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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 212, Part I, 1 November 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 212, Part I, 1 November 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

* ELECTION COMMISSION TURNS ATTENTION TO PRESS

* MOSCOW DENIES BOMBING HUMANITARIAN CONVOY

* SLAIN ARMENIAN LEADERS BURIED
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RUSSIA

ELECTION COMMISSION TURNS ATTENTION TO PRESS... The Central
Election Commission asked the Media Ministry on 29 October to
take measures against Sergei Dorenko, the host of an
"analytical program" on Russian Public Television (ORT),
"Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. According to
commission head Aleksandr Veshnyakov, ORT and Dorenko engaged
in unlawful political agitation in their 25 October broadcast
alleging that former Prime Minister and current Fatherland-
All Russia leader Yevgenii Primakov was somehow involved in
an assassination attempt on Georgian President Eduard
Shevardnadze. Veshnyakov cautioned that "any mass media body
can find itself in the same place as ORT," according to ITAR-
TASS, while "Kommersant-Daily" speculated that TV-6, which is
close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, may be the next to be
singled out by the commission. "Kommersant-Daily" is owned by
media magnate Boris Berezovskii, who is reportedly Dorenko's
close sponsor. JAC

...AS PUTIN STRESSES NEED FOR OFFICIAL NEWS OUTLETS. In a
meeting with the heads of regional state-run television and
broadcasting companies on 1 November, Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin declared that the "state should have its own media
outlets to bring the official position of the government to
the public," ITAR-TASS reported. Putin added that state-run
media should focus on economic problems, despite the
acuteness of the problem in Chechnya, because "if economic
problems are not solved, then federal forces in Chechnya will
not have the necessary military equipment and we shall never
achieve the goals we have set [there]." On 29 October, Sergei
Yastrzhembskii, deputy head of the Fatherland-All Russia
headquarters, said that the ITAR-TASS news agency selectively
edits the comments and interviews of members of his political
organization so that they appear less critical of the
Kremlin. The agency responded that it does not participate in
"information wars."JAC

MOSCOW DENIES BOMBING HUMANITARIAN CONVOY... Russian Prime
Minister Putin and military spokesmen in Mozdok both denied
on 31 October that Russian aircraft were responsible for the
bombing two days earlier of a convoy of vehicles transporting
displaced persons and Red Cross personnel from Grozny to
Nazran. Putin termed those reports Chechen propaganda.
Several dozen people, including two Red Cross officials, were
killed in that attack. In Geneva, the International Committee
of the Red Cross issued a statement on 30 October appealing
to all combatants to allow civilians to leave the combat zone
unharmed. Russian aircraft continued bombing raids on Grozny
and other towns, including Kurchaloi and Bamut, on 30- 31
October. Ground fighting is continuing around Gudermes, which
is totally surrounded by Russian forces, Reuters reported. LF

...KEEPS CHECHEN BORDERS SEALED. The opening of four
humanitarian corridors to allow displaced persons to leave
Chechnya, originally announced for 29 October, was postponed
until 1 November. A Reuters correspondent at the Chechen
border with Ingushetia reported on 1 November that there is a
16-kilometer line of civilians desperate to cross into
Ingushetia, which already harbors a total of 175,000
displaced persons. Visiting camps for such people on 30
October, Finnish Foreign Minister and EU President Tarja
Halonen expressed concern that the high rate of disease and
infant mortality among the displaced persons may rise with
the onset of winter. She called on Moscow to remove obstacles
to the shipment of humanitarian aid to the camps, Reuters
reported. LF

CONFUSION OVER RUSSIA'S OBJECTIVE CONTINUES. Interfax on 29
October quoted unnamed Russian Defense Ministry sources as
saying that the Russian military command aims to break the
back of the Chechen resistance and occupy strategic heights
in Chechnya before the end of this month. Those sources
explained that Moscow has already exceeded the quotas for
heavy military equipment it may deploy in the North Caucasus
under the revised Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which
is to be signed at the OSCE summit in Istanbul on 18-19
November. But a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry in
Moscow denied the following day that there is any deadline
set for ending operations in Chechnya, or any link with the
upcoming summit. Speaking in Moscow on 28 October, U.S.
permanent representative to the North Atlantic Council
Alexander Vershbow expressed the hope that the fighting in
Chechnya will not derail the Istanbul summit. He called on
all parties to avoid "the indiscriminate use of force,"
arguing that the previous war in Chechnya demonstrated that
there cannot be a purely military solution to the conflict.
LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT SAYS WAR PLANNED IN ADVANCE. Aslan
Maskhadov told Interfax on 30 October that the Russian
incursion into Chechnya had been planned for three years and
was in no way connected with measures to combat terrorism or
crime. He reaffirmed his readiness for "constructive
negotiations and extensive compromises" with Moscow, adding
that "Russia and Chechnya can and must live as good
neighbors." But Maskhadov stressed that the Chechen people
will never give up their independence, which he termed their
sole defense against complete destruction. LF

SHARP INCREASE IN WEAPONS PRODUCTION REGISTERED AS EARLY AS
JANUARY. "Megapolis-Kontinent" reported in its October 1999
issue (No. 43) that a sharp increase in output began at the
Tula weapons factory as early as January of this year. As a
direct result of the current Chechen conflict, which did not
break out until some nine months later, output at the Tula
enterprise has increased by 400 percent in the first three-
quarters of this year, compared with the 1998 level. The Tula
weapons factory produces components for tanks, armored
personnel carriers, armored infantry vehicles, helicopters,
assault planes, and fighter jets. "Megapolis-Kontinent" also
reported that in the past several weeks, all state debts to
the factory, some of which date back "many years," have been
paid off. JC

ALLEGED CRIME KINGPIN MAY BE EXCLUDED FROM ELECTION RACE. The
Central Election Commission on 30 October registered the
party lists of four election organizations: the Conservative
Movement, the Russian Party for the Protection of Women, the
Congress of Russian Communities, and the Yurii Boldyrev
movement, ITAR-TASS reported. The next day, the commission
registered the lists of the Party of Peace and Accord,
Russian National Union, which is lead by Duma Deputy Sergei
Baburin, and Spiritual Heritage, which is led by deputy
Aleksei Poberezkin. Spiritual Heritage faced the most
problems, losing 25 candidates. Its list now contains 130
names. The Conservative Movement, which lost 10 candidates,
may lose another: the candidacy of Sergei Mikhailov, who is
allegedly known in organized crime circles as "Mikhas," is
being subjected to further scrutiny because he did not tell
the commission about his dual Greek and Russian citizenship,
"Vremya MN" reported on 1 November. JAC

RUBLE SLIPS SLIGHTLY AGAIN AFTER LAST WEEK'S SLUMP. The ruble
lost 2 kopeks against the dollar during trading on 1 November
to close at 26.07 rubles to $1, according to Russian
agencies. The ruble's loss follows a 29 kopek dip on 28
October. "Kommersant-Daily" concluded that day that the
Central Bank, which had previously been propping up the
ruble, has apparently decided that a new lower exchange rate
is necessary. Such a decision, according to the daily, is
likely connected with the State Duma's approval of the 2000
draft budget in its first reading and the need for the
government to somehow come up with even higher revenues.
However, "The Moscow Times" reported on 30 October that the
Central Bank plans to offer bonds worth up to 6 billion
rubles ($230 million) in November to an effort to soak up
excess ruble liquidity of Russian commercial banks. Some
traders link that liquidity with the ruble's slump. JAC

GAZPROM TARGET OF NEW TAX PROBE... "Izvestiya" reported on 30
October that an "unprecedented" audit of Gazprom began on 28
October, which will focus on the company's activities
connected with exporting gas. According to the newspaper,
which is owned by Vladimir Potanin's Interros Group and
LUKoil, one of the goals of the new probe is to unseat
Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev. Another is to find monies to
replenish "election" and "pension" funds. "Segodnya" reported
earlier that tax authorities ordered Gazprom to pay the
treasury 2 billion rubles ($80 million) over and above what
is stipulated in an earlier agreement between the government
and the company in both October and November (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 29 October 1999). "Vremya MN" reported on 1
November that the wholesale price of natural gas increased by
15 percent that day, the first increase in almost three
years, according to the company's press service. JAC

...AS OLIGARCHS ALLEGEDLY DEPRIVED OF SAY AT FUEL MINISTRY.
"Izvestiya" also reported on 30 October that retaining Sergei
Bogdanchikov as head of Rosneft was one condition a number of
Duma deputies demanded from the government in return for
their support of the 2000 budget. That stance reportedly had
less to do with support for Bogdanchikov than with their
opposition to a replacement being promoted by Unified Energy
Systems head Anatolii Chubais. According to the newspaper,
Prime Minister Putin signed a decree at the end of October
that excludes Chubais, Vyakhirev, Bogdanchikov, LUKoil
President Vagit Alekperov, and Yukos Chairman Mikhail
Khodorkovskii from membership on the board of the Fuel and
Energy Ministry. Replacing them will be the heads of the Coal
Committee and Gosenergonadzor. JAC

DUMA PROTESTS USE OF FORCE AGAINST VYBORG EMPLOYEES. The
State Duma on 29 October passed a resolution protesting the
use of physical force and fire arms against workers at the
Vyborgskii paper mill in Leningrad Oblast (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 14 and 15 October 1999), ITAR-TASS reported.
Justice Ministry troops had stormed the factory and opened
fire on workers who had barricaded themselves into the
administration building in a bid to prevent the mill's
foreign owners from assuming control. Justice Minister Yurii
Chaika told deputies that the actions undertaken last month
to resolve the dispute were "lawful in form but digressed
from the law in content." Also on 29 October, the
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions appealed to
the Russian authorities not to use force again to seek the
resolve the Vyborgskii dispute. In a statement received by
ITAR-TASS, the confederation said the use of force against
employees violates both Russian laws and international labor
standards. JC

GOVERNMENT DRAWS UP PLAN FOR RENATIONALIZATION OF LOMONOSOV.
Following a court decision earlier this month that the 1993
privatization of the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory was invalid
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999), the State Property
Ministry has "sketched out a plan" for the plant's
renationalization, "The Moscow Times" reported on 28 October.
According to the newspaper, details of the plan are unclear,
and ministry officials acknowledged that they are unsure how
the proposal will be implemented. Deputy State Property
Minister Yurii Medvedev was quoted as saying that the
government will recover from the factory an amount equal to
what it lost through privatization and that it will do so "in
kind, such as [in] factory kilns." Alastair Stobie, vice
president of the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund, one of the
major shareholders in the factory, told AP that the fund will
continue to appeal the renationalization decision. JC

FSB TARGETS ANOTHER ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCHER. The Federal
Security Service (FSB) in Kaluga Oblast has arrested Igor
Sutyagin, a researcher at the Institute for U.S.A. and Canada
(ICK), on suspicion of disclosing state secrets and possible
espionage, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 October. Shortly
after Sutyagin's arrest, FSB officials searched the Moscow
apartment of a U.S. citizen, Josh Handler, who is researching
a doctoral dissertation on nuclear disarmament. After asking
Handler many questions about Sutyagin, they took away a
computer, camera, photographs, film, videotape, cassette
tapes, and various papers, according to an article by Handler
in the "Vladivostok News." "Kommersant-Daily" quoted ICK
director Aleksei Yablokov as linking Sutyagin's arrest with
the earlier detentions of military journalists Grigorii Pasko
and Aleksandr Nikitin and the seizure of materials from
scientist Valerii Soifer, all of whom have focused on
environmentally hazardous practices of Russia's navy (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 1999). JAC

WILL TATARSTAN HOLD EARLY PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS? The
leadership of the Republic of Tatarstan is seriously
considering holding the next republican presidential
elections in June 2000, simultaneously with voting in the
Russian presidential poll, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on
29 October. The next Tatarstan presidential election is due
only in March 2001, but the republic's political elite is
afraid that should Russian Prime Minister Putin be elected
president, then he would seek to replace Tatarstan's
President Mintimer Shaimiev, one of the supporters of the
Primakov-Luzhkov OVR alliance. Moreover, Shaimiev's
popularity rating is rapidly sinking as the republic's
economic situation deteriorates. LF

PRIMAKOV TURNS 70. Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) leader
Primakov turned 70 on 29 October. President Boris Yeltsin
sent his former premier a birthday telegram saying that his
work in the state's "highest posts has been appreciated by
the Russian public and the state," ITAR-TASS reported.
According to EWI's "Russian Regional Report" on tk October,
Primakov's meeting in Kazan on 28 October with Tatarstan
President Mintimer Shaimiev and Bashkortostan President
Murtaza Rakhimov was connected with a discussion to change
OVR's campaign tactics. JAC

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

SLAIN ARMENIAN LEADERS BURIED. Up to 100,000 people,
including former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, attended the
31 October funeral services in Yerevan of slain Prime
Minister Vazgen Sargsian, parliamentary speaker Karen
Demirchian, his two deputies, a government minister, and two
parliamentary deputies gunned down in the legislature on 27
October. The eighth victim of the shootings was buried on 30
October. Also attending was a large Russian delegation,
including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, State Duma speaker
Gennadii Seleznev, and former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev,
as well as Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Belarusian
Premier Syarhei Linh, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal
Kharrazi, Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, and
Turkish state minister Ali Irtemcelik. Speaking at the
funeral ceremony, President Robert Kocharian termed the
killings "an irreparable loss" and called on Armenians to
"close ranks and stand by the Republic of Armenia," RFE/RL's
Yerevan bureau reported. LF

U.S., RUSSIA EXPRESS SUPPORT. Meeting with President
Kocharian in Yerevan on 29 October, U.S. Deputy Secretary of
State Strobe Talbott offered his condolences over the
shootings and assured Kocharian of his country's readiness to
offer "every kind of support" in overcoming the crisis, Noyan
Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Talbott added
that that he believes the democratic process in Armenia is
irreversible. During talks with Kocharian the following day,
Russian Premier Putin similarly expressed Moscow's support
for the Armenian president. Putin also noted that the
murdered men were all "true friends of Russia." LF

ARMENIAN MILITARY DENY TENSIONS WITH PRESIDENT. Leaders of
Sargsian's Republican Party of Armenia on 30 October denied
that there are differences between the military and President
Kocharian over the choice of a new prime minister and
cabinet, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian told
journalists on 30 October after his talks with Putin that an
entirely new government will probably be named. According to
press reports, the military also oppose the appointment of
Republican Party Chairman Andranik Markarian to succeed
Demirchian as parliamentary speaker. The Republican Party on
30 October endorsed the Defense Ministry's call two days
earlier for the sacking of the interior and national security
ministers. Meanwhile the five gunmen have been charged with
terrorism and pre-meditated murder, Noyan Tapan reported on 1
November. LF

PROCEDURAL VIOLATIONS MAR GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY POLL... More
than 60 percent of the Georgian electorate cast their votes
in the 31 October parliamentary elections. Both pro-
government and opposition figures cited violations of
election procedure, including restrictions on voting in some
constituencies in Adjaria and the mountain region of
Lentehki, the theft of a ballot box in Gori, an attempt by an
opposition member of the Central Electoral Commission to hack
into the commission's computer, and an attempt at ballot
stuffing by a commission member who belongs to the ruling
Union of Citizens of Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. LF

...WHILE RULING PARTY HEADED FOR VICTORY. With 60 percent of
the ballot papers counted, the Union of Citizens of Georgia,
which has a majority in the outgoing parliament, had won more
than 30 of the 75 seats allocated in single-mandate
constituencies plus some 44 percent of the party-list vote.
The Union for the Revival of Georgia polled 23 percent of the
party list vote. Its leader, Adjar Supreme Council chairman
Aslan Abashidze, claimed that the authorities had falsified
the results, according to Reuters. The Labor Party and the
bloc Industry Will Save Georgia are close to surmounting the
7 percent barrier for representation in the new parliament.
LF

U.S. DIPLOMAT IN TBILISI. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
Talbott and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze met in
Tbilisi on 29 October to discuss regional conflicts,
including Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and preparations for
the OCSE Istanbul summit later this month, ITAR-TASS and
Caucasus Press reported. They also focused on the planned
construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline and the
Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. Talbott endorsed the Georgian
leadership's economic policy and its crackdown on corruption.
LF

POLISH PRESIDENT VISITS AZERBAIJAN... Visiting Baku on 27-28
October, Aleksandr Kwasniewski met with his Azerbaijani
counterpart, Heidar Aliev, to discuss Poland's support for
Azerbaijan's accession to the World Trade Organization and
integration into European structures, including full
membership in the Council of Europe, Turan reported. Possible
Polish involvement in the GUUAM alignment (Georgia, Ukraine,
Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) was also discussed.
Kwasniewski said Poland is ready to help prepare NATO's
Caucasus strategy. The two presidents also discussed Polish
participation in the construction of cement plants and sugar
mills in Azerbaijan and the prospects for the export via
Poland of Azerbaijani oil transported via the Baku-Supsa
export pipeline. A memorandum on cooperation between Poland's
state oil and gas company and the Azerbaijani state oil
company SOCAR was signed at the meeting. LF

...AND KAZAKHSTAN. On 29 October, Kwasniewski held talks with
his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev, in Astana,
RFE/RL's bureau in the Kazakh capital reported. Those talks
focused on preparations for the OSCE Istanbul summit and the
prospects for Polish participation in construction projects
in Astana as well as in the export of Kazakhstan's oil via
Ukraine to the Polish port of Gdansk, ITAR-TASS reported.
Nazarbaev termed the $100 million annual trade turnover
between the two countries "not bad." LF

OSCE PRAISES KAZAKHSTAN'S LANGUAGE POLICY. Meeting in Astana
on 29 October with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart
Toqaev, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van
der Stoel positively assessed both Kazakhstan's language law
and efforts by the country's leadership to promote the use of
the Kazakh language, Interfax reported. Toqaev quoted
President Nazarbaev as aiming to establish trilingualism,
given the growing importance of English. LF

KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA TO COOPERATE IN INVESTIGATING ROCKET
EXPLOSION. The Russian and Kazakh government commissions
formed to investigate the 27 October explosion of a Russian
Proton rocket shortly after blast-off from Baikonur announced
on 29 October that they will set up a joint headquarters and
three working groups, Interfax reported. But Kazakhstan's
Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Kiyanitsa said that an
assessment of the financial damage caused will be made only
after the commissions complete their work, according to ITAR-
TASS. Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Toqaev had said the
previous day that Kazakhstan will probably demand
compensation exceeding the $260,000 paid by Moscow after a
similar explosion in July. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION AGAIN CALLS FOR POSTPONEMENT OF PRESIENTIAL
POLL. At a news conference in Dushanbe on 29 October, three
opposition would-be presidential candidates again called on
the country's leadership and international organizations to
agree to delay the 6 November presidential elections,
RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Equality Party leader
Saifiddin Turaev, Democratic Party (Tehran Platform) leader
Sultan Kuvatov, and Islamic Renaissance Party candidate and
Economics Minister Davlat Usmon proposed that incumbent
President Imomali Rakhmonov's term in office be extended
until June in order to give time to prepare for free and fair
elections. All three candidates had earlier called for a
postponement of the poll on the grounds that local officials
prevented them from collecting the minimum 145,000 signatures
required for registration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October
1999). The Central Electoral Commission nonetheless
subsequently registered Usmon, who on 29 October formally
requested that his registration be termed invalid. LF

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