|Praise yourself daringly, something always sticks. - Francis Bacon|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 127, Part I, 29 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 RUSSIAN MEDIA EMPIRES. Government and business entities control many major Russian media. This special report on the RFE/RL Web site lists the important players. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rumedia/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I *RUSSIA, NATO FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET *SEVERAL ARMS CONTROL AGREEMENTS SIGNED *TAJIK RECONCILIATION COMMISSION MEETS END NOTE: RUSSIAN GOLD TO FEED KREMLIN POTTED PLANTS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIA, NATO FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. The Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council held its first ministerial-level meeting in New York on 26 September. The council, designed to give Russia "a voice but not a veto" in the western alliance, was created under the Founding Act signed by Russia and NATO in May. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told journalists that the two-hour meeting had been a success, although Primakov noted that both Russia and NATO will have to adhere to principles such as "equality between the parties" if progress in Russia-NATO relations is to continue, Reuters reported. In her address to the meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said she did not expect Russians to "suddenly fall in love with NATO," but expressed hope that Russia will come to understand that the alliance does not threaten it, according to AFP. (See related item in Part 2 of today's "Newsline.") SEVERAL ARMS CONTROL AGREEMENTS SIGNED. Russian Foreign Minister Primakov hailed a package of arms control agreements signed by the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan on 26 September as a major success that "will determine the course of arms control for many years to come," Reuters and AFP reported. Among the documents signed in New York were statements clarifying the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, although Primakov said the agreements did not resolve all disputes over the ABM Treaty. In addition, a protocol was signed to extend the period of implementation of the START-2 treaty for five years -- from the beginning of 2003 to the end of 2007. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told reporters that the package of accords "should pave the way for Russian [State] Duma ratification of the START-2 treaty." There is strong opposition to ratifying START-2 in the Duma. CHIRAC WINDS UP RUSSIA VISIT... After his third meeting with French President Jacques Chirac in two days, President Russian President Boris Yeltsin told journalists on 26 September that he and Chirac have "no differences" on any international issues or on Russian-French bilateral relations, Russian and Western agencies reported. Chirac told reporters that Yeltsin was right to say recently that Europe should play a greater role in providing for its own security, according to Interfax. Chirac and Yeltsin issued a joint statement on several topics. The two presidents expressed concern over recent complications in the Middle East and in Bosnia, and also called for a settlement on Nagorno-Karabakh, "within the framework of the UN and the OSCE." Speaking to students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Chirac announced that France's nuclear missiles are no longer targeted at Russia. Yeltsin announced in May that Russian missiles would no longer be targeted at NATO member states. ...CALLS FOR INCREASED TRADE, INVESTMENT. Yeltsin and Chirac agreed to set a goal of doubling the volume of bilateral trade turnover in the next two years, Interfax reported on 26 September. According to Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii, Russian-French trade turnover was $2.8 billion in 1996. The same day, Chirac discussed several joint business projects with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, including an oil refinery in the Republic of Bashkortostan, an offshore oil terminal, and cooperation between the automobile manufacturers Renault and Moskvich, AFP reported. At a dinner for French and Russian entrepreneurs the same day, Chirac called for increased French investment in Russia. Before leaving for St. Petersburg on 27 September, Chirac met with Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Aleksandr Shokhin, leader of the Our Home Is Russia faction in the State Duma. Chirac returned to France on 28 September. RUSSIA, TURKEY AT ODDS OVER CYPRUS ... Russian Foreign Minister Primakov told his Turkish counterpart, Ismail Cem, in New York on 26 September that the optimum solution to Turkish apprehension over the planned sale by Russia to Greek Cyprus of S-300 anti- missile systems would be the total demilitarization of the island, AFP and Interfax reported. Cem told journalists on his return to Turkey that none of the 50 colleagues whom he had told in New York of Turkey's concern over the missiles had said he was wrong, according to the "Turkish Daily News" of 29 September. On 26 September, Rosvooruzhenie head Yevgenii Moskalenko said at an international arms exhibition in Ankara that the S-300s do not constitute a threat to Turkey, according to ITAR-TASS. "Striking ground targets in Turkey with S-300 missiles is as feasible as hammering in nails with a computer," according to Moskalenko. ... AND IRAQ. On 26 September, the Russian State Duma and the Foreign Ministry both issued statements condemning the most recent incursion by Turkish armed forces on to Iraqi territory, ITAR-TASS reported. The Foreign Ministry argued that the need to eradicate terrorism by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) does not justify violating international law. The Duma accused Turkey of "perpetrating acts of genocide against the long-suffering Kurdish people." TIES BETWEEN FORMER PRIVATIZATION CHIEF AND ONEKSIMBANK REPORTED... "The Financial Times" on 26 September reported on a $100,000 payment to former State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh by the obscure Swiss firm Servina. On his income declaration, submitted in June, Kokh listed the payment as royalties for a book on privatization. The "Financial Times" noted that not only has Kokh's book not yet been published, Servina is not known ever to have published a book before. (On 11 September, Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov announced that a criminal investigation concerning Kokh's royalty payment has been opened.) In addition, the paper noted, there appear to be links between Oneksimbank and Servina. Kokh and Oneksimbank president Vladimir Potanin admit to being close friends but say their friendship has never influenced their professional activities. Oneksimbank won controversial auctions for major stakes in Svyazinvest and Norilsk Nickel in July and August. ...SOME RUSSIAN MEDIA PICK UP ALLEGATIONS. NTV on 28 September devoted substantial coverage to the "Financial Times" report on its influential weekly program "Itogi," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported the next day. In addition, "Segodnya" on 29 September and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 27 September published front-page accounts of the "Financial Times" report. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" commented that the weekly "Novaya gazeta" recently published its own investigative report on the "connections between Oneksimbank and Kokh's publishing activities." "Segodnya" and NTV belong to Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most holding company, also said to be a financial backer of "Novaya gazeta." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" is partly financed by the LogoVAZ group of Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii. Media influenced by Gusinskii and Berezovskii have repeatedly criticized Oneksimbank, Kokh, and other government officials since the Svyazinvest auction. Kokh joined a private investment firm shortly after being dismissed in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 1997). DUMA PASSES SEVERAL RESOLUTIONS. The State Duma passed several non-binding resolutions on 26 September, including a statement expressing concern over military maneuvers involving NATO members held near Russian borders, Russian news agencies reported. That statement, proposed by the Duma's anti-NATO group, drew particular attention to the recent military exercises in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan involving U.S. units. Deputies also passed a resolution asking Yeltsin to postpone implementing military reform plans until a law can be passed outlining the concept and goals of military reform. (Earlier in the day, the Duma voted down an attempt to remove Lev Rokhlin, a sharp critic of the administration's military reform plans, as chairman of the Duma Defense Committee. See "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 1997.) In addition, the Duma urged Yeltsin to take steps to restore the value of Sberbank savings accounts that were eroded by inflation beginning in 1992. RUSSIAN-CHECHEN TALKS CONCLUDE. The fourth session of the Russian-Chechen joint commission charged with drafting a document regulating bilateral relations between Moscow and Grozny concluded on 27 September. Chechnya's future status within the Russian Federation was not even discussed as the Chechen delegation was not empowered to negotiate on that issue, deputy prime minister Akhmet Zakaev told ITAR-TASS. First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov told Interfax that he rejected Rybkin's proposal to hold a referendum on whether Chechnya should be independent. Rybkin suggested that a new meeting between Russian President Yeltsin and his Chechen counterpart Aslan Maskhadov might help to resolve the deadlock between the two sides' negotiating positions. YELTSIN SACKS REPRESENTATIVE IN KEMEROVO. Yeltsin on 26 September dismissed Anatolii Malykhin, his representative in Kemerovo Oblast, Russian news agencies reported. Earlier that day, Malykhin had announced that a commission investigating Leninsk- Kuznetskii Mayor Gennadii Konyakhin had concluded that Konyakhin was elected in accordance with the law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24- 25 September 1997). Aleksandr Zvyagintsev, an assistant to Procurator-General Yurii Skuratov, told Interfax that "no one had authorized" Malykhin to make such statements. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin announced on 25 September that the government fully supports Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev in the upcoming gubernatorial election in Kemerovo. Tuleev was a sharp critic of Yeltsin and the government when he chaired the Kemerovo legislature. He ran for parliament in 1995 on the Communist Party ticket and supported Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov in the July 1996 presidential election. He was appointed CIS affairs minister in August 1996 and governor of Kemerovo in July 1997. TWO MAYORS CLAIM LEGITIMACY IN VLADIVOSTOK. Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov has charged that the Primorskii Krai authorities tried to take advantage of his absence to carry out an "anti-constitutional coup" in the city, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported on 29 September. Upon his return from North Korea on 28 September, Cherepkov told journalists that he will not step down, despite the Primorskii Krai Duma's attempt to suspend him from office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 1997). But Deputy Mayor Yurii Kopylov, appointed acting mayor by the krai legislature, has declared that he will execute the mayor's duties. He held a meeting on 29 September with various former city officials who were dismissed by Cherepkov during the last year. Meanwhile, a government commission headed by First Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Kirienko arrived in Primore on 29 September to seek a solution for the region's protracted energy crisis. ATLANTIS DOCKS WITH "MIR." The American space shuttle "Atlantis" successfully docked with Russia's "Mir" space station on 27 September, according to international media. The shuttle brought a new computer and other essential supplies for the station. That computer will begin functioning on 1 or 2 October, replacing the present computer which has failed three times in September. American astronaut David Wolf will take colleague Michael Foale's place on the station when Atlantis leaves the station on either 3 or 4 October. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK RECONCILIATION COMMISSION MEETS. The Tajik National Reconciliation Commission concluded its second session in Dushanbe on 26 September, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL correspondents reported. A representative of the commission, Latifi Otakhon, said the commission would have a document with proposed changes to the constitution ready at the beginning of November. October will be spent discussing such changes at a "round table" where representatives of the Tajik government, United Tajik Opposition (UTO), the UN, OSCE and other international organizations will take part. The commission also released two addresses, one asking for nationwide support in returning and aiding Tajik refugees as they come back from Afghanistan. The other was a warning to armed groups to hand over their weapons by 16 November. Those who do not comply face forced disarmament by forces of the Tajik government and UTO. TAJIK OFFICIAL'S SON MURDERED IN DUSHANBE. Bakhtiyar Sharipov, the 31-year old son of Tajikistan's Procurator General Solomiddin Sharipov, was killed In Dushanbe in a drive-by shooting on 26 September, according to RFE/RL correspondents. The driver of Sharipov's car was wounded and is in the hospital. Authorities are investigating and have not said yet whether the attack was connected to the younger Sharipov's business or his father. ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SPEAKS ON KARABAKH ... At his first press conference in five years, Levon Ter-Petrossyan said on 26 September that the co-chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group that is mediating a solution of the Karabakh conflict proposed on 21 September postponing a formal decision on Karabakh's future status until other issues, including the withdrawal of Armenian troops from occupied Azerbaijani territory and repatriation of refugees, have been resolved, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Armenia has consistently espoused a "phased" resolution of the conflict but the Karabakh Armenians want all contentious issues resolved simultaneously. Ter-Petrossyan called for a compromise settlement, arguing that neither continuation of the conflict nor "forced capitulation" are realistic options for Armenia. He said that the conflict parties are to submit a written response to the Minsk Group's most recent proposals within 2-3 weeks. ... AND TURKEY, AND HIS POLITICAL FUTURE. Asked about Armenian-Turkish relations, Ter-Petrossyan said Turkey will be unable to influence the outcome of the Karabakh conflict unless it normalizes relations with Armenia. Ankara says it will not open a border gate with Armenia until Armenian forces withdraw from Azerbaijani territory. Ter-Petrossyan predicted that Turkey will fail in "its efforts to become a regional leader" because it has too many unsolved problems with neighboring states. Ter-Petrossyan also said that he would run for reelection in the year 2001 "if the people ask me to." He was first elected president in 1991, and reelected in 1996. The Constitution adopted in 1995 bars any one individual from serving more than two consecutive terms. In April 1997, Ter- Petrossyan said he would not seek a third term even if the constitution were amended to enable him to do so. KAZAKH PM IN SWITZERLAND FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT. Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, in Switzerland while being treated for a blood clot in his lungs, said reforms in Kazakhstan will continue even "in the case of my resignation," Reuters reported on 28 September. Kazhegeldin's hasty departure to "Europe" for medical treatment on 22 September was announced after the Prime Minister had already departed Kazakhstan. That and a series of reports criticizing Kazhegeldin in Kazakh and international press led to speculation he would soon be sacked. One of the most vocal critics of Kazhegeldin, parliamentary deputy Zamanbek Nurkadilov, said "He's destroyed Kazakhstan. He's done this (privatization) for the West - not for Kazakhs." However, western businessmen in Kazakhstan are already expressing doubts about the future of reforms in Kazakhstan if Kazhegeldin should lose his office. IL TURCO IN ITALIA. During his three-day state visit to Italy on 25- 27 September, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev met with his Italian counterpart Oscar Luigi Scalfaro and with Prime Minister Romano Prodi. Talks focused on European and regional security, including the Karabakh conflict, economic cooperation and the oil sector. Aliev and Scalfaro signed a joint declaration of political cooperation that notes Azerbaijan's role in promoting regional stability in the Caucasus; Aliev and Prodi signed an agreement on economic cooperation and policy, according to ITAR-TASS. Further agreements on avoiding dual taxation and on the mutual protection of investments also were signed. On 26 September, Aliev held talks with the energy concern ENI, which includes AGIP. The president of AGIP and the Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR signed a protocol on cooperation whereby AGIP will participate in exploration and development in the Kyurdash sector of the Caspian. END NOTE RUSSIAN GOLD TO FEED KREMLIN POTTED PLANTS by John Helmer The latest report from Russia's independent state auditor reveals the Kremlin has been busier selling gold abroad than it has told parliament. One reason for the sales also has been revealed. Kremlin officials have had urgent needs for holiday homes, German limousines, dishes to eat off, and potted plants for their offices. According to details just released by the Accounting Chamber, Russian gold sales in 1995 and 1996 included sales of approximately 800,000 million rubles (160 million dollars) that were not covered by legislative authority. The Chamber also has reported to the Duma that the state agency for trading precious metals, Almazjuvelirexport (Almaz), and the former State Committee for Precious Metals and Gemstones (Komdragmet), unlawfully retained 99.2 million dollars in commissions on foreign sales. The money should have been returned to the federal treasury, the Chamber's report claims. According to this audit, one-third of the cash generated by unauthorized sales of state gold was spent on perquisites for high officials. Among the items of government spending from gold sales uncovered in the Account Chamber report were: imported tableware and porcelain services for the Kremlin and White House (4 million dollars); purchase of homes for senior government officials (2 million dollars); reconstruction of the Kremlin, Bolshoi Theater, the Duma dacha at the Moscow lakeside resort of Serebryany Bor, and a presidential dacha outside Moscow (30 million dollars); and decoration of the Kremlin's winter garden (550,000 dollars). In addition, there was renovation of the presidential aircraft (2 million dollars), purchase of two VIP cars from Germany (1 million dollars); and computer and communication technologies for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2 million dollars). The Accounting Chamber audit also calls into question official claims about the size and movement of state gold reserves, apart from the so-called monetary reserves which are held by Russia's Central Bank, and their level regularly monitored by the International Monetary Fund. According to the government version, in January 1995 the state gold reserve amounted to 300 tons. However, according to the latest audited figures, actual reserves at the time amounted to 78.4 tons of gold, including 14 tons of ingots. In 1994, it is now reported, 140 tons of gold ingots were sold out of state stocks, while another 120 tons were swapped for short-term loans from Swiss banks. By January 1, 1997, the state precious metals fund (Goskhran) held 84 tons of gold, including 75 tons delivered from the mines, and nine tons smelted from the other gold objects. In response to criticism of laxness in the government's gold stocking and trading policies, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree in March this year, ordering: "The money received for the sales of gold is to be used to finance the spending of the federal budget, first of all; to pay the gold-extracting organizations; and to pay for the precious metals and gemstones for the State fund of precious metals and gemstones." Although not yet accounted for by the auditors, government spending this year has required an increase in planned gold sales. It is now reported -- without official confirmation -- that 45 tons of gold will be sold abroad by the end of 1997. Deputy Minister of Finance, Alexei Kudrin, has told a Moscow newspaper that 31 tons of gold have already been sold. This compares with the government's original gold sale plan for the year, authorized in Yeltsin's March decree. That document authorized the sale of 31.2 tons of gold to the Bank for Foreign Trade to be sold for export. Another 54.8 tons of gold was ordered to the Central Bank for adding to monetary reserves. John Helmer is a free-lance contributor to RFE/RL, based in Moscow. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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