|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
Vol 1, No. 40, Part I, 28 May 1997
Vol 1, No. 40, Part I, 28 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 * CONFUSIOIN OVER YELTSIN'S STATEMENT ON MISSILES * MIXED REACTION IN RUSSIA TO ACCORD WITH NATO * FINAL TAJIK PEACE AGREEMENT SIGNED xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA CONFUSION OVER YELTSIN'S STATEMENT ON MISSILES. President Boris Yeltsin's 27 May promise that Russia's nuclear missiles would no longer be aimed at NATO countries stole the show on the day Russia and NATO signed the Founding Act on their relations. Early translations of Yeltsin's remarks suggested he had pledged to remove warheads from missiles currently aimed at NATO. Yeltsin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii later clarified that missiles would be targeted away from NATO member states rather than disarmed. The Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement saying that in line with Yeltsin's announcement, Russia's missiles would no longer be on "combat duty against NATO countries," ITAR-TASS reported. Although it is primarily a symbolic act--Russia already had agreements not to target missiles at the U.S. and U.K.--Yeltsin's gesture nonetheless won praise from NATO leaders and the European press (see also "End Note" below). MIXED REACTION IN RUSSIA TO ACCORD WITH NATO. While official spokesmen hailed the signing of the Founding Act, others had mixed views on the agreement. The Carnegie Endowment's Dmitrii Trenin said the current situation was a "lose-lose" affair for Russia, regardless of whether Yeltsin signed an deal with NATO, Reuters reported on 27 May. Speaking in Denmark, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev neither praised nor criticized the accord. He said Duma deputies would approve the Founding Act "only if it really meets Russia's security interests." Addressing lawmakers in Sweden on 28 May, Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev praised the document and said he believed the upper house of the Russian parliament would approve it, ITAR-TASS reported. The Founding Act does not require ratification by the parliament, but Russian officials have said it will be submitted to the Duma and the Federation Council for approval. RUSSIA, OECD SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and OECD Secretary-General Donald Johnston have signed a cooperation agreement in Paris, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 27 May. Under the agreement, high-level meetings between Russia and the organization will take place twice a year. An OECD statement said the organization would help Russia "in its progress to establishing a fully-fledged market economy." Russia and the OECD signed a declaration on cooperation in 1994, and Russia formally applied to join the OECD two years later. OECD officials continue to say Russia is a long way from qualifying for membership in the organization. BELATED RUSSIAN REACTION TO IRANIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. Four days after the unexpected landslide victory of former Minister of Culture Mohammad Khatami in the Iranian presidential elections, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov told journalists on 27 May that Russia welcomes "the election of a new president of a neighbor [sic] country," Russian agencies reported. Tarasov said Russia is prepared to cooperate with Khatami and his future cabinet "in the interests of the development of good-neighborly and mutually advantageous bilateral relations and the settlement of crisis situations in the region," according to ITAR-TASS. Interfax quoted an unnamed Russian Atomic Energy official as saying Khatami's election will not affect the agreement under which Russia is completing construction of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power station. Khatami's defeated rival candidate, Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri, was feted by Russian officials during a visit to Moscow and St. Petersburg in April. CHERNOMYRDIN CHAIRS MEETING OF NEW GOVERNMENT COMMISSION ON MILITARY. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin chaired the first meeting of the government commission on military construction, one of two commissions Yeltsin created last week, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 May. Few details were released about the meeting, which was attended by Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, General Staff head Anatolii Kvashnin, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev, Federal Border Service director Andrei Nikolaev, and Defense Council Secretary Yurii Baturin. According to ITAR-TASS, the other new government commission, which is to be headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, will deal with financing the armed forces. DUMA'S PROXY VOTING UNDER ATTACK. Duma First Deputy Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin says the Duma should change its rules to eliminate the practice of proxy voting, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 May. Shokhin, a leading figure in the pro-government faction Our Home Is Russia, said the Duma must introduce "a legitimate method of counting deputies." Presidential legal adviser Mikhail Krasnov and Yeltsin's representative in the parliament, Aleksandr Kotenkov have said recently that allowing deputies to vote on behalf of their colleagues violates the Russian Constitution. Since the Duma began its work in January 1994, the lower house has frequently passed laws with fewer than a majority of deputies present in the chamber. BABURIN CRITICIZES DUMA OPPOSITION LEADERS. Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin, a co-leader of the Popular Power faction, says the so-called "irreconcilable" parliamentary opposition is more concerned about preserving the Duma than about saving Russia. In a commentary published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 28 May, Baburin slammed leaders of the Communist Party and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia for not supporting a vote of no confidence in the government. (If the Duma votes no confidence twice within three months, the president could dissolve the lower house.) Baburin argued that the government has not met any of the 11 conditions Communists laid down last December in exchange for their support of the 1997 budget. For example, wage and pension arrears persist, Rossiiskaya gazeta is still strictly a government newspaper, there is still no parliamentary television program, and, most important, Chubais continues to run Russia's economic policy. CHUBAIS OUTLINES 1998 BUDGET TARGETS. First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais says the 1998 budget is being drafted in line with government forecasts of 5% annual inflation and 2% GDP growth in that year, Russian news agencies reported on 27 May. Chubais, who is also finance minister, told Finance Ministry officials that 1998 budget revenues were planned to be 12.5% of GDP, while expenditures would be 4.5%. The budget deficit is expected to amount to 0.5% of GDP, he said. This would be by far the lowest deficit in Russia in recent years. LUZHKOV BLASTS GOVERNMENT OVER FUNDING FOR MOSCOW FESTIVAL. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov says the federal government has "spit on" the festival planned to mark Moscow's 850th anniversary, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 May. He slammed the government for refusing to help fund the festival and, in particular, for not helping pay for renovations to Moscow's Luzhniki stadium. Luzhkov argued that Russia's image abroad would suffer if the capital city did not look good in its anniversary year. The Moscow mayor has frequently criticized federal authorities for ignoring regional interests. On 23 May, he complained that Moscow was under an "economic blockade" from the federal authorities, even though, he said, 43% of the federal government's total revenues in April came from taxes collected in Moscow. KULIKOV ON FAR EAST REGIONS. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said at a 27 May news conference that the Far East regions could "effectively be torn away from the rest of Russia," Interfax reported. According to Kulikov, who visited the regions earlier in May, the economic situation in the Far East has led a large shadow economy that circumvents customs regulations, particularly in the fishing industry. Kulikov said illegal fishing often takes place outside the 12-mile zone of Russia's territorial waters and that fish are sold off to foreign vessels "at dumping prices." He added that the Russian budget calls for increasing revenues from the Far East and that greater coordination with police and tax and custom's services in the region is therefore necessary. Kulikov wants the creation of a federal body to begin such coordination. The Far East's leading trade partner is Japan, followed by China, South Korea, and the rest of Russia. BLAME GAME ON WAGE, PENSION ARREARS CONTINUES. Aleksandr Lapenkov, a high-ranking official in the presidential administration's Main Control Department, says regional authorities have diverted 5 trillion rubles ($870 million) allocated to regions to pay salaries of state employees, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 May. Appearing at a conference in Yekaterinburg, Lapenkov said misuse of budget funds had occurred in almost every Russian region. On the same day, Chubais told Finance Ministry officials that regional governments owe an additional 13 trillion rubles in back wages to Russians. On 24 May, Vladimir Putin, the head of the Main Control Department, said pension arrears fell from 13 trillion rubles in February to 12.5 rubles by 1 April. But he noted that 667 billion rubles allocated to regions for pension payments had been misused. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA FINAL TAJIK PEACE AGREEMENT SIGNED. Representatives of the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition have signed a protocol ending hostilities after five years, Interfax reported. The agreement gives the UTO 30% of the posts in the executive and 25% of the posts in the Central Election Commission. It calls for Tajikistan to disarm and disband UTO military units and to reform the country's power structures. It also allows the voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons, provides amnesty for those who took part in the civil conflict, and removes bans on opposition mass media and political parties that belong to the UTO. The agreement was also signed by "guarantor" countries and organizations: Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, the OSCE, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. PREPARATIONS BUT NO REFUGEES YET IN KYRGYZSTAN. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata spoke with the governor of the city of Osh, in southern Kyrgyzstan, on 27 May about preparations for a possible influx of refugees from Afghanistan, RFE/RL correspondents and Interfax reported. Temporary accommodation is under construction to house up to 20,000 refugees in areas near the Kyrgyz border with Tajikistan. But at the UNHCR headquarters in Tajikistan, workers said they have no reports of refugees gathering near the Tajik border in northern Afghanistan. A scheduled repatriation of refugees is to take place on 28 May, and workers predict more refugees will cross into Tajikistan than previously expected. The UN estimates there are 20,000 Tajik refugees in Afghanistan. UZBEK PRESIDENT SEEKS U.S. HELP IN SOLVING AFGHAN, TAJIK PROBLEMS. Uzbek President Islam Karimov met with visiting U.S. congressmen on 26 May and requested the U.S. take an "active role" in settling the problems in both Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Interfax reported. Karimov told the congressmen there was still much room for "closer cooperation" between his country and the U.S. BOOKS IN LATIN ALPHABET FOR TURKMEN SCHOOLS. The first shipment of schoolbooks printed in the Latin rather than Cyrillic alphabet will soon arrive in Turkmenistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 May. The 3 million books are being printed in Turkey and are to be delivered in time for the beginning of the next school year. MORE KARABAKH DIPLOMACY. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, together with ranking Russian and French diplomats, will visit Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-Karabakh from 30 May to 1 June in an attempt to restart the deadlocked negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, according to a correspondent for RFE/RL. Writing in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 24 May, Armenian presidential adviser Jirair Liparitian argued that the principle of territorial integrity applies only to international conflicts between two recognized states and that the international community should therefor not expect Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh to respect it. Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov told the newspaper on 28 May that Armenian Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan's proposal that Armenia should consider incorporating Karabakh as an autonomous territorial unit proved "Armenia is waging a war against Azerbaijan". Hasanov warned that his country will use any means to defend its territorial integrity. GEORGIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS ABKHAZ PEACE PROPOSAL. Addressing the Georgian parliament on 27 May, Eduard Shevardnadze rejected the recent proposal by Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba that Georgia should conclude a peace agreement with his breakaway region modeled on the Russian-Chechen treaty signed on 12 May, ITAR-TASS and BS-Press reported. Shevardnadze argued that Chechnya wanted to break away from Russia whereas Abkhazia wants to join the Russian Federation. This, however, is incorrect: Ardzinba wants either international recognition for Abkhazia as an independent state or equal status with Georgia within a confederation. Shevardnadze called for an international conference on resolving the conflict under UN auspices with the participation of the OSCE, the U.S., France, Germany, the U.K., and North Caucasus leaders. GEORGIA, UKRAINE SIGN AGREEMENTS ON MILITARY COOPERATION. Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze and his Ukrainian counterpart, Aleksandr Kuzmuk, signed six agreements in Tbilisi on 27 May ITAR-TASS and BS-Press reported. The accords cover cooperation between the two countries' air forces and air defense systems and the training of Georgian military personnel in Ukraine. Kuzmuk reiterated that Ukraine supports Georgia's claim to part of the Black Sea Fleet. GEORGIA TO HOST COSSACK GATHERING. The Council of Atamans of Cossack Forces of Russia and Abroad will convene in Tbilisi in July to coordinate its position on the settlement of conflicts in the former USSR, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta on 28 May. Ranking Russian Cossack leaders discussed preparations for the congress in Tbilisi with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and the leader of the Georgian Cossack Force, Vasilii Kadenets. The convention is clearly part of Shevardnadze's "Peaceful Caucasus" initiative and aims to promote cooperation between Georgia and Russia's North Caucasus republics. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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