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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 203, Part I, 18 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 203, Part I, 18 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 * RUSSIAN TROOPS HALT ADVANCE ON GROZNY * PRIMAKOV'S POPULARITY REPORTEDLY FALLING, TO PUTIN'S ADVANTAGE * OSCE DEPLORES ELECTION VIOLENCE IN GEORGIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIAN TROOPS HALT ADVANCE ON GROZNY... Russian forces on 15-16 October reinforced their positions along a ridge of high ground south of the Terek River that overlooks Grozny. That move came in preparation for the next phase of operations, in which Interior Ministry forces are to play a major role, Interfax reported on 17 October, quoting Colonel- General Viktor Kazantsev, who commands the Russian forces in the North Caucasus. Kazantsev declined to confirm that the second phase will constitute a full-fledged assault on Grozny. He also said in Vladikavkaz on 16 October that the Russian troops are not targeting Chechen villages but are simply aiming to "destroy bandits." He added that "we do not reject...talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, whom we have always respected, and we shall prepare for such talks in the near future," Reuters reported. Meanwhile Russian air and artillery attacks on targets around Grozny continued on 15-17 October. LF ...AS PUTIN AGAIN DEFINES AIMS OF WAR. Speaking on Russian Television on 17 October, Russian Premier Vladimir Putin, too, denied that Moscow is preparing "a large-scale military action with tank attacks and the storming of towns," Reuters reported. He said Russia's tactics are aimed at keeping both Russian military and Chechen civilian casualties to a minimum. Putin expressed confidence that Nikolai Koshman, whom President Yeltsin personally selected as his plenipotentiary in Chechnya, will succeed in coordinating efforts to revive the economy of the three Russian-controlled districts of northern Chechnya and create acceptable social conditions for the population there, including paying wages and pensions. Putin had introduced Koshman, who has the rank of a deputy prime minister, to cabinet members the previous day, according to Interfax. LF CHECHEN PRESIDENT UNDER PRESSURE. Maskhadov told a press conference in Grozny on 17 October that as president he favors peace talks with Russian leaders in order to prevent people being killed, AP reported. But Maskhadov added that Russian politicians, whom he did not name, and some Chechen generals interpret his offers of peace talks as a sign of weakness. Maskhadov said that the Russian Defense Ministry is concealing the extent of Russian military losses in Chechnya, which he estimated at 1,500 soldiers and officers. He added that the Chechens have lost 32 fighters. Moscow claims that 2,500 Chechen militants have been killed. The Russian Defense Ministry also claimed on 16 October that field commander Shamil Basaev, former Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov, and former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev have demanded that Maskhadov reintroduce the post of vice president and name former incumbent Vakha Arsanov to fill it, ITAR-TASS reported. LF FUGITIVES CONTINUE TO LEAVE CHECHNYA. Another 5,000 people left Chechnya for Ingushetia on 15 October, raising the total number of displaced persons in that republic to 148,000, Interfax reported. The total number of fugitives from Chechnya in the Russian Federation is 166,000. In Tbilisi, a spokesman for the State Border Department said that 1,600 Chechen refugees had arrived in Georgia over the previous month. On 15 October, the Russian Defense Ministry estimated that Chechnya's population has sunk to 160,000 from 1.2 million in 1993. "Le Monde" on 18 October quoted a Moscow- based UNHCR official as saying that her office has received $500,000, which is enough to feed 30,000 people for one month, and that the small tents that the organization has supplied cannot be heated in winter. LF PRIMAKOV'S POPULARITY REPORTEDLY FALLING, TO PUTIN'S ADVANTAGE. The popularity rating of former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov has fallen, according to the government's Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information on 15 October, Interfax reported. According to a poll of 6,000 people two days earlier, Primakov's rating fell from 21 percent to 16.6 percent over the last month, while Prime Minister Putin's rose from 1.7 percent to 13.7 percent. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's rating has also fallen, from 7.2 percent to 4.6 percent. Russian Public Television reported on 16 October that the political council of the Union of Right Forces (CPC) is considering either former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, or Putin as its presidential candidate. CPC is composed of New Force, Common Cause, Voice of Russia, and Young Russia. JAC BUDGET TO BE RECONSIDERED THIS WEEK. The State Duma Budget Committee will recommend that the lower house pass the revised 2000 budget in its first reading, committee chairman Aleksandr Zhukov told reporters on 18 October, according to ITAR-TASS. The Duma will consider the budget again on 20 October, according to Zhukov. Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev warned earlier that if the Duma fails to pass the budget by 3 December, it will be unable to take it up again before next March. JAC WASHINGTON OFFERING MOSCOW 'COOPERATIVE ACTION' OVER ABM... Speaking on CNN television on 17 October, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that Washington is holding "preliminary talks" with Moscow about "some cooperative action" over the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, AFP reported. The U.S. wants to amend that treaty in order to implement a limited national defense system--a move that Russia has opposed. Albright stressed that Washington is making very clear to the Russians that "any national missile defense system that we would have would not be against them but against those rogue states around North Korea that are our concern." Earlier that day, "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post," citing unnamed U.S. and Russian officials, had reported that in exchange for Moscow's consent to amend the ABM treaty, Washington is offering financial aid to complete a missile radar system at Mishelevka, some 100 kilometers northwest of Irkutsk. "The Washington Post" also reported that the U.S. may share data from its early warning system. JC ...WHILE MOSCOW HOPING FOR BROAD SUPPORT IN UN. Interfax on 15 October cited a Russian Foreign Ministry statement as saying that Moscow is counting on broad support in the UN to reject U.S. calls for amending the ABM treaty. Three days earlier, according to ITAR-TASS, Russia, China, and Belarus had submitted a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly urging that the 1972 treaty continue to be observed. The Russian Foreign Ministry statement stressed that "if the ABM treaty is violated, all strategic arms limitation talks will make no sense." JC RUSSIAN OFFICIALS LAMENT U.S. SENATE'S REJECTION OF TEST BAN TREATY... Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told U.S. Secretary of State Albright in a 16 October telephone conversation that the U.S. Senate's refusal last week to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty will create "serious problems" for the progress of the disarmament process as a whole, Russian media reported. Russia has not yet ratified the test ban treaty. The previous day, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, describing the U.S. Senate's move as "very bad," commented that the Americans have gone on a "militarist spree": "They bomb [Iraq], then they raze Yugoslavia through air strikes, now they are trying to resume nuclear tests and are ready to violate the ABM Treaty." And State Duma speaker Seleznev remarked that the U.S. Senate's move will "negatively affect" the issue of START-2 ratification. JC ...AS POSPELOV SUGGESTS DUMA UNLIKELY TO DEBATE TREATY SOON. Acting head of the State Duma Defense Committee staff Vasilii Pospelov is quoted by the 16 October "Moscow Times" as saying the lower house of the Russian parliament is unlikely to agree to discuss the test ban treaty "any time soon." He said that he believes the Duma will not begin debating that document until after it deals with START-2. Also on 16 October, Sergei Markov, director of the Moscow-based Political Studies Institute, told Interfax that the U.S. Senate's rejection of the test ban treaty may encourage Russian sales of nuclear technologies, such as reactors. He added, however, that it would be mistaken to believe that Russia now has the "moral right to continue improving its nuclear armaments." "Russia," he noted, will "hardly [be able to] raise enough funds for such projects" and therefore U.S. ratification would have been "in [Moscow's] interests." JC YABLOKO REGISTERED FOR ELECTION DESPITE YAVLINSKII OVERSIGHT... The Central Election Commission on 15 October registered the Yabloko party's federal list for the upcoming State Duma elections. Some nine candidates, including Minister for Nationalities and Federation Affairs Vyacheslav Mikhailov, were removed from the list for supplying incorrect information about their income and property, leaving a total of 165 names, according to Interfax. One member of the election commission voted to exclude Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii because he failed to declare 81,000 rubles ($3,100 at today's exchange rate) of income that he earned last year. Yabloko's press service told "The Moscow Times" that the discrepancy occurred because Yavlinskii did not know that he had been paid for a speech that he failed to deliver because of his heart attack last year. According to the daily, commission chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said that the commission decided "to recognize that the inaccuracy of the information provided by Grigorii Yavlinskii is not of a significant nature." JAC ...AS UNITY ROSTER ALSO GETS GO AHEAD. The commission also registered the electoral bloc Unity (Edinstvo) and confirmed its federal list of 181 candidates, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 October. According to the daily, the list does not include the name of Sibneft head Roman Abramovich, as had been rumored earlier. Seven movements and parties joined Unity. These include the People's Patriotic Party, the Russian Christian Democratic Party, the My Family and Generation of Freedom movements, the All Russia Union for Support of Small and Medium Businesses, the Association of Russian Voters, and Prosperity (Blagodenstvie), according to ITAR-TASS. JAC DUMA TO FIGHT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION BILL. Andrei Loginov, chief of the presidential administration's domestic policy department, told reporters on 15 October that under the presidential election bill recently submitted to the Duma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1999), the next president of Russia will take office on 9 August 2000. Presidential elections will be held on 4 June and a second round, if necessary, on 25 June. Loginov also predicted that at least two groups will oppose the bill in the Duma, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 October. One group, led by Deputy Viktor Sheinis of Yabloko, "regards the existing law as a precious vessel that cannot be shaken and can only be improved delicately," according to Loginov. The other group consists primarily of Communists who oppose any measures proposed by the president. Sheinis was one of the authors of the electoral law adopted in 1995. Duma chairman Seleznev said on 18 October that the lower house will consider the bill in its first reading some time in late October, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC SKURATOV SCORES ANOTHER VICTORY. A Moscow court on 15 October upheld a lower court's verdict that the investigation of suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov is illegal. However, a representative of the Prosecutor-General's Office said that the case will remain open unless closed by the acting prosecutor-general, according to Interfax. The Prosecutor-General's Office announced later that it will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC RUSSIAN-GERMAN SUMMIT SCHEDULED FOR EARLY NEXT YEAR. Russia and Germany will hold a summit in Berlin in March 2000, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov and his German counterpart, Joschka Fischer, announced at a press conference in St. Petersburg on 15 October, at the end of the latter's two-day visit to the northern city. During their talks, the two ministers discussed, among other things, European security and the next month's OSCE meeting in Istanbul, at which a new European security charter is expected to be adopted. Fischer is reported to have expressed concern about the Russian military offensive in Chechnya and, criticizing the U.S. Senate's rejection of the test ban treaty, urged the State Duma to ratify START-2. JC LUZHKOV TURNS TO LITIGATION. Moscow Mayor Luzhkov has filed suit against Russian Public Television, the host of one of its "analytical programs," Sergei Dorenko, and the magazine "Kult Lichnosti," Interfax reported. Dorenko had reported, citing "Kult Lichnosti," that Luzhkov owns real estate in Spain and had a monument shipped there using Moscow city funds. He also reported that the mayor's personal wealth is estimated at $300-$400 million. Luzhkov announced on 10 October that he urged the Moscow city prosecutor to drop criminal proceedings against Dorenko because he views freedom of speech as "a particularly valuable democratic gain." He added that "I am convinced that in this case the truth must be established in some way other than through criminal prosecution of a journalist." JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRESIDENT CHARGES POWER AGENCIES WITH PREVENTING ELECTION FRAUD. Meeting on 16 October with senior representatives of the Defense, Interior, and National Security Ministries, Robert Kocharian issued instructions to ensure that the 24 October local elections will be completely free and fair, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian termed the poll Armenia's final test on the road to becoming a full member of the Council of Europe, saying that the preconditions exist for ensuring that the conduct of the poll is exemplary. Some 200,000 ethnic Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan who are not Armenian citizens will not be allowed to participate in the vote, despite a 16 October ruling by the Armenian Constitutional Court that a provision in the election law barring them from doing so is unconstitutional. That legislation will be amended to bring it into line with the Armenian Constitution. LF DIRECTOR OF MAJOR ARMENIAN PLANT CHARGED WITH MISMANAGEMENT. Gagik Nersisian, director of Armenia's giant Nairit chemical plant, was charged with mismanagement of public funds on 16 October, four days after his detention, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Press reports quote law enforcement officials as saying the charges stem from barter agreements the plant concluded in an attempt to continue operating. Once the foremost producer of synthetic rubber in the USSR, Nairit now owes the state more than $30 million in unpaid taxes and electricity bills. One of the leaders of the small opposition Democratic Fatherland Party, of which Nersisian is a member, told RFE/RL on 14 October that he considers the charges against Nersisian groundless but not politically motivated. LF AZERBAIJAN DENIES HOSTING CHECHEN INFORMATION CENTER. Russian media allegations that Chechen militants have established an information center in Baku are unfounded and intended to undermine Russian-Azerbaijani relations, a spokesman for Azerbaijan's Security Minister Araz Kurbanov told ITAR-TASS on 15 October. The news agency added that an unofficial Chechen mission in Baku that engages primarily in humanitarian affairs also releases information about events in Chechnya. LF REMAINING U.S. HOSTAGES RELEASED IN GEORGIA... Having released four of their hostages (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 15 October 1999), the unidentified abductors who seized six UN officials and their interpreter in western Georgia set free the remaining three UN officials on 15 October after receiving assurances from senior Georgian officials that special forces will not launch an operation to free the captives. Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze said the next day that no ransom was paid for the hostages' release. National Security Minister Vakhtang Kutateladze told the independent Rustavi-2 TV station on 15 October that the hostage-takers belong to a criminal gang and suggested that they were also responsible for a similar abduction last July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 1999). He also expressed his view that the hostage-taking was timed to affect the 31 October elections. LF ...AS GEORGIAN MILITARY ACCUSE THEM OF UNSANCTIONED ACTIVITIES. Two senior Georgian Defense Ministry officials said on 16 October that the helicopter that flew the UN observers to the Kodori gorge where they were kidnapped had engaged in filming unnamed "strategic facilities" in the gorge without the permission of the Georgian authorities, ITAR-TASS reported. Georgian Army Chief of Staff General Djoni Pirtskhalaishvili said the observers were repeatedly told they must inform Tbilisi in advance of any planned flights in the area. On 14 October, a UN political adviser with the observer mission had told ITAR-TASS that Georgia should have taken measures to ensure the observers' safety. LF OSCE DEPLORES ELECTION VIOLENCE IN GEORGIA... The OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission in Tbilisi issued a statement on 14 October condemning violence during the runup to the 31 October parliamentary elections as "totally unacceptable" and "contrary to both the letter and the spirit of OSCE commitments on free elections," Caucasus Press reported. The statement was pegged to a 10 October firebomb attack on the home of a candidate in Aspindza Raion. The OSCE mission has launched an investigation into that attack. LF ...AS OPPOSITION PROTESTS HARASSMENT. Representatives of the Union of Revival election bloc staged a half-hour silent protest on Tbilisi's main boulevard on 15 October against harassment of its candidates by the Georgian authorities, Caucasus Press reported. Vakhtang Rcheulishvili, head of the Socialist Party, which is one of the Union's five member parties, told journalists that the bloc will not allow the outcome of the poll to be falsified. The Union of Revival is the main challenger to the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia. LF GEORGIA NOT TO QUIT CIS INTER-PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY. Georgia will remain a member of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, parliamentary deputy Eldar Shengelaya said at a St. Petersburg meeting of the assembly's governing body on 16 October, Interfax reported. President Shevardnadze had said on 11 October that Georgia might withdraw from the assembly after the Russian State Duma sent observers to monitor the 3 October presidential elections and referendum in Abkhazia, which Georgia had termed illegal. The St. Petersburg session adopted a resolution condemning the Abkhaz poll and referendum and calling for the renewal of talks between the Georgian and Abkhaz leaderships. LF LAST GEORGIAN BORDER GUARDS PULL OUT OF GEORGIA. The final contingent of Russian border guards previously deployed along Georgia's borders with Russian and Turkey left Georgia on 15 October, ITAR-TASS reported. The withdrawal had been implemented in stages under the terms of an agreement signed last year. LF PRELIMINARY KAZAKH ELECTION RESULTS ANNOUNCED. Speaking at a press conference in Astana on 17 October, Kazakhstan's Central Electoral Commission Chairwoman Zaghipa Balieva confirmed that in the party-list voting in the 10 October elections to the lower chamber of the Kazakh parliament, the pro-presidential Otan party polled 30.89 percent, the Communist Party 17.75 percent, the Agrarian Party 12.63 percent, and the Civic Party 11.23 percent, Reuters and ITAR- TASS reported. Otan thus acquired four of the 10 seats in the lower house allocated under the party-list system, while the remaining three parties got two seats each. Balieva also confirmed that a second round of voting will be held on 24 October in 47 constituencies in which no candidate garnered 50 percent of the vote in the first round. LF FOUR KYRGYZ HOSTAGES RELEASED. The guerrillas who seized 13 hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan in late August released two of those captives, a Kyrgyz Interior Ministry general and lieutenant-colonel, on 18 October, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Parliamentary deputy Tursunbai Bakir Uulu, who secured their release in talks with the hostage takers, is continuing talks aimed at negotiating the release of the remaining five hostages: four Japanese geologists and their Kyrgyz interpreter. Reuters on 16 October quoted unnamed Kyrgyz government sources as saying that the gunmen are demanding a $2 million ransom for the four Japanese. But Security Council Secretary-General Bolot Djanuzakov said that no ransom will be paid. Bakir Uulu succeeded in freeing five hostages last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 15 October 1999). LF TAJIK OPPOSITION BODY SUSPENDS PARTICIPATION IN PEACE PROCESS. The United Tajik Opposition (UTO) on 18 October announced that it is suspending its representatives' participation in the Commission for National Reconciliation to protest the authorities' failure to meet its demands, ITAR-TASS reported. In a 15 October statement, the UTO had demanded that an emergency session of the parliament be convened to debate postponing the presidential election scheduled for 6 November, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Three opposition parties had called for a boycott of that poll on the grounds that they were prevented from collecting the required signatures to register as candidates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 October 1999). The UTO also called for the election of a new Central Electoral Commission that would include representatives of those parties that had proposed presidential candidates, for equal access to state media to be granted all presidential candidates, and for the UN, OSCE, and other international organizations to supervise the elections. LF ...WHILE DISSENTER RULES OUT ELECTION DELAY. UTO First Deputy chairman Akbar Turadjonzoda, who is also Tajikistan's first deputy premier, told journalists on 16 October that the legitimacy of next Tajik president will be open to question if the presidential poll is delayed, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that "most" members of the UTO Presidium do not support the demand for a postponement of the election. Turadjonzoda also argued that the UTO should have made public its objections to the election law last year rather than wait until one month before the poll. Tajikistan's Constitutional Court Chairman Ubaidullo Davlatov issued a statement on 15 October saying that "nobody, neither the president nor the parliament of the republic, has the right to alter the date determined by the Constitutional law on elections and the constitution of the country," Asia Plus-Blitz reported. LF TWO SENIOR MILITARY OFFICIALS SHOT DEAD IN TAJIK CAPITAL. A colonel with the Tajik Defense Ministry was shot in the head near his home on the morning of 16 October, Rusian agencies reported. Later that day, a lieutenant-colonel with the Russian Border Guard forces was shot dead in Dushanbe in what Tajik officials said may have been a contract killing. 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. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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