|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
Vol 1, No. 55, Part I, 18 June 1997
Vol 1, No. 55, Part I, 18 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 REJECTS GOVERNMENT PROPOSALS TO CUT SOCIAL BENEFITS * YELTSIN RESCINDS CONTROVERSIAL ANTI-CRIME MEASURES * UN DELEGATION WRAPS UP VISIT TO TAJIKISTAN End Note IS CRIMEAN DEMOCRACY CONTAGIOUS? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA DUMA REJECTS GOVERNMENT PROPOSALS TO CUT SOCIAL BENEFITS. The State Duma voted by 231 to 88 with seven abstentions to reject in the first reading a package of measures to cut social benefits, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 17 June. Deputies from Our Home Is Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia supported the package, which the government says would save 30 trillion rubles ($5.2 billion) annually. Yabloko and the Communist-led left opposition in the Duma voted against the cuts. The proposals would have reduced privileges enjoyed by state officials and State Duma staff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1997). DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER UNFAZED BY DUMA VOTE. Despite the Duma's lopsided rejection of the social benefits reductions, Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev expressed hope that the government can persuade Duma deputies to pass the measures before their summer recess begins in late June. In an interview with an RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow, Sysuev warned that failure to approve the cuts would only make it more difficult for the government to pay wage and pension arrears. He insisted that the government plans would protect the poorest families and would not take away benefits from those who truly needed them. DUMA DELAYS DEBATE ON BUDGET CUTS. The State Duma has delayed debate on proposed cuts in non-essential 1997 budget spending, Reuters reported on 18 June, citing Duma Budget Committee Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov. The previous day, government and parliamentary representatives again failed to reach agreement on the size of the cuts, Interfax reported. The government is seeking 86-108 trillion rubles ($15-19 billion) in spending cuts, while Duma representatives insist the reductions should not exceed 51-63 trillion rubles. NEMTSOV SNUBS EUROPEAN OFFICIAL OVER TRADE DISPUTE. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov refused to meet with European Trade Commissioner Leon Brittan in protest at anti-dumping measures against 14 categories of Russian goods, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 17 June. In particular, the European Commission recently imposed a 32.9% duty against Russian producers of steel pipes, which the commission says are being sold in Europe at below market prices. Brittan expressed regret that Nemtsov chose to boycott the meeting, arguing that the anti-dumping measures affect only 1.1% of Russian exports to Europe. However, Brittan did meet with other senior officials, including First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, and Foreign Trade Minister Mikhail Fradkov. Also on 17 June, European Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock slammed fees charged to European airlines that fly over Russia as "unjustified" and inconsistent with international law, Reuters reported. YELTSIN RESCINDS CONTROVERSIAL ANTI-CRIME MEASURES. President Boris Yeltsin has rescinded his June 1994 anti-crime decree, which allowed criminal suspects to be detained for up to 30 days without charges being brought against them, Russian news agencies reported on 17 June. Now law-enforcement agencies can detain suspects without filing charges for a maximum of 10 days. Yeltsin also annulled a clause of a July 1996 decree on fighting crime in Moscow that allowed homeless people suspected of committing crimes to be detained in "social rehabilitation centers" for up to 30 days. Human rights watchdog groups in Russia and abroad had sharply criticized both decrees, claiming the measures were unconstitutional and used primarily against ethnic minorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 1997). Yeltsin also instructed the government to prepare within two months a draft law on "preventing vagrancy and rehabilitating homeless people." PROBLEMS FORESEEN IN IMPLEMENTING DECREE ON PENSIONS. Experts working for the Duma's Committee on Labor and Social Policy have expressed doubts about Yeltsin's 14 June decree calling for raising the minimum pension payment to at least 80% of the subsistence level for pensioners, beginning on 1 January 1998, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 June. The Duma experts note that there is no agreed mechanism for calculating the subsistence level. The State Statistics Committee, Labor Ministry, and trade unions currently use different calculations. Yeltsin vetoed a law on the subsistence minimum passed by the Duma in April, which would have settled the issue. Yevgenii Gontmakher, the head of the government's department on social development, told "Kommersant-Daily" that the decree will probably be implemented in accordance with the Labor Ministry's calculation. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" on 18 June argued that the Pension Fund is likely to have trouble finding the money for the increased payments. CHECHEN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES KULIKOV. Speaking at a press conference in Grozny on 17 June, Aslan Maskhadov accused Russian Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov of sabotaging the Russian-Chechen peace process, Reuters and Interfax reported. Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii had charged three days earlier that Kulikov was hindering the exchange of Chechen prisoners of war for Russian Interior Ministry troops. In an interview published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 17 June, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin similarly said Kulikov is incapable of establishing productive contacts with the Chechen Interior Ministry. Kulikov denied those accusations, telling Radio Mayak that 70 Chechens were recently exchanged for 200 Russian prisoners. Kulikov also said that he had met twice in recent months with his Chechen counterpart, Kazbek Makhashev, and that the Chechen side had rejected as premature his offer to send Russian police to serve in Chechnya, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 June. CHECHEN FUGITIVES PROTEST IMMINENT DEPORTATION. Chechens who fled to Kabardino-Balkaria during the 1994-1996 war are faced with imminent deportation, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 June. Their representatives have sent a telegram to the federal Coordinating Council for Aid to Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons protesting a ruling by the government of Kabardino-Balkaria to send them back to Chechnya by 1 July. Some 4,800 Chechen fugitives are officially registered in Kabardino-Balkariya, but their actual number is closer to 15,000, according to the Federal Migration Service. RUSSIAN-NORTH KOREAN TALKS. At their meeting in Moscow on 16-17 June, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigorii Karasin and his North Korean counterpart, Lee In Kyu, made little progress toward a new bilateral treaty but agreed on several projects, ITAR-TASS reported. The two sides agreed to cooperate in refining fuels, ensure access for Russian ships to the North Korean port of Najin, promote joint investment in the free trade zone at Najin-Sonbon, open a coking-coal deposit in Yakutia, and complete North Korea's Kim Chkhek metallurgical factory, which was begun as a joint project during the Soviet era. The treaty on Russian-North Korean relations will be discussed later this year in Pyong Yang. The last such treaty was signed in 1961 and provided for, among other things, mutual defense. Russia now is anxious to annul this commitment to North Korea in light of Moscow's improved relations with the U.S., South Korea, and Japan. MORE SPECULATION ON EARLY ELECTIONS IN PRIMORE. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko has asked the krai legislature to consider whether to call early gubernatorial elections, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported on 17 June. It appears unlikely that the legislature will approve an early vote, which, under regional law, can be held only if the governor loses his Russian citizenship, resigns voluntarily, or dies. If a new election were held, many observers believe, Nazdratenko would regain his post easily. However, RFE/RL's correspondent reports that some local opinion polls indicate that State Duma deputy Svetlana Goryacheva, a prominent member of the Communist Party, is more popular in her native Primore than either Nazdratenko or his arch-rival, Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov. For his part, Cherepkov believes Primore's electoral commissions are filled with Nazdratenko's supporters. He opposes holding new elections unless new staff are appointed to the commissions. GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL SAYS OTHER REGIONS NOT THREATENED BY ENERGY CRISES THIS SUMMER. First Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Kirienko, who headed a government commission that was recently sent to Primorskii Krai, says no other Russian regions are threatened by energy crises this summer, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 17 June. Kirienko told journalists that "mistakes and incompetence" by Primore officials in charge of energy policy had led to the severe crisis there. However, he declined to blame Governor Nazdratenko personally for the policy mistakes. Kirienko acknowledged that other regions could face energy crises in the coming winter, but he declined to name the regions at risk for fear of exacerbating "tensions." CHUBAIS ON TRANSITION AWAY FROM AUTHORIZED BANKS. First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais acknowledged on 17 June that it will not be possible to complete the transition to a treasury system for distributing budget funds by January 1998, Russian news agencies reported. In particular, Chubais said that the so-called "power agencies" (law enforcement, security services, and Defense Ministry) would still need to use authorized commercial banks to distribute funds next year. Aleksandr Smirnov, the head of the Federal Treasury, estimated that state funds are currently distributed among some 170,000 bank accounts. About half of those accounts are in the Central Bank, 6% in Sberbank, and 44% in commercial banks. A May presidential decree states that by 1 January 1998, the government must hold open, competitive bidding to select commercial banks to handle budget funds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 1997). EU LIFTS BAN ON RUSSIAN HORSES. The European Commission has lifted a ban dating from August1996 on the import of horses from Russia, a senior Russian agriculture official told Interfax on 17 June. The ban was imposed after cases of an equine disease were discovered in six of Russia's 89 regions. Russia exports some 2,000 purebred horses every year. The 1996 ban resulted in losses of almost $4 million. MOSCOW CONDEMNS U.S. CONGRESS VOTE ON JERUSALEM. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov on June 17 sharply criticized a recent vote by the U.S. House of Representatives recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's "united capital," Russian news agencies reported. Tarasov said the non-binding vote "contradicts" international law, the position of the world community, and Washington's own official position. The vote was criticized by the U.S. State Department. Nonetheless, Tarasov argued, the action by Congress will "fuel negative sentiments" and further complicate the already difficult Middle East peace process, of which the U.S. and Russia are co-sponsors. RESEARCHER BADLY INJURED IN ACCIDENT AT NUCLEAR CENTER. Russian scientist Aleksandr Zakharov is in critical condition after he received a dangerous dose of radiation on 17 June at the Arzamas-16 Nuclear Research Center in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, RFE/RL's correspondent there reported. The affected part of the center has been sealed off, although officials said the radiation did not spread beyond the center. The cause of the accident is not yet clear; ITAR-TASS on 17 June quoted the Atomic Energy Ministry as saying that safety procedures were "crudely violated." Television journalist and gubernatorial candidate Nina Zvereva and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov had to cut short campaign swings near Arzamas-16 because of the accident. Zyuganov is supporting Duma deputy Gennadii Khodyrev's candidacy in the Nizhnii Novgorod gubernatorial race (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 1997). CHURCH OFFICIAL CALLS FOR LENIN BURIAL. Gennadii Geroev, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church's Moscow Patriarchate, says Vladimir Lenin's body is an "anti-relic and a symbol of evil" that should be buried, Interfax reported on 17 June. Patriarch Aleksii II previously advocated removing Lenin from the mausoleum on Red Square but was less outspoken than Geroev. In a 16 June interview with Ekho Moskvy, Yeltsin's legal adviser Mikhail Krasnov argued that displaying Lenin's body next to the Kremlin violates constitutional guarantees against imposing a "state ideology" in Russia. Krasnov added, "If this [pagan] sect wants to worship a mummy, it should be allowed to do so, but in another place," according to Interfax. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Liberal Democratic Party of Russia says Zhirinovsky's party is willing to purchase Lenin's body and take it on a Russia-wide tour, "Izvestiya" reported on 18 June. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA UN DELEGATION WRAPS UP VISIT TO TAJIKISTAN. A delegation from the UN High Commission on Human Rights has concluded a week-long review of the human right's situation in Tajikistan, Dushanbe Radio reported. The delegation, which visited the cities of Khojand and Kurgan-Teppe as well as Garm and Jirgatal districts, concluded that human rights are often ignored. Most disturbing, it said, were the frequent hostage-takings, lack of access to legal counsel for suspected criminals and detainees, poor conditions in prisons, and growing violence against women. The delegation also identified other social ills such as lack of food for a balanced diet, lack of medical supplies, unemployment, and difficulties in receiving an education. ROGUE COMMANDER DISARMS GOVERNMENT TROOPS. Soldiers loyal to Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, the commander of the Tajik Army's First Brigade, have disarmed government troops at the Fakhrabad and Dakhanakiik checkpoints (30km and 70 km south of Dushanbe, respectively), Russian media reported on 17 June. Khudaberdiyev is demanding that Khatlon Oblast Governor Davlatali Sharipov be replaced with the head of the regional trade board, Sherali Mirzoyev, and that Khatlon be divided into two oblasts, Kurgan-Teppe and Kulyab, as was the case before1993. He is also seeking guarantees that no fighters of the United Tajik Opposition will return to Tajikistan bearing arms after the 27 June signing of the Peace and National Reconciliation Accord between the government and the UTO. ATTACK ON RUSSIAN SOLDIERS IN DUSHANBE. One Russian soldier was killed and another seriously wounded in a 17 June attack by unknown assailants, Russian media reported. Maj. Gennadii Fedorov of the 201st Division died after he was shot in the back, while a warrant officer had to be hospitalized. The two were in uniform and returning from work when they were attacked. 25 CHORNOBYL VICTIMS ON HUNGER STRIKE IN KAZAKSTAN. In the northern city of Kokchetau, 25 Kazak citizens who were "mobilized" by the state to take part in clean-up operations at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant after the 1986 disaster are still on hunger strike after 20 days, according ITAR-TASS on 17 June. The group are demanding compensation for their loss of health. Local officials said the 25 receive special benefits as invalids, but the group claims those payments are not enough for basic foods, let alone the expensive medicines they require. The Kazak government has said it recognizes their demands are justified. The Ministry of Labor and Social Care will discuss the issue in September. END NOTE IS CRIMEAN DEMOCRACY CONTAGIOUS? by David Nissman The Crimean Turkic National Movement, which began in the Central Asian resettlement camps in the mid-1950s, now flourishes in Crimea, the ancestral homeland of the Crimean Turks and site of the present Crimean nation. The movement survived under very unusual conditions and is now having an unexpected influence. When the Crimean Turks were deported from Crimea in 1944, they were depr ived of their government, their culture, and their rich heritage. In short, they were denied the right to develop their nation. The establishment of the National Movement, with its tight and democratic structure, permitted the leaders of the movement to be in constant contact with the people. When the Soviet Union broke up, the Crimean Turks did not have to dismantle Soviet institutions and the thought patterns associated with them. As a result, the Crimean parliament has evolved into what is arguably one of the most democratic in the former Soviet Union. By contrast, the former union republics continue to be burdened by the l ast vestiges of the Soviet command economy and have thus faced extraordinary challenges in moving toward a market system. That struggle has sometimes compromised their ability to proceed toward a democratic system as well. Thus, it is not surprising that some politicians in the former Soviet republics have expressed admiration for the Crimean democratic system, even if they have not attempted to apply the Crimean experience at home. But now the Unified Independent Azerbaijan Front (in southern or Iranian Azerbaijan) appears interested in following the Crimean model. Like the Crimeans, the Iranian Azeris have been deprived by state of their national and political rights, their culture, and even an education in their mother tongue. Tehran has reacted with varying degrees of hostility to any effort by the Iranian Azeris to claim those rights. The UIAF recently drew up a platform that bears a striking resemblance t o that of the Crimean Turkic National Movement. It has proclaimed that it "believes in a state of law and freedom and rejects any form of individual or ideological dictatorship or a one-party system." The UIAF also states that it is "opposed to a mixture of religion and politics" and actively encourages a diversity of opinions. Even the Iranian Azerbaijani's newly created national flag and the polit ical hierarchy it represents appear to be a copy of the Crimean Turkic model. The flag's nine stars each stand for a province of the territory on which the Iranian Azeris hope to create their state. Each province will be ruled by a representative parliament, which will send its representatives to the "high parliament" in the capital. In Crimea, the political structure is remarkably similar: each community has its own parliament or mejlis. Each local mejlis sends representatives to the mejlis that comes next in the hierarchy. The central mejlis in the capital has 33 members selected by the mejlises lower in the hierarchical structure. Neither the platform of the Crimean Turkic National Movement nor that of the Unified Independent Azerbaijan Front mentions economic programs. As the Crimean experience shows, a free people is able to generate a free market on its own. The Crimean Turks have chosen to give priority to the development of free, national, democratic institutions. That the Crimean model already appears to have inspired the Iranian Azer is gives some reason to hope that it may inspire others as well. The author is an independent specialist on the region. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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