|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
Vol 1, No. 30, Part I, 14 May 1997
Vol 1, No. 30, Part I, 14 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 * PRIMAKOV, SOLANA AGREE ON CHARTER * RODIONOV FAVORS START-II * MORE CLASHES ON ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI BORDER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA PRIMAKOV, SOLANA AGREE ON CHARTER. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana have agreed on the wording of a charter between Russia and the alliance, Reuters reports today. The agreed text will be submitted to NATO governments and to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. No details on the charter were available. Before the latest round of talks, the main disagreement was over Moscow's insistence that NATO guarantee not to station nuclear weapons or "significant" numbers of conventional forces in any new NATO member state. Solana and Primakov met for six hours yesterday and again this morning before making the deal. Yeltsin did not attend the talks but spoke with both Primakov and Solana by telephone today. ...AS OTHERS WARN AGAINST HASTY AGREEMENT. The Advisory Council for Foreign and Defense Policy issued a statement yesterday warning against a rush to sign an agreement with NATO, Russian agencies reported. Duma deputy Aleksei Arbatov of Yabloko and foreign policy theorist Sergei Karaganov are both members of the council. The statement said that a poorly prepared accord could undermine Russia's interests, delay Duma ratification of the START-II arms control treaty, and create a zone of "instability" from Estonia to Azerbaijan. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed also argued yesterday against reaching an agreement now, because "NATO is strong and we are weak," Interfax reported. At the same time, Lebed discounted suggestions that an expanded NATO might pose a threat to Russia. "The rich and satisfied will never attack the poor and hungry," he said. "Most often things happen the other way round." RODIONOV FAVORS START-II... Defense Minister Igor Rodionov says that despite his earlier doubts, he now supports ratification of START-II, AFP and Reuters reported yesterday. Rodionov was speaking after talks with U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen in Washington. Many influential deputies in the Russian parliament oppose START-II. Asked about NATO enlargement, Rodionov said expanding the Western alliance would be a "mistake" that could damage U.S.-Russian relations. Nonetheless, Rodionov and Cohen signed agreements setting up joint working groups on anti-missile defense, peacekeeping, and Russian military reform. However, Rodionov told Interfax that he is concerned about recent statements by some U.S. politicians who favor opting out of the ABM Treaty. Such a step by the U.S. would destroy "the entire nuclear disarmament process," he said. ...DENIES REPORT ON UNSAFE NUCLEAR MISSILES. Rodionov has denied recent reports saying some of Russia's nuclear missiles switched themselves into combat mode, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. The Washington Times on 12 May cited a CIA report on problems in Russia's command-and-control system (see RFE/RL Newsline, 13 May 1997). In Moscow, the chief headquarters of Russia's strategic missile forces also released a statement denying the newspaper report. MOSCOW'S CALCULATIONS BEHIND CHECHEN ACCORD. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin and his deputy, Boris Berezovskii, told journalists yesterday that the Russian government signed the treaty with the Chechen Republic for three reasons. First, the accord demonstrated that the Russian Federation has dropped the "imperial" tradition in dealing with its periphery. Second, it could give Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov enough political room to stand up to his own militants and possibly to disarm some of them. Third, the accord may allow Russia to transport oil across Chechnya and thus reap enormous profits. Three draft agreements on oil and its transit are now in preparation, Russian news agencies reported. Meanwhile, maverick field commander Salman Raduev pledged yesterday not to lay down his arms until Moscow recognized Chechen independence. Maskhadov, on his return to Chechnya, celebrated the accord and called on the Chechen diaspora to help rebuild their country. KULIKOV IN VLADIVOSTOK AS PROTESTS CONTINUE. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov arrived in Vladivostok today as protests over extensive power cuts in the city continued, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reports. Krai authorities decided to meet with Kulikov outside the city for fear that protesters would block the main road in Vladivostok for the third day running. In an interview with RFE/RL yesterday, Primorskii Krai First Deputy Governor Konstantin Tolstoshein denied that the krai administration was to blame for the energy crisis. He noted that the federal government owes money to Primore and said the Vladivostok authorities should answer for the power cuts and disorder in the city. Tolstoshein is a close ally of Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko. He was mayor of Vladivostok until last September, when Nazdratenko's enemy Viktor Cherepkov was reinstated by presidential decree. CHUBAIS OUTLINES PRIORITIES OF 1998 BUDGET. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais says the main goal of the 1998 budget will be to promote industrial growth, an RFE/RL correspondent in Krasnoyarsk reported yesterday. Addressing a meeting of the Siberian Accord regional association, Chubais said the government seeks to lower taxes and energy prices for enterprises as well as to stimulate bank investment in domestic industry. Chubais defended the proposed sequester of 108 trillion rubles ($19 billion) from the 1997 budget and said the government also plans to increase overall revenues this year by 30 trillion rubles ($5.2 billion). He called for revising Russia's social benefits system, which, he said, currently costs 300 trillion rubles ($52 billion) a year, Interfax reported. Chubais argued that social benefits should be means- tested so that only those in need receive government aid. FEDERATION COUNCIL OVERRIDES PRESIDENTIAL VETO ON TROPHY ART LAW. The Federation Council has overridden Yeltsin's veto on the trophy art law, which states that cultural valuables seized by Soviet troops from Germany at the end of World War II are Russian property. Russian news agencies and dpa report today that the final result of the postal ballot on the bill is 141 in favor, 14 against, and 14 abstentions. The upper house opted for this protracted voting procedure last month, on the eve of Yeltsin's meeting with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Baden-Baden (see RFE/RL Newsline, 17 April 1997). Deputy Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi told Reuters that Yeltsin will appeal to the Constitutional Court to reject the law. When Yeltsin vetoed the legislation in March, he argued that it contravened international law and would complicate Russia's relations with many countries. KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA EDITOR PLEDGES TO MAINTAIN INDEPENDENCE. Komsomolskaya pravda published an appeal yesterday by its new chief editor, Vladimir Sungorkin, asking readers not to believe reports that the paper has lost its independence. Sungorkin said the role of Oneksimbank, which recently purchased a 20% stake in the paper, should not be "demonized." He added that the investment would allow Komsomolskaya pravda to improve its distribution system and lower its price for readers. Sungorkin said the paper's editorial staff had long been divided over what he called "lobbying and propaganda on behalf of certain natural monopolies." Former editor Valerii Simonov had favored investment by the gas monopoly Gazprom rather than Oneksimbank (see RFE/RL Newsline, 9 May 1997). Meanwhile, today's edition of Izvestiya claims that the paper's staff, not the oil company LUKoil, own a controlling packet of shares in Izvestiya. PRESIDENTIAL DECREE TIGHTENS CONTROL OVER BUDGET FUNDS. Yeltsin issued a decree yesterday increasing the role of the Central Bank in the management of budget revenues and expenditures, ITAR-TASS reported. By 1 January 1998, the government must hold open, competitive bidding to select commercial banks that will handle budget funds. The decree also orders regular audits of authorized banks. Critics have said that under the current system, government funds channeled through commercial banks often do not reach the programs for which they were intended. NEMTSOV BRINGS ALLY TO FUEL AND ENERGY MINISTRY. Sergei Kirienko, a prominent Nizhnii Novgorod businessman and president of the Norsi oil company, has been appointed first deputy fuel and energy minister, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. Kirienko is a longtime ally of First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who was appointed to head the Fuel and Energy Ministry last month. Kirienko is expected to oversee the ministry's day-to-day activities, since Nemtsov has many other duties in the government and little experience in the energy sector. SITUATION CALM IN DAGESTANI VILLAGE. Order has returned to the village of Chabani-Makhi in Dagestan where one person was killed and three hospitalized in a confrontation yesterday between Islamic groups. Members of Tarikat Sufi orders and the Wahabis clashed briefly, and the Tarikats took 18 Wahabis captive, prompting some 200 armed Wahabis to take refuge in their mosque and call for support from other Wahabis in the area. Religious leaders were called in to mediate, and the two groups agreed to solve to solve their differences peacefully. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA MORE CLASHES ON ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI BORDER. Armenia and Azerbaijan on 12 May, the third anniversary of the cease-fire agreement in Nagorno-Karabakh, accused each other again of cease-fire violations along the common border. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said Azerbaijani positions in Tauz Raion were shelled from Armenia, according to Interfax. An Armenian Defense Ministry official told RFE/RL that Armenian troops killed 17 Azerbaijani soldiers who were attacking Armenian positions. Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev yesterday described the recent outbreak of hostilities as "accidental incidents" that should not be considered a breach of the 1994 cease-fire agreement. He said the fact that the truce has largely held without the participation of international forces testifies to the "sincere desire" of the warring sides to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute peacefully. RUSSIAN OIL COMPANY TO BOOST COOPERATION WITH AZERBAIJAN. Aleksandr Putilov, the board chairman of Russia's Rosneft oil company, and Natik Aliev, the president of the Azerbaijan State Oil Company, say they will soon sign an accord on "strategic partnership," Russian agencies reported yesterday. Putilov, who was in Azerbaijan earlier this week, proposed to Azerbaijani President Aliev that a consortium of Russian and Azerbaijani oil companies be established to develop an unspecified oil shelf in the Caspian Sea. Putilov said the consortium might include LUKoil, which is the only Russian company so far involved (through its membership in Western consortia) in multibillion-dollar contracts with Azerbaijan. Putilov added that his proposals had the backing of Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Aliev said Baku is "interested" in cooperating with the Russian oil industry. FURTHER ARRESTS IN NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN. The Leninabad branch of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan yesterday appealed to international organizations to put pressure on the government to stop the wave of arrests that have followed the 30 April assassination attempt on President Imomali Rakhmonov. According to RFE/RL correspondents in northern Tajikistan, the appeal says the Interior Ministry has taken many people into custody and sent them to Dushanbe for interrogation. It acknowledges that some of those detained may be connected with the attack, which killed 2 people and wounded more than 70. But it also says that many innocent people are being arrested, including participants in rallies in northern Tajikistan in May 1996. The appeal also asks the government not to repeat mistakes made during the Tajik civil war in 1992-93, when many people were detained or even lost their lives on dubious charges. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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