|A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. - Jonathan Swift|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 107, Part I, 1 September1997
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 * FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES REPORTS ON POSSIBLE NUCLEAR TEST * RUSSIAN, ARMENIAN PRESIDENTS SIGN NEW COOPERATION AGREEMENT * FATE OF TAJIK MUFTI End Note: RIVAL MODELS OF CAUCASIAN COOPERATION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES REPORTS ON POSSIBLE NUCLEAR TEST. Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin has denied reports in some Western media that Russia may have recently conducted a nuclear test near the Arctic site of Novaya Zemlya, Russian news agencies reported on 29 August. Nesterushkin said Russia is adhering to the moratorium on nuclear testing declared by Yeltsin in 1992, adding that Russia refrains from all actions that would contradict the provisions of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Moscow has signed but not ratified that treaty. Earlier in the day, Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov also categorically denied the reports, saying an earthquake had caused a "seismic event" recorded near Novaya Zemlya on 16 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 1997). The U.S., Norway and Finland had officially asked Moscow for an explanation of the event. RUSSIAN, ARMENIAN PRESIDENTS SIGN NEW COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Meeting in the Kremlin on 29 August, Boris Yeltsin and Levon Ter-Petrossyan signed a bilateral Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance that supercedes an earlier agreement concluded in December 1991, but never ratified. The agreement provides for more intensive cooperation, particularly in the military and economic sphere. Yeltsin characterized his talks with Ter-Petrossyan as "candid, sincere and trustful," and said the new treaty "marks a qualitatively new stage of Russian-Armenian relations" on the level of "strategic partnership." The Armenian president said that implementation of the treaty would result in closer integration than the Russia-Belarus Union. Ter-Petrossyan, who was accompanied on his three-day visit by the foreign, defense, economy and finance and energy ministers and controversial Yerevan mayor Vano Siradeghyan, also held talks with Viktor Chernomyrdin, Yevgenii Primakov, Igor Sergeev, Ivan Rybkin and Gennadii Seleznev. ARMENIAN-RUSSIAN GAS VENTURE CREATED. On 30 August, Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev, Armenian Energy Minister Gagik Martirossyan and ITERA president Igor Makarov signed an agreement creating the joint stock company ArmRosGazprom, which will finance, construct and operate a gas pipeline network to supply natural gas to Armenia and export gas via Armenia to Turkey, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Armenia will use part of the Russian gas to generate energy, which will enable it to supply Turkey with up to 3 billion kW/hours of electricity without building new power lines. Ter-Petrossyan, who attended the signing ceremony, termed the agreement as important as the reactivating of Armenia's mothballed nuclear power station. Russia provided substantive financial and technical help in restarting the Medzamor nuclear power station in 1995. RUSSIA, TURKEY SIGN GAS PIPELINE ACCORD. Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev and Turkish Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer signed a $3 billion preliminary agreement in Ankara on 29 August to build a pipeline under the Black Sea from Tuapse to Samsun through which Turkey will import Russian natural gas, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported. The deal is to be finalized during a visit to Turkey by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, possibly in November or December. Construction of the pipeline may begin next year, according to Vyakhirev. Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz said the agreement gives "a new dimension" to Turkey's economic ties with Russia. YELTSIN WON'T SEEK THIRD TERM. Yeltsin announced on 1 September that he will not run for president in 2000, Russian media reported. While visiting a Moscow school on the first day of the academic year, Yeltsin said a younger and "more energetic" generation will govern Russia after his current term expires. Article 81 of the Russian Constitution forbids a president from serving for more than two consecutive terms. Although Yeltsin was first elected president in 1991 and re-elected in 1996, there had been some speculation that he might seek a third term on the grounds that since 1991, Russia has gained independence and adopted a new constitution. OFFICIALS PROMISE HELP FOR TEACHERS. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev said on 1 September that the government is beginning "intensive work" on paying its debts to teachers, ITAR-TASS reported. A July presidential decree ordered all back wages to state employees to be paid by 1 January 1998. But Sysuev noted that while the federal government had paid pension arrears earlier this summer, regional governments would have to provide half the funds to pay back wages. In a nationwide radio address on 1 September, Yeltsin blamed chronic wage delays to teachers on regional authorities, saying, "I am ashamed for the governors of those oblasts where such a disgrace goes on." Meanwhile, the teachers' trade union in the Republic of Buryatia decided to call off a planned strike and let the school year begin on schedule after teachers finally received their salaries for October 1996, ITAR-TASS reported. CHERNOMYRDIN ON DEPUTY'S DEPARTURE FROM PRO-GOVERNMENT MOVEMENT. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, leader of the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) movement, has described Sergei Belyaev as a poor leader of the NDR State Duma faction and has said his departure should not be considered a "tragedy," ITAR-TASS reported on 29 August. Announcing his resignation from the NDR council and Duma faction, Belyaev accused the movement of becoming "bureaucratic" and of not living up to its 1995 campaign promises (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 1997). The prime minister expressed regret that Belyaev had issued an "inadequate" response to "tactful" attempts by NDR colleagues to search for his replacement. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 August that Chernomyrdin recently met secretly with 26 NDR Duma deputies, 23 of whom advocated replacing Belyaev. Duma deputy Aleksei Golovkov told Interfax on 29 August that Belyaev may have feared being sacked during an upcoming meeting with Chernomyrdin. BELYAEV LEFT MOVEMENT WITH KREMLIN'S APPROVAL. "Izvestiya" commented on 30 August that Belyaev appears to have quit NDR "with the Kremlin's approval." On the eve of his 29 August announcement, Belyaev met with Yeltsin's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko and Presidential Chief of Staff Valentin Yumashev, the paper said. (It is also notable that Belyaev sharply criticized NDR leaders and spoke pessimistically about the movement's prospects in a 26 August interview with "Rossiiskie vesti," the official newspaper of the presidential administration.) "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 August described Belyaev's departure as evidence of the "final political divorce" between the prime minister and the government's "young reformers" (First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov). In a separate article published in that paper the same day, Belyaev criticized Prime Minister Chernomyrdin for not devoting the time or the effort to build NDR into a strong political movement. IMPACT OF BELYAEV'S DEPARTURE ON DUMA FACTION VIEWED. "Kommersant-Daily" argued on 30 August that Belyaev's unprecedented public criticism of the NDR has severely weakened the movement's Duma faction. However, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" speculated the same day that only about five NDR Duma deputies will follow Belyaev's lead. So far only Nikolai Travkin has confirmed that he will quit the faction. (Travkin gained fame in the early 1990s as founder of the Democratic Party of Russia, but he was ousted from that party in 1994 and was elected to the Duma on the NDR list the following year.) On 3 September, NDR Duma deputies will consider a replacement for Belyaev. Among the leading contenders are Duma First Deputy Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin and Duma Nationalities Committee Chairman Vladimir Zorin. The same day, NDR deputies will decide whether to expel Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, who recently created an opposition movement to support the armed forces. STATE MILITARY INSPECTORATE TO HAVE BROAD MANDATE. The new State Military Inspectorate has a mandate to oversee the activities of far more than the various branches of the armed forces, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 August. The Interior Ministry troops, Border Troops, Federal Security Service (FSB), and Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information (FAPSI) are among organizations whose activities also will be monitored by the inspectorate, the paper said. Yeltsin recently appointed Andrei Kokoshin as head of the inspectorate and Defense Council secretary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 1997). Kokoshin told "Izvestiya" that the inspectorate will not "be in charge of the armed forces" or ministers who are subordinated to the president. Rather, it will "fulfill the president's will" by monitoring how defense policy and military reform are progressing. The Defense Council will "examine strategic questions" and make decisions, Kokoshin said, but those decisions must be confirmed by the president. SERGEEV PROMISES PAY RAISE FOR OFFICERS. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev says that current military reform plans call for officers' salaries to be increased by 50 percent by 2001 and to be 60 percent above current levels by 2005, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 August. He said military reform would amount to more than a "reshuffle of furniture" in the armed forces and would raise the status and material position of military personnel. Meanwhile, a Defense Ministry statement released on 1 September warned that seven to eight percent of instructors at military institutions of higher education leave each year. The departure rate is two to three times the rate at which new teachers are trained to replace them. Only 60 percent of Russian military educational institutions are fully staffed with qualified teachers. The Defense Ministry runs 102 institutions of higher education, down from 166 that existed before the collapse of the USSR. CULTURE MINISTER ON WOMEN IN GOVERNMENT. Newly appointed Culture Minister Natalya Dementeva told "Kommersant-Daily" on 30 August that she is "inspired" by the increasing willingness to appoint women to government posts. Tatyana Dmitrieva became health minister in August 1996, and Natalya Fonareva was picked to head the State Anti-Monopoly Committee just a few days before Dementeva's appointment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 1997). "Izvestiya" on 30 August quoted Dementeva as saying that women are more dynamic and decisive than men. Speaking to ITAR-TASS the previous day, Dementeva said "women can be trusted with important posts" because they bear many burdens in life and consequently "understand and feel some things more subtly than representatives of the stronger sex." Meanwhile, in her interview with "Kommersant-Daily" Dementeva dismissed characterizations of her as a "creature of [First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii] Chubais." She said she had only met Chubais once before her appointment. RUSSIA, IRAN TO STRENGTHEN COOPERATION. Iran's new leadership considers ties with Russia a top foreign policy priority, Russian deputy foreign minister Viktor Posuvalyuk told ITAR-TASS on 31 August. Posuvalyuk was in Tehran for talks on bilateral relations, regional problems, including Tajikistan, and economic relations. Posuvalyuk said that Russia is keen to expand trade turnover with Iran. LEBED ON CHECHNYA ONE YEAR AFTER KHASAVYURT. Speaking at a press conference at Interfax's Moscow offices on 29 August, former Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed assessed the impact on Russian politics of the accord signed by himself and Chechen chief of staff Aslan Maskhadov in Khasavyurt on 31 August, 1996, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. That agreement outlined the framework determining future bilateral relations between Moscow and Grozny over a five-year period. Lebed claimed the credit for drafting the agreement which formally ended the war, thereby saving Russia 365 trillion rubles ($62.7 billion) and "scores of thousands of lives." In a separate interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 29 August, Lebed claimed that Yeltsin had removed any mention of the Khasavyurt agreement from the peace treaty signed with Chechnya in May, and that his successor as Security Council secretary, the "absurdly and insanely loyal" Ivan Rybkin, is systematically discrediting it. WORLD CONGRESS OF TATARS APPEALS TO YELTSIN, SHAIMIEV. Delegates to the Second World Congress of Tatars on 29 August adopted an appeal to Yeltsin to pay closer attention to the cultural and spiritual development of the Tatar people, noting specifically that RFE/RL is the only radio station with daily shortwave broadcasts in the Tatar language that can be received throughout the Russian Federation, according to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau. They also called on Yeltsin to create a mechanism for ensuring adequate representation of non-Russian ethnic groups in federal bodies. In a parallel appeal to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, the congress delegates asked him to expedite the transition from the cyrillic to the Latin alphabet in order to facilitate communication among the world's 7 million ethnic Tatars. CHECHENS CLASH WITH POLICE IN DAGESTAN. One man was killed and seven more wounded, including four police officials, in fighting in the Dagestani town of Khasavyurt during the night of 30-31 August, Russian media reported. Interfax reported that the violence erupted after a group of local Akkin Chechens had tried to prevent the arrest of another Chechen. But Chechen first deputy prime minister Movladi Ugudov told ITAR-TASS that the incident was "a provocation by extremist forces" aimed at disrupting the ongoing Russian-Chechen talks. Russian deputy interior minister Petr Latyshev and the commander of the Russian interior ministry troops Leontii Shevtsov travelled to Khasavyurt on 31 August to investigate the incident. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA FATE OF TAJIK MUFTI. The spiritual leader of Tajikistan's Muslims, Amonullo Negmatzoda, is being held by Rezvon Sadirov and his followers, international media reported. Sadirov is demanding the government release his brother, Bahrom, in return for the Mufti and his two sons. The Sadirov brothers' gang was responsible for taking members of the U.N. observer mission to Tajikistan hostage, once in December 1996 and again last February The government has stressed the need for avoiding violence and has been negotiating with Rezvon's group. However, the scheduled handover of Negmatzoda and his sons did not take place as planned at 12:00 local time on 1 September. But RFE/RL correspondents in Tajikistan report that the Mufti and his sons will be freed later in the day. UN special envoy to Tajikistan, Gerd Merrem, has condemned the Mufti's kidnapping but has emphasized it is not connected with the peace process but is considered a "criminal" action. ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER VISITS BAKU. Benjamin Netanyahu made a brief stopover in Baku on 29 August on his return from Japan, Turan and Russian agencies reported. Netanyahu met with President Heidar Aliev and with the foreign and economics ministers. Netanyahu told reporters the talks focused on possible deliveries of Azerbaijani oil to Israel, exports of Israeli technology to Azerbaijan, and unspecified international and regional issues. On 30 August, Iranian state radio termed Netanyahu's Baku visit "destabilizing" and accused the Azerbaijani leadership of playing "a dangerous game," Reuters reported. CHECHEN PRESIDENT VISITS GEORGIA. Aslan Maskhadov flew to Tbilisi on 30 August for talks with Eduard Shevardnadze on regional and economic issues, including the Abkhaz conflict, and the Chechen proposals to create a Caucasus security organization similar to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and to build a pipeline for the export of Chechen oil via Georgia, Russian and Western agencies reported. The two presidents also visited the north Georgian town of Akhmeta, which has a sizeable Chechen population. Shevardnadze termed the meeting, which had been postponed at least once, "an important step towards good neighborly relations," while Maskhadov said it "will play a huge role for security in the Caucasus," AFP reported. (See also "Endnote") TURKMEN PRESIDENT LEAVES GERMANY ... Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, during his 27-30 August visit to Germany, met with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Roman Herzog, ITAR- TASS and DPA reported. Niyazov's meetings with the two leaders was largely ceremonial but the Turkmen president's meetings with business leaders proved fruitful. At a meeting with officials of the Mannesmann company, a contract was signed for constructing a plant in Turkmenistan to produce 200,000 tons yearly of ethylene and polyethylene. The German company "Agrevro" will help with agricultural work on a 10,000 hectare area in Turkmenistan. President Niyazov and his delegation arranged 19 new projects with German partners. The projects are worth an estimated $416 million. ...BUT WILL RETURN FOR SURGERY. On 31 August, the day after Saparmurat Niyazov returned from Germany to Turkmenistan, Turkmen television reported Niyazov will return to Germany for heart surgery in September, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Niyazov was examined by German specialists who concluded an operation to restore normal functioning of the coronary-arterial system is necessary. The date and location of the operation has not been made public. KAZAKH PRESIDENT IN KUWAIT. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev arrived in Kuwait on 31 August for a two-day visit, ITAR-TASS reported. Kazakh Foreign Minister Kasymjomart Tokayev signed an agreement on cooperation between foreign ministries with Kuwait's Deputy Foreign Minister Suleyman Majid Shahin. Nazarbayev is scheduled to meet with Amir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah and other Kuwaiti officials before traveling on to Bahrain and Oman. END NOTE RIVAL MODELS OF CAUCASIAN COOPERATION by Liz Fuller Russia's heavy-handed and proprietorial, but ultimately ineffectual, approach to promoting regional cooperation and inter- ethnic harmony in the Caucasus has inspired local leaders to devise alternative strategems for achieving these aims, while circumscribing Russia's influence. The Russian approach is epitomized by the declaration "For Inter-Ethnic Accord, Peace, and Economic and Cultural Cooperation in the Transcaucasus" signed in June 1996 by the presidents of Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The signatories condemn any attempt to sow enmity between either individual nations of the Caucasus, or between the region as a whole and Russia. And they affirm their shared commitment to creating a strong pan-European security system of which the Caucasus is envisaged as a crucial component. But although numerous regional political figures favor the concept of a pan-Caucasian organization that would unite the three Transcaucasus states plus the North Caucasus republics of the Russian Federation, there is no consensus over whether this organization should focus on political, economic or security issues, or whether several separate bodies should be created to perform different and complementary functions. Predictably, each Caucasus state/republic has expressed interest in those aspect(s ) which meet its particular needs, rather than assessing the merits of each alternative from the point of view of what is likely to benefit the region as a whole. More crucially, some regional leaders have seized on the concept of pan-Caucasus solidarity as a means of taking advantage of Russia's lack of a comprehensive policy toward the region as a whole. Some Russian observers suspect Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze of conspiring with the Chechens to create an independent Caucasian Federation that would include Chechnya and possibly several other North Caucasus Russian republics. It has even been suggested that Shevardnadze has the backing of the West for such an undertaking. Armenia, on the other hand, which is Moscow's closest regional ally, opposes the exclusion of Russia from any new supra-national regional body. Several separate models for a pan-Caucasus organization or union are currently under discussion. At a meeting in late June in the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, of deputies to North and Transcaucasus parliaments, representatives from Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ingushetia and Dagestan informally proposed a pan-Caucasus parliament. Other North Caucasus republics reacted with extreme caution to this suggestion, however, fearing that it would be construed in Moscow as "separatist." The Armenian leadership was likewise said to be "wary" of such an initiative, but Shevardnadze termed it "worthy of attention." As an alternative, or a complement, to such a body, the Georgian parliament has advocated a Caucasian inter-parliamentary assembly. Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev has proposed a pan-Caucasian "consultative council." Somewhat more audacious (and, from Moscow's viewpoint, more alarming) is the idea tabled by Chechen first deputy prime minister Movladi Udugov for a pan-Caucasus security organization, with its headquarters in Tbilisi, modelled on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This proposal, too, found favor with Shevardnadze, and also with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, although the heads of Azerbaijan's power ministries expressed reservations on the grounds that such a body is superfluous, and that it would create problems in relations between Moscow and the Transcaucasus states. (One Georgian analyst has argued that a pan- Caucasus parliament, inter-parliamentary assembly and security organization are not mutually exclusive concepts, but complementary.) Although Armenia is generally in favor of closer regional cooperation on security issues, a Yerevan journalist close to the country's leadership made it clear that Armenia would only join a hypothetical Organization for Security and Cooperation in the Caucasus if Russia were an equal partner in that organization. Other Armenian commentators have similarly expressed concern that such a security body is intended as a counterweight to Russia. Armenia and Georgia both agree, however, that closer economic cooperation could serve as the motivating force for overcoming regional conflicts. (Tbilisi is currently trying to wrest concessions from the separatist Abkhaz leadership in return for a share of the transit tariffs from the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil.) The Chechens are reportedly trying to raise funding from Saudi Arabia for a Caucasus-Eurasian Common Market comprising Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Georgia and Turkmenistan. While these various proposed schemes are both rational and (with the possible exception of the Chechen grandiose economic vision) feasible, they overlook the fact that, at least on paper, supra- national organizations already exist to promote security cooperation (the CIS Collective Security Treaty) and economic cooperation (the Black Sea Economic Cooperation) between Transcaucasus states and Russia. The current search for exclusively Caucasian alternatives shows that the peoples of the region continue to mistrust Russia's motives in the Caucasus and fear a possible resurgence of Russia's influence in the region. Russian President Boris Yeltsin's pronouncement on 20 August that "we need a common Caucasian approach which is to be formulated here, within the [Russian] Security Council" will only fuel these fears, and the search for alternative security mechanisms. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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