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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 98, Part I, 19 August 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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN, MASKHADOV AGREE ON ECONOMIC, DEFENSE COOPERATION * RUSSIAN POLITICIANS EVALUATE FAILED 1991 COUP * TAJIK OPERATION AGAINST MUTINEERS ALMOST OVER End Note FORGET THE FORMER SOVIET UNION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN, MASKHADOV AGREE ON ECONOMIC, DEFENSE COOPERATION. Following his meeting in Moscow on 18 August with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov told journalists that he and Yeltsin agreed on the need for economic and defense cooperation, given that "our strategic interests coincide." Yeltsin refused Maskhadov's request that he sign an inter-state treaty recognizing Chechnya's independence, which Maskhadov argued would contribute to stabilizing the entire Caucasus region. But the Russian president did agree to conclude a new bilateral treaty defining relations between Chechnya and Moscow giving Chechnya broad autonomy. A joint committee will be created to draft this treaty. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin told Interfax that regardless of the nature of Russian-Chechen relations and the content of the proposed treaty, Chechnya will remain a constituent part of the Russian Federation. NTV JOURNALISTS RELEASED IN CHECHNYA. Three NTV journalists abducted in Chechnya in mid-May were freed on 18 August, Russian media reported. Their release came one day after two employees of the Russian television production company VID were allowed to return home (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1997). Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, VID's senior manager Aleksandr Lyubimov, who is also executive director of Russian Public Television (ORT), proposed that all Russian television companies agree not to send their reporters to Chechnya in future. Lyubimov praised the role of Security Council Deputy Secretaries Boris Berezovskii and Boris Agapov in securing the journalists' release. Lyubimov also expressed his admiration for Maskhadov's "honesty and sincerity" but said he fears the Chechen authorities do not have complete control over the situation in the republic. He estimated that "professional kidnappers" in Chechnya total 300, saying that they have the tacit backing of middle-level authorities, including some police officials. YELTSIN ORDERS INVESTIGATION INTO ST. PETERSBURG ASSASSINATION. Yeltsin has ordered the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Interior Ministry, the Procurator-General's Office and the tax police to investigate the assassination of Mikhail Manevich, deputy governor of St. Petersburg and chairman of the city's Property Committee, RFE/RL's correspondent in St. Petersburg reported on 19 August. The FSB will lead the investigation. St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev vowed that his government will not be intimidated by the assassination. Former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak said Manevich had been under pressure from criminal groups and that the murder shows those groups feel "very comfortable." First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais expressed shock at the killing, describing Manevich as a friend since student days. Manevich had been scheduled to meet with Chubais in Moscow on 18 August. Meanwhile, State Property Committee Chairman Maksim Boiko demanded better protection for privatization officials at the federal and regional level, Russian news agencies reported. POLITICIANS EVALUATE FAILED 1991 COUP. Six years after the State Committee for the State of Emergency (GKChP) attempted to seize power, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev described those who planned the coup as "honest people" trying to prevent the collapse of the USSR, Interfax reported on 18 August. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said GKChP members undertook a "daring but unsuccessful attempt to rescue the country's integrity." Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky also praised the coup organizers, adding that the day the tanks entered Moscow in 1991 was "the happiest day of my life." In contrast, Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko argued that "Russian democracy of the 20th century was born" during the three days in which coup opponents defended the White House. Yeltsin, who gained worldwide fame by defying the coup, on 19 August said Russia would have been set back several decades if the coup had succeeded. AUDIT CHAMBER ACCUSES SPORTS FUND OF MASSIVE FRAUD. Audit Chamber Deputy Chairman Yurii Boldyrev has charged that the National Sports Fund in 1995 alone defrauded the budget of 37 trillion rubles ($6.4 billion at current exchange rates), "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 19 August. A 1993 presidential decree granted the fund customs privileges on imports of sports equipment, but the fund also claimed those privileges on cigarette and alcohol imports. Yeltsin revoked the fund's privileges in 1995, but the fund continued to receive reimbursements for customs duties paid on cigarette and alcohol imports. Boldyrev said the Audit Chamber has sent documents on the fund to the Procurator-General's Office, but no criminal case has yet been opened. In 1995, Sports Fund head Boris Fedorov and State Sports and Tourism Committee chairman Shamil Tarpishchev were close associates of Yeltsin's bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 9 July and 7 October 1996). GOVERNMENT TO CRACK DOWN ON CUSTOMS DEBTORS. The government has approved tougher measures to collect customs duties and fines for customs violations, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 August. In accordance with a new government resolution, goods intended for import or export by companies that owe duties or fines will be impounded until all customs debts have been paid. The State Customs Committee announced on 11 August that customs agents confiscated illegal imports and exports worth 416 billion rubles ($72 million) and levied 613 billion rubles in fines during the first six months of 1997, Russian news agencies reported. Customs agencies reported some 105,000 violations from January through June, up sharply from 72,000 in the first half of 1996. NEMTSOV STILL MOST TRUSTED POLITICIAN. A poll by the All- Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VCIOM) indicates that First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov is still Russia's most trusted politician. Of the 2,322 Russians surveyed in late July, 32 percent of respondents said they trust no politicians. Some 21 percent said they trust Nemtsov, down from 25 percent in May. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed placed second with 16 percent of respondents, up from 15 percent in May but down from 28 percent in January. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov ranked third with 14 percent, unchanged from May. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii was considered trustworthy by 11 percent in both May and July, while Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov was trusted by 10 percent in the latest poll, down from 14 percent in May. Some 7 percent said they trust Yeltsin, down from 8 percent in May. GAZPROM SEEKS TO EXPAND NEWSPAPER HOLDINGS. The gas monopoly Gazprom will soon purchase a 51 percent stake in the newspaper "Rabochaya tribuna" and is negotiating to buy shares in "Trud," according to the 19 August "Kommersant-Daily." Both "Rabochaya tribuna" and "Trud" have long been considered politically close to Gazprom and to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. "Kommersant-Daily" claimed that Gazprom has been helping both newspapers financially for several years. Negotiations with "Trud" staff are reportedly stalled over the size of the stake to be sold to Gazprom. Vyacheslav Boikov, the paper's commercial director, told "Kommersant-Daily" that "Trud" will not sell a controlling packet to any investor. "We will never be in a situation like 'Komsomolskaya pravda' or 'Izvestiya,'" he added. (The editors of both those newspapers were replaced this year following clashes with new shareholders.) In June 1996, Gazprom bought a 30 percent stake in NTV. PATRIARCH WANTS CHURCH'S SPECIAL ROLE ENSHRINED IN LAW. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II says the revised version of the controversial law on religious organizations should retain a passage noting the special role and significance of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russian history, "Segodnya" reported on 19 August. Speaking in Moscow the previous day, Aleksii expressed confidence that the "high evaluation" of the Church will remain in the law's preamble but warned that some "forces are trying to cast doubt on the significance of the Russian Orthodox Church and Orthodoxy." A conciliatory commission of representatives from the Church, the government, and the presidential administration are to agree on a revised version of the law by 1 September. An earlier version was approved by large margins in the State Duma and Federation Council but vetoed by Yeltsin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 1997). INFANT MORTALITY SAID TO BE DECLINING. Mortality rates for infants and mothers in childbirth are declining, according to Aleksandr Tsaregorodtsev, director of the Scientific-Research Institute of Pediatrics and Pediatric Surgery, "Segodnya" reported on 18 August. Deaths of children under one year dropped from 27,946 in 1993 (20 deaths per thousand births) to 24,840 in 1995 (18 per thousand). He added that while 941 women in Russia died from complications linked to childbirth in 1991, only 727 did in 1995. Tsaregorodtsev said those trends were continuing in 1996 and 1997. He attributed the declining mortality rates to a decrease in the number of abortions. Registered abortions fell from 3.2 million in 1992 to 2.4 million in 1996. Specialists believe the number of "criminal abortions" -- those not performed in hospitals, which are more likely to cause health complications for the next child -- has fallen as well, Tsaregorodtsev added. YET MORE PROBLEMS ABOARD "MIR." The computer aboard the ill- fated space station "Mir" crashed on 18 August, after the crew had successfully docked with a cargo ship. As a result of the computer crash, the station lost both its orientation toward the sun and its power supplies. All systems, except life-support, were closed down. The crew fired rockets periodically to temporarily reposition the station's solar panels toward the sun and recharge the batteries. By 19 August, the computer had been repaired, but it will need two or three days to begin fully functioning again. The computer problems will delay repair work on the station's "spektr" modules, which were damaged in late June when a cargo ship collided with the station while attempting to dock. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK OPERATION AGAINST MUTINEERS ALMOST OVER. Forces loyal to rebel Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev have lost several battles against government troops, which are currently engaged in mop-up operations in southwestern Tajikistan, according to RFE/RL correspondents. Khudaberdiyev's unit was forced to retreat from Kabodien on 18 August. By the morning of 19 August, they had also withdrawn from the Shaartuz area. Gen. Gafar Mirzoyev, commander of the presidential guard, said the only routes open to the mutineers led to the Uzbek or Afghan borders. Forces loyal to the Tajik government are seeking to prevent members of Khudaberdiyev's troops from heading north. Uzbekistan has promised to hand over to the Tajik government any mutineers who try to cross the Tajik- Uzbek border . A lieutenant from Khudaberdiyev's unit was quoted in the 19 August issue of "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" as saying "[the government] did not understand us. They threw troops of Popular Front units, mostly criminals, against us." JAPAN GRANTS LOAN FOR TURKMEN RAILROAD. Japan's Foreign Economic Cooperation Fund will lend Turkmenistan some $39 million to upgrade its railroad network, Interfax reported on 18 August. The 30-year loan has a 2.7 percent annual interest rate with a 10-year grace period. The Japanese fund will hold a tender in September for companies to take part in upgrading the Turkmen rail system, including the renovation of the Ashgabat depot, providing maintenance equipment for locomotives, and computerizing the traffic control system. DATE SET FOR ELECTIONS TO KAZAKH SENATE. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed a decree saying that elections to the Senate (upper house) will be held on 8 October. RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported that 17 candidates have already registered for the vote. The Senate currently has 47 members. KAZAKHSTAN TO BUILD NEW PIPELINE? Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin told two visiting U.S. senators in Almaty on 18 August that his country is assessing unspecified possible alternative oil export pipelines as "one pipeline will in no way suffice for transporting Kazakh oil," Interfax reported on 18 August. Despite the disputed status of the Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan plans to proceed with the distribution to Western companies of the rights to exploratory drilling in its sector of the Caspian, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 August. AZERBAIJAN REACHES AGREEMENT ON BYPASS PIPELINE... Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR has reached agreement with the U.S.-Kazakh joint venture TengizChevroil to build a 46 kilometer bypass pipeline from Dashkil to Ali-Bayramli, Interfax reported on 18 August. The pipeline, which TengizChevroil will finance at an estimated cost of $5-6 million, will run parallel to an existing pipeline leased to Caspian Trans Oil in order to transport oil from Kazakhstan's Tengiz field to Ali-Bayramli, from where it is shipped by rail to Batumi. The new bypass pipeline will transport Azerbaijan's domestically produced oil to Baku for refining. ...WHILE RUSSIA CONSIDERS PIPELINE BYPASSING CHECHNYA. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 18 August, Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin reiterated Russian Deputy Fuel and Energy minister Sergei Kirienko's suggestion that a new pipeline be built for transporting Caspian oil that will bypass Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August, 1997), Interfax reported. Rybkin said that one pipeline is inadequate for exporting Caspian oil, but he did not refer to the planned pipeline from Baku to Supsa on Georgia's Black Sea coast (that is, bypassing Russian territory),scheduled to be completed in late1998. The president of the Chechen state oil company told Interfax on 18 August that there is no need for an additional agreement to be signed by Moscow and Grozny on the transportation of Caspian oil through the Baku-Grozny- Tikhoretsk pipeline. CASPIAN OIL ROW CONTINUES. Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR has released a statement reaffirming its commitment to develop the Kyapaz/Serdar Caspian oil field. The statement also said that SOCAR has not yet received official notification that its Russian partners, Rosneft and LUKoil, have annulled the 4 July memorandum of intent on developing the field, Interfax reported on 18 August. Meanwhile, the Turkmen Embassy in Washington recently issued a letter from President Saparmurat Niyazov inviting tenders for oil and gas fields on its Caspian shelf. "Delovoy mir" pointed out on 15 August that any foreign company that wants to engage in exploration in Turkmenistan's sector of the Caspian will have to enlist the cooperation of either Russia or Azerbaijan, since Turkmenistan has no drilling platforms. DELAY IN CREATING COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE RUSSIAN ARMS SUPPLIES. Russian President Yeltsin has written to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev asking him to name Azerbaijan's representative to the trilateral Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani commission that is to investigate Russian arms supplies to Armenia and Azerbaijan, Turan reported on 16 August. Yeltsin noted that Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan has already nominated his country's representative. A group of international military officials is to visit Baku from 18-21 August to inspect Azerbaijan's military facilities within the framework of the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. RUSSIA REFUTES ALIEV'S ALLEGATION OVER MILITARY BASES. Yurii Yukalov, Russia's former co-chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, has rejected as an "unfounded provocation" Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's claim that Moscow offered to liberate Armenian-occupied regions of Azerbaijan contiguous to Nagorno-Karabakh in return for the right to maintain military bases in Azerbaijan, Asbarez-on-Line reported on 18 August, citing "Respublika Armeniya" and the Snark News Agency. Aliev made the claim during a recent meeting with three U.S. senators in Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"14 August 1997). AZERBAIJAN EXPERIENCES PROBLEMS DISTRIBUTING PRIVATIZATION VOUCHERS. The distribution of privatization vouchers among the 7.5 million population officially ended on 15 August, "Azadlyg" reported the next day. Distribution had begun on 1 March. The State Privatization Committee may appeal to President Heidar Aliev to extend the distribution period, since some people have not yet received vouchers as a result of "bureaucratic shortcomings." The process has been complicated by the existence of some 780,000 displaced persons who have no registered place of residence. Each inhabitant is to receive four vouchers whose total nominal value is 1 million manats ($250). ARMENIA ACCUSES TURKEY OF OBSTRUCTING COOPERATION WITH NATO. Armenian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian met with a NATO delegation headed by Lt.-Gen. Nicholas Kehou, deputy chairman of NATO's military committee, in Yerevan on 15 August. Oskanian said that Turkey's attitude toward the Armenian- Azerbaijani conflict is "non-constructive," Armenian agencies reported. He also noted that Ankara's attitude is destabilizing the situation in the region and obstructing both the development of Armenian cooperation with NATO and a possible role for NATO in resolving the Karabakh conflict. END NOTE FORGET THE FORMER SOVIET UNION by Paul Goble Six years after a failed coup in Moscow sent the Soviet Union toward its demise, many people around the world continue to search for a single term to describe the group of countries that emerged from the rubble. None of the terms proposed until now has proved entirely successful. And with each passing year, the search for such a term seems increasingly unnecessary, if not counterproductive. Among the terms most frequently suggested are the former Soviet Union, the new independent states, and Eurasia. But, like all other suggested terms, they fail to capture some important features of the new landscape and carry some significant political baggage. The term "former Soviet Union" is perhaps the most obviously problematic. The Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1991; continuing to refer to it both diminishes the status of the successor states and encourages those in Russia and elsewhere who would like to restore the union. Equally important, it dramatically overstates the similarities among countries whose only real feature in common was Russian and Soviet occupation. While that had a major impact on each, it did not wipe out the differences increasingly on view. At first glance, the term "new independent states" appears to be more neutral; but, if anything, it is even more politically charged than the other two. Prior to the demise of the Soviet Union, no government in the world referred to independent countries arising from the ruins of empires as "new independent states." Instead, those countries were quickly viewed as countries much like all others. Consequently, the use of this term so long after the end of the USSR implies that the relationship between those countries and Moscow is somehow different. That has led many people in the region to wonder aloud whether their states are less equal than others. Both the citizens of those countries and others are beginning to ask just how long those countries will have to be "independent" before they cease to be "new." The term "Eurasia" also has some negative connotations, although they are perhaps less obvious. It indiscriminately lumps together countries that are definitely part of the European cultural world with some that most definitely are not. It also has a history that is anything but encouraging. One group of Russian nationalists popularized the term to suggest that Russia represented an amalgam of European and Asiatic civilizations and that it had a civilizing mission across the region. But if none of the terms advanced thus far is adequate, the continued search for one highlights three more fundamental problems. First, many people are unwilling to accept what happened in 1991 as an irreversible watershed in world history. When other empires dissolved in this century, few world leaders felt compelled to reiterate support for the independence and territorial integrity of their successors five years after the fact. No one was saying such things about the successors to the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, or Russian empires in 1924. But in the post-Soviet case, many leaders have done just that and thus have sent a message to those countries very different from the one they say they intend to send. Second, many people are unable to recognize how diverse the countries of the region are and how many now have far greater ties with countries beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union than with countries within those borders. Other than Russian and Soviet occupation, Armenia and Kazakhstan, for example, have little in common in almost any respect. And despite the impact of the past, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are both looking beyond the Soviet borders rather than to the former imperial center. Third, the search for a single term reflects an unwillingness on the part of some Westerners to challenge the desire of some Moscow circles to remain the dominant power in the region, regardless of the wishes of people in those countries. Through instruments such as the Commonwealth of Independent States and via statements about the relevance of the borders of the former Soviet Union, the Russian government has advanced a claim to a sphere of influence across the region. Such assertions make Western terminological discussions all the more important. To the extent that the West uses terms that imply the territory once occupied by the Soviet Union is a single region, some circles in Moscow will be encouraged to believe that the West has recognized Russian claims. To the extent that the West uses terms that treat the countries of the region as separate and unique states, each of those states will be encouraged to develop along its own lines. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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