|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 151, Part I, 3 November 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 * YELTSIN, HASHIMOTO PLEDGE TO SIGN TREATY BY 2000 * RUSSIA, FRANCE URGE IRAQ TO BACK DOWN * ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ARGUES NEED FOR KARABAKH CONCESSIONS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN, HASHIMOTO PLEDGE TO SIGN TREATY BY 2000... Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto on 2 November agreed to sign a peace treaty by 2000, an RFE/RL correspondent in Krasnoyarsk reported. The pledge was the main achievement of the two-day "summit without neckties" in Krasnoyarsk Krai. Neither Yeltsin nor Hashimoto gave details on possible solutions to the territorial dispute over the four Kuril Islands seized by the Soviet Union near the end of World War II. That dispute prevented Japan and the Soviet Union from signing a treaty to end the war. According to ITAR-TASS, some 17,000 Russian citizens now live on the islands. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who held talks with Japanese officials in Krasnoyarsk, downplayed prospects that the islands will be returned to Japan, Reuters reported. He noted that the Russian president is the guarantor of the constitution, which protects Russia's territorial integrity. lb ...SEEK INCREASED ECONOMIC, POLITICAL COOPERATION. The previous day, Yeltsin and Hashimoto approved several initiatives on increasing Russian-Japanese trade and promoting joint projects in energy, transportation and business management training, Reuters reported. The two leaders also endorsed measures to boost Japanese investment in Russia. (Yeltsin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 31 October that direct Japanese investment in the Russian economy to date totals $227 million, Interfax reported.) In addition, Hashimoto expressed support for Russian membership in the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Yeltsin said Russia will back Japan's bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, according to dpa. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov is to visit Japan in November to follow up on the Krasnoyarsk summit. lb RUSSIA, FRANCE URGE IRAQ TO BACK DOWN. In a joint statement issued after their talks in Moscow in 1 November, Russian Foreign Minister Primakov and his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine, said Iraq's refusal to cooperate further with UN weapons inspectors is "unacceptable" and violates UN Security Council resolutions. The two ministers called on Baghdad to reverse its decision and allow the UN commission in Iraq to continue its work, saying this would signal "de-escalating tensions." Noting that the lifting of the UN oil embargo is conditional on Iraq's full cooperation with the UN special commission, they affirmed support for UN Secretary-General Kofi Anna's plan to send a special UN mission to Baghdad to persuade the Iraqi leadership to cooperate. lf PRIMAKOV PROPOSES MID-EAST PEACE CODE. Speaking at a news conference in Cairo on 31 October, Primakov again argued that Israel's failure to abide by agreements signed with the Palestinians is to blame for the present deadlock in the Middle East peace process. He proposed a 12 point peace and security code for the entire Middle East region, including Turkey, North Africa, Iran, and Iraq. The code affirms that the security of individual states in the region cannot be ensured in isolation from the peace process or solely by military and technical means. It also calls for "decisive counter-action to all forms of terrorism and extremism." Meeting in Moscow on 1 November, Primakov and French Foreign Minister Vedrine agreed to hold regular consultations to render their support for the Middle East peace process more effective, AFP reported. lf IMF POSTPONES LOAN TRANCHE. The IMF has delayed issuing a $700 million tranche of a three-year $10.1 billion loan to Russia until at least early 1998, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 31 October. A joint statement issued by the IMF and First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Anatolii Chubais said continuing poor tax collection in Russia has prevented the IMF from completing its planned quarterly review. According to data released by the Russian government the previous day, tax revenues totaled some 158.5 trillion rubles ($27 billion) during the first nine months of 1997, 40 percent below budget targets. "Kommersant-Daily" argued on 1 November that the IMF helped Chubais "save face" by delaying the loan tranche without officially refusing to grant it, which, the newspaper said, could have hurt Russia's credit rating. lb BUSINESS COMES FIRST DURING FRENCH PREMIER'S VISIT. French businessmen who accompanied Prime Minister Lionel Jospin on his three-day visit to Moscow signed contracts on deals worth 4 billion francs ($680 million), AFP reported on 1 November. The car manufacturer Renault signed a letter of intent with the Moscow city government on a joint venture involving a $350 million investment from Renault. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told journalists that a 31 October session of a Russian-French cooperation commission discussed ways to increase bilateral trade generally and several joint projects in space exploration, aeronautics, oil and gas production, and the automobile industry, Interfax reported. At the same press conference, Jospin praised the prospects for Russian- French economic relations. He also said the U.S. should not put pressure on Russia's Gazprom and the French firm Total, which have signed a contract on developing a gas field in Iran. lb RUSSIA WOULD USE NUKES TO COUNTER ATTACK ON "ALLIES." Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin stressed that it is important that Russia preserves its ability to respond with a nuclear strike to aggression against either itself or its allies, whom he did not name, "Russkii telegraf" reported on 30 October. Rybkin was speaking the previous day at an unspecified Russian Defense Ministry research establishment. Earlier this year, Rybkin said Russia did not exclude the first use of either nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons to repel a conventional attack (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 1997). lf ATTACK ON HQ OF CHECHEN ANTI-KIDNAPPING BRIGADE. Unidentified men on 31 October attacked the Grozny headquarters of the brigade that President Aslan Maskhadov set up to crack down on abductions, Russian media reported. The attackers succeeded in releasing four men who had been detained on suspicion of kidnappings. Also on 31 October, the EU announced it will release 700,000 ecus (more than $798,000) in humanitarian aid to Chechnya for war victims and infrastructure projects, according to ITAR-TASS. lf YAVLINSKII STILL INSISTS ON WITHDRAWAL OF TAX CODE. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii on 31 October sharply criticized the government for persuading Yeltsin to change his mind about withdrawing the proposed tax code from the State Duma, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 31 October. Yavlinskii again argued that the code is repressive and will prevent economic growth by failing to reduce the tax burden on the business sector. Yeltsin on 21 October instructed the government to withdraw the tax code from the Duma. However, government ministers and most Duma members, including leading Communists, opposed such a move. At a 30 October meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin announced he now doubts the wisdom of making "serious, essential concessions on the tax code" in return for a "formal show of accord" with the Duma, Interfax reported. lb DUMA, MINISTERS ON REVOLUTION ANNIVERSARY. The Duma on 31 October adopted an appeal marking the 80th anniversary of the October Revolution, Interfax and Reuters reported. The Communist- sponsored motion, which was opposed by the Yabloko and Our Home Is Russia factions, states, "The ideals of the revolution...remain alive in the hearts of millions of our compatriots, and they are cherished by working people in many countries." Appearing on Russian Television on 2 November, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin noted that 7 November "is a special date, especially for the older generation," Reuters reported. "The 1917 events are part of our history and I think they should be respected and treated in what I would call a humane way," Chernomyrdin added. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Sergei Stepashin issued a statement on 31 October urging "all responsible political figures" to show restraint on 7 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 1997). lb NEW HEAD OF SMALL BUSINESSES COMMISSION OUTLINES PRIORITIES. Irina Khakamada, the new head of the State Committee on Support and Development of Small Businesses, outlined her priorities in an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 2 November. Khakamada said in her new cabinet post, she will support policies to alleviate three major obstacles facing small businesses in Russia: the heavy tax burden, pressure to pay criminal groups for protection, and high costs for office space and equipment. She also said she hopes to attract more media interest in small businesses, noting that Russian financially-oriented publications currently focus primarily on banking or industrial "giants." Yeltsin appointed Khakamada to head the committee on 30 October. Asked why she gave up her Duma seat to join the cabinet, Khakamada explained that she had virtually no influence on the lower house's legislative activities because she did not belong to any registered faction. lb CHUBAIS CLOSES MOST BANK ACCOUNT. First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais has closed his personal account in Most Bank, citing unspecified "personal reasons," Russian news agencies reported on 31 October. Until this summer, Chubais had good relations with Most Bank founder Vladimir Gusinskii and almost always received favorable coverage in the media controlled by Gusinskii's company Media-Most, including the private network NTV, the radio station Ekho Moskvy and the newspaper "Segodnya." However, since a consortium involving Gusinskii failed to win an auction for a stake in the telecommunications giant Svyazinvest, Media-Most outlets have frequently criticized Chubais, his economic policies, and his main ally in the government, First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov. lb NEW TV NETWORK BEGINS BROADCASTING. The state-run network "Kultura," which will feature cultural and educational programs but no advertisements, began broadcasting on 1 November. Kultura will be received by a potential audience of some 100 million in European Russia, using a frequency formerly used by St. Petersburg Channel 5 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 1997). The first program shown on the network was an address by Yeltsin, who also chairs the Kultura board of trustees. Numerous prominent cultural figures are on the board, including theater director Mark Sakharov, academician Dmitrii Likhachev, cellist and symphony conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, writer Fazil Iskander, and film-maker Edvard Radzinskii. lb NTV TO SHOW CONTROVERSIAL FILM. The private network NTV will broadcast Martin Scorsese's film "The Last Temptation of Christ" on 9 November, in accordance with the outcome of a televised mock trial on 1 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The network had twice cancelled plans to show the film following protests by the Russian Orthodox Church (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 1997). Various prominent political and religious figures offered "testimony" during a 1 November NTV program in which a lawsuit by the church against the network was played out. Although the "jury" of six experts was evenly divided, the case was decided in favor of the defendant, NTV. lb LUZHKOV SLAMS TV VIOLENCE, PRAISES WOMEN. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has charged that television programs depicting murders and violence damage the moral foundations of the family, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 October. Addressing a conference organized by the Union of Russian Women, Luzhkov advocated a "law on protecting morality, language, national traditions and culture" and criticized most popular music for failing to uphold family values. He also called on women to become more active in public life, since women are "by nature guardians of the household and incapable of taking extreme decisions that harm society." In particular, Luzhkov argued that women would be more cautious in deciding on radical economic changes. lb CHITA GOVERNOR DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY. Chita Oblast Governor Ravil Geniatulin on 31 October declared a state of emergency to deal with a mounting energy crisis in the east-Siberian region, Russian news agencies reported. Unpaid workers at Chita's largest power plant went on strike on 12 October, leading to massive power cuts as the plant began to operate at half-capacity. Since temperatures dropped to sub-zero levels, heating systems in the oblast capital have been in danger of freezing. Leaders of trade unions representing energy workers agreed to end the strike on 31 October after the Chita administration allocated 10 billion rubles ($1.7 million), enough to pay half the wage arrears to the strikers. First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais announced the same day that the federal government will also take steps to help settle the energy crisis in Chita. lb CHERNOMYRDIN APPROVES ENERGY SUBSIDIES FOR FAR EAST REGIONS. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on 31 October signed a government directive on providing quarterly subsidies for Primorskii and Khabarovsk Krais to ensure uninterrupted heating supplies in those regions, Russian news agencies reported. Chernomyrdin signed the order following a meeting with Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko. Strikes by unpaid energy workers have led to frequent power cuts in Primore. lb TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ARGUES NEED FOR KARABAKH CONCESSIONS. In an article published by most Armenian dailies on 1 November, Levon Ter-Petrossyan castigated the opposition for responding with "insults, smear, and slander" to his 26 September statement that it is unrealistic for Armenia to demand independence for Nagorno- Karabakh, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ter-Petrossyan said it is neither possible nor desirable to maintain the status quo indefinitely and that "mutual concessions" are the only way to ensure that Armenians continue to populate Karabakh. He suggested that the "phased" and "package" options for resolving the conflict "may easily be combined." Ter-Petrossyan warned that "serious complications" may arise if a draft document that could serve as a basis for negotiations is not signed before the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's foreign ministers meet in December. He called for the resumption of talks with Azerbaijan, which were put on hold in November 1996. lf OPPOSITION PROTESTS KARABAKH POLICY. Some 10,000 people took part in an opposition demonstration in Yerevan on 31 October to denounce the leadership's Karabakh policy, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital reported. Rally organizers accused President Ter- Petrossyan of preparing for what they called Nagorno-Karabakh's surrender and capitulation to Azerbaijan. They also demanded that Armenia not sign any peace agreement subordinating Karabakh to Azerbaijan and that the details of a peace plan proposed by the OSCE's Minsk Group be disclosed. lf UN SECRETARY-GENERAL ON ABKHAZ SITUATION. Kofi Annan has warned that the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeepers and UN observer mission stationed on the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia could lead to a resumption of the conflict, ITAR-TASS reported on 1 November. The CIS heads of state summit in Chisinau on 23 October prolonged the mandate of the peacekeepers until 31 December1997, but Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov warned five days later that the force will be withdrawn unless there is progress toward a political settlement of the conflict. Meanwhile, addressing the Georgian parliament on 31 October, Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili implied that Tbilisi may reject further Russian mediation in favor of the peace talks that several Western countries and Russia initiated in August under the aegis of the UN, Interfax reported. lf ECHIBEY CRITICIZES OSCE KARABAKH PEACE PLAN. Former Azerbaijani President Abulfaz Echibey told journalists in Baku on 31 October that the latest OSCE peace proposal is "unacceptable" because it fails to preserve Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, Russian agencies reported. The Azerbaijani leadership has agreed to that plan. Elchibey said Karabakh should have no more than "cultural autonomy" and that he advocates military action to resolve the Karabakh conflict if it proves impossible to do so by peaceful means. He added he has not yet decided whether to contend the 1998 presidential elections or to support an alternative opposition candidate such as Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar. He noted he will advocate a boycott if the elections are not held under democratic conditions. lf KAZAKHSTAN RESTRICTS ALCOHOL SALES. The Eastern Kazakhstan Oblast administration has banned street sales of alcohol, according to ITAR-TASS on 2 November. Over the past two years, 677 people are reported to have died from alcohol poisoning after drinking adulterated alcohol. So far this year, police have impounded 800 tons of inferior contraband alcohol from China. lf TAJIK OPPOSITION FIGHTERS CONTINUE TO REGISTER. Tajik Prime Minister Yakhye Azimov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri were in Garm on 31 October to monitor the registration of former opposition fighters who recently returned to the region from Afghanistan, Interfax reported. The two men will also study the economic situation in eastern Tajikistan in anticipation of a $10 million World Bank loan to help restore the region's economic infrastructure. The UTO and the Russian peacekeeping force in Tajikistan have recently disagreed over which border crossing the returning UTO fighters are to use, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 31 October. lf xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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