|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
Vol 1, No. 28, Part I, 12 May 1997
Vol 1, No. 28, Part I, 12 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, MASKHADOV SIGN PEACE AGREEMENT * PRIMAKOV SAYS NATO TALKS THIS WEEK WILL BE DECISIVE * CHERNOMYRDIN TO MEDIATE IN ABKHAZ STANDOFF? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN, MASKHADOV SIGN PEACE AGREEMENT. President Boris Yeltsin and his Chechen counterpart, Aslan Maskhadov, today signed a treaty "on peace and the principles of Russian-Chechen relations," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. On arriving in Moscow this morning, Maskhadov said the signing of the treaty would deprive unspecified hard-liners in Russia of "any basis to create ill-feelings between Moscow and Grozny." He added that the signing means "Russia, the North Caucasus, and the whole Muslim world" will enter a new political era, according to AFP. Details of the treaty are not yet known. Late last week, substantive differences were reported between Moscow and Grozny. Maskhadov is also scheduled to meet with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin later today to sign bilateral socio-economic agreements , including on customs and banking, ITAR-TASS reported. CHERNOMYRDIN SETS CONDITIONS FOR AID TO CHECHNYA. In an interview with ITAR-TASS on 10 May, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said that Moscow continues to view Chechnya as a constituent part of the Russian Federation and that no funds will be made available for reconstruction before the signing of a formal peace treaty between Moscow and Grozny. He added that Russia will not assume the entire cost of reconstruction since Chechnya has its own resources in the form of crude oil as well as the facilities to refine and process the oil. RADUEV PLEDGES NO FURTHER ATTACKS AGAINST RUSSIA. Meeting in Grozny on 10 May with Chechen First Deputy Premiers Shamil Basaev and Movladi Udugov, maverick field commander Salman Raduev pledged to desist from further terrorist threats against Russia or other acts that could jeopardize the peace process, ITAR- TASS reported. Only hours earlier, however, Raduev had told fellow members of the Dzhokhar's Path movement at a rally in the Chechen capital that he vows "to continue the fight until full political independence for Chechnya" is achieved. He also accused the Chechen leadership of planning a peace agreement "behind the people's back." THREE MORE JOURNALISTS ABDUCTED IN CHECHNYA. While returning from filming the Grozny rally of Raduev's supporters, three NTV journalists were abducted by six armed masked men in the village of Samashki. Yelena Masyuk, one of NTV's best-known correspondents, was among those abducted. She has broadcast many interviews with Chechen field commanders. Chechen President Maskhadov told Ekho Moskvy yesterday that the journalists had refused the offer of an armed escort and blamed their kidnapping on Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov. The Russian Federal Security Services attributed the abduction to the inability of Chechen law enforcement agencies to control the situation, ITAR-TASS reported. PRIMAKOV SAYS NATO TALKS THIS WEEK WILL BE DECISIVE. Foreign Minister Yevgenni Primakov says talks this week with NATO officials will determine whether a charter between Russia and the alliance can be signed on 27 May. In an interview broadcast yesterday on Russian TV, Primakov repeated that signing a document is not a goal in itself for Russia. He did not specify which military and political issues would be discussed at the sixth round of talks between him and NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, which are scheduled for tomorrow in Moscow. Reuters reported that Primakov's interview was recorded on 8 May, the same day Yeltsin said the Russian-NATO charter was "98% complete." Meanwhile, Solana told journalists on 10 May that he remains optimistic that a deal can be signed on 27 May, although he noted that "the most difficult questions" still have to be resolved, ITAR-TASS reported. BEREZOVSKII SAYS NEW SECURITY DOCTRINE ALLOWS FIRST STRIKE. Deputy Security Council Secretary Berezovskii has confirmed that, according to the doctrine approved last week by the Security Council, Russia could use nuclear weapons first in a conflict (see "End Note," RFE/RL Newsline, 30 April 1997). In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 9 May, Berezovskii said Russia would not use a nuclear strike to secure an advantage but would do so only "if we are driven into a corner and have no other alternative." Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin announced in February that Russia might respond with nuclear weapons if it faced a conventional attack. In 1982, the Soviet Union declared it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons, but a military doctrine adopted in 1993 did not include the "no first strike" pledge. IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Iraqi Vice President and Foreign Minister Tareq Aziz met in Moscow on 9 May with Foreign Minister Primakov and Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk to discuss the prospects for lifting the UN-imposed sanctions against Iraq. Also on the agenda was the implementation of an agreement whereby Iraq may export limited quantities of oil to finance the purchase of food and medicines. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman stressed the previous day that, in its dealings with Iraq, Moscow will comply with the restrictions imposed by the international community, ITAR-TASS reported. COMPETING MARCHES IN MOSCOW TO COMMEMORATE VICTORY DAY. Yeltsin reviewed a parade of some 5,000 soldiers on Red Square on 9 May, the anniversary of the World War II victory over Germany, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. There were neither tanks nor missiles in the military parade, which Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov described as "sad and not impressive." A rival Victory Day demonstration organized by various communist groups took place on Lubyanka Square. Law enforcement officials estimated the crowd at 50,000, but organizers said the number of participants was several times higher. Zyuganov, addressing the rival rally, slammed proposed budget cuts and warned that the government plans to dissolve the State Duma. Meanwhile, Duma Legislation Committee Chairman and Communist Anatolii Lukyanov told RFE/RL that the Duma is not planning a vote of no confidence in the cabinet, since Yeltsin would probably respond by replacing Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin with a "more odious" figure. NO VICTORY DAY PARADE IN VLADIVOSTOK. For the first time since 1945, no naval parade was held in Vladivostok to mark Victory Day, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 May. Primorskii Krai is facing an acute energy crisis and lacked the funding for a parade. However, the agency said the Dalenergo regional utility persuaded workers at one coal mine to ship coal to a power station on 9 May, which helped alleviate power shortages. In addition, ITAR-TASS reports today that workers have restored power lines in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast that were damaged by a fire at an arms depot two weeks ago. Two of those lines supply electricity to Primore. CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS ARREST OF BANKRUPTCY OFFICIAL. The Russian media continues to speculate about the reason for the recent arrest of Petr Karpov, the deputy director of the Federal Bankruptcy Administration (FUDN). Karpov has been in custody since 28 April on suspicion of taking a bribe of 5 million rubles ($870) from an enterprise in Saratov in 1994. He was first arrested last July but was released in October and allowed to continue working at the FUDN. His lawyer has complained that pre-trial detention is usually reserved for violent criminals or those who pose an escape risk. Izvestiya suggested last week that the security services hope Karpov will provide compromising information on First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais. Segodnya speculated on 6 and 8 May that Karpov was arrested because "the real corrupt ones and treasury robbers" believe Karpov knows too much about how enterprises hide their profits from tax collectors. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA CHERNOMYRDIN TO MEDIATE IN ABKHAZ STANDOFF? Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze told journalists in Tbilisi on 10 May that Russian President Yeltsin has created a special task force to resolve the Abkhaz conflict, Interfax reported. That force will be headed by Russian Premier Chernomyrdin, who may travel to Georgia to mediate a meeting between Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba. Abkhaz parliamentary speaker Sokrat Djindjolia told Interfax on 10 May that if Russia does not lift its economic blockade of Abkhazia, the Abkhaz leadership will insist on the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force and the end of Russian mediation. Meanwhile, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 7 May that the Abkhaz leadership wants Western representatives to take over mediating a settlement of the conflict. GERMAN CHANCELLOR STOPS OVER IN KAZAKSTAN. Helmut Kohl met with Kazak President Nursultan Nazarbayev during a brief stopover in Almaty on 10 May on his way back to Germany from a southeast Asian tour, ITAR-TASS reported. The two leaders discussed, among other issues, the question of ethnic Germans in Kazakstan. Kohl said Bonn is "not interested" in having ethnic Germans from Kazakstan return to Germany. He added that he would like to see German capital used to develop small and medium-sized businesses in Kazakstan, saying this would help the country's German population. Few other details of their talks were released. Kohl said more information will be forthcoming when Nazarbayev pays a visit to Germany in November. KAZAKSTAN HAS HIGHEST TUBERCULOSIS RATE IN CIS. Official data released by the Kazak Health Ministry shows the country has the highest incidence of tuberculosis among the CIS countries, Interfax reported yesterday. Over the past three years, registered cases of the disease have risen by 38% to some 50,000 and the fatality rate has increased from 59.7 persons per 100 to 82.5 per 100. Much of the population is too poor to seek treatment, health officials say. The tuberculosis incidence among ethnic Kazaks is three times higher than among any other ethnic group in the country. IRANIAN PRESIDENT IN TAJIKISTAN... Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani met with his Tajik counterpart, Imomali Rakhmonov, in Dushanbe on 9 May, the Russian press reported. The two leaders signed eight documents, including memoranda on cooperation between their ministries of economics, foreign affairs, industry, and transportation. Iran will help Tajikistan construct a new hydro-electric power station in Khatlon and finish a stretch of highway that will connect the southwestern city of Kulyab with Kalai-Khumb and from there provide access to the Karakoram highway. ...TOGETHER WITH AFGHAN PRESIDENT. One day later, Burhanuddin Rabbani arrived in Dushanbe to meet with his Iranian and Tajik counterparts, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Rafsanjani and Rakhmonov said they continue to recognize Rabbani and his government as the legitimate leadership in Afghanistan, despite the fact that the Taliban movement now control two-thirds of that country. The three presidents reaffirmed their view that peace in Afghanistan must be achieved through political means. All three will attend the meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization that begins in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, tomorrow. Rafsanjani arrived yesterday in Turkmenistan, where he met with President Saparmurat Niyazov to discuss bilateral trade. Meanwhile, Reuters reports he is due to return briefly to Iran today to inspect damage caused by an earthquake in northern Iran that measured 7.1 on the Richter scale. END NOTE A BREAKTHROUGH ON MOLDOVA? by Paul Goble A Russian-brokered agreement explicitly intended to preserve the territorial integrity of Moldova highlights Moscow's ability to exploit the internal divisions of former Soviet republics to bend them to its will. On 8 May, Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and Igor Smirnov, the leader of the breakaway Transdniestr region, signed a memorandum in Moscow committing themselves to develop their "relations within the framework of a single state." Also signing the accord as guarantors were Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, and Niels Helveg Petersen, the acting head of the OSCE. Already hailed in Russia and the West as a "landmark" decision and a "breakthrough" document, this latest accord does not commit the two sides to anything more than further talks on the nature of their relations within a single country. It does not commit Russia to withdrawing any forces from the Transdniestr until the two sides come up with a workable agreement on their own. As a result, it does not put any new pressure on the Transdniestr leadership to move quickly toward a final agreement with Chisinau. In sum, this is just the latest twist in the complex history of the Transdniestr region and its relations with Moldova and Moscow. In 1992, the Transdniestr region of Moldova, an area with a slim Slavic majority, unilaterally declared independence. That move provoked a brief civil war in which 700 people lost their lives and the deployment of Russian forces to keep the two sides apart. Ever since, Chisinau has sought to have Moscow withdraw its forces so that it can reestablish control over a region that some have characterized as the only place where the anti-Gorbachev August 1991 coup succeeded. Russia and Moldova subsequently reached an agreement that Russian troops would be withdrawn over a three-year period, but Moscow has not yet pulled them, arguing that the clock for their withdrawal has not started because the Duma has not ratified this accord. There are several reasons for this delay. The local Slavic population continues to view the Russian forces as its savior against the Romanian-speaking majority of Moldova. Nationalists in Russia see them as the defenders of ethnic Russians abroad and, in fact, have made Aleksandr Lebed, the former commander of the Russian 14th Army in Transdniestr, their political hero. And Moscow regards them as a lever directly on Moldova and indirectly on Ukraine. Moreover, the Russian government remains uncertain of just where to relocate the 6,500 Russian troops currently stationed there and how to dispose of the enormous arms dumps in the region. The latest accord does not change any of this. Indeed, Yeltsin admitted as much when he said that the latest agreement "does not mean all the problems have been resolved." Even more pointedly, he said that Russia "is ready to withdraw its peacekeeping contingent from Transdniestr as both sides resolve the conflict," thereby giving the Transdniestr authorities every reason to drag their feet. As in the past, Tiraspol is likely to pursue a strategy of simply making additional demands on Chisinau after every Moldovan concession. Consequently, this accord is not going to be the "breakthrough" in the way that many commentators are suggesting. But it may be a breakthrough in another way. By involving the OSCE as a co-guarantor, Moscow in effect nullifies its earlier agreement with Chisinau to withdraw its forces from the Transdniestr region and does so with the blessing of an important international organization. That provides a more solid foundation for Russian forces there and perhaps in other places such as Abkhazia in Georgia and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. If that happens, what looks like a small step toward resolving the Transdniestr issue may prove a giant leap backward in securing the genuine independence of the former Soviet republics. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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