|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
Vol 1, No. 47, Part I, 6 June 1997
Vol 1, No. 47, Part I, 6 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 * DUMA SLAMS PRIVATIZATION RESULTS * DUMA RATIFIES UNION TREATY WITH BELARUS * RELEASE OF FOUR JOURNALISTS ABDUCTED IN CHECHNYA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA DUMA SLAMS PRIVATIZATION RESULTS. By a vote of 288 votes to 6 with 1 abstention, the State Duma has passed a preliminary version of a resolution condemning the government's privatization policy from 1992-1996, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 5 June. The final version of the non-binding resolution is expected to be adopted within the next week. It calls for the reversal of some privatization auctions and for new laws to increase parliamentary oversight of the sale of state-owned shares in companies. Communist Duma deputy Mullanur Ganeev, who chaired a special Duma commission on privatization results, slammed the government for privatizing more than 57% of Russian enterprises at a total gain to the treasury of only $3-5 billion. Ganeev said the process was "criminal" and called on the government to ban foreign investors from what he called strategic sectors in the Russian economy. STATE PROPERTY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN RESPONDS TO CRITICS. Deputy Prime Minister and State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh objected to the Duma's description of Russian privatization as "criminal," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 5 June. Kokh acknowledged that some state property has been sold off cheaply and that new owners are not always efficient. However, he said poorly-drafted legislation--not the "evil intent" of government officials--was to blame. He added that sales had brought relatively little money to the treasury to date because the bulk of privatized enterprises were not sold for cash. Instead, they were sold for vouchers that were distributed to citizens during the "mass privatization" policy. Kokh said privatization will bring in 11 trillion rubles ($1.9 billion) this year, exceeding budget targets of 5 trillion rubles. He also pledged to cooperate with the Duma in drafting new privatization legislation. OFFICIALS ON PRIVATIZATION CRIMES, CAPITAL FLIGHT, SMUGGLING. Addressing the Duma on 5 June, First Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Kolesnikov told deputies that crimes related to privatization rose by 60% in 1996 compared with the previous year, Russian news agencies reported. He said real estate schemes involving fraud, bribery, and even murder continued to proliferate. The same day, First Deputy Central Bank Chairman Aleksandr Khandruev estimated that $12-15 billion flows out of Russia illegally every year. Khandruev said this estimate did not include capital funneled out through what he called semi-legal "gray schemes." In addition, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov told a 5 June government session that $16 billion worth of undeclared goods were brought to Russia in 1996, depriving the budget of more than $2 billion in customs tariffs. DUMA RATIFIES UNION TREATY WITH BELARUS. The State Duma on 6 June ratified the Russian-Belarusian union treaty signed in May by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Russian news agencies reported. The treaty sailed through the Duma by a vote of 363 to 2 with 19 abstentions. Most of the Russian political elite supports some kind of integration with Belarus (see RFE/RL Newsline, 21 and 23 May 1997), although opposition deputies have argued that the treaty should have called for more rapid integration. RELEASE OF FOUR JOURNALISTS ABDUCTED IN CHECHNYA. Four journalists from ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii who were abducted in Chechnya in March were freed early on 6 June, Russian media reported. The four men were handed over to Dagestani Security Council Chairman Magomed Tolboev and taken to Makhachkala. Two days earlier, Nezavisimaya gazeta had quoted Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev as charging that Tolboev's earlier attempts to obtain the journalists' release had been counterproductive. Makhashev also suggested that Tolboev himself was implicated in their abduction. The newspaper charged that the Russian government similarly considered that Tolboev was obstructing attempts to locate and free the four men. The fate of three Russian journalists abducted near Grozny in May remains unclear. COMMUNISTS TO INITIATE NO-CONFIDENCE PROCEDURE TO PREEMPT GOVERNMENT? The Communist Party Duma faction is planning to begin the procedure of calling a confidence vote, Interfax reported on 5 June, citing an unnamed Duma source. The source said the move is aimed at preventing the prime minister from "stealing the initiative" by demanding a confidence vote himself. Under the constitution, the president can dissolve the Duma if deputies vote no confidence in the government twice within three months. But if the prime minister initiates the confidence motion, only one no-confidence vote is required to give the president legal grounds for disbanding the Duma. Meanwhile, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev on 5 June asked Chubais and Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin not to "engage in blackmail." Chubais and Rybkin had suggested that the Duma might be dissolved if deputies did not pass economic legislation backed by the government. YELTSIN CALLS FOR "MODERN, COMPETENT" POLICIES IN REGIONS. In a 6 June address on nationwide radio, President Yeltsin called on Russia's regional leaders to pursue "modern and competent" economic policies, such as those adopted in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast. He said that because of poor oversight, federal aid sent to economically lagging regions often "does not reach those who need it most." He singled out Primorskii Krai as a region where poorly thought-out policies had hurt residents. (The krai has seen numerous energy crises in recent years, the most recent of which led to massive power cuts throughout May.) Yeltsin also warned regional leaders "who got extensive powers and immediately opened their own big pockets" that their income and property declarations will be scrutinized in Moscow. "We will slap their hands to teach them a lesson," he added. WORLD BANK APPROVES LOANS FOR RUSSIA. The World Bank's board has approved five loans to Russia totaling nearly $820 million, Reuters reported on 5 June. In addition to a $600 million loan for structural reforms in the Russian economy, the bank approved an $85 million credit to help restructure recently privatized companies, $71 million earmarked for education, $40 million for the power sector, and $22.6 million to cover economic analysis for the government. The bank's board is scheduled to consider a proposed $800 million loan for Russia's social benefits system in late June. Also on 5 June, World Bank Managing Director of Operations Caio Koch-Weser appealed to G-7 nations to provide $12 million to help Russia stop producing ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), RFE/RL's correspondent in Washington reported. Koch-Weser urged that the issue be on the agenda at the June G-7 summit in Denver, Colorado. RUSSIA TO DEMAND REPAYMENT OF DEBTS FROM LIBYA, IRAQ. Addressing a session of the presidential political consultative council on 5 June, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said it is "not normal" that Russia should overlook the "massive debts" owed by a number of foreign countries. He said that the Russian government will demand repayment of those debts, according to Interfax. Chubais singled out Libya and Iraq, which, he said, owed Russia $2.5 billion and $7 billion, respectively. PRIMAKOV ON ARMS CONTROL. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov says Moscow supports a ban on bomb-grade fissile material as well as an eventual prohibition on land mines, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 5 June. Addressing a U.N.-sponsored conference on disarmament in Geneva, Primakov added that the Russian government is "sparing no effort" to ratify the START-2 treaty with Washington. START-2 was ratified by the U.S. Congress last year but faces significant opposition in the Russian Duma. Primakov said Moscow may soon start negotiations on a START-3 treaty to reduce the number of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons to one-fifth of their Cold War levels within a decade. But he warned against a bipolar vision of geopolitics, saying the time was approaching when all nuclear powers will have to join arms negotiations. CHUBAIS PROMISES TO IMPROVE FUNDING FOR MILITARY. First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais says that funding for arms production and military research and development will be six times higher in July than in June, Russian news agencies reported on 5 June. Chubais, who chairs a recently created government commission on military financing, did not specify how much would be spent on the programs. He also promised that the government will soon release a schedule for paying back wages to soldiers. Funding for the armed forces, especially for soldiers' wages and military acquisitions, has fallen far below budgeted levels in recent years. RESHUFFLE AT DEFENSE MINISTRY TO CONTINUE? Unnamed sources in the Defense Ministry say several senior generals who were promoted during the last year under former Defense Minister Igor Rodionov are on the way out, Interfax and Krasnaya zvezda reported on 4 June. Yeltsin replaced Rodionov with Igor Sergeev in May. The sources claimed that Sergeev has asked Yeltsin to sign a decree reappointing some generals who lost their jobs after former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev was fired and Aleksandr Lebed was appointed Security Council secretary last June. Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii has denied media reports saying Grachev may be appointed Russian ambassador to NATO, Interfax reported on 5 June. Yastrzhembskii said Grachev is not among those being considered for the job. RUMORS OF BAN ON U.S. FILMS IN ARMY DENIED. The Defense Ministry's press service says there is no ban on watching U.S. war movies at Russian military bases, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 June. Some Russian media have reported that the armed forces have banned screenings of violent films in an attempt to prevent soldiers from killing their comrades. A Russian soldier recently killed six of his comrades in Chita Oblast and a sergeant in Abkhazia killed 10 fellow soldiers before shooting himself. Izvestiya reported on 6 June that since April 1995, 63 Russian soldiers have been killed in similar circumstances. YELTSIN DECREES CHANGE IN BLACK SEA FLEET FLAGS. Flags of the former Soviet Union will be replaced with post-Soviet Russian flags on Russia's Black Sea Fleet ships on 12 June, according to a presidential decree issued on 5 June. The 31 May agreement between Russian and Ukraine on dividing the fleet made the change possible, Russian news agencies reported. In recent years, 12 June--the anniversary of Russia's 1990 declaration of sovereignty--has been marked as Russian Independence Day. KEMEROVO ADOPTS ELECTORAL LAW, IRKUTSK REGISTERS GUBERNATORIAL HOPEFULS. Kemerovo Oblast Governor Mikhail Kislyuk has signed an electoral law recently passed by the oblast's legislature, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 June. The move paves the way for gubernatorial elections to be held there later this year. Kemerovo is the only oblast still governed by a Yeltsin appointee (see RFE/RL Newsline, 20 May 1997). Kislyuk eventually dropped his demand that the law set the minimum turnout for valid elections at 50%, a level rarely seen in regional elections. Meanwhile, nine candidates have been registered to contest the 27 July gubernatorial election in Irkutsk Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 June. The contenders include Irkutsk Mayor Boris Govorin, Communist Party oblast head Sergei Levchenko, and State Duma deputies Viktor Mashinskii (Popular Power faction), Yurii Ten (Our Home Is Russia), and Vitalii Shuba (Russian Regions). ASEAN HOLDS CONFERENCE IN MOSCOW. The Cooperation Committee of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held its founding conference in Moscow on 5 June, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigorii Karasin, who is a co-chairman of the committee, said Moscow hoped to promote better relations with the ASEAN countries and to attract members to take part in projects in Siberia and Russia's Far East. The ASEAN member countries are Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Burma, Cambodia, and Laos are expected to be admitted in July. Russia is attending the conference as a "dialogue partner," along with Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, New Zealand South Korea, the U.S., and the EU. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES PLANS TO INVADE ABKHAZIA. The Defense Ministry has issued a statement denying press reports that Georgian forces are preparing for a military attack on Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 June. The press reports claimed that the reason for First Deputy Defense Minister Dzhoni Pirtskhalaishvili's resignation was not personal friction between himself and Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze but Pirtskhaliashvili's opposition to the planned offensive. Addressing troops on 26 May, the anniversary of the 1918 proclamation of Georgia's independence, Nadibaidze had said that their primary obligation was to restore Georgia's territorial integrity, if necessary by force. ANOTHER DEMONSTRATION IN KYRGYZSTAN. More than 500 people assembled outside the government building on 5 June and presented a list of demands to the government, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. The protest was organized by Kyrgyzstan's Committee to Protect Journalists and was joined by a group representing the homeless in the capital. The protesters demanded the release of all journalists currently detained or jailed in Kyrgyzstan and an investigation into the 3 June beating by Kyrgyz militia of four people who had staged a hunger strike outside the government building. They also want the resignation of Bishkek Mayor Boris Silayev and his administration and increased efforts to help Bishkek's homeless. Deputy Prime Minister Mira Jangaracheva went out to talk to the demonstrators but they said they would only speak to Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov. FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN KAZAKSTAN. Kenneth Derr, the president of the U.S. company Chevron, told an investment conference in Almaty on 5 June that his firm has already invested $800 million in Kazakstan and plans to invest $20 billion in the Tengiz oil field project over the next 40 years, Interfax reported. The Tengizchevroil joint venture is already producing 160,000 barrels of oil per day and hopes to increase this to 700,000 barrels per day by 2010. President Nursultan Nazarbayev told the conference that foreign companies to date have committed themselves to investing more than $60 billion in the coming years. He noted that direct investment now totals $6 billion. and that by 2003, Kazakstan will be producing 100 million tons of oil annually. Nazarbayev also said the recoverable mineral resources in his country are estimated at $8.7 trillion. ARMENIAN PRESIDENT IN ASHGABAT. Levon Ter-Petrossyan arrived in Ashgabat on 5 June for a two-day official visit, ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan reported. Ter-Petrossyan and his Turkmen counterpart, Saparmurat Niyazov, signed an agreement on avoiding dual taxation and a memorandum on expanding bilateral cooperation. They also signed a protocol whereby Armenia will provide Turkmenistan with manufactured goods and gold in payment of its $35 million debt for Turkmen natural gas supplied in 1994-1995. FREAK STORMS STRIKE TURKMENISTAN. Heavy rains fell in southern Turkmenistan from 2-4 June, causing damage in and around the capital, Ashgabat, ITAR-TASS reported. The level of the Atrek and Firuzinka Rivers rose as much as 3 meters and brought stones and wood into villages located on their banks. One plane at Ashgabat's airport slipped off the runway as it was landing and fell on its side. No casualties were reported. The rain fall is the heaviest recorded for June since 1929. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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