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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 224, Part I, 17 November 1999


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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

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Headlines, Part I

* RUSSIAN TROOPS CLOSE IN ON TWO CHECHEN TOWNS

* GOVERNMENT TRIES ANOTHER TACK WITH SPAS

* MILITANTS KILL SIX IN UZBEK SHOOTOUTS
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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

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