|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
Vol 1, No. 73, Part I, 15 July 1997
Vol 1, No. 73, Part I, 15 July 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 * PRIMAKOV CRITICIZES ARRESTS OF ACCUSED WAR CRIMINALS IN BOSNIA * FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL IMPLICATED IN BANK SCANDAL DEFENDS HIS ACTIONS * TAJIK PRESIDENT SIGNS MUTUAL FORGIVENESS ACT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxR RUSSIA PRIMAKOV CRITICIZES ARRESTS OF ACCUSED WAR CRIMINALS IN BOSNIA. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov says NATO's arrests of accused war criminals in Bosnia are "counterproductive" and will complicate the situation in Bosnia, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 14 July. Speaking to journalists after meeting with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, Primakov said, "I wouldn't want operations of this kind to be repeated." But Cook refused to rule out further arrests. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement on 11 July condemned as a "cowboy raid" the recent operation in which one Bosnian Serb was arrested and another killed. Meanwhile, Primakov said he and Cook did not discuss the illegal export of British beef to Russia because the beef was shipped by a Belgian company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 1997). Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has vowed to raise the issue of the illegal exports in upcoming talks in Brussels. FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL IMPLICATED IN BANK SCANDAL DEFENDS HIS ACTIONS... Former First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov on 15 July said he approved transfers of federal funds to commercial banks in full compliance with Russian law, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin recently charged that fraudulent deals approved by Vavilov had cost the federal budget $275 million and $237 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1997). Vavilov left the Finance Ministry in April to head the International Financial Corporation (MFK), which was involved in one of the deals criticized by Dubinin. MFK was to purchase internal hard-currency Finance Ministry bonds with state funds and remit the bonds to a Unikombank account owned by MAPO, the company that manufacturers MiG fighter jets. Vavilov said high government officials knew about that arrangement and understood that the funds were being used to finance purchases of MiGs by India. ...AS DOES IMPLICATED BANK. Unikombank, which is implicated in both alleged fraudulent deals cited by Dubinin, has released a statement denying all wrongdoing, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 July. Dubinin accused Unikombank of misusing $275 million worth of internal hard-currency bonds purchased with federal funds, which was intended to pay wages of state workers in Moscow Oblast. Dubinin also said Unikombank had not transferred funds intended to finance the purchase of MiGs to the MAPO company. But Unikombank says it can document that money was transferred to accounts belonging to the Moscow Oblast administration and MAPO under arrangements cleared by the Finance Ministry. The bank's statement also claims that the Central Bank has conducted six audits of Unikombank without finding any legal violations. At his 15 July press conference, Vavilov said that the Central Bank found no violations during a recent audit of MFK. REACTION TO NIZHNII NOVGOROD ELECTION. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov on 14 July hailed the election of Ivan Sklyarov as governor of Nizhnii Novgorod as a "victory for common sense," Russian news agencies reported. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said voters had chosen "real deeds" over "loud political slogans." Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov, a leading member of the Communist Party, said the result was not a "great tragedy," since the new governor would be forced to take into account the opposition of nearly half of the oblast's voters, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 July. But the opposition paper "Sovetskaya Rossiya" charged the same day that the authorities "bought votes" and violated numerous laws to ensure Sklyarov's victory. RFE/RL's correspondent in Nizhnii Novgorod reported on 14 July that several concerts were held in Nizhnii on election day to deter locals from spending the weekend at their dachas instead of voting. PRESIDENTIAL DECREE BROADENS POWERS OF REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVES. Appointed presidential representatives in Russian regions have been given substantially broader powers under a long-anticipated presidential decree issued on 9 July, the official newspaper "Rossiiskie vesti" reported on 15 July. The appointees will be responsible for supervising the personnel of regional branches of federal agencies so that officials in those branches will be less dependent on local politicians. Presidential representatives will also coordinate the activities of regional branches of all federal agencies and will monitor the use of federal funds in the regions. Previously Yeltsin had granted broad powers only to his representative in Primorskii Krai, Viktor Kondratov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1997). Kondratov told journalists on 14 July that the new decree expands his already considerable authority, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported. OFFICIAL SPIN ON PRESIDENTIAL DECREE. Anton Fedorov, the head of the department on coordinating the activities of presidential representatives in the regions, argued in the 15 July "Rossiiskie vesti" that Yeltsin's 9 July decree would not put the president into conflict with elected governors. Rather, Fedorov said, the decree will "relieve part of the burden" on governors, "giving them the opportunity to focus on solving local problems." However, regional officials are sure to object to the decree. By taking powers away from elected governors, who cannot be fired by Yeltsin, and handing them to presidential appointees, Yeltsin's new decree represents an attempt by Moscow to reassert control over the regions. The Federation Council, which is made up of regional leaders, recently asked Yeltsin to revise his May decrees granting extensive powers to his representative in Primorskii Krai, saying those decrees were unconstitutional (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1997). LABOR UNREST CONTINUES IN PRIMORE. About 2000 unpaid medical workers picketed the Vladivostok city administration on 15 July and vowed to stage protests across Primorskii Krai, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported. Wage arrears to Primore's doctors alone total 160 billion rubles ($28 million), and hospitals lack the funds to buy medicine or pay salaries. Viktor Kondratov, presidential representative in Primore, has promised that a presidential decree will soon authorize special financial aid for Primore's health sector. Meanwhile, Kondratov announced on 14 July that the federal government has transferred 20 billion rubles to Primore to pay some back wages to workers at the Zvezda submarine repair plant, as well as 56 billion rubles to pay wage arrears to teachers, RFE/RL's correspondent reported. But the Zvezda workers, who only recently received their wages from November 1996, have not called off their strike, according to ITAR-TASS on 15 July. CHOLERA BACTERIA FOUND IN RIVERS NEAR MOSCOW. Cholera bacteria have been detected in the Moskva and Medvedka rivers in several areas of Moscow Oblast, "Kommersant-Daily" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 July. Swimming has been prohibited downstream from the contaminated areas. Olga Gavrilenko of the Moscow Oblast State Sanitary and Epidemiological Center told Interfax on 14 July that the contamination was caused by recent sewage leaks into the river. Gavrilenko added that the leaks occurred downstream from the city of Moscow and that the enterprise that runs the sewage facility has been fined. The last death from cholera registered in Moscow was in the summer of 1995, when a man was infected after drinking from the Moskva river. HEAD OF ST. PETERSBURG TV CHANNEL RESIGNS. Oleg Rudnov, the chairman of St. Petersburg's Channel 5 television, has resigned in protest at plans to move the network's broadcasting center to Moscow, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 July. During a recent visit to St. Petersburg, Yeltsin suggested turning Channel 5, which now broadcasts mainly to European Russia, into a nationwide cultural and educational network (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1997). Rudnov's resignation letter alleged that under a presidential decree to be issued soon, the new cultural network will broadcast out of Moscow. In exchange, St. Petersburg will be given a channel with a broadcasting radius of just 70 kilometers, which is insufficient to reach all of surrounding Leningrad Oblast, according to Rudnov. St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev announced on 12 July that he, too, opposes transferring Channel 5 to Moscow and will appeal to Yeltsin to prevent such a move. INGUSH PRESIDENT WARNS TENSIONS ARE RISING. Ruslan Aushev sent a telegram to Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 14 July warning of "unpredictable consequences" if measures are not taken immediately to defuse growing tensions between Ingush and North Ossetians, Russian media reported. The previous day, Ingush refugees who fled North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi Raion during the fighting in November 1992, in which 500-600 people died, staged a demonstration in the Ingush capital, Nazran, to demand the more systematic implementation of Yeltsin's program of measures intended to stabilize the situation and enable the refugees to return to their homes. Those measures include imposing direct federal rule in the disputed Prigorodnyi Raion. Russian media reports suggest Aushev, a former Russian army general, intends to resign as president and may be offered a military post in Moscow. RYBKIN MEETS WITH CHECHEN, INGUSH PRESIDENTS. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin flew to Nazran on 14 July for talks with Aslan Maskhadov and Aushev at the latter's residence, ITAR-TASS reported. Rybkin and Maskhadov discussed restoration of Chechnya's oil industry, the funding of economic and social programs, and measures to implement the 11 July trilateral agreement on exporting Caspian oil via Chechnya. It is unclear whether Aushev held separate talks with Rybkin. NORTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT WANTS REFUGEES TO RETURN TO GEORGIA. Akhsarbek Galazov has issued a special decree on the repatriation to Georgia of ethnic Ossetians who fled during the fighting in South Ossetia in 1991-1992, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 July. Galazov considers that the present situation in South Ossetia is conducive to the refugees' return and that the Georgian government should assume responsibility for its own citizens. South Ossetia's autonomous status within Georgia was abolished by President Zviad Gamsakhurdia in late 1990. Several rounds of talks between Georgian and South Ossetian representatives have failed to yield an agreement on the region's future status. ONEKSIMBANK TO INVEST IN TATARSTAN. Oneksimbank president Vladimir Potanin met in Kazan on 11 July with Tatar President Minimer Shaimiev and Prime Minister Farid Mukhametshin to discuss proposed investment opportunities, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Kazan. Potanin told Tatarstan television that he is interested in the KamAZ truck-producing plant, the oil company Tatneft, and participating in the planned issue of Tatarstan's eurobonds. The government of Tatarstan recently acquired a 43 percent stake in KamAZ (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 1997). The opening of a branch or affiliate of Oneksimbank in Tatarstan was also discussed. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK PRESIDENT SIGNS MUTUAL FORGIVENESS ACT. Imomali Rakhmonov on 14 July signed the Mutual Forgiveness Act drawn up by the National Reconciliation Commission at their recent meeting in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 1997), according to RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe. The act calls for "all those who during the civil war and political confrontation took up arms and fought against one another" to forget about their recent enmities. Anyone who takes up arms again "will be brought to justice in line with the laws of Tajikistan, " the act states. The document goes into force with Rakhmonov's signature. KAZAKSTAN TO DEVELOP SMALL, MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISES. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has appointed Umirzak Shukeyev deputy minister of economics and trade, according to Interfax on 14 July. Nazarbayev said Shukeyev's appointment is aimed at helping develop small and medium-sized businesses, which, he said, account for only 6-7 percent of industrial output and employ only some 500,000 out of a work force totaling 9.2 million people. Shukeyev is a 33-year-old graduate of the Moscow Economics and Statistics Institute. UZBEKISTAN READY TO EXPORT PETROLEUM PRODUCTS. First Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Jurabekov said on 14 July said that Uzbekistan is now in a position to export petroleum products to other CIS countries, Interfax reported. Jurabekov, speaking at the opening of a compressor station at the Kokdumalak oil and gas field in the Kashkadarya region, noted that Uzbekistan ceased importing petroleum products in the second half of 1995. He also said the station, which was built with U.S. and Japanese assistance, will allow Uzbekistan to increase oil production in the area from 2 million tons to 4.5 million tons annually. Gas condensate extraction will nearly triple, headded. The Kokdumalak field is estimated to contain 98.7 million tons of oil and 96.3 million tons of gas condensate. OSCE SECRETARY-GENERAL WRAPS UP UZBEK VISIT. Giancarlo Aragona, the secretary-general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), concluded his four-day visit to Uzbekistan on 14 July, according to ITAR-TASS. Aragona met with top ranking Uzbek officials, including President Islam Karimov. Aragona highly assessed Uzbekistan's cooperation with the OSCE and praised Karimov for efforts toward creating a nuclear free zone in Central Asia. TURKISH PRESIDENT IN GEORGIA. Suleyman Demirel arrived in Tbilisi on 14 July for a two-day official visit accompanied by several state ministers, including Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, and military and economic officials, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 15 July. Demirel and his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, signed a declaration on boosting cooperation as well as agreements delineating the joint sea border, on training Georgian military personnel in Turkey, and on other issues, Russian media reported. The two presidents discussed the construction of a railway from Kars to the south Georgian town of Akhalkalaki. Demirel told journalists that a third frontier crossing will be opened between the two countries. He said that Georgia is the "guarantor of peace and stability in the Caucasus" and underscored the "complete mutual understanding and mutual respect" between the two countries, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 July. ARMENIAN PAN-NATIONAL MOVEMENT BOARD ELECTS NEW CHAIRMAN. Following the conclusion of the ninth congress of the Armenian Pan-National Movement on 13 July, the movement's 40- strong board elected Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradeghyan as its new chairman to succeed Ter-Husik Lazaryan, Noyan Tapan reported. Siradeghyan, whose candidacy was endorsed by President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, had proposed delaying the election of a new board chairman. CORRECTION: "RFE/RL Newsline" incorrectly reported on 14 July that Siradeghyan's rival candidate, parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Eduard Yegoryan, had not been elected to the new board of the Armenian Pan-National Movement. According to Noyan Tapan on 14 July, he was elected a board member. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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