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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 202, Part I, 15 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 202, Part I, 15 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 * CONTROVERSY OVER KREMLIN CREDIT CARDS CONTINUES * DEMONSTRATORS IN GROZNY CALL FOR PEACE TALKS * ARMENIAN NATIONALIST PARTY WARNS AGAINST KARABAKH CONCESSIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA CONTROVERSY OVER KREMLIN CREDIT CARDS CONTINUES. A Swiss bank official confirmed earlier press reports that his bank provided a guarantee for three credit cards on the order of the construction firm Mabetex for Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his two daughters, AP reported on 14 October. However, the official said that he does not know whether the credit cards were ever issued. Mabetex director Bedget Pakolli told "Moskovskii komsomolets" the previous day that his firm is being used as a "an instrument in a political fight." When asked why documents about the Yeltsins' credit cards were found on his firm's premises, he said that he "has a few theories" but does not want to accuse anyone until he has proof. The Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera" reported earlier that Mabetex provided kickbacks through the credit cards. The presidential press service released a statement on 14 October saying that the president "has never opened any foreign bank account" and "owns no property abroad, nor has he ever owned any." JAC DEMONSTRATORS IN GROZNY CALL FOR PEACE TALKS... Some 25,000 people staged a march in the Chechen capital on 14 October to call on the leaderships of both Chechnya and Russia to begin talks on a peaceful settlement of the conflict, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. They adopted an appeal to the UN, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe to "make every effort to prevent the approaching catastrophe," which they said could cost the lives of tens of thousands of people. Speaking in Moscow on 14 October, Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev similarly called for uninterrupted negotiations, pointing out that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov "is facing the armed opposition single-handed." Aushev said that both he and the Ingush people oppose the restoration of the single Chechen- Ingush administrative territorial unit that existed before the summer of 1992. LF ...BUT IVANOV SPELLS OUT CONDITIONS. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in St. Petersburg on 15 October following talks with his German counterpart Joschka Fischer that Moscow is still prepared for dialogue with Maskhadov even though the latter was not elected under Russian law. But Ivanov stressed that the Chechen leadership must first demonstrate its good will by halting combat operations and extraditing terrorists, ITAR-TASS reported (see also "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 41, 14 October 1999). LF MOSCOW NAMES VICEROY IN CHECHEN LIBERATED ZONE. Russian Deputy Railways Minister Nikolai Koshman, who headed the pro- Moscow Chechen puppet government in 1995-1996, told ITAR-TASS on 15 October that he has accepted the post of Moscow's representative in the "liberated" areas of Chechnya, ITAR- TASS reported. Koshman said his priority is "to inspire faith in people that Russia remembers them [and] to put things in order." He said he will extend assistance to the pro-Moscow Chechen State Council headed by Malik Saidullaev. Saidullaev, for his part, told ITAR-TASS on 14 October he and other council members will leave for Chechnya "soon," once they have received from the Russian government documents confirming the powers of the 1996 parliament. That body's mandate expired in the summer of 1998. LF RUSSIAN OFFICIALS BLAME CHECHEN MILITANTS FOR EXODUS. Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko on 14 October accused the Chechen forces of coercing the civilian population to leave Chechnya in order to create a humanitarian catastrophe, ITAR-TASS reported. Federal Security Service spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich on 14 October similarly said that the Chechens are forcing civilians to leave the republic in order to depict federal actions as "barbarous," according to Interfax . LF RUSSIAN TROOPS CONSOLIDATE CONTROL OF GORAGORSKY. Russian military spokesmen said on 15 October that federal forces have consolidated their hold on the strategic village of Goragorsky, west of Grozny, which Chechen forces abandoned two days earlier. The village commands the main highway from Grozny to Ingushetia. Russian artillery continued its bombardment of Urus Martan, Achkhoi Martan, Assinovskaya, and Bamut on 14 October but did not target the capital. AFP on 14 October quoted Chechen officials as saying that more than 2,000 civilians have been killed since the Russian bombing raids began six weeks ago. LF YELTSIN DISCUSSES NORTH CAUCASUS WITH MAGOMEDOV, SERGEEV. President Yeltsin on 14 October telephoned Daghestan's State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov to discuss the situation in that republic and in the North Caucasus in general, ITAR-TASS reported. The previous day, Yeltsin had discussed the situation in the North Caucasus with Defense Minister Igor Sergeev. LF WORLD BANK CHIMES IN ON DEFENSE SPENDING... The World Bank's Country Director for Russia Michael Carter told Ekho Moskvy on 14 October that a very sharp increase in military expenditure would destabilize the budget and prompt the bank to discontinue disbursements of adjustment loans. Carter added that the bank has found no violations in the use of bridge loans that it has granted Russia. Meanwhile, "Vedomosti" reported the same day that IMF officials are unlikely to be pleased that the government is resorting to mutual offsets in order to clear debts owed to the government by state-controlled enterprises. The IMF demanded earlier that the government resist writing off enterprises' tax debts. The daily noted that "the treasury owes money to enterprises, which, in turn, owe money to the budget--so why not come to terms?" The daily added that because military expenditures are increasing, it is becoming harder "to 'earmark' real money for other affairs." JAC ...AS REPORTS FILTER IN ABOUT SOLDIERS' PAY. Some analysts believe that the costs of the Chechen conflict will not be excessively high. Mikhail Delyagin of Moscow's Institute for Globalization Problems told RFE/RL that "the Russian armed forces will just do what they know how to do--scrimp and save on the backs of Russian soldiers." Delyagin wrote earlier that soldiers in Chechnya have not been paid for a month. Colonel General Georgii Oleinik told "Krasnaya zvezda" on 14 October that pilots who have been flying bombing missions over Chechnya have received their pay neither regularly nor on time. However, Oleinik, who is head of the Defense Ministry's military budget and finance department, pledged that "from this month pilots will receive everything they should get on time." JAC GOVERNMENT LOOKING TO OIL SECTOR TO HELP WITH CHECHNYA? Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has called on the government to increase its oversight of the country's oil and gas sector. Addressing the cabinet on 14 October, he said that "it is impossible to explain to any reasonable person why Russia, an oil-producing country, is witnessing a 50 percent growth in petrol prices this year," according to ITAR-TASS. Putin also noted that fuel deliveries to security agencies have been reduced five-fold, according to Russian Public Television. "Under the current circumstances, our military group in the North Caucasus has to suffer, while it is honorably fulfilling its duty before the country," he said. "Vremya MN" noted earlier that the government may try to raise revenues for military spending by increasing taxes on oil exports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999). JAC VASILIEV RESIGNS FOR GOOD. Dmitrii Vasiliev, head of the Federal Securities Agency, told reporters on 15 October that he has tendered his resignation to the president and Yeltsin has accepted it. Vasiliev resigned earlier this year to protest what he saw as errors in the way the government of former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov government was handling the country's economic crisis, but his resignation was not accepted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October 1998). Vasiliev said he plans to set up a non-governmental system for protecting investors on Russia's stock exchange. He added that the system would include legal representation and organizational support, according to Interfax. JAC COMMUNISTS SAIL THROUGH REGISTRATION... The Central Election Commission on 14 October registered the party list of the Communist Party (KPRF) for the upcoming elections to the State Duma. According to "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 15 October, the list contains 255 names; the commission crossed nine names off the list for providing false information about their property, including that of actress Elena Dropenko. "Kommersant-Daily" noted that some of the candidates of the "party of the people" seemed to have cars of people with means. For example, Nikolai Laikhes, a candidate on the Volga-Caspian list, owns two Zhigulis, one Volga, and one Jeep Grand Cherokee, while Yevgenii Marchenko, a candidate from the Kuban-Don group, falsified sale documents for his Mercedes-500. JAC ...AS YABLOKO PREDICTED TO HAVE PROBLEMS. Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said on 14 October that questions have been raised about the information provided on vehicle declaration forms by candidates on Yabloko's list--even among the top three candidates, according to ITAR-TASS. Our Home Is Russia leader Viktor Chernomyrdin predicted the same day that the commission will not delete one name from his party's list since that list had been prepared with great care. JAC NIZHNII NOVGOROD FAILS TO MAKE EUROBOND PAYMENT. The city of Nizhnii Novgorod has technically defaulted on an interest payment on its Eurobond, after failing to persuade bondholders to approve a debt restructuring plan, Russian media reported on 14 October. This is the first case of a Russian municipal government's default, technical or otherwise, on a Eurobond payment. The interest payment on Nizhnii Novgorod's five-year, $100 million bond had been due on 3 October, after which the city had a 10-day grace period to make the payment (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 6 October 1999). However, at a meeting in London on 13 October, support for the Nizhnii restructuring plan among creditors fell just short of the required 75 percent, according to Interfax on 14 October and "The Moscow Times" the next day. Talks between the region's representatives and bondholders are to continue on 21 and 22 October. JC NEW CANDIDATES TO VIE FOR POSTS IN MOSCOW. State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told reporters on 14 October that he will run for the post of governor of the Moscow region instead of seeking a seat in the Duma from a single-mandate district in St. Petersburg. Seleznev, who is number two on the KPRF's party list, would have had to compete in St. Petersburg against former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who is number two on Yabloko's party list. Duma Deputy and former head of the Our Home Is Russia faction Aleksandr Shokhin told "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 October that Seleznev had analyzed his falling ratings and realized that he could lose against Stepashin. The same day, former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko submitted the necessary documents to run for mayor of Moscow. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak has decided to run again for his old post and not for a seat in the Duma. JAC STAND-OFF ENDS AT VYBORGSKII PAPER MILL. Justice Ministry troops left the premises of the Vyborgskii paper mill in the late afternoon of 14 October, some 15 hours after they had stormed the administration building and held eight members of the factory's strike committee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October). Before their release, the eight were charged with resisting the authorities, "The St. Petersburg Times" reported the next day. According to the newspaper, Aleksandr Sabadash, who was appointed by the mill's British owners as director of the factory, was beaten up by workers who had rushed to the scene when the Justice Ministry troops entered the mill. ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 14 October that the Leningrad Oblast Prosecutor's Office has launched criminal proceedings over the strike committee's failure to comply with a May 1998 ruling that the mill's British owners be allowed to assume control of their property. JC MOSCOW, TRIPOLI SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Citing Libyan state television, AFP reported that Libyan Energy Minister Abdullah al-Badri and visiting Russian Deputy Minister Ilya Klebanov signed an economic and trade cooperation agreement in Tripoli on 14 October. The news agency gave no further details of that accord. The previous day, Klebanov handed over to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi a message from President Yeltsin stressing Russia's desire to resume relations with Libya and create new opportunities for cooperation. Klebanov is in Libya until 16 October on a visit that ITAR-TASS, citing Russian Defense Ministry sources, reported is aimed at boosting military-industrial relations between the two countries, particularly in aviation. JC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN NATIONALIST PARTY WARNS AGAINST KARABAKH CONCESSIONS. Hrant Khachatrian, one of the leaders of the hard-line Right and Accord parliamentary bloc, warned Armenian President Robert Kocharian on 14 October not to agree to any peace deal that does not provide for the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to become fully independent or be unified with Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Khachatrian warned that if Kocharian does agree to major concessions he may share the fate of his predecessor, Levon Ter-Petrossian, who was forced to resign in February 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 1998). Right and Accord, which has eight seats in the parliament, is backed by former Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan. LF MOVEMENT IN SUPPORT OF FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT GAINS MOMENTUM. The committee to protect the rights of exiled former President Ayaz Mutalibov has collected 150,000 signatures in support of its demands to allow him to return to Azerbaijan, Turan reported on 14 October, citing the daily "Yeddi gun" (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 35, 2 September 1999). Committee chairman Abdul Mahmudov said that on average its members collect an additional 10,000 signatures a day. The present Azerbaijani authorities have accused Mutalibov of theft of arms and ammunition, instigating and participating in mass public disturbances, and complicity in the alleged coup attempts against President Aliev in October 1994 and March 1995. LF FOUR UN HOSTAGES RELEASED IN WESTERN GEORGIA. The unidentified gunmen who seized six UN observers and their interpreter in the Kodori gorge on 13 October upped their ransom demand from $200,000 to $250,000 on 14 October and threatened to shoot one of their captives. Later, however, they unconditionally released four of the hostages. Georgian parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania said on 15 October that no ransom had been paid and that he is sure the remaining hostages will soon be freed. He added that the gunmen are negotiating security guarantees with the Georgian leadership, ITAR-TASS reported. LF KAZAKH OPPOSITION QUERIES OFFICIAL POLL RETURNS. Opposition candidates continue to complain to the OSCE monitoring mission of irregularities during the 10 October election to the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament, Reuters reported on 14 October. The agency quoted an OSCE spokesman as saying the mission has "serious concerns" about the validity of the results in the three districts of Almaty. Petr Svojk, who heads Kazakhstan's opposition Azamat (Citizen) Party, told Reuters that the preliminary results are "a catastrophe for democracy in our country." According to the outcome of the party list vote, Azamat failed to overcome the 7 percent threshold to qualify for parliamentary representation. Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin said the voting procedure was more democratic than during the January presidential poll but that the voting tallies are being revised to ensure that the leadership's "favorite" candidates receive parliamentary mandates. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT COMPLETES CABINET RESHUFFLE. Nursultan Nazarbaev on 14 October appointed Vladimir Shkolnik as minister of industry, trade and energy, and Nikolai Radostovets as minister of labor and social protection, Interfax reported. The agriculture, justice, and interior ministers retained their posts in the new cabinet. Nazarbaev began a short vacation later the same day. LF NEGOTIATOR SAYS ONE KYRGYZ HOSTAGE KILLED... Kyrgyz parliamentary deputy Tursunbai Bakir Uulu, who recently secured the release of five of the 13 hostages seized by guerrillas in southern Kyrgyzstan in late August, told journalists in Bishkek on 14 October that the guerrillas had killed one of the Kyrgyz hostages before 4 October, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He did not give the name of the hostage allegedly killed. Bakir Uulu advocated talks between the Uzbek government and the opposition Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, to which the hostage-takers reportedly belong. He also said that the Japanese government should accede to the kidnappers' demand to send a representative to negotiate terms for the release of the four hostage Japanese geologists, whose lives he said are in danger. LF ...AS GUERRILLAS' LEADERS THREATEN REPRISALS. Bakir Uulu brought a further message, dated 6 October, to the Kyrgyz authorities from the leadership of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan announcing its decision to release the hostages in stages and to declare a unilateral cease-fire. The statement threatened reprisals against Kyrgyz leaders who cooperate with the "dictatorial regime" of Uzbek President Islam Karimov. LF DEMANDS ON KYRGYZSTAN'S BUDGET MULTIPLY. In his annual address to the parliament on 14 October, Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev vowed that the government will pay all wage and pension arrears before the end of 1999, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. He said that the guerrilla incursions into southern Kyrgyzstan over the past two months and the military response to that threat have cost a total of 200 million soms (about $5 million) and that 1.5 billion soms must be spent on national security over the next four years. The previous day, Finance Minister Sultan Mederov told a cabinet meeting that the draft budget for 2000 must be amended to provide an additional 200 million soms for the newly created Batken Oblast. He estimated wage costs for the region's 160 administrators alone at 12 million soms. In addition, Kyrgyzstan must repay some $80 million next year on loans from Russia and international financial organizations. LF TAJIK OPPOSITION MAY SUSPEND COOPERATION WITH GOVERNMENT. United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri told journalists in Dushanbe on 14 October that the UTO may suspend its participation in the work of the National Reconciliation Commission to protest the authorities' restrictions on opposition activities, ITAR-TASS and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Nuri said that at a meeting the previous day, he had handed to President Imomali Rakhmonov documentation proving that local administrators had violated the election law by preventing three opposition politicians from collecting the required number of signatures to register their candidacy in the 6 November presidential poll (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 October 199). Nuri urged Rakhmonov to ensure that the poll is democratic. Also on 14 October, a group of investigators from the Dushanbe branch of the Tajik Interior Ministry were subjected to artillery fire in the capital, ITAR-TASS reported. Six police officers were wounded in the ensuing shootout. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. 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