|Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. - Sir Winston Churchill|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 225, Part I, 18 November 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 225, Part I, 18 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 * YELTSIN REJECTS CRITICISM OVER CHECHNYA * RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS BOMB GEORGIAN TERRITORY * ARMENIAN, TURKISH PRESIDENTS MEET xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN REJECTS CRITICISM OVER CHECHNYA... Asserting that "we are Europeans," Russian President Boris Yeltsin said in Istanbul on 18 November that Western countries have "no right to criticize Russia for Chechnya," ITAR-TASS reported. "Both Russia and other OSCE member states need today a respectful dialogue instead of reproaches and preaching," he argued. Yeltsin also called for the signing of the new European Security Charter and said that Russia is ready for "joint work" to overcome what he called "international terrorism." The Russian delegation then returned to Moscow. PG ...HOPES FOR 'COMMON SENSE' AT OSCE SUMMIT. The previous day, Yeltsin had said he hoped for "common sense" to prevail at the OSCE summit in Istanbul. Noting that his mission to Istanbul would not be easy, he said he was going there "in a good business-like mood," Interfax reported on 17 November. Meanwhile, Foreign Minster Igor Ivanov said that he had high hopes that the European Security Charter would be signed at Istanbul, Russian agencies said. But Viktor Ozerov, the chairman of the Federation Council's Security and Defense Committee told ITAR-TASS that the Istanbul summit might not go as well. He said the meeting would serve as a "litmus test for Russia's ties with NATO in the 21st century." If NATO countries stick to their current positions, he said, one can envisage "'a cold winter' if not the Cold War with all the ensuring consequences." PG FOREIGN MINISTRY SEES NO RETURN TO COLD WAR... Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev, meanwhile, told Interfax on 17 November that Moscow does not expect a return to the Cold War, despite recent disagreements between Russia and the West over Chechnya and other issues. He "categorically [denied] any alleged anti-U.S. direction in our politics" but said Moscow "does not accept and openly opposes" the West's efforts "aimed at a unipolar world, at the dissolution of separate but extremely important principles and norms of international law." PG ...BUT RUSSIA SEEN MOVING TOWARD 'SELF-ISOLATION.' Igor Malashenko, the deputy chairman of Media MOST holding company, told Ekho Moskvy on 17 November that "today things are advancing to the self-isolation of Russia." He said that certain groups in Russia are interested in promoting this isolation because "they have not learned to play according to the rules of the West, beginning with settling conflicts such as in Chechnya and ending with election organization and attitude to the media." And he concluded "the West is a devilish hindrance to them. They want to create in Russia a regime that could function without minding the West and then their interests would be guaranteed." PG UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES HOLDS TALKS ON CHECHEN SITUATION IN MOSCOW. Sadako Ogata met in Moscow on 17 November with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Ivanov, Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu and Chechen Mufti Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin told Ogata that Russia does not object to international humanitarian aid to alleviate the plight of civilian displaced persons from Chechnya. Ivanov expressed the hope that Ogata's 18 November trip to Ingushetia and the "liberated" districts of Chechnya will result in a better understanding by the international community of the situation in the North Caucasus. Both at his meeting with Ogata and at a press conference in Istanbul later that day, Shoigu again denied that Russian military action in Chechnya has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe. LF SECOND UN OFFICIAL DENIED PERMISSION TO VISIT NORTH CAUCASUS. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 17 November accusing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson of misunderstanding the situation in Chechnya, Interfax reported. On 16 November, Robinson had said she believes the Russian incursion into Chechnya has resulted in serious human rights violations. The statement pointed out that Robinson did not condemn as human rights violations instances of hostage-takings, slave trading, torture, and murder by Chechen militants or the bombings of apartment houses in Moscow, Volgodonsk, and Buinaksk. Russian officials blame Chechen terrorists for those bombings but have produced no evidence to substantiate those accusations. The Foreign Ministry statement concluded that Moscow sees no need to grant Robinson permission to visit the North Caucasus. LF RUSSIAN ADVANCE CONTINUES. Russian forces continued their aerial and artillery bombardment of Urus Martan and surrounding villages southwest of Grozny on 17 November, killing 11 people and wounding 18, AP reported. But in Moscow, Air Force commander Colonel-General Anatolii Kornukov again insisted that Russian planes meticulously target only Chechen guerrillas, not civilians, according to ITAR-TASS. Also in Moscow, First Deputy Chief of the Russian Army General Staff Colonel General Valerii Manilov said that the Russian forces will continue to pressure the population of Chechen towns and villages to force the Chechen defenders to leave, according to Interfax. LF RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS BOMB GEORGIAN TERRITORY... Three Russian military helicopters entered Georgian airspace on 17 November and bombed the village of Shatili, close to Georgia's frontier with Chechnya. No damage or injuries were reported. Georgia's ambassador in Moscow, Malkhaz Kakabadze, delivered a formal protest note to the Russian Foreign Ministry the same day. Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze said the bombing was "inadmissible" and a violation of international law and common sense, according to Caucasus Press. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said in Istanbul that the attack was "a provocation," Reuters reported. Shatili is close to the Argun River valley, which Russian officials have repeatedly claimed is the route taken to transport arms and mercenaries into Chechnya from Georgia. LF ...WHILE RUSSIAN OFFICIALS DENY BOMBING. Speaking in Moscow on 17 November, Prime Minister Putin admitted that "there was a violation of the air border" but said he did not know the details, AP reported, citing Interfax. Russian military spokesmen on 17 November said that the helicopters targeted a Chechen guerrilla base 5 kilometers north of the border but denied that they crossed into Georgian air space. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman on 18 November denied that Russian helicopters dropped the bombs, Reuters reported. He described the Georgian charges as malicious disinformation aimed at complicating relations between Russia and Georgia and misleading world opinion over the action of Russian troops in Chechnya. He said the Russian helicopters were carrying out combat reconnaissance of a section of road on Russian territory leading from Itum-Kale to the Russian-Georgian state border. LF RUSSIAN NAVY STAGES THIRD TEST MISSILE LAUNCH THIS MONTH. A Russian submarine in the Barents Seat launched two missiles that successfully hit their targets on the Kamchatka Peninsula, AP reported on 17 November. It was the third missile test this month. Meanwhile, Colonel General Vladimir Yakovlev, commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, told ITAR-TASS on 17 November that a U.S. anti-ballistic missile system would not save the U.S. "even from limited nuclear strikes." Another defense official said Russia would not put back into operation the Krasnoyarsk radar site, regardless of what the U.S. does. And Sergei Rogov, the director of the Institute of U.S. and Canada Studies in Moscow, said that Russia should not sign the adapted Conventional Forces in Europe treaty at the OSCE summit. "There are serious reasons not to hurry," Rogov said in an article entitled "The West is Reviving the Cold War" published in the 17 November "Nezavisimaya gazeta." PG YELTSIN CALLS FOR RATIFICATION OF TEST BAN TREATY. Following a meeting with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel in Istanbul on 17 November, Yeltsin said he hopes the State Duma will ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty "in the near future," ITAR-TASS reported. He said that in this way, "Russia is thus making a concrete contribution to the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime and strategic stability in the world." Asked about his meeting with the Turkish leader, Yeltsin replied that "the discussion was held in a good, offensive tone on the part of Russia." PG DUMA BACKS PUTIN OVER CHECHEN OPERATION. By a vote of 49 to one with one abstention, the State Duma approved a resolution proposed by Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia supporting the Russian government's actions in the North Caucasus, Interfax reported on 17 November. The resolution calls on the government "to take necessary measures for the speedy disarmament of gangs" and urges the Foreign Ministry to prevent foreign governments from financing the Chechen militants. PG RUSSIA DISCUSSES EXPANDED NUCLEAR COOPERATION WITH IRAN. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko and Iranian Vice President for Atomic Energy Qolam Reza Aqazadeh- Khoi have met in Moscow to discuss Russian-Iranian cooperation in the nuclear power area, Interfax reported on 17 November. PG MOSCOW CITY TIGHTENS SECURITY AROUND UTILITIES. In preparation for possible Chechen attacks, the Moscow city government has called for increased security around public utilities, Interfax reported on 17 November. In addition, close cooperation will continue between the city's police force and a group known as "Regime-Arsenal," which is responsible for preventing gun and explosive-related crimes. Meanwhile, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told ITAR-TASS that the police are seeking to combat what he called an unfavorable trading situation in city markets caused by the "tone" set by "people from the Caucasus." PG PRIMAKOV PRAISES PUTIN, WORRIES ABOUT NATIONALISM. Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, the leader of the Fatherland-All Russia alliance, told ITAR-TASS on 17 November that he regards Prime Minister Putin "as a worthy figure" but has not decided whether he will support him for president. In other comments reported by Interfax, Primakov said he backs Putin's campaign in Chechnya but is worried that a growing anti-Chechen mood may let "the genie of nationalism" out of the multiethnic Russian bottle, which he said would be "extremely dangerous." He also said that "fanning anti- Western sentiment" in Russia is a problem, as is the "anti- Russian campaign launched by the West over Chechnya." PG U.S. JEWISH GROUPS CONDEMN ANTI-SEMITISM ON RUSSIAN TV. The National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on 17 November condemned a Russian Public Television report four days earlier that had characterized the Russian Jewish community as a "fifth column" working for and financed by the West. In a press release, conference chairman Ronald S. Lauder said "we had hoped this kind of attack was relegated to the past." PG MINISTRY TO BE ABLE TO INCREASE CONTROL OVER PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS. The Justice Ministry has prepared a draft law that will enable it to increase its control over public associations, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 November. The new bill, if approved, would allow the ministry to unilaterally cancel the registration of public associations if they are deemed to have violated the law. The ministry would not need to give those associations any warnings. At present, the ministry is required to give two warnings, which Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said is slowing down law enforcement efforts. But he said groups that lost their registration under the new provision could appeal to the courts. In another comment, Chaika said that he had never accused the Spas movement of propagating fascist ideology. "I did not mention Spas. I just said that persons sharing fascist ideology cannot enter representative bodies of power." PG RUSSIAN GRAIN HARVEST UP FROM LAST YEAR. As of 1 November, Russia had harvested 57.8 million tons of grain, up from 51.9 million tons at the same time one year ago, the Russian Statistics Agency told Interfax on 17 November. PG DEBT REDUCTION TALKS WITH WEST STALL. Russia has not yet persuaded Western creditors to forgive it $12 billion in debt, AP reported on 17 September. Following 12 hours of discussions in Germany, Russian Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said the discussions are "complicated," ITAR-TASS reported. PG COMMISSION FOR TIES WITH WESTERN FINANCIAL GROUPS NAMED. The Russian government on 17 November approved the lineup of the Inter-Departmental Commission for Ties with International financial and Economic Organizations, ITAR-TASS reported. Headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, the commission also includes the finance minister, the economics minister, the chairman of the Russian Central Bank, and other officials. PG MORE CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST SHUTOV. The St. Petersburg Prosecutor's Office has brought another four charges against Yurii Shutov, a deputy of the local legislature who earlier this week was arrested in a courtroom just minutes after being released on bail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1999). "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 November that Shutov has now been accused of involvement in four robberies with assault. Earlier, he was charged with the organization of eight contract murders and one attempted murder. Shutov is registered to run from St. Petersburg in the 19 December State Duma elections. JC TATARSTAN'S PRESIDENT DENIES ELECTIONS WILL BE BROUGHT FORWARD. Mintimer Shaimiev on 17 November denied Russian media reports that the Tatarstan presidential elections scheduled for March 2001 will be held at the same time as the June 2000 Russian presidential elections, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 1999). Shaimiev said it is up to the parliament of the Tatarstan Republic to set the date for the poll. He added that "elections will be held according to the republic's constitution, but I would not make guesses who would run for the office and for what term." Shaimiev is currently serving his second presidential term, but the republic's constitution sets no limits on the number of terms one individual can serve. LF VLADIVOSTOK COURT HEARS CASE AGAINST U.S. DIPLOMAT. A district court in Vladivostok on 17 November heard an appeal by the city prosecutor calling for U.S. Consul General Douglas Kent to pay compensation for allegedly damaging the health of a Russian citizen, Interfax reported. The prosecutor said diplomatic immunity should not apply for what he called a traffic accident. Kent is no longer in Vladivostok. He has been reassigned to the U.S. consulate in Kosova. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN, TURKISH PRESIDENTS MEET. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, met for 30 minutes in Istanbul on 17 November, on the eve of the OSCE summit a correspondent for RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Demirel said after the talks that the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries is contingent on resolving the Karabakh conflict. He added that reaching such a settlement depends not only on Armenia but also on Azerbaijan. Turkey will do its best to bring about such a settlement, he noted. Demirel also said that at present Turkey is not considering routing an oil pipeline via Armenian territory, but he did not exclude that possibility in the future. LF AZERBAIJAN WILL NOT PUSH FOR LARGER CFE QUOTA. President Heidar Aliev said in Baku on 17 November before departing for the OSCE summit in Istanbul that Azerbaijan will not demand an increase in the quota of arms it is permitted under the revised CFE treaty, according to Reuters. Aliev said that if Baku were to do so, "it would mean a corresponding increase in Russia's quota in the Caucasus region." The previous day, Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliev had argued that as individual countries' quotas are proportional to the size of their territory and population, Azerbaijan should be entitled to almost double Armenia's quota, according to Interfax. LF AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT PARDONS FOUR ISLAMISTS. President Aliev on 17 November issued a decree pardoning four leading members of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan who had been convicted in April 1997 of espionage on behalf of Iran, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 1997). In May 1998 Aliev had rejected a plea for clemency for three of those four men on the grounds that they "pose a threat to society." LF GEORGIA'S LABOR PARTY TO APPEAL ELECTION RESULTS IN INTERNATIONAL COURT. Georgia's Supreme Court on 18 November rejected an appeal by the Labor Party to review the official returns from the 31 October parliamentary elections, according to which that party failed to garner the 7 percent minimum of the vote required for parliamentary representation, Caucasus Press reported. Natelashvili said that verdict indicates that the court is not objective. He had earlier claimed that the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia had "appropriated" 700,000 votes cast for his party. He predicted that "the injustice will drive people out on the street to demand President Shevardnadze's resignation," adding that he will take his case to the International Court in The Hague. LF KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT SESSION ADJOURNED. After parliamentary deputies once again rejected as unrealistic the government's draft budget for 2000, the lower house of the parliament adjourned on 17 November until next month, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Some deputies argued that the envisaged increase in tax revenues could throttle the development of the country's industry, according to Interfax. Deputies had rejected the budget in the first reading on 15 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 1999). LF EU CRITICIZES TAJIK PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION... In a statement issued in Helsinki on 17 November, the EU termed the 6 November presidential poll "not compatible with democratic principles and values," Reuters reported. "The EU does not see any progress in the democratic development of Tajikistan if basic rules of civil society are not respected but even violated," the statement continued. Incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov received 96 percent of the vote in that poll against opposition candidate Davlat Usmon. Usmon denied his registration as a candidate was legal as he had failed to collect the required 145,000 signatures in his support. The EU statement called for unspecified measures to ensure that the upcoming parliamentary poll is free and fair. LF ...AS PREPARATIONS ON TRACK FOR PARLIAMENTARY POLL. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 November quoted Tajik presidential adviser Khalifabobo Khamidov as saying that the Commission for National Reconciliation is trying to reconcile recommendations from both the government and the opposition concerning the country's future electoral system. Khamidov said that the commission hopes to resolve the remaining disagreements over 12 articles of the draft election law by 20 November. That deadline was specified in a protocol signed on the eve of the presidential poll by Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 1999). The government proposes that the upper house have 35 deputies and the lower chamber 55, whereas the opposition advocates 45 and 91, respectively, according to Asia Plus-Blitz on 18 November. 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