|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 132, Part I, 6 October 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 * OPPOSITION UNFAZED BY YELTSIN'S WARNING TO DUMA * RUSSIA DENIES ECONOMIC BLOCKADE OF CHECHNYA * CHERNOMYRDIN IN KAZAKHSTAN End Note : THREE 'FREEDOM-LOVING' STATES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA OPPOSITION UNFAZED BY YELTSIN'S WARNING TO DUMA. Prominent opposition representatives in the State Duma have vowed not to back down, despite President Boris Yeltsin's recent warning that he and the people may lose patience with the lower house of the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 1997). Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev remarked that the lower house "is not an appointed bureaucratic apparatus.... The people elected the Duma in the same way they elected the president," Interfax reported. Duma Legislation Committee Chairman Anatolii Lukyanov, like Seleznev a Communist, said the Duma was not to blame for rising tensions between the executive and legislative branches. Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin of the Popular Power faction again advocated that the Duma pass a vote of no confidence in the government, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 October. Baburin and Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii tried unsuccessfully to put a no confidence vote on the Duma's agenda in May. YELTSIN ALLIES REACT CAUTIOUSLY TO ADDRESS. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told ITAR-TASS on 3 October that his government is ready to work with the Duma toward compromise on major legislation. Aleksandr Shokhin, leader of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia faction in the Duma, warned the same day that the Duma should not escalate confrontation with the president by voting no confidence in the government, Interfax reported. However, Shokhin told ITAR-TASS that the government should also compromise on its drive to pass a new tax code by the end of the year "at any cost." Meanwhile, Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev told ITAR-TASS that "only a madman" would risk dissolving the Duma. Stroev generally supports Yeltsin but also has good relations with the leftist opposition. YAVLINSKII CRITICIZES ATTEMPT TO "INTIMIDATE" DUMA. Yabloko leader Yavlinskii says Yeltsin's latest radio address was aimed at intimidating Duma deputies before a key vote on the 1998 budget, Interfax reported on 3 October. Yavlinskii, who has criticized the budget, cast doubt on the sincerity of Yeltsin's claim to want to work constructively with the Duma. While acknowledging that both Yabloko and the president support full land ownership rights, Yavlinskii expressed doubt that the officials who implemented privatization policy "are capable of conducting a successful land reform." He added that Yeltsin's address "covers up failures in economic policy, unfulfilled promises to pay wages, and helplessness in combating crime and corruption." At the same time, Yavlinskii said he agrees with Yeltsin that the Duma's statements on foreign policy matters are not always professional. OPPOSITION MARKS OCTOBER 1993 EVENTS. Several thousand people took part demonstrations in Moscow on 4 October to commemorate the October 1993 events, which culminated in tanks shelling the opposition-dominated parliament, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Communist Party leader Zyuganov addressed the crowd near the White House, which was shelled in 1993 and is now government headquarters. He said Duma deputies are not frightened by Yeltsin's threats to dissolve the parliament, and he predicted that if early parliamentary elections are called, opposition representatives will win at least two-thirds of the seats in the Duma. He also said the opposition has collected 10 million signatures this year demanding Yeltsin's resignation. In street fighting around the state television building and White House between 2 and 4 October 1993, some 140 people were killed. Unofficial estimates put the number of fatalities around 300. RUSSIA DENIES ECONOMIC BLOCKADE OF CHECHNYA. Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on 3 October rejected Chechen charges that Moscow has imposed an economic blockade against Grozny. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, however, responded the next day by repeating the claim that Russia is waging "economic war" against Grozny. Also on 3 October, a spokesman for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) denied that Major Vladimir Cherepanov, whom the Chechen security service has captured and claim is one of its agents, is an FSB employee. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov alleged that the intelligence services of unspecified countries are engaged in destabilizing the situation in Chechnya. He also argued that the time for concessions to Grozny has passed, but he ruled out the possibility of a new war. The Azerbaijani weekly "Zerkalo" on 4 October quoted Chechen First Deputy Premier Movladi Udugov as suggesting that Chechnya form a federal state with Azerbaijan. LEBED ON NATO, BALTICS. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed says he is not opposed to NATO membership for the Baltic States, but only after Russia's economy has improved. Speaking in Berlin at a conference on NATO enlargement, Lebed said, "I do not dispute the right of the Baltic countries to self-determination," AFP reported on 5 October. However, he argued that "Russia must have the feeling that it is advancing economically and in other areas, that its people can rely on something constructive." Lebed told Interfax on 4 October that NATO will "aggravate the internal crisis in Russia" if the alliance expands into the "zone of Russia's geopolitical interests," which he identified as the Baltic States and Ukraine. Earlier this year, Lebed argued that NATO expansion poses no threat to Russia because "the rich and satisfied will never attack the poor and hungry" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May and 9 July 1997). TOP TV EXECUTIVES MEET IN TBILISI. Many of the most influential figures in Russian television met in Tbilisi on 1 October, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The group included Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, who wields considerable influence at Russian Public Television (ORT), financial director of ORT Badri Patarkatsishvili, and prominent ORT journalists Aleksandr Lyubimov, Sergei Dorenko, and Vladimir Pozner. The private network NTV was represented by its president, Igor Malashenko, and Vladimir Gusinskii, whose Media-Most company owns most shares in the network. Eduard Sagalaev, a shareholder in the private network TV-6, and Mikhail Lesin, deputy chairman of the state-run Russian Television, were also present. In a telephone interview with RFE/RL, Pozner said Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze called the meeting to discuss Russian television coverage of the Caucasus. However, many observers believe that the executives also discussed strategy for coverage of Russian domestic political issues. LUZHKOV ROUNDUP. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov continues to reach out to key constituencies in his public remarks. Appearing at the opening of a church in Moscow on 5 October, Luzhkov called for doing everything possible to compensate the Russian Orthodox Church for property confiscated or destroyed during the Soviet period, Interfax reported. The previous day, Luzhkov visited the Republic of Udmurtia to sign a cooperation agreement between Moscow and the republic, ITAR-TASS reported. Appearing alongside Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chub in Moscow on 2 October, Luzhkov said Russian regions should buy products from one another, not from "foreigners." Speaking to business leaders in the Republic of Mordovia on 3 October, he advocated reversing the privatization sales of enterprises that "have been sold for a song" since 1992, Interfax reported. Luzhkov has long been an outspoken critic of First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais and the government's privatization policy. TOP OFFICIALS TO BE QUESTIONED IN CASE AGAINST KOKH. Top government officials and Oneksimbank executives will be questioned in connection with the criminal case against former State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh, Interfax reported on 3 October. Yurii Semin, the deputy head of the Moscow Prosecutor's Office, said the investigation into Kokh is expected to last two months. He is suspected of abusing the powers of his office by accepting a payment from a company with apparent links to Oneksimbank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September-2 October 1997). Meanwhile, investigators have questioned Oneksimbank President Vladimir Potanin in connection with alleged mismanagement of the Cherepovets Azot factory, according to NTV on 5 October and "Kommersant-Daily" on 4 October. A company linked to Oneksimbank acquired a 41 percent stake in that factory in 1994, but a court recently reversed the privatization, saying investment commitments were not kept. CRIMINAL CASE OPENED AGAINST WOULD-BE VLADIVOSTOK MAYOR. The Vladivostok Prosecutor's Office on 3 October opened a criminal case against Yurii Kopylov for continuing to carry out the duties of mayor even after a court ruling, Russian news agencies reported. The Primorskii Krai Duma recently appointed Kopylov acting mayor of Vladivostok and suspended Mayor Viktor Cherepkov. But the krai prosecutor challenged the legality of that move and a district court suspended Kopylov's appointment. Kopylov has vowed not to step down until instructed to do so by the krai legislature, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 October. Meanwhile, Cherepkov remains on sick leave. But his administration, led by acting mayor Nikolai Markovtsev, has filed lawsuits against Kopylov for allegedly squandering city funds and against the Bank of Primore, which carried out financial transactions on Kopylov's orders, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported on 3 October. SOBCHAK SUFFERS HEART ATTACK DURING INTERROGATION. Former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak suffered a heart attack on 3 October while being questioned in connection with an investigation into alleged corruption within his administration. Interior Ministry troops picked up Sobchak for questioning by investigators from the Prosecutor-General's Office. Speaking to ITAR-TASS from the hospital on 4 October, Sobchak charged, "What happened to me...is an obvious violation of human rights and law, the culmination of persecution started in the spring of 1996." He told Interfax the next day that he believes "pro-communist forces in Moscow" are seeking to discredit him politically. He blamed former presidential bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, former FSB Director Mikhail Barsukov, and Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov. Sobchak lost his post in a June 1996 election. He is reported to be under investigation for corruption, but no charges have been filed. LEZGIN ACTIVIST ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH WIFE'S MURDER. General Mukhuddin Kakhrimanov, a leader of the Lezgin National Council, has been arrested in Makhachkala (Republic of Dagestan) in connection with the 18 September murder of his wife, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 4 October. The newspaper quoted police officials as claiming that Kakhrimanov killed his wife because she had discovered he was having an affair with a younger woman. Lezgin activists have suggested that the murder, which happened two days before the scheduled opening of a congress of the Lezgin National Council, was intended to prevent the planned fusion of that organization with another Lezgin movement, Sadval. Russian officials recently accused Sadval of forming military units. Sadval spokesmen deny those allegations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September and 1 October 1997). TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA CHERNOMYRDIN IN KAZAKHSTAN. Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin held talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and top government officials in Almaty on 3-4 October. At a joint press conference, the two leaders announced the creation of a new intergovernmental commission to focus on unresolved issues. Those include Russia's failure to honor the 1993 agreement on payment for the lease of the Baikonor cosmodrome, the decline in bilateral trade, and the conditions whereby Russian oil companies may participate in the development of Kazakhstan's offshore Caspian oil. Nazarbaev argued that those companies offering the best terms should receive the rights to develop any given deposit, whereas Chernomyrdin said Russian oil companies should have priority. The Russian premier also visited the new Kazakh capital, Aqmola. CHINA WANTS INCREASED MILITARY COOPERATION WITH KAZAKHSTAN. Meeting in Beijing on 4 October with Kazakh Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbaev, Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian said strengthening cooperation between the two countries' armed forces, particularly along their common frontier, is "of great significance," ITAR-TASS reported. Kazakhstan borders on China's unstable Xinjiang Province. Altynbaev also met with Premier Li Peng, who described the petroleum and gas accord signed on 24 September as marking a "new stage" in bilateral relations. TAJIK ROUNDUP. Four Tajik refugees were killed and 40 injured on 4 October when Taliban militia bombarded the Sakhi refugee camp in northern Afghanistan. The previous day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had expressed concern over earlier Taliban attacks on the camp. Meanwhile, at a press conference in Dushanbe on 4 October, United Tajik Opposition chairman Said Abdullo Nuri said he is satisfied with the work to date of the National Reconciliation Commission, composed of both government and opposition representatives. But he called for accelerating the amnesty for former opposition fighters. The next day, during a stopover in Moscow on his way home from the UN General Assembly in New York, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov spoke on the telephone with President Yeltsin, who assured him that Moscow will take "all necessary measures" to ensure implementation of the peace accord, ITAR-TASS reported. KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES EXPLAIN CRACKDOWN ON "ASABA." The presidential press service on 3 October issued an official statement claiming that the independent newspaper "Asaba" is undermining government efforts to implement political and economic reforms, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. It also accused the weekly of publishing only articles that are biased against the president and government and deliberately contain false and misleading information. "Asaba" has recently criticized several top officials, including President Askar Akayev and his relatives as well as Almambet Matubraimov, the speaker of the People's Assembly of the parliament. "Asaba" staff members, however, say that the newspaper can prove its reports are accurate. It added that one of criticized articles was based on information provided by the president's wife, Mairam Akaeva. GEORGIAN SOLDIERS HOSPITALIZED WITH RADIATION SICKNESS. Ten servicemen have been hospitalized with serious radiation sickness after 15 containers of cesium were found at a former training base for Soviet border guards near Tbilisi. Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze, who previously was deputy commander of the Transcaucasus Military District, told Interfax that after the collapse of the USSR, some Russian commanders may have buried radioactive substances without informing their superiors. President Eduard Shevardnadze has ordered that a commission be set up to investigate radiation levels at other former Soviet military bases in Georgia. ARMENIAN OPPOSITION ACTIVIST DETAINED. Norayr Khanzadyan, a leading member of the radical Union for Self-Determination, was detained in Yerevan on 2 October, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Khanzadyan is suspected of involvement in the 18 September incident in which union leader Paruir Hairikyan physically attacked former union member and parliamentary deputy Aramazd Zakaryan. Zakaryan had accused Hairikyan of maintaining contacts with foreign intelligence services and of having fathered illegitimate children. Hairikyan told journalists in Yerevan on 3 October that Khanzadyan had not participated in the attack but had tried to separate Hairikyan and Zakaryan. The leader of the union suggested that Khanzadyan, who is the union's representative on the Central Electoral Commission, had been detained because Yerevan did not want "honest and resolute" figures in the commission, Noyan Tapan reported. ROMANIAN SENATE SPEAKER IN ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN. Petre Roman met with Armenia's President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, and parliamentary speaker Babken Ararktsyan in Yerevan on 1-2 October, Armenian agencies reported. The Romanian Senate speaker later described bilateral relations as "problem free" and affirmed that Bucharest supports Armenia's bid for full Council of Europe membership. He said the Romanian port of Constanza could serve as a conduit for the export of Armenian goods. In Baku on 3-4 October, Roman discussed the possible export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil from Georgia to Constanza and said that unspecified European organizations may provide financing for the project. Roman also suggested that the Black Sea Economic Cooperation may debate the reported clandestine supplies of Russian arms to Armenia, Turan reported. AZERBAIJANI-TURKMEN OIL ROW CONTINUES. Speaking in Washington on 3 October, Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov reaffirmed that Caspian littoral states recognized the division of the Caspian Sea before the collapse of the USSR, Turan reported. Shikhmuradov stressed that Turkmen ownership of several Caspian oil fields currently exploited or claimed by Azerbaijan is beyond dispute. He also said that U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott told him that the U.S. is prepared to mediate the dispute between Baku and Ashgabat. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov again dismissed Turkmen claims on the Azeri, Chirag, and Gyuneshli fields. "The Turkmen side is trying to catch up with an aircraft on foot," he commented. According to Turan, Turkmen aircraft regularly overfly the disputed Kyapaz/Serdar field, which is close to the border between the Azerbaijani and Turkmen sectors. END NOTE THREE 'FREEDOM-LOVING' STATES by Paul Goble Russian involvement in the French-led consortium for the development of gas deposits in Iran, which the U.S. has sought to isolate economically and politically, has given Moscow three important geopolitical victories. First, it has allowed Russia to side openly with the West Europeans against the United States, thereby increasing Russian influence over the former with apparently little cost to Russian cooperation with the latter. Even though many West European countries have withdrawn their ambassadors from Tehran, virtually all of them believe that isolating Iran, as the Americans urge, will not contribute to political change there. In addition, the Europeans almost universally feel that Washington's threats of imposing sanctions on non-U.S. firms investing in Iran is a most unfortunate form of U.S. overreach. Second, Russian involvement has increased Moscow's influence in Iran and thus given Moscow expanded opportunities to influence when or even whether oil and gas can flow from Central Asia and the Transcaucasus to the West. Such Russian leverage in Tehran on the possible flow of petroleum will quickly translate into immediate Russian political leverage in the capitals of the Transcaucasus and Central Asia. Gazprom, the Russian partner in this latest project, is unlikely to be able to make significant investments in Iran. But its presence in the consortium, combined with Russian supplies of nuclear materials and weapons systems to Tehran, will give it a major voice. Third, Moscow's participation has increased its influence in many countries of the Middle East both because Russia has proved willing to cooperate with an Islamic state at odds with the West and because the Russian government has taken this step over vocal U.S. opposition. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who has long had close ties to anti-U.S. governments in the Middle East, is clearly playing an old Moscow card: siding with radical Muslim regimes and seeking to portray the U.S. as too closely tied to Israel. Until now, most observers in the West have downplayed Moscow's role either because Washington has focused its criticism on France or because they believe that Russian involvement in Iran is the product of forces President Boris Yeltsin does not control. But in an interview carried by Russian and French television on 1 October, Yeltsin demonstrated that Russian involvement reflects a clearly articulated policy and that Moscow may be the big winner in this project, even if it does not reap the largest financial rewards. Discussing this latest international investment project in Iran and U.S. opposition to it, Yeltsin said "Thank God, Russia, France, and Iran are independent, freedom-loving states." He added that interference by any state is not to be tolerated. Moreover, the Russian leader went on to say that Moscow's cooperation with Paris represented yet "another instance of the coincidence of views" between the two countries. At the very least, this statement suggests Moscow is trying to exploit a situation created by U.S. efforts to isolate Iran because of Tehran's sponsorship of terrorism and by rising opposition to Washington's policy in Western Europe and the Middle East. But Yeltsin's remarks may point to an even more important shift in Moscow's policies. They suggest that Yeltsin and his government have decided that, despite weaknesses at home, they can now begin to recoup some of their past influence abroad. And Yeltsin's words suggest that Russia will once again try to regain that influence by exploiting or exacerbating tensions between the United States, its allies, and the countries of the Middle East. Most of the discussion of the French-led consortium in Iran has focused on either the profits the deal will bring to Paris or the political breakout it may help Tehran to make. But the gains Russia seems set to make as a result are likely to be far larger than any of those being calculated in either the French or Iranian capital, let alone anywhere else. 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
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