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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 133, Part I, 7 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 * YELTSIN REASSURES DUMA SPEAKER * RUSSIA, LONDON CLUB SIGN DEBT RESTRUCTURING DEAL * ARMENIA DENIES POSSESSING NUCLEAR MISSILES End Note WALKING THE ABKHAZ TIGHTROPE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN REASSURES DUMA SPEAKER. Three days after he issued his sharpest warning yet to opposition State Duma deputies, President Boris Yeltsin invited Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev to the Kremlin, Russian news agencies reported on 6 October. Seleznev told reporters that the president assured him that he "is not a supporter of the dissolution of the Duma." Seleznev said Yeltsin also supported reviving the consultative "Council of Four," consisting of the president, prime minister, and speakers of both houses of parliament. Yeltsin created that council in fall 1996, but it never got off the ground because of Yeltsin's protracted illness. Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko commented to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that Yeltsin has again adopted a "carrot and stick" approach in dealing with the Duma. Also on 6 October, Seleznev and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin discussed the draft budget and Chernomyrdin's report to the Duma, scheduled for 8 October. CHUBAIS LOBBIES DUMA COMMITTEE ON BUDGET. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais presented the government's draft budget for 1998 at a 6 October session of the Duma Budget Committee, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Chubais said the government hopes to provide for 2 percent GDP growth next year, a 3 percent increase in industrial production, and a 3 percent increase in the average real income. He said those goals can be achieved by reducing the tax burden on enterprises (one of the aims of the new tax code), lowering rates for services provided by natural monopolies in the energy and transportation sectors, and adopting a "realistic budget." Chubais said defense spending will be increased significantly in light of the costs of military reform. He added that funding for the courts will be raised by 60 percent and spending on health and culture also increased. COMMITTEES RECOMMEND REJECTING BUDGET. Despite Chubais's lobbying, both the Duma Budget Committee and the Duma Economic Policy Committee have recommended that the lower house of parliament reject the 1998 budget in the first reading, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 6 October. The committees recommended that the document be sent to a conciliatory commission of government and parliamentary representatives. Communist representatives have previously indicated that their faction will support sending the budget directly back to the government, which is considered a "tougher" form of rejection than the creation of a conciliatory commission. Speaking to RFE/RL, Chubais expressed optimism that the Duma will support forming a conciliatory commission so as not to "stop the [budget] process." He said deputies from most factions, with the exception of Yabloko, had adopted a "reasonable" stance on the budget. Also on 6 October, the Duma Budget Committee recommended that the Duma declare the government's implementation of the 1997 budget "unsatisfactory." YABLOKO LEADER ON GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES. Grigorii Yavlinskii announced on 6 October that his faction has decided unanimously to vote against the 1998 budget, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He again charged that Prime Minister Chernomyrdin has an alliance with leaders of the Communist Party and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia . The Duma factions of both those parties voted for the 1997 budget, which Yabloko opposed. Yavlinskii also repeated that Yabloko supports "radical tax reform" but opposes the government's proposed new tax code. With regard to Yeltsin's recent call for the Duma to adopt a law on corruption and organized crime, Yavlinskii said the president could better fight corruption by removing officials who are generally believed to be corrupt from the government. When asked about Chubais, Yavlinskii declined to accuse any minister of corruption but blamed Chubais for helping create the "corrupt" and "oligarchic" system that, Yavlinskii said, now dominates Russia. RUSSIA, LONDON CLUB SIGN DEBT RESTRUCTURING DEAL. Russia and the London Club of creditor banks signed a deal in Moscow on 6 October to restructure the $33 billion debt inherited from the Soviet Union, Reuters and an RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow reported. In December, Russia is scheduled to pay $3 billion toward overdue interest on the debt. Other payments on interest and principal will begin in 2002 and continue until 2020. First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais told reporters, "Today leaders of the biggest banks in the world recognized the irreversibility of our reforms and the prestige of Russia in the international community." He also said the deal will spur more foreign investment in Russia. Market analysts predicted that the London Club deal will earn Russia an upgrade in its credit rating, making it less expensive for Moscow to borrow money on world financial markets. BLAIR IN MOSCOW. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and Yeltsin exchanged warm words during Blair's first official visit to Moscow on 5-6 October. Yeltsin greeted Blair with a bear-hug rather than a handshake, and he praised Blair's youth and energy during a press conference after the meeting. Blair expressed his admiration for Yeltsin and called for more military cooperation between Russia and the U.K., as well as full membership for Russia in the group of the world's leading economic powers, which will hold its next summit in the British city of Birmingham. Blair and Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin signed an agreement on cooperating in the fight against organized crime. Blair also met with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov. On 5 October, Blair had dinner with First Deputy Prime Ministers Chubais and Boris Nemtsov. GROZNY SETS CONDITIONS FOR RETURN OF RUSSIAN REPRESENTATIVES. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov on 6 October issued a statement ruling that the Russian representation in Grozny will be able to return and resume its work only when Moscow implements bilateral agreements signed in recent months and abstains from "economic blackmail," Russian agencies reported. The Russian mission was forced to leave Grozny after Moscow refused permission for Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov to fly from Grozny to Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1997). Maskhadov also stressed his intention of concluding an inter-state treaty with Moscow. Russian Security Council spokesman Igor Ignatev told ITAR-TASS that there will be no official response to Maskhadov's statement as "everything has already been said." CONFLICTING REPORTS ON SOBCHAK CASE. Spokesmen for the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General's Office have denied that Interior Ministry troops were sent to pick up former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak for questioning on 3 October, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 October. According to the prosecutor's office, investigators collected Sobchak from his office because Sobchak had on 12 previous occasions ignored a summons to be questioned in a corruption investigation against former St. Petersburg officials. Sobchak and his wife, Duma deputy Lyudmila Narusova of the Our Home Is Russia faction, have charged that at least 10 armed Interior Ministry troops picked up the former mayor, who is now hospitalized with heart trouble (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1997). Sobchak and Narusova have drawn parallels with Stalin-era police techniques, and Narusova told the 7 October "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that she has filed an official protest with Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov and Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov. PROSECUTOR ACCUSES KEMEROVO GOVERNOR OF SLANDER. Valentin Simuchenkov, the chief prosecutor of Kemerovo Oblast, has filed several slander lawsuits against Governor Aman Tuleev, "Izvestiya" reported on 7 October. Tuleev recently denounced the oblast law enforcement authorities for not informing the public about the criminal record of Leninsk-Kuznetskii Mayor Gennadii Konyakhin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1997). Simuchenkov told journalists that he could not stand by while "we are accused of unprofessionalism and corruption." In addition, he accused Tuleev of accepting payments from businessman Timur Tsoriev in 1996, when Tuleev chaired the Kemerovo legislature and then ran for president. After the election, when he was appointed CIS affairs minister, Tuleev appointed Tsoriev to head his ministry's department in charge of hard currency operations, Simuchenkov commented. Tuleev faces two challengers in the 19 October gubernatorial election. FORMER DUMA DEPUTY ACQUITTED OF TERRORISM. The Moscow City Court on 6 October acquitted Nikolai Lysenko, the leader of the extreme nationalist National-Republican Party of Russia, and his aide Mikhail Rogozin of several charges, including terrorism, Russian news agencies reported. Lysenko was accused of staging a bomb attack in his office in the State Duma in December 1995, shortly before the parliamentary election. No one was hurt in the blast, but property damage was estimated at 100 million rubles ($20,800 at 1995 exchange rates). Lysenko's party gained less than 1 percent of the vote, despite the huge publicity surrounding the explosion. The court convicted Lysenko of stealing a computer from the Duma. It sentenced him to 16 months in prison but ordered his immediate release on the grounds he has already spent more than 16 months in custody since his May 1996 arrest. ORT NAMES NEW ACTING DIRECTOR-GENERAL. The board of directors of Russian Public Television (ORT) has appointed Kseniya Ponomareva acting director-general, Interfax reported on 6 October. Until now, Ponomareva headed the news division of the 51 percent state-owned network. The ORT board will decide in November whether to make her appointment permanent. On 1 October, Yeltsin met with Ponomareva and publicly recommended that the ORT board appoint her director-general. Ponomareva is believed to have good relations with Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, a highly influential figure at the network. Her appointment suggests that Berezovskii's influence at ORT has not declined, despite First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov's recent call for establishing state control over the finances and the "ideological foundations" of the network (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August and 18 September 1997). Ponomareva's predecessor, Sergei Blagovolin, occasionally criticized ORT management. GAZPROM CHAIRMAN DEFENDS COOPERATION WITH IRAN. Gazprom board chairman Rem Vyakhirev said on 6 October that his company will not withdraw from the 28 September contract with Iran and France's Total to develop Iran's South Pars Caspian gas deposit, Russian agencies reported. That deal is valued at $2 billion. Vyakhirev said "we have considered what we stand to lose and to gain if sanctions are imposed on us.... It would be madness not to take part in the project." Vyakhirev was addressing a roundtable of Russian and EU industrialists in Moscow. U.S. EX-IM BANK TO OPEN BRANCH IN TATARSTAN. Meeting with Prime Minister Farit Mukhametshin and the economy and finance ministers in Kazan on 4-6 October, a delegation from the U.S. government's Ex-Im Bank agreed to open a Regional Development Bank in Kazan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Tatarstan TV cited Mukhametshin argued that the controlling shares in the new bank should belong to Tatarstan. Ex-Im Bank has been active in Tatarstan since 1994 and has invested about $220 million in the Tatneft and Nizhnekamskneftekhim companies. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA DENIES POSSESSING NUCLEAR MISSILES. Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparyan told Interfax on 6 October that Armenia has no nuclear arms and that its nuclear potential "serves only peaceful purposes." Two days earlier, parliamentary deputy speaker Ara Sahakyan similarly denied charges by Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov that Russia has supplied Armenia with medium-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Sahakyan pointed out that Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin has told journalists that Russia destroyed its medium-range missiles before May 1991 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 1997). AZERBAIJAN POPULAR FRONT CONGRESS POSTPONED. Azerbaijan Popular Front deputy chairman Ali Kerimov told Turan on 6 October that the front's planned congress has been postponed because the Azerbaijani authorities have refused to provide premises for it. In recent months, members of the front's board have been repeatedly prevented from traveling to the village of Keleki in Nakhichevan to visit front chairman Abulfaz Elchibey (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1997). GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ON RAPPROCHEMENT WITH EUROPE, RUSSIA. Eduard Shevardnadze said in his weekly radio address on 6 October that Georgia's desire for integration into Europe does not preclude rapprochement with Russia, Russian media reported. Shevardnadze noted that it is "strange" for Russian political figures to reproach Georgia for seeking closer integration with Europe when Moscow is pursuing a similar policy. He predicted that his participation in the upcoming Council of Europe summit in Strasbourg will speed up Georgia's integration into Europe. Shevardnadze also expressed satisfaction with growing Russian investments in Georgia. ANOTHER BOMB IN TAJIK CAPITAL. Four people were injured when a bomb exploded near the presidential palace in Dushanbe on 6 October, Russian media reported. A Tajik Security Ministry spokesman attributed this latest explosion as well as the series of bomb attacks in September to extremist groups not aligned with the opposition. Also on 6 October, Russian Federal Border Service chief Colonel-General Andrei Nikolaev said a total of 6,500 refugees have been repatriated from Afghanistan. He added that once the initial stage of repatriating civilian refugees has been completed, the first group of some 300 opposition fighters will also be allowed to return to Tajikistan. United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri told Interfax on 4 October that three land corridors will be opened to permit the fighters to transit the border, where their arms and ammunition will be monitored. Nuri had earlier said that financial and logistical problems are delaying the repatriation of the opposition fighters. KAZAKHSTAN VALUES MILITARY COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA. Kazakh Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbaev, who is currently on an official visit to China, told ITAR-TASS on 6 October that consolidated defense ties with Russia remains one of his country's top policy priorities. Altynbaev singled out anti-aircraft defense as an area in which the two countries cooperate closely. He also argued that the trilateral defense pact between Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan complements, rather than runs counter to, the CIS Collective Security Treaty. Two days earlier, Altynbaev met in Beijing with Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian, who called for expanding Chinese-Kazakh military cooperation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1997). POLICE HALT PROTEST MARCHERS IN KAZAKHSTAN. Several thousand workers from the Achisay Polimetal plant in Kentau were intercepted by police near the southern city of Turkestan, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 6 October. The workers were marching to the capital to protest the non-payment of wages. The Turkestan authorities are providing tents and free meals for the stranded marchers but are apprehensive about allowing them to continue for fear that thousands more protesters will join the march, according to Reuters. END NOTE WALKING THE ABKHAZ TIGHTROPE by Liz Fuller Less than two months after the presidents of Georgia and Abkhazia signed a landmark agreement abjuring the use of force, the search for a solution to the Abkhaz conflict has ground to a halt yet again. In late September, two Abkhaz spokesmen reasserted that the only acceptable status for their republic is that of equal partner with Georgia within a confederation. The central Georgian government has consistently rejected that demand, however. Georgia, in effect, lost control of its western province in September1993, following a 13-month war that culminated in the flight of some 300,000 ethnic Georgians from their homes in Abkhazia. An agreement mediated by Russia and the UN in April 1994 stipulated conditions for the repatriation of the displaced persons. But that accord has not been systematically implemented, despite deployment of a CIS peacekeeping force along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia to oversee the repatriation process. In June and July 1997, Georgian and Abkhaz diplomats met in Moscow with top Russian leaders to discuss a protocol, drafted by the Russian Foreign Ministry, that was intended to pave the way for a political solution to the conflict. Some of the seemingly irreconcilable differences between the two sides were overcome at those talks, largely as a result of concessions by the Abkhaz. But the discussions broke down after Georgia demanded substantive amendments to a version of the protocol that the Abkhaz delegation had already endorsed. Under the terms of that document, Georgia and Abkhazia affirm their "consent to live within the confines of a shared state within the boundaries of the Georgian SSR as of 21 December 1991. Each of the two sides preserves its constitution, and relations between them will be regulated by a special treaty, which both sides agree to invest with the force of a constitutional law." On 14 August--the fifth anniversary of the Georgian attack on Sukhumi-- Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba and Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze in Tbilisi. The following day, Ardzinba and Shevardnadze signed a declaration abjuring the use or threat of force against each other. The accord led to government-level meetings aimed at restoring economic ties, transport links, and communications between the central government and the breakaway province. But two such rounds of talks have yielded virtually no results. With hindsight, it appears that the Shevardnadze-Ardzinba meeting created false expectations of a breakthrough in removing the obstacles to a political settlement. It also seems to have fueled the arguments of hard-line elements on either side who opposed even the slightest concessions. On 26 September, Ardzinba's personal negotiator, Anri Djergenia, told Interfax that Abkhazia is ready to sign not the compromise version of the Russian Foreign Ministry protocol discussed in June but an earlier version based on the principle of the legal equality of the two constituent parties forming a common Georgian state. In other words, the earlier version provided for the creation of a confederation, not a federation. Within this common state, according to Djergenia, Georgia and Abkhazia would pursue a common foreign and defense policy. They would also jointly conduct policy in minority rights, foreign trade, border control, customs, and environmental issues. Igor Akhba, who is Abkhazia's permanent representative in Moscow, told Interfax on 30 September that the Abkhaz leadership intends to demand from Tbilisi $60 billion in compensation for war damage. He ruled out any kind of autonomous status for Abkhazia within the proposed future common state. Shevardnadze, responding to Djergenia's 26 September statement, warned that if the Abkhaz continue to adhere to such a maximalist position, then "future talks have no sense." It is conceivable that Djergenia's and Akhba's statements merely reflected Abkhaz displeasure with Tbilisi's plans to stage mass military maneuvers in early October in a region of western Georgia that borders Abkhazia. But such hard-line rhetoric could equally reflect differences of opinion within the Abkhaz leadership. Taras Shamba, Ardzinba's former rival and the informal head of the World Congress of the Abkhaz People, has told Russian journalists he considers there are equally qualified candidates for the Abkhaz presidency. The Georgian leadership, too, has to contend with hard-line elements beyond its control. The White Legion guerrilla formation continues to target the Russian peacekeeping force, claiming that the Russian peacekeepers regularly side with the Abkhaz. And representatives of the ethnic Georgian fugitives from Abkhazia have vowed to create a parliamentary faction to press their demands for financial compensation and for a formal agreement facilitating their repatriation. Some 70 parliament deputies (of a total of 233) have indicated they are ready to join the proposed For Abkhazia faction. While the militant rhetoric emanating from hard-line elements in Tbilisi and Sukhumi is unlikely to derail the tenuous negotiating progress, it increases the pressure on the leaders of either side. That, in turn, reduces the ability and willingness of those leaders to make further concessions. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx SUBSCRIBING: 1) To subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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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