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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 143, Part I, 21 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 *COMMUNISTS LIKELY TO DROP NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE *ROKHLIN'S COMMENTS TO BE INVESTIGATED *GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SAYS DISTRIBUTION OF MILITARY PROPERTY UNFAIR xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA COMMUNISTS LIKELY TO DROP NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. Following the 21 October meeting between President Boris Yeltsin and leaders of the seven registered State Duma factions, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a Communist, told Interfax he expects the Communist faction to drop plans to hold a vote of no confidence in the government on 22 October. Nikolai Ryzhkov, the leader of the Communist-allied Popular Power faction, agreed, noting that the president "took steps to meet practically all our demands," according to Reuters. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov told journalists that Yeltsin promised to release a letter replying to opposition demands on 21 October, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The Communist faction will then decide whether to pursue the no-confidence vote, Zyuganov said. Interfax quoted Yeltsin as telling the Duma faction leaders that the 22 October session will determine whether Russia has "political stability" or whether there will be a "fight" between the executive and legislative branches. KREMLIN MAKES SOME CONCESSIONS AT "COUNCIL OF FOUR" MEETING. Yeltsin on 20 October met with Seleznev, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev in the Kremlin. Chernomyrdin described the meeting of the "council of four" as "very constructive," adding that the participants had agreed on "all the main points" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1997). The president pledged that the parliament will have more air time on Russian Television (RTR) and on state-controlled radio stations. Parliamentary representatives will be invited to join new councils to be created to supervise RTR and Russian Public Television. In addition, Yeltsin agreed to hold regular meetings of the "council of four" and round-table talks on major policy questions. But Chernomyrdin stressed that the government will keep those promises only if the Duma removes the no-confidence vote from its agenda. "The government cannot be kept hanging in suspense," he said. FIRST ROUND TABLE TO DISCUSS LAND CODE. Zyuganov told journalists that the first meeting of the round table will take place on 22 November and that the land code will be the main item on the agenda, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 21 October. The Duma recently overrode a presidential veto of a code that would prohibit the purchase and sale of farmland. Yeltsin has repeatedly said that he will not sign any code that does not grant farmers full ownership rights. The Federation Council has yet to vote on whether to override the presidential veto. Council Speaker Stroev told journalists on 20 October that 23 people will take part in the round table discussion, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma will nominate eight people, the Council nine, and the president and government three each, Stroev said. FATE OF LAW ON GOVERNMENT UNCLEAR. Following the "council of four" meeting, Stroev announced that Yeltsin agreed to sign the law on the government if the Federation Council revokes its appeal to the Constitutional Court over Yeltsin's refusal to sign that law, Russian news agencies reported on 20 October. RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported the next day that Yeltsin agreed to sign the law only if certain amendments are made. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov has indicated he is willing to discuss amending the law, which would force the entire cabinet to step down if the prime minister were dismissed. The law would also grant the Duma the right to confirm deputy prime ministers, not just the prime minister, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 October. First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov would be unlikely ever to win confirmation from the current Duma. ROKHLIN'S COMMENTS TO BE INVESTIGATED. The Prosecutor- General's Office has instructed the Main Military Prosecutor's Office to investigate Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin's recent statements on plans to remove Yeltsin and his "hated regime" by next spring, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 20 October. No criminal case has yet been opened against Rokhlin, who told Ekho Moskvy he was expressing his own opinion and plans to act within constitutional limits, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 October. Military analyst Aleksandr Zhilin told RFE/RL on 20 October that he has discussed Rokhlin's comments with numerous army officers, none of whom supported Rokhlin's stated plans. However, Rokhlin remains very popular and influential in military circles, Zhilin said, and some officers have expressed doubt that Russian media quoted Rokhlin accurately. REGIONAL AUTHORITIES CAN OUST LOCAL OFFICIALS WHO BREAK LAW. The Constitutional Court has ruled that regional authorities have the right to remove elected local officials, but only after a court has ruled that those officials have broken the law. The legislature of the Republic of Buryatia asked the court to rule on an article in the law on local government, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 18 October. The decision entitles the Buryatian authorities to fire Valerii Shapovalov, the mayor of Ulan-Ude. (In May, the Buryatian Supreme Court ruled that Shapovalov had broken the law.) "Kommersant- Daily" noted on 17 October that under the decision, the arrested mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetskii, Kemerovo Oblast, cannot be removed from office unless he is convicted of a crime. The ruling also suggests that the Primorskii Krai legislature was not entitled to suspend Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov without a court decision. YELTSIN, CHRETIEN DISCUSS LAND MINE BAN. Yeltsin told visiting Canadian Premier Jacques Chretien that he might participate in the December Ottawa meeting at which the land mind ban is to be signed, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 October. Yeltsin did not say when Moscow might accede to that convention, but he did promise Chretien that until that time, Russia will extend its existing ban on the export of mines. Also meeting with Chretien on 20 October, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said Moscow's relations with Ottawa are good and that he expects bilateral trade to double by the year 2000, Interfax reported. RUSSIAN PREMIER SAYS NIKITIN CAN EMIGRATE. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said 20 October that Aleksandr Nikitin, a former Russian naval officer who has been accused of espionage, will be allowed to emigrate to Canada after law enforcement agencies in Russia complete their investigation, Interfax reported. But Chernomyrdin did not say when that investigation will be completed. Nikitin, whose case has attracted international attention, has been accused of revealing a number of state secrets in a report he prepared for Norway's Bellona environmental group about pollution in the Barents Sea. MILITARY ENVOY TO NATO APPOINTED. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev on 20 October announced that Lieutenant-General Viktor Zavarzin, currently chief of the CIS Joint Peacekeeping Forces in Tajikistan, will be appointed Russia's military envoy to NATO, Russian news agencies reported. Anatolii Kvashnin, the head of the General Staff, is to present Zavarzin to NATO headquarters in Brussels on 23 October, Sergeev said. Former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev reportedly had sought an appointment as Russia's ambassador or military envoy to NATO. Reuters on 20 October quoted an unnamed NATO military official as saying, "We're glad it's not Grachev. That would have been a comedy of errors." YELTSIN NAMES NEW SECURITY COUNCIL DEPUTY SECRETARY. Yeltsin has named Aleksandr Ageenkov deputy secretary of the Security Council, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 October. The 28-year-old Ageenkov has worked in the Central Bank since 1992, most recently as head of the currency department in the bank's Main Administration for Moscow, according to the 21 October "Kommersant-Daily." Economic security questions will be among Ageenkov's responsibilities on the Security Council. He replaces Nikolai Mikhailov, a civilian who was appointed first deputy defense minister in September after Andrei Kokoshin became chief military inspector and Defense Council secretary. SOROS ON AID, INVESTMENT PLANS. U.S. billionaire George Soros told journalists in Moscow that over the next three years, he plans to spend $300-500 million on humanitarian aid programs for Russia. The projects will cover health, education, culture, the Internet, military reform, the legal system, local government, and building an open society in Russia. Soros said he hopes to cooperate with the current government, "especially its reform element," an apparent reference to First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov as well as Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev. Soros's Quantum Fund contributed nearly $1 billion toward the winning bid for a 25 percent stake in the telecommunications giant Svyazinvest in July. Soros confirmed that Quantum will participate in some future auctions for oil and gas companies but said it will not bid for shares in the oil company Rosneft. FIGURES ON FAMILY VIOLENCE RELEASED. Some 30-40 percent of murders in Russia are committed by one family member against another and women and children are most frequently the victims, according to Yekaterina Lakhova, who heads the Presidential Commission on Women, Children, and Demographics. Lakhova has estimated that 14,000 women in Russia are killed by husbands or relatives each year, "Vechernyaya Moskva" reported on 18 October. Interior Ministry statistics indicate that 36,000 incidents of family violence have been reported this year. Lakhova also said some 2 million Russian children are physically abused by family members, causing an estimated 2,000 child suicides each year. According to a commentary published in the "St. Petersburg Times" on 13 October, there are only two shelters for battered women in Russia: in St. Petersburg, and in Langepas (Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug). The Duma has yet to consider a proposed law on violence within the family. THREE MORE REGIONS AUTHORIZED TO ISSUE EUROBONDS. Yeltsin issued a decree on 20 October allowing Krasnoyarsk Krai and Sverdlovsk and Moscow Oblasts to issue eurobonds, ITAR-TASS reported. While many Russian regional governments have expressed interest in borrowing on international financial markets, only three other regions have previously been allowed to issue eurobonds. The city of Moscow floated a $500 million eurobond in May, St. Petersburg a $300 million eurobond the following month, and Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast a $100 million eurobond in September. OFFICIALS, DIRECTORS WIN MOST SEATS IN NOVGOROD LEGISLATURE. Most deputies elected to the Novgorod Oblast Duma on 19 October are either heads of local administrations or directors of large enterprises, ITAR-TASS and an RFE/RL correspondent in Novgorod reported on 20 October. According to preliminary results, top executive officials in cities or raions won 11 of the 26 seats in the regional legislature. Directors of industrial firms or agricultural enterprises won another seven seats. Turnout was higher than expected at nearly 35 percent. Representatives of political parties fared poorly in Novgorod. The only successful candidate to campaign with a party affiliation was a Communist, who was one of 12 incumbents re-elected to the legislature. GOVERNOR SLAMS ATTEMPTS TO DERAIL KEMEROVO ELECTION. Aman Tuleev, the newly elected governor of Kemerovo Oblast, has slammed last-minute attempts by Kemerovo prosecutor Valentin Simuchenkov to have the region's electoral law declared invalid. Tuleev won the 19 October election with about 95 percent of the vote. In a telephone interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau the next day, Tuleev noted that Simuchenkov did not object when the electoral law was adopted three months ago. Tuleev and Simuchenkov have recently traded corruption allegations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 October 1997). Meanwhile, two Duma deputies from Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and Zhirinovsky's lawyer Sergei Belyak defended Gennadii Konyakhin, the arrested mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetsk, in a 20 October court hearing. However, the Kemerovo district court denied requests to release Konyakhin pending trial. According to Belyak, Konyakhin has declared a hunger strike, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 October. TATARSTAN OBJECTS TO NEW RUSSIAN PASSPORTS. The Tatar Ministry of Internal Affairs has stopped issuing new passports, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 20 October. Four days earlier, the State Council adopted a decree saying that the failure to designate the holder's nationality in the new passports is the "biggest provocation in the history of Russia." The move, the decree continued, is intended "to destroy interethnic harmony in the country, "according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 18 October. One of the new passports was symbolically burned at a public meeting in Kazan on 15 October. Tatar parliamentary speaker Vassilii Likhachev has discussed the new passports with officials from Bashkortostan, Kabardino-Balkaria, and the Jewish Autonomous oblast who have similar reservations. PIPELINE DELAY. Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, the president of Chechnya's state oil company, has said the commissioning of the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk pipeline has been delayed because of unspecified problems in the Azerbaijani sector, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 October. Two days earlier, Yarikhanov had said the 150 kilometer Chechen sector of the pipeline was ready to start operating. Russian government officials say the first Azerbaijani "early oil" will be pumped into the pipeline on 7 November. Yarikhanov also denied statements by Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov that Chechnya is planning to build a pipeline from Grozny to Georgia's Black Sea coast to export Azerbaijani oil. Meanwhile, experts from Russia, Bulgaria, and Greece have agreed form a joint committee to design the planned pipeline from Burgas to Alexandroupolis, ITAR-TASS reported. That pipeline would obviate the need to transport larger quantities of crude from the Black Sea through the Turkish straits. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SAYS DISTRIBUTION OF MILITARY PROPERTY UNFAIR. In his Monday radio broadcast, Eduard Shevardnadze affirmed on 20 October that Russia's recent transfer to Georgia of four naval vessels is not adequate compensation for the withdrawal from Georgia from 1991-19933 of former Soviet military property worth several billion dollars, Interfax reported. Shevardnadze said aircraft, tanks, and naval vessels were "quietly" removed from Georgian territory and that no other former Soviet republic has been treated in this way. (Shevardnadze apparently did not add that Georgia, along with Moldova and the Baltic States, did not join the CIS in late 1991.) He argued that Russia's action was "unfair" and that if Moscow truly wishes to co-opt Georgia as a strategic ally, that injustice must be redressed. Shevardnadze added that Russian President Yeltsin "perfectly understands" the importance of a strategic alliance with Georgia. GEORGIA TO RAISE ISSUE OF PEACEKEEPERS AT CIS SUMMIT. Georgian presidential adviser Levan Aleksidze told Interfax on 20 October that Tbilisi will ask participants at the upcoming CIS summit in Chisinau to find out why their March 1997 resolution broadening the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia has not been implemented. The resolution called for deployment of the peacekeepers in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion to facilitate the repatriation of ethnic Georgians forced to flee the region in 1992- 1993. Aleksidze rejected as legally untenable the Abkhaz authorities' statement that the peacekeepers' mandate may not be amended without Abkhaz consent. He urged the summit to set a deadline for implementation of the March resolution, otherwise the peacekeeping force would be withdrawn. Aleksidze further accused Abkhazia of attempting to deadlock the peace process by linking repatriation and the expansion of the security zone to a decision on Abkhazia's future status. GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER DENIES ANTI-ADJAR PLOT. Zurab Zhvania on 20 October said that claims made by former Batumi Mayor Tamaz Kharazi on Adjar Television the previous day are "absurd," Interfax reported. Kharazi had accused Zhvania and Rostom Dolidze, the chairman of the Georgian parliamentary Procedural Committee of plotting to oust Adjar Supreme Soviet chairman Aslan Abashidze. Zhvania and Dolidze have described the allegations as slanderous and threatened Kharazi with legal action, Caucasus Press reported on 21 October. LEBANESE PREMIER IN YEREVAN. A government delegation headed by Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was in Yerevan on 20 October for a one-day visit, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital reported. Hariri and his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharyan, signed an agreement on friendship and cooperation that is intended to create a legal framework for developing bilateral economic ties. Under that accord, a Armenian-Lebanese bank will be set up to facilitate business contacts between the two countries and air traffic will be resumed between the two capitals, according to Interfax. Kocharyan and Hariri told reporters later that bilateral cooperation is most promising in the areas of banking, trade, and tourism. OSCE MILITARY REPRESENTATIVES IN TRANSCAUCASUS. A military working group from the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe recently held talks in Stepanakert, Yerevan, and Baku on regional security issues and the deployment of an OSCE peacekeeping force, Russian and Armenian agencies reported. In Yerevan, Foreign Ministry officials informed the OSCE representatives on 18 October of Azerbaijani violations of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, Interfax reported. Meeting with President Heidar Aliev in Baku two days later, the OSCE representatives affirmed that the organization is prepared to mount a peacekeeping operation for Nagorno-Karabakh. They stressed, however, that the financial resources available for such an operation are limited, ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan reported. MOVE TO NEW KAZAKH CAPITAL POSTPONED. President Nursultan Nazarbaev told the parliament on 20 October that the move from Almaty to the new capital, Aqmola, will take place on 10 December and not on 23 October as planned, Russian agencies reported. He said an inspection commission has registered numerous unspecified shortcomings. The move had originally been scheduled for mid- October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 1997). Nazarbaev stressed that Almaty will remain Kazakhstan's "southern capital," and he signed a decree bestowing special status on that city. The existence of two powerful centers will revitalize the country's economy, he commented. Also on 20 October, Nazarbaev announced that Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbaev has completed forming his new cabinet. The number of ministers has been reduced from 27 to 18, Reuters reported. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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