Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 222, Part I, 15 November 1999


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 222, Part I, 15 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 RECONFIRMS PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRATIONS

* YELTSIN VOWS NOT TO HALT WAR IN CHECHNYA

* ARMENIAN PRESIDENT, PREMIER AGREE ON NEW CABINET
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RUSSIA

PUTIN RECONFIRMS PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRATIONS... Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin on 12 November confirmed his earlier declared
plans to seek presidential office in June 2000 elections. His
announcement elicited support from leaders of smaller
political parties, some of which are linked to the Kremlin.
For example, Aleksandr Gurov, one of the leaders of the pro-
Kremlin interregional movement Unity (Edinstvo) said that
Putin's candidacy offers "a historic chance to elect a less
politicized person who will reconcile diametrically opposed
parties and movements in society." Former Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin said that the party he leads, Our Home Is
Russia, may back Putin's presidential bid in 2000 elections,
but its leaders will make up its mind after the upcoming
State Duma elections. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which receives
financial support from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ, wrote on
13 November that Putin is "practically guaranteed" the
support of the army. According to military analyst Aleksandr
Pikaev, Putin "has turned to the military and security
services for support" since he is limited in his political
base and does not have the Kremlin's full backing, "The
Moscow Times" reported on 13 November. JAC

...WINS YELTSIN'S BLESSING. On 14 November, President Boris
Yeltsin, who many have predicted is planning to dismiss Putin
soon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 1999), declared that
Putin "is the most acceptable [presidential] candidate for
Russia." He added, "Just look at his moves, they are so
logical, clever and strong." Putin told Russian Television
the same day that if President Yeltsin decides not to go to
Istanbul to attend the upcoming OSCE summit, he will himself
represent Russia. However, on 15 November, Yeltsin said that
he will attend the 18 November summit. He also declared that
"there can be no question of dismissing" Putin. JAC

YELTSIN VOWS NOT TO HALT WAR IN CHECHNYA. President Yeltsin
told journalists at the Kremlin on 15 November that Moscow
will not yield to Western criticism of its military tactics
in Chechnya, and will continue military operations there "as
long as a single terrorist remains on our territory," AP
reported. He added that the West has no right to criticize
Russia for taking action against "murderers who decapitate
their victims." Meanwhile, Russia stepped up air raids and
artillery bombardment of the towns of Grozny, Urus Martan,
Bamut, Samashki, and Gekhi on 12-14 November, while ground
forces consolidated their control over the town of Gudermes.
Reuters on 13 November quoted Gekhi residents as saying the
bombardment was worse than anything they had experienced
during the 1994-1996 war. LF

U.S. DENIES PROMOTING INSTABILITY IN NORTH CAUCASUS.
Addressing military officers in Moscow on 12 November,
Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said that it is in the
interests of the U.S. to keep the conflicts in the North
Caucasus "constantly smoldering," AP reported. Sergeev said
such a strategy could result in the weakening of Russia and
the extension of full U.S. control over the North Caucasus.
U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said in
Washington the same day that the U.S. finds Sergeev's
accusations "hard to understand." Rubin said the U.S.
recognizes "Russia's right to protect itself and its
civilians." He added that neither Russia, the U.S., nor
neighboring states benefit from instability in the North
Caucasus, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. LF

FORMER GROZNY MAYOR TO HEAD CHECHEN VOLUNTEER FORCE.
Following an overnight session of the pro-Russian Chechen
parliament held in Moscow on 11-12 November, Malik Saidullaev
voluntarily stepped down as chairman of the pro-Moscow
Chechen State Council (government) in favor of former Grozny
Mayor Beslan Gantemirov, Russian agencies reported.
Saidullaev had been elected State Council chairman last month
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1999). But in an interview
with NTV on 13 November, Gantemirov denied that he would
assume the duties of head of government. He said he intends
to return to Chechnya before the end of November to head a
Chechen volunteer force that will fight side by side with
Russian troops. He added that he will accept an official
position in Chechnya only if asked to do so by the Chechen
population. LF

CHECHEN PRESIDENT AGAIN AFFIRMS READINESS FOR PEACE TALKS...
In an address to a meeting of Chechen exiles in Moscow on 12
November, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov again expressed
his willingness to embark on peace talks with Moscow and to
undertake joint measures to combat terrorism, Interfax and
Caucasus Press reported. Maskhadov again condemned the
terrorist bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow,
stressing that Chechens were not responsible for them. He
also condemned "the aggression of Wahhabis" against
Daghestan. He added that those attacks were undertaken at
Moscow's instigation in order to create a pretext for Russian
military retaliation against Chechnya. LF

...BUT SHABDURASULOV SAYS HE IS NOT THE LOGICAL PARTNER.
Speaking in Moscow on 12 November, First Deputy Head of the
Russian Presidential Administration Igor Shabdurasulov again
said "it does not make sense" to conduct peace talks with
Maskhadov, Interfax reported. Shabdurasulov had said at a
press conference the previous day that Maskhadov does not
control the situation in Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12
November 1999). Shabdurasulov said Moscow is ready for talks
with Chechen representatives once the Chechen factions reach
agreement among themselves. He named Saidullaev and
Gantemirov as possible interlocutors. LF

KOSHMAN SAYS NO NEED TO REBUILD GROZNY. Nikolai Koshman, who
served as pro-Moscow Chechen premier in 1996 and was named
Russia's representative to Chechnya last month, said on 12
November that he sees no point in rebuilding Grozny and that
Gudermes should be designated the capital of Chechnya, ITAR-
TASS reported. In 1996, Koshman had criticized the Chechen
assault on Grozny, terming it "a second Carthage" (see
"RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 42, 21 October 1999).
Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev told Ekho Moskvy on 13
November he supports the proposal to make Gudermes the
capital of Chechnya. LF

RUSSIA DENIES USING CHEMICAL WEAPONS IN CHECHNYA. In an
exclusive interview with ITAR-TASS on 15 November, a senior
commander with Russia's Radiation, Chemical and Biological
Defense Troops denied that Russia is using chemical weapons
in Chechnya. He said reports that Russia is doing so are
intended to pressure the Russian leadership in the runup to
the OSCE Istanbul summit. He added there are no facilities in
the North Caucasus for storing such weapons. LF

TAX WINDFALL LIKELY TO GO TOWARD CHECHEN OPERATION COSTS...
Russian Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 11 November
outlined how 85 billion rubles ($3.2 billion) of unexpected,
additional tax revenues this year will be distributed,
"Vremya MN" reported the next day. Twenty billion rubles will
be spent to cover the initial budget surplus and 15 billion
rubles to index budget payments made in hard currency, while
18 billion rubles will go to regions and the remaining 32
billion rubles will be split among the army, coal miners,
northern regions, and state-sector employees. The newspaper
suggests that much of the 32 billion rubles is likely to go
to the army in order to cover the cost of the Chechen
campaign, which, according to "classified government
documents," had cost 12-30 billion rubles a month ago.
However, the official justification for transferring the
money will be to cover the almost 50 billion rubles owed to
the Defense Ministry in unpaid wages. JAC

...AS LAW SUIT CALLS FOR LESS DISCRETION WITH BUDGET
SPENDING. Also on 11 November, "The Moscow Times" reported
that State Duma deputy Sergei Popov recently won a ruling in
a St. Petersburg court that the federal Finance Ministry
illegally under-funded local projects. Popov is demanding
that the Finance Ministry fulfill the letter of the budget
law, which requires that any reductions in expenditure
arising from revenue shortfalls be applied across the board
proportionally. In practice, the ministry decides which
budget items to fund at the whim of the president or prime
minister or based on its own discretion when revenue falls
short, United Financial Group analyst Aleksei Zabotkin told
the daily. The ministry is appealing the decision, and the
lawsuit is likely to take years to be completed. JAC

TAX REVENUES TO GO HIGHER AND HIGHER? The Tax Ministry
announced on 12 November that tax collection was up by 72
percent during the first nine months of 1999, compared with
the same period last year, according to Interfax. According
to "Izvestiya" on 11 November, the ministry collected in cash
36 billion rubles ($1.4 billion) in October, compared with
20.46 billion rubles projected in the budget. The transport
sector provided the highest proportion of tax receipts in
October, followed by the fuel and energy complex. On 10
November, Tax Minister Aleksandr Pochinok said his ministry
is already ahead in terms of tax collection in November. On
13 November, "Parlamentskaya gazeta" suggested that the
"euphoria" over tax collection is unjustified and that
budget-funded programs have received only 50 percent of their
funding JAC

SUPREME COURT OVERRULES ELECTION COMMISSION... The Russian
Supreme Court ruled that the Central Election Commission's
decision to bar the Russian Conservative Party of
Entrepreneurs (RKPP) from next month's Duma elections was
invalid, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 13 November (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1999). According to the court,
the commission's refusal to register the party because its
number two candidate, singer Yurii Antonov, failed to declare
all of his 1998 income was invalid. According to "Segodnya"
on 13 November, the court declared that the commission had a
right to reject Antonov but not the RKPP. The commission will
appeal the ruling to the Appeals Collegium of the Supreme
Court which is expected to make a decision in five days. JAC

...AS ZHIRINOVSKII MAY GET A THIRD CHANCE. If the collegium
upholds the decision, then the election commission will not
only have to register the RKPP but will also have to
reconsider its rejection of Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal
Democratic Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999).
The commission refused to register that party's list because
of problems with its number two candidate, Krasnoyarsk
Aluminum chief Anatolii Bykov. According to "Segodnya," the
commission will face the difficult choice of either
registering LDPR, the bulk of whose candidates are now
members of the registered Zhirinovskii's Bloc or facing the
prospect of lawsuits from those LDPR candidates who did not
make it into Zhirinovskii's Bloc and are consequently unable
to run for a seat in the Duma. JAC

IVANOV SAYS REVISED CFE TREATY SIGNING DEPENDS ON GEORGIA,
MOLDOVA. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in
Helsinki on 12 November that Moscow is willing to reduce its
military strength in Georgia and Moldova in order to decrease
its presence in the Caucasus and thereby meet the ceilings of
a revised Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. "We are
hopeful that Tbilisi and Chisinau will show a constructive
approach and we can agree on outstanding points," Reuters
quoted Ivanov as saying. He did not specify what those
outstanding points are. Earlier the same day, Moscow had
announced it will start withdrawing military hardware from
the Transdniester region (see Part II). Meanwhile, a
spokesman for the Georgian Defense Ministry told Caucasus
Press that under the revised conventional arms treaty,
Georgia is allowed to have 220 tanks, 220 armored carriers,
50 helicopters, and more than 120 artillery pieces. He noted
that Russian hardware stationed in Georgia currently accounts
for half of that quota. JC

MOSCOW PLANNING TO FLY LONG-RANGE BOMBERS TO CUBA, VIETNAM?
Mikhail Oparin, the head of Russia's long-range aviation
forces, is quoted in the latest issue (No. 44) of the weekly
publication "Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie" as saying Moscow
plans to fly long-range bombers to Cuba and Vietnam next
year. Speaking to Reuters on 12 November, Russian air force
spokesman Nikolai Baranov commented that "if the government
considers it essential to do this, the military will do it."
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, however, expressed
surprise at the report, telling journalists in Havana that
"it's really the first time I have heard anything like this."
U.S. officials, meanwhile, played down the reports and
emphasized there were no official statements from Moscow on
the matter. Russian long-range bombers have not flown to Cuba
for nearly a decade. Earlier this year, two TU-95 Bear
bombers were intercepted by U.S. planes off the coast of
Iceland but remained in international air space (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 1 July 1999). JC

U.S. CUTS FUNDING FOR RUSSIAN NUCLEAR SCIENTISTS. "The
Washington Post" reported on 13 November that as a result of
a sharp cut in funding, the U.S. Department of Energy will
have to limit the so-called Nuclear Cities Initiative to one
Russian nuclear city--namely Sarov, which was earlier called
Arzamas-16. Launched last year, the initiative originally
targeted three nuclear cities and was aimed at ensuring
employment for Russian nuclear scientists in civilian jobs.
The newspaper noted that the funding cut came after a report
said U.S. funds appeared to be going to Russian scientists
who were still working on weapons programs. JC

MOSCOW PROTESTS JOURNALIST BEATINGS IN LONDON. The Russian
Foreign Ministry on 14 November protested the beatings of
four Russian television journalists who were filming a 12
November meeting in London to raise money for Chechen forces
fighting against Russian troops. Ministry spokesman Vladimir
Rakhmanin was quoted by Interfax as saying that footage shown
on Russian Public Television and NTV suggests that the
British law enforcement officials "remained absolutely idle"
while members of the mostly Muslim crowd attacked the
journalists. The British authorities have denied the
allegations of police inactivity and pointed out that none of
the journalists has pressed charges or was seriously injured.
JC

CHERKESS, ABAZINS LAUNCH NEW PROTEST. Representatives of the
Cherkess and Abazin ethnic minorities have begun a new picket
on the central square in Cherkessk, capital of the Republic
of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, to demand the creation of a
separate Cherkess autonomous formation, Caucasus Press
reported on 15 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November
1999). They also plan to adopt a resolution calling for a
boycott of the December elections to a new republican
parliament. LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT, PREMIER AGREE ON NEW CABINET. Following
consultations and overnight talks on 12-13 November,
President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Aram Sargsian
agreed on the composition of the new cabinet, RFE/RL's
Yerevan bureau reported on 13 November. Sargsian endorsed
Kocharian's choice of two career police officials, First
Deputy Interior Minister Haik Harutiunian and Karlos
Petrosian, to head the Interior and National Security
Ministries, while in return Kocharian agreed to Minister for
Industrial Infrastructures Vahan Shirkhanian's retaining his
post. Shirkhanian is believed to have been behind a 28
October demand by senior Defense Ministry officials for the
sacking of the interior and national security ministers and
of the prosecutor-general. The only other new cabinet
appointee is Karen Jshmaritian, who replaces Hayk Gevorgian
as industry and trade minister. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT POSTPONES VISIT TO TURKMENISTAN. The
presidential administration announced on 12 November that a
visit by President Kocharian to Turkmenistan scheduled for
15-16 November has been postponed, ITAR-TASS reported. The
statement noted that Kocharian was to have been accompanied
by several government ministers, whose candidacies had not
yet been officially confirmed at that time. LF

YELTSIN DISCUSSES KARABAKH WITH ARMENIA, AZERBAIJANI
COUNTERPARTS. Russian President Boris Yeltsin telephoned with
his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts, Kocharian and
Heidar Aliev, on 12 November, Russian agencies reported.
Yeltsin and Kocharian discussed bilateral relations, issues
related to the latter's 5 November visit to Moscow, and the
prospects for resolving the Karabakh conflict, according to
Interfax. Yeltsin also assured Aliev of Russia's readiness
"to help in every way" to reach a mutually satisfactory
solution to that conflict. A spokesman for the Azerbaijani
presidential press service said that other topics discussed
included the upcoming OSCE summit in Istanbul and Russia's
proposed introduction of a "temporary" visa regime for
Azerbaijanis wishing to cross the frontier into the Russian
Federation. Aliev expressed understanding for that decision,
while noting the difficulties it creates for Azerbaijani
citizens, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

GEORGIA HOLDS RUNOFF PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. Runoff
elections took place on 14 November in 24 Georgian
constituencies where no candidate obtained the required
majority in the 31 October parliamentary poll. Reuters and
dpa quoted Central Electoral Commission officials as stating
that the voting proceeded without incident. But Caucasus
Press reported on 15 November that shooting broke out in
Nadzaladevi when an independent candidate who was leading the
poll tried to prevent falsification of the vote count aimed
at benefiting his rival from the ruling Union of Citizens of
Georgia (SMK). The SMK already has a clear majority in the
235-mandate parliament. LF

UN CALLS ON GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA TO DEMONSTRATE COMMITMENT TO
PEACE PROCESS. In a 12 November statement, the UN Security
Council called on the leaders of Georgia and Abkhazia to
resume regular contacts with an aim to resolving the
breakaway region's status vis-a-vis the central Georgian
government and expediting the return of displaced persons,
Reuters and AP reported. The statement stressed that such a
comprehensive settlement must respect Georgia's territorial
integrity within its internationally recognized borders. LF

GEORGIA STEPS UP INTERNAL SECURITY... Georgian Foreign
Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told journalists in Tbilisi
on 12 November that the Georgian authorities have increased
security measures for top officials and for strategic
facilities such as the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline, Interfax
reported. He said those measures were prompted by an
intensification of military activity at Russian military
bases in Georgia, particularly the reported arrival at the
Vaziani base near Tbilisi of Federal Security Service Alpha
troops. Parliament Defense and Security Committee chairman
Revaz Adamia said that Alpha troops had been sent to Georgia
to carry out sabotage assignments and the assassination of
top officials. Defense Minister David Tevzadze said that the
Russian troop activity could reflect Russian plans to
increase its military presence in Chechnya, according to
Interfax. But an FSB spokesman on 13 November denied any
Alpha force had been sent to Georgia, Caucasus Press
reported. LF

...EXPRESSES SURPRISE THAT RUSSIA IMPOUNDED UNIFORMS.
Georgian Defense Minister Tevzadze and President Eduard
Shevardnadze on 12 November both professed to be puzzled over
the confiscation by Russian customs officials the previous
day of a consignment of military uniforms donated by the U.S.
for the Georgian armed forces, Caucasus Press reported.
Tevzadze termed the incident "a misunderstanding."
Shevardnadze denied that either the consignment contained
arms or explosives or it was to be sent from Georgia to
Chechnya, according to Interfax. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PREMIER OUTLINES THREE-YEAR PROGRAM.
Qasymzhomart Toqaev on 12 November submitted to a joint
session of both chambers of the parliament his cabinet's
economic program for the period 2000-2002, Interfax reported.
He said that by 2002 the government is aiming to increase GDP
by 10-12 percent compared with 1999, to cut inflation to 4-5
percent, and reduce the budget deficit to 1.2 percent of GDP.
Unemployment is to be brought down from the current 13
percent to 8 percent of the able-bodied population. Toqaev
also called for a "serious reform" of budget policy, the
liberalization of foreign trade, and cuts in customs duties.
He also announced that measures will be taken to legalize the
shadow economy which accounts for an estimated 25 percent of
GDP, mostly generated by small businesses. LF

KAZAKHSTAN DENIES PLANS TO MANUFACTURE CHEMICAL WEAPONS.
Kazakhstan's National Security Committee spokesman
Kenzhebulat Beknazarov told Interfax on 12 November that the
country does not intend to begin production of either
chemical or biological weapons. Speaking in Washington two
days earlier, former Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan
Kazhegeldin had said that Kazakhstan might use funds
allocated by the West for other purposes in order to produce
such weapons. LF

INTERNET PROVIDER DENIES BLOCKING ACCESS TO KAZAKH OPPOSITION
WEBSITE. In a statement made available to "RFE/RL Newsline,"
the Internet provider Nursat, which is the largest in
Kazakhstan, has formally denied blocking access to the
Eurasia Website maintained by the Kazakh political
opposition. It also affirmed that it neither condones nor
supports any Internet "censorship". Internews's office in
Kazakhstan last week quoted an unnamed Nursat technician as
saying that access to the Eurasia site would be impossible
for an indefinite period for "technical reasons" (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 9 November 1999). LF

TYPHOID OUTBREAK IN KAZAKHSTAN. Twenty-three people have been
hospitalized with suspected typhoid in Almaty over the past
three weeks, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 November. The previous
day, RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported
that police have begun confiscating milk samples from non-
registered traders from rural areas who sell milk on the
streets in Almaty. It is unclear if contaminated milk is
suspected to be the source of the outbreak. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT, FINANCE MINISTER AT ODDS OVER MINIMUM
WAGE. Finance Minister Sultan Mederov outlined the main
parameters of the 2000 draft budget to parliamentary deputies
on 11 November, Interfax reported. Revenues are set at 10.6
billion soms ($200 million) and spending at 11.7 billion
soms, while GDP will total 53.3 billion soms. Agricultural
production is expected to grow by 5 percent and industrial
output by 1 percent. The government will also earmark $83.6
million toward paying the country's foreign debts (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 1999). Mederov said defense
spending will be increased by 46.6 percent. But when the
debate resumed on 12 November, he rejected as not feasible a
demand by deputies to raise the minimum monthly wage from 100
to 150 soms and to increase salaries for doctors and
teachers, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF

UN EXTENDS MANDATE OF OBSERVERS IN TAJIKISTAN. The UN
Security Council on 12 November unanimously approved
Secretary General Kofi Annan's request for the extension for
a further six months of the mandate of the observer force
deployed in Tajikistan, Reuters and AP reported (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 9 November 1999). Those observers will monitor
preparations for the parliamentary elections scheduled for
February. LF

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