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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 213, Part I, 2 November 1999
___________________________________________________________ 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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