|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 154, Part I, 6 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 *BEREZOVSKII SLAMS CHUBAIS, NEMTSOV *RUSSIA RATIFIES CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION *RUSSIA RATIFIES CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA BEREZOVSKII SLAMS CHUBAIS, NEMTSOV... Former Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii told journalists on 5 November that his dismissal was instigated by First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He denied charges that he used his state post to promote personal business interests, noting that he resigned from all corporate boards after joining the Security Council in late 1996. Referring to the first deputy prime ministers' avowed efforts to end government favoritism toward certain financial groups, Berezovskii accused Chubais of hypocrisy. He noted that during a recent visit to London, Chubais said he supports a joint venture between Russia's Oneksimbank and British Petroleum. (Oneksimbank and Berezovskii's LogoVAZ empire have repeatedly clashed over privatization sales.) Berezovskii argued that Nemtsov is incapable of carrying out "serious tasks" and has no chance of being elected president in 2000, Russian news agencies reported. LB ...CLAIMS CHERNOMYRDIN, RYBKIN NOT CONSULTED ON DISMISSAL. At the same press conference, Berezovskii claimed that neither Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin nor Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin was informed about his dismissal until after President Boris Yeltsin had signed the decree, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He added that Rybkin threatened to resign when he heard the news but that he urged Rybkin not to take any drastic action. Berezovskii claimed that Chubais's behavior resembles practices common at the Kremlin when Aleksandr Korzhakov was Yeltsin's top presidential bodyguard. At that time, some bureaucrats could approach the president and persuade him to sign any decree, he said. Now, Berezovskii continued, Chubais has the power to push through any personnel change he desires. Citing an unnamed source in the Kremlin, "Kommersant-Daily" claimed on 6 November that Berezovskii's dismissal may have been Yeltsin's own initiative and that it may have surprised Chubais and Nemtsov as well. LB NEMTSOV WELCOMES OUSTER, OTHERS KEEP QUIET. Nemtsov said Yeltsin made "absolutely the right decision" in firing Berezovskii, Interfax reported on 5 November. He noted that officials were warned about not combining their government activities with private business interests. Removing Berezovskii was an important step toward leaving "oligarchy capitalism" behind, he said. There was no comment on Berezovskii's dismissal from Yeltsin, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii, Security Council Secretary Rybkin, or Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, who remains on vacation. LB TV COVERAGE OF OUSTER REFLECTS DIVIDE IN ELITE. Russian Public Television's (ORT) Channel 1 network on 5 November depicted Berezovskii as a key figure in reaching a peace settlement in Chechnya. It devoted substantial coverage to Berezovskii's criticisms of Chubais and Nemtsov. ORT is 51 percent state-owned, but Berezovskii wields considerable influence at the network and reportedly pays the salaries of its top executives (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 5 November 1997). In its coverage of the dismissal, the private network NTV praised Berezovskii's role in Chechnya. Owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media Most, NTV has repeatedly criticized Chubais and Nemtsov in recent months. At his 5 November press conference, Berezovskii claimed that Chubais has vowed to "ruin" ORT and NTV, Interfax reported. In contrast, fully state-owned Russian Television (RTR), whose chairman Nikolai Svanidze is close to Chubais, reported on Berezovskii's career in more neutral terms. LB MEDIA CLOSE TO BEREZOVSKII WARN CHUBAIS COULD BE NEXT. Both ORT and NTV reminded viewers in 5 November newscasts that Yeltsin's leadership style involves maintaining a balance between opposing groups in the government. This pattern suggests the president may strike next against Chubais, commentators noted. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," partly financed by Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, described recent events as a "temporary victory" for Chubais, whose departure from the government is "inevitable." Ridiculing Chubais's pledge to rid Russia of "bandit capitalism," the newspaper charged that Chubais is himself the "father of bandit capitalism." In contrast, the newspapers "Izvestiya" and "Komsomolskaya pravda," in which Oneksimbank is a major shareholder, both welcomed Berezovskii's ouster in their 6 November editions. LB CAUCASIAN REACTION TO BEREZOVSKII'S DISMISSAL. Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov told Interfax on 5 November that Yeltsin's decision to fire Berezovskii was a "big mistake" since Berezovskii "was making great efforts" to resolve relations between Moscow and Grozny. Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Udugov said the dismissal was Russia's internal affair but added that he hopes Berezovskii will remain a member of the Russian-Chechen commission tasked with drafting a treaty on bilateral relations, ITAR-TASS reported. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev attributed the firing to "internal Kremlin intrigue." Praising Berezovskii's role in Chechnya, Aushev recalled he had asked Yeltsin to appoint Berezovskii presidential envoy to the North Caucasus, according to Interfax. Berezovskii told Ekho Moskvy on 5 November that he will continue to be involved in the Chechen peace process in a private capacity. LF RUSSIA RATIFIES CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION. Yeltsin signed the ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention on 5 November within hours of the Federation Council's passage of a law on ratifying the treaty. The relevant documents were delivered to UN headquarters in New York the same day, just meeting the deadline to allow Russia to participate in a conference on chemical weapons in early December in The Hague, AFP reported. While debating the convention, several Federation Council deputies expressed concern that if Russia were excluded from the December conference, it would lose substantial potential aid from the U.S. and the EU to fund chemical weapons destruction, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Russia's stockpile of some 40,000 tons of chemical weapons is stored at seven sites: two in the Republic of Udmurtia and one each in Bryansk, Kirov, Kurgan, Penza, and Saratov Oblasts. LB MASKHADOV PROCLAIMS CHECHNYA ISLAMIC REPUBLIC. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov claimed on 5 November that Chechnya has won independence and is now adopting a new administrative system as an Islamic Republic, according to the "Turkish Daily News." He added that Chechnya is ready to fight another war if Russia "dabbles in intrigues to obstruct our independence," Reuters reported. Maskhadov was speaking at a reception in his honor in the Turkish resort of Antalya. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" commented that the Chechen parliament may oppose amending the Chechen Constitution to designate Chechnya an Islamic state. A vote on expanding Maskhadov's powers has been postponed three times by Chechen lawmakers. LF YELTSIN AIDE IMPLICATES CHECHEN LEADERS IN HOSTAGE-TAKING. Yevgenii Savostyanov, the deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, has named Chechen Vice President Arsanov and acting Prime Minister Shamil Basaev as among "numerous" top Chechen leaders suspected of direct involvement in hostage-takings. Addressing the Federation Council on 5 November, Savostyanov said that more than 170 people have been kidnapped in Chechnya since January 1997, Interfax reported. NTV President Igor Malashenko accused Arsanov in August of being behind the kidnapping of a group of NTV journalists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 August 1997). LF FEDERATION COUNCIL CONCERNED ABOUT NEW PASSPORTS. The Federation Council on 5 November unanimously approved a letter to Yeltsin and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin requesting changes to the format of the new Russian internal passports, Interfax reported. The letter requests that an extra page be included, which, in republics of the Russian Federation, would print information about the holder in the titular language of the relevant republic. The Council's letter also asks that regional authorities be empowered to list the holder's nationality in the new passports if the holder desires it. This would be in accordance with Article 26 of the constitution, which entitles citizens to "determine and indicate" their nationality. The letter did not ask the government to remove the two-headed eagle from the cover of the new passports. Some politicians in the North Caucasus have said the eagle symbolizes Russian imperialism. LB TATAR PRESIDENT ADVOCATES DUAL CITIZENSHIP. Addressing the Federation Council in Moscow on 5 November, Mintimer Shaimiev argued that the new Russian passports should identify the holder's nationality and that inhabitants of Tatarstan should be allowed to hold dual citizenship, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 6 November, Shaimiev called for a division of powers between the center and federation subjects whereby the former would decide "strategic questions" and the latter all others. Shaimiev said Tatarstan's most pressing problem is the conversion of the military-industrial complex. LF FEDERATION COUNCIL WITHDRAWS COURT APPEAL... The Federation Council on 5 November agreed to withdraw its appeal to the Constitutional Court over Yeltsin's refusal to sign the law on the government after both houses of parliament overrode his veto, ITAR-TASS reported. Council Speaker Yegor Stroev said the appeal was no longer necessary since Yeltsin recently promised to sign the law. In fact, Yeltsin said he will sign the law on the government only if certain passages in it are amended (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 21 October 1997). The Council has not withdrawn its Constitutional Court appeal against Yeltsin's refusal to sign the trophy art law after both houses of the parliament overrode his veto. According to "Russkii telegraf" on 5 November, the State Duma is drafting a law that would prohibit the president from vetoing the same legislation twice. LB ...EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT POWER CUTS, DEFENSE INDUSTRY. Also on 5 November, the Federation Council approved an amendment to the criminal code introducing fines and prison sentences of up to five years for officials responsible for illegal power cuts to non-paying consumers of electricity, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, the Council adopted a resolution demanding the creation of a federal agency to supervise the defense industry, whose head would have the rank of deputy prime minister. The Defense Industry Ministry was eliminated in a cabinet reshuffle in March. That move was criticized by some leaders of regions that have high concentrations of defense plants (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 1997). LB NEMTSOV CALLS FOR CREATING A MIDDLE CLASS. First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov announced on 5 November that forming a middle class will be a priority of the government and the main task of the State Committee on Support and Development of Small Businesses, ITAR-TASS reported. Introducing Irina Khakamada, the new head of that committee, to the committee's staff, Nemtsov said small and medium-sized businesses currently employ some 12 million citizens. He called for efforts to increase that figure to 30-40 million, which, he said, would help form a middle class and solve the problems of unemployment and non-payment of wages and pensions. Nemtsov also noted that small and medium-sized businesses currently account for about 12 percent of GDP, which, he said, is more than either the gas monopoly Gazprom or the electricity utility Unified Energy Systems, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 6 November. LB RUSSIAN ECOLOGIST CRITICIZES NUCLEAR COOPERATION. In an article published in "Novye izvestiya" on 6 November, Aleksei Yablokov, the chairman of the Russian Center for Ecological Policy, argues that the Ministry for Atomic Energy is directly contributing to nuclear proliferation. Yablokov singled out the contracts signed with China and Iran in 1993 and 1995 respectively on providing technology on enriched uranium production. He also asserted that the nuclear facilities that the former USSR built in North Korea have enabled that country to produce nuclear weapons. A former presidential adviser on environmental security, Yablokov recently supported the controversial claim by former Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed that the Soviet Union produced suitcase- sized nuclear weapons (see "End Note" in "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1997) LF MORE CRITICISM OF DECISION TO AIR CONTROVERSIAL FILM. The presidium of the Communist-led Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia on 5 November issued a statement accusing the private network NTV of ignoring the views of "an absolute majority" of Russians by planning to air Martin Scorsese's film "The Last Temptation of Christ," ITAR- TASS reported. NTV is scheduled to broadcast the film on 9 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 1997). Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II said on 4 November that the Russian Orthodox Church is not trying to ban the film, which, he said, interested people may rent on video. However, he warned that showing the "blasphemous" film on nationwide television would lead to "divisions" in society. A statement issued by the Union of Muslims of Russia the previous day said showing the film would be destructive and immoral, "insulting God's messenger and all believers," Interfax reported. LB MOSCOW DUMA REVOKES DEPUTIES' IMMUNITY. The Moscow City Duma on 5 November unanimously approved amendments to the law on the status of city legislators, "Segodnya" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Deputies will no longer be protected from criminal prosecution. Moscow Duma Deputy Chairman Valerii Galchenko said the amendments are aimed at heading off attempts by "criminal structures" to place their people in the legislature during the upcoming city Duma elections, scheduled for December. The Supreme Court of the Altai Republic recently decided that deputies in the republic's legislatures should not be granted immunity from prosecution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1997). LB DEMONSTRATION IN DAGESTAN. Residents of Dagestan's Khasavyurt Raion staged a demonstration on 6 November to protest the recent abductions of three ethnic Avars and eight local police officials, an RFE/RL correspondent in Vladikavkaz reported. All the abducted men are believed to have been taken to neighboring Chechnya. The protesters intend to hold a larger demonstration in the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, to demand that the local government introduce restrictions on cross-frontier traffic. Russia temporarily closed the border between Dagestan and Chechnya on 25 October following the abduction of the eight police officers. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKH OPPOSITIONIST ANNOUNCES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY. At a 6 November meeting of opposition parties and movements, Murat Auezov, leader of the AZAMAT movement, announced his intention to run as a candidate in the 2000 presidential election, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. The leaders of several opposition parties said they will support Auezov's candidacy, but Kazakh Communist party leaders told RFE/RL that they are opposed to a presidential system. LF KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTIES DISCUSS COOPERATION. Representatives of several opposition movements and parties on 4 November attended the first session of a joint coordination committee on creating an opposition union called National Front, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Prominent opposition activist Galym Abelseyitov was elected chairman of the front, which will hold its first session in February 1998. AZAT, AZAMAT, the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, the Workers' Movement, LAD (which represents Kazakhstan's Slavic population), and the Socialist Party of Kazakhstan have expressed their readiness to join the front. LF WORKERS' PROTESTS CONTINUE IN KAZAKHSTAN. Twenty-four representatives of workers at the Qaratau Phosphorus Producing plant in Janatas (Jambyl Oblast), picketed the parliament building on 5 November demanding payment of wage arrears, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. The pickets said 202 workers at the plant have started a hunger strike to demand that local authorities and the plant`s administration begin paying some 560 million tenges ($7.3 million) in overdue salaries for the last two years. Meanwhile, workers at the Kentau Achisay Polymetal Plant have ended their protest. Over the past month, police have prevented them from continuing their planned march on Almaty. The plant's administration started paying off its debts to the Achisay workers after receiving a credit worth 150 million tenges from the Kazakh government. LF TAJIK PRESIDENT CALLS FOR PURGE OF MILITARY, POLICE. In a 5 November televised address to mark the third anniversary of the Tajik Constitution, Imomali Rakhmonov said the police and military must be cleansed of "criminal elements," Interfax reported. Rakhmonov added that measures must be taken to stop rival groups from seeking to resolve political differences by the use of violence. Also on 5 November, Russian Ambassador to Dushanbe Yevgenii Belov told Interfax that 78 political prisoners have been released in Tajikistan over the past three months. The National Reconciliation Commission estimates that some 700 United Tajik Opposition supporters still in prison are eligible to be amnestied. LF ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER SLAMS PRESIDENT'S KARABAKH POLICY. National Democratic Union (AZhM) chairman and former presidential candidate Vazgen Manukyan told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 5 November that President Levon Ter-Petrossyan's foreign policy may put an end to Armenian control over Nagorno- Karabakh and reduce Armenia to a nation living "at subsistence level." Manukyan said that international pressure on Armenia to recognize Azerbaijan's territorial integrity is not strong enough to force Yerevan to make serious concessions. He said he opposes any solution to the dispute with Azerbaijan that would restore Baku's sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh. The AZhM and other opposition parties have denounced Ter-Petrossyan's recent statement that unilateral demands for the disputed region's secession from Azerbaijan are "unrealistic." LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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