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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 204, Part I, 19 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 204, Part I, 19 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 * PUTIN PLEDGES TO SEAL BORDERS AGAINST 'DIRTY MONEY' * RUSSIAN TROOPS SAID TO CONTROL APPROACHES TO GROZNY * SPOKESMAN DENIES KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT HAS SWISS BANK ACCOUNT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA PUTIN PLEDGES TO SEAL BORDERS AGAINST 'DIRTY MONEY'... Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told justice and interior ministers from the G-7 countries in Moscow on 19 October that Russia is "interested in preventing 'dirty money' from Russia being laundered in foreign banks," ITAR-TASS reported. Putin added that corruption can be eradicated only "by methods of transparency and openness of economic ties." Meanwhile, Anatolii Kulikov of the Communist Party, who is chairman of the State Duma's Anti-Corruption Commission, who recently returned from a fact-finding trip to the U.S., told the most recent issue of "Rossiiskii izbiratel" that accounts in Swiss banks are "just the tip of the iceberg" and that his commission is investigating matters related to the Swiss construction firm Mabetex, the Bank of New York, and 16 regions of Russia including the Komi Republic as well as Tver and Kemerovo Oblasts. JAC ...AS PRIMAKOV CALLS FOR TIGHTER CAPITAL RESTRICTIONS? Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who is the head of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance, called on 18 October for the state to intervene in the country's economic processes and forge a path between dictatorship and chaos, according to Interfax. Primakov said that "it's not right when $20 billion is leaving the country in roundabout ways and we are begging for $4 billion." According to Primakov, the OVR has prepared 100 draft laws that it will submit to the State Duma should it win elections to the lower house. The main idea of the laws, according to Primakov, is to "reform the reforms themselves"--that is, to correct, rather than annul, the results of privatization, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC RUSSIAN TROOPS SAID TO CONTROL APPROACHES TO GROZNY. Federal forces have taken up position some 18-20 kilometers from Grozny and control all heights overlooking the capital as well as the roads leading to it, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 October. Reconnaissance forces have advanced to within 5-6 kilometers of Grozny at unspecified locations. Meanwhile, Russian bombing of suspected guerrilla bases east and west of Grozny continued on 18 and 19 October, and Russian and Chechen forces clashed near the village of Shchedrinsk and the rail junction of Chervlennaya-Uzlovaya on the Terek River north of Grozny early on 18 October. In Moscow, a spokesman for the Russian human rights group Memorial warned that indiscriminate Russian bombing of Chechen villages is engendering "a real hatred" of Russians that could fuel a violent backlash, AP reported. LF MOSCOW CONTINUES TO CONDEMN CHECHEN 'TERRORISM.' The State Duma on 18 October rejected an appeal by Chechen parliamentary chairman Ruslan Alikhadjiev for talks on the situation in Chechnya on the grounds that the Chechen parliament has not yet unambiguously condemned terrorism, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking at a press conference at Interfax's main office the same day, Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov again called on Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov to join with Russia in combating terrorism. Mikhailov said any talks with Maskhadov would be pointless unless he agrees to do so. In a telephone conversation with his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, on 17 October, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said that Russia's military operations in Chechnya are aimed at "eliminating international terrorism," according to Interfax. The following day, Yeltsin and Prime Minister Putin discussed aid for displaced persons who fled Chechnya and Russian media coverage of how Russia "combats terrorism in the North Caucasus." LF PRIMAKOV AGAIN SAYS TALKS INEVITABLE. Speaking on 18 October in Kazan, where he is attending a congress of orientalists, former Prime Minister Primakov said that "talks with Chechnya will have to be held sooner or later," adding that it is desirable that Russia conduct such talks "from a position of strength," Interfax reported. Primakov repeated that he opposes both a large-scale war and large-scale military operations in the mountainous south of Chechnya. LF CHECHENS CLAIM TO HAVE STINGERS. The Chechen forces have at their disposal over 50 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and 40 Russian Strela weapons, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 October, citing the Chechen Caucasus Information website. Three weeks ago, former Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov had denied that Grozny had any Stingers, while last week Chechen armed forces commander Mumadi Saidaev said they have four (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 41, 14 October 1999). LF DUMA BUDGET VOTE LIKELY TO BE CLOSE. Interfax reported on 18 October, citing a "well-informed source," that the Communist Party's Central Committee will recommend that its Duma faction vote against the budget in its first reading on 20 October. According to "Vremya MN" on 19 October, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko believes there is reason to hope that the budget will be accepted. Khristenko added that many of the changes that the Communists want are more appropriate for the budget's second and third readings, according to ITAR-TASS. The Our Home Is Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party factions have said they will support the document, while People's Power and Russian Regions faction leaders said their members can vote as they wish. Agrarian faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov said his group will not support the budget unless it is amended, while Yabloko is unlikely to abandon its tradition of not supporting any of the government's budgets. JAC OVR ALLIANCE WARNS ABOUT RAMIFICATIONS OF TEST BAN TREATY VOTE IN U.S.... Joining the chorus of concern over the U.S. Senate's refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 18 October 1999), the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance commented on 18 October that both the U.S. Senate vote and the possibility of a "U.S. unilateral withdrawal" from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty are raising questions about many agreements on restricting nuclear weapons, Russian news agencies reported. "If this trend continues," OVR election headquarters head Sergei Yastrzhembskii said, "the OVR cannot guarantee that once it wins the upcoming parliamentary elections its deputies will back ratification of the START-2 treaty." According to a survey conducted by the Public Opinion Fund, the OVR alliance is currently leading the field with 21 percent support, followed by the Communists (18 percent), Russian Public Television reported on 16 October. JC ...WHILE YELTSIN, CHIRAC EXPRESS CONCERN TOO. In their telephone conversation on 17 October, President Yeltsin and his French counterpart, Chirac, noted their "joint concern over the refusal of the U.S. Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the intention of Washington to revise the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty," AP reported the next day, citing the Russian presidential press service. Meanwhile, a source in the same press service told Interfax on 18 October that Yeltsin has appointed Grigorii Berdennikov deputy foreign minister in charge of CIS affairs. Berdennikov was a deputy foreign minister in the early 1990s. JC NEW ZHIRINOVSKII BLOC CLEARS ELECTION HURDLE... The Central Election Commission on 18 October registered the party list of the newly formed Zhirinovskii's Bloc for the upcoming State Duma elections. The bloc includes the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), the Spiritual Revival party, and the Russian Union of Free Youth. However, the list contains only 84 names. According to ITAR-TASS, more than 150 names from the LDPR's original list have not been included on the new bloc's list because of the commission's objections. "Izvestiya" reported on 19 October that among the candidates omitted were some of LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii's close relatives, Lyubov and Aleksandr Zhirinovskii. The top three names on the list are Vladimir Zhirinovskii and State Duma deputies Oleg Finko and Yegor Solomatin. Duma deputy Mikhail Musatov, who had been number three on the LDPR's list, is now number 4. JAC ...AS EXTREME NATIONALIST AND ALLEGED GANGSTER ALSO REGISTERED. Sergei Mikhailov, who is allegedly known as "Mikhas" in criminal circles, is now running as a candidate in a single-mandate district on the list of the Conservative Movement of Russia, whose list was also registered on 18 October. Mikhailov had been on the LDPR's list. The commission also confirmed the party list of the Savior (Spas) election bloc, which is headed by Aleksandr Barkashov, leader of the nationalist group Russian National Unity. The list, which contains 98 names, is topped by Barkashov, Duma deputy Vladimir Davydenko, and Dmitrii Belikov, director-general of the Siberian Research and Training Center for Medical Equipment, according to Interfax. Also registered was the Peace, Labor, and May movement (Mir, Trud, Mai), headed by Aleksandr Burkov, who recently reached the second round of gubernatorial elections in Sverdlovsk, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 October. The party lists of 32 election blocs or alliances have been registered, and the commission has received no more applications, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC GOVERNMENT PREPARING ITS RESPONSE TO IMF'S EXTRA CONDITIONS... First Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko told reporters on 18 October that the Russian government will complete its reply to the IMF this week on additional requirements for the next loan installment, Interfax reported. The fund has requested quarterly audits of the Central Bank's (TsB) gold and foreign currency reserves, a schedule for the TsB and Russian commercial banks to adopt international accounting standards, and a timetable for the sale of the TsB's stakes in three foreign subsidiaries as well as a removal of part of the TsB's reserves from those banks. "Izvestiya" reported on 19 October that the TsB would like to transfer its reserves to Vneshtorgbank, a move that the fund opposes. With regard to the sale of the TsB's stakes, the newspaper argues that TsB Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko's resistance is partly psychological since he has worked with these banks for years and their existence gives the TsB "extra flexibility." JAC ...AS KASYANOV DENIES CHECHNYA WILL BUST THE BUDGET. Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 15 October that increased military expenditures in Chechnya "don't provide grounds to change the financial policy of the government" and that Chechnya conflict has "no connection whatsoever" with release of the tranche, Reuters reported. "Kommersant-Vlast" argued in a recent issue (no. 40) that war may be cheaper than peace in Chechnya, since according to some estimates up to $10 million has been spent on ransoms annually in addition to the 15 billion undenominated rubles expended on post-war reconstruction in 1996. Mikhail Zadornov, former presidential envoy to international financial instititutions, told "Moskovskie novosti" on 19 October that the military operation in Chechnya should cost no more than 10 billion rubles ($388 million) this year and that from 1995-1996, Russia spent more than $1 billion on reconstructing Chechnya. JAC PROTESTORS SUCCEED IN SUSPENDING MOSQUE CONSTRUCTION IN VOLGOGRAD. A ceremony for laying the foundation stone of a new mosque in Volgograd was postponed on 17 October after a group of locals staged a protest against the mosque's construction, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. The ceremony had been organized by representatives of the World Congress of Tatars (WCT). Head of Russia's Council of Muftis Ravil Gainutdin and representatives of the WCT said the construction of the mosque will be suspended until agreement can be reached with the local population. Volgograd, which is home to some 30,000 Tatars, currently has no mosque in which its Muslim population can worship. According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, the city's old mosque houses the local military commissioner's office. In other regions throughout the federation, there have also been protests against the construction of places of worship for congregations other than that of the Russian Orthodox Church (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 9 June 1999). JC KARACHAEVO-CHERKESS PRESIDENT BANS MASS MEETINGS. Vladimir Semenov issued a decree on 18 October banning all mass meetings, demonstrations, and pickets the North Caucasus republic in order to preserve the territorial integrity of the republic and avoid ethnic discord. The decree was directed primarily against supporters of Semenov's defeated rival in the May presidential poll, Stanislav Derev. Derev's supporters have been picketing the government building in Cherkessk for several weeks. An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said that police would not resort to violence to disperse the picketers, while a leading Derev supporter said they refuse to disperse voluntarily, according to "The Moscow Times" on 19 October. "Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day that Semenov has begun talks with Derev on halting the protest action. LF RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT SAYS NO EVIDENCE TURKEY ABETTING CHECHENS. Aleksandr Lebedev, who is Russia's ambassador in Ankara, told Interfax on 18 October that there is no evidence to substantiate allegations by Russian Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov that units of mercenaries are being formed in Turkey and sent to Chechnya. Lebedev said there is likewise no proof that the Chechen diaspora in Turkey is providing financial support for Chechen militants. Visiting Baku on 18 October, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel declared that peace and stability in the Caucasus are "of vital interest" to Turkey, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 19 October (see below). LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRESIDENT CONFIDENT KARABAKH SETTLEMENT IS CLOSE. Interviewed by major Armenian television channels on 16 October, Robert Kocharian expressed confidence that he and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, will succeed in concluding an agreement resolving the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported two days later. Kocharian said he believes it would be more difficult to reach such a settlement when he and Aliev are no longer in office. He added that as a result of four rounds of direct talks over the past three months, the cease-fire in the conflict zone has been consolidated. But Kocharian appeared resistant to international pressure to conclude a formal peace agreement with Aliev during the November OSCE summit in Istanbul, noting that Armenia considers the venue "not quite suitable." LF KARABAKH PRESIDENT URGES LEGAL REFORM. Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has instructed senior legal officials to draft within two weeks proposals on how to bring the republic's judicial system closer into line with that of Armenia, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported on 18 October. In a first step toward legal reform, the enclave has disbanded the military tribunal and military prosecutor's office, although martial law, which was imposed in 1992, remains in force. In other news, the republic's Defense Ministry announced on 18 October that it will conduct scheduled maneuvers from 22-29 October, Noyan Tapan reported. LF ARMENIA, GREECE SIGN DEFENSE AGREEMENT. Armenian Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian and his Greek counterpart, Akis Tsohatzopoulos, signed a military cooperation agreement in Athens on 18 October, AFP reported. The agreement covers research, training, joint exercises, and the exchange of information. LF TURKISH PRESIDENT VISITS AZERBAIJAN. On a one-day visit to Baku on 18 October, Suleyman Demirel discussed with Azerbaijani President Aliev the obstacles both to a Karabakh peace settlement and to construction of the planned Baku- Ceyhan oil export pipeline and Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, Turan reported. Both presidents said after their talks that a final agreement on Baku-Ceyhan will be signed "in the nearest future." That agreement has been repeatedly delayed because of the reluctance of Western oil companies operating in Azerbaijan to finance the project. Aliev subsequently presented Demirel with the Istiglal (Independence) medal in acknowledgement of his contribution to the "strategic partnership" between the two countries and to resolving the Karabakh conflict. Turkish Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Huseyn Kivrikoglu, said to be "a good friend" of Aliev, accompanied Demirel to Baku. LF GEORGIA LOBBIES FOR NEW UN ABKHAZ ENVOY. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 18 October that Georgia supports the candidacy of German diplomat Dieter Boden as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representative in Abkhazia to succeed Liviu Bota. Shevardnadze noted, however, that Russia opposes Boden's candidacy, Caucasus Press reported. The Georgian president said that Boden gained "an excellent reputation" when he served in Georgia in 1995-1996 as head of the OSCE mission there, according to Interfax. That mission was primarily engaged in mediating a settlement of the conflict in South Ossetia. LF SPOKESMAN DENIES KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT HAS SWISS BANK ACCOUNT. Presidential press spokesman Lev Tarakov denied on 18 October that President Nursultan Nazarbaev has any Swiss bank accounts, AP and Interfax reported. "The New York Times" had reported on 16 October that Swiss investigators had discovered at a Swiss branch of the French Credit Agricole Indosuez an account that was believed to be used by Nazarbaev, though not in his name. Tarakov described the article as consisting of "unchecked facts, rumors and suspicions," according to Interfax. On 17 October, Kazakh commercial television companies were ordered to halt transmission of Russia's NTV, which had aired a summary of the U.S. press article. LF KAZAKH OPPOSITION ASKS OSCE TO MONITOR SECOND ROUND OF PARLIAMENTARY POLL. Communist Party of Kazakhstan leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin told journalists in Almaty on 18 October that opposition parties have asked the OSCE to monitor closely the vote count in the 24 October second round of elections to the lower chamber of the parliament, Reuters reported. He commented that in the presence of outside observers, local administrators would be less likely to falsify the outcome of that vote. And he added that the results should be made public the same day. Abdildin and other opposition leaders have charged that the outcome of the party-list voting in the 10 October first round was falsified to increase the share of the pro-presidential Otan party. LF JAPAN DENIES IT WILL PAY RANSOM FOR HOSTAGES IN KYRGYZSTAN. Government spokesman Mikio Aoki said in Tokyo on 18 October that Japan will not pay a ransom to secure the release of four Japanese geologists seized by guerrillas in southern Kyrgyzstan two months ago, Reuters reported. The guerrillas are reportedly demanding $2 million for the geologists' release. Aoki added that Tokyo is working "closely" with the Kyrgyz authorities on the issue. Kyrgyz parliamentary deputy Tursunbai Bakir Uulu, who has mediated the release of seven Kyrgyz also taken captive by the guerrillas, said Kyrgyzstan will "not pay a single kopeck" for the release of the four Japanese, adding that he is confident they will be freed "soon," Interfax reported. LF KYRGYZSTAN HOLDS LOCAL ELECTIONS. Elections to town and village councils throughout Kyrgyzstan took place on 17 October, Russian agencies reported. Overall voter participation was 66.4 percent, according to Central Electoral Commission Chairman Sulaiman Imanbaev. The highest turnout (78.6 percent) was in Osh Oblast, in the south of the country, where the recent hostage-taking occurred. The lowest participation (38.3 percent) was registered in Bishkek, RFE/RL's bureau in the capital reported on 18 October. LF TAJIK OPPOSITION ORGANIZATION EXPELS DEPUTY PREMIER. The United Tajik Opposition on 18 October expelled from its ranks First Deputy Prime Minister Khodja Akbar Turadjonzoda, accusing him of "improper behavior and actions that contradict...the policy of the party," ITAR-TASS reported. The UTO Presidium also recommended that Turadjonzoda be removed from the post of first deputy opposition leader and from his government post. Turdjonzoda had criticized three would-be opposition presidential candidates' demand that the 6 November poll be postponed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 18 October 1999). Also on 18 October, the Supreme Court began hearing testimony from the three would-be opposition candidates, all of whom were denied registration, Asia Pluz- Blitz reported the next day. A representative of the Central Electoral Commission rejected their claim that the commission failed to act on their earlier complaints that local officials were actively preventing them from collecting the necessary signatures to register as presidential candidates. LF EXPLOSION IN TAJIK CAPITAL. At least two people were injured on 18 October in an explosion that seriously damaged a department store in central Dushanbe, close to the presidential palace, Reuters and Interfax reported. Police say the blast was caused by 300 grams of TNT. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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