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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 214, Part I, 3 November 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 214, Part I, 3 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 * MOSCOW TO ALLOW OSCE TO VISIT NORTH CAUCASUS * RUSSIA EXPECTING IMF TRANCHE IN DECEMBER * TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY URGES BOYCOTT OF PRESIDENTIAL POLL xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA MOSCOW TO ALLOW OSCE TO VISIT NORTH CAUCASUS. OSCE Chairman- in-Office and Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek told journalists in Oslo on 2 November that Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has given permission for an OSCE mission to travel to Daghestan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya, Reuters reported. Vollebaek said that the mission will travel to the region late next week. An OSCE expert said, however, that the mission will focus primarily on the humanitarian consequences of the fighting and will not necessarily enter Chechnya. The resident OSCE mission in Grozny pulled out of the city on 1 November for security reasons. Meanwhile a spokeswoman for the UNHCR's Moscow office told Interfax on 2 November that no date has yet been set for a visit by a UN mission to Daghestan and Ingushetia to assess the amount of aid needed for displaced persons in those republics. LF RUSSIAN FORCES CLAIM TO HAVE STRENGTHENED POSITIONS... Russian military spokesmen on 2 November claimed to have expelled Chechen fighters from the villages of Assinovskaya and Sernovodsk in Urus Martan Raion and to have taken the Terskii and Bragun ridges overlooking Grozny, Interfax reported. General Gennadii Troshev, who commands the eastern sector of the Chechen front, said Russian forces have now completely encircled Gudermes but will delay an all-out assault on the town in order to keep Russian casualties to a minimum. Meanwhile Russian aviation continued to bombard Gudermes and strategic targets in and around the town of Argun, including bridges across the Argun River. LF ...AS SOLDIERS' MOTHERS SAY RUSSIAN CASUALTY FIGURES HIGHER THAN REPORTED. An organization representing women whose sons are currently serving in the Russian army said in Moscow on 2 November that some 600 Russian soldiers have been killed in action in Chechnya. That figure is four times higher than the figure of 133 cited by Chief of General Staff Colonel-General Anatolii Kvashnin, AP reported. The soldiers' mothers said officers in the North Caucasus have cited a higher death toll than has Kvashnin, estimating that 185 Defense Ministry and 120 Interior Ministry troops were killed as of 31 October. LF INGUSHETIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS RUSSIAN MILITARY OVER BORDER CLOSURE. Speaking at a press conference in Magas on 2 November, Ruslan Aushev again criticized as inhuman the Russian military's refusal to open humanitarian corridors to allow displaced persons fleeing the fighting in Chechnya to enter neighboring republics. He said he had discussed in a telephone conversation with Russian Deputy Premier Valentina Matvienko the plight of tens of thousands of Chechens trapped on the border with Ingushetia, but he did not disclose her response. On 2 November, only a handful of people were allowed through that border crossing, where at least one woman collapsed and died, Reuters reported. Aushev again offered to mediate between Moscow and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Interfax reported. General Viktor Kazantsev, who commands the Russian forces in the North Caucasus, accused the Ingush Interior Ministry of causing the chaos at the border. LF RUSSIA EXPECTING IMF TRANCHE IN DECEMBER. Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told reporters on 3 November that the next installment of Russia's IMF loan will likely be disbursed in December. The previous day, Kasyanov, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko met with John Odling-Smee, director of the IMF's second European department, to discuss Russia's compliance with new loan conditions. Commenting on Odling-Smee's senior status, "Segodnya" noted that "as a rule, the higher the rank of the IMF visitors, the greater the uncertainty over the receipt of the next tranche." According to Khristenko, fund officials "are worrying whether allocation of additional funds to finance the military operation in the North Caucasus will violate the budget's main parameters," according to Interfax. "Vedomosti" reported on 3 November that the IMF also objects to restrictions on fuel oil exports, while Reuters disclosed that the two sides differ over how to resolve the fate of the troubled SBS-Agro bank. JAC YELTSIN WARNS CLINTON OVER ABM PLANS... President Boris Yeltsin has warned his U.S. counterpart, Bill Clinton, that Washington's plans to amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty could have "extremely dangerous consequences" for the entire arms control process. In a message delivered by Russian Premier Putin in Oslo on 2 November, Yeltsin argued that "strict compliance" with the ABM Treaty and all other arms limitation accords, combined with political and diplomatic efforts at various levels, would be sufficient to counter the threats the U.S. is citing in order to "justify" its plans to set up a limited national defense system. The Russian president also stressed that the ABM Treaty affects the security interests of all countries and that therefore "consistent international efforts" are required to ensure the treaty is preserved, according to Interfax. JC ...WHILE WEST WARNS RUSSIA OVER CFE LIMITS. Javier Solana, the EU's high representative for security and foreign policy issues, said in Oslo on 2 November that Russia must comply with the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which imposes limits on the amount of heavy weapons it can deploy on its southern flanks, Reuters reported. As a result of its offensive in Chechnya, Russia's military presence now exceeds those limits. Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik commented that it is important to reach agreement on this issue "before or at" the OSCE Istanbul summit later this month, at which the revised CFE treaty is to be signed. Arriving in Oslo the previous day, Prime Minister Putin had said that Moscow intends to "restore" the CFE flank restrictions as soon as the "anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya is over." He added that Moscow will also allow international inspectors to confirm compliance with the treaty's provisions, "Vedomosti" reported on 2 November. JC MOSCOW WON'T YIELD TO PRESSURE TO HALT ARMS SUPPLIES TO IRAN. Speaking a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak following their meeting in Oslo on 2 November, Russian Premier Putin stressed that Russia does not want the "club of nuclear states" to expand. Putin was responding to Barak's statement during their meeting that Israel is concerned about Iran's bid to acquire nuclear and missile technology. While noting that Russia will continue to abide by its commitments "in the field of non-proliferation of nuclear technologies," the Russian premier said Moscow will not allow its defense contractors to be forced out of international arms markets. According to Interfax, Putin proposed easing Israeli concerns by setting up a joint committee to exchange information on cooperation with Iran. Also on 2 November, Putin met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, with whom he discussed, among other things, fighting terrorism and the Middle East peace process, ITAR-TASS reported. JC DISCORD OVER U.S. ACCESS TO RUSSIAN NUCLEAR SITES. U.S. Ambassador to Russia James Collins has canceled a visit to the closed nuclear city of Krasnoyarsk-26 after Russian authorities barred him from bringing his science adviser or visiting various U.S.-Russian projects on the site, "The New York Times" reported on 3 November. Collins had been due to preside over the opening of a U.S.-financed business center in the city. According to the daily, U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson protested the Russian move so vehemently that Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov "stormed out of the room" during a conference at Denver, Colorado, last week. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow, meanwhile, has sent a note to the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry saying that restrictions are hampering Collins's ability to oversee U.S. assistance to Krasnoyarsk-26. JC MEDIA MINISTER DECLINES TO ENFORCE ELECTION LAW. Mikhail Lesin has announced that his ministry will not take measures against mass media organizations for violating Russia's election law, "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 3 November. According to Lesin, Article 8 of the election law essentially imposes a moratorium on freedom of speech during campaign season and violates not only the law on media but also the Russian Constitution, "Vremya MN" reported on 3 November. That daily concluded that the Constitutional Court should resolve the dispute between the election commission and the ministry. The newspaper also reported that according to its sources, Lesin advised the head of TV-Center during a 2 November meeting to pull the program "Secret Materials" off the air because the show undermines social harmony. Lesin, however, denied the report, saying his ministry does not have the right to make such recommendations. JAC ANOTHER GROUP BARRED FROM ELECTIONS... The Central Election Commission on 2 November registered another five election groups: Zhirinovskii's Bloc, the interregional movement Unity (Edinstvo), Russian Cause (Russkoe Delo), the Bloc of General Andrei Nikolaev and Academician Svyatoslav Fedorov, and the controversial Savior (Spas), "Vremya MN" reported. The commission barred the National Salvation Front from registration because too many of the signatures it collected in support of its candidates were forged, according to ITAR- TASS. Eight names were struck from Unity's list, including that of television personality Arina Sharapova. A total of 172 names remain. On 3 November, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told NTV that no more than 29 election associations will participate in the State Duma elections. In the last Duma elections four years ago, 43 parties and blocs participated, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC ...AS JUSTICE MINISTRY VOWS TO FIGHT SAVIOR'S REGISTRATION. Following the Supreme Court's refusal to consider an appeal by the Justice Ministry to ban the Savior (Spas) movement, Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said on 2 November that his ministry will file suit with a Moscow court to strip the movement of its registration as an all-Russian association, Interfax reported. According to Chaika, Savior does not have the necessary number of local chapters to qualify as a nationwide movement. Chaika also said that he will ask that Russian law enforcement agencies be given additional powers "to suppress social movements and coalitions that are founded in violation of the Constitution," Mayak Radio reported. JAC SHOIGU ACCUSED OF CAMPAIGNING. The Communist Party's election headquarters has accused Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is also the head of Unity, of using his current trip to Siberia and the Far East to stump for his party in the lead- up to State Duma elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 November. According to the agency, the party has asked the Central Election Commission to render its opinion on whether Shoigu's activities violate Russian election law. The official purpose of Shoigu's trip is to check regions' readiness for winter (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 3 November 1999). The previous day State Duma Chairman (Communist) Gennadii Seleznev told reporters that although "the alliance has been registered from a formal point of view and has the right to run in elections," numerous questions still exist since the bloc's "registration has been cancelled in several regions." JAC RUBLE CONTINUES TO SLIP... The ruble fell by 1.1 percent on 2 November to 26.336 rubles to $1 from 26.07 rubles the previous day. Some currency traders told Reuters that the Central Bank had bought dollars during the morning of 2 November, contributing to downward pressure on the ruble. On 3 November, the ruble continued to its fall, losing 11 kopeks against the dollar, according to Interfax. "Kommersant-Daily" concluded earlier that the Central Bank, which had previously been propping up the ruble, has apparently decided that a new lower exchange rate is necessary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 1999). JAC ...AS LESS CURRENCY TRAVELS OFFSHORE. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 November that the average amount of hard currency purchased on Russia's foreign exchange market and then transferred to various offshore zones fell sharply during the third quarter of this year, from $1 billion to just $550 million. The same day, Aleksandr Livshits, presidential envoy to the G-7 countries, said that in the first half of 1999 there was a dramatic decrease in capital flight, Interfax reported. The amount of "gray" capital flight or money transferred to avoid taxation amounted to little more than $7.5 billion during the first half of the year, compared with about $25 billion for the whole of last year. The Russian Statistics Agency reported on 29 October that total deposits in Russian banks increased 28.7 percent as of 1 September, compared with the beginning of 1999. JAC FAR EAST ELECTRICAL WORKERS WANT TO GET PAID. More than 100 workers at Dalenergo in Vladivostok have gone on strike, the second work stoppage at the company in less than four months, "Vremya MN" reported on 2 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 1999). According to the deputy chairman of the local electrical workers union, they have only one demand--namely, that their wages be paid in full. According to the newspaper, the company owed 15.639 million rubles ($600,000) in back wages as of 29 October. The problem with unpaid wages is exacerbating an already difficult situation at the company, which has insufficient fuel reserves to get through the winter. According to ITAR-TASS on 3 November, some 40 percent of necessary coal reserves and only 20 percent of fuel oil requirements had been secured at the beginning of the heating and electricity season. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW SPEAKER. Meeting in emergency session on 2 November, deputies elected People's Party member Armen Khachatrian as parliamentary speaker, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Khachatrian formerly headed the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs. Gagik Aslanian, who is also a member of the People's Party, and Tigran Torosian of the Republican Party were elected deputy speakers. All three candidacies were endorsed by a large majority of deputies. Republican Party chairman Andranik Markarian, who had been tipped for the speaker's post, proposed all three candidacies, explaining that leaders of all factions in the parliament had decided unanimously that it is important to observe the status quo, whereby the speaker and one of his deputies are members of the People's Party and the second deputy speaker a member of the Republican Party, according to Noyan Tapan. Those two parties constitute the majority Miasnutiun parliament faction. LF KHACHATRIAN PLEDGES CONTINUITY, STABILITY. Addressing deputies prior to the vote on the three candidacies, Khachatrian vowed that "all programs that were envisaged by [the assassinated leaders] will be put into practice by all of us," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He called for a multi-partisan effort to maintain political stability and help the country recover from the aftermath of last week's murders of the prime minister and parliament speaker. President Robert Kocharian told the session that the support shown for the three candidates demonstrates that the parliament is capable of discharging its basic functions in accordance with the constitution, which in turn suggests that "democracy is becoming stronger in our country," according to Noyan Tapan. Kocharian said that within the next few days, he will name a new premier and cabinet, which, he said, should enjoy the support of the parliamentary majority. LF OSCE NOTES VIOLATIONS DURING GEORGIAN ELECTION... In its preliminary assessment, the OSCE Election Observer Mission termed the 31 October Georgian parliamentary poll "a step toward Georgia's compliance with OSCE commitments," according to Caucasus Press on 3 November, but it failed to endorse the voting as free and fair. The statement said that voters were generally able to express their will and that the elections laws provided an adequate framework for genuine multi-party elections. At the same time, it noted that local officials in several districts violated the procedures envisaged for the vote count. Conduct of the poll was termed good in Tbilisi but less than satisfactory in Samtskhe-Djavakheti and Kvemo Kartli (which have large Armenian and Azerbaijani minorities, respectively) and unsatisfactory in Adjaria. The assessment said that the "heated competition" between political parties during the run-up to the poll confirms the existence of political pluralism, but it added that the tone of the campaign "went beyond acceptable limits." The statement also noted instances of election-related violence and intimidation. LF ...AS DO INDEPENDENT MONITORS. Nugzar Ivanidze, who heads the independent Fair Elections group, told AP on 2 November that the 31 October elections "can be called multi-party but they weren't democratic." Ivanidze said that observers were barred from watching the ballot box at some polling stations and that 15,000 ballot papers vanished from one Tbilisi polling station hours before the vote began. Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili told Caucasus Press on 2 November that contrary to official preliminary returns, his party achieved the 7 percent minimum required for representation in the new parliament. Irakli Batiashvili, one of the leaders of the Industry Will Save Georgia bloc, claimed that the bloc polled 20 percent of the total party-list vote. According to official statistics, the two election subjects received 6.85 and 6.75 percent of the vote. LF GEORGIA, RUSSIA OFFER CONTRADICTORY REPORTS OF CHECHEN BORDER TALKS. The director of Georgia's Border Guards, Valerii Chkheidze, met with his Russian counterpart, Konstantin Totskii, in Moscow on 2 November to discuss the possibility of jointly protecting the border between Georgia and Chechnya. ITAR-TASS quoted Chkheidze as saying that he and Totskii agreed on the deployment of Russian border guards along that stretch of the Russian-Georgian border to prevent the infiltration of mercenaries into Chechnya from Georgian territory. But Interfax quoted Totskii as saying that Chkheidze rejected the possibility of a joint force to protect the border, which, he said, will be guarded solely by Georgian detachments. Totskii added, however, that a Russian contingent will travel to the border shortly to inspect conditions there. He said that inclement weather is likely to render that mountain sector of the border impassable within the next few weeks. LF SUSPECT IN ASSASSINATION BID EXTRADITED TO GEORGIA. Nugzar Chukhua, whom the Georgian authorities have identified as one of the 12 men who participated in the failed bid to assassinate Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze in February 1998, was extradited to Georgia from North Ossetia on 2 November. He was apprehended by Russian police on suspicion of involvement in the bomb explosion in Vladikavkaz's central market earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September and 20 October 1999). Russian investigators have established that Chukhua served as commander of a detachment of the Georgian National Guard under President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, according to Interfax. LF RUSSIA PLAYS DOWN POSSIBLE DAMAGE FROM ROCKET EXPLOSION OVER KAZAKHSTAN... Russian Deputy Premier Ilya Klebanov told journalists on 2 November that Moscow will not pressure Kazakhstan to lift the temporary ban imposed on the launch of Proton rockets from the Baikonur cosmodrome following the explosion of one such rocket shortly after blastoff on 27 October, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1999). But Klebanov added that it is unlikely that Moscow will pay compensation for the disaster, as it occurred at a high altitude over an unpopulated area and there is little risk of contamination from toxic heptyl rocket fuel. Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev had said last week that Astana will probably demand a larger sum in compensation than it had received after a similar explosion in July. On 2 November, Toqaev told reporters that last week's explosion had damaged bilateral relations, Reuters reported. LF ...AS LOCAL RESIDENTS PROTEST. The inhabitants of Aqsu village in Qaraghandy Oblast staged a demonstration on 1 November to demand the closure of the Baikonur cosmodrome, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The region was contaminated with heptyl rocket fuel following the July Proton rocket explosion. The protestors claim that toxic fuel was also spilled after last week's explosion. LF REPEAT ELECTIONS CALLED IN THREE KAZAKH CONSTITUENCIES. A member of Kazakhstan's Central Electoral Commission said on 2 November that the results of the 24 October runoff elections in three constituencies have been annulled because of unspecified violations by candidates or their supporters, Reuters reported. She added that the chief electoral officials in those districts have been dismissed. The districts in question are in the city of Atyrau and in Dzhambyl and South Kazakhstan Oblasts. Kazakhstan's election law bans the original candidates from running in the repeat elections, for which no date has been set. Meanwhile, Orleu (Progress) Party leader Seydakhmet Quttyqadam has brought a court case against Almaty City Mayor Viktor Khrapunov, whom he accuses of fraud during the 10 and 24 October parliamentary votes, RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported on 2 November. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT DENIES HAVING FOREIGN PROPERTY, BANK ACCOUNTS. Nursultan Nazarbaev told the state-owned Khabar news agency on 2 November that he neither owns property abroad nor has any foreign bank accounts, Interfax reported. The "New York Times" reported last month that Swiss investigators had discovered an account they believed was used by Nazarbaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 1999). LF TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY URGES BOYCOTT OF PRESIDENTIAL POLL... Following a meeting of the United Tajik Opposition on 2 November, the Islamic Renaissance Party, which is the senior partner in that umbrella grouping, issued a statement the next day calling for a boycott of the 6 November presidential election, AP reported. Economics and Foreign Trade Minister Davlat Usmon, who was registered as a presidential candidate of the Islamic Renaissance Party, formally requested last week that his registration be annulled as he had failed to collect the required number of signatures in his support. Usmon also demanded that the poll be postponed. ITAR-TASS on 2 November quoted Central Electoral Commission Chairman Mirzoali Boltuev as saying that ballot papers with the names of incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov and Usmon have already been sent to all electoral districts. LF ...AS EU EXPRESSES CONCERN. In a statement issued on 2 November by the German Embassy in Dushanbe, the EU expressed concern that incumbent Imomali Rakhmonov is the sole candidate for the 6 November presidential poll, AP reported. The statement said that candidates should be able to propose their candidacies "on a free and fair basis" and that "the electorate must have a choice." LF TURKMENISTAN GAS PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION DELAYED? Representatives of the U.S. company PSG, which is the operator of the planned Trans-Caspian gas export pipeline from Turkmenistan to Baku, and PSG's upstream partner, Shell, told journalists in Ashgabat on 2 November after talks with Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov that construction of the pipeline will not begin before the end of 2000 and will take two years, Interfax reported. Meeting with Niyazov the same day, Iran's Deputy Petroleum Minister Mehdi Hashemi Bahramani said Iran is prepared to import 8-11 billion cubic meters of gas annually from Turkmenistan. Iran currently receives some 2 billion cubic meters of gas via the Korpedzhe- Kurt Kui pipeline in payment for Iranian infrastructure construction. LF RUSSIA WARNS AGAINST 'POLITICIZING' PIPELINE ROUTES. In Ankara, Russia's Ambassador Aleksandr Lebedev told Interfax on 2 November that politicizing "purely commercial deals" to build pipelines to transport gas to Turkey is "ruinous," Interfax reported. The Blue Stream pipeline to export Russian natural gas to Turkey is expected to be completed by early 2001. 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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