|The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli|
Vol 1, No. 34, Part I, 20 May 1997
Vol 1, No. 34, Part I, 20 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 WARNS NATO, REASSURES PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS * YELTSIN APPROVES SEVEN-POINT GOVERNMENT PLAN * ANOTHER BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN FINED ALBANIAN POLITICAL SITUATION WORSENS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN WARNS NATO, REASSURES PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS. President Boris Yeltsin says NATO must take Russia's views into account and warns that Moscow will revise its relations with the alliance if it expands to include former Soviet republics, Russian media reported yesterday. Yeltsin made the comments during a meeting with the speakers of both houses of the parliament and the leaders of all State Duma factions. He also argued that the NATO-Russia Founding act was a "balanced" document. All three Baltic states have expressed the desire to join NATO. Last week, Yeltsin said the accord gives Moscow a veto over NATO's actions, a claim denied by all NATO leaders. After yesterday's meeting, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said Yeltsin will submit the Russia-NATO accord to parliament for approval, Interfax reported. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov is to inform Duma deputies about the accord during a closed session on 23 May. YELTSIN ON UKRAINE, BELARUS... Ukraine's interests were taken into full account during talks between Russia and NATO about the accord on future relations, Yeltsin said in a letter to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma yesterday. A spokesman for Kuchma told journalists in Kyiv that Yeltsin wrote the NATO-Russia deal will strengthen stability in Europe and "positively affect the general political climate in Europe". Yeltsin is expected to visit Ukraine on 30-31 May to sign a Russian-Ukrainian basic treaty. Meanwhile, Yeltsin yesterday urged the speakers of the lower and upper houses of the Russian parliament to work for the simultaneous ratification of a union treaty and a charter agreement between Russia and Belarus. ITAR- TASS quoted Yeltsin as saying that three issues connected with the charter remain "unresolved." Yeltsin said he intends to resolve those issues in talks with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Moscow on 22 May. ...AND NAGORNO-KARABAKH. Yeltsin yesterday called on the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the acting president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno- Karabakh to make a concerted effort to achieve "real progress" toward ending the armed conflict over Nagorno- Karabakh and reaching a comprehensive settlement, Interfax reported. Yeltsin also proposed holding talks on the future status of the republic at the same time as discussions aimed at reaching a settlement. Azerbaijan refuses to discuss the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh's future status until Armenia agrees to respect its territorial integrity. ARMENPRESS yesterday quoted an unnamed Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman as rejecting Turkish media speculation that the ministry and Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, formerly president of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, have different opinions over the issue. KULIKOV SEES ONGOING ROLE FOR HIS MINISTRY IN IMPLEMENTING PEACE ACCORD WITH CHECHNYA. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov told Interfax on 19 May that his ministry still has a role to play in implementing last week's Russian-Chechen peace treaty. Kulikov, who has repeatedly charged that the Chechen leadership is incapable of establishing law and order, said his ministry must help its Chechen counterpart in combatting crime, preventing terrorist acts, securing the release of prisoners and hostages, and developing a system of joint control over funds allocated by the Russian government for restoring the Chechen economy. Kulikov said he has already issued instructions to his staff to draft appropriate assistance programs. YELTSIN APPROVES SEVEN-POINT GOVERNMENT PLAN. Yeltsin approved a seven-point government plan on social and economic policy at a meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, and Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev. The government has promised to: 1) pay wage arrears to state employees by forcing large monopolies to pay their debts, cracking down on smuggling to increase customs duties, and enforcing a state monopoly on the production and sale of alcohol; 2) revise the system of social benefits so only the poor are eligible; 3) revive domestic industry and agriculture through cheap credits and lower fees for energy and rail transport; 4) support local and regional initiatives; 5) fight corruption by forcing officials to file income and property declarations; 6) reduce the size of the bureaucracy; and 7) "honestly and openly explain all the government's actions to the country's citizens." DUMA BUDGET COMMITTEE SLAMS GOVERNMENT PERFORMANCE... The Duma Budget Committee yesterday passed a resolution slamming the government's economic performance during the first quarter of 1997 as unsatisfactory, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The resolution noted the "total collapse" of tax revenues and criticized the government for making unauthorized changes in budget spending. The committee postponed announcing its final recommendation on the draft law on the budget sequester. But it indicated last week that it will recommend that the Duma reject the government's proposed budget cuts. ...CONDEMNS DRAFT LAW ON MONETARY EMISSION. At the same time, the Duma Budget Committee recommended that the lower house of the parliament reject a draft law calling for an additional monetary emission of some 300 trillion rubles ($52 billion), Russian news agencies reported. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a leading member of the Communist Party, proposed the bill, saying the budget gap should be filled by printing money rather than cutting spending. Central Bank officials have warned that the proposal would cause the value of the ruble to plummet and monthly inflation to surge to double digits. Duma Economic Policy Committee Chairman Yurii Maslyukov, another influential Communist, also criticized Ilyukhin's proposal as unconstructive, Radio Rossii reported yesterday. However, Maslyukov said some additional money would have to be printed in order to solve the budget crisis. MINISTERS DEFEND BUDGET CUTS. Chernomyrdin, Chubais, and Nemtsov all urged the Duma to approve the draft law on the budget sequester at a press conference yesterday, Russian news agencies reported. Chernomyrdin praised the sequester as the first attempt by the government to reduce spending "honestly." He repeated that the size of the budget cuts was negotiable. Chubais said the Duma would not create more money by failing to approve the budget cuts, adding "we do not want to hide behind fancy figures. We want to live by real figures." For his part, Nemtsov argued that passing an "honest budget" would reduce the potential for financial abuses by bureaucrats who have the authority to distribute money. AGRICULTURE MINISTER PROMOTED. Viktor Khlystun has been promoted to deputy prime minister in charge of the agro-industrial complex under a presidential decree issued yesterday, Russian news agencies reported. He will continue to serve as agriculture minister, a post he has held since May 1996. In March, Aleksandr Zaveryukha, then deputy prime minister in charge of agriculture, was dismissed in a cabinet reshuffle, and his position was eliminated. However, many regional and opposition leaders have since called on Yeltsin to recreate the post. While serving as agriculture minister from 1991 to October 1994, Khlystun drew fire from Yeltsin's opponents for allegedly not doing enough to support state farms. He is the seventh deputy prime minister in the cabinet (not counting the two first deputy prime ministers). YELTSIN SACKS KOBETS. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii says Yeltsin has sacked Deputy Defense Minister and Army Gen. Konstantin Kobets, Russian news agencies report today. Charges were filed against Kobets last week (see RFE/RL Newsline, 19 May 1997). He is accused, among other things, of taking a 1.4 billion ruble ($240,000) bribe from a construction company. Last month, Army Gen. Vladimir Semenov, the commander of the Ground Forces, and three other senior officers were fired by presidential decree. BASHKORTOSTAN'S PRESIDENT FEARS FUTURE LOSS OF SOVEREIGNTY. Murtaza Rakhimov, in a lengthy interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta on 17 May, expressed concern that some State Duma deputies wish to transform Russia into a unitary state, which, he said, would deprive his republic of its present status as a sovereign state within the federation. He complained that the Duma is unilaterally altering articles of the Federation Treaty and seeking to discredit the August 1994 power-sharing treaty between the federation and Bashkortostan. Rakhimov also denied that the Russian Constitution is violated by a provision of the republican law on presidential elections stipulating that candidates must speak Bashkir in addition to Russian (see RFE/RL Newsline, 10 April 1997). In 1989, Bashkirs accounted for only 23% of the republic's population. Russians constituted the largest ethnic group (38%) followed by Tatars (27%). DAGESTANI POLICE OFFICIAL MURDERED. MVD Col. Kaimbek Gadzhibalaev, who was abducted in the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala on 15 May, was found murdered yesterday, Interfax reported. Gadzhibalaev was a deputy in the Dagestani parliament and was involved in combatting illegal fishing for sturgeon. ITAR-TASS reported that three Azerbaijanis were apprehended on 17 May fishing for sturgeon near the mouth of the Samur River, which forms the frontier between Azerbaijan and Russia. OPPONENTS OF ST. PETERSBURG GOVERNOR SUBMIT PETITION FOR REFERENDUM. The Communist-led initiative group that is seeking to remove St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev has submitted petitions for a referendum to the city's electoral commission, RFE/RL's correspondent in St. Petersburg reported yesterday. The group needed 150,000 signatures to demand a referendum and gathered nearly twice that amount. Residents would be asked in the referendum whether the city's social and economic policies have hurt their standard of living and whether they think Yakovlev should step down. However, Vladimir Soloveichik, the Communists' representative in the city electoral commission, claimed that the commission is being pressured to delay the referendum or declare it non-binding. KEMEROVO GOVERNOR UNDER PRESSURE. All the deputy governors of Kemerovo Oblast have sent a letter to Yeltsin and the federal government warning that they will resign if Kemerovo Governor Mikhail Kislyuk is sacked, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported yesterday. The site of the Kuzbass coal basin, Kemerovo has experienced frequent labor unrest. Yesterday, some 1,500 coal miners called for Kislyuk's dismissal at a rally in Anzhero- Sudzhensk. Yeltsin could remove Kislyuk legally, because Kemerovo is the only oblast that has not yet held gubernatorial elections. The Kemerovo legislature has passed a new regional electoral law, but Kislyuk has refused to sign it because it sets the minimum turnout level at 25%, RFE/RL reported on 15 May. Kislyuk wants the elections to be declared invalid if turnout falls below 50%, a level reached in very few Russian regional elections. In Kemerovo's legislative elections last December, turnout was just 28%. TRANSCAUSASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAK PRESIDENT ON PRIVATIZATION. Nursultan Nazarbayev, in an interview published in today's Komsomolskaya Pravda., has defended his country's privatization process. He admitted that 50 enterprises had been sold to foreign firms but noted that Kazakstan is second only to Hungary in terms of foreign investment among the former east bloc countries and republics of the Soviet Union. He pointed out that Kazakstan has invited Russian companies to take part in tenders for Kazak enterprises but "without success." He also criticized Russian industrialists and ministries that are attempting to "bring [Kazakstan] to its knees" in their dealings. In this connection, he mentioned the Karachaganskoye natural gas field, which, he said, sent its product to Orenburg to be refined but received only 13%-17% of the profits "thanks to [Gazprom Director] Rem Vyakhirev." YASTRZHEMBSKII COUNTERS ON RUSSIAN MILITARY BASES IN CIS. President Yeltsin's press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembskii has responded to comments by Nazarbayev about Russia's military presence in CIS countries, Interfax and Nezavisimaya Gazeta report. The Kazak president made the comments at the Russian journalists conference in Almaty at the weekend (see RFE/RL Newsline, 19 May 1997). Yastrzhembskii, who also attended the conference, said Russian troops were in Armenia and Georgia as part of bilateral agreements between those states and Russia. He also said Russian troops will be removed from the Transdniester, adding that "nobody sees the stationing of Russian troops [there] as a long-term factor." Yastrzhembskii called Tajikistan a "special case" and noted that the decision to have Russian troops there came from the top CIS leadership. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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