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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 207, Part I, 22 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 207, Part I, 22 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 FORCES SHELL GROZNY, SEEK TO SURROUND IT * PRIMAKOV SNUBS YELTSIN? * AZERBAIJANI MUSLIM LEADER SAYS RUSSIA GUILTY OF GENOCIDE End Note: RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT STATEMENT ON THE SITUATION IN CHECHNYA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIAN FORCES SHELL GROZNY, SEEK TO SURROUND IT. Five rockets crashed into the center of Grozny on 21 October, killing at least 48 people, AFP reported. Chechen officials told the news agency that 118 people had been killed and 300- 400 wounded. But the Russian Defense Ministry denied responsibility for any such attack. Nikolai Koshman, Moscow's representative in Chechnya, told ITAR-TASS on 21 October that the Russian army will take the next few days to surround the Chechen capital and will then gradually tighten the ring. Meanwhile, Russian forces moved to take control of portions of the Chechen-Georgian border, closing passes and paths between the two areas, Caucasus Press reported the same day. Also on 21 October, the Russian government released a statement on its policy in Chechnya, the complete text of which is given below (see "End Note"). PG YELTSIN REPORTED RELUCTANT TO STORM GROZNY. "Segodnya" reported on 21 October that President Boris Yeltsin wants to hold off storming Grozny, even though many generals and those in his entourage want the Russian army to go ahead. PG RUSSIAN OFFICIALS GIVE MIXED SIGNALS ON PLANS. The Russian foreign and defense ministers said that Russian forces do not plan to occupy the city of Grozny, but Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Toporov said the army "will enter Grozny sooner or later, either with our troops or to install a Russian administration," ITAR-TASS reported on 21 October. Meanwhile, local Russian commanders told AFP that "we are waiting for orders, but it looks as though we will storm Grozny." PG CHECHENS REGROUP. The Chechen forces have regrouped in Grozny, Gudermes, and Argun, the Russian Defense Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 21 October. This arrangement followed a meeting the previous day of the Chechen State Defense Committee under the chairmanship of President Aslan Maskhadov, Interfax reported. PG MOUNTING RUSSIAN CASUALTIES, COSTS. Since the Russian military dispatched 90,000 soldiers against Chechnya on 2 August, 196 troops have been killed and 500 wounded, ITAR- TASS reported on 21 October. Meanwhile, Russian Tax Minister Aleksandr Pochinok told Prime-Tass that the operation has so far cost 20-30 billion rubles ($900 million-$1.3 billion) and is still being financed from the budget. PG CHECHEN REPRESENTATIVE IN MOSCOW ARRESTED. Moscow police on 21 October arrested Mairbek Vachagaev, a Chechen representative in Moscow, Interfax reported. The police gave no details, however, and another Chechen representative in the Russian capital could not confirm the report. PG WEST CALLS FOR POLITICAL SOLUTION TO CHECHNYA. The U.S. and the EU again called on Moscow to resolve the Chechen conflict through negotiations rather than force. Meanwhile, on arriving in Helsinki for a meeting with EU leaders, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that "we are ready to inform European partners in full" about what is going on in Chechnya. He also thanked Europeans for their understanding and support, Interfax reported on 21 October. PG MOSCOW DENOUNCES WESTERN COVERAGE OF CONFLICT. Russian Press Minister Mikhail Lesin told Interfax on 21 October that the Western mass media are showing bias in their coverage of Russian military actions in Chechnya. "There is no war in the Chechen territory," he said. "What is happening there is combat against terrorism and bandit formations." At the same time, Lesin confirmed that Russian interior troops and riot police have looted the homes of some of those forced to flee from Chechnya, but he said such incidents are "isolated." PG GAS SUPPLIES TO DAGHESTAN TO BE RESTORED. Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kaluzhnyi said on 21 October that Gazprom may be able to restore gas supplies to Daghestan within 24 hours, Interfax reported. Since the end of September, the North Caucasian republic has been receiving only 1 million cubic meters a day instead of the normal 8 million cubic meters. PG PRIMAKOV SNUBS YELTSIN? Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov told NTV on 21 October that he will not meet with President Yeltsin on 22 October, as had been previously scheduled. Primakov, who is head of the Fatherland-All Russia alliance, said "there was indeed a call from the Kremlin, and someone said that a meeting was set up. But I think that under the circumstances when the president's entourage is carrying out a policy that I do not in any way want to be associated with--that I cannot share in any way--then such a meeting would be inexpedient." Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin said that Primakov "probably misunderstood" that it was President Yeltsin who had invited him for a meeting rather than "an inner circle." He added that "Primakov expressed a desire for such a meeting previously." JAC COULD PRESSURE ON YAKOVLEV BRING DOWN OVR ALLIANCE? As the Central Electoral Commission prepares to rule on the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly's controversial move bringing forward gubernatorial elections from spring 2000 to December 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 1999), a member of Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance has warned that the incumbent governor of St. Petersburg, Vladimir Yakovlev, is likely to come under intense pressure to withdraw his name from the OVR's party list for the December State Duma elections, Interfax reported on 21 October. Andrei Isaev, a member of the OVR's Coordinating Council, noted that the OVR would be barred from running in the elections if Yakovlev were to withdraw since he occupies the number three position on the alliance's list. Isaev added that Yakovlev is already under pressure because the murder of St. Petersburg deputy Viktor Novoselov is being "linked to the OVR" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1999). JC KHRISTENKO'S DUTIES WIDENED. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko will assume the duties of presidential envoy to the international financial institutions, which Mikhail Zadornov recently gave up. Prime Minister Putin signed a decree transferring Zadornov's former responsibilities to Khristenko on 21 October, according to Interfax. Zadornov is now an adviser to Sberbank. JAC GOVERNMENT READY TO SUBMIT TEST BAN TREATY FOR RATIFICATION. Speaking in Madrid on 21 October, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the government is ready to submit the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to the State Duma for ratification. He added that the U.S. Senate's refusal to ratify that document had caused "deep disappointment" in Moscow. With regard to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Ivanov told the Spanish newspaper "El Pais" that no discussions are being held on a "compensation package" for Russia's consent to amending that treaty, Interfax reported on 21 October. "Such talks are absolutely ruled out," he said. Meanwhile in Moscow, another round of U.S.-Russian disarmament talks entered their second and final day on 22 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1999). Interfax quoted Russian Foreign Ministry sources as saying that no breakthrough should be expected but the Russian side is "very hopeful" that the U.S. will revise its attitude toward ABM. JC CUSTOMS CHIEF PROPOSES CUTTING DUTIES. In an interview with "Vremya MN" on 21 October, State Customs Committee head Mikhail Vanin said that a government commission for defending domestic producers is currently examining his agency's proposals to reduce duties on imported goods as a way to reduce smuggling. This month, the commission will discuss lowering duties on such items as meat, poultry, furniture, and electronics, all of which are among the types of good most frequently smuggled. Vanin said that importers avoid paying tariffs using a variety of ruses, such as labeling chicken parts as frozen vegetables. Vanin told "Izvestiya" in an interview on 15 October that 30-40 percent of imported goods in Russia are smuggled. He added that the customs business is one of the most criminalized in Russia. Our tariff regulations "are detailed and academic but they have nothing to do with reality," Vanin said. JAC ELECTION COMMISSION INVITES FUGITIVE/CANDIDATE TO VISIT. The Achinsk election commission in Krasnoyarsk Krai has refused to register Krasnoyarsk aluminum plant chief Anatolii Bykov as a candidate for the December State Duma elections, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 October. According to the daily, the commission is demanding that Bykov present his documents personally, having reached this decision after first consulting with the Central Election Commission. Bykov now has until 6:00 p.m. local time on 24 October to hand over his documents. A warrant for Bykov's arrest was issued at the end of August (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 August 1999.) JAC A NEW-OLD FACE FOR THE DUMA... Former speaker of the Russian parliament Ruslan Khasbulatov will seek a seat in the State Duma from a single-mandate district in Khabarovsk Krai, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 21 October. Khasbulatov said that he is chair of the Plekhanov Academy of World Economics in Komsomolsk-na-Amure, where he resides in a hotel. JAC ...AND AN OLIGARCH PITCHES HIS HAT IN THE RING. Media magnate Boris Berezovskii confirmed on 21 October his intention to run for the Duma from a single-mandate district in the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia. Berezovskii told ITAR-TASS that he decided to run from that district because of his profound "knowledge of the problems of the North Caucasus." So far, Berezovskii will have to compete against 12 other candidates. JAC SOME RELIGIOUS GROUPS UNABLE TO RE-REGISTER. Addressing a meeting of the Presidential Council for Relations with Religious Organizations, Deputy Justice Minister Yevgenii Sidorenko said that on 350 occasions, the ministry has refused to re-register religious organizations because their charters or declared aims violate federal laws, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 21 October. He added that so far only 160 religious organizations have been re-registered. Last June, Pavel Krasheninnikov, who was then justice minister, said that he believes that only 35 percent of Russia's religious organizations have been registered, as required by a controversial 1997 law on religion. Krasheninnikov called for extending the current deadline of 31 December 1999 by two years. Under the law, groups that are unregistered can be banned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1999). According to Sidorenko, the Justice Ministry wants the deadline extended by one year. JAC U.S. BACKS, MOSCOW DENOUNCES BAKU-CEYHAN PIPELINE. Even as Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev and U.S. envoy Steven Sestanovich reached agreement on a $2.4 billion Baku-Ceyhan pipeline to be built by Turkey's Botas company, Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Kalyuzhnyi told Interfax on 21 October that he does "not believe that the pipeline will ever be constructed" because it is based on politics rather than economics. Kalyuzhnyi added that the "most beneficial" route would be across Russia. In other comments, the minister said that 75 kilometers of pipe are ready for the beginning of construction of a pipeline bypassing Chechnya. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA MOSCOW TRANSFERS FOUR MIG-29S TO ARMENIA. Colonel General Anatolii Kornukov, the commander of Russia's air force, arrived in Yerevan on 21 October to present four new Mig-29 jet pursuit aircraft to the Armenian government, Turan and other agencies reported. This latest transfer means that Armenia now has 20 of the advanced fighter planes. PG AZERBAIJANI MUSLIM LEADER SAYS RUSSIA GUILTY OF GENOCIDE. In an appeal to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Sheikh ul-Islam Allakhshukyr Pasha-zade said that Moscow is guilty of genocide against the Chechen people, Turan reported on 21 October. Pasha-zade demanded that Russian forces stop their efforts to annihilate Chechen civilians. Following a meeting with Russia's ambassador in Baku, the Muslim religious leader said that it is his "duty to protect Muslims wherever they are." PG SARA TV EMPLOYEES CONTINUE HUNGER STRIKE. Some 13 workers at Baku's SARA Television continued their hunger strike for a third day, Turan reported on 21 October. The strikers are protesting the Azerbaijani Justice Ministry's decision to shut down that station. PG RUSSIA MAY ASK GEORGIA FOR PART OF ITS CFE ARMS QUOTA. Shalva Pichkhadze, an adviser to Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze, told Interfax on 21 October that Moscow might ask Georgia to transfer to Russia part of its arms quota under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. But Pichkhadze said that at the OSCE summit in Istanbul next month, Tbilisi will require Russia to remain within the existing limits. PG SHEVARDNADZE WON'T DEBATE WITH ADJAR LEADER. Saying "I do not debate with my subordinates," Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze rejected Adjar leader Aslan Abashide's call for a series of televised debates, Caucasus Press reported on 21 October. Meanwhile, Tbilisi officials reported that the Adjar government has failed to make required financial transfers to the central Georgian government. PG GEORGIAN SUPREME COURT OVERRULES ELECTORAL COMMISSION. Georgia's highest court overturned a decision by the Central Election Commission and ordered the registration of the Revived Communists and People's Patriots bloc, Prime News reported on 21 October. In another election-related development, Tbilisi police prevented four buses carrying Revival of Georgia supporters from entering the capital even though they had permission from the Interior Ministry, Caucasus Press reported the same day. PG RUSSIAN IMPERIALISM, SOVIET POWER TO BLAME FOR SLOW GROWTH OF DEMOCRACY IN KAZAKHSTAN? In Prague for meetings with Czech President Vaclav Havel, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev told journalists on 21 October that the democratization of his country is proceeding slowly because of the influence of Russian imperialism and later Soviet power, CTK reported. PG KAZAKHSTAN SECURITY CHIEF SEES ISLAMIST THREAT. General Alnur Musayev, the newly confirmed head of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee, said on 21 October that "there is a danger of religious extremism; it is becoming ever more real with every year that passes," Reuters reported. Musayev said that he is tightening border security to block illegal immigration and is prepared to deport fundamentalist groups, which he said are being prepared by "a system of fundamentalist theological instruction" within the country. Meanwhile, the authorities closed a religious school in Qarasu, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. PG AMNESTY RELEASES 25,000 FROM KAZAKHSTAN PRISONS. According to Interfax-Kazakhstan on 21 October, Astana has amnestied and freed approximately 25,700 prisoners, including youths, the sick, women, and invalids. The amnesty took place in connection with the proclamation of the current year as "A Year of Unity and the Succession of Generations." PG KAZAKHSTAN'S KURDS APPEAL TO NAZARBAEV, TURKEY. A conference of the Ethnic Kurds Association has called on Turkey to spare the life of convicted Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan and to resolve the Kurdish issue in a peaceful way. The conference also appealed to President Nazarbaev to press their case with Ankara, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 21 October. But in making this appeal, the Kazakhstani Kurds said that they do not plan to stage any protest actions to advance their demand. PG KAZAKHSTAN'S COSSACKS DENY ASKING TO GO TO CHECHNYA. Vladimir Ovsyannikov, a leader of the Semirechye Cossack Union, on 21 October denied reports that his union wants to be resettled on the left bank of Chechnya's Terek River once Russian power is re-established there, Interfax reported. But he did say that some Cossack families now living in Kazakhstan are willing to move to Stavropol Krai. Meanwhile, another Cossack leader in Kazakhstan, Gennady Belyakov, said his people are not going to leave that Central Asian country "no matter how difficult things will be here." PG RAKHMONOV SAYS TAJIKISTAN WON'T BE 'SECOND AFGHANISTAN.' Tajikistan President Imomali Rakhmonov told a gathering of law enforcement officials that he is confident that Tajikistan will not become "a second Afghanistan" and thus serve as a base for terrorists, Interfax reported on 21 October. In order to prevent such a scenario, the Tajik government has established a special commission to consider problems of the country's eastern region near Kyrgyzstan and to look into the case of the recently kidnapped Japanese geologists. PG TAJIK OPPOSITION REJECTS COURT RULING IN THEIR FAVOR. Leaders of Tajik opposition parties said that a decision by Tajikistan's Supreme Court allowing one of their number to run for president was simply a fig leaf designed to make the government look more democratic, Reuters reported on 21 October. United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri said that "the government needs one candidate from the Islamic party to be registered in order to give an impression of democracy." The court decision came on the heels of a demand by U.S. Ambassador Robert Finn that Tajikistan improve its electoral arrangements. PG TURKMENISTAN, IRAN REPORTEDLY TO COOPERATE ON CASPIAN OIL. Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov and visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi have agreed to work together to develop Caspian oil resources, Interfax reported on 21 October. No further details were given. PG END NOTE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT STATEMENT ON THE SITUATION IN CHECHNYA The anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya was the state's logical response to a challenge to the whole of Russian society and the international community. The first stage of the operation was concluded when one-third of the republic's territory had been freed from terrorists. The Government of the Russian Federation hereby declares that in the future it will also act as decisively and strictly in order to achieve the complete restoration of law and order on the whole territory of the Chechen Republic [as well as] the freeing of Chechnya from terrorist and other bandit formations. The Chechen Republic cannot be and will no longer be an outpost of international terrorism and extremism. At the same time, the government of the Russian Federation unequivocally declares that the fight against terrorists and bandits must in no way turn into a fight directed against the peoples of Chechnya. The Government of the Russian Federation confirms its stance on amnestying all participants in the conflict who have not directly taken part in terrorist acts. We are categorically opposed to the persecution of people on ethnic grounds. This is inadmissible. The suppression of terrorism and armed extremism on Russian soil is an internal affair of the Russian Federation. At the same time, it is our duty before the entire international community. Russia's fight against terrorism and crime, including the blocking of their transnational channels, meets with understanding in the world. This is natural: the protection of citizens' rights and freedoms is the direct responsibility of any state. The firm and consistent policy of the president of the Russian Federation and the government on the settlement of the situation in Chechnya [and on] the return to peace and calm on the whole territory of Russia is supported by the overwhelming majority of citizens in the Russian Federation, including the peaceful population in the Chechen republic. The Government of the Russian Federation is open for a dialogue with those political forces in the Chechen Republic that are ready: to comply with the Constitution of the Russian Federation [and the] sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia; to denounce terrorism in all its manifestations; to disarm illegal armed formations and hand over to the federal authorities persons guilty of terrorist acts, hostage-taking, and banditry; to free all hostages on the territory of Chechnya; to guarantee respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; to create conditions for the safe return of people who had been forced to leave their homes. All questions of political settlement of the situation in the Chechen Republic must and will be decided at the negotiating table. The way to this is open. Chechnya's residents, as citizens of our country, should know that they will receive protection and assistance from the Government of the Russian Federation. In their actions, the federal authorities firmly take into account the interests of each people in Russia as well as the unity of the multinational Russian people. We remember all who have given their lives discharging their duties as soldiers and citizens. We remember all innocent victims of terror. The government thanks Russian servicemen, members of law enforcement agencies, volunteers, all those who today have taken upon themselves the enormous responsibility and heavy burden in the name of defending the interests of the Motherland. Above all, the Government of the Russian Federation values the wisdom and endurance of Russian citizens. Source: ITAR-TASS, 21 October 1999 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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