|The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881|
Vol 1, No. 23, Part I, 2 May 1997
Vol 1, No. 23, Part I, 2 May 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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * ALBRIGHT, PRIMAKOV MAKE LITTLE PROGRESS ON RUSSIA-NATO CHARTER. * RYBKIN CONFERS WITH CHECHEN LEADERSHIP. * ATTACK ON TAJIK PRESIDENT CONDEMNED. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA ALBRIGHT, PRIMAKOV MAKE LITTLE PROGRESS ON RUSSIA-NATO CHARTER. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov made no breakthrough in negotiations over a charter between Russia and NATO, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported yesterday. Albright said she made progress with Primakov and had "an encouraging phone call" from President Boris Yeltsin, but noted that "there is still some way to go." Primakov characterized yesterday's talks as "successful" but said signing a charter is not a "goal in itself" for Russia. Moscow wants NATO to pledge not to build military infrastructure on the territory of new member states, but Albright and other western officials have said new members will not be offered "second class status" in the alliance. En route to Moscow on 30 April, Albright told journalists that no further concessions on the charter would be made: "Basically, we are at our bottom line," Reuters reported. RYBKIN CONFERS WITH CHECHEN LEADERSHIP. Russian Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin flew to Grozny on 30 April for six hours of talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and first deputy prime minister Movladi Udugov, Russian and Western agencies reported. Rybkin and Udugov subsequently issued a joint statement repeating their commitment to the peace process. They also denounced the recent bombings in Armavir and Pyatigorsk in which five people were killed, Interfax reported. Maskhadov told ITAR- TASS that he is ready to meet "any time, anywhere" with Yeltsin, as only "direct and frank talks" can ease the tensions between Moscow and Grozny. Maskhadov and Yeltsin will meet next week to sign a formal peace agreement, Reuters reported today. CONFUSION OVER WOMEN NAMED AS PERPETRATORS OF PYATIGORSK BOMBING. On 30 April, Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev told journalists that one of the two Chechen women whom Kulikov said had confessed to the Pyatigorsk bombing had been killed in September 1996, and the other was in Grozny. Rybkin said that he met with the second woman while in Grozny, according to Interfax. Rybkin and Maskhadov agreed to set up a joint commission to investigate the case of the two women. Speaking on NTV yesterday, Kulikov rejected Chechen claims that the two women he had named were not responsible for the bombing as "absolute nonsense" and called on the Chechen interior minister "to cooperate" in investigating the incident. COMMUNIST RALLIES ADVANCE POLITICAL DEMANDS. An estimated 1.5 million people across Russia demonstrated against the government yesterday, mostly in rallies organized by the Communist Party, Russian news agencies reported. Addressing a crowd near Moscow's Red Square, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov denounced NATO expansion and demanded the government's resignation, along with rapid unification with Belarus. Workers' Russia leader Viktor Anpilov called for massive demonstrations on 12 June, the anniversary of Yeltsin's 1991 election victory. Organizers said the Moscow rally attracted about 100,000, while law enforcement officials estimated the crowd at 20,000. In St. Petersburg, about 40,000 protesters demonstrated outside the Winter Palace, and Communists collected signatures for a referendum to remove St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev from office. Rallies in other regional cities attracted several hundred to several thousand participants. TRADE UNIONS PROTEST ARREARS. The Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR) also organized rallies to mark yesterday's holiday, but trade union leaders made only economic demands. FNPR leader Mikhail Shmakov led a crowd of about 20,000 to the Moscow mayor's offices. He criticized the government for "moving backwards" on social policy and not solving the wage and pension arrears problem. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov addressed the demonstrators and promised to help provide Russians with work and a decent standard of living, ITAR-TASS reported. In a nationwide radio address broadcast yesterday, Yeltsin said "we fought for the right" for citizens to spend holidays as they saw fit, whether staying home with their families or attending anti-government protests. CHUBAIS SAYS FOREIGN CREDITS WILL HELP SOLVE ARREARS CRISIS. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais says renewed disbursements from an IMF loan and new World Bank loans will allow the Russian government to pay off all pension arrears and make progress on paying wage arrears by the end of June, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 30 April. If the IMF board approves Russia's 1997 economic targets later this month, disbursements of a three-year, $10 billion loan will be resumed in quarterly tranches of about $700 million. The IMF has not yet decided on what to do about several monthly tranches of about $340 million each, which it withheld from Russia in 1996. Chubais and Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin also initialled an agreement for a $600 million structural adjustment loan from the World Bank, which will be considered by the bank's board in June. DUMA DEPUTIES CONCERNED ABOUT U.S. ORGANIZATIONS IN RUSSIA. Three State Duma deputies from the Popular Power faction have asked Foreign Minister Primakov and Federal Security Service director Nikolai Kovalev to examine whether foreign assistance missions are consistent with Russia's national security interests, Russian news agencies reported on 30 April. The deputies include Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin and Sergei Glotov, who heads the Anti-NATO group uniting more than 200 deputies. Noting that "dozens if not hundreds" of American organizations are operating in Russia, with branches in "almost all strategically important cities, from Vladivostok to Smolensk," they asked whether Russian organizations in the U.S. are accredited on the same terms. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said it was "difficult" to speak of a reciprocal principle on assistance missions, since there are no Russian organizations seeking to aid the development of the market economy in the U.S. CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CONFIRMS LEGITIMACY OF DECREE ON REGIONAL LEGISLATURES. The Constitutional Court has upheld a 1996 presidential decree allowing regional legislatures to extend their terms, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 30 April. The ruling confirms the legitimacy of 44 regional legislatures that postponed new elections until late 1997 or 1998. The leaders of those legislatures are also deputies in the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament. The State Duma's court challenge claimed that the decree exceeded Yeltsin's authority. However, Sergei Shakhrai, presidential representative to the Constitutional Court, argued that in the absence of a federal law on the procedure and timetable for electing regional legislatures, the president and regional lawmakers acted within their rights. ANOTHER DECREE ON ALCOHOL MARKET. Yeltsin has signed a decree imposing new restrictions on the Russian alcohol market, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 April. The decree instructs local governments to issue licenses for the production and wholesale trade of alcohol, and to ban kiosks and small shops from selling spirits with more than 12% alcohol content. The measure is intended to strengthen the "state monopoly on alcohol" that Yeltsin reintroduced in a December 1996 decree. A 1993 presidential decree also required the licensing of all alcohol production and sales, but it was never implemented. Last month, the government raised the minimum price of vodka by nearly 40% in a move officials said was intended to curb black market sales. DIRECTIVE ON RUSSIAN FOOD LABELS TAKES EFFECT. A government directive requiring Russian-language labels on all imported food went into effect yesterday, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the directive, issued last December, imported food must have Russian labels listing the country of origin and the ingredients, as well as information about calories, vitamin content, shelf-life and proper storage. A Foreign Trade Ministry official had suggested earlier this week that the government might delay the requirement until January 1998, following protests from food importers who say they need more time to adapt to the new rules. More than half of all food consumed in Russia is imported. SHAFRANIK BREAKS WITH CHERNOMYRDIN. Former Fuel and Energy Minister Yurii Shafranik has been removed as adviser to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 30 April. Shafranik, who became Chernomyrdin's adviser after being sacked in an August 1996 cabinet reshuffle, recently became chairman of the board of directors of the Central Fuel Company, which is considered close to the Moscow city government. The paper said Moscow Mayor Luzhkov wants the Central Fuel Company to purchase a large stake in the Tyumen Oil Company. Shafranik also heads the board of directors of the Tyumen firm. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ATTACK ON TAJIK PRESIDENT CONDEMNED. Many countries and Tajik political groups denounced the 30 April attempt on the life of Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov in the northern Tajik city of Khujand, international press reported. Russia, Iran, China, the U.S., Tajikistan's Central Asian neighbors and the United Tajik Opposition and National Revival Movement made official statements condemning the attack. The incident left two dead and more than 70 injured, including Rakhmonov. Tajik authorities have taken 20-year- old Firdaws Dostoboyev into custody but more arrests are promised soon. At a meeting of the Tajik government and parliament yesterday, a statement "by many of the participants" claimed "practically 40% of employees in the power structures of Tajikistan" are criminals or have close connections with mafia groups, ITAR-TASS reported. KAZAKSTAN PRESIDENT DISSATISFIED WITH NATIONAL BANK. Nursultan Nazarbayev says there is still room for improvement at the National Bank, despite signs of progress, according to Interfax and ITAR-TASS. The bank reports published on 28 April show net assets increased by 21.7% in 1996. International reserves rose by 30.8% and gold reserves by 45.7%, compared with the beginning of 1996. Gold reserves now make up 49.95% of the country's hard currency reserves. Nazarbayev noted that the National Bank is purchasing less gold from local producers and that gold production dropped to 10.2 tons in 1996, far short of the government goal of 60-70 tons annually. The bank blamed decreased production on the drop in gold prices last year, but Nazarbayev recommended that more gold be put into the country's reserves. He also said he is against selling gold mines and processing facilities to foreign entrepreneurs. NEW ROUND OF KARABAKH TALKS SCHEDULED. Another round of OSCE-mediated talks on Nagorno-Karabakh will take place in the U.S. later this month, Interfax reported yesterday. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met in Moscow yesterday with the three co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk group and expressed their shared concern at the recent ceasefire violations and ongoing lack of progress toward a political settlement, according to ITAR-TASS. ELCHIBEY, GAMBAR ELECTED CHAIRMEN OF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION BLOC. Former Azerbaijani president Abulfaz Elchibey and Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar were elected co-chairmen of the Democratic Congress bloc on 30 April, Interfax and RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported yesterday. The bloc unites seven pro-Western right wing opposition parties. END NOTE Outflanked On CFE by Paul Goble As the deadline for ratification of the CFE flank modification agreement approaches, Russia's neighbors from the Baltic Sea to the Caspian are concerned that the new accord may threaten their national security. While all these countries acknowledge the need for updating the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe accord to reflect new geopolitical realities, they are disturbed by both the modifications and the way in which these modifications have been negotiated. And as the May 15 deadline for ratification approaches, they have become increasingly vocal about their worries, even as NATO countries have pressed them to agree. The countries in this region vary widely in the stress they give to any particular issue, but they share three concerns about the way in which the modifications were developed and five concerns about the modifications themselves. With respect to the way in which the modifications were developed, these countries were upset by the way in which the Russian government used brinksmanship to advance its own demands for changes. Moscow insisted on getting its way by threatening to violate the accord if it did not. They are troubled by the extent to which Russian-American agreement has, in their view, been imposed on them. Many of them believe that once again, their fate has been negotiated over their heads if not behind their backs. And perhaps most important, they continue to be concerned that the proposed modifications in the CFE treaty may have the effect of legitimizing Russian dominance over the territory of a country that no longer exists, namely, the Soviet Union. Their five specific concerns include, first of all, a conviction that the new accord gives Russia far too much military power in key regions. While the actual numbers of treaty-limited equipment involved in any particular place are in fact small, they often seem very large to these states. Second, those countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States fear that the new flank agreement effectively annuls an earlier agreement among them permitting shifts of CFE forces there only by consensus. Third, these countries are concerned that Moscow will seek to coerce particular countries into allowing the Russian acquisition of CFE limited equipment and thus put pressure on third countries. This is especially true in the southern Caucasus where both Georgia and Azerbaijan have indicated that they believe Moscow will try to do just that with Armenia. And they are not reassured that they will be able to stand up to such pressure or will be much assisted by an American offer to mediate such disputes. Fourth, they are troubled by the agreement's failure to define the "temporary" stationing of troops thereby opening the door to the introduction of Russian forces on a virtually permanent basis. And fifth, they are concerned that the accord does not address the numbers of permitted equipment in the so-called "white spots," conflict areas like Abkhazia and Karabakh in which potentially massive forces could be placed and not be in violation of CFE norms. In each case, these countries might be reassured by the arguments of some that such bilateral accords are the basis of the international system in the broader world and that in many cases Russia would receive no more rights than NATO countries already have. But such arguments, in the minds of many in these countries, ignore their often complicated history with Russia and the fact that the CFE enterprise was launched precisely to control the deployment of Russian power. Consequently, discussions about ratification of these accords over the next two weeks will be about far more than the simple CFE equipment limits. They will be the occasion for a full-dress review of just where these countries stand in the world. No one wants to see the CFE accord fail, but for the countries in the zone next to Russia, that is not the only question. They do not want to see the accord ratified in a way that will confirm their fears rather than their hopes. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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