|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 101, Part I, 22 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 *RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT 1998 BUDGET *RUSSIAN ARMS EXPORT COMPANY REORGANIZED *ARMED GROUP ATTACKS TAJIK POLICE STATION End Note A DECREE THAT CHANGED THE WORLD xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT 1998 BUDGET. The government on 21 August approved a draft budget for 1998, which officials describe as "tough" but "realistic." The draft budget foresees revenues of 340 billion new rubles ($58.4 billion, calculated on the basis of the upcoming ruble redenomination), or an estimated 12.4 percent of GDP. Planned spending totals 472 billion new rubles, or 17.2 percent of GDP. The deficit is planned at 132 billion new rubles, or 4.8 percent of GDP. "Kommersant-Daily" noted that the total projected revenues and expenditures for 1998 are very close to the "sequestered" version of the 1997 budget. The government cut spending by about 20 percent this year, citing severe revenue shortfalls. At the cabinet meeting, Central Bank First Deputy Chairman Sergei Aleksashenko charged that the Finance Ministry had not thoroughly examined ways for the government to collect more revenues, "Kommersant-Daily" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 22 August. BUDGET CONTAINS ROSY PREDICTIONS. The draft 1998 budget projects GDP growth of 2 percent next year. First Deputy Economics Minister Ivan Materov told journalists on 21 August that raw material exports are likely to provide the basis for next year's economic growth, Reuters reported. The budget also assumes that a new tax code will go into effect on 1 January, although the parliament may not approve that code. In addition, the government counts on receiving $1.25 billion in repayed debts from countries that borrowed from the USSR. (Most of those countries are themselves short of funds.) Last year's budget projected 2 percent GDP growth, but the government has acknowledged that GDP will at best be flat in 1997 and could decline by up to 2 percent. Reuters noted that while the 1997 budget provided for a deficit of 3.5 percent of GDP, this year's deficit is expected to reach 5.35 percent. DRAFT UNLIKELY TO FIND FAVOR WITH DUMA. State Duma Budget Committee Deputy Chairman Aleksei Golovkov, a member of the pro- government Our Home Is Russia faction, told "Kommersant-Daily" on 22 August that in its current form, the draft budget will be opposed by "all factions" in the Duma. He added that since it appears to be impossible to find additional sources of revenue, Duma deputies are likely to call for more deficit spending, which the government will oppose "to the death." Duma First Deputy Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin, also of Our Home Is Russia, told ITAR-TASS on 21 August that the Duma will probably send the budget back to the government for amendments. Meanwhile, Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin charged that the draft budget does not provide enough funding for defense or military reform, Radio Mayak reported on 21 August. Planned defense spending in 1998 totals 94.5 billion new rubles ($16 billion), according to Interfax. RUSSIAN ARMS EXPORT COMPANY REORGANIZED. Yeltsin on 21 August signed several decrees aimed at tightening control over arms exports. The state company Rosvooruzhenie received the status of federal state unitary enterprise. Its current director-general, Maj.- Gen. Aleksandr Kotelkin, a protege of Yeltsin's former bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, was dismissed. At Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's suggestion, Yeltsin appointed Yevgenii Ananev, the chairman of MAPO bank, as Kotelkin's successor. Rosvooruzhenie will be able to trade only in arms and military equipment produced for overseas markets, according to Interfax. Other decrees create two state enterprises: Russian Technologies will deal with licenses and know-how, while Promexport will sell used Defense Ministry armaments that are obsolete as well as the spare parts for them. A special government commission, to be chaired by Chernomyrdin, will be created to monitor the activities of the new Rosvooruzhenie. WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM REORGANIZATION? Interfax quotes Ananev as saying that the reorganization of Rosvooruzhenie is aimed at "formalizing and simplifying the system of concluding contracts and their implementation." An unnamed Russian government source suggested, however, that the measures are intended to abolish Rosvooruzhenie's monopoly -- which, he claimed, had undercut the effectiveness of the arms trade -- and thereby to ensure a "division of labor." Noting that three days earlier, Yeltsin had praised the work of Rosvooruzhenie and of Kotelkin personally, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 22 August commented that the reorganization is symptomatic of the "total chaos reigning in the upper echelons of power." The newspaper also predicted that it will strengthen the influence of Deputy Prime Minister and Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, who is responsible for the arms industry. GENERAL SAYS MILITARY PERSONNEL TO RECEIVE BACK WAGES SOON. Col.-Gen. Valerii Manilov, deputy head of the General Staff, says all wage arrears to soldiers and civilian employees of the Defense Ministry will be paid within the next few days, Russian news agencies reported on 21 August. Military personnel will receive other benefits owed to them by the end of the year, Manilov added. Manilov, an influential figure in drafting the latest military reform plans, said the Defense Ministry plans to purchase or build 100,000 apartments across Russia for the approximately 97,000 officers currently without housing. He also said President Boris Yeltsin has been informed that plans to staff the armed forces entirely with contract soldiers by 2005 are "unrealistic," according to the 22 August "Segodnya." Under a May 1996 presidential decree, Russia was to have established an all-volunteer army by 2000. SLAIN OFFICIAL BURIED IN ST. PETERSBURG. Hundreds of mourners packed a hall in St. Petersburg for the funeral of Mikhail Manevich, deputy governor and head of the city's Property Committee, Russian news agencies reported on 21 August. Manevich was shot on his way to work on 18 August by a sniper in an apparent contract killing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18-20 August 1997). Speaking at the ceremony, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais vowed that the authorities will find "both those who pulled the trigger and those who paid with their stinking stolen money," Reuters reported. In addition to leading St. Petersburg politicians, many prominent Moscow officials attended the funeral, including State Property Committee Chairman Maksim Boiko, First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, Federal Securities Market Commission Chairman Dmitrii Vasilev, Our Home Is Russia Duma faction leader Sergei Belyaev, and Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar. OFFICIAL SLAMS DRIVING RECORD OF U.S. DIPLOMATS. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin has charged that U.S. diplomats break traffic rules more often than staff of any other foreign embassy, Russian news agencies reported on 21 August. He said U.S. embassy staff were cited for 141 traffic violations between 1 January and 18 August. The U.S. State Department on 20 August announced plans to recall Matthew Bryza, a second secretary of the U.S. embassy in Moscow, who two days earlier had been driving a car that hit and critically injured a Moscow pedestrian. Nesterushkin said the criminal case against Bryza will remain open as police continue investigating the accident. Bryza cannot be prosecuted unless the U.S. lifts his immunity. In February, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze lifted the immunity of a Georgian diplomat who caused a car accident in Washington that killed one woman. That diplomat is currently in pre-trial detention in the U.S. SELEZNEV MEETS WITH YELTSIN. Meeting with Yeltsin on 21 August, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev expressed concern about frequent presidential vetoes, Interfax reported. The previous day, Seleznev had argued that the president appears to be "abusing his constitutional right" to reject laws passed by parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 1997). Seleznev also urged that the upcoming ruble redenomination not be applied to Sberbank deposits opened before 1992. High inflation beginning in 1992 wiped out the life savings of many Russians. Seleznev argued that the government should increase the real value of old Sberbank deposits by 1,000 times by not taking three zeroes off the rubles in those accounts. Central Bank officials have said the redenomination will be applied to Sberbank accounts opened before 1992, according to "Segodnya" on 11 August. SUSPECTS ARRESTED IN KILLING OF HOCKEY PRESIDENT. Police have arrested 10 people in connection with the killing in April of Russian Hockey League President Valentin Sych, according to Russian media. Among those arrested is Robert Cherenkov, who preceded Sych as head of what was then called the International Hockey League. Police say the motive of the murder was financial gain. YELTSIN SUPPORTS SPACE PROGRAM. Yeltsin said on nationwide radio on 22 August that Russia will increase spending for its space program next year, ITAR-TASS reported. Some 3.5 billion new rubles (about $600 million) will be allotted for the 1998 program. Yeltsin also urged the youth of the country to work in aviation and aerospace as those industries "in many respects define Russia's status as a great power." DAGESTANI PRIME MINISTER FIRED. The Dagestani State Council on 20 August dismissed Abdurazak Mirabekov, ITAR-TASS reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" said on 22 August that the dismissal was precipitated by personal rivalry between Mirzabekov and State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov. The Dagestani Constitution is soon to be amended to introduce the post of president, which both men intended to contest. COSSACKS BACK ENVIRONMENTALISTS IN ROSTOV. Representatives of the Vsevelikii unit of Don Cossacks are supporting efforts by environmentalists to block further construction of a nuclear power plant in Volgodonsk (Rostov Oblast), "Segodnya" reported on 22 August. Protesters led by the group Defenders of the Rainbow have been demonstrating near the plant and have occasionally blocked off the road leading to the construction site (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1997). Police recently turned back a bus carrying Cossacks who said they planned to defend the protesters, after which the Vsevelikii Cossacks vowed to seek the support of other Cossack units in Rostov. The deputy governor of Rostov, who is also ataman of the Vsevelikii unit, has said that the Rostov legislature will discuss the plant's construction in September. The environmentalists are demanding that an oblast-wide referendum be held on whether the plant should be built. CHECHEN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST DELAY IN SIGNING TREATY. Addressing journalists on 21 August, Aslan Maskhadov expressed concern that postponing the signing of a treaty defining relations between Moscow and Grozny for up to two years could lead to a new war in Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. Maskhadov singled out NTV President Igor Malashenko, Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, and Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov as being opposed to peace in Chechnya. Maskhadov also reiterated Yeltsin's concern, expressed at a meeting of the Russian Security Council on 20 August, that the U.S. is seeking to increase its influence in the North Caucasus. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMED GROUP ATTACKS TAJIK POLICE STATION. An armed group loyal to former opposition field commander Mansur Muakhalov attacked a police station in the town of Kofarnikhon, 20 kilometers east of Dushanbe, on 21 August, RFE/RL corespondents reported. The incident occurred after a stolen vehicle containing two of Muakhalov's supporters was discovered during a routine police check on the road between Kofarnikhon and the capital. After the men were detained in the local police station, some 50-70 Muakhalov supporters surrounded the station and demanded their release. Fighting broke out when the police refused to meet their demand. There are unofficial reports of casualties. Muakhalov has been linked to the United Tajik Opposition, which, however, has denounced the attack. UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri said any UTO member who takes such unilateral action will be punished by the combined forces of the UTO and the government. CRIME RISING IN TAJIK CAPITAL. According to reports from RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe, crime is rising sharply in the Tajik capital. Sporadic gunfire can be heard daily, and the number of robberies is increasing. The house of a foreign worker for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was burgled on 21 August. UZBEK GRAIN HARVEST FAILS TO MEET TARGET. The 1997 grain harvest totals 2.86 million tons, or slightly more than two-thirds of the target figure of 4 million tons, Reuters reported on 21 August. This is the third consecutive year that Uzbekistan has failed to meet its quotas. Recently, Uzbek authorities introduced "centralized purchasing," whereby sales of flour, sugar, edible oil, and butter are controlled. RUSSIANS IN KAZAKHSTAN PROTEST LANGUAGE LAW. At a 21 August press conference organized by the Society of Ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan, leaders of the country's Russian community "harshly criticized" Kazakhstan's new language policy, RFE/RL correspondents in the Kazakh capital reported. Members of the society urged the Russian State Duma to take "concrete measures" to protect the rights of Russian-speakers in Kazakhstan, who, they said, account for more than half the population. Under Kazakhstan's language laws, 50 percent of all broadcasting must be in Kazakh and all ethnic Russian state officials must be proficient in that language by 2006. GEORGIAN GUERRILLAS STILL HOLD CIS PEACEKEEPERS. The White Legion said on 21 August that it will release the three CIS peacekeepers it abducted on 16 August only if the bodies of two Georgians recently killed in Abkhazia are returned, ITAR-TASS reported. Georgian First Deputy Security Minister Avtandil Ioseliani traveled to Zugdidi, in western Georgia, on 21 August in an attempt to locate the hostages and secure their release by non-violent means. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin expressed Russia's "indignation" that the abduction took place on territory controlled by Georgia. He said the Georgian Foreign Ministry has been asked to secure the men's immediate and unconditional release. FORMER ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER PREDICTS "DRAMATIC TIMES." Speaking at a new conference in Yerevan on 21 August, Hrant Bagratyan said that Armenia's international reputation has suffered in the wake of the 1996 disputed presidential elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Bagratyan predicted that this fall will be "one of the most dramatic times" in Armenia's history, given anticipated concessions by the Armenian leadership over Nagorno- Karabakh. He criticized his successor, Armen Sargssian, who, he claimed, had undermined the achievements of Bagratyan's government during its three-year term. But Bagratyan praised current Premier Robert Kocharyan and said he hoped Kocharyan would continue strict economic reforms. Bagratyan is currently an adviser to the IMF. He founded the liberal opposition party Azatutyun in April 1997. KARABAKH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION UPDATE. Arkadii Ghukasyan, foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, said on 21 August that the region should aim for outright independence, an RFE/RL correspondent in Stepanakert reported. Ghukasyan, the favorite among three registered candidates for the 1 September Karabakh presidential elections, was addressing supporters in Stepanakert. He said that if elected, he will seek international guarantees for Karabakh's security, in which, he said, Armenia should play a key role. Ghukasyan also said that one of his priorities would be to strengthen the Karabakh armed forces, already acknowledged to be among the most professional in the CIS. Meeting on 21 August with Germany's representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, Frank Lambach, acting Karabakh President Leonard Petrossyan said that Karabakh will never again become part of Azerbaijan, Interfax reported. ARMENIAN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP DEMANDS REOPENING OF LIBRARY. Armenian human rights groups on 20 August appealed to the international community to urge the Armenian government to reopen a human rights library in the city of Vanadzor, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Armenian Helsinki Association and the Armenian Center for Constitutional Rights said that on 29 July, a group of uniformed men belonging to the defense ministry's volunteer militia [yergrapah] burst into the library's office, forcibly ousting its personnel and removing its equipment. The library's director, Gevorg Manukyan, said that despite numerous protests, the local authorities have taken no action to "restore law and justice." The Vanadzor human rights library was established in September 1996 with the help of a leading Armenian-U.S. organization to foster public awareness of human rights issues. END NOTE A Decree That Changed the World by Paul Goble On 24 August 1991, Boris Yeltsin, then president of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, issued a decree recognizing the independence of Estonia, thus ending 50 years of Soviet occupation of that Baltic country. If the consequences of that decree were momentous for Estonia, they were, if anything, even greater for the Soviet Union, for Russia, and for the international community as a whole. In many respects, Yeltsin's decree was the death certificate for the Soviet Union, even though that state continued to appear in the world arena for another four months. By recognizing the independence of Estonia, Yeltsin set the stage for his subsequent recognition of the independence of Latvia and Lithuania, the two other Baltic republics occupied by Stalin in 1940 as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. But because Yeltsin was unwilling to acknowledge that the status of the Baltic countries was fundamentally different from that of the 12 union republics, the Russian president failed to erect a firewall between them and thus paved the way for their independence as well. Yeltsin's decision to issue a decree on Estonian independence guaranteed that the dissolution of the Soviet Union would be quick, because it foreshadowed the notion that the borders of the union republics should become the borders of the post-Soviet states. It meant that the dissolution process would be peaceful, precisely because independence would result not from struggle or long negotiation but rather from unilateral Russian action. And it created in the minds of Yeltsin and many other Russian leaders an expectation that the Balts and other non-Russians would be grateful and thus remain friendly to Moscow. (That hope was inevitably misplaced, at least in the case of the Baltic States; but its existence helps explain why Moscow has acted and continues to act in the way that it does.) The decree had equally fateful consequences for Yeltsin and Russia. While many around the world had cheered Yeltsin's heroism during the failed coup only a few days earlier, few world leaders were willing to view him as the president of an independent country. His recognition of Estonian independence changed all that. Many countries around the world hurried to recognize Estonia -- in the next 10 days alone, more than 40 did so. But in doing that, they were implicitly recognizing Russia as an independent state as well. That was not well understood by many diplomats and politicians at the time, although there was widespread understanding that such steps constituted some kind of recognition of Yeltsin's right to act as the predominant leader in Moscow. Given the attachment many Western leaders felt to then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev because of the changes he had brought about both inside the USSR and in Moscow's relations with the outside world, many world leaders were reluctant to recognize Estonia. But by acting on the Estonian demand for independence, Yeltsin effectively forced their hand, thereby gaining just as much for himself and his country as the Estonians had gained for theirs. In the longer term, Yeltsin's action may have an even greater impact. By righting an historical wrong, it contributed to the moral renewal of the Russian people, who also had suffered under Soviet power. Even more important, it was a significant step in Russia's retreat from empire, which has given many hope that the Russia of the future may become a country living at peace with its neighbors rather than a cause threatening their existence. Yeltsin's decree also helped transform the international system, posing a set of challenges to world leaders that all of them are still grappling with. It ushered in a post-Soviet and not just post-Cold War world. In addition to pushing aside Gorbachev and the USSR, it destroyed many of the landmarks of the bipolar world that had guided the foreign policies of the great powers since the end of World War II. Most immediately, Yeltsin's decree helped to recreate what had been a major security challenge in Europe prior to 1939: coping with the zone of weak states caught between Moscow and Berlin and between the Baltic and Black Seas. Indeed, much of the current debate about the eastward expansion of NATO and the EU and about Russia's role in this region can be seen as the working out of the consequences of the August 1991 decree. Finally, Yeltsin's recognition of Estonia six years ago served as a reminder that, despite the hopes of some and the fears of others, history has not ended and that individuals and nations can transform the world, regardless of the forces arrayed against them. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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