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Vol 1, No. 58, Part I, 23 June 1997
Vol 1, No. 58, Part I, 23 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 AT SUMMIT OF EIGHT IN DENVER *RUSSIA TO BE ADMITTED TO PARIS CLUB *MAJOR PROGRESS AT GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS? End Note Is Armenia's Ruling Party About to Split? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN AT SUMMIT OF EIGHT IN DENVER... After delivering the opening speech at the Summit of the Eight in Denver, Colorado, on 20 June, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took part in all but one of the sessions involving the G-7 leaders. He also had separate meetings with several leaders. Yeltsin told Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto during their meeting that Russian nuclear missiles will no longer be targeted at Japan, and he called for a "hot line" to be established between Moscow and Tokyo. Some Japanese officials expressed surprise at his statement on missiles, saying they were not aware Moscow had been targeting Japan. Yeltsin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said Russia will support Japan's and Germany's bid for entry as permanent members on the UN Security Council. The issue of the disputed Kuril Islands was not discussed, however. Prime Minister Hashimoto said the island chain will be a topic for future meetings. ...MEETS WITH OTHER G-7 LEADERS. After separate talks with French President Jacques Chirac, Yeltsin announced that Russia will side with Europe in "future disputes" with the U.S. Together with Chirac and U.S. President Bill Clinton, Yeltsin issued a statement calling for a settlement to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh (the three countries co-chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Conference). The Russian president also met with his Italian counterpart, Romano Prodi, to discuss bilateral trade and Prodi's upcoming visit to Russia. At the closing session of the summit, Yeltsin spoke on human rights, particularly those of minorities. He singled out ethnic Russians living in Latvia and Estonia, saying discrimination against them must be addressed. RUSSIA TO BE ADMITTED TO PARIS CLUB. Russian Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Paris Club chairman Christian Noyer finalized a deal in Denver to grant Russia admission to the Paris Club of government creditors, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 20 June. U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers described the move as the "financial end of the Cold War." Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais said Russia will now be able to collect at least part of the $140 billion it is owed by countries that received loans from the Soviet Union. (Other Paris Club members will not be able to lend to countries that are debtors to Russia.) In June 1996, Russia signed a deal rescheduling its own $38.7 billion debt to Paris Club members. YELTSIN MEETS WITH BUSINESSMEN IN DENVER. While the G-7 leaders met to discuss financial and macro-economic issues, Yeltsin held talks with representatives of North American companies, whom he assured that Russia has a favorable investment climate. "There should be no concern that Russia would be able to deliver," Yeltsin said. Yeltsin and Lockheed Martin Chairman Norman Augustine pointed to the Lockheed Martin Intersputnik joint venture as evidence of the potential for cooperation with Russia. Lockheed has a contract to purchase rocket engines worth $1 billion from Russia. DUMA DELAYS VOTE ON BUDGET CUTS... The State Duma on 20 June again postponed debate on proposed cuts in 1997 budget spending, Russian news agencies reported. Deputies are now scheduled to consider spending reductions on 23 June. Government and parliamentary representatives have been unable to reach a compromise on the size of the cuts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 20 June 1997). ...PASSES SEVERAL OTHER LAWS. The Duma on 20 June passed a new version of a law on managing the electricity giant Unified Energy System (EES), which would require the government to retain a 51% stake in EES, Russian news agencies reported. Russian regions would manage a total of one-third of the government stake in the monopoly. Foreign governments, individuals, or legal entities would be restricted to holding a combined total of 25% of EES shares. According to Interfax, the Russian government currently holds 52.3% of EES shares, and foreign investors are believed to own 25% to 27%. Also on 20 June, the Duma passed a law that would allow local governments to issue municipal bonds to cover at most 15% of local budget spending. Funds raised from municipal bonds could be spent only on local development projects. Deputies also approved a law that charges the president with determining Russian policy on Cossacks. COMMUNISTS CALL FOR NATIONWIDE STRIKE... The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) on 21 June issued an appeal calling on citizens to prepare for a nationwide strike at an unspecified time, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The appeal said the opposition will demand Yeltsin's resignation, a change in current political and economic policies, and the formation of a "government of national trust." KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov told journalists that although his party backed passage of the draft tax code in the first reading on 19 June, Communist Duma deputies will demand some amendments to the code in exchange for their support in later readings. Most Communists voted for the 1997 budget even though the government ignored the conditions set by the KPRF after the budget was passed in the first reading (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 16 and 20 December 1996). ...DENOUNCE PLANS TO BURY LENIN. The KPRF Central Committee also issued a statement on 21 June denouncing proposals to remove Vladimir Lenin from the mausoleum on Moscow's Red Square as "immoral and sacrilegious," Russian news agencies reported. Yeltsin recently advocated holding a referendum on whether Lenin should be buried in St. Petersburg. The KPRF statement said such suggestions were a "mockery of the people's memory of Lenin." POLL INDICATES COMMUNISTS WOULD DO BEST IN EARLY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS. The latest nationwide poll by the Public Opinion Foundation indicates that the Communist Party would gain more support than other parties if early Duma elections were held, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 21 June. Of the 1,500 respondents who were asked which party they would like to see have greater representation in the Duma, 29% named the KPRF, 23% Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko, 21% Aleksandr Lebed's Russian People's Republican Party, 12% the pro-government Our Home Is Russia, 11% the Agrarian Party, 7% Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and 6% Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice. JUSTICE MINISTER STEPS ASIDE TEMPORARILY AMID SCANDAL. Valentin Kovalev has asked Yeltsin to suspend him temporarily from the cabinet, Russian media reported on 21 June. The tabloid "Sovershenno sekretno" recently published frames from a September 1995 videotape allegedly showing Kovalev in a sauna with nude women at a club frequented by organized crime figures. Kovalev has claimed the frames were fabricated and has vowed to clear his name in court. "Sovershenno sekretno" reporter Larisa Kislinskaya has said she got the video from sources in the Interior Ministry. Although ministry officials have denied leaking the tape, NTV suggested on 22 June that the Interior Ministry may have retaliated after Kovalev publicly defended Arkadii Angelevich, the head of Montazhspetsbank. Angelevich was arrested in April on suspicion of stealing $7 million. He had reportedly been a close associate of Kovalev. FIRST AUCTION OF GOVERNMENT'S FOREIGN CARS. Four Audis and one Saab formerly used by government officials were auctioned on 20 June, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who has led the drive to force state officials to use Russian-made cars, attended the auction and told journalists that 177 foreign cars are to be sold this year. Three of the Audis and the Saab were sold for about $20,000 each, while one Audi, badly damaged in an accident, sold for $10,000. There were no takers for a fifth Audi or a Chevrolet also put up for auction. Nemtsov has said the proceeds from the sales will be used to buy Volga sedans, which he says will cost the government no more than $10,000 each. The remaining funds will go to the state budget. NIZHNIIGATE. Financial documents and equipment worth an estimated 48 million rubles ($8,300), including two computers, were stolen from the campaign headquarters of television journalist Nina Zvereva on the evening of 19-20 June, an RFE/RL correspondent in Nizhnii Novgorod reported on 20 June. Zvereva, who is contesting the 29 June gubernatorial election in Nizhnii Novgorod, claimed the burglary was politically motivated, but she stopped short of blaming any of her opponents directly. Recent opinion polls have shown her running third behind Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Ivan Sklyarov and Communist State Duma deputy Gennadii Khodyrev. Meanwhile, some 850 million rubles were stolen from the Moscow headquarters of Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia on 19 June, "Izvestiya" reported on 21 June. A cashier working for the party is suspected of stealing the funds. URINSON ON 1998 DEFENSE BUDGET. Economics Minister Yakov Urinson says a government commission on financing the military has voted to increase 1998 defense spending to 94 trillion rubles ($16.3 billion), compared to 83 trillion rubles ($14.4 billion) in 1997, Interfax reported on June 20. The commission is chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais. Urinson said the "significant increase" in spending will allow Russia to finance military reforms. The 1997 budget originally called for spending some 104 trillion rubles on defense, but the government later reduced that figure to 83 trillion, citing severe revenue shortfalls. RUSSIA LACKS FUNDS TO DESTROY CHEMICAL WEAPONS. Col.-Gen. Stanislav Petrov, the head of Russia's chemical and biological defense forces, says it will cost more than 31 trillion rubles ($5.4 billion) to destroy Russia's 40,000 tons of chemical weapons, Interfax reported on 20 June. Petrov said Russia has the technology to liquidate the stockpile by the year 2007 but that the government only allocated 1% of the funds necessary for the operation in 1996. Russia is a signatory to the international Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of chemical weapons. The convention came into force in April, but the State Duma has not ratified it, saying Russia lacks the funds for implementation. BASAEV DENIES RUMORS OF HIS DISMISSAL. Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister and former radical field commander Shamil Basaev has denied press reports that he was dismissed over the differences with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, RFE/RL and Russian agencies reported on 22 June. Basaev, who is responsible for the reconstruction of Chechnya's war-damaged infrastructure, said his absence from the office for the past week was due to illness. "The time is not suitable for resignation, and we are to solve many problems facing the victims of the war before the winter," Interfax quoted him as saying. Basaev did not comment on his allegedly strained relations with Maskhadov, who recently sharply criticized Basaev's close ally, Aslanbek Adbulkhadziev, over Adbulkhadziev's bid to gain entry to the Chechen parliament. RESEARCHER DIES FROM RADIATION EXPOSURE. Physicist Aleksandr Zakharov died on 20 June from a high dose of radiation he received three days earlier at the Arzamas-16 Nuclear Research Center (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 1997), Russian news agencies reported. Doctors said it was the first death from an accident at a Russian nuclear facility since the 1986 Chornobyl disaster. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA MAJOR PROGRESS AT GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS? At the end of two-weeks of discussions between Georgia and Abkhazia, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba said on 20 June in Moscow that the two sides agreed on a "possible formula" for settling the conflict, Interfax reported. Ardzinba added that a legal document might be signed "in the near future" to underpin that formula. According to Ardzinba, the Abkhaz side made a "maximum of concessions" and it was up to Georgia to respond. Georgian Ambassador to Moscow Vazha Lordkipanidze acknowledged that the prospects for peace were "far greater" as a result of the talks. An unidentified Russian Foreign Ministry official told Interfax that the agreements reached in Moscow would uphold Georgia's territorial integrity. But he added that another unspecified clause would act as a counterweight to that provision. ELCHIBEY POISED TO RETURN TO BAKU. Former Azerbaijani President Abulfaz Elchibey said he will return to Baku "in two or three months," Reuters reported on 22 June. Elchibey told the agency's correspondent in the autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan that he will take part in the 1998 presidential elections "if conditions are democratic." Elchibey was overthrown in May 1993 as the result of a military coup that brought to power incumbent President Heidar Aliev. Elchibey, who still considers himself the country's legitimate leader, claimed that his return to politics would not be aimed at destabilizing the situation in Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General Eldar Hasanov warned that Elchibey's activities violated "not only ethical but also the criminal and civil norms of the country" since he is falsely representing himself as president. TURKMEN PRESIDENT PARDONS PRISONERS. On the occasion on the fifth anniversary of his election as president, Saparmurat Niyazov pardoned more than 2,000 prisoners, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 20 June. Niyazov said the death sentences of another 222 prisoners will be commuted to 10-20 years' imprisonment. Niyazov won the 1992 election with 99.5% of the vote. Two years later, he easily won a referendum extending his term in office until the year 2002. TAJIK OPPOSITION DISSATISFIED WITH PROGRESS ON PEACE AGREEMENT. The United Tajik Opposition (UTO) threatened on 20 June not to sign the Peace and National Accord agreement in Moscow on 27 June because, it says, the government has not fulfilled its part of the accord, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, who headed the UTO delegation at the peace negotiations, said that the exchange of prisoners has not yet taken place and that it is still unclear which positions in the Tajik government will be given to UTO representatives following the signing. Three days later, however, the UTO released another statement saying that in view of all the foreign representatives scheduled to be at the signing, the UTO's representatives would go to Moscow but would not sign until the two issues were resolved. END NOTE Is Armenia's Ruling Party About to Split? by Emil Danielyan Armenian parliamentary speaker Babken Ararktsyan tendered his resignation on 11 June, following the legislature's decision to abolish deferment of compulsory military service for higher education students. Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan's bill obliges all 18-year-old male citizens to serve in the military. According to Ararktsyan, the new legislation will harm the education system rather than substantially increase the number of servicemen and will also prompt many capable young people to emigrate. An alternative bill proposed by the speaker was overwhelmingly rejected. President Levon Ter-Petrossyan and several leaders of his ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) urged the speaker not to resign. After lengthy discussions with the president, Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, and Defense Minister Sarkisyan, Ararktsyan withdrew his resignation and returned to work on 16 June. Under a compromise solution reportedly proposed by the president, the defense minister's bill, if adopted in full, will go into effect in 1998. In the meantime, the parliament will try to iron out differences between the two bills in the fall. #002#But the temporary parliamentary crisis has raised several questions. The clash between Ararktsyan and Sarkisyan, both of whom are close allies of Ter-Petrossyan and prominent HHSh members, may signal yet another rift within the ruling party following the September 1996 presidential election (which the opposition claims was rigged). Two rival factions emerged within the HHSh after the ballot, and each blamed the other for Ter-Petrossyan's performance, who was only narrowly re-elected. The so-called reformist faction of the HHSh--which has been in power since 1990--is led by Eduard Yegoryan, one of the authors of Armenia's present constitution. It claims the government has long been out of touch with the people and is not accountable to the HHSh. The group singles out law-enforcement agencies, which, it says, are outside the executive's control. Favoring early elections, they are drafting election legislation intended to provide for a free and fair vote. A number of local HHSh branches have already pledged their support for Yegoryan. The second faction includes such hard-liners as Sarkisyan and former interior minister and current Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradeghyan. Both men played a key role in the post-election crackdown on the opposition, when dozens of its activists were arrested and troops were deployed in the capital. In a video privately distributed in Armenia, they were shown at a private party blaming the policies of then Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan and the HHSh for the election results. The struggle between the two rival factions is expected to reach its climax at the HHSh congress in July, when Yegoryan and Siradeghyan will contend the party leadership. While observers believe them to have nearly equal chances, the parliamentary crisis earlier this month may have changed the odds somewhat. Ararktsyan, who was in effect humiliated by the defense minister, is unlikely to endorse Siradeghyan, who is Sarkisyan's ally. By the same token, the HHSh's leading body, which supported the speaker during the row, will likely also withhold its support for the Yerevan mayor. But Sigadeghyan does reportedly have the backing of President Ter-Petrossyan, who took the defense minister's side during the debate on deferment of military service. It therefore seems doubtful that the president will support the reformers, who have repeatedly demanded that Sarkisyan and Siradeghyan step down. On the other hand, if Siradeghyan were elected HHSh leader and the reformers broke away to form their own party, Ter-Petrossyan's support base would be limited to two powerful but unpopular men. The opposition, joined by the president's former allies, would also become stronger. But there is another major actor to be taken into account. Prime Ministe r Robert Kocharyan, the former Nagorno-Karabakh leader who is close ally of the president, is rumored to be at odds with Siradeghyan. He has allegedly cracked down on tax evasion by businessmen close to the mayor. Of late, the HHSh has increasingly criticized Kocharyan for what it regards as his attempts to deprive it of ruling party status. If Ter-Petrossyan were to respond to that criticism by sacking Kacharyan, his legitimacy would be further undermined since Kocharyan's appointment as prime minister was aimed at easing popular dissatisfaction with the HHSh. In another important development, a large number of parliament deputies, mainly from the HHSh, appealed to the Constitutional Court on 19 June to overrule Ter-Petrossyan decrees sacking two key ministers. The lawmakers charge that the move was unconstitutional as the president did not consult with the parliament beforehand. For the first time, Ter-Petrossyan is facing a challenge from within his party. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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