|He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 146, Part I, 24 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 * RUSSIAN PRESIDENT ON CIS'S SHORTCOMINGS * YELTSIN DENIES MAKING CONCESSIONS TO OPPOSITION * BULATOVIC CALLS OFF PROTESTS IN MONTENEGRO End Note : LANGUAGE POLITICS HEATING UP IN CRIMEA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx REGIONAL AFFAIRS RUSSIAN PRESIDENT ON CIS'S SHORTCOMINGS. Addressing his fellow presidents at the 23 October CIS summit in Chisinau, Russia's Boris Yeltsin conceded that little has been done to implement the agreement, reached at the previous summit in March, that the CIS be more effectively integrated "on a new, democratic, market basis," ITAR-TASS reported. He said the "chronic rift" between joint decisions and their implementation was "ruinous," and he blamed this partly on "bureaucratic inertia" and partly on the "groundless fears" of unnamed states that "someone will snatch away part of their sovereignty." Yeltsin advocated restructuring the CIS apparatus, especially the Secretariat, and reducing its personnel to ensure its effective functioning. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told Interfax after the summit that the Georgian, Azerbaijani, and Moldovan presidents harshly criticized Russia's approach to resolving conflicts on the territory of their countries. Russian Presidential press spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii admitted that this latter criticism is justified. Participants agreed the next summit will take place on 23 January 1998. YELTSIN ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM TRANSDNIESTER. Yeltsin told a press conference in Chisinau that he is ready to do whatever the Moldovan authorities say: "If you say 'now,' we withdraw [our troops from the Transdniester] immediately. If you agree to wait two to three months, we will postpone the removal till the situation is stabilized," Infotag reported. Moldovan presidential adviser Anatol Taranu told the news agency that although the summit ended without the signing of a document on the Transdniester, the meeting will "eventually have a favorable impact" on the process of finding a settlement. He said the absence of Transdniestrian leader Igor Smirnov from the summit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1997) was proof of Tiraspol's reluctance to work within a legal framework and its attempts "to play backstage politics." Taranu also said Presidents Yeltsin, Petru Lucinschi (Moldova), and Leonid Kuchma (Ukraine), agreed that Russia must play a more active role in the settlement. TRANSDNIESTER APPLIES TO JOIN CIS. Meanwhile, Smirnov sent a letter to participants demanding that the "Transdniestrian Moldovan Republic [be included] in the full-scale political and integration process of the CIS," Infotag reported on 23 October. Smirnov said that during the past seven years, the Transdniestrian Republic has "proved its viability." He emphasized that under "current conditions," it is necessary to preserve the sovereignty of both Moldova and Transdniester and "to build a common state consisting of two equals." AGREEMENT REACHED ON COMMON AGRICULTURAL MARKET. CIS prime ministers, excluding those from Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, signed an agreement in Chisinau on 23 October creating a common agrarian market, Russian agencies reported. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov told ITAR-TASS that the initiative came not from Russia but from unspecified other CIS member states. He suggested that the reasons for Azerbaijan's and Uzbekistan's refusal to join were "non-economic." Uzbek President Islam Karimov backed Yeltsin's call for more systematic economic integration within the CIS. At the same time, Karimov argued such integration should take place across the board. He again condemned creating alternative alliances within the commonwealth. MANDATE OF ABKHAZ PEACEKEEPING FORCE EXTENDED. The CIS heads of state voted on 23 October to extend until 31 December the mandate of the peacekeeping force currently deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, Russian agencies reported. The previous CIS summit in March had decided to broaden the force's powers to enable its members to protect returning fugitives more effectively, but that decision was not implemented, prompting the Georgian parliament to demand its withdrawal. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told CAUCASUS PRESS on 24 October that he proposed to the summit that the mandate of the peacekeeping force be extended to expedite the return of fugitives. He added that the restoration of economic ties between Georgia and Abkhazia and free passage across Abkhazia's borders with Georgia and Russia will be discussed only after all fugitives have returned. RUSSIA YELTSIN DENIES MAKING CONCESSIONS TO OPPOSITION. President Boris Yeltsin says he and his government made no concessions in order to deter the State Duma from holding a no-confidence vote, Interfax reported on 23 October. Speaking to journalists in Chisinau, where he was attending the CIS summit, Yeltsin said he merely "resolved problems" and made clear which contentious issues can be settled through negotiations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 October 1997). In contrast, "Kommersant-Daily" alleged on 24 October that a secret agreement with the Communist opposition prompted Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to order the postponement of a 23 October cabinet meeting on pension reform. Citing unnamed government sources, the newspaper reported that consultations with Communist representatives will be held before the government adopts important policy decisions. The agreement is intended to limit the influence of the government's so-called "young reformers," especially First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, the newspaper claimed. MINISTER SAYS NO AGREEMENT REACHED ON OLD SAVINGS DEPOSITS. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev has denied that Yeltsin and opposition leaders reached agreement in recent negotiations to index savings deposits opened in Sberbank before 1992, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 October. Sysuev said that within two weeks, the cabinet will consider a plan on compensating citizens whose savings were rendered worthless by inflation between 1991 and 1996. The government's minimum estimate for the value of those savings is 300 trillion rubles ($51 billion). Sysuev argued that it will take at least 25 years to compensate citizens for the old savings accounts. ZYUGANOV SAYS HE DOES NOT TRUST GOVERNMENT. Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 23 October said he does not believe promises made by the current government or executive branch, which he accused of pursuing policies that please "Western monopolies, its patrons and masters," Interfax reported. Speaking to workers at a Moscow factory, Zyuganov said that at upcoming roundtable negotiations, the opposition will again demand the formation of a "government of national trust." Meanwhile, Viktor Tyulkin, who leads the radical Russian Communist Workers' Party, slammed Zyuganov and the KPRF in an interview published in "Pravda-5" on 24 October. Tyulkin charged that the Communist Duma faction dropped plans to vote no confidence in the government without gaining any concrete concessions, such as the immediate payment of wage arrears or a freeze on energy prices. He denounced the KPRF as an "appeasing, social-democratic party" and predicted it will soon split. DUMA COUNCIL TO DECIDE FATE OF TAX CODE. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev announced on 23 October that the Duma Council will decide on 28 October how the proposed tax code will be revised, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. That council consists of Seleznev and deputy speakers from each of the seven registered Duma factions. Seleznev said the code need not be withdrawn from the Duma, as Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko faction has demanded. Instead, he argued, the trilateral commission currently working on the 1998 budget should revise the code, after which Duma and Federation Council deputies will discuss the changes before the document receives a second reading in the Duma. Yavlinskii believes that a recent presidential instruction compels the government to withdraw the code from the Duma, but his faction is likely to be outvoted on the Duma Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 October 1997). DUMA REQUEST ON PASSPORTS SPARKS CONTROVERSY. Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky on 24 October sharply criticized Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev for asking the government to restore the line listing the holder's nationality on the new Russian passports, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. In speeches to the Duma's plenary session, Lukin and Zhirinovsky said Seleznev had no right to send such a letter in the name of the Duma, since deputies have not voted on the issue. They also argued that "no civilized country" lists the nationalities of its citizens in passports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1997). Anatolii Greshnevikov of the Communist-allied Popular Power faction retorted that "Russians need not be ashamed of their nationality," although "sons of lawyers" are understandably against listing their nationality. Zhirinovsky, whose father was Jewish, once said his mother was Russian and his father a lawyer. CHECHEN PRESIDENT FIRES LEADING OFFICIALS. Aslan Maskhadov on 23 October issued decrees dismissing key government and state officials, Russian agencies reported. Those fired include Deputy Prime Minister Musa Doshukaev, Economics Minister Isa Astamirov, and Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, the president of YuNKO, the Chechen state oil company. Presidential press secretary Kazbek Khadzhiev told ITAR-TASS that the sackings were not political but intended solely to improve the government's efficiency. He added that the dismissed officials will remain part of Maskhadov's team and will be appointed to new positions soon. Yarikhanov noted his dismissal and the simultaneous reorganization of YuNKO into four separate entities was not unexpected. Also on 23 October, the Chechen parliament rejected Maskhadov's request to be endowed with special powers for a period of two years, AFP reported. RUSSIA BROADENS COOPERATION WITH LIBYA. Building on cooperation in the development of nuclear power, the Russian Federation and Libya have signed an accord to cooperate in the areas of communications, transport, and oil and gas development, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov announced, according to Interfax on 23 October. Tarasov stressed that all aspects of Russian cooperation with Libya "have to do with civil spheres, to which the UN sanctions of 1992-93 do not refer." DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES LEAVING RADIOACTIVE SUBSTANCES IN GEORGIA. The Defense Ministry has denied that radio-active substances were abandoned at former Soviet military bases in Georgia, CAUCASUS PRESS reported on 23 October. A ministry spokesman said the cesium containers found on the territory of the former Russian military base in Lilo belonged to laboratory equipment used for measuring radiation levels. The previous day, a Georgian Health Ministry official said that six of the Georgian servicemen who contracted radiation sickness from exposure to the cesium capsules will be sent to France and Germany, for medical treatment, according to Interfax. DUMA CONCERNED ABOUT SOROS, JORDAN. The Duma on 23 October asked the government to investigate the business activities in Russia of George Soros and Boris Jordan, who are both U.S. citizens, Interfax reported. In September, Jordan was named to head the MFK investment bank, which is part of the Oneksimbank empire. Jordan and Soros were both involved in the Oneksimbank-led consortium that won a July auction for a 25 percent stake in the telecommunications giant Svyazinvest. In a request sent to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, and Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, the Duma expressed concern that the activities of Soros and Jordan could harm Russian national security. Jordan was recently stripped of his multiple-entry visa and allowed to return to Russia on a single-entry visa, but ITAR- TASS reported on 23 October that he has been issued a new multiple-entry visa. 'NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA' SLAMS JORDAN, KOKH. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" charged on 24 October that a relative of Boris Jordan works for the Swiss firm Servina, which paid then State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh $100,000 earlier this year. Kokh is under criminal investigation for accepting the payment, which he declared as book royalties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 16 October 1997). He claims he had no knowledge of connections between Servina and the Oneksimbank empire when he signed a contract with the Swiss firm. Oneksimbank won two major privatization auctions in July and August, shortly before Yeltsin dismissed Kokh. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," partly financed by the LogoVAZ empire of Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, has repeatedly criticized Kokh and Oneksimbank since July. BEREZOVSKII'S LAWSUIT AGAINST 'FORBES' NOT TO BE HELD IN U.K. The London High Court on 22 October refused to hear Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii's libel lawsuit against the U.S. magazine "Forbes," Interfax reported on 23 October. Berezovskii disputes charges made in the December 1996 "Forbes" article entitled "Godfather of the Kremlin?" That article suggested that Berezovskii became wealthy through illegal means and may have been involved in contract killings. Berezovskii claimed the article damaged his reputation in the UK, but the court recommended that he file suit either in the U.S. or in Russia. It is far easier for plaintiffs to win libel suits against journalists and publications under British law than under U.S. law. NEW 'IZVESTIYA' PUBLISHES PILOT ISSUE. The pilot issue of the daily newspaper "Novye Izvestiya" appeared on newsstands on 24 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Chief editor Igor Golembiovskii launched the project after being forced out as editor of "Izvestiya" in the summer, and he took several of the newspaper's prominent journalists with him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 1997). According to Golembiovskii, "Novye Izvestiya" is the first Russian daily to publish in color. It is being distributed in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov-na-Donu, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, and Samara. RUSSIAN MILITARY ENVOY MEETS NATO COUNTERPARTS. Anatolii Kvashnin, chief of the Russian armed forces General Staff, on 23 October introduced Lieutenant-General Viktor Zavarzin to the permanent military delegates of the 16 NATO countries in Brussels, Reuters reported. According to a NATO spokesman, the delegates agreed to create a Permanent Joint Military Committee in November. Kvashnin also briefed the NATO officials on Russia's current military reform plans. GOVERNMENT APPROVES CONTRACT FOR GAZPROM STAKE. The government has approved the text of a new contract that will allow Gazprom executives to continue to manage a 35 percent state-owned stake in the gas monopoly, Interfax reported on 23 October. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin has instructed First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov to sign the deal with Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev. The agreement marks a retreat for Nemtsov, who vowed earlier this year that the state would take a more active role in managing its shares in Gazprom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1997). The state owns a total of 40 percent of Gazprom shares. ACTING LENINSK-KUZNETSK MAYOR LEAVES TOWN. Mark Gustov, the acting mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetsk, Kemerovo Oblast, has left town for fear of being arrested, and his current whereabouts are unknown, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 October. Gennadii Konyakhin appointed Guskov acting mayor in early October before leaving for Moscow. Konyakhin was subsequently arrested on charges of corruption and embezzlement. Sergei Belyak, the lawyer who is defending Konyakhin, told "Kommersant-Daily" that he advised Guskov to leave town after hearing from a "reliable source" in law enforcement agencies that the authorities plan to arrest Guskov and several others in Leninsk-Kuznetskii. However, officials in the Kemerovo Prosecutor's Office and the regional branch of the Federal Security Service have denied those rumors. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA YELTSIN SAYS HE FIRED YEREVANGATE CULPRITS. Speaking at a press conference after the CIS summit in Chisinau, President Yeltsin said he has dismissed "many" Russian military officials responsible for the clandestine transfer to Armenia of arms worth $2 billion, Interfax reported. Yeltsin did not give the names of those fired. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev had earlier announced his intention of raising the issue at the summit, arguing that a trilateral intergovernmental commission created to investigate the arms shipments had failed to identify those responsible. At a session of the CIS foreign ministers in the Moldovan capital, Armenia's Alexander Arzoumanian angrily protested the demand by his Azerbaijani counterpart, Hasan Hasanov, that participants view the 29 August Russian-Armenian treaty on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance as a "military pact." U.S. PREDICTS KARABAKH SETTLEMENT IMMINENT... U.S. Under- Secretary of State Stuart Eizenstat on 23 October said Washington believes a "first-phase" agreement on resolving the Karabakh conflict is possible before the end of 1997, Reuters reported. The previous day, the Turkish newspaper "Hurriyet" quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit as revealing details of the agreement on resolving the conflict that Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, reportedly reached in Strasbourg earlier in October, Asbarez-on-Line reported on 23 October, quoting the Turkish Armenian-language paper "Marmara." Under that plan, Armenian forces would be withdrawn from Kelbadjar and five other occupied Azerbaijani raions, whose displaced Azerbaijani populations would return to their homes. The Armenian forces would then withdraw from the Karabakh town of Shusha and the Lachin district between Karabakh and Armenia, where international peacekeepers under the OSCE aegis would be deployed. ...BUT ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER NON- CONCILIATORY. In an interview broadcast recently on Nagorno-Karabakh television, Vazgen Sargsian urged the Armenian people "to fight our last war to the finish," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 23 October. Sargsian endorses Nagorno-Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasyan's proposal that the unrecognized republic and Azerbaijan establish "horizontal relations" with the approval of the international community. Sargsian insisted, however, that the Karabakh Armenians will return neither Shusha nor the districts of Lachin and Kelbajar to Azerbaijani control because those districts are "vital for Karabakh's security." Sargsian, who is rumored to disagree with Ter- Petrossyan's 26 September endorsement of a phased solution to the conflict, affirmed that the "Armenian people from the president down...stand behind Karabakh's cause." EBRD TO FUND INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS IN TURKMENISTAN. Following four days of talks in Ashgabat, a delegation from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has reached agreement with the Turkmen leadership on providing credits to fund several projects, Interfax reported. The bank will allocate a $50 million credit to fund reconstruction of the 180 kilometer Tedjen- Mary highway, which forms part of the "New Silk Road," linking Central Asia with the Caucasus and Europe. A $30 million credit is earmarked for rebuilding the goods terminal at the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi. Further credits will fund railroad repairs and the construction of a road and rail bridge over the Amudarya River. END NOTE LANGUAGE POLITICS HEATING UP IN CRIMEA by Mubeyyin Batu Altan The 15 October decision of the Crimean parliament to make Russian the official language of the region highlights the difficult position in which the Crimean Tatars find themselves. Because the Crimean Tatars form only a minority in the local parliament, they could not block the measure; instead, they simply abstained. And because of the complex political history of the area, the Crimean Tatars are likely to face a dismal linguistic future unless they take a series of actions soon. For most of the post-World War II era, Russian has been the dominant language on the peninsula. The ethnic Russians there have always spoken Russian. Owing to Moscow's Russianization policies, even indigenous ethnic Ukrainians generally have gone to Russian- language schools and now speak Russian more often than Ukrainian in public, even if they learned their national language at home. The situation of the Crimean Tatars with regard to language is even more serious. Deported to Central Asia by Stalin in 1944, the Crimean Tatars did not have access to schools in their own language there or even when they first began to return to the peninsula. The Soviet authorities in Stalin's time refused to recognize Crimean Tatar as a separate language and did not allow the publication of a newspaper in Crimean Tatar until 1957 or a journal in that language until 1980. As a result, many Crimean Tatars now speak Russian far more often than they use their own language. Some younger Crimean Tatars do so because they have never been formally instructed in the language. At present, for example, there are only a handful of Crimean Tatar language schools in the Crimea, and there are none at all in Uzbekistan, where the majority of Crimean Tatars still live. Many older Crimean Tatars who know the language well and speak it at home increasingly have found it either easier or even necessary to use Russian in the workplace and in other public functions. Unless something is done soon, the situation may deteriorate beyond the point of no return for the Crimean Tatar language. Fortunately, there are three steps the Crimean Tatars can take to avoid the death of their language. First, the leaders of the community should encourage all Crimean Tatars to speak their language. To that end, the leaders should always use Crimean Tatar themselves when they are acting in an official capacity. Second, the Crimean Tatar leaders should insist that the Crimean parliament employ Crimean Tatar translators so that the Crimean Tatar members can use their language rather than being forced to speak Russian in order to be understood. There are plenty of graduates of the Crimean Tatar literature and language department of Simferopol State University who could perform this function. Consequently, if the Russian-dominated parliament refuses to agree to this step, the Crimean Tatars can argue that the rejection of their proposal is politically motivated and they can then appeal to the European Union or other international bodies. Third, the Crimean Tatars should insist that their national language rather than Russian or Ukrainian should be the exclusive language of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (assembly). Once they take that step, they should also make sure that they prepare news items in Russian so that the ethnic Russian population of the region will not decide that the Crimean Tatars are using their language in order to conceal some broader political agenda. Obviously, the Crimean Tatars will find it hard to accomplish those goals. Resistance by local Russians and Ukrainians is certain to be great, and the Crimean Tatars themselves remain divided on this issue, with many of them viewing the language question as secondary to their political goals. But in fact, the language question is central to the survival of the Crimean Tatars as a nation. Unless the Crimean Tatars are able to maintain their own language, they will find it difficult to maintain themselves as a people or to gain recognition by local authorities in Crimea or further afield. The Russian decision to make Russian the official language in Crimea thus forces the Crimean Tatars to act or to concede defeat. Those Crimean Tatars who argue that it is more convenient to use Russian now and who oppose making the language issue a major one are sending the wrong message to everyone concerned. Indeed, they are perhaps without recognizing it raising the white flag of surrender of their national cause. The author is editor of the "Crimean Review." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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