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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 224, Part I, 17 November 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 224, Part I, 17 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 * RUSSIAN TROOPS CLOSE IN ON TWO CHECHEN TOWNS * GOVERNMENT TRIES ANOTHER TACK WITH SPAS * MILITANTS KILL SIX IN UZBEK SHOOTOUTS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIAN TROOPS CLOSE IN ON TWO CHECHEN TOWNS. Russian forces on 16 November advanced to within 2 kilometers of Achkhoi- Martan, southwest of Grozny, and surrounded the town of Argun to the east of the capital. Chechen parliamentary press secretary Khasan Gapuraev told AP on 16 November that Russian troop commander Major-General Vladimir Shamanov had threatened an artillery bombardment of Argun unless the inhabitants compelled Chechen fighters to leave. Shamanov denied issuing such an ultimatum, according to AP, but said that his forces will continue to use artillery against the Chechen fighters rather than attempt to take towns by frontal attack. Artillery bombardment of the towns of Gekhi and Urus Martan continued on 16 November, as did air raids on major highways, including the one leading south to Georgia. LF BEREZOVSKII UNVEILS PEACE PLAN FOR CHECHNYA. Boris Berezovskii told journalists on 16 November in Karachaevo- Cherkessia, where he is running for a seat in the State Duma, that he has drafted a seven-point plan for resolving the conflict in Chechnya, Interfax reported. The seven points are: Chechnya remains an integral party of a unitary Russian state; the Russian Constitution applies on Chechen territory; a solution to the conflict must be supported by the majority of the Chechen population; such a final solution can be reached only by political means; in order to prevent further civilian casualties Chechen military formations must be voluntarily disbanded; any commanders who disagree with that approach must leave Chechnya; the trials of terrorists must be held in accordance with international law; and both Russia and the international community must accept the verdict handed down in those trials. Berezovskii added that Moscow must promote consolidation among Chechens in order to identify the most logical negotiating partner. LF GOVERNMENT TRIES ANOTHER TACK WITH SPAS. The Interior Ministry on 16 November launched criminal proceedings against the ultra-nationalist group Spas (Savior). Spas representatives reportedly provided falsified documents "about the alleged existence of the group's regional branches" when the group was registered as an all-Russia political movement in 1998. A Moscow court ruled on 11 November that Spas's registration for the State Duma elections was invalid because it presented incorrect information about three of its regional branches, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 November. Branches in Orenburg, Lipetsk, and Kostroma Oblasts were found not to exist, ITAR-TASS reported. Spas has said that it will appeal. JAC DUMA CONSIDERS PAY HIKES FOR VOTERS. Duma deputies on 16 November approved in the second reading legislation raising the minimum wage from 83.5 rubles ($3) to 200 rubles as of 1 January 2000. The size of student stipends, allowances for children, and other social benefits are calculated on the basis of this measure, ITAR-TASS reported. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 17 November, Chairman of the Duma's Committee on Social Policy Anatolii Golov said he knows "where to find the money in the budget" for the increased benefits, but he declined to specify how because he is "afraid that they will not use the money as it is intended." However, the newspaper concludes that the real secret is that Duma deputies are depending on additional budget revenues. The government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" said approval of the bill was "clearly populist." JAC SPEAKER PREVENTS NEW GROUP FROM FORMING IN DUMA. Russian Public Television reported on 16 November that members of the People's Deputies group intend to raise the issue of dismissing Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev because he acted to prevent the group from officially registering in the Duma. ITAR-TASS had incorrectly reported earlier that the group had been able to register (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1999). One of the group's leaders, Yelena Panina, who was a member of the People's Power faction, said that the law obliges Seleznev to register the group in accordance with Duma regulations. According to some analysts, the group is linked with the interregional movement Unity and the group's members are seeking to establish a pro-Kremlin bloc in the Duma. JAC ST. PETE DEPUTY ARRESTED UPON RECEIVING BAIL... Police burst into a St. Petersburg courtroom on 16 November to arrest local parliamentary deputy Yurii Shutov just minutes after he was released on bail, AP reported. Shutov, who is a member of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, had been in custody since February on suspicion of arranging several high-profile contract killings. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 17 November, the court ruled that the criminal case brought against him was illegal. Shutov recently registered to run in the 19 December State Duma elections, although a local prosecutor is contesting his registration in the St. Petersburg Municipal Court (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 November 1999). JC ...WHILE ST. PETE BRANCH OF YABLOKO ACCUSES RIVALS OF ARSON. Members of the St. Petersburg branch of Yabloko said that a fire at the branch's office on 16 November was a political act committed by the party's rivals in the city, "Izvestiya" reported. Yabloko claimed that traces of flammable liquid were found at the scene of the fire, but neither the fire department nor the police have confirmed this. Damage to the building was not extensive. "Izvestiya" suggested that the perpetrators of the fire might have been targeting the lists of signatures supporting the candidacy of Yabloko branch head Igor Artemev in the gubernatorial ballot. Supporters of Governor Vladimir Yakovlev succeeded in bringing forward that vote to 19 December--a controversial move that Yabloko is to challenge in the federal Supreme Court (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 13 October and 17 November 1999). JC LEBED'S LEGAL PROBLEMS SEEN AS KREMLIN LEVER. "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 17 November that a Krasnoyarsk Oblast court will reconsider a case against Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed for his alleged violation of campaign spending regulations during his bid for the governor's seat. In response to an appeal from the oblast's election commission, the federal Supreme Court recently referred the case back to the court after it had let the matter drop. The daily, which is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, speculated that the case is being used to pressure Lebed to remain loyal to the Kremlin. It noted that an employee of Russian Public Television, "a pro-Kremlin TV network owned by [business magnate Boris] Berezovskii]," provided the evidence that Lebed spent on his campaign more than five times the amount allowed by law. According to the daily, the Fatherland-All Russia alliance, which is led by former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Luzhkov, "has [recently] been trying to 'flirt' with Lebed." JAC COMPUTER BUG COULD AFFECT ELECTION TALLY. The head of the presidential administration's Y2K committee, Nadezhda Sena, told Ekho Moskvy on 15 November that the so-called millennium computer bug could affect the computer system used to count votes in the 19 December elections for the State Duma. She said that announcement of the results will be made only after 1 January and "there is no way we can say we are 100 percent ready for Y2K." She added that the problem is systemic and no single organization can protect itself. Reuters reported on 16 November that the embassies of the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are urging their citizens living in Russia to make special preparations for the transition to 2000 and to go home if possible. JAC PATRIARCH SPEAKS OUT AGAIN AGAINST FOREIGN MISSIONARIES. Addressing a congress of Orthodox missionaries on 17 November, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II said that he is convinced that foreign missionaries who arrive in this country are seeking to divide Russians "under a religious principle" rather than promote their spiritual enlightenment, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that the majority of missionaries have a "destructive and totalitarian nature." Meanwhile, the current deadline for re-registering Russian religious organizations under the controversial 1997 law on freedom of conscience and religion is 31 December 1999. Draft amendments to the law are currently being circulated in the Duma. On 15-16 November the Federation of Jewish Communities held its founding congress. The new organization will represent 80 Jewish groups from across the nation and form a united front in response to anti-Semitism, according to Reuters. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SAYS PARLIAMENTARY KILLINGS A SETBACK TO KARABAKH TALKS. In an interview aired on four Armenian television channels on 16 November, Robert Kocharian said the 27 October murders of Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian and seven other officials have set back by several months the ongoing talks on a settlement of the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian said that no formal document resolving the conflict will be signed at the upcoming OSCE summit, but he added that he may meet there with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, and with the presidents or foreign ministers of U.S., France, and Russia, which co-chair the OSCE Minsk Group. Kocharian dismissed as "baseless" suggestions that Russia is "jealous" of Washington's role in trying to broker a solution to the conflict, noting that his first direct talks with Aliev took place in Moscow, according to Interfax. He said political stability has now been restored after the 27 October shootings, which, he noted, damaged the country in the eyes of the international community. LF NEW APPOINTMENT FOR FORMER ARMENIAN NATIONAL SECURITY MINISTER. President Kocharian on 16 November named Serzh Sarkisian as head of the presidential administration, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Aleksan Harutiunian, who previously occupied that post, was appointed presidential foreign policy adviser. Sarkisian had tendered his resignation two days after the 27 October Armenian parliament shootings, in response to a demand by senior Defense Ministry officials that he, the interior minister, and the prosecutor- general should resign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October and 1 November 1999). Also on 16 November, Kocharian appointed Boris Nazarian, prosecutor in the southern province of Ararat, to succeed Aghvan Hovsepian as prosecutor-general. LF KAZAKH OPPOSITION CONDEMNS PRESIDENT'S CRITICISM OF OSCE. Leaders of the Democratic Forum, which unites the country's main opposition parties, have rejected what they termed President Nursultan Nazarbaev's "groundless" attack on the OSCE, RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported on 16 November. Last week Nazarbaev questioned whether the OSCE served any useful purpose if it failed to address the conflicts in Afghanistan and Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 1999). The opposition leaders also rejected Nazarbaev's claim that the OSCE is guilty of double standards in criticizing the conduct of the presidential and parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan earlier this year. They expressed their support for the work of the OSCE in Kazakhstan. LF KAZAKH PREMIER CALLS FOR TIGHTER BORDER SECURITY. Addressing a cabinet meeting on 16 November, Qasymzhomart Toqaev called for intensified internal security to stem the influx of foreign nationals into Kazakhstan via neighboring states, Interfax reported. Toqaev said the failure of such persons to register with the Interior Ministry "creates social and political tensions." He instructed the Interior Ministry to round up and deport illegal immigrants within one week. A group of some 70 Pakistani men was refused entry into the country last month. Several thousand Chechens have also arrived in Kazakhstan to take refuge with relatives among the 70,000 strong Chechen community there. LF UIGHUR MINORITY STAGES SECOND PROTEST IN ALMATY. Dozens of Uighur women staged a demonstration on 16 November outside the Chinese embassy in Almaty to protest the continued detention in Xinjiang of Rabia Qadir, RFE/RL's Almaty correspondent reported. Qadir was arrested earlier this year and charged with contacts with Uighur separatists. Uighurs in Almaty had also held a demonstration on her behalf on 4 November. LF KYRGYZ PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO DENMARK. Visiting Copenhagen on 15-16 November, Askar Akaev met with Queen Margrethe II and discussed bilateral relations with Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Agreement was reached on strengthening relations and widening cooperation in agriculture, energy, tourism, and on support for small and medium-sized business. However, several documents prepared by the Kyrgyz side on cooperation between the two countries' Foreign Ministries and Chambers of Trade were not signed. LF KYRGYZ PREMIER UPBEAT ON ECONOMIC PROSPECTS. Addressing the parliament on 15 November, Amangeldy Muraliev said that during the first 10 months of 1999, GDP grew by 4 percent and agricultural output by 9 percent, compared with 1998, Interfax reported. He said those figures demonstrate that favorable conditions have been created for economic growth. Muraliev also told deputies that the procedures for registering small private businesses will be simplified. LF TAJIK PRESIDENT PRAISES 'STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP' WITH RUSSIA. Vladimir Putin held talks with President Imomali Rakhmonov and Prime Minister Yahye Azimov in Dushanbe on 16 November following Rakhmonov's official inauguration. Putin's press spokesman Mikhail Korzhukov told journalist that the Russian premier's talks with Rakhmonov focused on bilateral relations, the status of Russian troops stationed in Tajikistan, cooperation within the CIS, the situation in Afghanistan, and the upcoming OSCE Istanbul summit. Rakhmonov assured Putin that Tajikistan will continue to regard Russia as a "strategic partner." Putin termed bilateral relations "constructive" and said that the countries' mutual debts can be resolved without difficulty. Putin and Azimov discussed two joint hydro-electric projects and the possibility of a textiles joint venture utilizing Tajik cotton. LF TURKMEN AUTHORITIES DEMOLISH ADVENTIST CHURCH. The Ashgabat City authorities bulldozed a Seventh Day Adventist church in the city on 13 November, Compass Direct reported three days later. Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov had granted permission for construction of the church in 1992. It was the only Adventist church in Turkmenistan. Turkmen security officials also raided an Evangelical Baptist community in Ashgabat on 14 November and confiscated Bibles and hymn books. LF MILITANTS KILL SIX IN UZBEK SHOOTOUTS. Some 12-15 men who Uzbek Interior Ministry officials said are "Islamic militants" shot dead three hunters who approached their camp near the eastern resort town of Yangiabad on 15 November, Interfax and Reuters reported. In a subsequent attack on a police post near Yangiabad, four militants and three policemen were shot dead. Police are still trying to locate the gunmen, who they say may belong to the band headed by Djuma Namangani. That group took hostages in southern Kyrgyzstan in August. According to Tajikistan's Minister for Emergency Situations Mirzo Ziyeev, the group left Tajikistan earlier this month for Afghanistan. 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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