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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 221, Part I, 12 November 1999


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 221, Part I, 12 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

* PUTIN SAYS RUSSIAN FORCES CONSOLIDATING CONTROL OF GUDERMES

* ELECTION COMMISSION TO CONTINUE EFFORT TO REIN IN PRESS

* ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS SUPPORT OVER CABINET STANDOFF
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RUSSIA

PUTIN SAYS RUSSIAN FORCES CONSOLIDATING CONTROL OF GUDERMES.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on 12 November that the
Russian flag is now flying over Gudermes, the second-largest
town in Chechnya. Federal forces launched an all-out attack
on the town early that day after a two-week siege. It is
unclear whether Chechen fighters sought to defend the town or
withdrew. There have been reports of disaffection among the
town's population, and Interfax on 11 November reported that
Lieutenant-General Gennadii Troshev, who commands the Russian
forces' eastern front, was holding talks with the town's
elders (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 45, 11
November 1999). Meanwhile the village of Bamut, southwest of
Grozny, has been subjected to repeated intensive air and
artillery strikes in the last few days, but Russian Defense
Ministry spokesmen on 11 November declined to confirm that it
has fallen to Russian forces. LF

SERGEEV SAYS WAR MAY END THIS YEAR. Speaking in Moscow on 11
November, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said there is a
chance that the war in Chechnya may be over by the end of
this year, Interfax reported. Sergeev rejected Rusian media
reports of serious disagreements within the Russian military
over tactics in Chechnya. The first deputy chief of the
presidential administration, Igor Shabdurasulov, similarly
told a press conference at Interfax's head office on 11
November that there are no differences over Chechnya between
the presidential administration, the government, and the
power ministers. But Shabdurasulov did admit that Russian
forces in Chechnya have made occasional "mistakes," for
which, Shabdurasulov said, "we bear moral responsibility." A
representative of the pro-Moscow Chechen community, Dzhabrail
Gakaev, told the same press conference that he has evidence
of accidental Russian bombing of fleeing Chechen civilians.
LF

RUSSIAN CIVILIAN LEADERSHIP STATE TERMS FOR CHECHEN TALKS...
Shabdurasulov said at his 11 November press conference at
Interfax that Moscow will negotiate a political settlement in
Chechnya on two conditions: that Chechnya remains part of the
Russian Federation and complies with its laws. He said that
the Russian leadership has always maintained that the Chechen
crisis cannot be resolved solely by the use of force, but he
added that Russia has been compelled to resort to military
means by "Chechen militants and international terrorist
organizations." Shabdurasulov added that there is no point in
holding talks with "warlords" Shamil Basaev and Khattab, or
with Aslan Maskhadov as the Chechen president does not
control the situation in Chechnya. He referred to Maskhadov,
however, as the "legitimate president" of Chechnya. In early
October, Russian officials had denied that Maskhadov was the
legitimate president. Shabdurasulov called for the
"consolidation" of the Chechen people as a precondition for
their search for a solution to the present situation. LF

...AS DOES MILITARY. First Deputy Chief of the Russian
General Staff Colonel-General Valerii Manilov said in Moscow
on 11 November that the Russian military is ready to
participate in peace talks with "constructive forces that are
capable of bringing Chechnya back into the democratic world,"
Interfax reported. Manilov also denied that the Russian
military plans to storm Bamut (see above), adding that
control over the village will be secured by "modern remote
control means aimed at eliminating the bandits." He did not
elaborate. LF

OSCE CHAIRMAN SAYS MOSCOW REJECTED OFFER OF MEDIATION. OSCE
Chairman in Office Knut Vollebaek said in Helsinki on 12
November that Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov rejected
an offer of OSCE assistance in resolving the Chechen
conflict, Reuters reported. Vollebaek quoted Ivanov as
saying that "he does not see a political role for the OSCE at
this stage." Speaking in Moscow the previous day, OSCE
official Kim Traavik again called for "serious measures" to
assist Chechen displaced persons in camps in Ingushetia. LF

CHECHEN DEPUTY PREMIER DENIES PLANS FOR GOVERNMENT, ARMY IN
EXILE. The Chechen leadership has no plans to leave Grozny
and form a government in exile, Kazbek Makhashev told
Caucasus Press on 11 November. The Russian Defense Ministry
had released a statement the previous day claiming that the
Chechen leadership is planning to set up a government in
exile headed by President Aslan Maskhadov in Georgia and to
move its armed formations to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani and
Georgian officials have rejected the Russian claims (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 1999). LF

ELECTION COMMISSION TO CONTINUE EFFORT TO REIN IN PRESS... At
a meeting with radio and television executives on 11
November, Central Election Commission Aleksandr Veshnyakov
said he will submit to the State Duma amendments to the
election law that would severely limit journalists' coverage
of candidates and parties, "The Moscow Times" reported the
next day. According to the daily, Veshnyakov said that voters
would be provided with sufficient information about
candidates via a special issue of the government newspaper,
"Rossiiskaya gazeta." Among other things, that issue would
contain information on property owned by all candidates.
Media Minister Mikhail Lesin indicated earlier that he had
found that even in its current version, the election law
contradicts the constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 3
November 1999). JAC.

...WHILE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT MAY BE DRAWN INTO DISPUTE.
However, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 November that
Veshnyakov and Media Minister Lesin have reportedly agreed on
a method for resolving disputes between the two bodies in
instances where the former tries to prevent the press from
violating the election law. According to the daily, the
commission will refer all violations by the media to the
ministry, and if the ministry agrees violations have been
committed, it will sanction the media outlet. If it does not,
the commission may then appeal to the Constitutional Court.
Veshnyakov said that applying the mechanism in practice will
not be simple since little time remains before the Duma
elections on 19 December. JAC

GOVERNMENT OUTLINES FOREIGN BORROWING PROGRAM... Finance
Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 11 November announced that the
government has approved a plan for foreign borrowings
totaling about $5.9 billion, according to Interfax. He added
that Russia does not plan to issue any more Eurobonds before
2001 and that if the government is short of money to repay
foreign debts in December, it will borrow from domestic
resources. The next round of talks between the Russian
government and its London Club creditors is planned for 16
November, while a meeting with the Paris Club creditors is to
take place before the end of the year. JAC

...AS ECONOMISTS COMMENT ON DEBT-SERVICING PROSPECTS. In an
interview with "Vek" last month, economist Andrei Illarionov
said that it is a myth that Russia does not have enough money
to pay its foreign debts. Russia's foreign debt repayments
this year will amount to only 9.6 percent of GDP, compared
with 88.4 percent in Brazil and 33.4 percent in Canada. He
added that this year's positive trade balance of $30 billion
gives the country at least $20 billion to spend on servicing
foreign debts. With regard to next year, former First Deputy
Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin said on 3 November that Russia
can theoretically pay its foreign debt in 2000 without
borrowing more on international markets. However, he added,
this would deplete the Central Bank's gold and foreign
currency reserves and dramatically increase the money supply,
causing the country's financial situation to deteriorate,
according to Interfax. JAC

IVANOV SAYS MOSCOW TO PUSH FOR REVISED CFE TREATY. Speaking
in Helsinki on 11 November, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov
told reporters that Moscow "will do all" it can to ensure
that a new treaty on controlling conventional forces in
Europe is ready by the 19 November OSCE summit in Istanbul,
according to Reuters. Ivanov was quoted as saying that the
treaty is "important for the future security of Europe and
Russia." Meanwhile, an RFE/RL correspondent in Vienna
reported on 11 November that diplomats negotiating the
revised CFE treaty have failed to meet a deadline for
completing that document. Unnamed officials in Vienna told
RFE/RL that the main problem continues to be the Russian
offensive in Chechyna. They said that Russia has "shown no
willingness to meet the treaty demands now, arguing that it
will do so when the Chechnya conflict ends." Moscow currently
has more forces in the region than is allowed under the
treaty. JC

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPEALS TO U.S. SENATE OVER TEST BAN, ABM.
The upper house of the Russian parliament on 11 November
adopted an appeal to the U.S. Senate expressing "concern"
that the latter body failed to ratify the Comprehensive
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, thereby posing a threat to the
"world process of nuclear non-proliferation," Russian
agencies reported. The Federation Council also urged U.S.
Senators to thwart any attempts to "disrupt" the 1972 Anti-
Ballistic Missile Treaty. Revising the basic provisions of
that treaty, Council members argued, will "inevitably bring
back the Cold War times and threaten the entire system of
international nuclear arms control agreements." Also on 11
November, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir
Rakhmanin announced that the next round of Russian-U.S.
disarmament talks at expert level is likely to begin in two
or three weeks. That announcement follows a Russian claim
that the U.S. requested to postpone talks allegedly scheduled
for next week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 1999). JC

KVASHNIN DECLINES TO GO TO BRUSSELS. Chief of the General
Staff of the Armed Forces Anatolii Kvashnin has refused an
invitation to attend a semi-annual meeting at NATO
headquarters of the chiefs of staff of the alliance and
partner states, Reuters reported on 11 November. A NATO
official said Kvashnin gave no reason for his refusal. The
news agency cited diplomatic sources as remarking that
Kvashnin's move shows that the Russians "are simply not
interested at this time" in resuming a dialogue aimed at
bringing Russia into the "European security family." JC

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CONSIDERS SKURATOV CASE... The
Constitutional Court on 11 November opened hearings on the
case of suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov. A final
decision on whether President Yeltsin has the right to
suspend Skuratov without first consulting with the Federation
Council is not expected for several days, according to "Trud"
on 12 November. Legal experts do not expect the court to pass
a resolution vesting the upper legislative chamber with the
sole power to suspend the prosecutor-general, ITAR-TASS
reported. They believe that the court will decide either that
both the president and the Federation Council have the power
to order the prosecutor-general's suspension or that the
president's earlier decree regarding Skuratov does not
infringe on the competence of the court and therefore is not
an issue that the court should consider. JAC

...RULES ON DUMA DISSOLUTION. Also on 11 November, the court
ruled that if the president decides to dissolve the Duma, the
lower house's mandate expires as soon as a dissolution decree
is signed, ITAR-TASS reported. The court was responding to an
enquiry filed in February, by some Duma deputies who posited
that the powers of the lower legislative body expire only
when a newly elected Duma assumes office. JAC

POLICE UNCOVER MORE CASES OF BRIBERY. Moscow city police
investigated 17 percent more cases of bribery among city
officials in the first half of 1999, compared with the same
period last year, according to ITAR-TASS on 11 November.
According to the agency, the number of people convicted for
abusing their official position increased two-fold. Last
month, Transparency International, a corruption watchdog
organization, released its new corruption perceptions index,
in which Russia ranked 82 out of a possible 99. Denmark
ranked number one, indicating that it has the lowest level of
perceived corruption (see
http://www.transparency.de/documents/cpi/index.html). JAC

CHERKESS, ABAZINS PRESS DEMAND FOR SEPARATE AUTONOMOUS
FORMATION. Leaders of the Cherkess and Abazin minorities,
which together account for only some 15 percent of the
population of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, have
drafted a legal document providing for the separation of
Cherkessia from that republic and its upgrading to the status
of a separate autonomous formation, Caucasus Press reported
on 11 November, quoting Cherkess activist Boris Akbashev. The
Cherkess and Abazins rejected the compromise agreement
concluded last month between the republic's President
Vladimir Semenov and defeated Cherkess presidential candidate
Stanislav Derev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 1999).
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Putin has formed a government
commission, which is headed by his first deputy, Nikolai
Aksenenko, to take measures to stabilize the situation in the
Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, according to "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" on 11 November. LF

GAS SHORTAGE HITS RESIDENTS, TROOPS IN MURMANSK. Some 30,000
families in Murmansk Oblast are unable to use their gas
stoves after the northern region failed to receive a shipment
of liquefied gas, ITAR-TASS and "The Moscow Times" reported
on 11 and 12 November, respectively. Deputy Governor Valentin
Luntsevich pointed out that as temperatures continue to sink,
those families may be deprived not just of hot meals but of
heating, too, since some people light their stoves to make up
for inadequate heating systems. "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
reported on 11 November that barracks of the Northern Fleet
are also affected by the gas shortage in the region. Local
officials blame the shortfall on the fact that gas producers
earn significantly more by exporting abroad. Meanwhile,
shipments are reported to be on their way to Murmansk but
are sufficient only to alleviate the situation for several
days. JC

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS SUPPORT OVER CABINET STANDOFF. In an
attempt to resolve the ongoing dispute over the composition
of the new cabinet, Robert Kocharian met on 10-11 November
with political parties, including the Miasnutyun majority
parliamentary faction, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 1999). Kocharian reportedly
received the unequivocal backing of only the nationalist
Right and Accord Bloc and the center-right Orinats Yerkir
party. Other parties, including the Armenian Revolutionary
Federation-Dashnaktsutyun, which had backed Kocharian's 1998
presidential bid, called for compromises by both Kocharian
and newly appointed Prime Minister Aram Sargsian. LF

ARMENIAN PREMIER PROMISES CONTINUITY. Meeting on 10 November
with the heads of parliamentary committees and factions,
Sargsian pledged to continue the programs and policies of his
murdered brother and predecessor, Vazgen, Noyan Tapan
reported. He said those policies are "of vital importance"
for Armenia's future. In particular, Sargsian undertook to
abide by the agreements his brother reached in late September
with the IMF. He also ruled out tax increases in the next
four years, saying he will simplify the tax system. Sargsian
noted the "stabilizing" role played by the military
immediately following the 27 October parliament killings but
added that political institutions must be strong enough to
prevent the army from assuming a political role. He also
noted the need for a state security concept, the lack of
which, he said, had facilitated the parliament shootings. LF

PROMINENT ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR NEW ELECTIONS.
National Democratic Union chairman Vazgen Manukian told
journalists in Yerevan on 11 November that he believes new
presidential and parliamentary elections should be held as
soon as the political situation has stabilized in the wake of
the 27 October shootings. He argued that those elections are
necessary to restore legitimacy to the country's leadership,
RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. While describing Aram
Sargsian as "a clever and balanced person," Manukian added
that those characteristics are not enough to qualify him for
the position of premier and that he considers Sargsian's
appointment to that post unwise. LF

MORE AZERBAIJANI GROUPS WARN AGAINST SIGNING KARABAKH PEACE
AGREEMENT... Former residents of Shusha, which was the
largest Azerbaijani-inhabited town in Nagorno-Karabakh until
the Azerbaijani population fled in May 1992, have issued a
statement affirming that "a fair struggle is better than an
infamous peace" and vowing to fight "those who are ready to
yield even an inch of Azerbaijani land to the aggressors,"
Turan reported on 11 November. The statement expressed
concern at the Azerbaijani authorities' refusal to make
public details of the Karabakh peace process. The same day,
Turan also quoted National Statehood Party leader Nemat
Panahov as predicting that the present Azerbaijani leadership
might be overthrown if it signs a Karabakh peace agreement
that violates national interests. LF

...WHILE AZERBAIJANI LEADERSHIP SAYS NO SUCH AGREEMENT
IMMINENT. Meeting on 10 November with a group of Azerbaijani
writers, President Heidar Aliev said no formal Karabakh peace
agreement will be signed at the upcoming OSCE Istanbul
summit, but "only a joint declaration on common principles"
of a settlement, Turan reported on 11 November. Foreign
Minister Vilayat Kuliev has also denied that Aliev and his
Armenian counterpart, Kocharian, will sign a "serious"
document in Istanbul, the independent daily "Azadlyg"
reported on 11 November. LF

GEORGIAN TRADE UNIONS ANNOUNCE PLANS FOR LARGE-SCALE
PROTESTS. Irakli Tughushi, chairman of Georgia's United Trade
Unions, told journalists in Tbilisi on 11 November that his
members are planning large-scale actions to protest the
chronic non-payment of pensions and wages to state employees,
Caucasus Press reported. Tughushi said that wage arrears
totals 127 million lari (approximately $65 million) and
pensions arrears 88 million lari. The Georgian leadership had
received in August a $32.5 million IMF loan tranche to pay
off at least part of the backlog prior to the 31 October
parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol.
2, No. 35, 2 September 1999). Also on 11 November, the
newspaper "Alia" reported that more than 100 teachers at
technical colleges plan a strike and a picket of the Ministry
of Finance to demand that the Ministry of Education pay their
salaries for the past eight to 10 months. LF

GEORGIAN ECONOMY MINISTRY DRAFTS ANTI-CORRUPTION PROGRAM. In
response to President Eduard Shevardnadze's call for a
radical effort to stamp out corruption (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 5 November 1999), Georgia's Economy Ministry has
drawn up a two-year program of measures to target the shadow
economy, Caucasus Press reported on 12 November. Those
measures include improved legislation, regulation of fiscal
policy, expediting privatization, and the creation of a
network of regional groups to target corruption. LF

KAZAKH, ROMANIAN PRESIDENTS ASSESS BILATERAL RELATIONS.
Nursultan Nazarbaev met with his visiting Romanian
counterpart Emil Constantinescu in Astana on 11 November,
Interfax reported. Speaking at a press conference after those
talks, Nazarbaev noted with satisfaction a "quantum leap" in
bilateral relations since his visit to Romania in September
1998, RFE/RL's bureau in the capital reported. In that time,
Nazarbaev noted, trade turnover between the two countries
rose from zero to $30 million. Nazarbaev pledged to revive
traditional economic partnership with East European countries
founded in socialist era. The two presidents focused on the
options available for increasing the transportation of
Kazakh oil to Romanian refineries at Constanza, according to
Asia Plus Blitz, citing Nazarbaev's press service. Those
options include the Caspian Pipeline from Tengiz to
Novorossiisk and by tanker via the Volga-Don canal and the
Black Sea. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEBATES FOREIGN DEBT BURDEN. Urkalyi Isaev,
who is chairman of the State Committee on Foreign Investment,
told the lower house of Kyrgyzstan's parliament on 10
November that the country's foreign debt currently totals
$1.37 billion, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Isaev
admitted that some loans received in the early 1990s were
stolen and others totaling $379 million were agreed at a very
high interest rate. Last month, ITAR-TASS quoted the Kyrgyz
Finance Ministry as saying that in 2000 the country must
repay $83.6 million, of which $30 million is owed to Russia
and Turkey. LF

JAILED OPPOSITION SUPPORTERS RELEASED IN TAJIKISTAN. The
Tajik authorities on 10 November released 18 supporters of
the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) who had been imprisoned for
their role in the 1992-1997 civil war, ITAR-TASS reported,
quoting UTO spokesman Khikmatullo Saifullozoda. The 18 men
are the last on a list of 93 whose release had been provided
for under the terms of the 1997 peace agreement ending the
civil war. Saifullozoda, however, did not exclude the
possibility that other opposition supporters may still be in
prison. The release of the 18 men was part of an agreement
concluded on 5 November between UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri
and President Imomali Rakhmonov. LF

PROMINENT TAJIK OPPOSITION POLITICIAN TERMS PRESIDENTIAL POLL
'FREE AND DEMOCRATIC.' In a statement that underscores
nascent disagreement within the UTO, one of that
organization's leaders, First Deputy Premier Khodji Akbar
Turadjonzoda, told journalists in Dushanbe on 12 November
that he considers the 6 November presidential poll to have
been free and democratic, Asia Pluz-Blitz reported. The
incumbent, Rakhmonov, was reelected by an overwhelming
majority in that vote. Turadjonzoda accused opposition
Islamic Renaissance Party candidate Davlat Usmon of playing
"political games" that could have seriously destabilized the
political situation in Tajikistan. Stressing that his
differences with other UTO leaders are political, not
personal, Turadjonzoda appealed to his supporters to back the
policies of the country's present leadership. LF

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