|Some things have to be believed to be seen. - Ralph Hodgson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 120, Part I, 18 September 1997
A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. This is Part I, a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II covers Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe and is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I *RUSSIA JOINS PARIS CLUB *RUSSIA SELECTS ROUTE FOR CHECHEN BYPASS PIPELINE *ARMENIA DENIES DEVELOPING NUCLEAR WEAPONS End Note THE GREAT POKER GAME xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIA JOINS PARIS CLUB. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais and Paris Club president Christian Noyer on 17 September signed a deal granting Russia full membership in the Paris Club of creditor nations. Speaking to journalists in Paris, Chubais said admission to the club will help Russia collect part of the $140 billion it is owed by countries that received loans from the Soviet Union. Some $52 billion in debt, owed to Russia by developing countries and based on an outdated exchange rate, will be reduced to $12 billion and payments rescheduled, he said. Russian officials and Noyer finalized the deal to grant Russia admission to the Paris Club during the Summit of Eight in Denver (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 1997). In June 1996, Russia rescheduled its $38.7 billion debt to Paris Club members. CHUBAIS ON IMPLICATIONS OF PARIS CLUB MEMBERSHIP. Chubais said that joining the Paris Club "is a very significant political event. We will now be on an equal footing with the other industrialized countries in the world," Reuters reported on 17 September. He added that thanks to club membership, annual debt repayments to Russia may increase from $150-200 million to $500-700 million. Chubais and other Russian officials are to fly to Hong Kong on 19 September for meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As a Paris Club member, Chubais said, Russia will be able attend those meetings "for the first time as a contributor rather than a nation seeking aid." RUSSIA, LONDON CLUB TO SIGN DEBT-RESCHEDULING AGREEMENT. Chubais also told journalists in Paris on 17 September that agreement has been reached on rescheduling repayment of the former Soviet Union's debts to the London Club of leading foreign commercial banks, ITAR-TASS reported. Representatives of those banks and the Russian government will sign an agreement in Moscow on 6 October on repayment of some $35 billion in overdue loans and interest, a spokesman for the Deutsche Bank told "Bloomberg Financial News" on 17 September. RUSSIA NOT TO BORROW FROM IMF AFTER 1999. President Boris Yeltsin told reporters in Orel Oblast that Russia will not seek to draw any loans from the IMF once a three-year, $10 billion loan expires in 1999, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 18 September. First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais said earlier this year that Russia will not seek any major IMF credits when the current loan expires and that in the future, the World Bank will be a more important lender to Russia. Speaking to Interfax on 17 September, First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said the IMF has already "fulfilled its main role" with respect to Russia. He added that Russia now plans to "become an active borrower" on the world capital market. RUSSIA SELECTS ROUTE FOR CHECHEN BYPASS PIPELINE. The Russian government on 17 September announced that the proposed oil export pipeline bypassing Chechnya will run through Dagestan and Stavropol Krai, parallel to the administrative border with Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. Government spokesman Andrei Pershin told journalists that the contractor for the bypass pipeline will be chosen by tender and a decision on funding will soon be taken. Also on 17 September, Chechen state oil company President Khazh- Akhmed Yarikhanov said the Chechen Finance Ministry has still not received the promised funds for repairing the Chechen sector of the Baku-Grozny-Tikhoretsk pipeline, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 18 September (see also "End Note" below). MORE ARGUMENTS FOR, AGAINST RATIFYING START-2. In an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 September, Sergei Rogov, the director of Russia's Institute for the U.S. and Canada, argued that while the START-2 treaty "is not ideal," its ratification is essential given Russia's present economic weakness. He conceded that ratification will necessitate considerable additional short-term expenditures but pointed out that it creates conditions for preserving approximate parity in strategic forces between Russia and the U.S. He also noted that the U.S. will have to destroy its most modern warheads. State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko told ITAR-TASS that he will "do everything possible" to persuade Duma deputies to vote in favor of ratification. Duma Defense Committee chairman Lev Rokhlin, however, said that ratification "will complete the ruin of the Russian army." PRIMAKOV DENIES RESIGNATION RUMORS. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov told journalists in Moscow on 17 September that he has no intention of quitting, Interfax reported. Primakov said media reports charging that he has already submitted his resignation are "fantasies of those who would like me to resign." Spokesmen for the president, government, and Foreign Ministry have also denied the reports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1997). Primakov is to travel to the U.S. on 20 September to attend the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly. He is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Bill Clinton on 22 September, a Foreign Ministry source told Interfax. FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER SAYS HE LEFT VOLUNTARILY. Former presidential adviser Georgii Satarov, who was recently dismissed by presidential decree, says he informed Yeltsin and Presidential Chief of Staff Valentin Yumashev long ago of his intention to resign, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 17 September. Satarov told journalists that as head of an independent analytical center, he will continue to cooperate with the presidential administration. His first project will be to prepare Yeltsin's 1998 message to the parliament. Satarov said he will not write memoirs about his Kremlin experience but will cooperate with friends and former colleagues who plan to do so. Meanwhile, Mikhail Komissar, deputy head of the presidential administration, denied a "Kommersant-Daily" report suggesting that he had insisted on Satarov's ouster, Interfax reported. Komissar was director of Interfax before joining the presidential administration in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August and 17 September 1997). CATHOLICS, PROTESTANTS CRITICIZE REVISED RELIGION LAW. Russia's Catholic, Baptist, Seventh-Day Adventist and Pentecostal communities have issued a joint statement urging Yeltsin to reject the new version of the law on religious organizations, Interfax reported on 17 September. Yeltsin submitted a revised religion law to the Duma on 3 September, having vetoed an earlier version in July. The groups' statement argued that, except for the preamble, the new version is "practically unchanged" and still contains "discriminatory" and "unconstitutional" limits on minority religions. Presidential aide Andrei Loginov had claimed that Catholic and Protestant groups support the revised religion law, but representatives of various denominations told the Keston News Service on 11 September that Loginov misrepresented their stance. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 September that a Duma vote on the revised religion law has been delayed for at least one week while more amendments are considered. DUMA AGAIN FAILS TO ELECT HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER. None of the seven candidates for federal human rights commissioner gained the necessary two-thirds majority (300 votes) in the State Duma on 17 September. Communist-backed candidate Oleg Mironov led the field with 265 votes, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 18 September. He was also the leading candidate in the Duma's last unsuccessful attempt to elect a human rights commissioner (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 1997). Vladimir Isakov, the Agrarian faction's candidate, who chaired the Duma's Legislation Committee in 1994 and 1995, finished second with 198 votes, followed by Yabloko candidate Yelena Mizulina with 176. Duma faction leaders decided to postpone further attempts to elect a human rights commissioner for one month. The Duma sacked its last human rights commissioner, Sergei Kovalev, in March 1995. NO TRUCE IN BANK WAR. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 September published a blistering attack on Oneksimbank, which it described as an "aggressive" actor on the Russian market that is seeking to establish monopolies in various sectors. Since a consortium involving Oneksimbank acquired a stake in the telecommunications giant Svyazinvest, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" has repeatedly criticized Oneksimbank and its president, Vladimir Potanin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 1997). The newspaper is partly owned by Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. On 15 September, Yeltsin met with six leading bankers and said he had persuaded them to stop "quarreling with the government" and "slinging mud" at one another in the mass media. Berezovskii did not attend that meeting. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 September accused First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov of exceeding his authority by attempting to prevent the bank SBS-Agro from issuing additional shares earlier this summer. STROEV AGAINST "DOUBLE STANDARDS" FOR REGIONS. Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev has spoken out against "double standards" for Russian regions, saying the constitution guarantees equal rights to all regions. In an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 18 September, Stroev, who is also governor of Orel Oblast, expressed regret that Russia's 89 regions were no longer drawn on purely territorial lines. (Twenty-one republics, 10 autonomous okrugs, and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast are named after ethnic groups.) Stroev argued, "all peoples should get what they deserve, what they have earned, and not gain at each other's expense." (Of the more than 30 regions that have signed power-sharing agreements with the federal authorities, Tatarstan and Sakha [Yakutia] are among those that have obtained the most favorable terms.) Stroev met with Yeltsin during his visit to Orel Oblast on 18 September. STATUS OF ORT DIRECTOR-GENERAL UNCERTAIN. Russian Public Television (ORT) Director-General Sergei Blagovolin has been working for the last two months as president of the Financial-Industrial Corporation, a Moscow bank, "Izvestiya" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 September. During that time, Blagovolin has hardly shown up at ORT, but the board of directors of Russia's Channel 1 network has still not accepted his resignation. Appointed head of ORT in March 1995, Blagovolin has occasionally criticized his own network's news coverage. For instance, in February he described ORT's unflattering coverage of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov as "stupid" and "dangerous." In a June interview with the Russian Television network, which was never aired, Blagovolin charged that ORT's weekly analytical program is "extremely dangerous" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 1997). Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii is believed to be the most influential figure at 51 percent state-owned ORT. LEBED ON RUSSIAN-JAPANESE RELATIONS. Former Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, who is currently in Japan on a private visit, said the problem of the Kurile Islands must be resolved, Russian media reported on 17 September. Lebed said it is impossible to have a peace treaty with Japan without settling territorial issues. But he noted that it would take "at least 20 years" to conclude an agreement on turning over the islands to Japan and that a referendum would first have to be held among the people living on the islands. He also said Russia's strategic and defense interests must be kept in mind and that any talks on returning the islands would have to involve the U.S., which has defense treaties with Japan. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA DENIES DEVELOPING NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Armenian Defense and Foreign Ministry spokesmen have rejected Azerbaijani claims that Armenia is developing nuclear weapons at secret bases, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 17 September. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov made the allegations the previous day at a conference on nuclear non-proliferation in Tashkent. Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparyan said Yerevan fully adheres to its obligations under the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty and uses its nuclear potential "only for peaceful purposes." He said Armenia's Medzamor nuclear power plant is regularly inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which, he stressed, has found no violations. Hasanov had called for the closure of Medzamor and for the declaration of the South Caucasus as a nuclear-free zone, according to Interfax. CHANGES TO KARABAKH PEACE PLAN IN OFFING? Armenian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told an RFE/RL correspondent in Yerevan on 17 September that he believes the co- chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group will make changes in their latest peace proposals for Nagorno-Karabakh. The co-chairmen are scheduled to arrive in the Armenian capital on 19 September. The unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic has already rejected the draft plan proposed by the Minsk Group in early June, and Armenia has expressed reservations. Oskanian said Yerevan has made alternative proposals, but he declined to reveal them. Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasyan said on 17 September that Yerevan and Stepanakert have differing approaches to resolving the conflict but that they have the same strategic goal, Interfax reported. TWO UN OBSERVERS ABDUCTED IN WEST GEORGIA. Two members of the UN observer mission in western Georgia were abducted on 16 September by unidentified persons, RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau reported citing BS-Press. The two mission members were released the following day. A UN spokesman confirmed the abduction but gave no further details. The nationality of the abductors is not known. TURKMEN TENDER UPDATE. Turkmen Minister for Foreign Economic Relations Toyli Kurbanov says none of the international oil companies interested in developing 11 oil and gas deposits in the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea has questioned the legality of Turkmenistan's ownership of the Serdar (Kyapaz in Azerbaijani) field, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 18 September. Kurbanov reaffirmed Turkmenistan's claim to ownership of the Chirag and Azeri fields, which are being developed by a major Western consortium. He said that Turkmenistan will not prevent the consortium from developing the deposits in question but will insist that the Azerbaijani government give Ashgabat a share of the profits. ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER IN UZBEKISTAN. Romano Prodi met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Tashkent on 17 September to sign a friendship and cooperation agreement, Reuters and Interfax reported. At a joint press conference, Prodi said there is a "huge potential to expand our relations," while Karimov noted that bilateral trade was up 60 percent in the first half of 1997 compared with the same period last yar. The same day, an agreement was signed on setting up a joint venture between the Italian company Stet and the Uzbek government to form the telephone communications firm Udinet. The Italian oil company Agip is currently negotiating with Uzbekistan's state oil and gas corporation Uzbekneftegaz for rights to explore Uzbek fields. KARIMOV COMMENTS ON RUSSIA, AFGHANISTAN. At the 17 September press conference with visiting Italian Premier Prodi, Karimov said problems in Uzbek-Russian relations were due to forces inside Russia that had not "renounced the imperial vision with regard to former USSR republics." Karimov said he wanted relations developed "on an equal basis" but added that relations in the CIS were being developed "according to Russia's desire." With regard to Afghanistan, Karimov said the problems there needed to be solved by the Afghan people. He objected to the Russian press's portrayal of General Abdul Rashid Dostum as an "Uzbek general." Dostum is an ethnic Uzbek who recently returned to Afghanistan. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS on 18 September cited Taliban militia sources as saying they had captured the town of Khairaton on the southern bank of the Amu-Darya River, opposite the Uzbek city of Termez. KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADER SENTENCED. Madel Ismailov, a leader of the Almaty's Workers Movement, has been sentenced to one year's hard labor, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Ismailov was found guilty of organizing "events that could cause mass unrest in the capital" in connection with his role in a 30 May demonstration in Almaty. Ismailov had been imprisoned while an investigation into the incident had taken place. During the trial proceedings, the judge asked the police chief investigator, Talghat Iskakov, if he was aware that under Article 2 of Chapter 170 of the criminal code, a person not considered dangerous cannot be imprisoned while an investigation is under way. Iskakov replied he had received his orders "from above" and had never read the relevant chapter of the criminal code. PROGRESS ON DEMARCATING KAZAKH-CHINESE BORDER. Kazakhstan and China have delimited another 11 kilometer stretch of their common border, near the Khan-Tengri peak, Interfax reported on 17 September. An agreement on that section of the border is expected to be signed when Chinese Premier Li Peng visits Kazakhstan on 25 September. Sections on the 1,700 kilometer border east of Almaty and in the far eastern part of Kazakhstan have still be determined. END NOTE THE GREAT POKER GAME by Liz Fuller In recent weeks, Russian and Chechen leaders have engaged in a high-stakes exercise in brinkmanship over the planned export from Azerbaijan via Chechnya of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil. This has highlighted dissent in Moscow both over the importance of the pipeline and over support for the present Chechen leadership. The first "early" oil from Azerbaijan's Chirag Caspian field is scheduled to be exported through the sole available pipeline, which runs from Baku via Grozny and Tikhoretsk to the Black Sea terminal of Novorossiisk. The export is scheduled to begin on 1 October, but extensive repairs and modifications to the pipeline are required before that date to make it operational. Renovating the pipeline was a top priority of both the Russian and Chechen governments following the signing in May of a treaty formally ending Moscow's undeclared war against Chechnya. In July, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov (who is also fuel and energy minister), Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, and Natik Aliev, the president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, signed a document providing for the annual export via Chechnya of 5 million metric tons of Azerbaijani oil. In addition, Moscow undertook to finance necessary repairs to the 153 kilometer sector of the pipeline that runs through Chechnya. Yarikhanov estimated that those repairs could be accomplished within 20-30 days at a cost of $2 million. Within weeks, however, Yarikhanov complained that Moscow was sabotaging the agreement by failing to release the required funds for repairs. In early August, Russian Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Kirienko said Grozny was making "impossible" tariff demands. He noted that his ministry had conducted feasibility studies on six routes for an alternative export pipeline through Dagestan, bypassing Chechen territory. On 27 August, Kirienko resumed talks with the Chechen leadership on the question of transport tariffs. Under the July agreement, Russia was to receive $15.67 in transit fees per metric ton of oil and Chechnya $4-5. But Moscow apparently backtracked on that agreement and offered the standard rate--$0.43--for the transport of oil within the Russian Federation, instead of the $4.27 demanded by the Chechens. In early September, Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin tried to break the deadlock over tariffs by advocating that Chechnya be paid a lump sum from the federal budget to compensate for the lower tariff rate. The Chechen delegation rejected that suggestion but accepted Rybkin's proposal that Transneft pay the difference between the standard $0.43 and the $2.20 subsequently demanded by the Chechens. Nemtsov, however, rejected that option. On 9 September, Nemtsov and Yarikhanov finally reached agreement on the terms for the export of 200,000 metric tons of oil in 1997. Chechnya is to be paid $0.43 per ton and receive from the federal budget an additional $854,000 to cover the cost of repairs to the pipeline. While professing at the time of signing to be satisfied with the compromise, each side threatened to abrogate the accord the following day unless the other agreed to additional conditions. Nemtsov said Russia would "tear up" the agreement if Grozny could not ensure the safety of members of the Russian repairs team, two of whom were injured in an explosion on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan on 9 September. Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov, for his part, said implementation was contingent on Moscow paying wage arrears to teachers and doctors in Chechnya. Three days later, Nemtsov raised the stakes even higher by announcing that Russia will proceed with plans to build an alternative pipeline, bypassing Chechen territory. He explained that the throughput capacity of the existing pipeline is inadequate for the huge volumes of oil that will begin to be exported within several years. He added, however, that Russia will honor its commitment to the Chechens to repair the existing pipeline. Nemtsov predicted that the 283 kilometer bypass pipeline could be built within one year at a cost of $220 million. This would make it considerably cheaper than the proposed "main export pipeline" from Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean terminal at Ceyhan. The decision to build a second Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline not only confirms Russian aspirations to exercise maximum control over the export of both Azerbaijani and Kazakh Caspian oil. It also appears to be a compromise between two camps within the Russian leadership. Nemtsov and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin both opposed concessions to the Chechens and therefore advocated a bypass pipeline, regardless of the consequences for the Chechen leadership. President Boris Yeltsin and Rybkin, on the other hand, argued that Moscow should abide by its commitment to Maskhadov to provide funds for repairing the existing pipeline in order to enable Grozny to benefit from the transit tariffs. Maskhadov is currently under considerable pressure from rivals in Grozny, including maverick field commander Salman Raduev. In early September, Raduev threatened to prevent the recommissioning of the existing pipeline unless Russia officially recognizes Chechnya as an independent state. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx SUBSCRIBING: 1) To subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to email@example.com 2) In the text of your message, type subscribe RFERL-L YourFirstName YourLastName UNSUBSCRIBING: 1) To un-subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org 2) In the text of your message, type unsubscribe RFERL-L Current and Back Issues Back issues of RFE/RL Newsline and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at: http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/ Listen to news for 13 countries RFE/RL programs for countries in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Russia and the South Slavic region are online daily at RFE/RL's 24-Hour LIVE Broadcast Studio. http://www.rferl.org/realaudio/index.html Reprint Policy To receive reprint permission, please contact Paul Goble, Publisher Email: GobleP@rferl.org Phone: 202-457-6947 Fax: 202-457-6992 Postal Address: RFE/RL, 1201 Connecticut Ave., NW Washington, DC 20036 USA RFE/RL Newsline Staff: * Paul Goble, Publisher, GobleP@rferl.org * Liz Fuller, Acting Editor (Transcaucasia) CarlsonE@rferl.org * Patrick Moore, Acting Deputy Editor (West Balkans) MooreP@rferl.org * Michael Shafir (East Balkans) ShafirM@rferl.org * Laura Belin (Russia) BelinL@rferl.org * Bruce Pannier (Central Asia) PannierB@rferl.org * Jan Cleave, CleaveJ@rferl.org * Mike Gallant, GallantM@rferl.org RFE/RL Newsline Fax: (420-2) 2112-3630
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.