|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 139, Part I, 15 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 * CHUBAIS WARNS DUMA ON NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE * CHUBAIS WARNS DUMA ON NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE * STANDOFF IN SOUTHERN KAZAKHSTAN CONTINUES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA CHUBAIS WARNS DUMA ON NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais announced on 15 October that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will resign if the State Duma approves a vote of no confidence, after which "everything will be in the hands" of President Boris Yeltsin, Russian news agencies reported. Speaking to a meeting of the State Property Ministry, Chubais said that "deputies in several weeks will have either to drop their decision or prepare for new [parliamentary] elections." He added that government experts calculate that a no-confidence vote could mean that Russian companies' shares trading on European financial markets lose $300-400 million in value. The same day, First Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Kirienko warned that a no- confidence vote would harm the economy by causing a 30-50 percent drop in share values for Russian energy companies, ITAR- TASS reported. The Duma is to debate the confidence motion on 15 October. SELEZNEV WARNS CHUBAIS COULD BE APPOINTED PREMIER. Appearing on NTV on 14 October, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a prominent Communist, warned that if Prime Minister Chernomyrdin steps down, Yeltsin could appoint Chubais prime minister. Chubais is far more disliked by the left opposition in the Duma deputies than is Chernomyrdin. The constitution gives the president the right to dissolve the Duma if deputies refuse three times to approve his nominee for prime minister. Interfax quoted Seleznev as saying that Duma deputies "are prepared to work and find common ground with the prime minister," who, according to Seleznev, supports many of the Duma's positions. "The worst injustice is that by removing the prime minister we will still have to deal with the same deputy prime ministers and ministers with whom the differences are the greatest," he added. DEPUTIES TO CAST OPEN BALLOTS ON CONFIDENCE VOTE. The Duma on 15 October rejected a proposal by Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, which would have allowed deputies to cast secret ballots on the upcoming confidence motion, ITAR-TASS reported. Zhirinovsky has announced that the LDPR faction will not support the no-confidence motion. His proposal would have allowed government opponents to vote against the motion without losing face. However, Duma procedures require open voting on confidence motions. Communist deputy Igor Bratishchev said the communist faction will insist on a roll-call vote. YABLOKO, COMMUNISTS DIFFER OVER WORDING OF CONFIDENCE MOTION. Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko faction, which has repeatedly called for voting no confidence in the government, is at odds with communist deputies over the wording of the motion to be submitted to the Duma, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 15 October. Yabloko and the Communists have proposed different drafts of the statement, which outlines why the Duma is dissatisfied with the government. Reuters quoted Yavlinskii as saying that the Communists' motion criticizes market reforms, while Yabloko believes the government should do more to establish a market economy. If Yabloko's 46 deputies back the no-confidence motion, it is expected to pass. It is unclear whether the Communist, Popular Power, and Agrarian factions can find enough allies from other factions or independents to attain the necessary 226 votes if Yabloko and the Communists are unable to agree on an acceptable wording. FEDERATION COUNCIL DEPUTIES AGAINST NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. The Federation Council on 15 October adopted a resolution calling for cooperation between the president, government, and both houses of the parliament. The resolution says that the upper house shares the concerns of Duma deputies over Russia's current condition and the implementation of economic reforms. It calls for a "round table" representing all branches of government, political parties, regional leaders, and trade unions. (Communist politicians and their allies have repeatedly called for such a round table.) Although the resolution does not directly address the upcoming no-confidence vote in the Duma, Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev and other influential members of the upper house told journalists on 15 October that Russia would not benefit from a government crisis. Noting that he recently met with Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Seleznev, Stroev predicted that the crisis will be resolved, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. OFFICIAL THREATENS KREMLIN COULD CHANGE ELECTORAL LAW. An unnamed government official told ITAR-TASS on 15 October that if the Duma is dissolved and new parliamentary elections called, the procedures for conducting those elections are likely to be changed. The official said Yeltsin could issue a decree eliminating the current system of proportional representation whereby half of the 450 Duma deputies are elected. Kremlin strategists believe that proportional representation benefits opposition parties and that pro-government candidates have better prospects if they campaign in single-member districts. Neither Yeltsin nor the government has the right to change the law on parliamentary elections, adopted in 1995, without parliamentary approval. Article 90 of the constitution stipulates that the president cannot issue decrees that contradict federal laws. DUMA HEARINGS ON CHECHNYA INCONCLUSIVE. Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov, and the chairman of the Duma Committee on Nationalities, Vladimir Zorin, addressed a closed Duma session convened on 14 October to consider two draft accords on Russian-Chechen relations. Rybkin stressed the need for "great patience" in the negotiating process and expressed regret that Grozny had decided not to send a delegation to attend the hearings. He called on the "legally elected Chechen parliament" to engage in a dialogue with the Duma. But in Grozny, the Chechen parliament issued a statement affirming that Chechnya's sovereignty is "permanent and not subject to division." The statement also warned against attempts to "drag Chechnya into Russia," Interfax reported. In an interview in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 October, Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov stressed again that by signing the 12 May peace treaty, Russia formally acknowledged Chechnya is an independent state. MOSCOW TO STOP PAYING FOR MAINTENANCE OF FEDERAL FACILITIES? The Moscow city government will stop paying maintenance costs for federal facilities if compensation payments for the capital are not added to the planned 1998 budget expenditures, Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced on 14 October. Luzhkov charged that the plan to deprive Moscow of the compensation payments is a "political measure" taken by some government officials against him, Russian news agencies reported. He called for signing contracts between city and federal institutions on maintenance payments for federal facilities. In addition, the Moscow Property Committee is to draft regulations on federal institutions' rent payments whereby Moscow would reduce its contributions to the federal budget if federal institutions fell into debt to the city. HIV, TUBERCULOSIS CASES IN PRISONS INCREASING. Major-General Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov, the head of the prison department of the Interior Ministry, says some 1,179 Russian convicts have HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), an almost fourfold increase over 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 October. Ovchinnikov said 74,000 prisoners are infected with tuberculosis. Yeltsin has proposed that the Duma amnesty some prisoners, including those infected with tuberculosis, although opponents have warned that such an amnesty could lead to a major outbreak of tuberculosis in Russia. Ovchinnikov also expressed doubt that a rapid transfer to the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry will solve the main problem of the prison system, which, he said, is a lack of financing, Reuters reported. But Justice Minister Sergei Stepashin told journalists the same day that the transfer will be completed by the end of 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August and 13 October 1997). DEATH SENTENCES CONTINUE DESPITE BAN ON EXECUTIONS. Ovchinnikov also announced on 14 October that 846 Russian prisoners are currently on death row, Interfax reported. He predicted that the number of criminals sentenced to death could grow to 5,000 over the next three years, although he noted that no executions of Russian prisoners have been carried out since Yeltsin declared a moratorium in August 1996. In his recent speech to the Council of Europe summit, Yeltsin said Russia will continue to observe a ban on capital punishment in accordance with recommendations of the Council of Europe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1997). But Russian courts may still hand down death sentences. A court in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast on 14 October sentenced two men to death for planning and carrying out a hired killing. IRREGULARITIES MAR OREL GUBERNATORIAL CAMPAIGN. Governor Yegor Stroev, the speaker of the Federation Council, continues to benefit from the way the gubernatorial campaign in Orel Oblast is being conducted, an RFE/RL correspondent in Orel reported on 14 October. Only Stroev and collective farm head Vera Yenina have been registered for the 26 October election. Supporters of two other would-be candidates have appealed to the Orel Oblast Court. Those candidates are Vladimir Isakov of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and Vladimir Kapustyanskii, who is supported by the regional branch of Yegor Gaidar's party Russia's Democratic Choice. Although the court is legally obliged to resolve the case within 72 hours, court hearings have dragged on for 12 days. The delay helps Stroev, since unregistered candidates may not engage in campaign activities. Valerii Savin, the chairman of the Orel Oblast Duma's Legislation Committee, told RFE/RL that the case is likely to reach the Supreme Court eventually. REGISTRATION RESTORED TO LUTHERAN MISSION IN KHAKASSIA. The Justice Ministry of the Republic of Khakassia has restored the registration of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in the republic, the Keston News Service reported on 10 October. Khakassian authorities recently revoked the mission's registration, citing Russia's new religion law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 1997). The Justice Ministry reversed the decision following complaints by two pastors working for the mission. But in a meeting with the pastors, Nikolai Volkov, the Khakassian official in charge of religious affairs, pledged to continue trying to close down the mission and warned the pastors not to seek help from outside the republic. According to Pastor Vsevolod Lytkin, Volkov said staff working for Prime Minister Chernomyrdin had called his office to inquire about the case. The mission continues to hold Lutheran services. RUSSIA DENIES THREATENING TURKEY. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin on 14 October condemned Turkish media statements alleging Russia has "aggressive intentions toward Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean," Interfax reported. The "Turkish Daily News" on 11 October had quoted Russian Ambassador to Greek Cyprus Georgii Muradov as saying that if Turkey attacked ships carrying S-300 missiles to Cyprus via the Turkish straits, Moscow would consider such an attack a "reason for war." Two days later, ITAR-TASS quoted Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Ioannis Cranidiotis as saying the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles will be deployed on Cyprus only "after the summer of 1998," which, he said, allows time for the demilitarization of the divided island. Under the original purchase agreement, the S-300s were to be delivered to Cyprus in early 1998. KARABAKH PRESIDENT IN MOSCOW. Arkadii Ghukasyan, the president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, held talks in Moscow on 13 October with Duma Speaker Seleznev and the leaders of four Duma factions, including Gennadii Zyuganov of the Communists, Russian media reported. In an interview in "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 October, Ghukasyan said he met with "understanding" at the talks. At the same time, he stressed the Russian Foreign Ministry has "a monopoly" on mediating a solution to the Karabakh conflict and regards the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group as the optimal forum for such mediation. He also said he neither shares nor approves Armenia's current "superconstructive" approach to resolving the Karabakh conflict. Meanwhile, the Karabakh presidential press service on 14 October issued a denial that Ghukasyan had said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy that Karabakh "is ready to submit to Azerbaijan's authority," Noyan Tapan reported. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA CHECHEN VICE PRESIDENT IN BAKU. During a week-long visit to Baku, Vakha Arsanov held talks with Prime Minister Artur Rasi-Zade and Deputy Premier Abbas Abbasov to discuss economic cooperation, in particular Azerbaijani assistance in restoring the Chechen oil, power- generating, and machine-building sectors, Turan and Russian agencies reported. Before departing for Tbilisi on 14 October, Arsanov met with President Heidar Aliev, who called for a peaceful solution to all conflicts in the Caucasus. Arsanov and Aliev also discussed the possibility of building an oil export pipeline from Grozny through Georgia to the Black Sea. THREE CIS PRESIDENTS SUPPORT BALTIC-BLACK SEA SUMMIT PROPOSAL. At meetings in Strasbourg on 10-11 October on the sidelines of the Council of Europe summit, Eduard Shevardnadze (Georgia), Heidar Aliev (Azerbaijan), and Petru Lucinschi (Moldova) affirmed their support for Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's proposal to convene a summit of Baltic and Black Sea leaders in Crimea in 1999. Kuchma made the proposal in Vilnius in early September at a meeting of Eastern and Central European leaders. In a statement released by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on 14 October, the four presidents called for greater cooperation among themselves in order to build a "stable and secure Europe." Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine created an informal alignment in late 1996 as a counterbalance to the CIS. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CASTS DOUBT ON CIS'S FUTURE... Meanwhile, Kuchma told journalists in Almaty, where he arrived on 14 October for an official visit, that the CIS "in its current form" has exhausted itself as an institution, ITAR-TASS reported. Kuchma was particularly critical of the customs union of four countries within the CIS, which, he said, is a serious obstacle to trade within the commonwealth as a whole. ...MEETS WITH KAZAKH COUNTERPART. Also on 14 October, Leonid Kuchma met with his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Russian agencies reported. At a joint press conference, Nazarbayev characterized bilateral relations as "amicable" and affirmed that the two countries have the same views on all global problems, according to Interfax. He also said that Kazakhstan will consider any option for exporting its oil, including via Ukraine. The two presidents signed a declaration on bilateral cooperation, and five inter-governmental agreements were signed, including one designating an area of Kazakhstan in which parts of Ukraine's Zenit rockets will fall back to earth. Several Kazakh Senate members, including Engels Gabbasov, protested that accord at a meeting with Kuchma on 15 October, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Gabbasov said he opposes allowing Ukraine or any other CIS state to use Kazakh territory for military experiments. STANDOFF IN SOUTHERN KAZAKHSTAN CONTINUES. The 2,000 Achisay Polymetal plant workers prevented by police from continuing their protest march to Almaty have refused an offer by the governor of Southern Kazakhstan Oblast to pay some of the wage arrears they are demanding, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 15 October. The protesters continue to hold out for full payment of back wages totaling 100 million tenges (some $1.35 million). They warn they will seek the ouster of President Nazarbayev if their demands are not met by 16 October. The plant's administration has begun paying wage arrears from January and February to staff members not taking part in the protest march. KAZAKH PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW CHIEF OF STATE OIL COMPANY. Nazarbayev on 14 October issued a decree naming Baltabek Quandiqov, the director of the Kazakhstan Kaspishelf Consortium, as president of Kazakhoil, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Observers had predicted that Nazarbayev's son-in-law Timur Kuligov, who is deputy head of Kazakhoil, would be promoted to that position following the 10 October appointment of the company's former director, Nurlan Balgimbaev, as prime minister. Also on 14 October, Grigorii Marchenko, an economist tasked with creating a national stock market, resigned because of delays in launching the market, Reuters reported. KYRGYZ PRESIDENT WANTS MORE FOREIGN INVESTMENT. Addressing the opening session of the parliament on 14 October, Askar Akaev said attracting private investment is one of the government's top priorities over the next three years, ITAR-TASS reported. Increased investment is one of the main pillars of the 1998-2000 economic stabilization program to be drawn up by the government and the IMF. Akaev noted that GDP grew by 19.2 percent over the first nine months of this year and exports by 10 percent. At the same time, he noted that trade with other CIS states has fallen by 20 percent. He warned that the government will cease privileged subsidies to large and medium-sized enterprises in 1998. More than 50 percent of all the country's enterprises are either idle or unprofitable. UPDATE ON TURKMEN-IRANIAN OIL TALKS. Speaking at a press conference in Ashgabat on 14 October at the end of Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi's two-day visit, Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov said Turkmenistan will not offer for tender oil and gas deposits located on the border between the two countries' sectors of the Caspian, Interfax reported. Shikhmuradov said Ashgabat and Tehran will jointly exploit those deposits with the possible participation of foreign companies. The two foreign ministers also affirmed their support for the creation of a coalition government in Afghanistan in which all warring factions would be represented, ITAR-TASS reported. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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