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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 220, Part I, 11 November 1999


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 220, Part I, 11 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

* GERMANY, NATO CALL FOR CHECHEN PEACE TALKS

* GOVERNMENT TO FINALLY CLOSE FAILING BANK

* KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT SLAMS OSCE
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RUSSIA

GERMANY, NATO CALL FOR CHECHEN PEACE TALKS. In a joint
statement released in Berlin on 10 November, German Foreign
Minister Joschka Fischer and NATO Secretary-General George
Robertson appealed to Moscow to cease hostilities in
Chechnya, saying "there must be a political solution" to the
conflict, Reuters and AP reported. But Russian Minister for
Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu told students in Stavropol
the same day that the offensive must not be stopped, implying
that he shares the Russian military's apprehension that the
country's civilian leadership will opt for peace talks and
leave the war unfinished, according to Interfax. Former
Nationalities Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov similarly told
Ekho Moskvy on 10 November that "we must not abuse the
patience of the military," and he condemned as pointless
Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii's demand that Moscow
embark on peace talks with President Aslan Maskhadov, Reuters
reported. LF

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES MILITARY VIOLATES GENEVA
CONVENTION. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir
Rakhmanin told journalists in Moscow on 10 November that U.S.
accusations that the Russian military is violating the Geneva
Convention by using excessive force against civilians in
Chechnya are misplaced and based on disinformation spread by
"sources that turned Chechnya into a zone of terrorism,"
Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 1999).
Rakhmanin said the Russian military selects its targets with
a view to keeping civilian casualties to a minimum. LF

OSCE DELEGATION TRAVELS TO INGUSHETIA. An OSCE delegation
headed by Norwegian diplomat Kim Traavik traveled to
Ingushetia on 10 November to examine two camps for displaced
persons who fled the fighting in Chechnya. While noting that
"much has been done," to assist those persons, Traavik
assessed conditions in the camps as "very serious," noting
that more shelters, food, clothing, and medications are
needed. Speaking in Moscow the same day, Ingushetia's
President Ruslan Aushev said another 2,500 displaced persons
crossed the border into Ingushetia the previous day, raising
the total number registered there to 184,430, Interfax
reported. LF

GOVERNMENT TO FINALLY CLOSE FAILING BANK. Despite an earlier
7.5 billion ruble ($286 million) bailout to keep the failing
SBS-Agro Bank afloat, Agency for Reconstruction Credit
Organization (ARKO) head Aleksandr Turbanov announced on 9
November that the bank will be liquidated, "Vremya MN"
reported the next day. In a process that could take five
years, ARKO officials plan to transfer the bank's credit
portfolio to Rosselkhozbank and the Russian Development Bank,
neither of which has yet been established. A representative
of one of the SBS-Agro's creditors has accused ARKO of
"conscious participation" in asset-stripping, according to
"The Moscow Times" the same day. However, ARKO officials say
that they have not had enough time to check the bank's
finances thoroughly enough to determine whether asset-
stripping has occurred. "Novaya gazeta" (No. 41) reported
that it would be possible to locate the bank's assets in
offshore zones, but no one in the government is interested in
pursuing the matter. JAC

MORE RUSSIAN OFFICIALS MOURN CAMDESSUS'S DEPARTURE...
Commenting on the plans of IMF Managing Director Michel
Camdessus to resign at the beginning of next year, Mikhail
Zadornov, former presidential envoy to the international
financial institutions, said on 10 November that "it's
unquestionably bad news for Russia," according to ITAR-TASS.
He added that "Camdessus dealt with Russia for a long time
and was personally involved in those relations and, for that
matter, had certain personal obligations to Russia." First
Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said that while
Camdessus "played a positive role, that of guarantor of our
relations with the IMF," his resignation "will not bring
about any changes in relations between Russia and the IMF"
(see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 1999).
"Komsomolskaya pravda" commented that Camdessus was "a
socialist" who "understood the essence of changes in the
Soviet Union." JAC

...AS EES, SBERBANK RESIST FUND PLANS. Tax Minister Aleksandr
Pochinok told reporters on 10 November that members of the
IMF mission currently in Moscow have requested that the
ministry supply data on Gazprom's tax payments to the budget,
according to ITAR-TASS. The IMF also expressed interest in
Tatneft, which is reportedly now behind in its payments to
the budget. According to Interfax, the government, Central
Bank, and IMF mission are working out terms of reference for
a financial audit of Sberbank that will be carried out by
PricewaterhouseCoopers. However, Sberbank head Andre Kazmin
has said that his bank "cannot release information about our
clients because the IMF and World Bank do not intend to keep
it confidential," "Vedomosti" reported. According to that
daily, Unified Energy Systems (EES) head Anatolii Chubais is
also resisting the fund and World Bank's request that EES
privatize five of its regional companies. JAC

MEDIA-MOST, KREMLIN TRADE ACCUSATIONS. The press service of
Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most company released a statement
on 10 November accusing presidential chief of staff Aleksandr
Voloshin of "engaging in extorting money for electoral
expenses from large Russian financial and industrial
organizations, notably Sberbank" and of trying to cut off NTV
broadcasts. The statement added that information broadcast on
state-controlled Russian Public Television about Media Most's
outstanding debts to Sberbank is inaccurate and that the
company has paid all loans that matured this year. Media-Most
controls NTV, Ekho Moskvy, "Segodnya," and other newspapers.
The Kremlin responded the same day that the presidential
headquarters is not a party to the litigation pending between
Media-Most and Vneshekonombank and "attempts at involving it
in a scandal are doomed." Also on 10 November, a federal
court ruled that another hearing must be held before Media-
Most's assets are seized in its dispute with Vneshekonombank
over a $42.2 million debt. JAC

U.S. DENIES IT POSTPONED ABM TALKS... U.S. State Department
spokesman James Rubin on 10 November denied that Washington
has asked to postpone talks with Russia on the Anti-Ballistic
Missile and START treaties. That denial came after Deputy
Foreign Minister Sergei Ordzhonikidze was quoted by Russian
news agencies as saying that discussions scheduled for 16
November have been cancelled at Washington's request.
According to Ordzhonikidze, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
Strobe Talbott and First Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr
Avdeev were to have met that day, but Reuters quoted an
unidentified State Department official as saying the two men
never had "firm plans" to meet in Moscow on that date.
Ordzhonikidze also took the opportunity to slam Washington's
possible plans to set up a limited national defense system.
"If the U.S. leaves the ABM Treaty," he said, Russia will not
"copy the U.S.'s steps but will take asymmetric measures,"
according to ITAR-TASS. JC

...WHILE MOSCOW REBUKES U.S. FOR VOTING AGAINST UN
RESOLUTION. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Rakhmanin on
10 November slammed the U.S. for voting against a draft UN
resolution stressing the importance of preserving the ABM
treaty. "We would not like to interpret the fact that the
U.S. has voted against this resolution as evidence that the
U.S. is not ready to reaffirm its adherence to the ABM
treaty," Interfax quoted him as saying. Rakhmanin stressed
that Moscow is prepared to continue cooperating with the U.S.
in the security sphere, including those areas covered by ABM,
"but only on condition that the ABM treaty remains in effect
and is strictly complied with." JC

U.S. KEEPS UP PRESSURE ON RUSSIAN COMPANIES COOPERATING WITH
IRAN. Washington has announced it will continue to impose
sanctions on 10 Russian research centers and companies that
are assisting Iran with nuclear and missile technology, AFP
reported on 10 November. In a report to the Congress, the
White House noted that "despite the Russian government's non-
proliferation and export control efforts, some Russian
entities continued to cooperate with Iran's ballistic missile
program and to engage in nuclear cooperation." Washington
blacklisted seven Russian companies in summer 1998 and added
another three to the list early this year (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 28 July 1998 and 13 January 1999). JC

PRE-ELECTION BONUS PREPARED FOR PENSIONERS. The Russian
government announced on 9 November January's pension payments
will be made one month early and, starting in February 2000,
pensions will be indexed. In addition, certain categories of
pensioners, Heroes of the Soviet Union, Heroes of Russia, and
recipients of the Order of Glory will start receiving monies
in addition to their regular pensions, ITAR-TASS reported.
According to the agency, pensions will be paid early in order
to avoid any computer problems associated with the transition
to the new year. JAC

POLICE ACCUSED OF SYSTEMATIC TORTURE. Human Rights Watch
issued a report on 10 November alleging that police in Russia
routinely torture criminal suspects to extract confessions
that in most cases ensure a conviction. At the same time,
Diederik Lohman, author of the report, said his group has
been unable to find a single case of a judge throwing a
confession out of court because it was coerced, according to
AP. Research for the report was conducted over two years and
is based on the testimony of more than 50 torture victims in
Arkhangelsk, Nizhnii Novgorod, Irkutsk, Yekaterinburg, and
Moscow as well as interviews with lawyers, former police
officers, prosecutors, and judges, according to Interfax.
Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth told reporters that
"the problem is not one or two bad officers," adding that
police torture is "epidemic in Russia today." JAC

PUTIN WANTS TO GET TOUGH ON ECONOMIC CRIMES. Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin has outlined the top three priority tasks for
the Interior Ministry and other law enforcement agencies:
reducing the shadow sector of the economy, combating capital
flight, and preventing criminal groups from entering the
government, "Vedomosti" reported on 10 November. Commenting
on Putin's policy directive, Arkadii Dyurkovich, chairman of
the Finance Ministry's Economic Expert Commission, told the
daily that the danger exists that "the state will start
fighting relatively legal capital outflow by force, while
only economic methods are effective against such semi-legal
capital exports" that are seeking primarily a less hostile
tax environment. At a meeting with Interior Ministry
officials on 9 November, Putin declared that if no resolute
measures are taken soon, Russia will have a market economy
governed by criminals. "To solve the problem, all types of
crime must be combated and the regulating role of the state
in the economy must be increased," according to Interfax. JAC

GOVERNOR SLAMS LUZHKOV PARTY. Kaliningrad Governor Leonid
Gorbenko told reporters on 10 November that he found
Fatherland "to be a conglomerate of all kinds of criminal
groups. I approached [Moscow Mayor] Yurii Luzhkov and said
this was wrong and that something should be done about it,"
according to Radio Mayak. Gorbenko, who recently switched
from the Fatherland-All Russia alliance to the pro-Kremlin
movement Unity, is one of the first regional leaders to offer
an explanation for his action (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21
October 1999). JAC

SMOKE GETS IN THEIR SPIES? The headquarters of the Federal
Security Service (FSB) caught fire on 11 November and was put
out some two hours later. According to Reuters, the fire
damaged several rooms in headquarters in which the FSB's
predecessor organization, the KGB, operated interrogation and
execution cells. An FSB spokesman said that the fire might
have been caused by a short circuit or an overheated
electrical device, according to Interfax. JAC

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION SAYS NEW DRAFT MEDIA LAW UNDEMOCRATIC.
Meeting on 10 November at the Baku Press Club,
representatives of the opposition Democratic Bloc of
parliamentary deputies expressed concern that the
parliamentary majority ignored most proposed amendments to
the draft law on the mass media that is soon to be considered
in the third reading, Turan reported. They termed the law as
a whole undemocratic and incommensurate with the concept of
freedom of speech. Specifically, they argued that the
proposed issuing of licenses to media outlets constitutes a
form of censorship and that political parties should not be
eligible to establish electronic media. They also objected to
the provision that empowers courts to close down media
outlets for three months. LF

AZERABIAJNI POLITICAL PARTIES SIGN NEW STATEMENT ON KARABAKH.
Eighteen opposition parties signed a joint statement in Baku
on 10 November detailing measures they consider the country's
leadership should take with regard to the unresolved Karabakh
conflict, Turan reported. Those measures include insisting
that Armenia comply with four 1993 UN Security Council
resolutions demanding the immediate withdrawal of Armenian
forces from occupied Azerbaijani territory. They also want
Yerevan to pay compensation for material damage. The
statement goes on to demand that the financing and
professionalism of the Azerbaijani armed forces be improved.
Also on 10 November, the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan, which
did not sign the joint statement, issued a separate statement
calling for a political solution to the Karabakh conflict,
Turan reported. But it added that such a solution should not
be "defeatist" and must not infringe on the country's
territorial integrity. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CALLS FOR GREATER OSCE EFFORT TO
RESOLVE KARABAKH CONFLICT. Meeting on 9 November in Baku with
the new French co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, Jean-
Jacques Gaillard, Heidar Aliev again accused that body of
"inactivity." He added that his ongoing talks with his
Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, do not absolve the
OSCE of responsibility for trying to resolve the Karabakh
conflict, Turan reported. Aliev had made similar criticism
during the September visit to the South Caucasus of OSCE
Chairman in Office Knut Vollebaek (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20
September 1999). LF

AZERBAIJAN DENIES IT WILL HOST CHECHEN FIGHTERS...
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Kuliev on 10 November
rejected as "deliberate disinformation" a Russian Defense
Ministry statement issued earlier that day claiming that
Chechen fighters plan to relocate the bulk of their forces to
Azerbaijan, Turan reported. Presidential Administration
official Novruz Mamedov similarly termed that report
"absurd," noting that it would be logistically impossible for
the Chechens to relocate in such a way. The Russian statement
said the Chechens have received permission from Baku to set
up camps in Azerbaijan in return for an undertaking to assist
Azerbaijan in a new war in Karabakh. It also claimed that the
Chechens are considering moving to Turkey. LF

...WHILE GEORGIA SAYS IT WILL NOT TAKE IN CHECHEN GOVERNMENT
IN EXILE. Also on 10 November, the Georgian Foreign Ministry
officially denied the Russian Defense Ministry claim, which
was made in the same statement, that Tbilisi will permit the
presence on its territory of some Chechen militants and a
Chechen government in exile headed by President Aslan
Maskhadov, Caucasus Press reported. Parliamentary speaker
Zurab Zhvania and Defense Minister David Tevzadze both told
journalists in Tbilisi that neither they nor any other
Georgian officials have ever held talks on the subject with
Chechen officials, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

TWO GEORGIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES AGAIN CLAIM ELECTION OUTCOME
FALSIFIED. Labor Party Chairman Shalva Natelashvili told
journalists in Tbilisi on 10 November that he has appealed to
the Georgian Supreme Court to rule on the validity of the 31
October parliamentary election results, Caucasus Press
reported. Natelashvili claims that the Union of Citizens of
Georgia, which according to official returns won an absolute
majority, "appropriated" 300,000 votes cast for his party.
Natelashvili says the Labor Party polled at least 15 percent
of the vote, while Central Electoral Commission figures
indicate it failed to surmount the 7 percent minimum required
for parliamentary representation. The National Democratic
Party of Georgia on 10 November similarly refused to accept
the official outcome of the vote. It added that while it does
not consider falsifications by both the Union of Citizens of
Georgia and, in Adjaria, by the Union for Democratic Revival
to be the primary cause of the party's failure to gain
representation in the new parliament, those infringements
nonetheless mirror "the anarchy reigning in the country,"
according to Caucasus Press. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S NEW GOVERNMENT SWORN IN. Speaking at the 10
November ceremony in Astana at which the new cabinet was
sworn in, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev said the
government's primary tasks are ensuring balanced economic
development and expediting the reform process, RFE/RL's
correspondent in the capital reported. Nazarbaev stressed
that no overspending of the budget will be tolerated, adding
that "unnecessary expenditures" by the presidential
administration and government should be cut. He said foreign
investment should be increased, but he noted this should be
done by encouraging "solid investors" rather than "dark
horses," according to Interfax. Nazarbaev described the
struggle against corruption and crime as a further key task.
He urged the government "to work as a single team" in a
spirit of discipline and mutual understanding. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT SLAMS OSCE... Speaking to journalists
in Astana after the 10 November ceremony, President Nazarbaev
accused the OSCE of indifference to developments in
Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and the North Caucasus, RFE/RL's
Astana bureau reported. (Afghanistan is not an OSCE member.)
Nazarbaev suggested that the OSCE is not needed if it "does
not care about Asian states." Nazarbaev has long been
lobbying for the creation of an Asian equivalent of the OSCE,
and two months ago it hosted a conference to discuss that
project (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1999). Nazarbaev
again rejected the OSCE's criticism of Kazakhstan's recent
parliamentary elections, noting that up to eight candidates
contested each mandate. He said the poll constituted a
difficult but real step toward democratization, adding that
he considers Kazakhstan "the most democratic country in
Central Asia." Nazarbaev said the use of "double standards"
by any organization is "unacceptable." LF

...WHILE OSCE OFFICIAL REJECTS NAZARBAEV'S CRITICISM. Ulrich
Schoening, who heads the OCSE mission in Kazakhstan, told the
TV station 31 Channel on 11 November that he considers
Nazarbaev's accusation that the OSCE is guilty of double
standards unfounded, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported.
Schoening affirmed the OSCE's readiness to continue
cooperating with Kazakhstan, adding that he hopes Kazakhstan
will not become the first country to leave the organization
voluntarily. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY WANTS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING ON
ELECTION LAW. A spokesman for the Ar-Namys party told
RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 10 November that the party has
asked the Constitutional Court to rule on inconsistencies
between the country's constitution and the Election Code
adopted last year. The Election Code stipulates that only
political parties registered with the Ministry of Justice at
least one year before parliamentary elections may participate
in the poll. The constitution does not contain any such
restriction. President Askar Akaev suggested in June that the
minimum interval between registration and qualifying for
participation in elections should be reduced to six months
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 1999). The Ar-Namys party was
founded in July by former Bishkek Mayor Feliks Kulov and
registered one month later (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August
1999). The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for
February 2000. LF

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