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Vol 1, No. 50, Part I, 11 June 1997
Vol 1, No. 50, Part I, 11 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 SPRING SESSION EXTENDED * CHUBAIS PROMISES GOVERNMENT WILL COLLECT ADDITIONAL REVENUES * RUSSIAN LEADERS PRESSURE ARDZINBA End Note SEEKING SOLUTIONS TO THE ABKHAZ CONFLICT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA DUMA SPRING SESSION EXTENDED. The State Duma council has avoided a confrontation with the executive branch by voting to extend the Duma's spring session by four days, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 10 June. The Duma will now hold its last plenary meeting before the summer recess on 24 June. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said the extra sessions will allow deputies to consider major economic legislation backed by the government before the holiday. In particular, the Duma will consider the proposed cuts to the 1997 budget, the draft Tax Code and Budget Code, and a package of laws to reform Russia's social benefits system. Various government officials hinted recently that President Boris Yeltsin might dissolve the Duma if deputies failed to consider vital legislation before the recess. CHUBAIS PROMISES GOVERNMENT WILL COLLECT ADDITIONAL REVENUES. Addressing the Federation Council on 10 June, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said the government plans to bring in 34 trillion rubles ($5.9 billion) in additional revenues this year, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He said 11 trillion rubles would be collected by the end of June, noting that debtor companies, including the gas monopoly Gazprom and the car manufacturer Avtovaz, have already paid 4 trillion rubles. Despite the additional projected revenues, Chubais argued that the government's proposed sequester of 108 trillion rubles in 1997 budget spending was necessary. He also warned against printing extra money to fill the budget gap, saying such a move would cause a sharp increase in inflation that would most hurt pensioners and the poor. FEDERATION COUNCIL SENDS LAWS ON TROPHY ART, GOVERNMENT BACK TO YELTSIN. The Federation Council has voted by 121 to nine with four abstentions to return the trophy art law to President Yeltsin for signing, Interfax reported on 10 June. The law would prohibit transfers to foreign countries of cultural valuables taken to Russia during World War II. Deputies also voted by 128 to three with three abstentions to return to Yeltsin the law on the government, which would force the entire cabinet to step down if the prime minister resigned or was fired. After the State Duma and Federation Council overrode his vetoes of both laws, Yeltsin returned the legislation to the parliament again, claiming that they had been passed using unconstitutional voting procedures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 1997). But in a message sent to the president, Council deputies argued that only the Constitutional Court can determine whether parliamentary voting procedures violate the constitution. FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LAW ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROCEDURE... The Federation Council rejected by 108 to 15 with four abstentions a law outlining the procedure for adopting constitutional amendments, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 June. Constitutional amendments must be approved by two-thirds of State Duma deputies, three-quarters of Federation Council deputies, and legislatures in two-thirds of Russia's 89 regions. The upper house's Committee on Constitutional Legislation had objected to a provision in the law whereby a regional legislature would be considered to have approved a proposed constitutional amendment if it did not vote on the amendment within six months. Opposition Duma deputies have long advocated changing the constitution to reduce presidential power and grant the legislature more oversight over the government. ...APPROVES WITNESS PROTECTION LAW. The Federation Council has approved a law on protecting crime victims, eyewitnesses, or persons testifying in criminal cases, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 June. The law would allow individuals to apply for various forms of protection, including the right to carry firearms. The state might also provide bodyguards or pay to move protected individuals to another part of the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 1997). YELTSIN SIGNS RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN UNION TREATY. Yeltsin signed into law the Union Treaty between Russia and Belarus and an accompanying charter on 10 June, the same day the accords were ratified in the upper houses of both countries' parliaments, Interfax reported. The agreements, signed by Yeltsin and his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, in Moscow on 23 May, call for closer economic, political, and military ties between Russia and Belarus. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, who also chairs the joint Russian-Belarusian Parliamentary Assembly, told ITAR-TASS on 10 June that direct elections to the joint parliamentary body could be held as soon as next year. The Russian and Belarusian parliaments currently choose delegates to the joint assembly. NEMTSOV WINDS UP VISIT TO JAPAN. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov concluded his visit to Japan on 11 June, according to Russian media. Nemtsov once again proposed a deal whereby Japanese fishermen would have special privileges in the waters around the Kuril Islands, but Tokyo gave no clear response. Japan has consistently turned down such offers, claiming acceptance would be tantamount to acknowledging Russian ownership of the disputed islands. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is reportedly planning to visit Japan this year, but no date has been announced. A Russian destroyer is to visit Tokyo's port from 27-30 June. It will be first Russian warship to dock at a Japanese port in more than 100 years. CHECHEN PRESIDENT ISSUES ULTIMATUM ON HOSTAGES. Aslan Maskhadov said on Chechen TV on 10 June that he has met with the Chechen field commander responsible for the abduction last month of three journalists for NTV and has demanded that he release them within three days, according to Interfax. The previous day, Maskhadov had accused unnamed field commanders of resorting to kidnappings, provoking religious tension, and "setting the parliament against the president" in the hope of profiting from "uncertainty and chaos." "Segodnya" in its 10 June issue suggested that the unexplained delay in signing the Russian-Chechen agreement on oil transit, which was recently reported to be imminent, is because the Chechens are proposing a "hostages-for-oil" deal. Also on 10 June, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais told journalists that under the 1997 federal budget Chechnya will receive more than $90 million toward reconstruction, AFP reported. INGUSH PRESIDENT PROPOSES LEGALIZING VENDETTAS. Ruslan Aushev has proposed legalizing blood feuds, Russian Public Television reported on 10 June. The Ingush president noted that such vendettas are a "fact of life" in the Caucasus. PRIMORE ADMINISTRATION DEPARTMENT SEARCHED, DOCUMENTS CONFISCATED. A department of the Primorskii Krai administration was searched for three hours on 10 June on orders from Viktor Kondratov, the presidential representative in the krai, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported. Yeltsin recently granted Kondratov extraordinary powers. Krai officials loyal to Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko denounced the search as illegal, but Kondratov told journalists that Russia's Criminal Procedural Code allows law enforcement officials to carry out "preliminary examinations" to determine whether to open a criminal case. Kondratov said documents and computer files confiscated from the department point toward attempts to discredit Nazdratenko's political opponents, in particular Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov. Also on 10 June, government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov and Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Yevgenii Savostyanov told reporters in Moscow that Yeltsin is considering firing Nazdratenko and holding early gubernatorial elections in Primore, Russian news agencies reported. SVERDLOVSK GOVERNOR EXPLAINS SUPPORT FOR NAZDRATENKO. Eduard Rossel says that the federal authorities are trying to set a dangerous precedent in Primorskii Krai, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 10 June. He said the issue at stake in the current political crisis is not Nazdratenko's personal fate but "whether federalism will exist in Russia." Rossel also denounced the president's decision to put an official from the security services in charge of supervising an elected governor. Kondratov heads the Primore branch of the Federal Security Service. Nazdratenko won a December 1995 gubernatorial election with more than 60% of the vote. OPPOSITION DUMA DEPUTIES SAY DUMA MAY NOT RATIFY TREATY WITH UKRAINE. Duma CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Georgii Tikhonov predicted at a round-table discussion in Moscow that the Duma will not ratify the comprehensive Russian-Ukrainian treaty signed by Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 31 May, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 June. Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin also predicted that the treaty would meet with opposition in the Duma because it left many issues open to interpretation. Both Baburin and Tikhonov belong to the left-leaning Popular Power faction, and Baburin is also leader of the nationalist Russian All-National Union. Tikhonov has previously argued that in renouncing territorial claims against Ukraine, Moscow is paving the way for Kyiv's entry into NATO. LUZHKOV ON LENIN BURIAL, SEVASTOPOL, TROPHY ART. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov says the body of Vladimir Lenin should be removed from the mausoleum on Red Square and buried "in a Christian way," Russian news agencies reported on 10 June. He offered to organize a funeral "with all the appropriate honors." Luzhkov also said he has not changed his mind over Sevastopol, the base of the Black Sea Fleet. The Moscow mayor has repeatedly said Sevastopol is a Russian city. Russia renounced all claims to Sevastopol or any other part of Crimea when a wide-ranging treaty with Ukraine was signed recently. With regard to the trophy art law, Luzhkov said Russia lost too many cultural valuables of its own during the war to return valuables to other countries without any compensation. SUICIDE RATE IN ARMED FORCES MORE THAN DOUBLED. Lt.-Gen. Vladimir Kulakov, who heads the administration of the General Staff, announced yesterday that there were 36 suicides for every 100,000 soldiers in the Russian armed forces last year, Interfax reported. He added that in 1991, the suicide rate among USSR soldiers was 15 per 100,000. Two-thirds of the suicides were committed by inductees during their first six months of service, according to Kulakov. POLISH PRIME MINISTER ON EXTRADITION OF STANKEVICH. Wlodzmierz Cimoszewicz told a cabinet meeting yesterday that Warsaw will abide by its laws in considering a Russian request to extradite Sergei Stankevich, RFE/RL's Warsaw bureau and ITAR-TASS reported. Cimoszewicz noted Poland has no extradition treaty with Moscow and therefore is not obliged to send Stankevich back to Russia. On 9 June, Issa Kostoev, chief of the International Law Department of the Russian Prosecutor-General's office, said there are no legal grounds for Warsaw's delay in extraditing Stankevich, Interfax reported. Stankevich is charged with accepting a $10,000 bribe in 1992 during preparations for a Moscow arts festival. At the time, he was first deputy chairman of the Moscow City Council as well as an adviser to President Yeltsin. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIAN LEADERS PRESSURE ARDZINBA... Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, and Presidential Chief of Staff Valentin Yumashev met with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba in Moscow on 9 June, Interfax reported. The Russian leaders made it clear they want Georgia and Abkhazia to sign an agreement ending hostilities and "defining the main directions and aims" of talks on Abkhazia's future political status within Georgia to take place under the aegis of Russia and the UN . They also stressed Russia's continued readiness to mediate such a settlement. Russian CIS Affairs Minister Aman Tuleev, who was not present at the talks, told Interfax on 10 June he favors Ardzinba's proposal for a peace treaty between Abkhazia and Georgia modeled on the one signed by Chechnya and Russia (see also "End Note" below). ...WHILE GEORGIA SEEKS ALTERNATIVE MEDIATORS. Revaz Adamia, the chairman of the Georgian parliament's defense commission, said that Georgia will consider signing such a treaty only after the repatriation of Georgian refugees who fled Abkhazia and the holding of new elections there. Adamia accused Russia of resuming arms supplies to Abkhazia, Interfax reported. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili called for an international conference on Abkhazia with the participation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Russia, the U.S., France, and Germany, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11 June. Yurii Soslambekov, the chairman of the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus, told Interfax on 10 June that he advocates extending the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. He added that if they are withdrawn, the confederation is prepared to send as many volunteers as necessary to replace them. ARMENIAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATES DRAFT LAWS ON MILITARY SERVICE. The Armenian parliament on 10 June began debating two alternative draft laws on military service, according to Interfax and Noyan Tapan. The first bill makes military service mandatory for all men aged 18-27 and abolishes deferment for students, while the second preserves the provision for student deferment. Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian argued in favor of the first bill, saying that the army "needs intellect" and is suffering a manpower shortage because between 3,000 - 4,000 draft-age men are studying. He warned that Armenia is involved in a "permanently slumbering war" and that hostilities over Nagorno-Karabakh will resume as soon as Azerbaijan "becomes equal [to] or stronger" than Armenia. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev recently called for the abolition of concessions enabling students to avoid military service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 1997). ARMENIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH HAIRIKYAN. Levon Ter-Petrossyan on 10 June met with Union for Self-Determination chairman Paruir Hairikyan, whom he has termed his "ideal" of a political leader, Armenian agencies reported. The talks focused on Hairikyan's recent statement calling for pre-term elections and for an international diplomatic campaign "to achieve international condemnation of the 1915 genocide." Hairikyan quoted the president as saying that preparations for new elections will take time but that a new electoral law has already been drafted. Haik Babukhanyan--the deputy chairman of the Union of Constitutional Right, which is aligned with the Union for Self-Determination in the seven-party opposition National Alliance--said Hairikyan's meeting with the president was "counterproductive." The National Alliance launched a one-week protest on 6 June to demand new elections at all levels and a new constitution. BLOODY INCIDENT ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER. An armed group of between 80 and 100 people attempted to force their way across the Pyanj River from Afghanistan into Tajikistan on 10 June, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian border guard forces used artillery and air strikes to repel them. Some 30 of the group members were killed. Afghan border guards reportedly aided the Russian border guards. It is reported that the border violators were not part of the United Tajik Opposition. TAJIK PRESIDENT SAYS CRIME IS BIGGEST PROBLEM. Imomali Rakhmonov has sent a letter to all heads of administrations from the state to village levels complaining that rising crime is the most serious threat to the security and economic stability of the country, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 June. Rakhmonov called Tajikistan's anti-crime measures "ineffective," and noted that one in 10 crimes is committed with a gun. Rakhmonov also criticized the need for some members of government to have what he called "illegally formed military units for personal protection." KAZAK, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS SIGN ACCORDS. Nursultan Nazarbayev met with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, in Almaty on 10 June, according to RFE/RL correspondents. Their talks focused on the transportation of oil across the Caspian Sea and Kazakstan's participation in a 1996 agreement signed by Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Uzbekistan. Aliev and Nazarbayev signed a memorandum on cooperation in transporting oil to international markets. They discussed the proposed underwater pipeline in the Caspian Sea, but it remains unclear how that project will be funded. Nazarbayev said he did not mind whether the oil was shipped through the Russian port of Novorossisk or the Turkish terminal of Ceyhan after it crossed the Caspian. He said he wanted more participation from Russian oil companies in general. Intergovernmental agreements on trade, education, and various legal issues were also signed. END NOTE Seeking Solutions to the Abkhaz Conflict by Liz Fuller Vladislav Ardzinba, president of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, is currently in Moscow for talks with Russian leaders aimed at breaking the deadlock in negotiations on Abkhazia's political status within Georgia. Ardzinba has rejected the Georgian leadership's offer of autonomy for Abkhazia within a unified Georgian state and insists that Abkhazia be granted equal status (from 1931 to 1992, it was an autonomous republic within Georgia). Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, for his part, is opposed to Ardzinba's proposal that Georgia and Abkhazia sign a peace treaty modeled on Russian-Chechen agreement signed in May. The need to arrive at a compromise solution has assumed greater urgency since 30 May, when the Georgian parliament adopted a resolution laying down the conditions for renewing the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. That mandate expires on 31 July. The Georgian parliament resolution makes its renewal contingent on implementing the decision of the March summit of the CIS heads of state to deploy the peacekeeping force throughout Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion in order to expedite the repatriation of some 200,000 ethnic Georgians who fled the 1992-1993 fighting. The Abkhaz leadership has objected that the mandate of the peacekeeping forces cannot be amended without its permission. And Ardzinba warned on 8 June that withdrawal of the peacekeeping force could lead to the resumption of hostilities. That pessimism and sense of urgency were shared by many of the 40 participants in a one-day conference on Georgian-Abkhaz relations organized in Tbilisi on 6 June by the British NGO VERTIC, which for several years has engaged in conflict mediation and confidence-building in Georgia. Participants included Georgian politicians from across the political spectrum, spokesmen for Georgian refugees, representatives of the UN and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, and foreign diplomats. The Russian ambassador to Georgia was invited but declined to attend. "We are balancing on the brink of war" is how Zurab Erkvania, chairman o f the Council of Ministers of the Abkhaz government in exile, described the present situation. UN and OSCE representatives argued that the recent escalation of guerrilla warfare in Gali constituted an unannounced resumption of hostilities. Georgian Deputy Parliamentary Chairman Vakhtang Kolbaia said the Georgia n leadership is ready to start negotiations with the Abkhaz leadership at all levels and in any form. Kolbaia reiterated Georgia's offer to give Abkhazia the broadest possible autonomy within a unified Georgian state. He hinted that Georgia might accept the gradual repatriation of ethnic Georgian refugees from Abkhazia now living in appalling conditions in Tbilisi and other Georgian towns. Kolbaia also offered an amnesty to all those who were involved in the hostilities and reiterated Shevardnadze's recent call for an international conference, involving Russia and Western powers and taking place under the auspices of the UN, to discuss a resolution of the conflict. Kolbaia said Georgia does not exclude the possibility that Russia will host and initiate such a conference. Other participants expressed approval for greater Western involvement in the search for a solution to the conflict. Representatives of Abkhazia's erstwhile Georgian community took a more hard-line position, blaming Russia for Georgia's disintegration. Tamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, said Georgian leaders have been told in Moscow that if they want to resolve the Abkhaz problem, they must help to reconstruct the Soviet Union. Georgian radical parliamentary deputy Boris Kakubava similarly blamed Moscow for the current situation and called for the immediate withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force. He said there was no place for Russia in the Caucasus. By contrast, Georgian academics showed greater flexibility and willingne ss to consider compromise solutions. Prominent intellectual Zaal Kikodze called for the economic blockade on Abkhazia to be lifted, while Freedom party spokesman Archil Morchiladze urged negotiations to take place between what he called "two equal parties." Academic Ghia Nodia said Georgia should stop looking abroad for solutions to its problems and should engage in an active dialogue with the Abkhaz leadership. (Dennis Sammut, who heads VERTIC's Georgia program and chaired the 6 June seminar, provided RFE/RL with a detailed summary of the proceedings. VERTIC plans to hold a meeting of Abkhaz politicians in Sukhumi in early July.) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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