|History is made out of the failures and heroism of each insignificant moment. - Franz Kafka|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 152, Part I, 4 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 *AIDE SAYS YELTSIN NOT HAPPY WITH TAX COLLECTION *ACTIVISTS FORM NEW GROUP TO DEFEND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM *ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT DELEGATION IN TEHRAN End Note AS ONE DOOR CLOSES, ANOTHER OPENS FOR KAZAKH ELITE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA AIDE SAYS YELTSIN NOT HAPPY WITH TAX COLLECTION... Aleksandr Livshits, the deputy head of President Boris Yeltsin's administration, told journalists on 3 November that Yeltsin is not satisfied with current levels of tax collection, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau and Russian news agencies reported. Livshits noted that the revised 1997 budget called for 21.8 trillion rubles ($3.7 billion) in tax revenues in October, nearly 13 trillion rubles of which were to be in cash. However, tax receipts in October totaled just 14.7 trillion rubles, with 11 trillion rubles in cash. Livshits said the government must increase tax collection to some 25 trillion rubles a month by the end of the year. Yeltsin has also instructed the government to take steps to settle debts of 9 trillion rubles to the armed forces, 20 trillion rubles in wage arrears to state employees, and 13 trillion rubles owed by regional budgets in child allowances. lb ...CRITICIZES 1998 BUDGET COMPROMISE. Livshits also criticized some concessions that the government made during recent negotiations with parliamentary representatives over 1998 budget targets, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. In particular, he cited the decision to increase planned revenues by 27.5 billion new rubles ($4.7 billion), in part by revising the estimated GDP upward (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 27 October 1997). Livshits predicted that GDP growth will be insignificant in 1998. He went on to warn that similar compromises made during last year's budget negotiations-- when he was finance minister--led to the passage of an unrealistic budget and a cabinet reshuffle in March. Appearing on Russian Television on 2 November, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin defended the spending increases agreed during the negotiations. He argued that various economic indicators have shown improvement during the last three months. lb POLITICIANS ASSESS PROSPECTS FOR RUSSIA-JAPAN TREATY. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 3 November said he supports signing a peace treaty with Japan but warned that Russia should not compromise its territorial integrity, Interfax reported. Yeltsin and Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto recently agreed to sign a peace treaty by 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 1997). Duma First Deputy Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov of the Our Home Is Russia faction said negotiating the treaty would be "difficult and dangerous" and should be approached cautiously to avoid "serious internal political consequences." Duma deputy Sergei Ivanenko of Yabloko praised attempts to normalize Russian-Japanese relations but expressed doubt that a treaty can be negotiated within the next two years. Duma Geopolitics Committee Chairman Aleksei Mitrofanov of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia said negotiations should be conducted for at least 15-20 years before signing a treaty with Japan. lb GAZPROM OPTS FOR UNDERSEA PIPELINE TO TURKEY. Gazprom board chairman Rem Vyakhirev on 3 November announced his company has finally decided on the trans-Black Sea route for its new gas export pipeline to Turkey, ITAR-TASS reported. Vyakhirev said alternative routes running west through Ukraine, Moldova and Romania or east through Georgia and Armenia were rejected because of "instability and high political risk" in the Balkans and North Caucasus. The underwater route is, however, the most expensive and technically most demanding option (see "End Note", "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 1997) Two companies from Italy and The Netherlands will bid for the contract to build the 396 kilometer underwater section of the pipeline. Vyakhirev also announced that Gazprom is about to sign an agreement with a consortium of Russian and foreign banks for a $3 billion loan, according to Interfax. lf ACTIVISTS FORM NEW GROUP TO DEFEND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. More than 20 religious and human rights groups have formed an All- Russian Movement for Freedom of Conscience and a Secular State, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 3 November. Representatives of the movement say Russia's religion law has already led to numerous cases of discrimination in the month since it went into effect. They cited attempts to remove a judge from the city court of Noyabrsk, Tyumen Oblast, revoke the registration of a Lutheran mission in Khakassia, and deny registration to a Jewish congregation in Bryansk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 31 October 1997). Anatolii Pchelintsev, the director of the Institute of Religion and the Law, criticized attempts to organize Russian Orthodox congregations within the Russian armed forces, which, he argued, should be secular. Pchelintsev told RFE/RL that the new movement is preparing to appeal the religion law before the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. lb GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES FOR ORT HOLD FIRST MEETING. A council of government representatives for the 51 percent state- owned network Russian Public Television (ORT) held its first meeting on 3 November, two days after Prime Minister Chernomyrdin signed an order creating the council, Russian news agencies reported. State Property Minister Maksim Boiko chairs the 12-member council, which also includes presidential adviser Tatyana Dyachenko (Yeltsin's daughter), presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii, government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov, First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, ITAR-TASS director-general Vitalii Ignatenko, and deputy head of the presidential administration Mikhail Kommissar (one of the founders of the Interfax news agency). At its first meeting, the council discussed preparations for a 13 November ORT shareholders' meeting, which will choose a director-general and a new board of directors. lb FORMER HEAD OF STATE TV SKEPTICAL ABOUT NEW NETWORK. Oleg Poptsov, who chaired the state-run network Russian Television from its creation in 1990 until his dismissal in February 1996, has expressed skepticism about the prospects for the new network Kultura, which began broadcasting on 1 November. Poptsov told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau two days later that it is "absurd" and "ignorant" to think that Kultura will be able to survive only on state funding, without advertising. He predicted the network will soon be partly privatized, as was the Channel 1 network Russian Public Television in 1995. Poptsov noted that the focus on cultural and educational programming is unlikely to continue if financial groups acquire shares in Kultura. lb GERMAN LOANS TO FUND HOUSING FOR RETIRED MILITARY. The government plans to borrow a total of DM 150 million ($87 million) from German banks in 1998-1999 to fund the construction of housing for military retirees, Interfax reported on 3 November. According to current reform plans, 300,000 military posts are to be cut by 2000. The government has begun distributing "housing certificates" to some soldiers, which theoretically can be used to buy apartments upon leaving the armed services, "Segodnya" reported on 27 October. However, the paper expressed doubt that the face value of the certificates will be enough to cover the cost of purchasing an apartment. It also questioned whether anyone would agree to sell housing in exchange for a certificate that must be reimbursed by the Defense Ministry, which is known to have trouble meeting its financial obligations. lb ZYUGANOV DEFENDS COMMUNIST STRATEGY. Communist Party leader Zyuganov answered criticism from the radical wing of his party in an interview published in "Pravda-5" on 4 November. Some Communists opposed the decision in mid-October to drop a planned vote of no confidence in the government. "Pravda-5" published harsh criticism of that strategy from Communist Duma deputy Tatyana Astrakhankina on 29 October and from Central Committee member Leonid Petrovskii two days later. Zyuganov argued that the Duma did not show "weakness" or capitulate to the Kremlin. Rather, he said, it obtained important concessions from the government and more access to the media. Zyuganov also argued against holding new parliamentary elections, which can be called if the Duma votes no confidence twice within three months. Although new elections would increase the representation of "radicals" in the Duma, he said, those radicals would be unprepared for parliamentary work. lb DUMA COMMISSION EXTENDS PRIVATIZATION INVESTIGATION. The Duma commission investigating the conduct of four controversial privatization auctions has extended its work until 10 December, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 November. The Duma formed the commission in September to investigate the sales of major stakes in the telecommunications holding company Svyazinvest, the metals giant Norilsk Nickel, and the Tyumen and Subneft oil companies. It was to have completed its work by 1 November. However, commission chairman Valerii Vorotnikov of the Communist faction said deputies are awaiting the results of examinations conducted by the Prosecutor-General's Office and the Audit Chamber, which are expected to release their conclusions in November. lb DUMA COMMITTEE AGAINST SEX EDUCATION PROGRAM. The Duma Committee on Women, Family and Youth Affairs is concerned about a federally funded sex education program that encourages the practice of "safe sex," committee chairwoman Alevtina Aparina told ITAR- TASS on 3 November. Aparina, a member of the Communist faction, said budget funds earmarked for children's programs are financing the program, which is being actively promoted in many cities by the Russian Association for Family Planning. She said her committee shares the position of the Russian Orthodox Church, which, she said, has argued that the sex education program is "in reality aimed at destroying morality, corrupting children, and reducing birth rates in our country." Aparina said her committee plans to take unspecified legislative action to block the program. lb ELECTION CONFLICT IN TYUMEN. A new dispute threatens to derail the 14 December elections to the Tyumen Oblast Duma, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 November. With two weeks remaining before the registration deadline for candidates, the oblast Duma amended legislation to bar deputies from simultaneously holding seats in other legislative bodies. The amendment is aimed at preventing legislators from Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrugs from winning seats in the Tyumen Oblast Duma. The oil- and gas-rich okrugs have their own governors and legislatures, although they are also part of Tyumen. Okrug leaders, who seek more economic autonomy from Tyumen, say the last-minute amendment by the oblast Duma is unconstitutional. Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets may refuse to conduct the Tyumen elections on their territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1997). In January, the okrugs boycotted the Tyumen gubernatorial election. lb HOMELESS GROUP PROTESTS ELECTORAL LAW IN TOMSK. A movement representing homeless people has filed a court appeal against the refusal to register one of its members as a candidate in the upcoming Tomsk Oblast legislative elections, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 November. Petr Kurennyi, a homeless resident of Tomsk, was denied registration by a district electoral commission on the grounds he does not have a passport. The oblast electoral commission refused to hear his complaint. Tomsk Mayor Aleksandr Makarov told "Kommersant-Daily" that he supports Kurennyi's claim, since the constitution grants all citizens the right to vote and run for office. Makarov noted that no federal law requires citizens to have a passport and a residence permit in order to run for office. lb ENERGY WORKERS CALL ANOTHER STRIKE IN PRIMORE. Energy workers in Primorskii Krai began an indefinite strike on 3 November, slightly reducing output at the region's power plans, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported. Trade union leaders warn that the strike could soon lead to power cuts. First Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Kirienko said in Primore in October that he had reached agreement with krai authorities and the regional utility Dalenergo on settling wage arrears to energy workers. However, the schedule for paying the workers some five months in back wages has not been met. Meanwhile, Primore's coal miners, who went on strike for several weeks in September, are threatening to resume the strike in December. Unpaid workers at the Zvezda and Progress defense plants have also staged protests. lb COMMISSION POSTPONES DECISION ON BURIAL FOR TSAR'S FAMILY. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov announced on 3 November that a government commission on reburying the remains of Russia's last tsar and his family will submit its recommendations to the president in January, Russian news agencies reported. Yeltsin will then decide whether the remains should be buried in Yekaterinburg, Moscow, or St. Petersburg. Nemtsov said that although the bones have been identified with 99.9 percent certainty, the government will fund more tests to remove all doubts about their authenticity. Nicholas II and his family were killed in Yekaterinburg in 1918. Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel, who believes the remains should be buried in Yekaterinburg, told Interfax that he will ask Yeltsin not to allow the bones to be transferred to Moscow for further tests. Rossel argued that the remains could be damaged or stolen in transit. lb TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT DELEGATION IN TEHRAN. Chief of government staff Shahen Karamanukian met with Iranian President Mohammad Khattami in Tehran on 2 November to discuss bilateral cooperation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Karamanukian handed over a letter from Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan and reached an agreement with Khattami on unspecified "concrete steps." Together with Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Manasarian, Karamanukian also met with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and the construction, oil, and finance ministers, according to Noyan Tapan. Arkadii Ghukasyan, the president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, proposed in October that Iran, along with Russia, France, the U.S. and Armenia, should guarantee Karabakh's security under any formal peace agreement. lf WORLD BANK ON ARMENIAN ECONOMY. Johannes Linn, the World Bank's deputy director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, has approved Armenia's economic policies, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Linn said the World Bank will grant Armenia credits worth some $200 million in 1997-1998. To date, Armenia has received a total of $360 million in interest-free loans under 16 programs from the World Bank's International Development Agency (IDA). Those credits have been used largely to finance the budget deficit and rebuild the infrastructure. First Deputy Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian has predicted that in 1998, Armenia and Russia will become the first CIS countries to be admitted to the World Trade Organization, according to Noyan Tapan on 3 November. lf SOVIET-ERA ARMENIAN DISSIDENT DIES. Ashot Navarsardian, an Armenian parliamentary deputy and head of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), died of a heart attack on 2 November, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Navarsardian, who was 47, served three jail sentences totaling 12 years for dissident activities during the Soviet era. In 1989, he founded the paramilitary Independence Army, which fought in Nagorno-Karabakh. The following year, he set up the HHK, a member of the majority Hanrapetutyun bloc. lf ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT CHARGES GEORGIA WITH GENOCIDE. The parliament of self-proclaimed Abkhaz Republic has said that Georgian reprisals against ethnic Abkhaz and other ethnic groups during the 1992-1993 war constituted "genocide." It recommended that President Vladislav Ardzinba institute legal proceedings against the central Georgian government for the internment of Turks, Greeks, and Laz, CAUCASUS PRESS reported on 4 November. The Abkhaz parliament also tasked the government with developing a demographic program and with restoring Abkhaz place names that were replaced with Georgian ones. Before the exodus of the some 250,000 ethnic Georgians in 1992-1993, the Abkhaz constituted a minority within their republic, accounting for only 18 percent of the 500,000-strong population. lf "NO PROBLEMS" IN GEORGIAN-ADJAR RELATIONS. Speaking at a press conference in Batumi following his 30 October meeting with Adjar Supreme Soviet Chairman Aslan Abashidze, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze denied there are any problems in relations between the central Georgian government and the autonomous Republic of Adjaria, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 4 November. Abashidze, however, said he has documentary evidence that unnamed politicians in Georgia want to deprive Adjaria of its autonomous status. Tamaz Kharazi, the former mayor of Batumi, recently claimed that Georgian parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania tried to enlist his help in ousting Abashidze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 October 1997). Abashidze's All-Georgian Union for Revival is the third largest party in the Georgian parliament. lf TAJIK PRESIDENT, UN MISSION HEAD ASSESS PEACE PROCESS. Following a meeting in Dushanbe on 4 November with Imomali Rakhmonov, UN mission chief Gerd Dietrich Merrem told journalists that he and the Tajik president agreed that the National Reconciliation Commission's plan on implementing the summer's peace accords is ambitious but realistic, Interfax reported. The commission is composed of representatives from both the government and from the main Islamist-led opposition. Merrem said that the cease-fire,. which ended years of civil war, has been fully observed for 11 months. He also praised implementation of agreements on the registration of opposition fighters and on an amnesty for former combatants. In an interview published in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on 4 November, Merrem praised Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's contribution to the Tajik peace process. lf KYRGYZ PREMIER NOT IN DANGER OF DISMISSAL. Presidential press secretary Kanybek Imanaliev told journalists on 3 November that President Askar Akayev has no intention of dismissing Prime Minister Apas Djamagulov, Interfax reported. Imanaliev said Akayev is concerned about criticism of the premier and believes it is time to "abandon the illusion" that the appointment of a new prime minister would lead to "revolutionary advances" in the economy. What Kyrgyzstan needs is a "stable government to implement stable reforms," according to the president. lf HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT TOURS CENTRAL ASIA. Arpad Goncz has recently visited Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, where he met with top officials to discuss boosting modest trade levels and expanding economic cooperation, Russian media and RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. lf END NOTE AS ONE DOOR CLOSES, ANOTHER OPENS FOR KAZAKH ELITE by Merhat Sharipzhan In the six years since gaining independence from the former Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has had three constitutions, three prime ministers, and three parliaments. Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbaev, recently appointed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, has put together his new cabinet. Some Kazakh observers doubt that Balgimbaev and his team will last long, given Nazarbayev's tendency to replace political appointees and officials. But losing a post in the Kazakh government does not necessarily mean the end of the line in career terms. Many Kazakh officials have found that as one door closes, another opens--often to a business career that is more lucrative than politics. For example, since leaving high office, former Premier Sergey Tereshchenko, ousted Deputy Premier Asyghat Jabaghin, and former Economy Minister Mars Urkimbayev have become owners of major international business concerns. Moreover, involvement in an scandal does not necessarily mean disbarment from high-ranking posts. Asyghat Jabaghin, onetime governor of Pavlodar Oblast, northern Kazakhstan, and later deputy premier, was dismissed consecutively from all his posts amid allegations of involvement in dubious activities related to the privatization process. But he has now returned to the political scene as the minister of trade, industry, and economy in Balgimbaev's cabinet. Former Education Minister Talghat Mamashev lost his position owing to his involvement in a scandal over the presidential students' exchange program, known as Bolashak-Future. Under that scheme, many Kazakh officials--including Mamashev himself-- sent their children to study at U.S. universities. Nonetheless, Mamashev is now chairman of the official Foundation for Education Support. Amangeldy Bektemisov, who was sacked as governor of Eastern Kazakhstan Oblast for financial mismanagement, is now chief of the state agricultural company Ken Dala. This is a key company through which the U.S. concern John Deer--the world's biggest agricultural machinery manufacturer--sells tractors and combines to Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan has attracted thousands of millions of dollars in foreign investment in the last four years. Particularly under the government of Sergey Tereshchenko, much money was directed toward private companies owned by Kazakh officials or their relatives. Some of those companies have since been dissolved, and no information about the whereabouts of the foreign credits has been given. There have been two other governments since Tereshchenko's tenure, and by now it is practically impossible to determine what happened to the money directed to private companies. During the privatization process, many industrial objects were sold to Western companies for excessively low prices, leading to rumors of bribery. Some members of the parliament's lower house, the Majilis, pushed for discussion of the issue. Former Prime Minister Akejan Kejegeldin told journalists just before he was ousted in early October that privatization in Kazakhstan could be defined as the division of national resources among an "oligarchy." Some parliamentary deputies have started discussing the possibility of new legislation on conflict of interest laws in a bid to crack down on such practices. It has been proposed that an official who is sacked--especially from the spheres of finance, oil and gas production, investments, or privatization--be barred from doing business in those spheres for one or two years. Many Kazakh observers, however, are skeptical that deputies will be able to achieve much, given the tightly woven network of those benefiting most from Kazakhstan's political and economic life. The author is an editor for RFE/RL's Kazakh service. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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