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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 219, Part I, 10 November 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 219, Part I, 10 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 * RUSSIA HOPES FOR DECEMBER DISBURSEMENT OF IMF FUNDS * TOP KREMLIN OFFICIAL SAYS PUTIN'S TENURE NOT UP YET * TALKS ON NEW ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT DEADLOCKED? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIA HOPES FOR DECEMBER DISBURSEMENT OF IMF FUNDS... First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters on 9 November that the IMF mission currently visiting Moscow wants to complete its work on 12 November. However, mission head Gerard Berlanger told reporters the same day that his team is not yet ready to evaluate its talks with Russian officials. Khristenko predicted earlier that the second installment of the IMF's loan to Russia would be disbursed mid-December. "Kommersant-Daily" suggested on 9 November that key issues in this round of talks will be the liberalization of oil product exports and the audit of the Central Bank. Before the mission arrived, Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi declared that the fund's insistence that limits on oil product exports be removed is a non-starter because the center must ensure that regions have sufficient fuel supplies (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 10 November 1999). JAC ...AS ALLEGEDLY PRO-RUSSIA ADVOCATE SET TO LEAVE. Russian newspapers commented on the announced departure of IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus from his post at the beginning of 2000. "Segodnya" noted on 10 November that the beginning of Russian economic reforms coincided with the beginning of Camdessus era, while "Vremya MN" reported the same day that Camdessus "came into conflict with the U.S. administration over the introduction by the Group of Seven of political conditions for credits to Russia." JAC TOP KREMLIN OFFICIAL SAYS PUTIN'S TENURE NOT UP YET. Asked to comment on rumors about the possible departure of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, first deputy head of the administration Igor Shabdurasulov told Mayak Radio on 9 November that "no dismissals are under discussion." He added that such rumors are being spread "deliberately" by people "playing a very dirty game." Boris Kagarlitskii of the Institute of Comparative Political Studies told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that rumors of a rift between Putin and business magnate Boris Berezovskii may have been initiated by the Kremlin to give Putin more support since Berezovskii is so unpopular. Kagarlitskii also predicted that Putin's popularity ratings are likely to drop soon as the public begins to realize that an all-out victory in Chechnya is unlikely. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 6 November, Putin said "if you think about whether or not you will be dismissed, there will be no time left for work." JAC YAVLINSKII AGAIN CALLS FOR PEACE TALKS WITH CHECHNYA. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, who has repeatedly protested the Russian military campaign in Chechnya, issued a statement on 9 November calling for a halt to Russian bombing raids and ground operations, Interfax reported. Yavlinskii advocated beginning peace talks on the liberation of all hostages, an end to abductions, the handover to Moscow of all internationally wanted terrorists, and measures to disarm military formations that are not subordinate to the current Chechen government. Yavlinskii had argued earlier this month that the time had come to begin peace talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 1999). LF SHOIGU SAYS THERE IS NO HUMANITARIAN CATASTROPHE. Speaking in Moscow on 8 November after talks with G-7 ambassadors, Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu said Russia is capable of resolving the problems that have arisen in the North Caucasus without outside help, according to Interfax. He denied that the exodus of civilians from Chechnya constitutes a humanitarian catastrophe but said that Moscow is ready to consider offers of humanitarian aid from international organizations. LF U.S. NGO CALLS FOR EVACUATION OF CHECHEN NON-COMBATANTS. Also on 8 November, the Washington-based Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe appealed to Russian President Yeltsin and to Chechen President Maskhadov to declare the towns of Shatoi, Shali, and Goity and the villages of Starye Atagi, Nozhai-Yurt, and Benoi a safety zone or neutral zone in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. Tens of thousands of fleeing civilians from Grozny and other locations in Chechnya have taken refuge in those towns and villages. The institute also called on the international community to pressure Russia to allow the evacuation of all civilians from Grozny and other besieged towns. LF RUSSIA RESTRICTS TRAVEL TO NORTH CAUCASUS... Russian Prime Minister Putin signed a government resolution on 9 November outlining what were termed temporary measures to prevent the transport of arms and foreign mercenaries to Chechnya. Those measures include the suspension of flights between southern Russia and Georgia, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Cyprus, Qatar, and Iran; the closure of Russian border crossings with Georgia and Azerbaijan to foreigners, except those who are citizens of other CIS member states; intensified searches of shipping entering the port of Makhachkala; and a blanket ban on imports to Chechnya. LF ...DENIES REQUESTING USE OF GEORGIAN AIRSPACE. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 10 November rejecting as "groundless" claims by President Eduard Shevardnadze and other Georgian officials that Moscow asked permission to launch strikes on Chechnya from Russian bases in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 1999). LF GEORGIA RESTRICTS VISAS FOR CITIZENS OF MUSLIM COUNTRIES. Georgian Border Department commander Valerii Chkheidze told journalists in Tbilisi on 10 November that Georgia's consulates have "practically stopped" issuing entry or transit visas to citizens of 21 countries including Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Marocco, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, and Tunisia. Chkheidze said that measure is in response to repeated Russian accusations that mercenaries from those countries are entering Chechnya via Georgia. LF TURKEY EXPRESSES CONCERN AT POSSIBLE CHECHEN SPILLOVER. In a statement issued in Ankara on 10 November, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem expressed concern lest the ongoing Russian military offensive in Chechnya compound instability elsewhere in the Caucasus, Reuters reported. LF SPAS BUYS TIME... "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 November that attorneys for the Spas (Salvation) election alliance are "doing everything possible to drag out the legal process" recently initiated by the Justice Ministry, which hopes to have the group's registration for the upcoming State Duma elections invalidated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1999). The Spas bloc is headed by Aleksandr Barkashov, leader of the ultra-nationalist group Russian National Unity. The daily commented that "for Justice Ministry officials, who would like the matter resolved quickly, the tactics of their opponents were a genuine surprise." On 9 November, a Moscow court judge devoted more than four hours to hearing the claims presented by Spas attorneys. JAC ...AS OTHER MOVEMENTS' FATE HANGS IN BALANCE. The previous day, "Vremya MN" reported that the number of election movements, parties, and blocs registered to participate in the 19 December elections may decrease by election day, because a party or movement will be disqualified if more than 25 percent of its candidates are excluded from its electoral list. Three parties are already close to this level: the Union of Rightist Forces, Our Home Is Russia, and Ivan Rybkin's Socialist Party, according to the daily (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1999). Some 28 blocs and parties are currently registered to take part in the upcoming ballot. JAC ELECTION MONITORING BEGINS. The OSCE on 9 November officially began observing preparations for the upcoming State Duma elections, following the arrival in Moscow of Edward Brunner, the head of the OSCE delegation, Interfax reported. The observer mission is expected to consist of about 500 people, who will reportedly visit "every part" of Russia. According to the Foreign Ministry, the Duma elections will be observed by as many as 1,200 international monitors. JAC MOSCOWS URGES END TO 'BLOC MENTALITY' IN EUROPE. In a statement marking the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said that the anniversary is a good occasion to "think about the inadmissibility of drawing new dividing lines in Europe and reviving thinking based on bloc affiliation," ITAR-TASS and AP reported on 9 November. He urged joint efforts to deal with contemporary challenges. JC FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES PLANS TO HAND OVER KURILS. The Foreign Ministry on 9 November denied that Moscow is planning to begin handing over the Kuril Islands to Japan. A ministry spokesman was quoted by Russian agencies as saying that Moscow believes it is necessary to seek a "mutually acceptable" solution to the Kurils issue that would not be "detrimental to the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation." That statement followed a press conference earlier the same day at which Chairman of the State Duma Security Committee Viktor Ilyukhin (Communist) had announced that by 2000 President Boris Yeltsin might gradually transfer the islands to Japan. Ilyukhin claimed that Yeltsin and former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto had reached agreement on this at their informal meeting last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 1998). Ilyukhin told journalists that he has submitted to the Duma Council a draft statement "warning" the president about his "equivocal position" over the Kurils. JC RUSSIA TO SCRAP 18 NUCLEAR SUBS NEXT YEAR. Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Valerii Lebedev told the International Forum of Northern Territories in St. Petersburg on 9 November that next year Russia plans to scrap 18 nuclear submarines out of a total of 107 earmarked for dismantling. Lebedev acknowledged that existing technologies available to Russia do not permit the process of scrapping the submarines to be speeded up, but he noted that the ministry's research centers are working on a new concept for their disposal. According to Lebedev, some 500 million rubles ($19 million) in federal funds were allotted this year for dismantling the submarines but that current funding was 80 percent of that level. JC CYPRUS FOR BANKING, GREECE FOR SAFE HAVEN? Following a number of reports that well-known Russian politicians and businessmen, some with criminal ties, have Greek passports, the Greek government has ordered an inquiry into the matter, AFP reported on 9 November. Russian election commission officials discovered that both Sergei Mikhailov, whose alias in organized crime circles is allegedly "Mikhas," and Krasnoyarsk Aluminum head Anatolii Bykov have dual Greek- Russian citizenship (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 10 November 1999). Bykov was arrested by Hungarian authorities on an international warrant for money laundering and other charges. A prominent foe of Bykov, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed, also has a Greek passport and drivers' license. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 9 November, other Russian citizens with Greek passports include three members of a crime group based in Kurgan Oblast, one accused murderer, and one embezzler. JAC SUICIDES INCREASING. Six percent more Russians committed suicide during the first half of 1999 compared with the same period last year, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 9 November. According to the daily, a "suicide epidemic" began in October 1998 because of the mid-August financial crisis. One of the leading causes of suicide are workplace conflicts. The newspaper also noted that men are four times more likely than women to commit suicide. JAC BLACK GOLD EXPORTS TO SHRINK. Smaller fishing quotas in the Caspian will force Russia to slash its black caviar exports this year, Interfax reported on 9 November citing Deputy Chairman of the State Fisheries Committee Vladimir Izmailov. So far in 1999, Russia has caught less than half the amount of sturgeon compared with the previous year. Black caviar production will likely total only 100 tons this year compared with 120 tons produced only for export last year. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA TALKS ON NEW ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT DEADLOCKED? President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Aram Sargsian have agreed that the security portfolios in the new cabinet should go to career professionals with no political affiliation, but they still disagree over the future of Vahan Shirkhanian, who is minister for industrial infrastructures in the outgoing cabinet, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 9 November quoting a source close to the Armenian government. A former deputy defense minister, Shirkhanian was close to murdered Premier Vazgen Sargsian (Aram's elder brother). Kocharian reportedly opposes his being given a new cabinet post. The disagreement over Shirkhanian is reportedly delaying the announcement of the composition of the new cabinet, which is expected this week. The current ministers dealing with economic issues will remain in their posts to underscore the government's continued commitment to market reforms, the source said. LF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ALLOWS DEPUTY'S ARREST IN CONNECTION WITH SHOOTINGS. Deputies voted on 10 November to lift the immunity of independent legislator Mushegh Movsisian, who can now be charged with involvement in the 27 October shootings of Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian and seven others, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian told the parliament that the leader of the five gunmen who committed the killings implicated Movsisian, claiming that the latter began planning the murders last March. Movsisian has denied any involvement in the killings. Ten people have now been detained in connection with the murders, according to Noyan Tapan on 9 March. LF KAZAKHSTAN ROCKET LAUNCH BAN MAY AFFECT INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION. Nurlan Utembaev, who is deputy head of Kazakhstan's National Space Committee, told Reuters in Almaty on 9 November that the temporary ban on launches of Russian Proton rockets from the Baikonur cosmodrome in central Kazakhstan may delay the launch of a module that is to form part of new International space station. That launch is scheduled for December or January. Utembaev said the ban on Proton rocket launches could be lifted "fairly soon" after completion of the investigation into the explosion of a Proton rocket shortly after blastoff on 27 October. But Meirbek Moldabekov, who is director of Kazakhstan's Space Agency, said that no Proton launches will be allowed before February or March, AP reported on 9 November, citing Interfax. Also on 9 November, Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov told RFE/RL correspondents that Kazakhstan will demand substantial financial compensation from Russia for the 27 October disaster. He said that Russia receives $70-90 million for each commercial Proton rocket launch, whereas all Kazakhstan gets is ecological damage. LF KAZAKHSTAN ADOPTS NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY. President Nursultan Nazarbaev chaired a session of the National Security Council on 9 November that adopted a new national security strategy for the period until 2005, Interfax reported. That document identifies the most serious short- and long-term threats to the country in the foreign, military, economic, political, social, environmental, and information spheres. Journalists were not admitted to the session, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. LF KYRGYZ PRESIDENT NAMES NEW TOP SECURITY OFFICIAL. Askar Akaev on 9 November appointed 56-year-old Tashtemir Aitbaev as minister of national security, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. A former Kirghiz Komsomol first secretary, Aitbaev served as deputy KGB chairman and then as a Kirghiz Communist Party Central Committee secretary in the late 1980s. In that latter capacity, he expressed support for the unsuccessful August 1991 putsch. Aitbaev replaces Misir Ashirkulov, who was named on 5 November to head the presidential administration. Akaev on 9 November also named Tilekmek Meimanaliev Minister of Health Care and appointed Colonel Anarbek Shamkeev commander of the Interior Ministry forces. The previous commander resigned in September after he was taken hostage and then released by ethnic Uzbek guerrillas in southern Kyrgyzstan. LG KYRGYZSTAN DENIES THEFT OF HOSTAGES' RANSOM. An unidentified spokesman for the Kyrgyz presidential administration denied on 9 November Japanese media reports that Kyrgyz and Tajik officials embezzled part of the multi-million dollar ransom allegedly paid by the Japanese government to secure the release of four Japanese geologists taken hostage in southern Kyrgyzstan in August, ITAR-TASS reported. Japan's "Mainichi Shimbun" on 9 November had claimed that Tokyo paid $3 million under the guise of Official Development Assistance to ransom the four hostages, according to dpa. In Dushanbe, Tajikistan's Minister for Emergency Situations Mirzo Zieyev, who helped negotiate the hostages' release, told Reuters that "as a Muslim" the leader of the guerrillas who seized the hostages freed them "without asking for or receiving any money." LF TAJIK NATIONAL RECONCILIATION COMMISSION RECONVENES. The Commission for National Reconciliation convened on 9 November to discuss the work of its joint committees charged with drafting legislation on the media and the conduct of parliamentary elections scheduled for February, Asia Plus- Blitz reported. The United Tajik Opposition (UTO) had suspended its participation in the work of the commission on 18 October to protest the authorities' refusal to convene an emergency parliamentary session to debate deliberate obstruction of opposition candidates' efforts to register as candidates for the 6 November presidential poll (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). LF TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER OPTIMISITIC. UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri told journalists in Dushanbe on 9 November that although the opposition formally withdrew its boycott of the 6 November presidential poll, its members did not vote for opposition candidate Davlat Usmon because his candidacy was illegal, ITAR-TASS reported. Nuri expressed relief that the poll did not exacerbate tensions and that the Tajik leadership acceded to what he termed the opposition's "fair demands." Nuri and incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov signed a protocol on 5 November containing political guarantees related to the preparations for and conduct of the February parliamentary elections. LF ANOTHER TAJIK DEFENSE MINISTRY OFFICIAL MURDERED. A lieutenant-colonel with the Tajik Defense Ministry was shot dead in a Dushanbe suburb late on 8 November, Reuters and AP reported the following day. It was the second such murder of a military official in less than a month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 1999). LF UZBEKISTAN, CHINA SIGN LOAN AGREEMENT. China will advance an $11 million loan to Uzbekistan under the terms of a framework agreement signed during President Islam Karimov's ongoing visit to China, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 November. Meeting that day with China's Foreign Trade Minister Shi Guangshen, Karimov called for expanded cooperation in the chemical, aircraft building, and light industry sectors. The annual trade turnover between the two countries totals $830 million, which Karimov termed insufficient. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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