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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 205, Part I, 20 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 205, Part I, 20 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 TELLS RENO RUSSIA WANTS TO COOPERATE * YELTSIN SEEKS TO REASSURE CLINTON OVER CHECHNYA * AZERBAIJAN'S MUSLIM LEADER ACCUSES MOSCOW OF GENOCIDE End Note: OSCE EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER ELECTIONS IN CENTRAL ASIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA PUTIN TELLS RENO RUSSIA WANTS TO COOPERATE... After meeting with U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno on 19 October, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin declared that the U.S. and Russia have combined efforts to combat money-laundering and "experts" from both countries have exchanged information that is currently being analyzed, Interfax reported. Putin added that State Duma deputies and government officials are working on a new version of a draft law on money-laundering. Aleksandr Livshits, presidential envoy to the Group of Seven, told NTV that Duma deputies intend to pass the money- laundering legislation before the end of the year. Reno commented that she is "very gratified by the commitment of [Putin], by the introduction of legislation and most of all by his thoughtful appreciation of our comments and suggestions," according to AP. JAC ...AS TALBOTT SAYS MISTAKES WERE MADE. Addressing a U.S. congressional committee on 19 October, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott acknowledged that there have been mistakes in the Clinton administration's policy toward Russia, such as its weak support for bills passed by the Duma that would have fought money laundering, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported. However, Congressman Dana Rohrbacher (Republican) responded that "your goals are certainly laudable, but your policies to achieve those goals have been miserable failures." At the same hearing, Congressman Tom Lantos (Democrat) noted that "crime used to be a monopoly of the government; it has now become privatized. But to be surprised, to be surprised that there is crime and corruption in Russia reveals to me a degree of historical amnesia which is almost frightening." JAC. YELTSIN SEEKS TO REASSURE CLINTON OVER CHECHNYA... Russia "must" restore constitutional order in Chechnya and neutralize "all international terrorists and their chieftains," Russian President Boris Yeltsin told his U.S. counterpart Bill Clinton in a 19 October letter. Yeltsin said the entire international community should unite in the face of the "global challenge" posed by terrorism. He added that Russia will seek to resolve the political aspects of relations with Chechnya, including the republic's status within the Russian Federation, in "talks with those Chechen leaders who reject violence and terrorism," Reuters and Interfax reported. LF ...AS RUSSIAN AIR ATTACKS CONTINUE. Meanwhile, Russian aircraft bombed the town of Urus-Martan, southwest of Grozny, on 19 October, killing six people, including three children, a Reuters correspondent who witnessed the attack reported. Russian aircraft also targeted suspected guerrilla positions in four locations near Grozny, AP reported. Chechen officials claimed to have repulsed a Russian assault on the town of Gudermes, east of Grozny, killing 25 Russian troops. But Russian officials denied any such attack took place, according to AP. LF INGUSHETIAN PRESIDENT VISITS CAMPS FOR DISPLACED PERSONS. After inspecting several camps for Chechen fugitives on 19 October, Ruslan Aushev said his republic is experiencing serious problems in providing them with accommodation, food, and medical supplies, ITAR-TASS reported. Aushev said that Russia's Federal Migration Service has not sent any humanitarian aid over the past few days. A spokesman for the Ministry for Emergency Situations said on 19 October that in Ingushetia, 8,000 fugitives from Chechnya are still sleeping in the open air or in cars and buses, according to Interfax. LF MOSCOW REJECTS U.S. PRESS REPORTS ON ABM TALKS... The Russian Foreign Ministry on 19 October rejected as groundless U.S. press reports that Washington has offered to help Russia complete a radar station in Siberia in exchange for its consent to amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). A ministry spokesman stressed that the Foreign Ministry is holding "consultations on strategic stability with the Americans, including ABM and START," and coordinates all arms talks. The same day, General Makhmud Gareev, the president of Russia's Academy of Military Sciences, told ITAR-TASS that the ABM treaty must not be used for "political bargaining." Saying that the treaty is an integral part of the global security system and therefore affects all states, Gareev argued that "it would be wrong to reduce everything to a particular problem--the construction of a radar station with fairly limited use." JC ...WHILE RUSSIAN PRESS POINTS FINGER AT U.S. WHITE HOUSE. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 October commented that the U.S. press reports on Washington's alleged offer to Russia over the ABM Treaty constituted the White House's "latest attack" in its "massive offensive against Russia's stance on the question of revising the ABM Treaty." Noting that U.S. efforts to "punch a hole" in the treaty at the diplomatic level have come to naught, the daily remarked that Washington now seems to have decided on "measures of public pressure that are unbecoming in the world of diplomacy." The same day, "Kommersant-Daily" asserted that the time of the purported U.S. offer is :"easy to understand": Vice President Al Gore, "who is rapidly losing points in the pre-election race," must "demonstrate firmness in defending U.S. national interests" but must do so "as tactfully as possible in order not to alienate Russia." Both "Kommersant-Daily" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" are controlled by media magnate Boris Berezovskii. JC YELTSIN TO HANG OUT UNTIL ELECTIONS. In an interview with "Segodnya" on 19 October, Duma deputy Aleksandr Shokhin revised his forecast that President Yeltsin would resign on that date (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 1999). Now Shokhin is suggesting that if Yeltsin wants to ensure that his anointed successor, Putin, is "invulnerable to the Duma," then he will resign following Duma elections but before it assembles for its first meeting. Shokhin added that he bases his predications on Kremlin officials' thinking "rationally" but does not exclude the possibility that Yeltsin's inner circle will encourage him to stay on. According to Shokhin, the chances of the Communist Party forming the largest faction in the Duma have been increasing as Kremlin efforts to undermine the Fatherland-All Russia alliance and promote the Unity bloc are succeeding. JAC NEW EFFORTS TO PROMOTE INVESTMENT LAUNCHED. A group of Russian business leaders and public figures have announced the formation of a National Investment Council, which will be headed by Vneshekonombank Chairman Andrei Kostin during its first six months, Interfax reported on 19 October. Organizer of the council and head of the National Reserve Bank Aleksandr Lebedev said the council will try to counteract the negative image of Russian business in the West and create an investment rating system for Russian regions. Also on 19 October, the Coordination Center for the Protection of the Legal Rights of Investors announced that it has established a center to defend shareholders' rights in Russia, which will be headed by the former Federal Securities Commission chief Dmitrii Vasiliev, "The Moscow Times" reported the next day. During the first half of 1999, indirect foreign investment dropped 44 percent compared with the same period last year, Deputy Economics Ministers Vladimir Kossov told reporters the same day. JAC INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION CONTINUES TO SOAR... Industrial production jumped 7 percent during the first nine months of 1999 compared with the same period the previous year, Interfax reported on 20 October, citing the Russian Statistics Agency. The agency also reported that consumer prices climbed 31.4 percent during the same period. JAC ...AS FUEL PRICES RESUME CLIMB. After appearing to stabilize late last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 1999), fuel prices jumped in early October. Gasoline retail prices rose by 4 percent from 1-10 October across Russia, while certain regions, such as the Jewish Autonomous and Orel Oblasts, experienced a price spike of 26.1 and 20.9 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the Russian Oil Exporters Union has appealed to Prime Minister Putin to cancel restrictions on oil exports, because the current decree in force violates the law on the state regulation of foreign trade, "Vremya MN" reported on 19 October. According to that law, the government is required to issue and publish regulations three months before those regulations go into force, but the decree limiting oil exports was issued on 30 July, published on 5 August, and went into effect on 1 August. JAC MOSCOW SAYS IT'S READY TO DELIVER ARMS TO SYRIA. Russian Ambassador to Syria Robert Markaryan told reporters in Damascus on 19 October that Russia is ready to supply Syria with "any sort of sophisticated military technology" as well as deliver new defensive weapons and upgrade military equipment bought in Russia," AFP reported. Markaryan added that Moscow wants to boost relations with Syria in other areas as well, including trade. JC IVANOV URGES WEST TO AVERT 'HUMANITARIAN CATASTROPHE' IN YUGOSLAVIA. Following talks with his Bosnian counterpart, Jadranko Prlic, in the Russian capital on 19 October, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov stressed Moscow's position that international aid to Yugoslavia must not be linked to a "settlement of that country's internal political situation," Interfax reported. With winter looming, Ivanov continued, "a large part of the population of Yugoslavia may find itself on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe" as a result of the NATO air strikes earlier this year. "It's the duty of all countries, primarily those that were involved in the aggression against Yugoslavia, to do everything possible" to prevent such a catastrophe," Ivanov said. JC ST. PETERSBURG ASSASSINS SUCCEED SECOND TIME ROUND. After surviving an earlier assassination attempt that left him confined to a wheelchair, Deputy Speaker of St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly Viktor Novoselov was killed by a car bomb on 20 October, Interfax-North West reported. Novoselov was one of the main candidates for the post of speaker of the assembly. The attack on Novoselov is the latest in a series of acts of political violence in St. Petersburg (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1999). JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER IN MOSCOW. Visiting Moscow for the first time since his election in June as parliamentary chairman, Karen Demirchian met with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev on 18-19 October, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Ivanov characterized bilateral relations as "developing in a spirit of strategic partnership," according to ITAR-TASS. Demirchian told both Putin and Stroev that he hopes for a reversal of the decline in bilateral trade and, in particular, for more Russian investment in Armenia. Demirchian also met with Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov to discuss Armenian payment for fuel supplies to the Medzamor nuclear power station. Armenia plans to sell electricity to other countries to pay for those shipments, ITAR-TASS reported. LF THREE ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES WANT CATHOLICOS ELECTION POSTPONED. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation- Dashnaktsutyun on 18 October issued a statement advocating postponing the election of a new Catholicos, which is scheduled for later this month, Noyan Tapan reported. The Self-Determination Union issued a similar statement the following day. Both parties argued that the allegations by some senior clerics that the Armenian authorities are seeking to secure the election to that post of a specific candidate may undermine Church unity and reflect adversely on whichever candidate is elected. On 19 October, National Democratic Union Chairman Vazgen Manukian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that he thinks the election should be delayed for a couple of years and that Archbishop Nerses Pozapalian should continue to head the Church during that period. LF AZERBAIJAN'S MUSLIM LEADER ACCUSES MOSCOW OF GENOCIDE. Allakhshukur Pashazade, who is head of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of the Caucasus, has written to Russian President Boris Yeltsin to protest what he terms Moscow's deliberate policy of genocide in Chechnya, Turan reported on 19 October. He charged Russia with masterminding the August incursion into Daghestan in order to provoke a violent reaction from Chechnya that could be presented as terrorism and banditry and thus serve as the rationale for a new war against Chechnya. Pashazade expressed concern that Moscow could also accuse Azerbaijan and Georgia of aggression against Russia. LF LAWYERS SAY CLOSURE OF AZERBAIJANI TV COMPANY ILLEGAL. Lawyers acting for the independent Sara TV company issued a statement on 19 October asserting that the Azerbaijan's Justice Ministry's 9 October decision to close the station was illegal and must be revoked, Turan reported. The station rejected the ministry's claim that under Azerbaijani law, media outlets may not be owned by foreign nationals. Also on 19 October, 34 employees of the company, including its president, Rasul Rauf, began an indefinite hunger strike to protest the imposition by the Baku City Court of a 250 million manat ($62,000) fine on the company for insulting the honor and dignity of a government official. LF RUSSIA TO EXTRADITE SUSPECT IN GEORGIAN ASSASSINATION BID. Russian Federal Security Service spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich said in Moscow on 19 October that Russia will hand over to Georgia Nugzar Khuchua, who the Georgian authorities believe participated in the February 1998 attempt to kill Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Caucasus Press reported. Khuchua was apprehended in North Ossetia last month on suspicion of involvement in the bomb attack on the Vladikavkaz central market in March 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 29 September 1999). LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CONDEMNS ATTACK ON JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES. Eduard Shevardnadze, Georgian NGOs, and a Tbilisi City official have all condemned the 17 October assault on the Tbilisi offices of the Jehovah's Witnesses, Caucasus Press reported two days later. A group of Georgian Christians who support a priest excommunicated for his disagreements with the leadership of the Georgian Orthodox Church broke into the offices, beat up several members of that sect, and destroyed religious literature. Representatives of the Georgian Patriarchy called on the country's leadership in July to ban Jehovah's Witnesses, terming their activities "anti-state and anti-national." LF CONSORTIUM LEADER ENDORSES AZERBAIJAN OIL EXPORT PIPELINE. BP Amoco, the senior partner in the 11-member Azerbaijan International Operating Company engaged in extracting offshore Caspian oil, has signaled its backing for plans to route the main export pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil from Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, Dow Jones reported on 19 October. The AIOC had earlier voiced doubts that it would ever extract large enough volumes of oil to render that project economically viable. But BP now hopes to reach the required 1 million barrels a day by using that pipeline to transport oil from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. BP has a 9.5 percent stake in the Kazakh OKIOC consortium. AFP on 19 October quoted Turkish President Suleyman Demirel as saying in Baku the previous day that Turkey and Azerbaijan could sign a final agreement on building the pipeline at the November OSCE summit in Istanbul. Turkey has agreed to cover construction costs in excess of the estimated $2.4 billion. LF KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADERS DEPLORE 'CRISIS.' Former Customs Committee chairman Ghany Qasymov, who unsuccessfully contended the January presidential elections, told journalists in Almaty on 19 October that Kazakhstan is facing "a systemic total crisis," Interfax reported. He called for changes to the constitution to strengthen the role of the parliament and ensure that the party that wins parliamentary elections is able to form a government and its leader become prime minister. At a news conference in Almaty the same day, Orleu (Progress) party chairman Seydakhmet Quttyqadam similarly characterized the present situation as "a deep social and economic crisis," RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported. Quttyqadam argued that presidential elections should be held next year and that the country's 1993 constitution should be revised and reinstated. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PREMIER SPELLS OUT ECONOMIC PRIORITIES. Kasymzhomart Toqaev told cabinet members on 19 October that his policies are aimed at implementing "the long-term strategy of the head of state," Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. He said the cabinet will pursue an austerity course aimed at boosting budget revenues and reducing the country's trade deficit. Toqaev said he hopes an agreement with the IMF on terms for a new loan can be reached by the end of this year. He added that he opposes any renationalization of privatized enterprises. LF SOME COSSACKS READY TO MOVE FROM KAZAKHSTAN TO CHECHNYA. Interfax on 19 October quoted an unnamed senior Russian official in Stavropol Krai as saying that some Semirechie Cossacks from southern Kazakhstan have volunteered to settle in Chechnya on the left (northern) bank of the Terek River. Two rival organizations in Kazakhstan claim to represent the Semirechie Cossacks. The leader of one of those organizations has said the entire Cossack community may emigrate if the Kazakh authorities continue to discriminate against them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 11 August 1999). Stavropol Krai official Vassilii Belchenko told ITAR-TASS on 19 October that two companies of Cossacks from Stavropol will be sent to Chechnya's Nauri and Shelkovo Raions, which are under federal control, to keep the peace and protect civilians there. LF KYRGYZ MEDIATOR OPTIMISTIC ON RELEASE OF JAPANESES HOSTAGES. Parliamentary deputy Tursunbek Bakir Uulu told journalists in Bishkek on 19 October that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, whose members are holding four Japanese geologists they seized two months ago, may release those hostages soon, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Tajikistan's Minister for Emergency Situations Mirzo Zieev, who helped Bakir Uulu negotiate with the Uzbek guerrillas in Tajikistan the release of several Kyrgyz hostages, similarly expressed optimism that the Japanese will be freed by the end of this week, Reuters reported. Zieev denied media reports that the guerillas are demanding a $2 million ransom for the four Japanese. In Bishkek, parliamentary deputy Baiaman Erkinbaev told an RFE/RL correspondent on 19 October that he, too, is engaged in talks with the guerillas aimed at securing the hostages' release. He did not elaborate. LF OSCE APPEALS TO TAJIK OPPOSITION TO RESUME COOPERATION WITH GOVERNMENT. Meeting in Dushanbe on 19 October with United Tajik Opposition chairman Said Abdullo Nuri, head of the OSCE mission in Tajikistan Marin Buchoara handed over a letter from several OSCE member states asking that he reconsider the UTO's decision to suspend participation in the work of the National Reconciliation Commission, ITAR-TASS reported. The UTO had recalled its representatives on that commission to protest the government's refusal to convene an emergency parliamentary session to discuss the 6 November presidential election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). Nuri rejected the OSCE request, accusing the Tajik government of seeking to undermine the UTO's efforts to implement the 1997 peace agreement. LF SOUTH KOREAN COMPANY TO SUSPEND PRODUCTION IN UZBEKISTAN. Samsung Electronics has suspended indefinitely the production of household appliances in Uzbekistan, Interfax reported on 19 October, quoting an Uzbek official. The decision was prompted by problems in ensuring the regular import of components owing to the non-convertibility of Uzbekistan's currency. LF END NOTE OSCE EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER ELECTIONS IN CENTRAL ASIA By Roland Eggleston The OSCE says it expects to issue this week a new report on the 10 October parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan that will be sharply critical of some aspects of the way the ballot was conducted. A senior OSCE official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that the OSCE election mission reported several instances of falsification of results. It also cited a lack of transparency in vote counting and other breaches of international standards. On 17 October, Kazakhstan's Central Election Commission said that preliminary results indicated that the OTAN party-- which is closely identified with Kazakhstan's power structures--had garnered nearly 31 percent of the vote. Its closest rival was the Communist Party with nearly 18 percent, followed by the Agrarian Party (some 13 percent) and the Civic Party (about 11 percent). The election commission has said that the majority of districts in the country will hold a second round of voting on 24 October. An interim report issued by the OSCE immediately after the elections pointed to several areas in which the first poll failed to meet international standards. However it said the election was an improvement on the heavily criticized presidential vote last January. In its interim report, the OSCE noted what it called "serious violations" in vote counting, despite new rules by the Central Election Commission intended to make the process more transparent. The interim report was particularly skeptical of vote counting in the Almaty constituency. It said that in one case, forged returns were uncovered in Almaty reflecting different results for the same polling station. This took place in clear view of international observers. The OSCE also complained about the lack of neutrality among commissioners administrating the elections. It said that in many cases the commissions were directed by regional and local government authorities and were made up of individuals who were dependent on the favor of those authorities for their livelihood. It added that many members of the election commissions were affiliated with the OTAN party. The OSCE also said it is disappointed in the preparations for the 6 November presidential elections in Tajikistan and the parliamentary elections there early next year. A senior OSCE official told RFE/RL on 19 October that if there is no improvement, the OSCE will drop plans for a full-scale election-monitoring team in Tajikistan even though opposition parties have requested such a mission. The official said that despite this appeal, the OSCE might send only one expert to assist the local OSCE mission in monitoring the vote. Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov visited OSCE headquarters in Vienna last week to urge it to send a mission. On 15 October, the main opposition group, the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), said the presidential election should be postponed because of irregularities in the way it was being conducted. In particular, the UTO complained that opposition candidates have been prevented from collecting signatures required to register. Earlier last week, the election commission had ruled that three opposition candidates failed to meet the requirement, thereby leaving incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov as the sole candidate. The UTO also wants a new Central Election Commission to be formed and has urged that all presidential candidates have equal access to state media. Meanwhile, the OSCE has expressed concern about the preparations for elections in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. An assessment team left for Uzbekistan on 19 October to see whether the conditions for the 5 December parliamentary elections sufficiently meet international standards for the OSCE to send a full election team. Uzbekistan has formally asked the OSCE to send a full- scale monitoring team for the elections. In a visit to that country last month, OSCE Chairman Knut Vollebaek told President Islam Karimov that the OSCE is not satisfied with some of the preparations for the elections. Vollebaek later told journalists that there are "flaws" in the process and cited election laws. He also pointed to the whole area of human rights, including "freedom of speech [and] freedom of religion where we see clear shortcomings." But he told Karimov that the OSCE did not expect that countries in transition--like those in Central Asia--would be able to conform immediately with international standards on elections. He also said that the assessment mission will make an "objective assessment" of whether a full observation team should be sent to the elections. Meanwhile, an assessment team is scheduled to travel to Turkmenistan on 8 November to examine whether a monitoring team should be sent for that country's 12 December parliamentary elections. President Saparmurat Niyazov urged the OSCE to do so when he met Vollebaek last month. But OSCE officials are already skeptical of whether conditions will permit the presence of a monitoring team. There are no political parties in Turkmenistan. Niyazov told the OSCE last month that political parties will appear when the people want them, adding that there is not sign of that.. He also denied that there are any political prisoners but said he is planning another amnesty for some other prisoners shortly before the election. OSCE officials in Vienna said it could be years before conditions for democratic elections appear in Turkmenistan. Niyazov told Vollebaek during last month's visit that he hopes to introduce what he called a "new, democratic society" by the year 2010. But he did not spell out what sort of society he has in mind. 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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