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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 140, Part I, 16 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 *DUMA POSTPONES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE *COMMUNISTS SET FOR NEGOTIATIONS WITH GOVERNMENT *ATTACK ON TAJIK PRESIDENTIAL GUARD LEAVES FOURTEEN DEAD End Note IS YELTSIN'S PROPOSED KARABAKH SUMMIT A NON-STARTER? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA DUMA POSTPONES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. The State Duma on 15 October postponed a vote of no confidence in the government following a last-minute appeal from President Boris Yeltsin, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Shortly before the vote was to take place, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev announced that Yeltsin had phoned him twice to ask communist deputies to withdraw their appeal for a no-confidence vote. He quoted Yeltsin as saying that he does not want early parliamentary elections and that the government will "draw conclusions from the criticism voiced today." He also offered to create a "round table" involving all branches of government. Following Seleznev's remarks, the Duma took a recess, after which the communist faction called for delaying consideration of the confidence motion until 22 October. That motion passed with 228 votes, just two more than the 226 needed for passage. The Agrarian, Popular Power, and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia factions all supported the motion. PRO-GOVERNMENT FACTION REGRETS DELAY. The pro-government Duma faction Our Home Is Russia (NDR) opposed the decision to postpone the no-confidence vote, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. In an interview with RFE/RL, Duma First Deputy Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov of NDR argued that Russia now faces yet another week of "mutual recriminations and uncertainty," during which the state will be "paralyzed." He noted that Yeltsin asked communist deputies to withdraw, not merely delay, their demand for a no-confidence vote. COMMUNISTS SET FOR NEGOTIATIONS WITH GOVERNMENT. Duma Speaker Seleznev on 16 October announced that Yeltsin has agreed to meet with the prime minister and the speakers of both houses of the parliament on 20 October, Interfax reported. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, like Seleznev a prominent Communist, said that during negotiations with the government, the opposition will seek the dismissal of some cabinet members, including First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais. Ilyukhin also said the opposition will demand "broad access to the media." The previous day, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin promised Duma deputies that the lower house will be given its own newspaper and a regular program on state-owned television, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Chernomyrdin also said Seleznev will be invited to join public councils to be formed at Russian Public Television and Russian Television, the nationwide networks that broadcast on Channels 1 and 2. YAVLINSKII BLASTS COMMUNISTS. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 15 October, Yabloko leader Yavlinskii blasted the Communists for their tactics over the no-confidence vote. Yavlinskii argued that the Communists had first drafted a confidence motion criticizing economic reforms, which "no one but they could vote for," and had then backed off from a no-confidence vote. In his speech to the Duma earlier that day, Yavlinskii said the Communist Party must share responsibility for the current state of affairs in the country, since most Communists and their allies voted for the 1997 budget and for other government initiatives. He added that "the left-wing majority [in the Duma] will do what it is told." Yavlinskii has frequently described his own movement as the only "real opposition" in the parliament, charging that the government has a secret alliance with the Communists and with Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. FEDERATION COUNCIL APPEALS TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT... The Federation Council on 15 October voted to appeal to the Constitutional Court against Yeltsin's refusal to sign the trophy art law and the law on the government, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported. The Duma and the Council overrode Yeltsin's vetoes of both laws earlier this year. Although Article 107 of the constitution requires the president to sign laws within seven days if the parliament overrides his veto, Yeltsin charged that unconstitutional voting procedures were used to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority in the parliament. The Duma recently appealed to the Constitutional Court against Yeltsin's refusal to sign the law on the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1997). ..AND TO GOVERNMENT. Also on 15 October, the Federation Council appealed to the government to allocate more funds to the State Tax Service and the court system. The resolution said funding for the tax service was 1.13 trillion rubles ($193 million) short of budgeted levels in 1996 and 800 billion rubles down on projected amounts for the first eight months of 1997. During the first nine months of this year, the Constitutional Court faced a funding shortfall of 2.2 billion rubles, the Supreme Court 5.5 billion rubles, arbitration courts 37 billion rubles, and other federal courts 343 billion rubles. The same day, the Council approved a law outlining the method for calculating the subsistence level (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October 1997). However, deputies failed to override a presidential veto of a law on protecting Lake Baikal, ITAR-TASS reported. DUMA OBJECTS TO CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS. The Duma on 15 October asked its Security Committee to prepare an appeal to the Prosecutor-General's Office to examine recent allegations by Duma deputy Konstantin Borovoi, Russian news agencies reported. Borovoi alleged that there is widespread corruption and lobbying on behalf of corporate interests within the Duma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October 1997). The Security Committee will ask prosecutors to investigate whether Borovoi can be charged with "slandering the Duma." AGRICULTURAL WORKERS PICKET WHITE HOUSE. Some 3,000 agricultural workers demonstrated outside government headquarters on 15 October in a protest organized by the opposition Agrarian Party of Russia, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Duma Speaker Seleznev, Popular Power faction leader Nikolai Ryzhkov, and Communist Duma deputy Vladimir Semago were among the politicians who addressed the demonstration. According to ITAR- TASS, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin met with representatives of the demonstrators and promised them that the government "will work in close contact" with representatives of agricultural workers to solve the problems of the agrarian sector. The draft budget for 1998 calls for sharp cuts in agricultural subsidies. KOKH CONFIDENT HIS CASE WON'T GO TO COURT. Former State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh told ITAR-TASS on 15 October that he believes the criminal case against him will not go to court because, he stressed, he has committed no crime. He argued that he declared and paid taxes on a $100,000 payment from the Swiss firm Servina, which, according to Kokh, purchased the rights to his forthcoming book on privatization. "Segodnya" argued on 11 October that the 1995 law on state service prohibits officials from collecting fees or royalties for speeches or publications based on their civil service. The newspaper argued that Kokh is therefore not legally entitled to receive payment for a book about privatization in Russia. NEWSPAPER EDITOR RESIGNS FROM MOSCOW CITY GOVERNMENT. Pavel Gusev, the editor in chief of the popular Moscow daily "Moskovskii komsomolets," has resigned as minister of information in the Moscow city government, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 October. He had held that post since January 1992. Gusev will continue to advise the Moscow government but will not draw a salary in that capacity. "Kommersant-Daily" argued that Gusev's resignation may be connected with a recent court complaint filed by Moscow Prosecutor Gennadii Ponomarev, who charged that anti- monopoly legislation does not allow officials to conduct business activities (such as running a newspaper). As minister of information, Gusev was responsible for placing advertisements on Moscow streets. "Moskovskii komsomolets" has consistently supported Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. During the last year, it has published a number of articles implicating some federal government officials, especially First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais, in crimes or corruption. 'IZVESTIYA' SLAMS 'BANK WAR' AGAINST GOVERNMENT. Writing in "Izvestiya" on 15 October, economist Andrei Illarionov accused unnamed leading businessmen of continuing the "bank war" sparked by controversial privatization auctions in the summer and of coordinating their actions with the government's communist opponents. Illarionov charged that Russia's "fat cats" are angry because the government ended its long-standing practice of in effect subsidizing commercial banks through loan guarantees and allowing the banks to handle budget funds. He accused the businessmen of fighting back by "generously paying the media under their control," threatening to release compromising information about government figures, and even resorting to "Stalinist" warnings that Russia's national security is threatened. (The last point is an apparent reference to Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii's recent charge that U.S. citizen Boris Jordan, who heads a bank linked to Oneksimbank, has gained access to state secrets.) Oneksimbank is a major shareholder in "Izvestiya." 'NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA' SKEPTICAL ABOUT SERIES ON SIBERIAN MAYOR. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 October questioned the motives behind an investigative series published in "Izvestiya" last month on alleged crimes committed by Gennadii Konyakhin, the mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetskii, Kemerovo Oblast. Yeltsin praised the "Izvestiya" reports and sent a special investigative team to Kemerovo. Konyakhin has since been arrested. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" argued that the "Izvestiya" series was inspired either by one organized crime group to discredit another or by the Kremlin to launch the president's battle against corruption in the regions. The 16 October "Izvestiya" published an angry front-page article denying that the series on Leninsk-Kuznetskii was "paid for" or motivated by anything other than the search for the truth. "Izvestiya" lamented that Russian journalists have stopped believing in one another. It also warned that such cynicism could eventually cost journalists not only the public's trust but media freedom as well. COURT ADDS TO CONFUSION OVER VLADIVOSTOK LEADERSHIP DISPUTE. The Primorskii Krai Court has ruled that the regional legislature acted within its powers when it suspended Viktor Cherepkov as mayor of Vladivostok and appointed Yurii Kopylov acting mayor, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 October. The court overturned a ruling by a Vladivostok district court that had declared Kopylov's appointment illegal. Primore's top prosecutor and presidential representative have also denounced the Kopylov appointment, and a criminal case was recently opened against Kopylov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 8 October 1997). Cherepkov, who remains hospitalized following an operation, does not recognize the krai legislature's action and has designated Nikolai Markovtsev to serve as acting mayor during his convalescence. Kopylov also checked into hospital recently with heart problems, according to the 16 October "Kommersant-Daily." OREL COURT RULES AGAINST WOULD-BE CANDIDATES. The Orel Oblast Court on 15 October rejected appeals by two would-be candidates in the upcoming gubernatorial election, "Kommersant- Daily" reported. Sergei Isakov of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and Vladimir Kapustyanskii, a former head of the Orel branch of the Interior Ministry, say they were unfairly denied registration by the regional electoral commission. They have vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court, but the case is unlikely to change the outcome of the race. Current Governor Yegor Stroev is expected to win the 26 October election hands down. NEW MOVES TO OVERCOME NORTH OSSETIAN-INGUSH TENSIONS. Akhsarbek Galazov and Ruslan Aushev, the presidents of North Ossetia and Ingushetia, and Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin have signed a 50-point program outlining measures to be undertaken jointly to deal with the aftermath of the November 1992 fighting in North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodnyi Raion, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 October. The Russian government is required to ensure that the 1998 budget includes funds for the reconstruction of housing for families whose homes were destroyed. The program also targets the region's high crime rate and provides for a conference of representatives of federation subjects to discuss the situation in the North Caucasus. The signing of the program was delayed for several weeks because Galazov had been ill. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ATTACK ON TAJIK PRESIDENTIAL GUARD LEAVES FOURTEEN DEAD. Some 80 gunmen attacked the Dushanbe headquarters of the presidential guard during the early morning of 16 October, killing up to 14 servicemen, including five officers. Four of the gunmen were also killed. Presidential guard commander Gafur Mirzoyev said the identity and affiliation of the attackers are unknown. President Imomali Rakhmonov will personally monitor the Interior Ministry investigation into the attack. At a meeting on 14 October in Dushanbe, the opposition field commanders who control Lenin and Kofarnikhon Raions, east of Dushanbe, had agreed to comply with United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri's orders for tougher discipline and a halt to looting and unauthorized attacks. They had also agreed to cooperate with government forces in the fight against crime and unauthorized military formations, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and Interfax on 16 October. IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN DUSHANBE. Kamal Kharrazi met in Dushanbe on 15 October with President Rakhmonov to discuss bilateral relations, the implementation of the peace accord, and the situation in Afghanistan. Kharrazi also met with Prime Minister Yakhya Azimov with whom he discussed the possibility of increased Iranian investment in prospecting for oil and gas in Tajikistan and of creating a quadrilateral commission for trade and economic cooperation in Central Asia, according to ITAR-TASS. At a meeting with Nuri, the UTO leader expressed his gratitude to the Iranian leadership for its role as a guarantor of the peace process. In Tehran, however, Minister of Culture Ataollah Mohajerani issued a statement on 15 October protesting the removal of signs in Farsi from shop fronts and other public places in Dushanbe as well as the closure of a Farsi-language bookstore in the Tajik capital. SUPPORT GROWS FOR KAZAKH PROTEST MARCHERS. A member of the lower chamber of the parliament has called on the government to do everything in its power to expedite the payment of wage arrears to the 2,000 workers from the Achisay Polymetal Plant, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 16 October. The workers and their families began a protest march to Almaty earlier this month but were intercepted by police near the city of Turkestan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 15 October 1997). Meanwhile the marchers released a statement to Kazakh and foreign journalists appealing to all political parties and movements for their backing. Miners in the eastern city of Leninogorsk have organized a support group, which has begun to collect food and money to be sent to the marchers. UKRAINE, KYRGYZSTAN PLEDGE TO INCREASE TRADE. Meeting in Bishkek on 15 October, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev said their countries will increase the volume of bilateral trade at least tenfold in 1998, ITAR-TASS reported. Total turnover between the two countries so far this year is less than $6 million. AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT PROPOSES AMNESTY FOR DESERTERS. Heidar Aliev has submitted to the parliament a draft law calling for an amnesty for those serving prison sentences for desertion and other military crimes, Turan and Interfax reported on 15 October. The amnesty covers not only servicemen who participated in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict but also invalids and people whose close relatives or underage children died in the war. In a swipe at the Azerbaijan Popular Front government, Aliev said it is unjust that people should serve prison terms for military crimes committed during a period of "havoc and anarchy" in the armed forces. This anarchy, Aliev continued, resulted from the "absence of a regular army, discipline, and military command." ARMENIAN, FRENCH PRESIDENTS MEET. Commenting on his talks in Paris with his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, Levon Ter- Petrossyan expressed satisfaction that France gives a high priority to relations with Armenia, Noyan Tapan reported. Chirac termed bilateral relations "favorable." Both presidents were cautiously optimistic about the prospects for resolving the Karabakh conflict, but Ter-Petrossyan later made it clear that Armenia will attend the Moscow summit on Karabakh proposed by Chirac and Russian President Boris Yeltsin only if representatives from Nagorno- Karabakh are also invited. No date has yet been set for that meeting. Ter-Petrossyan rejected suggestions that discord exists between Armenia and Karabakh over the peace process. Ter-Petrossyan also appealed to Chirac to release former ASALA activist Varouzhan Karapetian, currently serving life imprisonment in France for his role in the 1983 Orly airport bombing, in which seven people were killed. END NOTE IS YELTSIN'S PROPOSED KARABAKH SUMMIT A NON-STARTER? Emil Danielyan and Liz Fuller Recent developments may either give new impetus to the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process or deadlock it once again. Over a 10-course gourmet dinner in Strasbourg on the eve of the 10-11 October Council of Europe summit, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, decided to invite the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Levon Ter-Petrossyan and Heidar Aliev, to Moscow for talks under the auspices of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, which since 1992 has been engaged in mediating a settlement of the Karabakh conflict. Russia and France, together with the U.S,. are the co-chairmen of the Minsk Group, and Yeltsin said that U.S. participation would be welcome. He did not, however, indicate whether Arkadii Ghukasyan, the president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, would also be invited. Ter-Petrossyan and Aliev on 10 October issued a joint statement calling for talks within the framework of the Minsk Group that would include all three parties to the conflict. Their statement also described as "encouraging" the most recent draft peace plan proposed by the Minsk Group. That plan envisages a "step-by-step" approach to resolving the conflict whereby a decision on Nagorno-Karabakh's status is to be preceded by the withdrawal of Armenian forces from six occupied raions in Azerbaijan, the lifting of Azerbaijan's blockade of Armenia, the repatriation of displaced persons and refugees, and other confidence- building measures. Azerbaijan gave its written consent to those proposals on 8 October. The following day, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparyan said that Yerevan has officially accepted the plan "as a basis for further negotiations" but has unspecified serious reservations about it. The Karabakh Armenian leadership, for its part, has consistently advocated a "package" solution to the conflict that would resolve all contentious issues within a single framework document. The Karabakh Armenians argue that a phased solution is dangerous because it obliges them to withdraw from the Azerbaijani territory under their control--their main bargaining chip--but gives no guarantee that Baku will not attack Nagorno-Karabakh after the first stage of the peace process. Having regained its lost territories, they reason, oil-rich Azerbaijan may be tempted to solve the dispute by force. Naira Melkumyan, Nagorno-Karabakh's permanent representative in Yerevan, announced on 11 October that Stepanakert has formally rejected the "step-by-step" peace plan. She said a withdrawal from occupied Azerbaijani territory is possible only if there are international guarantees of Nagorno-Karabakh's "security and future status." She also proposed that Armenia and a number of foreign countries, including Iran, act as guarantors of Karabakh's security. Ghukasyan has similarly proposed a role for Iran in the peace process. The U.S., however, will reject such a proposal out of hand, and Azerbaijan and Turkey (which is a Minsk Group member) are likely to express reservations. Moreover, Iran is not a member of the OSCE, which Armenia and Azerbaijan have just termed the most appropriate forum for talks on resolving the conflict. Diverging views within the Armenian leadership could pose a further obstacle to the peace process. Speaking at a press conference on 26 September, Ter-Petrossyan affirmed that "unilateral demands" for Nagorno-Karabakh's secession from Azerbaijan are unrealistic and will not be tolerated by the international community. Ter- Petrossyan said Armenia must be ready to make "serious concessions" if it is to become a "normal country" and if it is not to lose more in the long run. He drew a parallel with the Croatian Serbs, who lost their self-proclaimed republic in 1995. Predictably, Ter-Petrossyan's statements were condemned by the Armenian opposition as "capitulation and surrender." But some influential members of the Armenian leadership--including Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisyan (both former war-time leaders of Nagorno- Karabakh) and hard-line Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan--are likewise believed to harbor objections. Some Armenian observers have speculated that Ter- Petrossyan's 26 September statements were a diplomatic ruse aimed at preempting international pressure over the Armenians' refusal to recognize Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. By blaming the Karabakh Armenians for that refusal, those observers argue, Ter-Petrossyan wanted to create the image of a "realist" leader having to deal with "intransigent nationalists." But Ghukasyan's repeated offer to cede part of Karabakh's de facto independence and conclude an accord creating a confederation with Baku that would preserve Azerbaijan's territorial integrity in effect renders such an argument irrelevant, if not invalid. At the same time, Baku will appear obdurate if it refuses--as it almost certainly will-- to discuss the "confederation" option for Nagorno-Karabakh. Paradoxically, while Ter-Petrossyan's and Ghukasyan's expressed willingness to compromise over Karabakh's future status could expedite a breakthrough in the peace process, disagreement over long-term security guarantees for the Karabakh population could just as easily deadlock it--unless, that is, the OSCE agrees to provide those security guarantees for Karabakh in order to exclude Iran. In fact, this may be precisely what Ter-Petrossyan, a consummate strategic thinker, has in mind. Emil Danielyan is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Yerevan. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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