|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 164, Part I, 20 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 EUROPE: Has The West Embraced The East? -- a five-part series about Europe's multilateral organizations and whether and how they've aided the integration of Central and Eastern Europe with the West -- is online at the RFE/RL Web site. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/multilateral/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN SACKS CHUBAIS AS FINANCE MINISTER * CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS GOVERNMENT TO STAY COURSE OF REFORM * IRAN SEEKS IMPROVED TIES WITH AZERBAIJAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN SACKS CHUBAIS AS FINANCE MINISTER. President Boris Yeltsin on 20 November dismissed Anatolii Chubais as finance minister in a bid to end a scandal over payments for an unpublished book on privatization. Following a meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin earlier the same day, Yeltsin's press service released a statement saying Chubais retains his post as first deputy prime minister. Mikhail Zadornov, head of the State Duma's Budget Committee and a member of Yabloko, has been named to take over the Finance Ministry. Observers say the move is largely symbolic since Chubais will retain his much more influential post of deputy premier. On 15 November, Yeltsin sacked Privatization Minister Maxim Boiko, bankruptcy agency head Pyotr Mostovoi, and Kremlin deputy chief of staff Aleksandr Kazakov over the $90,000 advances each received for the privatization book. But he turned down a resignation offer by Chubais, who had also received such payment. AW RESPONSES TO ZADORNOV'S APPOINTMENT. Gennadii Seleznev, the communist Duma speaker welcomed Yeltsin's appointment of Zadornov as finance minister, calling it a "good decision," ITAR-TASS reported. Seleznev said Zadornov could become a "strong" finance minister, noting that his first task will be to tackle the 1998 draft budget. Meanwhile, Grigorii Yavlinskii, the leader of Yabloko, said the movement had initially expressed opposition to Zadornov's acceptance of the finance portfolio. But he noted that faction members on 20 November accepted Zadornov's request to leave the movement. Yabloko passed a resolution the previous day calling on members not to join the cabinet. AW YELTSIN TO BAN DEPUTY PREMIERS FROM HOLDING OTHER POSTS. President Yeltsin is to ban deputy prime ministers from holding other posts, RIA-Novosti reported on 19 November. Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told the news agency that Yeltsin has "accepted and approved" ending a practice whereby deputy prime ministers can also head ministries. He said the decision will affect all deputy prime ministers who hold another post. This suggests that Boris Nemtsov, one of two first deputy prime ministers and fuel and energy minister, will lose one of those positions. AW CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS GOVERNMENT TO STAY COURSE OF REFORM. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin told Russian Television on 19 November that the government will continue its reformist course. Chernomyrdin noted there will be no changes in economic policy as long as he remains in office. "Everyone seems to have decided that everything is changing, everything is bad and that the departure of one or two persons means a catastrophe. Nothing of the sort," Chernomyrdin said. DUMA REJECTS MOTION ADVISING CONFIDENCE VOTE. The Duma on 19 November rejected a motion advising the government to ask the lower house of the parliament to call a confidence vote in the cabinet, Interfax reported. The motion was introduced by the Yabloko reformist opposition group and Sergei Yushenkov, the deputy chairman of Russia's Democratic Choice. The issue was raised in connection with a non-binding resolution, passed by an overwhelming majority, calling for Chubais's ouster and praising Yeltsin's decision to sack the three other officials involved in the book payments scandal. The Duma also rejected a motion by Yabloko faction member Anatolii Golov asking the president to dismiss the cabinet. AW DUMA ADOPTS BILL ON CONTROL OF "SIGNIFICANT EXPENDITURES." The Duma approved in the third and final reading a draft law establishing government oversight of "significant expenditures" by private citizens, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Under the bill, buyers would be obligated to notify the government of purchases of certain items that exceed more than 83.5 million rubles ($14,000). The law would apply to purchases of real estate, automobiles, stocks and bonds, and cultural artifacts. In such cases, the buyer would have to present Russian tax collectors with documents indicating the source of the income used in the purchase. AW UN SECURITY COUNCIL APPROVES RUSSIA-IRAQ AGREEMENT. Meeting in Geneva early on 20 November, the permanent members of the UN Security Council approved the agreement reached between Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz during talks in Moscow on 18-19 November. Under that agreement, Iraq consents to the immediate return of the UN weapons inspectors in return for written guarantees that Moscow "will vigorously contribute" to the earliest lifting of sanctions imposed on Iraq. LF TURKEY READY TO EASE RESTRICTIONS ON TANKER TRAFFIC? Turkish diplomats have told Moscow that Ankara is preparing to ease restrictions on tanker traffic through the Turkish straits to facilitate the export of oil from Russian ports, AFP reported on 19 November, citing the Anatolia News Agency. In July 1994, Ankara imposed restrictions on tankers transiting the straits. Russia argued that those restrictions violated the 1936 Treaty of Montreux, which guarantees free passage through those waters. Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin is scheduled to visit Turkey on 15 December, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 20 November. LF NUCLEAR SUBMARINES, WASTE SITES POSE THREAT... Nuclear submarines and nuclear waste sites in northern Russian could cause a large-scale nuclear disaster, AFP reported, on 19 November, quoting the head of the Duma Committee on Northern Russia. "A new Chornobyl threatens the north of Russia, as well as Norway, Sweden, and Finland," Vladimir Goman told a press conference. He said the danger emanates from old nuclear submarines and deposits full of nuclear waste that can be found in the region. The Russian Arctic Fleet has 90 nuclear submarines on dry docks, of which 75 percent are dangerous, Goman said. "The reprocessing of all the waste accumulated in Russia is going to cost at least $100 billion," he added. Russia intends to organize an international conference on the reprocessing of nuclear waste in 1998. AW ...AS DO AGING NUCLEAR REACTORS. If Russia does not act quickly to replace its aging nuclear reactors, the country could witness an accident possibly worse than the 1986 Chornobyl disaster, according to Aleksei Chadaev, the editor of "Slavia." Chadaev wrote in "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" on 20 November that only 1 trillion out of the 10 trillion rubles (some $2 billion) budgeted to modernize Russia's nine nuclear power stations has been allocated. He noted the reactors at the Bilibin nuclear power station will be outdated by 2006 and claims that the situation is also critical at the Kursk, Leningrad, and Novovoronezh nuclear facilities. The government envisions replacing obsolete equipment at already operating facilities and constructing new nuclear stations by 2010. AW SUICIDES, DEATHS IN ARMED FORCES. A total of 314 Russian servicemen have committed suicide in the first nine months of this year, Interfax reported on 19 November, quoting Chairman of the Army and Society Association Nikita Chernov. Chernov said another 1,037 servicemen were killed and 2,106 injured during the same period, even though Russia's war in Chechnya ended last year. He attributed some of the deaths to brutal hazing and "inhuman conditions" in the ill-financed armed forces. Some 500 Russian officers committed suicide in 1996, according to figures announced in March by the chief of staff of the armed forces. AW DID SWISS ACCOUNT BELONG TO LENIN? An account belonging to Vladimir Ulyanov has emerged among the list of names of owners of dormant Swiss bank accounts, Reuters reported on 19 November. The Ulyanov account contains less than 100 Swiss francs, Whether it belonged to the Bolshevik leader Lenin or to someone else with the same name is unclear. "We don't know whether it is the real Lenin," said a spokeswoman for the Swiss Bankers Association. She did not say which Swiss bank held the account. Lenin lived in Zurich during his exile. In April 1917, he left Switzerland to return to Russia shortly before the Bolshevik revolution. AW RUSSIA HOPES TO KEEP TO "ALPHA" STATION SCHEDULE. Boris Ostromov, the deputy director of the Russian space agency (RKA), said on 19 November that Russia may still meet the deadline for supplying a service module for the "Alpha" international space station. Ostromov admitted that the RKA is five months behind schedule in completing work on the module, but he blamed delays in funding. He said the RKA and Russian enterprises are working "round the clock" to finish their part of the project. The launch date for the "Alpha" station is December 1998. BP TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA IRAN SEEKS IMPROVED TIES WITH AZERBAIJAN. Iranian Minister for Cooperation Morteza Haji, who is co-chairman of the Azerbaijani- Iranian commission on economic cooperation, told President Heidar Aliev in Baku on 18 November that Tehran attaches "special importance" to bilateral relations with Azerbaijan, ITAR-TASS reported. Azerbaijani state television has also reached a preliminary agreement with Tehran whereby each country will air a daily one- hour program on the other's national network, according to Turan on 19 November. Iranian television broadcasts on Azerbaijani state television were discontinued in May 1997 on the grounds they were "propagandistic." LF UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER POSTPONES BAKU VISIT. Valeriy Pustovoytenko has postponed a visit to the Azerbaijani capital scheduled for 20 November, ANS-Press reported, quoting a Ukrainian consular official in Baku. No reason was cited for the postponement. Pustovoytenko and the Azerbaijani government were to have discussed prospects for exporting part of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Ukraine. LF GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS OVER. Following three days of talks in Geneva, Georgian and Abkhaz delegations agreed on 19 November to Tbilisi's proposal to create a coordinating council to oversee further talks. That body will be headed by UN special representative to Georgia Liviu Bota and will have three committees addressing the repatriation of displaced persons, security, and economic issues. The first session of the council will take place in December, according to Reuters. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov said the atmosphere at the talks was far more cordial than at earlier rounds of negotiations. He added that Moscow "will spare no effort" to reach a political solution to the conflict but does not claim any monopoly on peacekeeping operations in the region. The October CIS summit in Chisinau extended the mandate of the peacekeeping force in Abkhazia until 31 December 1997. LF WHO WILL MEDIATE KYAPAZ DISPUTE? Turkmenistan has lodged an appeal with the UN for assistance in settling its dispute with Azerbaijan over ownership of the Kyapaz/Serdar Caspian oil field, Interfax reported on 19 November, quoting an unnamed official from the Turkmen Foreign Ministry. The official said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had reacted "with understanding" to the Turkmen request. He added it is "senseless" to expect an objective ruling on the issue from other littoral states. On 18 November, however, ANS- Press quoted LUKoil chairman Vagit Alekperov as saying the Kyapaz dispute will be resolved through the mediation of the Russian government. Meeting in Ashgabat recently with President Saparmurat Niyazov, U.S. Energy Secretary Federico Pena expressed his country's willingness to help resolve the dispute, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 November. LF KAZAKH PRESIDENT HOPES FOR BIG PROFIT FROM U.S. DEALS. Nursultan Nazarbayev was quoted by Interfax on 19 November as saying two oil and gas deals signed in Washington the previous day will bring Kazakhstan $600 billion over the next 40 years. Nazarbayev is currently in the United States on an official visit. Meanwhile, Vagit Alekperov, the president of Russia's LUKoil, has said that oil and gas condensate from the Karachaganak field, in western Kazakhstan, will be shipped to Western markets via Russian transport networks. LUKoil has a 15 percent stake in the Karachaganak project. According to Alekperov, Kazakh hydrocarbons from the Karachaganak field will exported via the Novorossiisk port by September 2000. BP FIRE DAMAGES KAZAKH POWER PLANT. A fire broke out at the Ekibsztuz Thermo-electric plant, in northern Kazakhstan, on 18 November, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. The fire was extinguished after two-and-a-half hours, but one 500-watt generator is in need of repair and will be out of operation for a week. As a result of the power outage, passenger trains were delayed and television broadcasts from Almaty and Moscow temporarily halted. Shortages will continue until the damaged generator has been repaired. BP KYRGYZ GOLD PROJECT AHEAD OF SCHEDULE. Kyrgyzstan's largest joint venture, the Kumtor gold mine, announced on 17 November that it has exceeded its goal of producing 12.7 tons of gold this year, according to RFE/RL correspondents. So far this year, 13.2 tons of gold have been produced. Cameco corporation of Canada and Kyrgyzaltyn, who are partners in the project, expect production to reach 20 tons annually by the end of the century. The gold mine began operations this year. BP UN PLEDGES FURTHER SUPPORT TO TAJIKISTAN. Following UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's proposal to increase aid to Tajikistan, the UN Information Center in Tehran has released a report saying up to $65 million in humanitarian aid will be allocated to the Central Asian country, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 November. That decision will be confirmed at the donor countries conference in Vienna on 24- 25 November. In addition, the UN observer mission in Tajikistan is to be increased from 44 to 120 members, but no time frame was announced for that increase. BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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