoming State Duma elections, citing inaccurate property declarations by two of the party's top three candidates. According to ITAR-TASS, Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov did not reveal the ownership of a house and State Duma Deputy Mikhail Musatov did not disclose his three Mercedes. Bykov is currently the subject of a probe on charges of money laundering (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 August 1999). LDPR member and Duma Geopolitics Committee Chairman Aleksei Mitrofanov told the agency that the party will hold a new congress very soon to revise its list of candidates. Mitrofanov, who himself was recently disqualified from competing in Moscow mayoral elections for violating campaign finance regulations, said the party will be able to prepare a new list in order to meet the 24 October deadline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 1999). JAC ...AS APPEAL LODGED WITH SUPREME COURT. Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, however, disagreed with that view, telling Mayak Radio on 12 October that it will be "practically impossible" for the party to submit new documents before 24 October and observe all election law requirements. Also on 12 October, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii announced that his party has already lodged an appeal with the Russian Supreme Court. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told Interfax he remains certain that the LDPR will participate in the elections because the Kremlin will push its registration through. JAC MOSCOW OFFERS LUKEWARM RESPONSE TO CHECHEN PEACE BID. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on 11 October said the peace plan unveiled by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov the previous day is a positive move, but he added that any talks with Chechnya are conditional on Grozny's first handing over the persons responsible for the August incursion into Daghestan and for the bombings of apartment buildings in Russia and other cities. Maskhadov had called for an immediate halt to Russian air and artillery bombardment and for Russian federal forces to withdraw to Chechnya's borders with other federation subjects in return for a pledge to crackdown on "illegal military formations and their training centers," according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 October. Putin added that he believes Maskhadov's offer was timed to coincide with the 11 October threat by field commander Shamil Basaev to undertake new terrorist attacks against Russian citizens. LF BASAEV REPORTED CORNERED. According to the commander of Russia's 58th Army, Major General Vladimir Shamanov, Basaev is currently not in a position to act on his threat of new terrorist attacks against Russian citizens (see above). Shamanov said at a meeting with village elders in Chechnya's northern Nadterechnyi Raion on 11 October that Basaev is trapped in the village of Garagorsk, 60 kilometers northwest of Grozny. Shamanov's claim has not been independently confirmed. LF FUGITIVES BEGIN TO RETURN TO CHECHNYA. ITAR-TASS on 12 October quoted Russia's Ministry for Emergency Situations as saying that the number of persons who have fled Chechnya now totals 160,000, of whom 146,00 are in Ingushetia. The previous day, Russian Minister of Health Yurii Shevchenko had said that those fugitives should be required to undergo medical examinations, given the high incidence among them of tuberculosis and intestinal diseases. Also on 11 October, 20 fugitives returned from Stavropol Krai to the Nauri Raion of Chechnya, which is controlled by federal troops. A senior Stavropol official said more displaced persons will soon return to Chechnya's Shelkovskii Raion, which is also under Russian military control. LF ANOTHER ELECTION BLOC REGISTERED. The Central Election Commission on 11 October registered an election alliance formed by the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO) and the Yurii Boldyrev Movement, ITAR-TASS reported. The top names on the alliance's list are State Duma deputy and movement head Yurii Boldyrev, KRO head Dmitrii Rogozin, former Interior Minister Viktor Glukhikh, and former head of the General Staff of the armed forces General Viktor Samsonov, according to Interfax. The alliance was formed at a congress on 29 September. KRO had been a member of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzkhov's Fatherland but left that group when it formed an alliance with All Russia. JAC EVEN HIGHER DEFENSE SPENDING CONTEMPLATED... Although the conciliatory commission has already okayed a 26 billion ruble ($1.01 billion) hike in defense spending in the 2000 budget, Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich and others are suggesting even more funding is necessary, "The Moscow Times" reported on 12 October. Popkovich, according to the daily, is calling for expenditures totaling 37 billion rubles, which would represent a 31 percent hike over the figure proposed in the draft budget recently rejected by the Duma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1999). "Vremya MN" reported on 8 October that the government is poised to raise defense expenditures by 40-60 billion rubles between now and the end of the year. According to the daily, the Defense Ministry received 2.5 billion rubles in September just for North Caucasus operations and will receive another 4 billion rubles in October for the same purpose. JAC ...AS SOURCES FOR NEW MONEY REMAIN MYSTERIOUS. According to "The Moscow Times," the Finance Ministry reports that armed forces personnel are still owed 8.7 billion rubles ($338 million) in back wages, while Prime Minister Putin has pledged that soldiers in combat zones will earn $1,000 a month rather than the usual $300. After meeting with Putin and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev to discuss funding for the Chechen conflict, Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko told Russian Television on 10 October that the bank will issue new state securities to fund the war effort. "Vremya MN" on the other hand reported that unnamed top officials say the new expenditures will be paid for from new duties on oil exports. In addition, new revenues may be expected from "tax legislation passed last summer and inflation." JAC ATTRITION AMONG OFFICERS EXCEEDING PLANNED CUTS. In its latest issue (No. 40), "Argumenty i fakty" reports that the rate of attrition among career officers in the armed forces is "significantly exceeding" the rate of planned cuts. The newspaper reports that every 10th officer post is vacant and that there is a 20 percent shortfall among platoon and team commanders, with that figure rising to 30 percent in some eastern military districts. It attributes this development to the fact that one-third of officers with more than 20 years' service are seeking to retire, while almost half of newly graduated officers opt for resignation upon completing their education. In all, almost 20,000 officers under the age of 30 resigned last year. JC SOME IFI FUNDS READY TO FLOW? First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko told reporters on 12 October that he is hopeful that the World Bank will release a new tranche of its loan to Russia's coal sector. Just two days earlier, Aleksandr Livshits, presidential envoy to the Group of Seven, said that the IMF recently presented Russia with "loan conditions that were not agreed in the program approved [earlier] by the fund." Picking up on this theme, Prime Minister Putin told Russian Television the same day that Russia "will only fulfill the demands of the IMF that we believe are fair." JAC TOP FINANCE MINISTRY OFFICIAL QUITS. First Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin has left his post at the ministry to join the investment bank Troika-Dialog, "Vremya MN" reported on 11 October. In an interview with the daily, Vyugin denied that his departure was linked with the delay in the disbursement of the second tranche of the IMF loan. He said that the question of who will replace him is still being decided. JAC SKURATOV SAYS YELTSIN FAMILY CREDIT CARD ALLEGATIONS TRUE... Suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov told reporters on 11 October that reports in Swiss and Italian newspapers that credit cards were issued to Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his two daughters and later found on premises of the Swiss construction firm Mabetex are true, according to AFP. Skuratov added that "the Yeltsin family has an interest in shedding light on this evidence, a part of which cannot be confirmed and another part of which could be exaggerated." JAC ...AS SENATORS RESUME CONSIDERING HIS RESIGNATION. Also on 11 October, Vyacheslav Khizhnyakov, presidential representative to the Federation Council, sent a letter to that chamber's Anti-Corruption Commission noting that the president agrees with commission members that "the absence of a legitimate prosecutor-general decreases the efficiency" of the office. He asked commission members to submit their proposals on how to resolve the differences between the upper legislative chamber and the presidential administration over Skuratov, according to ITAR-TASS. On 12 October, the issue of Skuratov's resignation topped the agenda of the Anti- Corruption Commission, according to Interfax. JAC LOMONOSOV FACTORY RENATIONALIZED. The St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast Arbitration Court has ruled that the 1993 privatization of the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory, which is Russia's oldest and leading maker of fine porcelain, was invalid, Russian newspapers reported on 12 October. According to "Segodnya," the court based its ruling on the fact that the decision to found a closed joint-stock company, rather than an open one, had violated the law. The daily added that the factory must either be returned to the state or be sold for a second time. As a result of the 1993 privatization, a group of foreign investors had taken a majority stake in the factory, including the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund and the U.S. investment firm KKR. "The Moscow Times" reported that factory employees had barred investors from entering the premises, accusing them of failing to produce an investment plan and of seeking to seize the factory museum's valuable collection. JC SIBNEFT HEAD TO EMERGE FROM THE SHADOWS? Ekho Moskvy reported on 11 October that Sibneft head Roman Abramovich will seek a seat in the State Duma from the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. The station noted that Chukotka Governor Aleksandr Nazarov was a founder of the interregional movement Unity (Edinstvo), which many, including former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, have alleged was formed with the strong support of media magnate Boris Berezovskii. Berezovskii and Abramovich are close associates. Ekho Moskvy is owned by Media-Most Group, whose head, Vladimir Gusinskii, is a Berezovskii rival. In an interview with Interfax the same day, Governor Nazarov said that he has not heard of any such plan by Abramovich and that he personally will support a candidate from Unity's list. JAC MILLENIUM BUG TESTS UNDER WAY AT NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS. A spokesman for Rosenergoatom told Reuters on 11 October that an exercise at the Kursk nuclear power plant last weekend aimed at testing the staff's ability to respond to possible millennium bug emergencies was a "success." Only minor problems, largely related to establishing emergency communications links between various bodies, were registered, the spokesman added. Rosenergoatom, which manages all but one of Russia's nine nuclear power plants, is to carry out a comprehensive program of tests by the end of this month. "In November-December we should be totally prepared for the Y2K problem," according to the concern's spokesman. A separate Y2K response program has been prepared for the one nuclear power facility, located near St. Petersburg, that is subordinated to the Atomic Energy Ministry. JC PRESIDENTIAL SUPPORTER WOUNDED IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA SHOOTING. Anatolii Tugov, who played a leading role in Vladimir Semenov's presidential campaign and is seen as a probable member of the republic's new government, was shot and seriously wounded outside his home in Cherkessk on 10 October, Caucasus Press reported. A man was arrested the following day in connection with the shooting. Also on 11 October, a planned session of the republic's parliament was canceled for lack of a quorum. Only Karachai and a few Russian deputies, but not Cherkess, attended, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 12 October. The parliamentary session was to have approved the candidacy of Stavropol Krai engineer Vasilii Neshchadinov as premier. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA MILITARY NOT TO VOTE IN ARMENIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS. The Armenian parliament on 11 October voted to amend the election law to allow Armenian servicemen to cast their votes in local elections only in their place of permanent residence, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That measure will affect the majority of army conscripts who normally perform their compulsory military service away from their native towns and villages. Opposition parties and international monitors have claimed in the past that tens of thousands of soldiers are ordered by their commanders to vote for pro-government candidates. Voting by the military has consistently figured in the list of election drawbacks reported by OSCE election monitoring missions. LF ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS MEET. Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliev met on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan's exclave of Nakhichevan on 11 October for a fourth round of talks on Karabakh. The meeting, which lasted just over two hours, was held behind closed doors. Kocharian told journalists later that he and Aliev discussed "the entire spectrum of issues" related to the settlement process, in particular "the degree of compromise." He declined, however, to give details. Aliev, for his part, noted that successive peace proposals by the UN and the OSCE have failed to yield a solution to the conflict. Aliev termed his direct talks with Kocharian "very useful" but said "more time, meetings and talks, and of course mutual compromises" are needed to reach a peace settlement, Noyan Tapan reported. LF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PROTESTS CLOSURE OF TV STATION. Meeting in Baku on 11 October, representatives of leading Azerbaijani opposition parties formed a committee to defend the rights of the independent television station Sara TV, which was shut down by the Ministry of Justice on 9 October, Turan reported. Turan quoted a member of the Azerbaijani presidential administration as saying that the reason for the closure was that the station's original registration in 1994 was illegal because its owners are not citizens of Azerbaijan. But Sara TV president Rasul Rauf, who has a British passport, said on 11 October that the Justice Ministry claimed that the station "interferes in the public- political life of Azerbaijan" and has departed from its customary focus on entertainment. Rauf told Reuters that the closure was "politically motivated." LF AZERBAIJAN MILITARY OFFICIAL ARRESTED. Djanmirza Mirzoev, a former instructor at the Baku Higher Naval Academy who incurred the wrath of Defense Minister Safar Abiev for his disclosures of corrupt practices and dissenting views within that ministry, was arrested on 10 October, Turan reported the following day quoting "Yeni Musavat" (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 34, 26 August 1999). It is not clear what crime Mirzoev has been charged with. LF AZERBAIJAN, IRAN SEEK TO EXPAND COOPERATION. Visiting Iran last week at the head of an Azerbaijani delegation, deputy parliamentary speaker Yashar Aliev discussed with Iranian Majlis speaker Ali-Aqbar Nateq-Nouri and with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi the need to expand bilateral relations, which Aliev said should not be impeded by "minor problems," IRNA reported. The talks focused on cooperation in the oil, gas, and road construction sectors as well as in cross-border trade. Yashar Aliev also attended a session of the Tehran-Baku economic commission, which is intended to explore how to increase trade turnover between the two countries from the present level of $160 million. LF GEORGIAN AMNESTY DISPUTE INTENSIFIES. The Georgian Prosecutor-General's Office has made good on its 6 October threat and brought criminal proceedings against the authorities of the Adjar Autonomous Republic for that region's failure to free all 28 prisoners eligible for release under Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's 1 October amnesty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 October 1999). Three of the 28 men remain in jail. Speaking on Georgian Radio on 11 October, Shevardnadze said the Adjar authorities' refusal to comply with his amnesty decree constitutes a threat to Georgia's territorial integrity. LF GUARD ATTACKED AT RUSSIAN MILITARY BASE IN GEORGIA. Four Armenian youths attacked a guard at the Russian military base in the south Georgian district of Akhalkalaki on 11 October, Caucasus Press reported. The guard shot and mortally wounded one of the youths in self-defense. No details of the motive for the assault are available. LF OSCE CRITICIZES KAZAKH ELECTIONS... In its preliminary assessment released on 11 October, the OSCE observer mission to the parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan termed the poll an improvement on the January 1999 presidential elections, Reuters and dpa reported. But the monitors noted that while the actual conduct of the vote was relatively free of violations, intimidation and obstruction of opposition candidates and parties "seriously undermined" democratic principles during the election campaign and "contributed to widespread expectations that the election results would be falsified and that nothing would change as a result of the elections." LF ...AS INITIAL RESULTS DELAYED. Central Electoral Commission chairwoman Zaghipa Balieva told journalists on 11 October that the preliminary results of the poll, which were to have been released that day, will be available only on 12 October, Reuters reported. Meanwhile Communist Party Chairman Serikbolsyn Abdildin said in Almaty on 11 October he believes that his party will win five or six of the 10 seats allocated under the proportional system but that none of its candidates in single-mandate constituencies received the required 50 percent of the vote to win outright in the first round, Interfax reported. Azat Peruashev, head of the pro-government Civic Party of Kazakhstan, told Interfax that eight of the party's candidates have won in single-candidate constituencies. A total of 64 candidates contested the 10 party-list seats, while 549 competed in the remaining 67 single-candidate constituencies. ("RFE/RL Newsline" incorrectly reported on 11 October that 65 candidates contested the party-list seats and 484 took part in the remaining single candidate districts.) LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT NAMES NEW PREMIER. Kazakhstan's outgoing parliament on 12 October unanimously approved the candidacy of Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Toqaev as the country's new prime minister, Reuters reported. President Nursultan Nazarbaev had named Toqaev acting premier on 1 October following the resignation of Nurlan Balghymbaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1999). Toqaev, who is 46, is a trained diplomat with little economic expertise. But parliamentary speaker Marat Ospanov, who had been fiercely critical of Balghymbaev and was regarded as a possible successor to him, told Interfax on 11 October that he considers Toqaev "a suitable figure" for the post. Ospanov argued that tensions between the parliament and the Balghymbaev cabinet deterred badly-needed foreign investment, which he hopes will now be forthcoming in the light of the international community's "recognition and trust" in Toqaev. LF KYRGYZ TROOPS ADVANCE ON GUERRILLA BASE. Kyrgyz government forces advanced into the Khodjo-Achkhan gorge on 11 October, where ethnic Uzbek militants had retreated together with the 13 hostages they seized in August, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. The Kyrgyz troops met with little resistance there. Presidential press secretary Kanybek Imanaliev told journalists in Bishkek the same day that all but 100 of the estimated 1,000 guerrillas have retreated into Tajikistan. The whereabouts of the hostages are unclear. LF TAJIK OPPOSITION CANDIDATES CALL FOR POSTPONEMENT OF PRESIDENTIAL POLL... Economics and Foreign Economic Relations Minister Davlat Usmon (Islamic Renaissance Party), Sulton Kuvvatov (Democratic Party/Tehran Platform) and Saiffidin Turaev (Justice Party) issued a statement on 11 October calling for the postponement of the 6 November presidential elections, Interfax reported. They also asked for an emergency session of the parliament to discuss the situation. The three had threatened last week to boycott the poll to protest what they termed interference by local district administrators intended to prevent them from collecting the signatures required to register as presidential candidates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1999). Central Electoral Commission chairman Mirzoali Boluev, who met with the three candidates on 8- 9 October, rejected their criticism of local administrators as "illegal propagandist pressure" aimed at winning the support of the international community, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 11 October. He offered to extend the deadline for the submission of registration documents until 11 October. LF ...AS UTO WITHDRAWS FROM CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION. The United Tajik Opposition issued a statement on 10 October supporting the claim by the three opposition candidates that local administrators are sabotaging the election campaign, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 11 October. The UTO announced that since the Central Electoral Commission is incapable of taking measures to ensure that the poll is free and fair, the UTO will withdraw its representatives, who account for 25 percent of the commission's members. LF SECOND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE NOMINATED IN UZBEKISTAN. The People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, which is the successor organization to the Communist Party of Uzbekistan and has the largest faction (71 deputies) in Uzbekistan's 250-seat parliament, has named its leader, Abdulkhafiz Djalalov, as its candidate for the January 2000 presidential poll, Reuters and AP reported on 11 October. Djalalov, 52, is director of the department of philosophy and law of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences. The People's Democratic Party was headed until 1994 by incumbent President Islam Karimov, who has been nominated as presidential candidate by both the Social Democratic Party (Adolat) and the Fidorkorlar. LF END NOTE A REAL BATTLE ON THE VIRTUAL FRONT By Paul Goble Russians and Chechens are fighting not only on the physical battlefield in the North Caucasus. They have taken their fight to the virtual world of the Internet, with each side trying to seize the advantage there as well. Last week, Moscow officials denied that Russian forces had attacked a bus carrying Chechen fugitives and killed many of them. But before that report could be aired on central Russian television, the Chechens used their Internet Website to post photographs of the incident. Not only did this call into question Russian claims about the way in which Moscow is conducting the current campaign, but it forced Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to focus ever more closely on the role of the Internet in deciding the outcome of conflicts. Speaking to journalists last week, Putin openly acknowledged that Moscow was playing catch-up on this battlefield: "We surrendered this terrain some time ago," he said, "but now we are entering the game again." The prime minister's remarks came on the heels of reports that Russia's evolving national security concept now calls for tightened control over the media during crisis situations. Indeed, the Russian government's own newspaper "Izvestiya" noted rather critically that "the introduction of centralized military censorship regarding the war in the North Caucasus is the only new idea" in the much vaunted national security doctrine. But if battlefield censorship is nothing new--most governments have sought to impose it in most wars--then the war in the virtual world of the Internet is. And because of that, the attackers still have significant advantages over the defenders, even though that pattern may be reversed. Since declaring their independence from the Soviet Union in November 1991, the Chechens have pioneered the use of Website as a weapon to try to break the information blockade that the Russian authorities have tried to impose over the conflict. In recent weeks, the Russian government responded on a number of fronts. It has tried to close down the most important of the Chechen Websites---http://www.kavkaz.org-- and even sought help from Western governments to that end. But Moscow has not limited itself to official moves against the Chechen efforts in cyberspace. The Russian authorities or their supporters have routinely hacked into Chechen sites, destroying or distorting the materials and information they contain. And taking a leaf from the Chechens' book, the Russian government's news agencies have expanded their activities on the web, not only increasing the number of Websites they operate but tailoring them to deliver specific messages to specific audiences. Control of information has always been a key element in military strategy and has often determined the outcomes of military campaigns. For most of human history, commanders on the scene and their political superiors were in a position to determine what was reported and what was not. But the rise of mass circulation newspapers in Europe during the last century and even more the appearance of radio and television in this one has limited the ability of both generals and politicians to control the situation. Now the Internet has reduced their ability to do so still further. If Moscow eliminates one Chechen site, another is likely to replace it within hours, if not minutes. If those supporting the Russian side hack into a Chechen site, the Chechens are likely to respond by hacking into a Russian one. Indeed, there are suspicions that the Chechens or their backers may have been behind the defacing of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Website two weeks ago precisely because of his statements against Chechnya and his efforts to expel Chechens from the Russian capital. The Internet and the World Wide Web have thus become yet another field of battle in modern war, one in which neither side has yet been able to declare any final victory. But this new, virtual, but all too real battlefield appears likely to be one in which those who seek to control the free flow of news are likely to suffer more defeats than those who sponsor it. And the victories of the latter in cyberspace may ultimately translate into other victories as well. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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