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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 141, Part I, 17 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 CENTRAL ASIA IN TRANSITION: Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. This six-part report on the RFE/RL Web site details how much has changed since the collapse of the USSR -- and how much has not. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/asia/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN CALLS FOR ROUND-TABLE TALKS WITH OPPOSITION * U.S. THREATENS SANCTIONS AGAINST GAZPROM * TAJIK POLICE DETAIN FOUR IN CONNECTION WITH KILLINGS End Note HOW THE CIS MAY END xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN CALLS FOR ROUND-TABLE TALKS WITH OPPOSITION. President Boris Yeltsin, speaking in his weekly radio address on 17 October, appealed to opposition leaders in the Duma to hold round- table talks ahead of a no-confidence vote planned for 22 October. Yeltsin said representatives of the executive and the legislature should search for compromises in the current political crisis over the draft 1998 budget. But he added that whatever happens, Russia's political system is now stable enough to "survive all political cataclysms without fear." Yeltsin said the time of putsches and plots has gone forever. COMMUNISTS HINT THEY MAY DROP NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE DEMAND. Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev on 16 October hinted that communist deputies, who put the no-confidence motion on the agenda, may be willing to support the government if Yeltsin agrees to certain conditions. He told ITAR-TASS the Communists' main demand is that Yeltsin sign a law whereby a successful no-confidence vote against the government would mean the automatic resignation of the prime minister and the cabinet. Under current rules, the Duma must pass a second no-confidence motion in three months before any action can be taken. The president can then dissolve the lower house. U.S. THREATENS SANCTIONS AGAINST GAZPROM. Meeting in Moscow on 15 October with Rem Vyakhirev, the chairman of the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, U.S. Ambassador James Collins warned that the U.S. may apply sanctions against the company because of its participation in developing an Iranian gas field together with Iranian, French, and Malaysian oil companies. Vyakhirev responded that the deal is purely commercial and that Gazprom "has never violated Russian, Iranian, or international laws and does not intend to do so", Interfax reported. He added that the threat of sanctions "is unacceptable for Gazprom." Previously, Vyakhirev had said his company had considered the possibility of sanctions but had concluded it would be "madness" not to participate in the $2 billion deal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 1997). FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES CONTACTS WITH PKK. Spokesman Gennadii Tarasov has denied that the Foreign Ministry coordinated contacts between the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Russian State Duma deputies. The denial was released to Interfax for circulation on 16 October. Tarasov said Russia supports a peaceful political settlement of the Kurdish problem whereby the territorial integrity of those states with a Kurdish minority is preserved. Chairman of the Duma Committee for Geopolitics Aleksei Mitrofanov had told journalists on 10 October that Duma deputies from several factions, including those of Vladimir Zhirinovksy's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Yabloko, and the Communist Party, met with PKK chairman Abdullah Ocalan in an unidentified country in early October. Those deputies later advocated that Turkey and Kurdistan create a federation. Ocalan went on trial in absentia in Turkey on 13 October. He is charged with treason. DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS MILITARY ENTERPRISES MUST CONSOLIDATE. Igor Sergeev has said the military-industrial complex must be consolidated and made more efficient if it is to survive. During his two-day tour of military bases in Central Russia, Sergeev said the Defense Ministry will be able to pay only 500,000 workers and soldiers this year out of its budget and only 780,000 in 1998, "Krasnaya Zvezda" reported on 16 October. The newspaper noted that some 2.5 million people currently work in the military sector. Sergeev also said research institutes and military manufacturers will have to compete in the market place to stay afloat. He noted that it makes little sense for Russia to have 37 separate aircraft manufacturing plants and for its design bureaus to be developing six new fighter jets, when the U.S. is working on just two and Europe one. DEFENSE MINISTRY FUND-RAISES AMONG BANKERS. Meanwhile in Moscow, the Defense Ministry is renewing its attempt to enlist financial support from the country's bankers, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 October. At a conference entitled "Non-Budgetary Sources of Financing--The Needs of National Defense," senior defense officials met with representatives of leading Russian banks in a fund- raising effort. Among those attending were managers from Menatep Bank, Oneksimbank, Sberbank, and Bank Rossiiskii Kredit, all of whom said they are willing to help the ailing defense sector but noted the ministry must open its accounting books and draw up precise rules for involvement. "Kommersant-Daily" commented that no agreements were signed and the atmosphere among the bankers and generals remained somewhat strained. RUSSIA SIGNS DEAL TO MODERNIZE MALAYSIA'S MIG FIGHTERS. Representatives of Russia's state-owned arms export agency, Rosvoorzuzhenie and the MiG aircraft manufacturer, have signed a $32 million deal to modernize Malaysia's current fleet of MiG-29 fighter planes. Interfax reported on 16 October that under the contract, concluded in Kuala Lumpur, 18 jets received by Malaysia in 1994 will be equipped with a mid-air refueling system that meets NATO standards, a larger payload, and more advanced weaponry. RUSSIA STILL MAIN TRANSIT ROUTE FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO EUROPE. Tatyana Regent, the head of the Russian Federal Migration Service, has said Russia remains the main transit route for illegal immigration to Central and Western Europe. Speaking to RFE/RL during a visit to Prague, Regent said illegal immigrants in Russia are currently thought to number some 700,000. She said the main destinations for illegal immigrants transiting through Russia are Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania. Smugglers charge $10 dollars a head for passage to Belarus and as much as $1,000 for other destinations. Regent said the flow of illegal immigrants into Russia is facilitated by the visa-free travel regime with other CIS countries. She added that she hoped an agreement on joint efforts to combat organized crime will be reached at the summit of CIS leaders in Chisinau on 22-23 October. NO HEATING IN VLADIVOSTOK. The heating season in the port of Vladivostok has been postponed for an indefinite period, despite the fact the temperatures inside apartments now average only 9 -14 degrees Celsius, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 October. Dalenergo, the region's monopoly energy supplier, published a statement in the local press saying the fault lies with the mayor's office, which the company says owes it 559 billion rubles ($100 million). The mayor's office, however, says it is the one that is owed money. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK POLICE DETAIN FOUR IN CONNECTION WITH KILLINGS. Tajik police on 16 October detained four men suspected of involvement in the attack earlier the same day on the headquarters of the Tajik presidential guard. Fourteen guards and four assailants died in the attack, which Tajik Presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov said was politically motivated and perpetrated by forces opposed to the peace accord concluded between the government and the opposition earlier this year. United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri told Interfax that "none of the opposition units could or did take part in this crime." Also on 16 October, the bodies of four Tajik soldiers killed in two separate incidents were found near Dushanbe. CONFUSION OVER TAJIK REFUGEES. A spokesman for the International Red Cross said on 16 October that some 5,000 Tajik refugees have fled from the Sakhi camp in northern Afghanistan to Turkmenistan, Reuters reported. But an official with the UN High Commission on Refugees denied the report, telling an RFE/RL correspondent that the refugees are still at the Sakhi camp. KYRGYZ FOREIGN MINISTER IN DUSHANBE. Muradbek Imanaliev met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on 16 October to discuss bilateral ties and Tajikistan's involvement in various regional initiatives, Russian agencies reported. Imanaliev told journalists at the end of his two-day visit that talks focused on Tajikistan's participation in the construction of a railway linking Central Asia and China and in economic projects being jointly implemented by Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, specifically involving water resources, electrical and power engineering. He added there are no obstacles to Tajik participation in the proposed Central Asian peacekeeping battalion. Imanaliev and Rakhmonov expressed support for a UN sponsored conference on Afghanistan and on how to repatriate some 17,000 Tajik refugees currently in Kyrgyzstan, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 October. UZBEKISTAN SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH OSCE OFFICE. Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Khomilov and Gerard Stoudmann, the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, have signed a memorandum in Tashkent on promoting democracy and developing a civil society, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Uzbek capital reported on 16 October. The agreement covers 10 projects including an educational program on human rights and programs on training Constitutional Court judges as well as on organizing and conducting free elections. ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ON KARABAKH PEACE PROCESS. In an interview published in "Le Monde" on 16 October, Levon Ter- Petrossyan said Armenia and Azerbaijan have accepted the first stage of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group's two-stage peace plan as a basis for further negotiations. The first stage foresees a withdrawal of Armenian forces from six occupied Azerbaijani raions, the repatriation of displaced persons, and other confidence-building measures. Presidential press spokesman Levon Zurabian told journalists in Yerevan on 16 October that Ter-Petrossyan believes the summit on Karabakh proposed by Russian and French Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Jacques Chirac should take place only after "serious results" have been achieved in the negotiation process, Noyan Tapan reported. AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ON OSCE PEACEKEEPING FORCE. Heidar Aliev said on 15 October that OSCE peacekeeping troops will "without doubt" be needed to monitor the withdrawal of Armenian troops from occupied territory and the repatriation process, Interfax reported. British Foreign Office official Francis Richards told Aliev the same day that Britain is ready to provide assistance in resolving the conflict, according to Turan the next day. Britain is not a member of the Minsk Group. ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ON COUNCIL OF EUROPE MEMBERSHIP. Ter- Petrossyan and chairwoman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Leni Fischer agreed during their talks at the 10-11 October summit in Strasbourg that the Transcaucasus states' prospects for full membership in the council should be assessed individually and not collectively, Noyan Tapan reported on 16 October, quoting presidential press spokesman Zurabian. Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia currently have "special guest status" with the council. An April 1997 council resolution makes their full membership contingent on progress in solving the conflicts in Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Zurabian said that France, Romania, and Bulgaria support full membership for Armenia. ARMENIA-NATO TALKS. Armenian Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan met with U.S. ambassador to NATO Robert Hunter in Yerevan on 15 October, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital reported, citing the government press service. The talks focused on the "possibilities of deepening ties" between Armenia and NATO within the framework of the Partnership for Peace Program and on the prospects for resolving the Karabakh conflict. Armenian Foreign Ministry official Armen Kharazian, who also met with Hunter, said Armenia wants to increase cooperation with the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and to develop "direct political links" with NATO, according to Interfax. RUSSIA TO GIVE GEORGIA WARSHIPS. A Russian senior military delegation held talks with President Eduard Shevardnadze and Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze in Tbilisi on 14-16 October, Russian agencies reported. Nadibaidze and delegation head Colonel- General Sergei Maev, who heads the Russian Defense Ministry General Automotive and Arms Directorate, initialed a draft agreement on military cooperation. Maev said on 16 October that Russia "is ready to help Georgia build its navy and air force" and plans to give Georgia four warships, subject to President Yeltsin's approval. UN OBSERVERS PROTEST GEORGIAN MANEUVERS. UN observers have lodged a formal protest over the large-scale military exercises conducted by the Georgian army in early October on territory bordering Abkhazia, Interfax reported. They made their protest at a 15 October meeting with Abkhaz and Georgian Defense Ministry officials as well as representatives of the CIS peacekeeping force. The UN observers said that the concentration of Georgian forces in the area has exacerbated tensions in southern Abkhazia. Previously, the Abkhaz Defense Ministry and the head of the CIS peacekeeping forces lodged protests over the maneuvers with Georgian Defense Minister Nadibaidze, who rejected them as unfounded, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 7 October. AZERBAIJANI GAS, OIL OFFICIALS FIRED. The cabinet on 16 October dismissed Farman Veli-Zade, the head of the Azerigas joint-stock company, and Sayad Ibragimov, a deputy president of the state oil company SOCAR, according to ITAR -TASS. Veli-Zade is reported to have spent $250,000 on renovating the company's headquarters, although Azerigas owes its employees 9 billion manats ($2.25 million) in wage arrears. Ibragimov's alleged failure to adequately supervise drilling and oil-refining activities is said to have led to a "general deterioration" of SOCAR's financial position. The dismissals must be approved by President Aliev. END NOTE HOW THE CIS MAY END by Paul Goble The continued existence of the Commonwealth of Independent States is now threatened both by the leaders of member countries who think it is doing too much and by those who think it is not doing enough. The only thing those two sides seem to agree on is that Moscow is to blame, either because the Russian government has used the CIS as a cover for its own national agenda or because it has neglected to promote the organization's development. Both views are very much on public display as leaders of the 12 former Soviet republics prepare for the upcoming CIS summit in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau. On 13 October, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said in his weekly radio address that Tbilisi may soon look for other partners if Moscow keeps ignoring Georgia's interests and prerogatives as an independent country. He said Georgians are increasingly angered by what he described as Moscow's crude Soviet-style approach to Georgia and the other members of the CIS. Shevardnadze also indicated that unless the Russian government changed its approach to Georgia, he would look for other partners in the West, all of whom, he stressed, have shown greater respect for his country and its interests. The next day, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma took a different tack, blaming the organization's failure squarely on Moscow. Kuchma said that Russia had done little or nothing to promote the CIS as an institution. Kuchma made those remarks during his visit to Kazakhstan, whose leader, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, has regularly urged that the CIS be strengthened and possibly transformed into what he calls a Eurasian Union. At one level, this debate is simply a continuation of the one that has spanned the almost six-year history of the CIS. In March, for example, the presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine, who have been promoting cooperation among themselves at the expense of CIS ties, considered not attending a CIS summit to protest both Russian actions and the suggestions by several Moscow analysts that the Russian government take an even tougher line toward CIS countries. But the problems are deeper than that, reflecting divisions inherent in the organization from the outset. Since the creation of the CIS in December 1991, some of its members have viewed the organization as a kind of divorce court, an institution that would allow them to negotiate the division of spoils from the former Soviet Union. Other countries have hoped the organization would serve as the basis either for continued cooperation among the former Soviet republics or even for their reintegration into a single political system. Neither side has been happy with what has happened, but the reasons for their unhappiness vary widely and often in unexpected ways. Some of the biggest advocates of the CIS, such as Kazakhstan's Nazarbayev, have wanted a tighter organization not so much in order to return to Russian domination but rather to rule out that possibility by establishing rules Moscow would have to follow. And some of the biggest opponents of improving CIS operation, including many in the Russian capital, have opposed developing the organization in that direction lest it restrict Moscow's freedom of action in dealing with its neighbors. Thus, while many Russian officials have claimed that the CIS is a regional security organization, they have been unwilling to fully respect the rights of non-Russian countries, including Georgia, with regard to the basing of troops and other matters. At another level, however, the arguments now being advanced by Shevardnadze, Kuchma, and other leaders of CIS member states may have more profound consequences. On the one hand, they could lead to a new agreement among the current states, one covering fewer issues but covering those in greater detail. This would formalize something that has been true but has gone largely unrecognized: namely, the 12 member countries are increasingly independent and are not interested in a single plan for reintegration sponsored by Moscow. On the other hand, those arguments could prompt current members to decide, as Shevardnadze has suggested, that some countries beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union are far more reliable partners. Either of those developments would spell the end of the CIS as it has existed until now. At the upcoming meeting in Chisinau, the first development is by far the more likely outcome. But the second is also possible, and Russian policy may even be promoting it. In addition to the actions about which both Shevardnadze and Kuchma have complained, Moscow is currently subverting the CIS by forming various bilateral and multilateral relations with CIS member states, thus calling into question the utility of the organization. As a result, the days of the Commonwealth of Independent States now appear to be numbered. The only question still open is whether it ends with a bang or a whimper. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx SUBSCRIBING: 1) To subscribe to RFERL-L, please send a message to email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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