|If we are to live together in peace, we must first come to know each other better. - Lyndon B. Johnson|
Vol 1, No. 25, Part I, 6 May 1997
Vol 1, No. 25, Part I, 6 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 * YELTSIN, RYBKIN DISCUSS CHECHNYA * GOVERNMENT SUBMITS BUDGET CUTS TO DUMA * PRIMAKOV SAYS TALKS WITH SOLANA WILL BE DECISIVE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN, RYBKIN DISCUSS CHECHNYA. Russian President Boris Yeltsin has instructed Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin to "speed up" the drafting of documents on Russian-Chechen relations to be signed by the Russian and Chechen presidents, Russian agencies reported yesterday Yeltsin will specify the date and venue of the signing once the documents are ready, according to ITAR-TASS, citing Yeltsin's press secretary, Sergei Yastrzhembskii. Yeltsin also approved the creation of a Russian-Chechen commission to investigate last month's bomb attacks in Armavir and Pyatigorsk. In addition, he ordered all government and state structures to coordinate their actions and statements on Chechnya with Rybkin, Nezavisimaya gazeta reports today. BEREZOVSKII DETAILS RUSSIAN-CHECHEN AGREEMENTS. Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii told NTV yesterday that the most important document to be signed assesses the history of Russian- Chechen relations and lays down the principles determining relations between Grozny and Moscow. Other documents govern relations between the federal center and the Chechen government. All these agreements will be ratified by the Russian and Chechen parliaments, he said. Agreements on banking and oil are also to be signed, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. The Boston Globe today said Rybkin was considering offering Grozny a share of tariffs from oil exports via Chechnya. WARRANT ISSUED FOR RADUEV'S DETENTION. Ruslan Kutaev, an aide to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, told journalists in Moscow yesterday that Vice President Vakha Arsanov has signed a warrant to search for and detain maverick field commander Salman Raduev. Kutaev cast doubts on Raduev's claims to have ordered the bomb attacks last month in Armavir and Pyatigorsk but said that his detention is necessary "to put an end to irresponsible statements that discredit Chechen government." Meanwhile in Grozny, First Deputy Prosecutor-General Ibragim Khamidov told Interfax that Raduev is "mentally unbalanced" and that his possible role in the bombings is being investigated. Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev said that he had not received orders to arrest Raduev. GOVERNMENT SUBMITS BUDGET CUTS TO DUMA. The government has submitted to the State Duma a plan to cut 108 trillion rubles ($19 billion) from the 1997 budget, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported yesterday. That figure is equivalent to about one-fifth of total expenditures. The government proposes a 30% cut in military orders and coal subsidies as well as fuel deliveries to remote northern regions. It wants a 55% reduction in spending for agriculture, health, and culture. No reductions are proposed in spending for wages, pensions, stipends, debt servicing, replenishing Russia's precious metals reserves, or dealing with emergencies such as natural disasters. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will discuss the budget proposals during the Duma's 21 May session. The law on the budget requires the government to propose a "sequester" if revenues fall below 90% of targets in a single quarter. During the first three months of 1997, the government collected only 57% of budgeted revenues. DUMA DEPUTY SEES PROBLEMS WITH SEQUESTER PROPOSAL. Government officials say the proposed sequester would bring the 1997 budget in line with reality, but Duma Budget Committee Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov told RFE/RL yesterday that there are several problems with the plan. Zhukov, a member of the Russian Regions faction, said the law on the budget requires uniform cuts in all "unprotected" programs if a sequester is needed. Instead, he said, the government has proposed leaving some unprotected programs fully funded and cutting others by 30% or 55%. In addition, the government is proposing large cuts in some areas that are currently "protected" such as health and agriculture. Zhukov noted that the government cannot unilaterally change the list of protected budget articles. A law is needed to remove items from the list and the Duma is unlikely to pass a law that would envisage such large cuts for agricultural subsidies in particular, he added. CHERNOMYRDIN SIGNS 1997 ECONOMIC PROGRAM. The prime minister has signed a joint statement by the government and Central Bank outlining Russia's economic policies for 1997, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. The economic program was coordinated with the IMF and will be considered by the fund's board later this month. If the board approves the program, disbursements of a three-year loan worth $10 billion will be resumed in quarterly tranches of some $700 million. PRIMAKOV SAYS TALKS WITH SOLANA WILL BE DECISIVE. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov says today's talks with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana will determine whether a charter between Russia and NATO can be signed on 27 May, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. Today's meeting in Luxembourg will be the fifth round of talks between Solana and Primakov. An unnamed source in the Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax yesterday that further progress on the charter will "depend entirely on NATO." Western officials have said they have no plans to deploy nuclear weapons in new NATO member states, but the Foreign Ministry official said Russia still insists on a legally binding document on military issues. The official argued that Western leaders had sought to assuage fears about German reunification by promising former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand. "Nobody recalls [those assertions] now," he added. OPPOSITION CONTINUES PROTESTS AGAINST NATO EXPANSION. The Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia, a communist-led opposition alliance, sent groups of some 30 protesters to demonstrate outside the U.S., French, Italian, German and British embassies in Moscow yesterday, Russian news agencies reported. The protesters carried signs saying "No to NATO Expansion" and "Hands Off Russia." Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told Pravda yesterday that his party's representatives in the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly have launched a Europe-wide "No to NATO" campaign. He claimed that socialists and social-democrats from many European countries have misgivings about NATO expansion. The Duma has called on Russians to stage a "day of protest against NATO expansion" on 9 May, the Russian holiday marking the World War II victory in Europe. PRIMAKOV DENIES SENDING MESSAGE TO VELAYATI. Foreign Minister Primakov has denied sending a message to his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Velayati, saying Russia's relations with Iran will not be affected by the German court verdict implicating Iranian leaders in the 1992 Berlin killings of four Kurdish dissidents (see RFE/RL Newsline, 5 May 1997), Reuters reported yesterday. Primakov was addressing journalists in Strasbourg yesterday. OFFICIAL ON CHINESE IMMIGRANTS IN FAR EAST. In an interview with today's Rossiskie vesti, Emil Pain, a presidential adviser on Chinese immigration in the Far East, says recent claims that illegal Chinese immigrants in that region's southern territories total 2 million are wrong, since such a large number would be "highly noticeable" among a population of some 4.8 million. But he noted that while there were only 50,00-80,000 immigrants in 1992- 1993, that figure is now just short of 200,000. He also admitted that, after finding accommodation, legal Chinese immigrants often send for their relatives, who then live with them illegally. Pain noted that while crime has increased in the area, it has risen to comparable levels in regions elsewhere in Russia that have few Chinese immigrants. MINERS PROTEST IN PRIMORE, VORKUTA. Primorskii Krai is facing power outages for several hours a day because unpaid coal miners are refusing to resume coal shipments to power stations, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported yesterday. The miners, who have not been paid for four to five months, stopped the coal shipments on 1 May. The krai commission for emergency situations claimed two days later to have averted a crisis, since a few pits in Primore and Amur Oblast are still shipping coal to power plants. However, two power lines to Primore remain down following last week's fire at an arms depot in Jewish Autonomous Oblast. Meanwhile, unpaid miners at the largest coal mine in Vorkuta (Komi Republic) stopped working yesterday, ITAR-TASS reported. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, who also heads the government's interdepartmental commission on the coal industry, is to visit Vorkuta next week. DUMA DEPUTY PROTESTS PENSION ARREARS IN VORONEZH. Communist Duma deputy Ruslan Gostev is staging a hunger strike to protest widespread pension arrears in his native Voronezh Oblast, Interfax reported yesterday. Gostev said he began the hunger strike on 2 May and will fast for 10-15 days. Only 51% of pensioners in Voronezh have received their February payments. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA MEETING OF MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN POSTPONED. The meeting between the U.S., Russian, and French co- chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group scheduled to begin today in Washington has been postponed, RFE/RL reported, citing a U.S. State Department spokesman. The French and Russian co-chairmen met last week in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In Baku on 4 May, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev told Mikhail Krotov, the secretary of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly Council, that he would welcome greater efforts by the CIS to mediate a settlement of the Karabakh conflict, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Nezavisimaya gazeta today quotes Iranian Ambassador in Baku Ali Reza Bigdeli as saying that Iran is "resolutely raising" with Armenia the question of liberating occupied Azerbaijani territory. AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT IN TURKEY. Heidar Aliev and his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, met in Ankara yesterday and signed a declaration on strategic cooperation, Western media reported. Seven intergovernmental agreements on trade and economic cooperation were also signed. Reuters quoted Demirel as saying before his meeting with Aliev that they would discuss "new ideas for cooperation with regional countries to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh problem." The two leaders were expected also to discuss the prospects for an oil pipeline through eastern Anatolia to transport Azerbaijan's Caspian oil to Turkey's Ceyhan terminal. Turkey is to announce a tender for a feasibility study for the pipeline, but the vice president of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company was quoted by Segodnya on 30 April as saying no decision on an export pipeline will be taken this year. IMF PRAISES UZBEK PROGRESS BUT HOLDS OFF WITH LOAN. IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer says the balance of a 1995 loan worth $185 million will remain suspended, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported. He was speaking after discussions at the weekend with Uzbek officials, including President Islam Karimov. Uzbekistan drew about $92 million of the loan before the introduction last year of severe restrictions on foreign exchange, which prompted the IMF to withhold the remainder. Fischer said there has been "substantial progress" in structural reforms, including price liberalization and privatization. He also expressed satisfaction that the budget deficit has been kept below 3% of GDP so far this year. GAS DEBTS TO TURKMENISTAN. Russia owes $71 million for gas supplies in the first three months of 1997, ITAR- TASS reported yesterday. Ukraine's debt for the same period is $302.5 million and Georgia's $22.2 million. Those two countries now owe $780.6 million and $442.7 million, respectively. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov told the government yesterday that the debts are creating "difficulties for the country's social and economic development." He also asked the ministers to work with the Russian government to secure the return of $107.2 million currently frozen in Russia's Vneshkombank. END NOTE Putting Pipelines Into Play by Paul Goble Yerevan's rejection of an Azerbaijani proposal to build an oil pipeline across Armenia in exchange for recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh highlights the pitfalls of using pipelines to make peace. But even if this latest exchange between the two governments does not lead to peace, both the Azerbaijani proposal and Armenia's response and subsequent action indicate that the two countries may be reconsidering their approaches to each other. If that proves the case, there may be some significant movement not only on the long-running Karabakh dispute but also on relations among the three countries of the southern Caucasus as well as between those states and the rest of the world. The current flurry of activity began on 1 May, when Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev said his country would be prepared to consider the construction of a pipeline across Armenia if Yerevan would withdrawn its forces in, and its claims to, Karabakh. Routing Azerbaijani and Central Asian oil across Armenia would not only bypass many of the difficulties posed by the alternative routes across Georgia and Russia but would bring Armenia significant transit fees. But the next day, Armenian presidential spokesman Levon Zurabyan rejected any suggestion that Yerevan might be willing to consider such a trade-off. While Armenia would welcome a pipeline across its territory and believes that it would be "profitable for all," it does "not see any relation between the pipeline's route and the settlement of the Karabakh conflict," Zurabyan concluded. Similar proposals and rejections have been floated at various times in the past, and Zurabyan's rejection gave no reason to believe that the current exchange would lead to anything else. But the same day, the Armenian Foreign Ministry publicly denounced the Armenian parliament's decision to ratify a treaty allowing Moscow to have military bases in Armenia for 25 years. Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparyan said that his ministry had urged the parliament to postpone ratification of the pact because of growing concerns about its implications for the country's national security. The Foreign Ministry reportedly noted that the treaty--which has since been ratified--would force Yerevan to give up to Russia some of the tanks and armored vehicles that Armenia is allowed under the CFE treaty. That could leave Armenia weaker than Azerbaijan and even more dependent on Russia, Gasparyan said. Both Azerbaijan and Georgia have expressed fears in Vienna at the recent CFE talks that Moscow will be able to pressure some of its neighbors into yielding their quotas to Russia and thus allow it to put pressure on others. The two Transcaucasian states clearly had Armenia in mind when they made those remarks. At least some members of the Armenian cabinet appear to be focusing on the dangers inherent in this game. Azerbaijani President Aliyev's proposal may have provided them with an opening, since it suggests that Armenia has more choices about its future than simply relying on Russia. Among those in Yerevan now thinking about such new alternatives may be some close associates of recently named Armenian Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan. As former president of the breakaway region of Karabakh, he is generally thought to have a freer hand than anyone else in Yerevan in negotiating a settlement. If this interpretation proves correct--and many will seek to sabotage any agreement between Baku and Yerevan--there could be movement on the Karabakh issue for the first time in many months. Any such movement would almost certainly lead to better relations among the southern Caucaucasian countries while contributing to a new skepticism about Russian designs in the region as a whole. Consequently, Baku and Yerevan may have altered the political landscape of this part of the world by putting pipeline issues into play once again--even if the routes of those pipelines do not change. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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