|The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881|
Vol 1, No. 37, Part I, 23 May 1997
Vol 1, No. 37, Part I, 23 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, LUKASHENKA SIGN UNION CHARTER * MORE RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY APPOINTMENTS * TAJIK TALKS BEGIN End Note : SLOVAK-RUSSIAN ACCORDS RAISE QUESTIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN, LUKASHENKA SIGN UNION CHARTER. Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka have signed in the Kremlin a charter on the Russian-Belarusian union, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 23 May. Yeltsin and Lukashenka resolved the last outstanding differences over the terms of the charter in negotiations on 22 May. The text of the charter has not been released, but according to RFE/RL's bureau in the Russian capital, it stipulates that decisions of the Russian-Belarusian Supreme Council must be signed by both presidents. A few hours before the signing, Lukashenka told Ekho Moskvy that he and Yeltsin agreed to remove a Russian-proposed clause under which the ultimate aim of the the union of Russia and Belarus would have been to form a single federation. Lukashenka also said the charter will not move Russian-Belarusian integration further but "will confirm 'de jure' what has existed 'de facto' for quite a while." MORE DEFENSE MINISTRY APPOINTMENTS. Yeltsin signed a decree on 23 May appointing Army Gen. Igor Sergeev to head the Defense Ministry, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Sergeev, previously head of the Strategic Rocket Forces, was appointed interim defense minister on 22 May immediately after Yeltsin fired Igor Rodionov. Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin told Interfax on 22 May that the Strategic Rocket Forces are in better shape than other branches of the military. He described Sergeev as a "very thrifty leader" who has not wasted a "single kopeck" allocated to his forces. Also on 23 May, Yeltsin appointed Lt.-Gen. Anatolii Kvashnin as interim first deputy defense minister and head of the General Staff. Kvashnin was previously the commander of the North Caucasus military district. According to NTV, Yeltsin asked Far East Military District Commander and Col.-Gen. Viktor Chechevatov to head the General Staff, but Chechevatov rejected the offer. REACTION TO DEFENSE MINISTRY RESHUFFLE. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said Yeltsin sacked Defense Minister Rodionov and Chief of Staff head Viktor Samsonov without cause, Interfax reported on 22 May. Saying Yeltsin himself "ruined" the army, Zyuganov slammed Defense Council Secretary Baturin as an "American representative in the Kremlin." Duma Security Committee Chairman Ilyukhin said Rodionov and Samsonov were fired because of their "integrity," adding that Yeltsin does not tolerate officials "who tell him the truth." Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said Yeltsin, not Rodionov, is to blame for the slow pace of military reform, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, a member of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia faction, also said he saw "no good reason" to fire Rodionov and Samsonov. Nevertheless, Rokhlin praised new Defense Minister Sergeev as an "intelligent man of integrity." YELTSIN CREATES TWO NEW COMMISSIONS ON MILITARY REFORM... First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov says that Yeltsin on 22 May formed two government commissions to oversee military reform, ITAR-TASS reported. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will chair one of the new commissions, and First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais will head the other. Nemtsov also said the number of troops serving in units not under the Defense Ministry or Interior Ministry's control should be cut. He claimed that more than 4 million armed troops are serving in units subordinated to 17 different government agencies. Others have estimated that Russia has about 1.8 million troops affiliated with the Border Guards, Interior Ministry, and agencies including the Railways Ministry and the Ministry for Emergency Situations. ...APPOINTS CHUBAIS, NEMTSOV TO SECURITY COUNCIL. Yeltsin signed a decree on 22 May appointing First Deputy Prime Ministers Chubais and Nemtsov, as well as presidential Chief of Staff Valentin Yumashev, to the Security Council. Chubais was appointed to the Defense Council last summer. PRIMAKOV BRIEFS DUMA ON NATO-RUSSIA ACCORD. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, addressing a closed session of the State Duma on 23 May, described the terms of the NATO-Russia Founding Act, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 23 May. Primakov did not give deputies a copy of the accord, which is to be signed on 27 May. But Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a leading Communist, told Interfax that most deputies were "satisfied" with Primakov's presentation. Ilyukhin said Primakov and Duma deputies agreed that the Russian parliament may revise the accord after it is signed. The Founding Act is not a treaty and does not require ratification, but Russian officials have said it will be submitted to parliament for approval. DUMA DELAYS VOTE ON BUDGET CUTS. The State Duma has voted 321 to 11 to delay considering the government's proposed budget sequester until June, Reuters reported on 23 May. The Duma was scheduled to vote on the budget cuts during its 23 May session. Deputies have called on the government to propose ways to increase revenues in addition to spending cuts. COMMUNISTS SEEK TO AVOID NO CONFIDENCE VOTE. The Communist Party (KPRF) Duma faction has instructed 17 party members to withdraw their signatures from a Yabloko-sponsored motion to call a no confidence vote, Interfax reported on 22 May. Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin, who is also co-leader of the Popular Power faction, helped collect signatures for the motion. He told an RFE/RL Moscow correspondent that he was not admitted to the Communist deputies' meeting, where he had hoped to make the case for holding a no confidence vote. If the 17 deputies withdraw their signatures, the motion's proponents would no longer have the 90 signatures needed to put a vote on the Duma's agenda. YELTSIN CALLS ON MASKHADOV TO HELP FREE JOURNALISTS. Yeltsin on 22 May sent a telegram to his Chechen counterpart, Aslan Maskhadov, asking him to facilitate cooperation between Russian and Chechen law enforcement agencies to ensure the release of seven journalists abducted in Chechnya over the past few months. Kommersant-Daily suggested the same day that the Chechen leadership knows the journalists' whereabouts and the identity of their abductors but is reluctant to launch an operation to secure their release because the killing of one of the abductors could prompt a revenge killing by his relatives. Segodnya on 19 May quoted Ingushetia's Vice President Boris Agapov as saying that bands from several north Caucasian republics are engaged in hostage-taking. Agapov said persons abducted in one republic are frequently taken to another, which, he said, makes it more difficult to locate and release them. JAPAN QUALIFIES SUPPORT FOR RUSSIAN ENTRY INTO G-7. Japanese Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda, who is due to meet with Russian officials in Moscow on 23 May, told ITAR-TASS the previous day that "complete normalization" of relations with Russia includes "settling the problem of the northern territories," meaning the Kuril Islands, which the Soviet Union annexed after World War II. Interfax cites a "Japanese diplomatic source in Moscow" as saying that while Japan has nothing against Russia's participation at next month's G-7 summit, "it is desirable that there are no disputes between members of the group." The same source added "if this matter is left aside, the Japanese people will hardly support development of relations with Russia." Also on 22 May, four Japanese fishing vessels were "expelled" from waters near the Kurils by Russian patrol boats, which fired warning shots. RUSSIA, ISRAEL SIGN CRIME-FIGHTING PACT. Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov and Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy on 22 May signed an agreement on joint crime-fighting measures, AFP reported. The measures include an exchange of experts and information-sharing, in particular in the case of drug-trafficking. Israeli police say that the Russian mafia is flourishing in the Jewish state, which it is using for illegal money laundering. Israeli security officials say they are ready to revoke the citizenship of more than 30 Russian immigrants suspected of having links with organized crime. Last week, Israeli police arrested suspected Russian mafia kingpin Tzvi Ben Ari, known in Russia as Grigorii Lerner. GOVERNMENT COMMISSION SENT TO PRIMORE. A Fuel and Energy Ministry commission has arrived in Primorskii Krai to help resolve the crisis that has caused massive power cuts this month in Vladivostok, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 May. Nemtsov, who is also fuel and energy minister, blamed the krai administration for the crisis and vowed to "restore proper order there, under presidential control," by early June, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 May. He noted that neighboring Khabarovsk Krai has been spared similar power cuts. The government announced earlier this week that the Fuel and Energy Ministry would release 70 billion rubles ($12 million) to pay wage arrears and 30 billion rubles to pay electricity fees in Primore. A few strip mines then resumed coal shipments to power plants after miners were paid back wages through March. SVERDLOVSK GOVERNOR CALLS FOR LARGER STATE ROLE IN ECONOMY. At the second annual Russian Economic Forum in Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel said Russian economic policy should draw on the "positive experience of the Soviet period." In particular, Rossel called for more state support of "strategic industries." He also advocated printing additional money. Keeping inflation and the budget deficit down by deliberately not paying wages or state orders would not solve Russia's economic problems, he argued. Last month Rossel called for reviving the Ministry of Defense Industry, which was eliminated in the March cabinet reshuffle (see RFE/RL Newsline, 17 April 1997). Rossel told Rossiiskie vesti on 22 May that the Yekaterinburg forum would be attended by economists, entrepreneurs, and bankers from more than 60 Russian regions. TULEEV OFFERED MONEY NOT TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR IN KEMEROVO? A press release reportedly issued by the CIS Affairs Ministry claims that CIS Affairs Minister Aman Tuleev was offered a $300,000 bribe not to run for governor of Kemerovo Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 May. The press release did not say who allegedly offered the bribe but commented that "persons in the government and presidential administration" do not want to see current Governor Mikhail Kislyuk replaced. Tuleev chaired the Kemerovo legislature before he ran for president last year and was subsequently appointed to the government. He would be the front-runner in a race in Kemerovo, the only oblast that has not yet held a gubernatorial election (see RFE/RL Newsline, 20 May 1997). According to Segodnya on 22 May, the wage and pension arrears problem in Kemerovo is worse than in any other Russian region. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK TALKS BEGIN. Representatives of the Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition resumed talks in Tehran on 22 May, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. The talks broke off in mid-April. UN special envoy to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem presented a proposal for resolving the Tajik conflict by giving the UTO 30% of seats in government, reforming the government's power ministries, and disarming of the UTO. No details have been made public, while the two sides review the proposals and formulate counterproposals. Because of the Iranian presidential elections today, the two sides will not meet again until 24 May. CHEVRON BOSS ANTICIPATES DELAYS IN BUILDING CASPIAN PIPELINE. Richard Matzke, head of international operations for the U.S. oil company Chevron, says that construction of the export pipeline from Kazakstan's Tengiz oil field to Novorossiisk may fall behind schedule, according to the Financial Times on 23 May. Matzke said that talks on tariffs have not yet begun with four Russian regions through which the pipeline will pass. A 25 April Russian government decree, published in Rossiiskaya gazeta on 23 May, instructs the government of the Republic of Kalmykia and the administrations of Astrakhan Oblast and Stavropol and Krasnodar Krais to make land available for construction of the pipeline. Matzke argued that export pipelines should be owned by the companies engaged in exploiting the oil fields in question. He also criticized unnamed "independent promoters" of export pipelines as a "disruptive force." KYRGYZ PRESIDENT CURBS PRIVATIZATION. Askar Akayev on 22 May signed a decree banning all forms of privatization except auctioning, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Akayev said "state-owned facilities" have been sold at "unjustifiable" low prices. (An RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek reports that the Osh silk factory was valued at 93 million som [$5.5 million] but its sale price last year was only 1.5 million som.) He ordered Procurator-General Asanbek Sharshenaliev to prepare a report on privatization to date "in the shortest possible time." Batyrbek Davletov, the head of the president's economic policy department, said the ban is not the end of privatization but a way to keep a check on "offenses and outrages" before the third privatization wave begins. Forty of Kyrgyzstan's leading companies are slated to pass into private ownership during that wave. Since 1992, Kyrgyzstan has privatized 61% of state-owned industrial enterprises. GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CALLS ON UN TO TAKE MORE PRINCIPLED STAND ON ABKHAZIA. Meeting in Tbilisi on 21 May with UN Under Secretary-General Marrack Goulding, Eduard Shevardnadze said that although the UN has played an important role in creating the legal framework for a settlement of the Abkhaz conflict, it should take "a more principled position" in order to expedite the peace process, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 23 May. Shevardnadze argued that the presence of a CIS peacekeeping force along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia is an obstacle to the negotiating process. He also said its withdrawal would not lead to a resumption of hostilities, Interfax reported on 22 May. END NOTE SLOVAK-RUSSIAN ACCORDS RAISE QUESTIONS by Jolyon Naegele Slovakia's 23-24 May referendum on NATO membership comes at a time when Bratislava's relations with Brussels are strained while its ties with Moscow are blossoming. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia have not taken a stand on how they would like to see the public vote. NATO membership is part of his government's 1995 program. But Meciar's two coalition partners, the nationalist Slovak National Party and the left-wing Party of Slovak Workers, advocate a "no" vote in the referendum. Opposition parties are calling on the public to vote "yes." The referendum comes just one month after Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin paid a three-day visit to Bratislava during which he and members of his delegation signed 16 agreements with Slovakia. Those range from cooperation in the fields of nuclear energy and military technology to the supply and transit of Russian natural gas. But none has been published. It remains to be seen whether any of them will help ease Slovakia's $1.5 billion trade deficit with Russia. The chairman of the opposition center-right Democratic Party of Slovakia Jan Langos, who was Czechoslovak Interior Minister from 1990 to 1992, says Meciar's policies support the interests of Russia. He notes that the content of the 16 accords are known, even though the Slovak government has tried to keep them secret. Langos says that through signing the agreement on military technical cooperation with Russia, Meciar promised that whatever is to be produced in Slovakia in cooperation with the Russians cannot be sold on third markets without Moscow's written agreement. Alexander Duleba, analyst of Slovak relations with Russia and Ukraine in the independent Research Center of the Slovak Society for Foreign Policy, says Russia and Slovakia have concluded 130 agreements since Slovakia became an independent state in January 1993. In Duleba's opinion, Slovakia's decision to sign the agreement on cooperation in military technology, which will require both sides' consent to export to a third market, was prompted by political rather than economic interests. Duleba says "these relations [with Russia] limit Slovakia's ability to conduct foreign policy." Slovakia and Russia are unequal partners in bilateral relations, he argues. Duleba also comments that the Meciar government's pro-Moscow orientation is not based on pan-Slavic ideals of shared values; rather, it is being conducted by pragmatists who made careers in the Communist Party until 1989 and who now see the opportunity to enrich themselves. He says that because of its close relations with Russia, the Meciar government is both unwilling and incapable of leading Slovakia into NATO and the EU. As Duleba puts it, "this government is closer to Moscow than to its own people." RFE-RL has obtained a draft of the agreement on the protection of state secrets against leakage to third parties or misuse against the Slovak Republic and Russian Federation. The draft, which is a "bid to strengthen traditionally friendly relations and develop mutually beneficial cooperation," says that in the event of a loss or betrayal of a state secret, the two sides are to hold immediate joint consultations, organize an investigation, and inform each other within 90 days after the loss or leak has been discovered. The side responsible for the loss or betrayal is to pay damages to the other. The draft also says that the accord is valid for five years and is automatically renewable. Terminating the agreement does not relieve the parties of the duty to protect secrets gained while the treaty was in effect or to continue to bear responsibility for the loss or betrayal of secrets covered by the accord. Igor Cibula, a leading Slovak intelligence expert who nearly five years ago co-founded Slovakia's intelligence service, the SIS, says this and other treaties on cooperation in the military sector call into question Slovakia's declared intention of joining NATO and the European Union. Meanwhile, in another pro-Moscow move, the Slovak government has granted newly established Slovak Airlines the status of "national carrier". The airline is backed by a Russian-controlled Slovak-registered bank, Devin banka, which was also involved Russia's transfer of MiG-29 fighters to Slovakia as partial repayment for outstanding debts. In that deal, Devin banka took a 5% commission of the equivalent of nearly $10 million. Slovak Airlines will fly new, Russian-made Tupolev aircraft. Slovak Airl ines president Viliam Veteska told Slovak TV last week that flights will begin in late October on routes between Moscow and the Slovak cities of Bratislava and Poprad. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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