|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
Vol 1, No. 46, Part I, 5 June 1997
Vol 1, No. 46, Part I, 5 June 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 SENDS 1998 BUDGET MESSAGE TO GOVERNMENT * DUMA PASSES LAW ON IRAQ * ABKHAZ FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW End Note ARMENIA'S SHIFTING POLITICAL LANDSCAPE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN SENDS 1998 BUDGET MESSAGE TO GOVERNMENT. President Boris Yeltsin has outlined his priorities for a "realistic and transparent" 1998 budget in a message to the government, Russian and Western agencies reported on 4 June. Yeltsin called for improved tax collection and said the budget deficit should be cut to 0.5% of GDP in 1998, excluding the costs of servicing Russia's internal and external debt. He called for a budget deficit of zero in 1999--again, excluding debt servicing costs. Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff and former Finance Minister Aleksandr Livshits told reporters that in order to avoid income shortfalls in 1998, the government may auction off state-owned shares in companies that owe taxes. Meanwhile, the State Duma on 4 June approved a government proposal to form a working group on preparing the 1998 budget that will include government and parliamentary representatives, ITAR-TASS reported. YELTSIN MEETS WITH REGIONAL LEADERS. Yeltsin met with heads of 20 Russian regions for three hours on 4 June to discuss various aspects of domestic and foreign policy, Russian news agencies reported. Among other things, Yeltsin called on the regional leaders to support housing reform and pledged to meet with top regional officials more regularly. The Kremlin appears to be stepping up efforts to keep regional leaders, who are also deputies in the Federation Council, in the president's camp. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais told Kommersant-Daily on 3 June that he talks with, on average, three or four regional leaders a day and never refuses a governor's request for a meeting. This year, the Federation Council has been more willing to approve laws passed by the State Duma against the Kremlin's wishes. DUMA PASSES LAWS ON IRAQ... The Duma on 4 June passed a draft law, proposed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, calling for the resumption of trade with Iraq in violation of international sanctions, Reuters and Russian agencies reported. The law advocates purchasing oil and petroleum products from Iraq and supplying that country with equipment and spare parts, according to Interfax. Duma Deputy speaker Sergei Baburin told RFE/RL's Moscow Bureau he hoped that the Federation Council would support the draft law, but that is considered unlikely. Even if the upper house does approve it, Yeltsin is certain to impose a veto. An unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Interfax that the law is "absolutely inconsistent with international standards and the Russian Constitution." ...AND ON RED SQUARE. The Duma also passed a law giving Moscow's Red Square the status of national cultural heritage, Russian news agencies reported on 4 June. The law, approved by 269 votes to three, bans reconstruction or new construction on the square. In April, the Duma passed a resolution denouncing as "vandalism" proposals to remove Vladimir Lenin's body from the mausoleum on Red Square. Also on 4 June, the Duma passed a resolution calling on the Latvian parliament to release Alfreds Rubiks, former first secretary of the Latvian Communist Party's Central Committee, from prison. DUMA ORDERS AUDIT OF RUSSIAN PUBLIC TV. The Duma on 4 June adopted a resolution to "strengthen state monitoring of the activities of Russian Public TV [ORT]," ITAR-TASS reported. The resolution instructs the Audit Chamber to examine the financing and use of federal property at the 51% state-owned network, which broadcasts nationwide on Channel 1. The Duma also instructed the State Tax Service to examine ORT's compliance with tax laws. The resolution called on the government to provide all necessary information for the audits and to conclude a trust agreement for managing the state's shares in ORT. Duma deputies have repeatedly objected to ORT's news coverage, which frequently portrays the lower house of the parliament in an unfavorable light. In March, deputies stripped the network's journalists of their Duma accreditation for one month. AUDIT CHAMBER CRITICIZES USE OF FUNDS BY FINANCE MINISTRY. Eleonora Mitrofanova, a member of the Audit Chamber, says that commercial banks earned at least 4 trillion rubles ($690 million) in 1996 at the expense of the state budget by making loans to the Finance Ministry, Interfax reported on 4 June. She said the ministry has repeatedly used bank loans to cover its expenses and repaid the loans using budget funds. Mitrofanova said the procedure constituted an "improper" use of funds, since the ministry was in effect amending budget expenditures "in favor of the banking system" without approval from the parliament. Meanwhile, Audit Chamber Deputy Chairman Yurii Boldyrev recently told Argumenty i fakty (no. 22) that the Pension Fund, Obligatory Medical Insurance Fund, Social Security Fund, and Employment Fund have squandered 370 billion rubles during the first five months of 1997 alone. GOVERNMENT DIRECTIVE APPOINTS HEADS OF COMMISSIONS. The government has issued a directive naming new heads of nearly 30 government commissions whose chairman were dismissed during the March cabinet reshuffle, Russian news agencies reported on 4 June. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais will be in charge of commissions on financial and lending policies, foreign debt, revising tax law, and government grants to the media. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov will run commissions on reforming Russia's social benefits system and on reburying the family of the last tsar, Nicholas II. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov will head the government's anti-drug commission. Economics Minister Yakov Urinson will be in charge of commissions on exports and on matters related to the World Trade Organization, while CIS Affairs Minister Aman Tuleev will head a commission on Russian-Tajik cooperation. NEMTSOV RELEASES INCOME DECLARATION... First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov earned about 92.5 million rubles ($16,000) in 1996 and another 435 million rubles so far this year in royalties from his book The Provincial, Russian news agencies reported on 4 June. Documents submitted to the State Tax Service also show that Nemtsov owns 1,000 square meters of land in Nizhnii Novgorod, with an estimated value of 6 million rubles, and a Russian-made car purchased in 1992, worth about 25 million rubles. Nemtsov has been an outspoken supporter of a presidential decree demanding that top officials release income and property declarations. Yeltsin recently declared his own income and property holdings (see RFE/RL Newsline, 2 June 1997). ...DENIES RUMORS ABOUT PENSION REFORM. Nemtsov has denied Russian media reports that the government plans to cut the income of working pensioners, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 June. He admitted that the government has sent Yeltsin a "very tough draft decree, which we do not like at all" to help stabilize pension payments. But he said he hoped the Duma would pass proposed laws on reforming Russia's social benefits system so that Yeltsin would not need to sign the pension decree. Izvestiya claimed on 4 June that the government "intends to solve the pensions problem at the expense of pensioners." The paper said a draft presidential decree would put a ceiling on the total income a working pensioner could earn and still receive a state pension. CHECHEN-RUSSIAN AGREEMENT ON OIL TRANSIT READY FOR SIGNING. After talks in Moscow on 4 June with his Chechen counterpart Movladi Udugov, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov said an agreement on the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil from Baku via Chechnya to Novorossiisk, scheduled to begin on 1 October, is ready for signing, Russian agencies reported. Nemtsov did not disclose details, and it is unclear whether Chechnya will receive the standard Russian tariff of $2.70 per barrel or the higher rate that it has demanded. Udugov and Russian Security Council Secretary Rybkin reached agreement on 3 June on a plan to finance Chechen reconstruction whereby other Russian regions and former Soviet republics (except Ukraine) will provide aid to Chechnya in exchange for writing off their debts to Russia, Russian media reported. GOVERNMENT PROMISES EMERGENCY FUNDS TO END LABOR UNREST IN VORKUTA. As thousands of coal miners in the northern city of Vorkuta (Komi Republic) took to the streets on 4 June demanding that Yeltsin and the government resign, First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais promised to disburse 150 billion rubles ($260 million) in emergency government funds to Vorkuta starting on 5 June, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Chubais, who also heads the government's Interdepartmental Commission on the Socioeconomic Problems of Mining Regions, acknowledged that the money would not cover all wage arrears but said it would help ease tensions and pay vacation expenses for miners' children. Chubais sharply criticized a commission from the Fuel and Energy Ministry and the state coal company Rosugol for failing to resolve the crisis in Vorkuta sooner. Workers at Vorkuta's nine mines, who have not been paid since last fall, declared an open-ended strike on 1 June. 720,000 RUSSIANS HAVE GONE ON STRIKE SO FAR IN 1997. According to the State Statistics Committee, some 720,000 Russian citizens participated in strikes during the first five months of 1997, five times more than the number of strikers during the same period in 1996, Izvestiya reported on 4 June. The main demand of the strikers is payment of back wages. Strikes lasting longer than one day were held at more than 14,600 enterprises and organizations. The data indicate that more than 92% of all strikes this year have been called at educational institutions. The largest number of teachers' strikes were in Omsk, Chita, Kirov, and Smolensk Oblasts and in Krasnoyarsk Krai. FSB SEEKING DOUBLE AGENTS. In a 3 June interview on Moscow Television, Federal Security Service (FSB) director Nikolai Kovalev called on Russians working for foreign security services to offer to become double agents, Russian news agencies reported the next day. Kovalev said prospective double agents could call a special telephone number in Moscow. He promised to guarantee the anonymity of volunteers and even to allow them to keep the money they received from foreign security services. Kovalev also warned that the FSB will find and arrest those who do not offer to become double agents. The FSB claims to have caught 39 Russians employed by foreign services in 1995 and 1996, Reuters reported. POLISH COURT DELAYS DECISION ON STANKEVICH'S EXTRADITION. A Polish court has delayed a decision on whether to extradite former presidential adviser and Moscow Deputy Mayor Sergei Stankevich to Russia, RFE/RL's correspondent in Warsaw reported on 4 June. The court asked Russian law enforcement authorities to produce within two months evidence that Stankevich took a $10,000 bribe in 1992. Meanwhile, former Moscow Mayor Gavriil Popov published an open letter in Gazeta Wyborcza appealing to Polish authorities not to extradite Stankevich. SLAIN JOURNALIST'S HUSBAND TO APPEAL TO SUPREME COURT. German journalist Gisbert Mrozek is preparing a Supreme Court appeal to protest the verdict handed down against a soldier who shot his wife, journalist Natalya Alyakina, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 5 June. Alyakina was killed in Budennovsk in June 1995, and the soldier who fired the fatal shots was given a two-year suspended sentence in July 1996. Mrozek, who claims the investigation into his wife's death was incomplete, recently lost an appeal in a military court (see RFE/RL Newsline, 30 May 1997). TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ABKHAZ FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. After meeting in Moscow on 4 June with Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov, Sergei Shamba said Abkhazia wants an extension of the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, Russian agencies reported. Shamba said their withdrawal would hinder a political solution to the conflict and that Abkhaz troops would immediately take their place, possibly supported by units from the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus. In Tbilisi, parliamentary chairman Zurab Zhvania rejected Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii's charge that the 30 May Georgian parliament resolution setting conditions for the peacekeepers' continued presence constituted "blackmail." Georgian presidential press spokesman Vakhtang Abashidze said that Eduard Shevardnadze has again appealed to the Russian leadership to implement the decision taken at the March summit of the CIS heads of state to broaden the peacekeepers' mandate. GEORGIA BACKS CHECHEN PROPOSAL FOR CAUCASIAN OSCE. Parliamentary chairman Zhvania expressed support on 4 June for the creation of a Caucasian inter-parliamentary assembly modeled on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, ITAR-TASS reported. This idea has been discussed intermittently in recent years and was again raised on 31 May by Chechen delegates to a conference of North Caucasus leaders in Kislovodsk (see RFE/RL Newsline, 2 June 1997). Segodnya on 4 June reported that the creation of a Caucasian equivalent of the OSCE with international status was discussed during talks the previous day between Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov and Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin. This suggests that Russia aspires to leadership of the proposed organization. Some Georgian parliamentary deputies have argued that Russia should not be granted membership. ANNAN FAVORS EXTENDING OBSERVERS MANDATE IN TAJIKISTAN. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on 4 June he favored extending the mandate of the UN Mission of Observers in Tajikistan, which expires on 15 June, RFE/RL's Tajik Bureau reported. Annan also said that following the formal signing of the Tajik peace accord, the UNMOT mandate will have to be adjusted and its numbers revised. Currently, there are some 70 UN personnel in Tajikistan. The signing was scheduled to take place on 13 June but has been postponed due to the Tajik opposition's insistence that prisoner exchanges begin beforehand and that a building be found in Dushanbe in which the proposed reconciliation council can convene. OPPOSITION CALLS FOR OUSTER OF KAZAK LEADERSHIP. The opposition labor movement issued a statement on 4 June demanding that President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the government, and the parliament step down, Interfax reported. According to the statement, the government is not serving the "lawful interests of the country" and neglects the will of the people, who "have been driven to poverty and are starving." Members of the movement participated in the 30 May demonstration outside the government building in Almaty, and several of the movement's leaders were put in jail for 15 days for their part in the unsanctioned rally. The movement plans to picket the government building again soon. CHINESE COMPANY WINS KAZAK TENDER. China National Petroleum Corporation beat out American companies Texaco and Amoco and the Russian company Yuzhny Most for a 60% stake in the Aktyubinsk oil field, ITAR-TASS and the Financial Times reported. The 4 June announcement added that the Chinese company will invest $4.3 billion in the project and will also construct a 3,000 km pipeline from the western Kazak oil field to China's Xinjiang Province. The Chinese company will contribute $3.5 billion to the pipeline project. KYRGYZ GOLD COMPANY AHEAD OF SCHEDULE. The Kumtor Gold Company, a joint venture of the Kyrgyz state gold company Kyrgyzaltyn and Canada's Cameco, announced on 4 June that it extracted more gold in the first five months of 1997 than planned, Interfax reported. The company intended to extract 3.8 tons of gold between January and May, but Kumtor head Len Homeniuk said the figure for that period was 4.2 tons. The projected output for 1997 is 12.75 tons, but Homeniuk noted the total may exceed 13 tons. END NOTE ARMENIA'S SHIFTING POLITICAL LANDSCAPE by Liz Fuller and Harry Tamrazian For more than six years, Armenia's ruling Pan-National Movement [HHSh] h as dominated politics in that country. But in recent months, splits within the movement have become increasingly apparent, prompting leaders of the movement to concede it no longer qualifies as a ruling party. The HHSh was created in 1989 from the Karabakh Committee, set up by a ha ndful of Armenian academics the previous year, to coordinate Armenian support for the drive by the predominantly ethnic Armenian population of Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast to achieve unification with Armenia. The movement obtained a majority in the post-communist Supreme Soviet elected in the summer of 1990, and its leader, Levon Ter-Petrossyan, was elected president the fall of the following year. Although popular support for the Armenian leadership plummeted between 1 992 and 1994 as a result of economic collapse, successive attempts by opposition parties--including the Union for National Self-Determination, headed by veteran dissident Paruir Hairikyan, and former Prime Minister Vazgen Manukyan's National Democratic Union--to create a lasting opposition coalition failed. The only serious threat to the HHSh was the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutyun (ARFD). Banned by Ter-Petrossyan in December1994 for alleged involvement in terrorist activities, the ARFD was unable to field candidates in the July1995 parliamentary elections. The Republic bloc, comprising the HHSh and four smaller parties, won 114 of the 190 seats in the new parliament. But the ban on the ARFD, in conjunction with violations of voting procedure, led some opposition politicians to question the legality of the poll. Ruben Mirzakhanyan, chairman of the Ramgavar party, argued that the HHSh's hold on power rested on an elaborate network of patron-client relationships permeating the national and local governments as well as the police. In December, 1995, Ter-Petrossyan appeared to be distancing himself from the HHSh, which, he said, should form the nucleus of a broader right-wing party. The disputed presidential poll of September 1996, in which Ter-Petrossya n was narrowly re-elected with 51.75% of the vote, served to split the HHSh into two camps: the "bureaucrats" grouped around former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan, former national security adviser Davit Shahnazaryan, and parliamentary legal affairs committee chairman Eduard Yegoryan; and powerful shadow economic interest groups backed by former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghyan (now mayor of Yerevan) and Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsyan. Two months ago, political forces began to realign after it became appare nt that the president might consider dissolving the current parliament and holding early parliamentary elections. In early April, Ter-Petrossyan initiated talks with ARFD representatives, which observers in Yerevan predict will culminate in that party's re-legalization. If that happens, the Dashnaks could once again emerge as the strongest opposition party. In late May, Hairikyan announced that he no longer recognizes Vazgen Man ukyan as leader of the opposition National Alliance created in September 1996 to support Manukyan's presidential candidacy. Also in late May, Bagratyan, whose aggressive free-market policies earned him the nickname of the "Armenian Gaidar," launched his own liberal political party, Azatutyun. Several ranking members of the HHSh have already defected to that party, while Hairikyan and other opposition leaders have also indicated they are willing to cooperate with the liberals. On 30 May, the Yerevan branch of the HHSh met to prepare for the movemen t's congress to be held in June. Some members may break away at that meeting to align themselves either with the liberals or conceivably even with Manukyan. Many of the movement's leaders have expressed concern that the HHSh has lost its political clout and can no longer be considered the ruling party. Some have suggested that they may seek a vote of no confidence in the government of Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, the former president of Nagorno-Karabakh, who is not a HHSh member. Such a move would bring the HHSh into open conflict with Ter-Petrossyan. In an implicit challenge to the president to choose to side with either the HHSh or the prime minister, parliament deputy speaker and ranking HHSh member Ara Sahakyan told the HHSh's newspaper Haik on 3 June that the chairman of the ruling party should be Ter-Petrossyan. Observers in Yerevan suggest that a conflict between the HHSh and Kocharyan is inevitable, particularly since the latter's campaign to wipe out tax evasion is likely to impact on the economic interests of many HHSh members. But the strong backing Kocharyan enjoys both from the president and from the ARFD makes him the probable victor. And since Ter-Petrossyan has stressed he will not seek a third term as president, Kocharyan is well placed to succeed him in the 2001 elections. Harry Tamrazian is deputy director of RFE/RL's Armenian Service. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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