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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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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
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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
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               Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc.
                     All rights reserved.
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