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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 209, Part I, 26 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 209, Part I, 26 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 ADVANCE ON GROZNY * AFTER LAST-MINUTE HAGGLING, BUDGET PASSES IN FIRST READING * AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER, PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER RESIGN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIAN FORCES ADVANCE ON GROZNY. Federal forces deployed along the Terek ridge north of Grozny advanced south and eastward on 25 October and clashed the following day with Chechen defenders in the villages of Sadovoe and Pervomaiskoe, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Russian artillery and warplanes continued to bombard Grozny's suburbs and airport, and the towns of Vedeno and Tolstoi-Yurt. Reuters on 26 October quoted Lieutenant General Gennadii Troshev, who commands one of the sectors of the Russian front, as telling "Moskovskii komsomolets" that "the ring being drawn around Chechnya will be gradually tightened until the full territory of Chechnya is under the control of federal forces." He added that "the main task is to avoid excessive casualties and prevent the guerrillas from escaping." He said that operation may last three months or two years. Troshev also disclosed that a $1 million reward has been offered for field commander Shamil Basaev. LF UNHCR CONCERNED OVER CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN CHECHNYA. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata on 25 October expressed concern both at rising civilian casualties in Chechnya and at the Russian military's closure of border crossings to persons fleeing the fighting, AP reported. Tens of thousands of uprooted civilians are trapped within Chechnya following the 23 October closure of the border crossing with Ingushetia. Interfax on 25 October quoted an unidentified Russian Interior Ministry source as saying that four corridors through the "security zone" surrounding Chechnya will be opened on 29 October to allow forcibly displaced persons to leave. Russia's Ministry for Emergency Situations on 26 October estimated the number of displaced persons from Chechnya in Ingushetia, Daghestan, North Ossetia, and Stavropol Krai at 187,000, according to ITAR- TASS. LF AFTER LAST-MINUTE HAGGLING, BUDGETS PASSES IN FIRST READING. State Duma deputies on 26 October voted 244 to 86 with 11 abstentions to approve the 2000 budget in its first reading. According to First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, budget revenues have been increased by 20.1 billion rubles ($780 million) to 797.2 billion rubles and spending to 855.1 billion rubles. Khristenko suggested that more revenues would be made available by making better use of state property abroad and by improving tax collection, according to Interfax. An unidentified source told the agency that the budget is expected to state that 6 billion rubles in revenue will be directed toward priority spending programs only if additional revenues are collected. The Communist and Agrarian factions earlier withheld their support for the budget in order to win increased funds for agriculture, science, and industry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 1999). JAC TONE OF U.S. STATEMENTS ON CHECHNYA HARDENS. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told reporters on 25 October that she informed Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in two telephone calls last weekend that Washington views current Russian military activities in Chechnya as "ominous" and "deplorable," RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported. She added that she also told Ivanov that Russia is making "a significant step in the wrong direction" in Chechnya and that she was not particularly encouraged by Ivanov's response. Ivanov said the same day that he hopes the U.S., when it is assessing Russia's Chechen policy, "will proceed from objective information, being guided by our joint goals of the struggle against international terrorism and the development of bilateral relations," ITAR-TASS reported. JAC MOSCOW SAYS IT CAN 'OVERCOME' ANY ABM SYSTEM... First Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Mikhailov told journalists in Moscow on 25 October that Russia has the technical capabilities to "overcome" any anti-ballistic missile system, Interfax reported. Such technology can "realistically be used and will be used if the U.S. pushes us toward it," Mikhailov warned, in a reference to U.S. plans to set up a limited national ABM system. He added that the expenses entailed for Russia would be several times lower than the cost of constructing a national defense system. JC ...WHILE PRIMAKOV SAYS 'ASYMETRY' IN ARMS RACE MUST BE AVOIDED. Also on 25 October, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who is a leader of the Fatherland-All Russia alliance, told a roundtable of the Council for Foreign Defense Policy that if the U.S. goes ahead with plans to implement a national ABM system, Russia will have to develop "its own [deterrent] strategic forces but in such a way that would avoid an asymmetrical approach to the arms race," Interfax reported. He added that such forces should have "great penetration capabilities" to ward off possible attacks. Primakov also said that the West still sees Russia as a potential enemy, claiming that a CIA report issued several months ago directly identifies Moscow as such. JC CHEMICAL WEAPONS DESTRUCTION BEHIND SCHEDULE. Visiting Kirov Oblast on 25 October, Lieutenant General Valerii Kapashin, the director of the federal special program for the destruction of chemical weapons, announced that the program is two years behind schedule because of insufficient funding, "Izvestiya" reported. The governor of six regions, including Kirov, where plants for the weapons' destruction are planned recently urged the government to find additional funds for the implementation of the program, according to "The Moscow Times" on 14 October. Kapashin said on 25 October that the governors will request some 3.8 billion rubles ($148 million) for this purpose. The Chemical Weapons Convention requires Russia to destroy its stockpiles by 2008, but Kapashin had already warned last year that Russia may have recourse to a provision of the convention allowing an additional five years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1998). JC FEDERAL AUTHORITIES SEEK TO BAN NATIONALIST GROUP. Justice Ministry officials on 25 October sent a petition to the Supreme Court asking it to bar the Savior (Spas) movement for violating the law on public associations, ITAR-TASS reported. The Central Election Commission recently registered Savior's party list for participation in upcoming State Duma elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 1999). According to a Justice Ministry spokeswoman, the movement provided false information about regional branches that do not in fact exist, according to Reuters. Savior is headed by Aleksandr Barkashov, the head of the ultra-nationalist Russian National Unity (RNE). On 26 October, a court in Primorskii Krai passed a resolution banning the activities of RNE on the region's territory, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC OUR HOME IS RUSSIA LEADERS SET SIGHTS ON SIBERIA... Our Home Is Russia (NDR) head Viktor Chernomyrdin will seek a seat in the State Duma from the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 25 October. Former Prime Minister Chernomyrdin will have to compete against six candidates, including the head of a local geological enterprise. NDR Duma faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov will compete against 17 candidates in a district in Altai Krai. JAC ...AS SIBNEFT HEAD TO COMPETE AGAINST UNITY CANDIDATE IN FAR NORTH. According to the election commission in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Sibneft head Roman Abramovich has submitted 679 signatures--89 more than necessary--to support his registration for State Duma elections in a single-mandate district in that region, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 25 October. Abramovich will compete against seven candidates including Deputy Governor Igor Shishkin. In an earlier interview, Chukotka Governor Aleksandr Nazarov said that he is unaware of any plans by Abramovich to run in his region and that he personally will support a candidate from the list of the interregional bloc Unity. Presumably, he meant Deputy Governor Shishkin. Abramovich is considered a close ally of media magnate Boris Berezovskii, who allegedly played a role in forming Unity, one of whose founders was Nazarov. JAC LDPR CANDIDATES STILL BARRED FROM MOSCOW MAYORAL RACE. A Moscow court upheld on 25 October the decision of the city's election commission to bar Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) member Aleksei Mitrofanov and his would-be deputy mayor, Andrei Brezhnev, from participating in the Moscow mayoral election, Russian Public Television reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 1999). The commission found that Mitrofanov, who heads the Duma Geopolitics Committee, violated campaign finance regulations when setting up his election fund. JAC FURTHER DECLINES IN MEAT CONSUMPTION FORECAST. Russia will import 1.8 million tons of meat and meat products this year, a decline of 0.5 percent compared with the previous year, Interfax reported on 25 October, citing the Agriculture Ministry. Per capita consumption of meat will amount to 42 kilograms in 1999, compared with a 12 percent drop over last year. Per capita consumption of milk and dairy products is also expected to show a decline of 8 percent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture warned recently that Russia will have to boost its imports of meat next year or risk a further decline in the population's meat consumption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1999). JAC RADICALS IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA REJECT COMPROMISE. Some Cherkess and Abazin supporters of Cherkessk Mayor Stanislav Derev have rejected the compromise agreement reached in talks in Moscow on 23 October between Derev and the republic's president, Vladimir Semenov, Caucasus Press reported on 26 October. Under that agreement, a republic-wide referendum on confidence in Semenov will be held next fall (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 1999). The radical wing of Derev's supporters continue to insist on the creation of a separate Cherkess Autonomous Oblast that would administratively be part of Stavropol Krai. LF MORE ELECTION INTRIGUES IN VLADIVOSTOK. NTV reported on 24 October that according to the Interior Ministry, lists of signatures in support of the candidacy of Viktor Cherepkov for upcoming Vladivostok mayoral elections are currently being calculated and verified. Cherepkov, who is a former mayor of that city, accused the police of stealing his lists of signatures during a raid on his campaign headquarters on 21 October, "The Moscow Times" reported two days later. During that raid, police arrested Cherepkov's campaign manager and former deputy, Sergei Markelov. Cherepkov said that the raid was organized by his political foe, Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko. "The Moscow Times" could not reach Nazdratenko or his aides for comment. However, the deputy chairman of the krai's election commission suggested that Cherepkov was to blame, saying that "when Viktor Ivanovich [Cherepkov] was gone, everything was quiet, but now he is back, the intrigues have started again." JAC LIKE GOVERNOR, LIKE GOVERNMENT? Penza Governor Vasilii Bochkarev has dismissed the oblast's government, saying he needs "like-minded' people in the cabinet who will work for the good of the oblast rather than for their own ends, ITAR- TASS reported on 25 October. Bochkarev was also quoted as saying that the actions of the dismissed government had threatened to lead to a "crisis" in industrial output, which, he noted, has registered stable growth lately. JC ST. PETE POLICE CHIEF RESIGNS. Lieutenant General Viktor Vlasov, head of the St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast police force, has tendered his resignation to Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, saying he considered it his duty to do so following recent inspections that had revealed shortcomings in the work of the St. Petersburg police force. According to "The St. Petersburg Times" on 26 October, during the ant-terrorist operation "Whirlwind," federal Interior Ministry officials had criticized the city police for "serious violations" of federal orders regarding the prevention of terrorism. A police statement claimed that Vlasov's resignation is "not related" to the assassination last week of local deputy Viktor Novoselov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1999). Since Vasilov's appointment as police chief in summer 1998, there have been a string of high-profile contract killings, including that of State Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova last November. JC HE'LL HAVE THAT ORDER 'TO GO.' An inebriated customer at a food kiosk in Novosibirsk inserted his head through the stall's narrow window to flirt with the salesclerk on the evening of 23 October, ITAR-TASS reported. After his and the clerk's efforts to free him failed, he remained there until the morning of 24 October, when another customer suggested telephoning the city's rescue service. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA REPUBLICAN PARTY LEADING IN ARMENIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS. Andranik Markarian, whose Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) forms the ruling Miasnutyun (Unity) coalition with the People's Party of Armenia, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 25 October that in the previous day's nationwide local elections in more than 900 communities, candidates affiliated with or endorsed by the HHK were elected mayor in at least 25 of more than 40 towns, cities, and administrative districts in Yerevan. No major incidents or protests by candidates were reported. Nationwide voter turnout was around 30 percent a few hours before polls closed, according to the Central Election Commission. The turnout in Yerevan was just 20 percent. In what Markarian termed "our main defeat," a well- funded Republican candidate failed to unseat the incumbent head of Yerevan's central district, Ararat Zurabian of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement. Zurabian won by a comfortable margin. LF AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER, PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER RESIGN. At a meeting of Azerbaijan's Security Council on 24 October, Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov submitted his resignation to President Heidar Aliev, with whom he has disagreed on the optimum approach to resolving the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. Eldar Namazov, who heads the presidential Secretariat, told Reuters on 25 October he has also informed Aliev of his desire to step down, but he declined to explain why. Aliev has not yet accepted either resignation. LF KARABAKH ARMENIANS RELEASE TWO POWS. The government of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic announced on 25 October that it will release two Azerbaijani prisoners of war as a gesture of goodwill, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Armenia released three and Azerbaijan four POWs last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 1999). Armenia and Karabakh admit still holding seven and three Azerbaijani POWs, respectively. Azerbaijan, for its part, says it no longer has Armenian captives on its territory. LF KAZAKHSTAN ANNOUNCES PRELIMINARY ELECTION RESULTS... Central Electoral Commission chairwoman Zaghipa Balieva told journalists in Astana on 25 October that results are available in 44 of the 47 constituencies where a second round of voting for the lower chamber of the parliament took place the previous day, RFE/RL's bureau in the capital reported. She added that the results in some constituencies may be ruled invalid, according to ITAR-TASS. In almost all 44 constituencies, candidates from the pro-presidential Otan Party were elected. Exceptions were Marat Qabanbaev of former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, Valeryan Zemlyanov of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, and former presidential candidate Gani Qasymov. The last-named was backed by the Pokolenie movement, which defends the rights of the elderly. LF ...WHILE OSCE SLAMS IRREGULARITIES. In an interim assessment released on 25 October, the OSCE Monitoring Mission said the two rounds of voting fell short of OSCE commitments to free, fair, and accountable elections. The mission noted that shortcomings identified in its preliminary statement after the first round of voting on 10 October were not rectified in all precincts; in particular, it noted restrictions on allowing international observers to the vote tabulation process. Dos Koshim, chairman of the Kazakh Local Observers' Center, told RFE/RL's Almaty bureau that the 865 observers deployed by his organization had registered instances where local officials interfered in the vote count and tabulation. LF KYRGYZ PREMIER HOLDS TALKS IN MOSCOW. Amangeldy Muraliev discussed bilateral military and military-technical cooperation with Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev in Moscow on 25 October, Interfax reported. Those talks also focused on joint measures to eliminate terrorism and to prevent further incursions into Kyrgyzstan by ethnic Uzbek guerrillas. Colonel General Leonid Ivashev, who heads the Russian Defense Ministry's Department for International Ties, said that the two men agreed that there is a connection between the Muslim guerrilla operations in both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and the events in Chechnya. The guerrilla threat also figured in Muraliev's talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who assured him of Moscow's support in efforts to contain that threat. Muraliev is also scheduled to meet with Economics Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to discuss the payment of Kyrgyzstan's $150 million debt to Russia. LF TURKMEN PRESIDENT DEFENDS GRADUAL DEMOCRATIZATION. Meeting on 22 October with the heads of diplomatic missions in Ashgabat, Saparmurat Niyazov denied that he has imposed a dictatorial regime in Turkmenistan, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported. Niyazov stressed his success in preserving the country's national sovereignty, adding that Turkmenistan will proceed along the path of democratization and market reform, but at its own pace. He promised to unveil in December a new plan for gradual political and economic development over the next 11 years. LF UZBEK LEADER PLEDGES TO COMPLY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS NORMS. Islam Karimov told visiting OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel in Tashkent on 25 October that Uzbekistan "will implement the international community's human rights requirements," Interfax reported. Van der Stoel told journalists after the talks that Karimov had briefed him in detail on preparations for the 5 December parliamentary elections. He said that he also discussed with Karimov the threat posed to Uzbekistan by terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. Interfax on 21 October quoted U.S. Ambassador David Johnson as calling for amending the election law to reduce the number of signatures a candidate must collect to register. Johnson added that the Uzbek leadership should meet minimum standards in allowing international observers to monitor the poll. LF WORLD BANK CONCERNED OVER SLOW PACE OF UZBEK ECONOMIC REFORM. In an assessment released on 21 October, the World Bank's mission to Uzbekistan warned that failure to proceed resolutely with comprehensive economic restructuring, including privatization, could pose a threat to medium- and long-term macro-economic stability, Interfax reported four days later. Noting that economic decline in Uzbekistan during the years immediately following the collapse of the USSR was less than in other former Soviet republics, the report pointed to factors that could undermine economic stability. Those factors include a drop in exports since mid-1998, falling world market prices for the country's main exports of cotton and gold, an increase in foreign debt, and the growing divergence between official and black market exchange rates for the national currency. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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