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Newsline - September 9, 1999




EXPLOSION RIPS APART MOSCOW APARTMENT HOUSE

An explosion at an apartment house in southeastern Moscow in the early hours of 9 September has left at least 20 people dead. Some 150 have been injured, and more than 100 may still be trapped under the rubble. The nine-story building was destroyed, and windows in neighboring apartment houses blown out. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told a cabinet meeting later on 9 September that the "main version of the explosion" is that it was caused by a gas leak. He added, however, that other versions are being considered. Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had rushed to the scene during the night, was quoted by Russian agencies after the cabinet meeting as saying that it is unlikely that the tragedy was caused by a gas explosion. JC

FEDERAL FORCES STRENGTHEN POSITIONS IN CENTRAL DAGHESTAN

Federal forces dislodged Chechen fighters on 8 September from Mount Ekitebe, which commands the main highway from Novolaksk to Khasavyurt, Interfax reported citing a Defense Ministry source. They also continued systematic air bombardment of several villages in Novolaksk Raion, including Gumiyakh, Tukhchar, and Akhar, and of border districts in Chechnya from where large groups of Chechen militants were preparing to cross into Daghestan's Kizlyar Raion, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta." Also on 8 September, Daghestan's Prime Minister Khizri Shikhsaidov told journalists in Moscow that "large-scale hostilities" in Daghestan should end by the end of September, according to ITAR-TASS. Shikhsaidov accused the Chechen leadership of "extremist aggression" against Daghestan. LF

DUMA DEFENSE CHIEF DISMISSES TALK OF REMOVING SERGEEV...

Roman Popkovich, the chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee and a leader of the Our Home Is Russia faction, told Interfax on 8 September that the events in Daghestan do not justify talk of the removal of Defense Minister Igor Sergeev. Popkovich said that "normal work continues at the Defense Ministry" under Sergeev and that the minister himself is not to blame for everything that has happened in Daghestan. PG

...WHILE AKSENENKO SAYS EVERYONE TO BLAME FOR DAGHESTAN

Speaking in Nizhnii Novgorod on 8 September, First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko said that "it is not worthwhile" to try to assign responsibility for what has taken place, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that "we are all to blame" for the failure of Moscow to solve the situation. PG

PROSECUTORS INVESTIGATE NORTH CAUCASUS ATROCITIES

The Office of the Russian Prosecutor-General has launched an investigation into atrocities and other crimes against humanity in the North Caucasus, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 September. Investigative chief Vladimir Minaev said that he has ordered the start of the probe so that a decision can be made on opening criminal cases. PG

U.S. DENOUNCES BUINAKSK ATTACK

State Department Spokesman James Rubin denounced the blast in Buinaksk on 4 September that destroyed an apartment house where the families of Russian officers lived, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 September. He added that Washington continues to oppose the actions by armed detachments against legal authorities and civilians in Daghestan. PG

PUTIN DENIES RUMORS OF YELTSIN RESIGNATION

Speaking to journalists in Minsk on 8 September, Russian Prime Minister Putin denied media reports that President Boris Yeltsin may step down before his term expires next summer, Interfax reported. Asked whether the president would resign over Daghestan, Putin said such an idea was "nonsense." He asked reporters to imagine "what would have happened" if someone had demanded that Stalin resign on 22 June 1941, the day Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union. JC

YELTSIN, CLINTON DISCUSS CORRUPTION SCANDAL, DAGHESTAN

During an 8 September telephone conversation with his U.S. counterpart, Bill Clinton, Russian President Yeltsin denied media reports of his personal involvement in corruption. U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger told journalists that Clinton had specifically asked about those reports. Russian law enforcement officials are due to arrive in the U.S. next week to discuss the probe into alleged money-laundering through the Bank of New York. Among the other topics discussed by the two leaders were arms control and the ongoing fighting in Daghestan. JC

KREMLIN MANAGER TO SUE ITALIAN NEWSPAPER

Pavel Borodin, the manager of the Kremlin, told Interfax on 8 September that he will sue the Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera" for its articles charging him and the Yeltsin family with corruption. "Everything that was written in "Corriere della Sera" was supplied from Russia. It is absolute rubbish and a political order from certain forces." PG

FEDERATION COUNCIL WON'T PROBE MONEY-LAUNDERING SCANDAL

Sergei Sobyanin, the chairman of the Federation Council's Constitutional and Legal Committee, said that body will not investigate the scandal around money-laundering at the Bank of New York because his committee "considers only previously launched criminal cases" in Russia itself, Interfax reported on 8 September. To date, Sobyanin noted, there has been no such case related to the scandal. "How can we assume control over a case that does not exist in Russia?" he asked. "It's another thing if a criminal case involving the Mabetex company is opened in our country." PG

GORE SAYS U.S. STILL INTERESTED IN COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA

In an interview published in "USA Today" on 8 September and reported in Russia by ITAR-TASS, U.S. Vice President Al Gore said Washington wants to cooperate with Moscow and stabilize the situation in Russia. He said he will back more credits for Russia, despite the recent scandal charges. PG

TALBOTT DISCUSSES ABM, START-3 TREATIES

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott met with senior Russian diplomats in Moscow on 8 September to discuss Washington's interest in modifying the ABM treaty, something Russia opposes, and in negotiating a new START-3 accord, something Moscow's defense establishment said it supports. Russian sources cited by Interfax described the talks as "quite difficult." A second round of discussions is scheduled to take place on 9 September. PG/JC

SUSPECT IN MANEZH BOMBING FLEES TO POLAND

Dmitrii Pimenov, the head of the unregistered Union of Revolutionary Writers, who is suspected of involvement in last week's bombing of the Manezh shopping mall, fled with his wife to Warsaw on 8 September, Interfax reported. Pimenov said he had nothing to do with the blast but fears persecution by the Federal Security Service. JC

MOSCOW MAYORAL VOTE MOVED UP

The Moscow city legislature on 8 September voted to move up the elections for mayor to 19 December. As a result, that vote will coincide with the Russian parliamentary vote and will allowing Mayor Yurii Luzhkov to run for re-election before the presidential elections next summer. PG

YELTSIN MULLS CANDIDATES FOR PROSECUTOR-GENERAL

Vyacheslav Khizhnyakov, Yeltsin's representative to the Federation Council, told ITAR-TASS on 8 September that the president is considering a number of candidates to replace suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov. Meanwhile, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said that the upper house, which must approve any change, is willing to work with Yeltsin on this issue. PG

DUMA LEFTISTS WON'T SEEK YELTSIN'S RESIGNATION

Sergei Reshulskii told Interfax on 8 September that the Duma's leftist majority will not demand that Yeltsin resign when the parliament resumes work. "It does not make sense to demand what the parliament cannot attain, given its limited possibilities," Reshulskii said. At the same time, he remarked that there are reports that Yeltsin's inner circle might pressure him to resign soon so as to block the rise of anti-Yeltsin forces in the parliament. PG

IMF NOW SAYS RUSSIAN GDP TO FALL 2 PERCENT IN 1999

The IMF projects a two percent drop in the Russian GDP and a 92 percent increase in inflation during 1999, Interfax reported on 8 September, citing a Bloomberg report. Earlier, the IMF had projected a 7 percent drop in GDP and a 101 percent rise in inflation. PG

YELTSIN SEEKS TO BOOST FOREIGN ARMS SALES

Yeltsin on 8 September signed a decree to increase cooperation among Russian producers for the sale of arms to and military cooperation with foreign countries, Interfax reported. The new 18-member commission overseeing this activity will be chaired by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. PG

NATO TO SEND NEW REPRESENTATIVES TO MOSCOW

The German Embassy in Moscow told ITAR-TASS on 8 September that NATO will not send back to Moscow the two officials who left the Russian capital when Moscow suspended cooperation at the start of the Kosova crisis. Instead, the German diplomats said, NATO will name two other officials to come to Moscow. PG

RUSSIAN OFFICIAL REJECTS CREATION OF KOSOVA CORPS

An unnamed high-ranking Russian Foreign Ministry official told ITAR-TASS on 9 September that NATO's plan to transform the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) into the planned Kosova Corps is "unacceptable" (see Part II). The official added that Russia will demand the complete "disarmament, liquidation of ammunition depots, and termination of the vertical hierarchy of subordination among [UCK] militants" at an upcoming session of the UN General Assembly. In another indication of Russian unhappiness with NATO, the Defense Ministry official responsible for international cooperation, Leonid Ivashov, said in Moscow on 8 September that the Federation Council "might reconsider" Russia's participation in KFOR given the failure of NATO to disarm and disband the UCK, Interfax reported. FS/PG

MOSCOW WOULD CONSIDER SENDING TROOPS TO EAST TIMOR

The Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax on 8 September that Moscow is considering sending its own troops to East Timor if the UN approves a proposed peacekeeping force there. PG

LEV RAZGON DIES

Russian memoirist and human rights activist Lev Razgon died in Moscow of a heart attack, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 September. He was 92. Razgon came to prominence for his memoirs on the 17 years he spend in the Soviet GULAG prison camp system. He later said he would "never" forgive those who put him there. But in a recent interview, he said that "strange as it may seem, man becomes more free in the camps." And he said that his hopes for the future lie with those in the first grade "and certainly their future children." PG

'MIR' SPACE STATION BEGINS DRIFT

Russian mission control allowed the "Mir" space station to begin to drift on 8 September, Interfax reported. Russian officials said that the craft will crash to earth in the Pacific next April if no new funding is found to save it. PG


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