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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

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

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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN REJECTS CRITICISM OVER CHECHNYA

* RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS BOMB GEORGIAN TERRITORY

* ARMENIAN, TURKISH PRESIDENTS MEET
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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. LF

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