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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 135, Part I, 9 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 *NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET PRESENTED TO DUMA *TALBOTT IN MOSCOW FOR ARMS CONTROL TALKS *GEORGIAN INTELLIGENCE TRIED TO FRAME LEADING POLITICIANS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET PRESENTED TO DUMA... Economics Minister Yakov Urinson and First Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Petrov addressed the State Duma on 9 October to present the draft 1998 budget before its first reading, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. They argued that the budget is realistic and will help Russia achieve economic growth in 1998. The draft calls for expenditures of 472 billion new rubles ($80 billion), taking into account the planned redenomination of the ruble in January 1998, according to Interfax. Revenues are projected at 340 billion new rubles, with a planned budget deficit of 132 billion new rubles, or 4.8 percent of projected GDP. ...BUT BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN NOT IMPRESSED. Following the speeches by Urinson and Petrov, Duma Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov of the Yabloko faction reminded Duma deputies that the government has promised imminent economic growth every year since 1995, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 9 October. Zadornov noted that of the 14 Duma committees that examined the draft budget, only one recommended approving the budget in the first reading. Zadornov acknowledged that the budget is more realistic than the 1997 one, but he questioned some of the assumptions on which it is based. In particular, he expressed doubt that a new tax code can be put into effect by 1 January 1998. Projected revenues in the draft budget are based on that code. ZYUGANOV CALLS FOR CONCILIATORY COMMISSION, NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. In a speech to the Duma on 9 October, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov called for rejecting the budget in the first reading and forming a conciliatory commission representing the government, the Duma, and the Federation Council, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He repeated his calls for a round table to discuss various government policies, which would include representatives of trade unions, political parties, and the Central Bank as well as government and parliamentary officials. Zyuganov repeated that in a forthcoming Duma session, his faction will support holding a vote of no confidence in the government. After Zyuganov voiced similar plans in a speech to the Duma on 8 October, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii questioned the logic of calling for both a no-confidence vote and negotiations with the government. DUMA DECLARES GOVERNMENT'S PERFORMANCE UNSATISFACTORY. The Duma on 8 October voted by 380 to zero with five abstentions to declare the government's performance during the first nine months of 1997 "unsatisfactory," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. In speeches before the vote, only Our Home Is Russia faction leader Aleksandr Shokhin defended the government's performance, arguing that Russia has made economic progress. Yabloko leader Yavlinskii said a special economic culture has developed in Russia, according to which "banks do not take money from people and invest it in industry; rather, banks take money from the budget and send it to Malta." After the speeches, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais told ITAR-TASS that the government is ready to cooperate with the Duma. But Chubais said Yavlinskii "should remember his own mistakes more often," noting that Yavlinskii predicted two years ago that the government would not bring down inflation. TALBOTT IN MOSCOW FOR ARMS CONTROL TALKS. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott met with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov in Moscow on 8 October, Interfax reported. The START-2 treaty and negotiations on a START-3 accord were the main items on the agenda. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Talbott's visit aims to implement a package of arms control agreements recently signed by Primakov and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1997). Also on 8 October, Talbott met with Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, who indicated that the Duma will ratify START-2 only if experts conclude that the treaty "does not threaten Russia's security." According to the Duma's press service, Seleznev also told Talbott that if NATO had not embarked on expansion plans, the Duma might have ratified START-2 in 1994 or 1995. INDIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Singh Yadav was upbeat at an 8 October press conference following talks with President Boris Yeltsin and Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev the previous day, Reuters and Russian news agencies reported. Yeltsin, who is scheduled to visit India in January 1998, told Yadav that there are "no problems" in Russian-Indian relations. Yadav, who came to Russia primarily for talks on arms sales and military cooperation, also met with Russian Defense Council Secretary Andrei Kokoshin and representatives from the arms exporter Rosvooruzhenie. He is to tour military bases in Moscow and St. Petersburg before departing Russia on 10 October. India is a major buyer of Russian weapons, and Russian government sources indicated that a military cooperation program signed by the two countries in 1994 will be extended beyond 2000, when it is scheduled to expire, "Segodnya" reported on 8 October. PRESIDENTIAL REPRESENTATION IN CHECHNYA DOWN-GRADED. President Yeltsin on 8 October stripped Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin of his duties as presidential representative to Chechnya and appointed one of Rybkin's deputies, Valentin Vlasov, to replace him. Security Council spokesman Igor Ignatev said Rybkin will retain responsibility for negotiations with the Chechen leadership. Rybkin told journalists that in the light of the 43 agreements concluded between Moscow and Grozny, it was logical to downgrade Russia's representation in Chechnya to the level of that in other republics. Rybkin displayed uncharacteristic irritation following the 30 September expulsion from Grozny of the entire Russian federal representation there. 'AVRASIYA' HIJACKERS ESCAPE, FLEE TO CHECHNYA. Two men sentenced to jail terms in Turkey for their role in the January, 1996 hijacking of the ferry Avrasiya in the Black Sea port of Trabzon escaped from jail on 6 October and have fled to Chechnya, according to the "Turkish Daily News" on 9 October. The hijacking staged in an attempt to gain publicity for the victims of the war in Chechnya. OPPOSITION DOUBTS LEGALITY OF THIRD TERM FOR YELTSIN. Communist Party leader Zyuganov has said presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii used "totally groundless" reasoning to argue that President Yeltsin is legally entitled to seek a third term in office, Interfax reported on 8 October. Deputy leader of the Communist Party Valentin Kuptsov and Popular Power faction leader Nikolai Ryzhkov agreed that a third term would be unconstitutional and suggested that Yastrzhembskii's comments were probably intended to test public reaction to a possible Yeltsin candidacy in 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1997). Agrarian Duma faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov called Yastrzhembskii's statements "absurd," adding, "I understand that Yeltsin would like to be president forever, but it is not serious or appropriate for a person of his age to dream of a third term." Constitutional Court Judge Anatolii Kononov remarked that only the court is entitled to make binding interpretations of the constitution. LUZHKOV SAYS NEW TAX CODE WOULD HURT MOSCOW. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov says that if the government's proposed tax code is approved, the capital will lose 8 trillion rubles ($1.4 billion) in annual tax revenues, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 October. According to Luzhkov, the code would force Moscow to transfer 70 percent of the taxes collected on its territory to the federal budget, up from 50 percent under current law. He argued that the federal government should increase its tax revenues not by demanding more contributions from the regions but by implementing a policy to boost domestic production. Luzhkov previously complained that the draft 1998 budget would deprive Moscow of compensation payments for the costs of maintaining federal government facilities in the capital. Also on 8 October, Luzhkov met with the U.S. billionaire and philanthropist George Soros and argued that Russia is in need of humanitarian aid. LENINSK-KUZNETSKII MAYOR ARRESTED. Gennadii Konyakhin, the controversial mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetskii, Kemerovo Oblast, was arrested in Moscow on 8 October on charges of embezzling state property. Following the publication of an investigative series in "Izvestiya" in September, Yeltsin ordered a commission of the Interior Ministry, the Prosecutor-General's Office, and the Federal Security Service to investigate whether "criminals" had come to power in Leninsk-Kuznetskii. Three criminal cases involving Konyakhin were recently opened, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 9 October. When the mayor flew to Moscow, the Kemerovo Oblast prosecutor reportedly filed embezzlement charges against Konyakhin and informed federal investigators. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky told ITAR-TASS that Konyakhin was in Moscow at his personal invitation and was arrested en route to the Duma to hear a speech by Zhirinovsky. INVESTIGATORS QUESTION FORMER PRIVATIZATION CHIEF. Investigators from the Moscow Prosecutor's Office on 8 October questioned Former State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh for some two hours, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Kokh is being investigated for allegedly abusing the powers of his office by accepting $100,000 from a Swiss firm for an unfinished book on privatization. As yet, no criminal charges have been filed against him. The firm is believed to have connections to Oneksimbank, which won several major recent privatization auctions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September through 2 October 1997). Appearing on Russian Television on 5 October, Kokh said he has finished the book and paid taxes on the $100,000 payment. He has also accused the losers in recent privatization developments of trying to settle scores with him. PRIMORE GOVERNOR SEEKS SUPPORT FROM FEDERATION COUNCIL. In an appeal to his colleagues in the Federation Council, Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko said federal officials should be held "personally responsible" for discrediting regional authorities, ITAR- TASS reported on 8 October. Nazdratenko argued that at its next session, the Council should ask Yeltsin to consider the issue. He also argued that biased media reports about Primore indicate that "the head of state is being given distorted reports on the situation in the krai, and, I think, not only in our [region]." Moscow-based newspapers and television have frequently reported that Nazdratenko's administration is to blame for persistent energy crises in the krai. On 3 October, Nazdratenko sent a letter to Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev arguing that the media are carrying out an "unprecedented campaign to discredit the Primorskii Krai authorities." AVTOVAZ DIRECTOR OBJECTS TO COMPETITOR'S DEAL WITH FIAT. Aleksei Nikolaev, the president of Russia's largest car manufacturer, AvtoVAZ, says the GAZ factory in Nizhnii Novgorod acted unethically when it signed a recent deal with the Italian company Fiat, "Segodnya" reported on 8 October. Nikolaev argued that GAZ will now assemble types of cars traditionally produced by AvtoVAZ. Meanwhile, the AvtoVAZ board of directors on 2 October agreed to a 10-year plan for paying back taxes and fines estimated at some 8 trillion rubles ($1.3 billion). The company is to pay 100 billion rubles a month toward settling the debt in addition to current monthly tax payments of some 200 billion rubles, according to the 4 October "Kommersant-Daily." A stake of 50 percent plus one share in AvtoVAZ will be transferred to the government and may be sold if the company breaches the payments schedule (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September and 2 October 1997). BAN ON ETHNIC MOVEMENTS PROPOSED IN DAGESTAN. Unspecified political organizations in Dagestan have called for imposing a ban on political movements representing the interests of the republic's more than 30 ethnic groups, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 9 October. Advocates of the ban argue that the activities of such movements deepen divisions between ethnic groups. A group of parliament deputies has similarly proposed a ban on political parties active in southern Dagestan in a bid to prevent the escalation of tensions on the frontier with Azerbaijan. On 8 October, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov, an ethnic Avar from Dagestan, told Interfax that Moscow must try to avoid repeating in Dagestan the mistakes it made in Chechnya. He said Dagestan is "Russia's main outpost in the south" and the "key to the Caucasus, the Caspian, and the Muslim world." CIS SECURITY MINISTERS MEET. A session of the CIS Council of Heads of Security and Secret Service Agencies opened in Chisinau on 8 October. Russian Federal Security Service head Nikolai Kovalev told journalists on arrival in Chisinau that the agenda includes terrorism, organized crime, arms and drugs trafficking, and the transit across the CIS to western Europe of illegal emigrants from Southeastern Asia. Kovalev said that foreign intelligence services continue to target the CIS states. He also noted that criminal groups in the various CIS states are integrating faster than the agencies whose aim is to disband them, "Segodnya" reported on 8 October. Addressing the opening session, Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi warned against politicizing multilateral relations among CIS member states, Infotag reported on 8 October. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN INTELLIGENCE TRIED TO FRAME LEADING POLITICIANS. Former businessman Temur Maskhulia told journalists in Tbilisi on 8 October that while he was under arrest earlier this year, senior security officials, including former Security Minister Shota Kviraya, had sought to pressure him into giving false testimony implicating leading politicians, the agency Caucasus press reported. He added that the officials threatened to fabricate charges of treason against him if he did not comply. Maskhulia was asked to testify that Georgian Ambassador to Russia Vazha Lortkipanidze, parliamentary deputy Vakhtang Goguadze, and former Commander-in-chief of Russian troops in Georgia Fyodor Reut were involved in the August 1995 assassination attempt against Eduard Shevardnadze. He was also told to testify that the lion's share of drug-trafficking in Georgia is controlled by Adzhar Supreme Soviet Chairman Aslan Abashidze. GEORGIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF ON TERRORIST INCIDENT. Avtandil Ioseliani told Georgian Television on 8 October that unnamed foreign intelligence services may have carried out the two bomb explosions in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi at the end of September, Interfax reported. A woman was seriously injured in one of the explosions. Alternatively, Ioseliani commented, there may be a link between the explosions and the demand by Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia for the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed in western Georgia. Meanwhile, the Georgian daily "Akhali taoba" has claimed that Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's rationale for dividing the National Security Ministry into two separate agencies is intended to undercut the ministry's influence in domestic politics, according to Interfax. ARMENIAN OPPOSITION ACTIVIST RELEASED. Parliamentary deputy Norayr Khanzadyan, who is the Union for Self-Determination's representative on the Central Electoral Commission, was released from detention on 4 October, Noyan Tapan reported four days later. Khanzadyan had been detained on 1 October in connection with a scuffle between Union for Self-Determination leader Paruir Hairikyan and a former member of the Union, Aramazd Zakarian in the National Assembly building on 18 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 1997). No charges have been brought against Khanzadyan. AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT REJECTS CULT OF PERSONALITY. Ramiz Mekhtiev, the head of the presidential administration, summoned government media heads on 5 October to inform them that Heidar Aliev is "discontent" with the adulation lavished upon him by the local media, Turan reported on 8 October. In particular, Mekhtiev added, Aliev objects to being referred to as "His Majesty." In an official statement, the presidential press service also castigated the media for engaging in flattery of the president rather than objectively reporting on foreign and domestic policies. MOVE TO NEW KAZAKH CAPITAL IN DOUBT? The planned move of the government from Almaty to Aqmola on 23 October is in doubt, an RFE/RL correspondent in Almaty reported on 7 October. The move was originally scheduled to take place on 10 October, but President Nazarbaev postponed it by two weeks in August. Visiting Aqmola on 4 October with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Nazarbaev expressed satisfaction with progress in the construction of new ministries, the parliament, and apartment blocks. He also affirmed that the city will be ready by 23 October. But thousands of apartment buildings are either incomplete or have been built so hastily that they will be unfit for habitation in winter temperatures of minus 50 degrees Celsius. Parliamentary deputies are to be temporarily housed in hotels, government officials in hostels, and technical workers in kindergartens. KAZAKHSTAN, TURKEY SIGN OIL DEAL. The Kazakh government and the state-owned Turkish oil company TPAO have signed a $750 million contract to develop oil fields in Kazakhstan's Aktyubinsk Oblast, Interfax and the "Wall Street Journal" reported on 9 October. A senior Kazakh official told journalists that the region contains an estimated 45 million metric tons of oil. TPAO and Amoco are to create a joint venture to explore and develop the reserves. KAZAKH MINERS STRIKE. Several thousand miners and industrial workers in Qaraghandy Oblast went on strike on 8 October, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. The strikers are protesting the planned closure of several coal mines in the oblast. TURKMEN PRESIDENT BACK IN SADDLE. Saparmurad Niyazov chaired a cabinet session on 6 October to assess the ongoing cotton and grain harvests, Interfax reported. It was Niyazov's first day back at work since undergoing cardiac surgery in Germany on 1 September. Niyazov, who pronounced himself in good shape, also attended a ceremony commemorating the victims of the 1948 earthquake that destroyed Ashkhabad. His mother and brothers were among the victims. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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