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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 213, Part I, 2 November 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 213, Part I, 2 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

* RUSSIAN OFFICIALS UNITE TO REBUFF WESTERN CRITICISM OF
CHECHNYA CAMPAIGN

* SUPREME COURT DECLINES TO RULE ON ULTRA-RIGHT GROUP

* ARMENIAN NATIONAL SECURITY MINISTER TENDERS RESIGNATION

End Note: THE AFTERMATH OF A BLOODBATH IN PARLIAMENT
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RUSSIA

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS UNITE TO REBUFF WESTERN CRITICISM OF
CHECHNYA CAMPAIGN... Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told
reporters in Oslo on 1 November that "local bandit groups are
to blame for developments in Chechnya not Russian authorities
or Russia." He added that "terrorists" there are armed and
trained by other countries and "our task is to free the
Chechen people of those unwanted guests," according to AP.
State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin
told Ekho Moskvy on 1 November that Russia has little
alternative to its current actions in the North Caucasus:
"The alternative we are facing is rather simple: a horrible
end or endless horror. We cannot make overtures to terrorism,
we cannot hope to persuade it to stop being what it actually
is." Our Home Is Russia faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov said
that Russia "has to continue what it is doing" but also must
"make its diplomacy more active and once again show the world
what we are dealing with in Chechnya." JAC

...WHILE RUSSIA REJECTS U.S. APPEAL. U.S. White House
spokesman Joe Lockhart also said on 1 November that U.S.
President Bill Clinton had planned to appeal to Putin in Oslo
directly to ease the Russian military's actions in that
region, according to AP. In its 30 October issue, "Novye
izvestiya" called Chechnya "a sphere of interest" for the
U.S. because of the Caspian's huge oil reserves. That
newspaper, which is controlled by media magnate Boris
Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, concluded that "all talk about
the 'humanitarian disaster' in the region is nothing but a
smoke screen." It added that the Russian government's
"discussion about increasing its missiles" in response to the
U.S.'s declared interest in a limited national defense system
is a "well-planned trick to force the U.S. to make some
allowances" such as debt forgiveness and looking the other
way with regard to Chechnya. JAC

THOUSANDS REMAIN TRAPPED ON CHECHNYA'S BORDERS. A border
crossing between Chechnya and Daghestan was opened on 1
November to allow the entry into Daghestan of displaced
persons fleeing the fighting in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported.
But the main border crossing on Chechnya's western border
with Ingushetia was opened only for a few hours, allowing
just 100 people to cross. Thousands of displaced persons were
left trapped in Chechnya and those who had fled earlier were
prevented from crossing back into Chechnya in order to try to
locate and rescue relatives. Ingushetia's President Ruslan
Aushev described the decision to leave thousands of Chechens
stranded on the border in freezing rain and snow as "a
humiliation," "inhuman," and a violation of both the Russian
Constitution and international law, according to Interfax.
"The struggle against terrorism must not be turned into a
struggle against civilians," he added. LF

PUTIN AGAIN OUTLINES MOSCOW'S OBJECTIVES IN CHECHNYA... In an
interview with regional television stations on 1 November,
Prime Minister Putin said that "the main task of the Russian
government in Chechnya is to resolve political problems with
political means," according to ITAR-TASS. He said Russia does
not aim "to conquer Chechnya and bring the Chechen people to
their knees" but to eradicate "terrorism." Putin claimed that
the Chechen militants' geopolitical goals have nothing in
common with those of the Chechen people. He affirmed that
Moscow is ready to work with "all political forces in
Chechnya, but we will never sit down at the negotiating table
with bandits whose arms are in blood [up] to the elbows." LF

...WHILE OTHER POLITICIANS CALL FOR TALKS WITH MASKHADOV...
Speaking in Washington on 1 November, Samara Governor
Konstantin Titov told ITAR-TASS that "President Aslan
Maskhadov represents real power in Chechnya" and that Russia
should therefore "conduct a dialogue with those who were
empowered by the people and not with those who try to grab
this power." In Murmansk, Yabloko faction leader Grigorii
Yavlinskii similarly called for talks with Maskhadov on the
formula "our security in exchange for [Chechnya's]
sovereignty," Interfax reported. Yavlinskii termed Maskhadov
the only person who has no connections to "bandits" and is
supported by at least part of the Chechen population. LF

...AND LUZHKOV FEARS MILITARY MAY HAVE COMMMITTED STRATEGIC
ERROR. Meeting in Chita on 1 November with local officials
and businessmen, Fatherland leader and Moscow Mayor Yurii
Luzhkov expressed concern lest the Russian military's
decision to cross the Terek River and advance on Grozny prove
to have been misguided, Interfax reported. Luzhkov said he
believes the Russian forces should have created a security
zone on the northern bank of the Terek, reinforced Chechnya's
borders with Ingushetia, Daghestan, and Georgia, and
continued air and artillery strikes on Chechen guerrilla
bases. But he added that since the decision to advance on
Grozny has been taken, politicians should support it.
Responsibility for its implementation, he added, lies with
Prime Minister Putin. LF

SUPREME COURT DECLINES TO RULE ON ULTRA-RIGHT GROUP. The
Central Election Commission on 1 November registered the
lists of five more election groups for the December elections
to the State Duma. The groups included the Pensioners' Party,
Alevtina Fedulova's Women of Russia, Ella Pamfilova's For
Civil Dignity, the Russian Socialist Party, and deputy Viktor
Ilyukhin's Movement in Support of the Army. The same day, the
Russian Supreme Court refused to examine a Justice Ministry
appeal to liquidate the Savior (Spas) movement, "Kommersant-
Daily" reported on 2 November. Savior is headed by Aleksandr
Barkashov, who also leads the nationalist group Russian
National Unity. The Supreme Court referred the appeal to a
raion-level court. If that court does not take up the matter
before 3 November, then Savior will get the official go-ahead
to begin election "agitation," according to the newspaper.
JAC

TWO NEW CONTENDERS EMERGE IN MOSCOW MAYORAL RACE. Pavel
Borodin, head of the Kremlin's facilities directorate,
announced on 1 November that he will seek the office of mayor
of Moscow. He will team up with Leonid Troshin of the Federal
Tax Police, who is to run for the deputy mayoralty, according
to ITAR-TASS. Borodin, who is the former mayor of the
Siberian city of Yakutsk, said he is looking for a bigger
challenge than the management of the 150,000 people he
currently undertakes. He has been the subject of a probe into
charges of money laundering and bribery (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 15 July 1999) and has denied any wrongdoing. Duma
deputy Vladimir Semago announced the same day that he will
also run for the mayor's office. Semago, a former member of
the Communist faction, has a slot on the party list of the
Spiritual Heritage movement, according to "Kommersant-Daily"
on 2 November. JAC

LEBED FOE NABBED IN HUNGARY. Hungarian police arrested
Krasnoyarsk Aluminum company head and would-be Duma deputy
Anatolii Bykov and are ready to turn him over to Russian law
enforcement officials pending an official request for
extradition, police spokesman Colonel Laszlo Garamvolgyi told
Hungarian media on 1 November. To avoid arrest, Bykov has
lived in no fewer than five cities outside Russia in the last
several months, according to "Vremya MN" on 2 November.
Bykov, who is wanted on suspicion of money laundering among
other things, has experienced a number of difficulties in his
bid to win a seat in the State Duma. First, the Central
Election Commission barred the Liberal Democratic Party of
Russia, on whose list he was included, from participating in
the elections. Then, a local election commission in
Krasnoyarsk insisted that Bykov, a rival of Krasnoyarsk
Governor Aleksandr Lebed, must register in person (see
"RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 27 October 1999). MS/JAC

IS RUSSIAN CAPITAL RETURNING? "The Moscow Times" on 2
November reported that foreign direct investment in the
Russian economy rose 60 percent during the second quarter of
1999, compared with the same period last year. Because the
offshore tax haven Cyprus contributed almost 9 percent of
foreign investment in the second quarter, some economists
believe that part of the billions of dollars that left Russia
as capital flight through off-shore accounts is returning,
the daily reported. The newspaper reported on 30 October that
an obscure Cyprus company called Reforma Investment won the
tender for a 9 percent stake in LUKoil on 29 October. LUKoil
President Vagit Alekperov told "Vremya MN" on 1 November that
it is difficult to say whether the Cypriot firm represented
non-resident Russian interests. That daily suggested that the
purchase could have been engineered by LUKoil itself and
Reforma might be part of the investment-banking group NIKoil,
which already owns more than 15 percent of the oil giant. JAC

U.S-FUNDED CENTER FOR NUCLEAR WEAPONS SECURITY OPENS OUTSIDE
MOSCOW. Under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction
program, U.S. and Russian officials on 1 November opened a
center for evaluating security systems for nuclear weapons
installations and training staff to use those systems. The
Security Assessment and Training Center is located at Sergiev
Posad, some 30 kilometers northeast of Moscow. Colonel
General Igor Valynkin, who together with director of
Cooperative Threat Reduction program Thomas Kuenning presided
over the opening ceremony, commented that Russia faces
serious security threats and needs to boost security at
nuclear weapons facilities. In particular, he said concerns
have arisen that terrorists might attempt to steal nuclear
weapons. JC

PUTIN PRAISES RUSSIAN-NORWEGIAN TIES. Following talks with
his Norwegian counterpart Kjell Magne Bundevik in Oslo on 1
November, Russian Premier Putin noted that owing to Norwegian
efforts, trade between Russia and Norway fell by only 20
percent after the August 1998 financial crisis, ITAR-TASS
reported. "That fall," he commented, "was much smaller than
in the case of other European countries." Putin also noted
that Moscow shares Oslo's concern about nuclear safety in
northwestern Russia, adding that the two countries have been
"successfully cooperating" in scrapping decommissioned
Russian nuclear submarines and in constructing storage for
liquid nuclear waste. Putin is in Norway to attend events
commemorating the fourth anniversary of the assassination of
Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin. He is also to meet with U.S.
President Bill Clinton. JC

CRIMINAL GANGS KILLING STREET CHILDREN FOR 'PARTS.' A
spokeswoman for Germany's secret service told the weekly
"Focus" on 30 October that her agency has gathered
information that Russian criminal gangs are killing street-
children and selling their organs to rich patients in other
countries. According to the weekly, St. Petersburg police are
discovering an increasing number of dead street-children
whose internal organs have been removed. However, law
enforcement officials in that city and other locations
throughout Russia have been stymied in their efforts to end
the practice because the disappearance of street children is
generally not recorded. JAC

FAILED GORBACHEV ASSASSIN SEEKS DUMA SEAT FROM 'CRIME
CAPITAL.' Aleksandr Shmonov, who in 1990 sought to
assassinate former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, has
submitted signatures to run for the State Duma from a single-
mandate district in St. Petersburg, Ekho Moskvy reported on 1
November, citing a source in the local election commission.
Shmonov could find a not insignificant constituency of fellow
professionals in that city. Over the past 12 months or so,
St. Petersburg has witnessed a string of contract killings,
most recently that of Deputy Speaker of the Legislative
Assembly Viktor Novoselov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October
1999). Acknowledging that the level of crime in St.
Petersburg is higher than the average for the federation as a
whole, Vice Governor Vladimir Grishanov told a 28 October
session of the municipal government that "it is therefore
hard for us to prove that we are not the crime capital of the
country," according to ITAR-TASS. JC

CORRECTION: Based on a report in "The Moscow Times,""RFE/RL
Newsline" on 1 November incorrectly identified Aleksei
Yablokov as head of the Institute for U.S.A and Canada.
Yablokov is a former presidential adviser on the environment.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ASKS PRESIDENT TO CONVENE EMERGENCY
SESSION. At a 1 November meeting of the Armenian parliament's
unofficial "coordinating council," leaders of all factions
asked President Robert Kocharian to convene an emergency
parliamentary session the following day, RFE/RL's Yerevan
bureau reported. That session is to elect a new speaker and
two deputy speakers to succeed the three officials gunned
down in the parliament on 27 October. Republican Party leader
Andranik Markarian, who is regarded as the most likely choice
for the post of parliament speaker, told Interfax on 1
November that the parliament will not diverge from the
political course set by the murdered leaders of the majority
Miasnutiun (Unity) faction, speaker Karen Demirchian and
Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian (see also "End Note" below).
LF

ARMENIAN NATIONAL SECURITY MINISTER TENDERS RESIGNATION.
Serzh Sarkisian submitted his resignation to President
Kocharian on 1 November, Interfax reported, citing the
presidential press service. On 28 October, the Defense
Ministry had demanded the resignation of Sarkisian, the
interior minister, and the prosecutor-general for failing to
prevent the killings the previous day or to resolve two
earlier murders of military officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
29 October 1999). Kocharian has not yet accepted the
resignation of either Sarkisian or Interior Minister Suren
Abrahamian, arguing that the present cabinet should remain in
office until the naming of a new premier. LF

KARABAKH LEADERSHIP DENIES LINK WITH GUNMAN. The government
press service of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
on 1 November issued a statement rejecting as "a deliberate
and immoral provocation" allegations in an article in
"Segodnya," MEDIAMAX reported. The Russian daily had
suggested that Nairi Unanian, the leader of the five Armenian
parliament gunmen, had established links to the enclave's
present prime minister, Anushavan Danielian, when the two men
were working in Crimea in the early 1990s. The newspaper also
hypothesized that the Karabakh leadership could have
commissioned the 27 October shootings in order to thwart the
signing of a Karabakh peace agreement, the terms of which it
considered unacceptable. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT RECEIVES ATATURK PRIZE. Heidar Aliev,
who arrived in Ankara on a two-day official visit on 31
October, was presented with the Ataturk Peace Prize by
Turkish President Suleyman Demirel the following day, AP
reported. Aliev was to have traveled to Turkey in June to
receive that award but was prevented by poor health from
doing so. At the presentation ceremony, Demirel praised
Aliev's "key role in the transformation of Azerbaijan to a
free-market system, and his work for the welfare of his
people." Demirel also said that Azerbaijan's interests should
be protected during the search for a solution to the Karabakh
conflict, Reuters reported. LF

GEORGIA AGAIN DENIES PERMITTING TRANSIT OF ARMS TO CHECHNYA.
Speaking in Tbilisi on 1 November, President Eduard
Shevardnadze again affirmed that Georgia is capable of
guarding its 80 kilometer frontier with Chechnya in order to
prevent the transport to that republic of arms and
mercenaries, Interfax reported. Russian officials have
repeatedly claimed that arms are being transported to
Chechnya across the unguarded border. Federal Security
Service spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich repeated those charges
in Moscow on 1 November, adding that a French journalist
taken hostage last month had been seized by Chechen militants
on Georgian territory and taken across the border into
Chechnya. Georgian Frontier Guards commander Valerii
Chkheidze is to meet in Moscow on 2 November with his Russian
counterpart, Konstantin Totskii, to discuss how to prevent
Chechen guerrillas using mountain paths that cross the
border. LF

JAPAN SUSPENDS GOLD-MINING IN KYRGYZSTAN. A Japanese
government agency engaged in the joint exploitation of the
Altyn-Jylga gold mine in southern Kyrgyzstan has suspended
operations there following the abduction in August of four
Japanese geologists, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 1
November, quoting Sheishenaly Murzagaziev, director of the
Kyrgyz State Agency for Geology and Mineral resources. The
Japanese, who were employed at the mine, were released late
last month following negotiations between Kyrgyz security
officials, Tajikistan's Minister for Emergency Situations
Mirzo Zieev, and representatives of the Uzbek Muslim
guerillas who seized the hostages. According to Tajik
sources, Japan paid a $5 million ransom for the four men, but
the Kyrgyz government denies this. Murzagaziev said that
Japan is willing to invest $4 million in developing gold
deposits in northern Kyrgyzstan. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADER MEET. Imomali Rakhmonov
and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri met for
eight hours in Dushanbe on 1 November in an attempt to
resolve the tensions arising from the UTO's decision to
suspend participation in the Commission for National
Reconciliation. That decision is to protest restrictions on
the registration of opposition candidates wishing to contest
the 6 November presidential elections, Russian agencies
reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). No details
of those talks have been released. LF

END NOTE

THE AFTERMATH OF A BLOODBATH IN PARLIAMENT

by Richard Giragosian

	The recent killings of the Armenian prime minister,
parliamentary speaker, and other officials have raised
concerns over the fate of Armenian democracy and political
stability. While the tragedy of the murders cannot be
overstated, it should be noted that the loss of these
political leaders does not necessarily constitute a fatal
blow to Armenian democracy. No political figure or figures
are more vital to the strength of democracy than are the
institutions of democracy themselves. Although democracy in
Armenia is still significantly vulnerable as it continues
strengthening the rule of law and consolidating the
institutions crucial to the democratic process, the
isolated murders committed in the Armenian parliament do
not pose a potentially dangerous challenge to the political
stability and democracy of Armenia. This tragic event is
not so much the beginning of a downward spiral into
national chaos and instability as an aberration of Armenian
politics.
	Although the fragility of Armenia's emerging democracy
is evident, there is no threat to the foundations of the
country's rule of law and national stability. Even the
gunmen's inarticulate message vowing to punish the ruling
political elite for the socio-economic suffering of the
people is rooted in the genuine concerns of the growing
social disparity, marked by a sharp divide between the very
rich and the very poor, and the legacy of economic
isolation as a result of the Azerbaijani-imposed blockade
of the country. The gunmen's actions only reinforce the
need for the Armenian government to continue strengthening
the rule of law, ensuring greater transparency in politics,
and accelerating the fight against corruption in all levels
of society. Armenian President Robert Kocharian, meanwhile,
is faced with the challenge of returning to normal
governance, including forming a new cabinet to reassure a
shocked nation.
	Compounding the internal situation is the challenge of
the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process under the sponsorship of
OSCE. With the recent Armenian-Azerbaijani presidential and
ministerial meetings seeking to forge a settlement before
the OSCE Istanbul summit later this month, the peace
process combines elements of "promise and pressure"--that
is, promising regional economic development and pressuring
the parties to negotiate. For Azerbaijan, a significant
factor is the condition of 76-year-old President Heidar
Aliev, who is still recovering from heart surgery. Aliev is
determined to establish his own legacy for Azerbaijan but
is faced with an urgent need to secure some degree of
political victory.
	The path toward settlement is strewn with geopolitical
considerations centered on the "pipeline politics" of the
region and by the Russian military effort to reassert its
influence in the Caucasus. Other factors are internal
dissension in Azerbaijan, as seen by the departure of that
country's foreign minister and long-serving presidential
foreign policy adviser. For Azerbaijan, the Karabakh
conflict, which is deadlocked both by the failure to settle
the conflict militarily and Baku's inability to coerce an
Armenian capitulation despite the blockade it imposed (with
Turkish help) on Armenia and Karabakh, has frustrated many
of Aliev's efforts to improve Azerbaijan's image and
standing in the international community.
	Even more frustrating is the continued geopolitical
maneuvering over the oil pipeline essential to allow
Azerbaijan to fully profit from its Caspian energy
reserves. Regional and world powers, each with an eye on
their own interests, have exploited Azerbaijan's
vulnerability stemming from its reliance on a pipeline
route to export its oil. And with such reliance on only one
sector of its struggling economy, Aliev's leadership has
dangerously ignored the growing social needs of its
population, as demonstrated by the critical situation of
its neglected displaced persons and refugees.
	This internal frustration has led Aliev to increased
political repression, intimidation, and consolidation of
personal power, all of which is made possible by a stunted
political apparatus that includes an ineffective parliament
under the president's control, and a marginalized and
disenfranchised political opposition, and a government
marked by corruption and "cronyism" flourishing on the
basis of petro-dollar graft. Moreover, Aliev has long been
grooming his son to replace him as leader and has
simultaneously sought to prevent any rivals from emerging
as potential leaders. Such moves have thwarted the
development of any class of true leadership and will likely
deprive the country of any promise of real political
stability in the post-Aliev period. These internal
pressures, given their increasingly powerful effect on the
president, may lead the Azerbaijani government to a new,
more flexible stand on Karabakh. Combined with the external
pressure, they may also induce Aliev to enter into
substantive negotiations on Karabakh for the first time.
	The coming weeks present perhaps the most serious
challenge to the Kocharian government. The OSCE Istanbul
summit will focus on the draft "common state" proposal, a
vague and as yet undefined concept of new "horizontal"
relations between Karabakh and Azerbaijan as well as a
possible means of launching final status talks, provided
that Karabakh's security concerns are addressed. Although
this "common state" proposal is the fairest and most
realistic of all OSCE plans to date, the real test of its
viability lies in the details.

The author is editor of the monthly "Transcaucasus: A
Chronology."
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               Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc.
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