|I'm going to turn on the light, and we'll be two people in a room looking at each other and wondering why on earth we were afraid of the dark. - Gale Wilhelm|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 103, Part I, 26 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 * DRAFT 1998 BUDGET SUBMITTED TO DUMA * YELTSIN, SHEVARDNADZE ASSESS ABKHAZ PEACE PROCESS * NAGORNO-KARABAKH REJECTS LATEST PEACE PLAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA DRAFT 1998 BUDGET SUBMITTED TO DUMA... Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 25 August signed the draft budget for 1998, and the government submitted the 1,600-page long document to the State Duma. The draft provides for 340 billion new rubles ($58.4 billion) in revenues and 472 billion new rubles ($81.2 billion) in expenditures. President Boris Yeltsin hailed the "unusual, but realistic" budget during a meeting with Chernomyrdin, First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, and Presidential Chief of Staff Valentin Yumashev. Chubais told journalists that passing and implementing the budget "will guarantee Russia the start of tangible, visible, indubitable growth in 1998," according to Reuters. He also pledged that the 1998 budget will not be cut during the course of the year, Interfax reported. The government has cut 1997 budget spending by 20.5 percent, citing revenue shortfalls. ...EXPECTED TO HAVE TOUGH RIDE. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told Interfax on 25 August that the Duma debate of the budget will be "tough." The same day, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) member Vladimir Gusev, chairman of the Duma's committee on industry, construction, transportation and energy, denounced the draft as a "catastrophe for industry." Duma Labor and Social Policy Committee Chairman Sergei Kalashnikov, also of the LDPR, noted that the draft does not change Russia's overall economic policy and would cut planned spending on industry and construction in half. Chubais acknowledged that some provisions in the draft will meet with opposition in the parliament. By way of example, he said federal aid to the regions has been cut from 15 percent of total budget revenues this year to 13 percent in 1998. Yeltsin argued that if Duma deputies try to amend the budget to increase expenditures, they should specify "at whose expense" the extra spending would be made. YELTSIN, SHEVARDNADZE ASSESS ABKHAZ PEACE PROCESS. Yeltsin on 25 August praised Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov for breaking the deadlock in talks between Georgia and Abkhazia, Interfax reported. But Yeltsin also warned that Russia will not cede to the U.S. the initiative in mediating a political solution to the conflict, noting that Washington would never agree to send a peacekeeping force to the region. In his weekly radio address on 25 August, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze similarly expressed his appreciation of Primakov's role in bringing Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba to Tbilisi on 14 August for talks. Georgian parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania has urged Tamaz Nadareishvili not to resign as chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, saying this would be tantamount to recognizing the legitimacy of the present Abkhaz leadership, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 23 August. CONFUSION OVER DISMISSAL OF ROSVOORUZHENIE HEAD. Yeltsin on 25 August said Aleksandr Kotelkin "did not resign voluntarily" as head of the arms export company Rosvooruzhenie, Russian agencies reported. Yeltsin conceded that Kotelkin had improved the work of the company but said that "certain problems" had arisen, which he refused to specify. Yeltsin stressed, however, that Kotelkin had not done "anything bad." Deputy Prime Minister and Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, whose responsibilities include the arms sector, similarly praised Kotelkin's work in "raising defense cooperation to a higher level." Both Urinson and new Rosvooruzhenie director Yevgenii Ananev said Kotelkin's removal was a routine personnel move, given that "work must be done differently under new conditions." COMMERCIAL BANKS TO LOSE ROSVOORUZHENIE ACCOUNTS? Urinson also announced on 25 August that Rosvooruzhenie accounts currently held in commercial banks are to be transferred to the Federal Treasury, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 August. In 1996, some $3.4 billion in proceeds from Rosvooruzhenie contracts passed through accounts in 10 different commercial banks, and funds passing through Rosvooruzhenie accounts are expected to double in 1997. The newspaper said Oneksimbank handles more Rosvooruzhenie funds than any other commercial bank. First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais recently ordered that accounts containing customs duties be transferred to the Central Bank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 18 August 1997). That move is also expected to bite into Oneksimbank's revenues. In addition, Chubais wants the Finance Ministry's hard-currency accounts, currently held in commercial banks, to be transferred to the Central Bank, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 August. NO GRUDGES BETWEEN YELTSIN, STARODUBTSEV SIX YEARS ON. Speaking by telephone with Yeltsin on 25 August, Tula Oblast Governor Vasilii Starodubtsev invited the president to visit Tula but warned him that the coal policy proposed by Chubais threatens to cause severe unemployment in the oblast, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 1997). Yeltsin told Chubais and other top government officials the same day that he shared Starodubtsev's concerns. In August 1991, Starodubtsev was imprisoned after participating in the coup attempt by the State Committee on State Security. He was released under an amnesty declared by the parliament in February 1994 and elected governor of Tula in March 1997. In an interview with "Trud" on 21 August, Starodubtsev said he had participated in the coup to save the Soviet Union's territorial integrity and unity: "The country was on the edge of a schism, and we tried to stop it. Unfortunately, we failed." BOIKO, "IZVESTIYA" ON VICTIMS OF PRIVATIZATION. State Property Committee Chairman Maksim Boiko told "Izvestiya" on 26 August that he believes the assassination of Mikhail Manevich, deputy governor of St. Petersburg and head of the city's State Property Committee, was masterminded by those who do not want privatization tenders to be fair. Manevich was shot on 18 August by a sniper (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18-20 and 22 August 1997). "Izvestiya" commented that both Manevich and former State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh are "victims of privatization," whose fates show "the price paid by reformers in the cabinet for the attempt to change privatization rules." Kokh was replaced by Boiko on 13 August. "Izvestiya," in which Oneksimbank is a major shareholder, did not mention that Yeltsin on 15 August criticized Kokh for showing favoritism to some commercial banks. Oneksimbank won recent privatization auctions for large stakes in Svyazinvest and Norilsk Nickel. "IZVESTIYA" SAYS BANKERS ARE GOVERNMENT'S MAIN OPPONENTS. In the same interview with Boiko, "Izvestiya" argued that recent rows over privatization sales demonstrate that bankers embittered by the change in privatization rules have replaced Communists as the government's main opponents. Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii -- also an influential businessman -- recently said that First Deputy Prime Ministers Chubais and Boris Nemtsov are making a "serious strategic error" by not heeding the opinions of the business community (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 1997). Asked if he feels pressure from the banking community, Boiko told "Izvestiya" that no banker has called him since he took up his new post. Companies linked to Berezovskii and Media-Most head Vladimir Gusinskii are believed to have been involved in the losing bid for Svyazinvest. "OBSHCHAYA GAZETA" SLAMS CHUBAIS, ONEKSIMBANK. An unsigned editorial in the latest edition of "Obshchaya gazeta" accused First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais of attempting to replace the "rule by the seven bankers" in Russia with one powerful financial group, Oneksimbank. The newspaper said Chubais has created a "ruling oligarchy" during the 1996 presidential campaign by uniting Russia's most powerful bankers behind the Yeltsin re-election effort and bringing the mass media to heel. The newspaper also claimed that with a view toward improving First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov's prospects in the next presidential election, Chubais is coordinating a campaign to "foist Nemtsov on the ruling elite" by "destroying" the financial base of Oneksimbank's competitors and their capacity to influence the media. Vladimir Gusinskii's Media- Most group recently became an investor in "Obshchaya gazeta." Outlets owned by Media-Most have repeatedly criticized Oneksimbank, Nemtsov and Chubais during the recent privatization scandals. CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS WANT MASKHADOV'S POWERS REDUCED. A group of Chechen field commanders has published a statement in the Chechen newspaper "Put Dzhokhara" demanding that the positions of president and prime minister not be held by one and the same person, Interfax reported on 25 August. They proposed that the Chechen parliament amend the republic's constitution accordingly. Aslan Maskhadov currently holds the offices of both president and premier. The field commanders also demanded the creation of a republican defense ministry and a commission of legal experts to review several unspecified government and presidential decrees. Russian observers have repeatedly suggested that Maskhadov is under pressure from rivals within the leadership, but Maskhadov denies that is the case. DID LIBYA SEND AID TO CHECHNYA? A Turkish court is investigating allegations that former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan's Welfare Party misappropriated $10 million in aid destined for Chechnya, dpa reported on 26 August, citing "Hurriyet." That sum had allegedly been sent to Ankara by Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi. MORE MONEY FOR SPACE, MORE PROBLEMS FOR "MIR." Economics Minister Urinson said on 25 August that Russia has taken "exhaustive measures" to provide its share of funds for the "Alpha" international space station, Russian media reported. Urinson said about 1.1 billion new rubles ($191 million) had been allocated for the space program in 1998. That contradicts a statement by Yeltsin in his 22 August nationwide radio address saying that 3.5 billion new rubles ($600 million) would be spent on space programs in 1998. Urinson also said the "Mir" space station would continue functioning through 1998 and possibly until the year 2000. Aboard the space station, there was a temporary malfunction in one of the oxygen systems late on 25 August, but ITAR-TASS reported the next day that the station's crew had repaired the problem. NEW SPIRITUAL BOARD FOR RUSSIAN MUSLIMS. A recent conference of Muslims of Siberia and Russia's Far East voted to establish a separate Spiritual Board for Muslims in those regions, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 August. The board will have its headquarters in Tobolsk, and Sheik Nafiula Ashirov will be its chairman and mufti of Siberia and the Far East. The conference took place in Tobolsk from 8-10 August and was attended by 500 delegates from Sakha, Primore, Magadan, Sakhalin, Chita, and other Russian regions. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA NAGORNO-KARABAKH REJECTS LATEST PEACE PLAN. Arkadii Ghukasyan, foreign minister of the self-proclaimed Nagorno- Karabakh Republic and one of three candidates contesting the1 September presidential elections, said on 22 August that the enclave's leadership has rejected the peace plan submitted in late May by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, Noyan Tapan reported. That plan envisages the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territory and from the town of Shusha in the south of the NKR. It also proposes the deployment of international troops along the Lachin corridor, which links the NKR and Armenia, and the downsizing of the Karabakh armed forces. Armenia and Azerbaijan have accepted the proposals "as a basis for peace," according to Ghukasyan. He said that peace negotiations will resume under the aegis of the OSCE after the NKR presidential elections. CZECH SENATE SPEAKER AFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION. Czech Senate Chairman Petr Pithart has congratulated Azerbaijani former President Abulfaz Elchibey and Musavat party chairman Isa Gambar on their election as co-chairmen of the opposition Democratic Congress. The text of Pithart's letters to both men were made available to "RFE/RL Newsline." The Czech leader assured them of his moral support "in your fight against all forms of totalitarianism". He also expressed the hope that the Democratic Congress will soon assume a decisive role in Azerbaijan's political life. The Democratic Congress unites seven right-wing, pro-Western opposition parties. Elchibey and Gambar were elected its co-chairmen in late April. Elchibey announced in June that he plans to return to Baku from Nakhichevan, where he fled four years earlier. Since the beginning of August, he has been subject to intensive surveillance by Interior Ministry troops. AZERBAIJAN, CHECHNYA DISCUSS EXPORT PIPELINE. Meeting in Baku on 25 August with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov complained that Russia has not yet made available the necessary funds for repairs to the Baku-Grozny- Tikhoretsk oil pipeline, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Aliev expressed concern that the delay in repairing the pipeline could postpone yet again the export of the first so-called "early oil" from the Chirag Caspian field, currently scheduled to begin 1 October. Azerbaijani and Chechen oil company representatives and Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Boris Nemtsov signed in July an agreement on repairing the 153 kilometer Chechen sector of the pipeline. A Chechen official estimated this would take 30-40 days. Russia undertook to provide the funding for the repairs, and Chechnya to protect the pipeline from attack. TURKMENISTAN, IRAN, RUSSIA TO DEVELOP KYAPAZ? Turkmenistan plans to exploit the disputed Kyapaz (Serdar in Turkmen) Caspian oil field together with the National Iranian Oil Company and an unnamed Russian company, Reuters reported, citing an unidentified Turkmen government spokesman. Azerbaijan, which claims that the field lies within its national sector of the Caspian, will also be invited to participate, the spokesman said. GERMAN ECONOMICS MINISTER IN TURKMENISTAN. Gunter Rexrodt met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov on 25 August and asked him to "end barriers to trade and investment," dpa and ITAR- TASS reported. Among the German delegation accompanying Rexrodt were representatives of 40 German companies looking to invest in Turkmen oil and natural gas. According to dpa, German trade with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan amounted to $1.08 billion in 1996 but only $94 million was with Turkmenistan. President Niyazov is scheduled to arrive in Germany on 27 August for a four-day visit. The German delegation is scheduled to proceed to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. TATAR PRESIDENT IN KAZAKHSTAN. Mintimer Shaimiev concluded a two-day visit to Kazakhstan on 26 August, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. He met with his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin to discuss improving economic relations. Both presidents agreed that the total volume of trade ($60 million) between the Russian region and the Central Asian state was too low. The Tatar delegation expressed interest in participating in the development of Kazakh petroleum fields. Representatives of the two countries discussed Kazakhstan exporting to Tatarstan metals and petroleum and importing grain, rice, and wheat as well as automotive parts from the KamAZ factory. They also considered the possibility of opening a KamAZ assembly plant in Kazakhstan. An agreement was signed to open a permanent Tatar mission in Kazakhstan. GERMAN BANKS EXTEND CREDIT TO KAZAKHSTAN. The Kazgermunai Society and a consortium of German banks concluded a deal on 25 August extending a $200 million credit to Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported. The money is intended to develop the Akzhabulak oil field in southeastern Kazakhstan, including the construction of a pipeline, a refinery, and housing for workers at the site. UZBEKISTAN RECALLS STUDENTS FROM TURKEY. Uzbek President Islam Karimov has recalled some 2,000 Uzbek students studying in Turkey, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 August. Karimov made the move after learning that under the former government of Necmettin Erbakan, Islamic clerics who belong to fundamentalist sects had tried to recruit those students. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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