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Vol. 1, No. 3, Part I, 3 April 1997
Vol. 1, No. 3, Part I, 3 April 1997 This is Part I of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Newsline. Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe, is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine are available through RFE/RL's WWW pages: http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/ Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^= ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA YELTSIN APPROVES NEW AGREEMENT WITH BELARUS. The Council of the Russian State Duma will discuss today an agreement on Belarusian-Ukrainian union approved by President Boris Yeltsin and his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, RFE/RL reported. Yeltsin and Lukashenka are expected to sign the accord soon. The agreement provides for common citizenship and calls for coordinating security and economic policies, eventually creating a single currency. The treaty signed by Russia and Belarus on 2 April 1996 declared similar goals, but most of its provisions have not been implemented. Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov stressed that a new state would not be created overnight, and CIS Affairs Minister Aman Tuleev described the agreement as a step toward "confederation" that would not allow Belarus to impose its will on Russia. Under the new treaty, a Supreme Council that included the presidents, prime ministers, and parliamentary speakers of both countries would have to unanimously adopt decisions on Russian-Belarusian integration. REACTION TO RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN AGREEMENT. The terms of the new agreement have disappointed Russian supporters of Russian-Belarusian unification. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov described the agreement as a "very modest step" toward union with Belarus. Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin, one of the most outspoken Russian proponents of integration, told ITAR-TASS on 31 March that he was "amazed at the extent to which the document has been emasculated." Skeptics on unification, including Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar, warned against rushing integration, noting the restrictions imposed on opposition groups and the media in Belarus. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov told RFE/RL that integration should be pursued with caution so as not to damage the Russian economy. In the past, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais also expressed reservations about the economic consequences of union with Belarus. HEADS OF STATE ENDORSE CIS, EXTEND PEACEKEEPERS' MANDATE... The CIS summit originally scheduled for December 1996 to mark the fifth anniversary of the organization's founding finally took place in Moscow on 28 March. Yeltsin reported on his talks in Helsinki one week earlier with U.S. President Bill Clinton. He was re-elected chairman of the CIS heads of state council. Yeltsin later told journalists that the participants unanimously agreed that "the CIS is necessary" but that it has not yet evolved into its definitive form. Yeltsin conceded that each member state has "its own national interests, priorities, and its own vision of future integration," AFP and Interfax reported. Agreement was reached on the CIS Foreign Ministers' proposal to extend the mandates of the CIS peacekeeping forces in Tajikistan until 30 June and in Abkhazia until 31 July. The participants also agreed on creating a CIS commission to mediate the conflicts in Transdniester, Tajikistan, Abkhazia, and Nagorno- Karabakh, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 March. ...BUT DISAGREE OVER ECONOMIC INTEGRATION. The divergent priorities referred to by Yeltsin were reflected in the reluctance of some summit participants to sign the Concept for Integrated Economic Development of the CIS, which was approved by eight of the 12 CIS premiers at their January 1997 meeting. The concept envisages creating a single CIS economic space, expanding the Customs Union, and integrating transport and energy systems. It was signed only by Yeltsin. Although the majority of other heads of state approved it, the document is to be submitted to governments for further modification and will be discussed at the next CIS summit in June. Georgian Minister of State Niko Lekishvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 30 March that Georgia cannot accept the current version because it is "at variance with Georgia's national laws, interests, and commitments", Interfax reported. SUMMIT PARTICIPANTS' COMMENTS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma characterized the summit as "a breakthrough that opened a new phase in the life of the CIS." Kazakstan's Nursultan Nazarbaev said it had "removed all the sore points" in relations between member states, according to Interfax and ITAR-TASS. Others were less enthusiastic. Belarusian President Lukashenka said the CIS had become "a club for meetings between heads of state" and that "the overwhelming majority of agreements signed remain on paper...the present [level of] cooperation within the CIS represents an imitation of integration." Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov warned against "forcing processes that are still premature," because this "risks devaluing the entire concept of integration." PRIMAKOV SAYS CHARTER COULD "NEUTRALIZE" EFFECTS OF NATO ENLARGEMENT. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov says a charter between NATO and Russia could largely "neutralize" the consequences of NATO expansion on Russia's relations with the West, RFE/RL reported. But he made clear that Russia remains opposed to enlargement, which, he said, would be "the biggest mistake" since the end of the Cold War. Among other things, Moscow wants a charter to bind NATO not to deploy nuclear weapons in new member countries. Primakov suggested a charter could be signed before the NATO summit in Madrid in July, when NATO leaders are expected to announce which former East European countries will be invited first to join the alliance. Primakov was speaking on 29 March in Bonn, where he briefed his German counterpart Klaus Kinkel on the Helsinki summit between Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton. RYBKIN HOLDS TALKS WITH CHECHENS. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin met with Chechen First Deputy Premier Movladi Udugov in the Ingush capital of Nazran on 29 March in an attempt to dispel disagreement over the nature of Chechnya's future economic and political relations with Moscow, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. During the last round of talks in Grozny in early March, the two sides reached agreement on most provisions of the two documents. But Moscow later submitted to the Chechen leadership substantially amended drafts, which the Chechens termed unacceptable. Chechen Security Council chief Akhmed Zakayev told ITAR-TASS on 29 March that the Chechen side has prepared its own alternative draft agreements. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov said last week he favors signing a formal peace agreement with Yeltsin, to be followed by a bilateral inter-governmental agreement on economic relations. IMF CHIEF IN MOSCOW. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus met with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 31 March to discuss whether the fund will resume monthly disbursements of a three-year $10 billion loan to Russia, AFP and RFE/RL reported. The IMF has delayed monthly installments of the loan several times, most recently in February, primarily because of ineffective tax collection in Russia. Camdessus will hold talks with Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov on 1 April. NEMTSOV CALLS FOR REDUCING PRIVILEGES FOR STATE EMPLOYEES. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov has called for cutting privileges that allow civil servants to ride public transport for free and pay less for housing. In a 29 March interview with ITAR-TASS, Nemtsov asked why state employees such as tax inspectors should be considered "better than other Russians," arguing that such privileges should be reserved for the very ill and those distinguished by meritorious service. On Nemtsov's initiative, Yeltsin recently ordered all state officials to drive Russian- made cars. Nemtsov also said the budget of the Russian Pension Fund should be made more "realistic" by reducing employers' contributions from 28% to 25% of the wage fund and raising employees' contributions from 1% to 2% of income. TRANSCAUCASIA & CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES FORM NEW ALLIANCE... Seven Armenian opposition parties on 29 March formed a National Alliance to campaign for pre-term presidential and parliamentary elections and the adoption of a new constitution. The alliance aims to build "a democratic, law- governed, and socially oriented society." It unites four of the five parties that supported defeated presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan in last year's disputed presidential elections: the National Democratic Union, the Democratic Party of Armenia, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-- Dashnaktsyutyun (ARFD). and the Union for National Self- Determination. Other members are the Union for Constitutional Right, the National Progress Party, and the Scientific-Industrial and Civic Union. ...AS DO GAMSAKHURDIA SUPPORTERS IN GEORGIA. Nine Georgian opposition parties representing supporters of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia have overcome internal dissent to create a coalition called the Front for the Reinstatement of Legitimate Power in Georgia, Interfax reported on 27 March. On 31 March, Gamsakhurdia's birthday, his supporters staged demonstrations in several districts of Tbilisi to demand the resignation of the Shevardnadze leadership and the withdrawal from Georgia of all Russian troops, Russian TV reported. ARMENIA, RUSSIA TO INTENSIFY COOPERATION. At a post-summit meeting in Moscow on 29 March, Yeltsin and Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan reached agreement on signing a new treaty on Friendship and Strategic Partnership to supersede the December 1991 accord, presidential spokesman Levon Zurabian told journalists in Yerevan on 31 March. Zurabian denied, however, that Armenia is contemplating joining the Russian-Belarusian union. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, who met with Ter-Petrossyan in Moscow on 27 March, told journalists that the new bilateral treaty will have "a military component," Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 28 March. NEW ROUND OF KARABAKH TALKS OPENS IN MOSCOW. Yeltsin met with his counterparts from Armenia and Azerbaijan, Levon Ter-Petrossyan and Heidar Aliev, in Moscow on 29 March to discuss prospects for resolving the Karabakh conflict. In Paris last week, the U.S., Russian, and French co- chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group has "outlined a common approach" to the round of talks that opens on 1 April in Moscow, Armenpress reported. Last week, the Foreign Ministry of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh issued a statement calling for a peaceful solution to the conflict based on the right of nations to self-determination. REACTION TO DECISION ON ABKHAZ PEACEKEEPERS. The Abkhaz leadership last week rejected the decision by the CIS heads of state to expand the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia, Russian Public TV reported. Abkhaz parliamentary speaker Sokrat Djindjolia told Interfax on 31 March that if the CIS unilaterally amends the peacekeepers' mandate, Abkhazia will insist that they leave Abkhazia. The Abkhaz parliament has already voted to suspend further talks on future political relations between Abkhazia and the central Georgian government until Moscow lifts economic sanctions against Abkhazia. Meanwhile, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili has said if there is no swift breakthrough in resolving the Abkhaz crisis, Georgia will invite the UN and the OSCE to take over the mediation process, Russian Independent Television reported. ANOTHER UNSANCTIONED DEMONSTRATION IN KAZAKSTAN. A second demonstration against worsening living conditions took place in Almaty on the weekend. Some 300 people--mostly from the Communist party and social movement Pokaleniya, which consists largely of elderly people- -attended the rally in front of the government building. The demonstration was not sanctioned by the authorities and was the second such gathering within a week. On 27 March, pensioners rallied in Kokshetau, in northern Kazakstan, to protest unpaid pensions. On both occasions, demonstrators ignored a warning by Kazakstan's Procurator-General not to hold the rallies. HUNT FOR TAJIK REBEL ENDS. Presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov has said an operation to capture the outlawed group headed by the Sadirov brothers has ended. The operation involved both Tajik government forces and opposition fighters. One of the brothers, Rizvon Sadirov, remains at large. Authorities say he and his remaining supporters have gone into hiding in a remote area of central Tajikistan. During the operation, 12 members of the Sadirov gang were killed and 20 captured. Bahrom Sadirov was among those captured. The group is responsible for two hostage- taking incidents since December, both of which involved foreign workers in Tajikistan. TURKMEN GAS SUPPLIES TO UKRAINE CUT OFF? Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov says his country has cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine because of debts totaling $700 million. Niyazov added that it is not solely Kyiv's fault but a problem with "intermediary firms" transporting Turkmen gas to Ukraine. But Vladimir Rijov, an assistant to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, said Niyazov's statement was intended for Gazprom, which transports the gas from Turkmenistan to Ukraine and also to western Europe. He said Gazprom has yet to pay for 10,000 million cubic meters of gas received from Turkmenistan. Rijov also said gas has not been cut off to Ukraine. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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