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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 200, Part I, 13 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 200, Part I, 13 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 * IMF WARNS RUSSIA OVER DEFENSE SPENDING * SERGEEV SAYS RUSSIAN FORCES WILL CONSOLIDATE CONTROL IN CHECHNYA * UN OBSERVERS TAKEN HOSTAGE IN WESTERN GEORGIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA IMF WARNS RUSSIA OVER DEFENSE SPENDING. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus said on 13 October that "if I see that the budget is over-shooting because of an uncontrolled increase in military spending, we shall interrupt our support," according to AFP. With regard to other macroeconomic conditions of the fund's support, Camdessus said that "these conditions are being satisfied and they are doing even better than we require." Addressing a group of leaders of regional legislative assemblies on 12 October, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that the split in revenues in the 2000 budget will be 52 percent for the center and 48 percent for the regions, but he added that 2 percent of the federal center's portion will be devoted to national defense, "Vremya MN" reported. According to the draft budget approved by the conciliatory commission, 145.3 billion rubles ($5.6 billion) are allocated for national defense, which is 18 percent of total projected revenues of 791.3 billion rubles (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). JAC SERGEEV SAYS RUSSIAN FORCES WILL CONSOLIDATE CONTROL IN CHECHNYA... Speaking in Feodosiya (Ukraine) on 12 October, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev claimed that the creation of a "security zone" in Chechnya is "almost complete." But he added that the federal forces' ultimate aim is to "eliminate armed gangs and terrorist groups" and consolidate their position until they control "the entire situation" in Chechnya. It was unclear from his remarks whether he envisaged an assault on Grozny. Sergeev confirmed that Russian troops have surrounded field commander Shamil Basaev in the mountain village of Goragorsky in western Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. But NTV on 12 October said that Russian military commanders in Chechnya could not confirm that Basaev was in Goragorsky, although they admitted that heavy fighting was under way there. Air and artillery bombardment of Chechen targets continued on 12 October. LF ...WHILE MASKHADOV CLAIMS THEY ARE BEING PUSHED BACK. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov said in Grozny on 12 October that Chechen forces have regained ground and pushed Russian forces back several kilometers beyond the Terek River at points that he did not name, according to Reuters. He predicted that sooner or later Moscow will seek to negotiate and end to the fighting. But former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev said that Chechen commanders believe that any talks with Russian leaders before all federal forces withdraw from Chechnya are "dangerous, criminal and treason," ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 12 October, Maskhadov dismissed Chechen mufti Akhmedhadji Kadirov for his condemnation of the Chechen-led incursions into Daghestan in August, according to ITAR-TASS. Russian military sources told Interfax that the Chechens are regrouping and preparing for "active hostilities" and "large-scale acts of terrorism." LF MORE CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS THREATEN RETALIATION. Following Basaev's 11 October threat to launch new terrorist attacks against Russian citizens, Salman Raduev on 12 October said that he, too, will target strategic Russian military installations if the Russian air strikes on Chechnya do not end, Interfax reported. But Raduev denied that he would ever attack either civilian targets or nuclear facilities, saying that the consequences of an attack on the latter cannot be predicted. In Grozny, field commander Abu Movsaev said that he has ordered the execution of three highly placed Russian military-political leaders whom he said are "guilty of the genocide of the Chechen people in 1994-1996," according to Interfax. LF FEDERATION COUNCIL TAKES UP SKURATOV ISSUE AGAIN. At Russian President Boris Yeltsin's request, the upper legislative chamber on 13 October resumed consideration of the issue of relieving suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov of his duties. According to ITAR-TASS, a group of senators had sent a letter to Yeltsin asking that the issue be reopened and expressing the view that "a country in the grip of such a level of corruption should not remain for much longer without a prosecutor." Russian Television reported the previous day that between 40 and 60 senators support Skuratov's dismissal. Two earlier attempts by the Kremlin to remove Skuratov failed to attract the required 90 votes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1999). JAC LDPR SCRAMBLES FOR ELECTION REGISTRATION. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) head Vladimir Zhirinovskii told reporters on 12 October that his party will consider forming an election coalition with another group in order to qualify to run in upcoming State Duma elections. On 13 October, an LDPR spokesman said that a joint congress to form the "Zhirinovskii Bloc" will be held later that day with the Spiritual Revival (Dukhovnoe Vozrozhdenie) party and the Russian Union of Free Youth (Rossiiskii soyuz svobodnoi molodezhi). Zhirinovskii complained the previous day that "Even people who are let out of prison for murder can run for parliament, but a person who improperly registered a motorcycle 20 years ago cannot." Candidate number 17 on LDPR's current list that was arrested in 1989 on suspicion of extortion, along with candidate number 16. JAC NEW PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION BILL READY. A new draft law on presidential elections has been prepared by the presidential administration and will be submitted to the State Duma shortly, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 13 October. According to the daily, the 340-page document gives the government effective mechanisms to influence the presidential election process. For example, the newspaper claims that the provision forbidding public officeholders from using their official positions to their advantage during a campaign may be interpreted so that any candidate who makes "a call from a work telephone or a speech in the State Duma" may be removed from the race. The newspaper, which is owned by Vladimir Potanin's Interros financial group and LUKoil, suggests that state authorities will enforce the law at their own discretion, deciding who has violated it and who has not. JAC DUMA CANDIDATES REVEAL ALL? The Central Election Commission on 12 October released information from the 1998 income and property declarations of candidates for the State Duma elections for the first registered bloc, Fatherland-All Russia. According to ITAR-TASS, Fatherland leader Yurii Luzhkov reported 707,800 rubles ($27,500 according to today's exchange rate) in royalties, bank account interest, and salaries as Moscow mayor and a member of the Federation Council. St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev reported significantly smaller earnings of only 153,630 rubles. Sistema head Vladimir Yevtushenkov, who according to some press accounts has been a major financial backer of Fatherland, earned almost 12 times more than Luzhkov. Some candidates in the regions had no income in 1998, according to the agency. One of those candidates is Penza Otechestvo branch head Vladimir Shcherbak (who presumably is not the deputy prime minister of the same name). JAC COURT RULING ON LOMONOSOV FACTORY QUERIED. The Federal Securities Commission has called into question a court ruling deeming the privatization of the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory illegal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999), Interfax reported on 12 October. Commission head Dmitrii Vasilev sent a letter to the State Property Ministry, which had filed suit over the Lomonosov privatization, saying that "from our point of view, this precedent taken by the State Property Ministry deprives existing shareholders and investors of the confidence that the state protects them and calls into question their ownership rights to bonds and shares in any Russian enterprise formed as a result of privatization." According to AP, the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund and the KKR investment firm, both of which have stakes in the factory, have said they intend to appeal the ruling. JC FOREIGN MINISTRY BEGINS START 2 RATIFICATION TALKS WITH DUMA FACTIONS. Unidentified sources at the Foreign Ministry told Interfax on 12 October that the ministry has begun talks with the leaders of State Duma factions in a bid to have the START 2 treaty ratified before the December parliamentary elections. Those sources stressed that ratification could "seriously undermine" the U.S. position favoring a revision of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. "The Russian side," they added, "has far from recognized its defeat" in the debate with the U.S. over possible changes to that treaty. JC IVANOV SAYS NATO-RUSSIA RELATIONS COULD IMPROVE AFTER OSCE SUMMIT. In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" published on 12 October, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that if a new treaty restricting conventional weaponry in Europe is adopted at next month's OSCE summit in Istanbul, "this would create the preconditions to start gradually rebuilding relations with NATO in those spheres in which cooperation is in our mutual interests." Russia, he noted, does not want to play a special role in the Balkans; rather, it wants an active role "in conjunction with other states." With regard to ABM, Ivanov stressed Moscow's position that unilateral changes in the treaty would lead to a new "phase" in the arms race and further global destabilization. And asked whether President Yeltsin will be making planned trips abroad, Ivanov responded that Yeltsin is "in many respects the main stabilizing political factor in Russia" and thus realizes "how important it is that he remain in Russia right now." JC BRITISH DOUBLE AGENT PRAISES PRIMAKOV. George Blake, a former British intelligence agent who worked for the KGB until 1961, is currently in Primorskii Krai at the invitation of krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 6 October. Primore officials who have participated in Blake's discussions with local Federal Security Service officers and others told Reuters on 12 October that "they have been struck by the number of times [Blake] has praised [former Prime Minister Yevgenii] Primakov and his role in 'establishing intelligence services and Russian statehood.'" The same day, Moscow Mayor Luzhkov told reporters that Primakov may announce early next year whether he will run for president of Russia. JAC WOMEN, AGED INFREQUENT VISITORS ON RUSSIA'S INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY. A Russian media research center, COMCON, found in a survey of nearly 26,000 Internet users in Russia that only 19 percent of users are female and just 10.4 percent are over the age of 45. The result of the survey were released last month. Meanwhile, financier George Soros's Open Society Institute opened its 33rd and final Internet center in Russia on 12 October, according to AFP. ITAR-TASS reported earlier that according to one study, Russia had 1.9 million Internet users as of last June. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO DEATHS IN CUSTODY IN ARMENIA. The Austrian-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) sent an open letter on 11 October to President Robert Kocharian asking him to investigate the deaths in custody of two young men serving prison terms for robbery and assault and the death of a third man shortly after his release from interrogation, Noyan Tapan reported. The IHF said there is evidence that all three men either were murdered or died as a result of beatings by police officers. LF U.S., RUSSIA PRAISE ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI TALKS. U.S. Vice President Al Gore on 12 October wrote to Armenian President Kocharian commending the "important progress" made toward resolving the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Gore expressed confidence that progress toward resolving the conflict will open new opportunities for Armenia's partnership and cooperation with neighboring countries and the entire North Atlantic community, according to Noyan Tapan. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin on 12 October similarly noted that the four meetings between two presidents have resulted in the strengthening of the cease-fire, an exchange of prisoners, and greater confidence between the two countries, Interfax reported. Also on 12 October, the Armenian and Azerbaijan foreign ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss a methodology for ending the conflict and to try to define parameters for resolving it, AFP reported. LF WORLD BANK SETS CONDITIONS FOR LOAN TO AZERBAIJAN. The World Bank's permanent representative in Baku, Tevfik Yaprak, told Reuters on 12 October that Azerbaijan must demonstrate its commitment to public-sector reform before the bank will release a $200 million three-year loan intended to help create an environment for private-sector development and increase support for social sectors, such as pensions and education. The bank will send a mission to Baku next month to draft a list of measures the Azerbaijani government must enact in order to qualify for that loan. Yaprak also noted that Azerbaijan will begin to receive oil revenues next year. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ORDERS DEATH PENALTY FOR MILITARY CRIMES RESTORED. Heidar Aliev has issued a decree on amendments to the criminal code that allow for the imposition of the death penalty in wartime for "particularly grave" military crimes, according to Human Rights Committee of Azerbaijan press release. Aliev also decreed the transfer from the Interior Ministry to the Ministry of Justice of investigation centers in Baku and Gjanja in which the accused are held in solitary confinement, Turan reported. That transfer is one of the conditions for admittance to full membership in the Council of Europe. Azerbaijan abolished the death penalty last year. LF ABKHAZIA ADOPTS FORMAL STATUTE ON INDEPENDENCE. The parliament of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia on 12 October adopted a statue affirming the region's status as an independent state and calling on the UN and OSCE to recognize it as such, ITAR-TASS reported The statute noted that in the 3 October referendum, a majority of the voters registered as resident in Abkhazia before the 1992-1993 war had approved the 1994 constitution defining Abkhazia as an independent sovereign state (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 1999). Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 12 October said that the Abkhaz declaration does not contribute to resolving the Abkhaz conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. Abkhaz parliament in exile chairman Tamaz Nadareishvili termed it "a political farce," according to Caucasus Press. LF UN OBSERVERS TAKEN HOSTAGE IN WESTERN GEORGIA. Seven members of the UN Observer Mission in western Georgia were seized by unidentified armed men when their helicopter landed in the Kodori gorge early on 13 October. David Tsanava, deputy chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, told Caucasus Press that the abductors are demanding a ransom of $200,000 for the observers. He added that the abductors are those who were responsible for a similar incident in July in which members of the Abkhaz government in exile, including Tsanava, were seized when their helicopter landed in Kodori gorge but were released several hours later (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 28, 15 July 1999). UN policy is not to give in to such ransom demands, but the former head of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia paid a $7,000 ransom for a kidnapped observer in September 1997 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1997). LF GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY CONCERNED OVER RUSSIAN ARMS BUILDUP. Revaz Adamia, who is chairman of the Georgian parliament's Defense and Security Committee, told journalists in Tbilisi on 12 October that Russia has "almost doubled" the amount of heavy weaponry it may deploy in the North Caucasus under the amended CFE Treaty, Interfax reported. Adamia argued that such quantities of arms exceed what is required "to fight several hundred terrorists." LF PRELIMINARY KAZAKH ELECTION RETURNS ANNOUNCED. Only four of the nine parties contending the 10 seats in the lower chamber of the Kazakh parliament that are to be allocated under the proportional system polled the 7 percent of the vote needed to qualify for representation, Reuters reported on 12 October. Both Reuters and ITAR-TASS quoted unofficial results according to which the pro-presidential Otan party polled 30.5 percent of the party-list vote, the Communist Party 17.8 percent, the Agrarian Party 12.6 percent, and the Civic Party 10.9 percent. ITAR-TASS also quoted Central Electoral Commission secretary Yelena Kuleshova as saying that in 70 percent of all electoral districts no candidate received 50 percent of the votes cast. A runoff between the two candidates who polled the largest number of votes will be held in those constituencies on 24 October. LF MORE GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENTS IN KAZAKHSTAN. After naming Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev prime minister on 12 October, President Nursultan Nazarbaev told the parliament that he has appointed Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Aleksander Pavlov as first deputy premier, North Kazakhstan Oblast Governor Danial Akhmetov as second deputy premier, and the chairman of the Kazakh State Agency of Strategic Planning and Reforms, Erzhan Otembaev, deputy premier. Qaraghandy Oblast Governor Mazhit Esenbaev was named finance minister, and Grigorii Marchenko was appointed chairman of the National Bank, RFE/RL's Astana correspondent reported. LF NEW KAZAKH PREMIER OUTLINES PRIORITIES. Addressing both houses of the Kazakh parliament on 12 October, Prime Minister Toqaev pledged that his government will actively cooperate with the parliament and will "work to improve the economic situation and gradually reduce the budget deficit," Interfax reported. He called on deputies to pass the amended 2000 budget in the second reading. Toqaev also said he believes the government's personnel policy needs improving. He said he opposes both the hasty introduction of private ownership of land and the controversial plans to sell part of Kazakhstan's stake in the Tengizchevroil joint venture. Consultations on the latter issue must be held with Nazarbaev, he said. LF FOUR HOSTAGES RELEASED IN KYRGYZSTAN. The Kyrgyz Defense Ministry on 13 October confirmed that four Kyrgyz policemen taken hostage by guerrillas in southern Kyrgyzstan in late August have been freed, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. It also said that government forces took control late on 12 October of the village of Kodjo-Achkan, which served as the guerrillas' base, without encountering serious resistance. Addressing a 12 October session of the upper house of the parliament, which endorsed his proposal to create a seventh oblast in Kyrgyzstan, President Askar Akaev again said that the guerrillas' primary objective is not "to defend Islam" but to broaden the corridor for drug-trafficking from Afghanistan to Europe via the CIS, according to Interfax. LF TAJIK OPPOSITION CANDIDATES CALL FOR BOYCOTT OF PRESIDENTIAL POLL. Tajikistan's Central Electoral Commission has refused to register Davlat Usmon, Sulton Kuvvaev, and Saifiddin Turaev as candidates for the 6 November presidential poll on the grounds that they failed to provide the required 145,000 signatures in their support, although the deadline for doing so was twice extended, Interfax reported on 12 October. At a news conference in Dushanbe the same day the three men called on voters and the international community to boycott the poll and not to recognize its outcome as valid. OSCE representative Oscar Lennar told journalists in Dushanbe that he hopes it will prove possible to extend the deadline for gathering signatures, but parliamentary deputy chairman Kozidavlat Koimdodov rejected that option as violating the election law, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in the Tajik capital. LF UZBEK PRESIDENT CALLS OFF PLANNED VISIT TO KYRGYZSTAN. A planned visit to Kyrgyzstan by Uzbek President Islam Karimov has been postponed indefinitely, Interfax reported on 12 October, citing the Kyrgyz presidential administration. No reason for the postponement was given. 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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