|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 138, Part I, 14 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 *CHERNOMYRDIN RAISES STAKES ON NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE *SELEZNEV REJECTS INDEPENDENCE FOR CHECHNYA *NEW GOVERNMENT FORMED IN KAZAKHSTAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA CHERNOMYRDIN RAISES STAKES ON NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE... Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told ITAR-TASS on 14 October that if the State Duma approves a vote of no confidence in his government, the cabinet will respond quickly "within the framework of the constitution" and will not wait three months, "as some are hoping." Chernomyrdin said he favors "direct dialogue" between the government and the parliament, "not [no-confidence] votes and squabbles." At a 15 October plenary session, the Duma is scheduled to consider a Communist proposal to put a no-confidence vote on the agenda. Chernomyrdin's remarks suggest that if the Duma passes a no-confidence vote, the government will request that deputies consider a second confidence motion within 10 days, as the government did following such a vote in June 1995. President Boris Yeltsin can legally dissolve the Duma and call new parliamentary elections if two no-confidence votes are passed within three months. ...AMID RUMORS OF HIS POSSIBLE RESIGNATION. Chernomyrdin neither confirmed nor denied a statement by Aleksandr Shokhin, the leader of the pro-government Duma faction Our Home Is Russia, who told Interfax on 14 October that the prime minister will resign if the Duma approves a no-confidence vote. Shokhin said Chernomyrdin informed Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev of his plans the previous day. Although government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov told ITAR-TASS that Chernomyrdin does not plan to step down, Seleznev confirmed that Chernomyrdin told him he will "probably" resign if the no-confidence motion is approved. Seleznev also said that the Duma's likely no-confidence vote will be directed against First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, not against Chernomyrdin. For his part, Nemtsov charged on 14 October that the Duma will do enormous damage to the Russian economy if it provokes a government crisis. SPOKESMAN SAYS NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE WOULD BE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 14 October announced that while the Duma is constitutionally entitled to pass a no-confidence vote, such a move would solve no problems and yield no "positive result," Russian news agencies reported. Yastrzhembskii said Yeltsin will speak with Seleznev before the Duma's 15 October session, but the spokesman refused to speculate on the president's possible reaction to a no-confidence vote. (In a recent radio address, Yeltsin told Duma deputies they should cooperate with the government, because his patience has limits.) Yastrzhembskii also said Yeltsin is counting on Duma deputies to show "reason" in their approach to revising the 1998 budget in order to reach a mutually acceptable compromise. IS OPPOSITION UNAFRAID OF DISSOLUTION? Duma Legislation Committee Chairman Anatolii Lukyanov, a prominent Communist, told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 14 October that the Communist Party does not fear the dissolution of the Duma. If early parliamentary elections are held, Lukyanov added, the left opposition will win even more seats. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced the same day that his party will insist on a no-confidence vote on 15 October despite rumors that Chernomyrdin may resign, Interfax reported. Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin on 13 October said his Movement in Support of the Army also favors a no-confidence vote, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Rokhlin predicted that if Yeltsin disbands the Duma, "patriotically-minded forces" will win a majority of seats in the next parliamentary elections. Opinion within the Communist Duma faction is reportedly divided over whether to pass two no- confidence votes and risk the Duma's dissolution. SELEZNEV REJECTS INDEPENDENCE FOR CHECHNYA. Duma speaker Seleznev on 13 October rejected as "absolutely unacceptable" the Chechen draft of a treaty between Russia and the Chechen Republic that provides for establishing bilateral diplomatic relations, Russian agencies reported. But Duma Defense Committee Chairman Rokhlin told journalists the same day that attempts to "tie Chechnya to Russia" are wrong and that "the sovereignty of Chechnya must be recognized", according to Interfax. Vladimir Zorin, who is chairman of the Duma's Committee for Nationalities, said the closed Duma hearings on 14 October are intended "not as a confrontation but as a search for consensus on settling the problems Russia faces in the North Caucasus." Grozny announced on 12 October that it will not send delegates to attend the Duma hearings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1997). BUDGET COMMISSION HOLDS FIRST MEETING. The trilateral commission seeking a compromise on the draft budget for 1998 held its first meeting on 13 October, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais said the representatives of the government, Duma and Federation Council are to finish revising the budget in nine days. Duma Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov of Yabloko told ITAR-TASS on 13 October that the government has already agreed to revise its projection for 1998 GDP up from 2.75 trillion new rubles ($470 billion) to 2.8 trillion new rubles. The second session of the commission is scheduled for 14 October. However, Zyuganov told Interfax that negotiations over the 1998 budget are "completely senseless." He charged that the trilateral commission is not operating as Duma deputies had anticipated. He also accused Chubais of trying to "force through" his own budget figures. CHERNOMYRDIN OPTIMISTIC ON FOREIGN INVESTMENT. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin was upbeat at a 13 October meeting of the Foreign Investment Advisory Council, comprised of government officials and representatives of major foreign companies. He said Russia attracted $6.7 billion in foreign investment during the first six months of 1997, more than triple the level for the same period in 1996. (Foreign investment was particularly low during the first six months of 1996 because of investors' fears that Communist Party leader Zyuganov might win the presidential election.) Chernomyrdin said accumulated foreign investment in Russia amounts to $20.2 billion. He pledged that the government hopes to attract up to $20 billion a year in foreign investment by 2000. To this end, he said the government is considering restoring customs duty reductions and tax concessions for foreign investors, which were suspended last year, Interfax reported. DEPUTY SAYS CORRUPTION IN DUMA WIDESPREAD. Duma deputy Konstantin Borovoi on 13 October called for passing a law on lobbying to fight corruption in the Duma, which, he claimed, is rampant, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Borovoi said deputies frequently take bribes to lobby for legislation that benefits corporate groups or foreign countries. He did not name any specific corporations but said that state monopolies and companies in "the military-industrial complex" have paid Duma deputies to lobby on their behalf. One large corporation spent $3 million on buying the support of Duma deputies, he claimed. Borovoi, a wealthy entrepreneur, was elected to the Duma from a single-member district and does not belong to any faction. He has generally supported the government's economic policies and is a vocal anti-communist. DUMA PASSES LAW ON SUBSISTENCE LEVEL. The Duma on 10 October passed a law on the minimum subsistence level, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the law, each Russian region would calculate the subsistence minimum every three months, based on the prices of essential consumer goods. Citizens whose incomes fell below the subsistence level would be eligible for financial assistance from the state. Yeltsin's representative in the Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov, hailed the law as the "foundation of the state's new social policy." The government has called for restricting most social benefits payments to those with low incomes rather than making payments to categories of citizens, such as relatives of veterans or law enforcement officials. ZHIRINOVSKY ACCUSES NEMTSOV OF CORRUPTION. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has again accused First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov of taking bribes and embezzling a total of $18 million while serving as governor of Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 October. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 October, the businessman Andrei Klimentev, who first lodged the accusations against Nemtsov, was scheduled to testify before a Duma commission on corruption and to give a press conference in the capital. However, the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Court did not allow Klimentev to leave the region, because he is under criminal investigation. Nemtsov's lawyer, Vitalii Khavkin, has dismissed the accusations as lies intended to damage Nemtsov's political career. Khavkin said that in the summer, Nemtsov requested that the Prosecutor-General's Office open a slander case against Klimentev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1997). SHOKHIN FAVORS SUBSIDIES FOR MOSCOW. Our Home Is Russia Duma faction leader Shokhin has expressed regret that compensation payments for Moscow were excluded from the government's draft budget for 1998, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 October. Shokhin noted that while there is a "certain envy" for Moscow--which "puts on celebrations, builds roads, and implements many projects"--the federal government should recognize that most foreign investment in Russia comes to Moscow. Consequently, the government should allocate expenditures to compensate Moscow for the costs of being the country's capital, Shokhin said. He argued that such a policy would help not just Moscow but the whole country. Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, a sharp critic of First Deputy Prime Ministers Chubais and Nemtsov, has decried the government's plans to take away the compensation payments. LUZHKOV SAYS MOSCOW WILL PROVIDE TEXTBOOKS FOR RUSSIANS ABROAD. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced on 13 October that the Moscow city government will provide Russian-language textbooks for Russian-speaking students in Estonia, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported. The textbooks will also be sent to schools in Sevastopol, the Crimean port where the Black Sea Fleet is based. Russia renounced all territorial claims against Ukraine when Yeltsin signed a treaty with his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, in May. Luzhkov was an outspoken critic of that treaty and has repeatedly declared that Sevastopol was, is, and will remain a Russian city. LEBED SEEKS COOPERATION WITH POTENTIAL CAMPAIGN RIVALS. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed says he hopes to cooperate with both Moscow Mayor Luzhkov and with Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii during the next presidential campaign, scheduled for 2000. In an interview published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 11 October, Lebed said he is also ready to work with First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov, who, he commented, has "many positive qualities." Lebed and Yavlinskii held unsuccessful consultations on forming an electoral alliance during the 1996 presidential campaign. Luzhkov has sharply criticized Lebed in the past, especially for the peace agreement Lebed negotiated with Chechnya in August 1996. Although Luzhkov has frequently denied harboring presidential ambitions, he, like Lebed, is seen as a leading contender for support from the "patriotic" wing of the Russian electorate. COMMUNISTS GAIN GROUND IN BELGOROD ELECTIONS. Candidates representing the Communist Party made a strong showing in the 12 October elections to the Belgorod Oblast Duma, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Communists won 13 out of the 35 seats in the legislature. The remaining seats were won by candidates with no political party affiliation. Turnout was some 45 percent. The previous Duma approved virtually all the initiatives of Belgorod Governor Yevgenii Savchenko, but the new legislature is expected to be a force for the governor to reckon with. Communists candidates sharply criticized the oblast authorities during the Belgorod campaign. SHOW OF SUPPORT FOR ARRESTED LENINSK-KUZNETSKII MAYOR. More than 1,000 people demonstrated in Leninsk-Kuznetskii, Kemerovo Oblast, on 12 October demanding the release of Mayor Gennadii Konyakhin, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 13 October. Konyakhin was recently arrested in Moscow on embezzlement charges and is in custody in Kemerovo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 1997). In a telephone interview with RFE/RL, acting Leninsk-Kuznetskii Mayor Mark Guskov said more demonstrations in support of Konyakhin are planned. State Duma deputy Teimuraz Avaliani, the leader of the Kemerovo branch of the Communist Party, has asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to release Konyakhin pending trial, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 October. Vladimir Popov, the chairman of the Kemerovo Electoral Commission, has also said that Konyakhin has the right to continue to serve as mayor, despite the criminal case opened against him, according to the 14 October "Kommersant-Daily." U.S. BANKER BLAMES COMPETITORS FOR VISA PROBLEMS. U.S. citizen Boris Jordan, the head of the investment bank MFK and the Renaissance Capital fund, has denied Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii's claim that his visa was revoked because he gained access to classified information, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 14 October. At a Moscow press conference, Jordan blamed "unscrupulous competitors" of the Oneksimbank group, which includes MFK, for the incident. He also warned that the "provocation" against him will hurt Russia's image with foreign investors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 13 October 1997). "Nezavisimaya gazeta," partly financed by Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, reported on 14 October that MFK services accounts of the Russian arms exporter Rosvooruzhenie. The newspaper also said Jordan's investment activities have long been monitored by Russian security services. It suggested that Jordan's September appointment as head of MFK prompted the decision to revoke his visa. TATARSTAN TO WORK WITH IRAQ IN PETROLEUM PRODUCTION. Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev met with Iraqi Deputy Minister of Petroleum Faiz Abdulla Shakhen and Iraqi Ambassador to Moscow Hassan Fahmi Djuma in Kazan on 13 October, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported, citing Radio Tatarstan. An agreement was reached whereby specialists from the Tatar national oil company Tatneft will participate in petroleum production in Iraq and provide production equipment in exchange for the assembly in Iraq of Kamaz trucks. An April 1995 agreement on cooperation in the oil sector was never implemented because of the lack of relevant Russian legislation. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA NEW GOVERNMENT FORMED IN KAZAKHSTAN. First Deputy Prime Minister Akhmetzhan Yesimov, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Pavlov, Foreign Minister Kasymjomart Tokaev, and Interior Minister Kairbek Suleimanov retain their posts in the new Kazakh government, Russian agencies reported on 13 October. President Nursultan Nazarbaev has appointed a new minister of justice and upgraded the national press and media agency to the status of ministry. Despite having told the parliament in his10 October address that the new government would have no more than15 ministers, Nazarbaev apparently did not abolish any ministries. Meanwhile, many of the protest marchers halted by police near the southern city of Turkestan have begun a hunger-strike (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1997), ITAR-TASS reported on 13 October. IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ASHGABAT. During his one-day visit to Turkmenistan on 13 October, Kamal Kharrazi met with President Saparmurad Niyazov to discuss cooperation in the oil and gas sector, Russian agencies reported. The talks focused on the export of Turkmenistan's oil and gas via Iran. Turkmen Oil and Gas Minister Batyr Sardzhaev told Interfax that when construction of the Korpedzhe-Kurd-Kui pipeline is completed in December, Turkmenistan will begin exporting to Iran 3 billion cubic meters of gas each year. Niyazov and Kharrazi also discussed the possibility of constructing a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Turkey via Iran and an oil pipeline from Turkmenistan through Iran to the Persian Gulf. Niyazov proposed creating a joint commission for exploiting Caspian mineral resources. KYRGYZ PREMIER SAYS RUSSIAN TV BROADCASTS TO CONTINUE. Apas Djumagulov on 13 October confirmed he will not allow the rebroadcasting of Russian Public Television (ORT), Russian Television (RTR), and Radio Mayak programs to be halted, ITAR-TASS reported. Kyrgyz TV and radio relay stations had decided to stop retransmission until the three broadcasters pay their outstanding debts to the Kyrgyz Ministry of Communications. Oruzbek Kaiykov, the head of the Kyrgyzstan Information Agency, told journalists in Bishkek on 13 October that ORT owes some 3 billion Russian rubles ($600,000) RTR 837.5 million rubles, and Radio Mayak 869 million rubles, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in the Kyrgyz capital. Kaiykov said Djumagulov asked the parliament to include in the 1998 draft budget some 6 million soms ($350,000) toward the cost of rebroadcasting Russian television and radio programs in Kyrgyzstan. ARMENIAN PRESIDENT RATIFIES HAIRUSGASARD AGREEMENT. Levon Ter-Petrossyan has ratified the 30 August agreement creating the Hairusgasard joint venture, Interfax reported on 13 October . The agreement, concluded by the Armenian government, Russia's Gazprom, and the ITERA international gas transportation company, covers the construction of a pipeline network and the use of that network to export Russian gas via Armenia to Turkey and from there to other countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1997). The Armenian government ratified the agreement on 23 September. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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