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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 165, Part I, 21 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 ENERGY POLITICS IN THE CASPIAN AND RUSSIA: Oil has begun flowing from the Caspian Sea, home to one of the biggest oilfields in the world. RFE/RL provides continuing coverage of regional energy developments on its Web site. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/caspian/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I *YELTSIN REPLACES NEMTSOV AS FUEL AND ENERGY MINISTER *DUMA POSTPONES BUDGET DEBATE *NAZARBAYEV GIVES CONFLICTING SIGNALS OVER IRAN PIPELINE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN REPLACES NEMTSOV AS FUEL AND ENERGY MINISTER... Following his approval of a plan to bar deputy prime ministers from holding other posts, Russian President Boris Yeltsin replaced Boris Nemtsov as fuel and energy minister on 20 November. Like Anatolii Chubais, who earlier the same day was removed as finance minister over a book payments scandal, Nemtsov will retain his post as first deputy premier. Sergei Kirienko, who previously served as Nemtsov's first deputy, was named as new fuel and energy minister. Kirienko has been in charge of the day-to-day running of the Fuel and Energy Ministry since he was appointed by Nemtsov, according to analysts. AW ...PRAISES CHUBAIS FOR IMPROVING RUSSIA'S STANDING. After stripping Chubais of the finance portfolio, Yeltsin commented on 20 November that the former finance minister "had done much for the country and will be credited for that," Reuters reported. In remarks broadcast on three Russian television networks, Yeltsin credited Chubais for improving Russia's standing in the financial world, noting Russia had achieved membership in the Paris and London Clubs." But the president noted that the scandal had damaged the government's reputation. "Of course things were done clumsily, badly, and in a way that was unbecoming," he said. Yeltsin noted he has ordered the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Federal Security Service, and the Interior Ministry to probe further into the scandal. He added that a plan to bar deputy prime ministers from holding ministerial positions had been drafted long before the scandal broke. AW YAVLINSKII NOT SURPRISED BY ZADORNOV'S DECISION. Grigorii Yavlinksii, the outspoken leader of Yabloko, told RFE/RL's Moscow Bureau on 20 November that he is not surprised by former bloc member Mikhail Zadornov's decision to accept the post of finance minister to replace Chubais. Yavlinskii said that "sooner or later," the 34-year-old Zadornov would have assumed a high-ranking position, given his talents. However, he questioned why Zadornov had not waited a few months, after which, Yavlinskii said, the "bankrupt" policies of Chernomyrdin and Chubais had been doomed to crash. Zadornov's 20 November decision to leave Yabloko was a significant loss, he commented. Yavlinskii questioned whether Zadornov would be able to act independently in the Finance Ministry, maintaining that Chubais would still be responsible for economic matters and would consult with Zadornov only when necessary. AW NEMTSOV SAYS HE PROPOSED ZADORNOV AS CANDIDATE. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov has taken credit for Zadornov's appointment, saying he proposed him as finance minister, ITAR- TASS reported on 21 November. Nemtsov said his acquaintance with Zadornov dates back to 1991, when Nemtsov worked with Yabloko members Zadornov, Yavlinskii, and Stanislav Shatalin in drafting the "500 Days" plan, aimed at revamping the country's economy. Nemtsov noted Zadornov played a role in devising economic reform plans in Nizhnii Novgorod, which is showcased as a model of successful Russian economic reform. He added that the government can only benefit from bringing Zadornov into its ranks. AW YELTSIN APPEALS TO DUMA TO ADOPT BUDGET, END ROW OVER SCANDAL... Yeltsin on 20 November urged the State Duma to adopt the 1998 budget and end the row with the government over the Chubais affair. Yeltsin said he had appointed Zadornov as finance minister in order to correct "insufficiencies that exist in the government," AFP reported. "I ask the State Duma...to close this affair and adopt the budget." The communist-dominated Duma had urged Yeltsin to drop Chubais altogether, saying this was a condition for adoption of the 1998 budget. But Yeltsin said he could not meet that demand "in full." AW ...BUT DUMA POSTPONES BUDGET DEBATE. Apparently dissatisfied with Yeltsin's reshuffle, the Duma voted by 258 to 44 to postpone debate on the draft 1998 budget. On 21 November, the day the debate was scheduled to begin, deputies decided to discuss the draft budget on 5 December. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, along with other opposition figures, had welcomed Zadornov's appointment, but Zyuganov said the communists would still oppose passage of the budget, arguing it would be "premature" to approve the draft in its current form. The Communist Party had said recently that it would not debate the budget while Chubais remained in office. However, it had then softened its stance and had allowed the budget to be included on the 21 November agenda. AW GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN WARNS ON DUMA BUDGET DELAY. Igor Shabdurasulov said on 20 November that the Duma's decision to postpone its debate on the 1998 draft increases the likelihood that Russia will start next year without a budget in place, ITAR-TASS reported. The government began 1997 without a budget because of the Duma's resistance. AW YELTSIN APPOINTS NEW KREMLIN DEPUTY CHIEF OF ADMINISTRATION. Yeltsin on 20 November appointed Viktoriya Mitina as the Kremlin's deputy chief of administration, Interfax reported. The relatively unknown Mitina replaces Aleksandr Kazakov, who was sacked by Yeltsin on 14 November in the book payments scandal involving Chubais. Mitina served as deputy prefect in Moscow's Zelenograd district, where she had a wide-ranging portfolio covering industry, science, and the media, according to Interfax. She was also active in Yeltsin's re-election campaigns in 1991 and 1996. AW RUSSIA TO ABOLISH STATE COAL COMPANY. Also on 20 November, Yeltsin signed a decree abolishing the state-owned coal company Rosugol in a government bid to tighten control over the coal industry, Interfax reported on 20 November. Under the new structure, coal- industry policy will be set by a special interagency commission, Economics Minister Yakov Urinson announced. A unit within the Fuel and Energy Ministry will be created to handle the closure of unprofitable mines and another to deal with the social problems in coal-mining regions. Urinson said the new system will eliminate the current conflict of interest in which Rosugol was in charge of distributing state subsidies while overseeing the restructuring of the coal industry. Russia is seeking a loan from the World Bank to support the restructuring of the coal sector. Government officials have accused Rosugol of blocking such reforms. AW YELTSIN HAILS IMPROVED TIES WITH UKRAINE. In a nationwide radio address on 21 November, Yeltsin hailed improved bilateral ties with Ukraine, which had soured after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 , ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Yeltsin said ties between the two Slavic neighbors had been plagued over the past six years by "mutual reproach and misunderstanding." He acknowledged differences remain, namely over the division of the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet, Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, and recent Ukrainian- NATO military exercises in the Black Sea. Yeltsin also accused so- called "demagogues" of fanning nationalistic feelings and warned that Russian foreign policy is the domain of the president. Yeltsin, however, said that "frank discussions" at a recent informal meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma had alleviated tensions and paved the way for an official visit to Russia by Kuchma in February. AW RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS COMMENT ON IRAQ AGREEMENT. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Interfax on 20 November that Baghdad's consent to allow UN weapons inspectors to return to Iraq and resume their investigations was made unconditionally. He termed the Iraqi decision a "very serious breakthrough" in resolving the crisis. Russian Presidential Press Spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said the Russian-Iraqi agreement was a "most spectacular triumph" for Yeltsin and Russian diplomacy, which he attributed largely to the president's personal missive to Saddam Hussein. Also on 20 November, an unnamed Russian diplomat told Interfax that Moscow wants to bring forward the deadlines for UN inspectors to submit to the Security Council their reports on the destruction of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons. "Noviye izvestiya" commented on 20 November that if sanctions on Iraq are lifted to enable it to sell oil on world markets, the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil may become unprofitable. LF ANOTHER RUSSIAN MISSILE TEST FAILS. A intercontinental ballistic missile blew up four seconds after it was launched from Arkhangelsk on 19 November, Interfax reported. It was the third failed test of such a missile aimed at a target in Kamchatka, some 8,000 kilometers to the east. An unnamed Russian officer said the missile is intended to be deployed aboard Russian nuclear submarines by the year 2000, but he added this is unlikely to happen now. BP "MIR" TO COME DOWN WHEN "ALPHA" GOES UP? Russian Space Agency Director Yurii Koptev said on 20 November that if a crew on the "Alpha" international space station can begin work before the end of 1999, the "Mir" space station would be closed down the same year, Interfax reported. BP TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA NAZARBAYEV GIVES CONFLICTING SIGNALS OVER IRAN PIPELINE. Two days after saying he agrees with U.S. proposals that future pipelines avoid Iran, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said on 20 November that talks with Iran on a pipeline through its territory will continue, Reuters and IRNA reported. In a speech at Rice University in Texas, Nazarbayev said the Iranian government has proposed building a Kazakhstan -Turkmenistan-Iran pipeline, adding that "the Iranians are asking me about it constantly." He said his country does not in "any way support terrorism or Islamic fundamentalism," but he questioned whether a blockade was an effective means to influence a country. Nazarbayev noted that the Iranian pipeline proposal will be discussed at the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Tehran in December. BP FRENCH COUPLE STILL MISSING IN TAJIKISTAN. A French couple believed to have been kidnapped in Dushanbe on 18 November is still missing. ITAR-TASS reported on 21 November that the Tajik office of TACIS, for which the missing man works, has received a telephone call claiming Rezvon Sadirov's group kidnapped the couple to press for the release of his brother, Bahrom Sadirov, from prison. The Sadirov gang has kidnapped several foreigners since December 1996. However, when RFE/RL correspondents contacted the TACIS office in Dushanbe, workers denied they had received such a call. Meanwhile, the Red Cross has announced it will reduce its staff in Tajikistan until this latest incident is over, Reuters reported on 20 November. BP DID HILLARY CLINTON HELP IMPRISONED KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER? Topchubek Turgunaliev, the chairman of the Erkin Kyrgyzstan Party, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz service on 19 November that he believes U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton was instrumental in securing his transfer to the capital. Turgunaliev was recently brought back to Bishkek, where he is under house arrest, from a prison in Leilek, near the Kyrgyz-Tajik border. He said he has been told that Clinton raised his case in conversations with Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev during her recent visit to the former Soviet republic. Turgunaliev also claimed he had been sent to Leilek in attempt to "isolate" him. BP ARMENIAN JOURNALISTS BARRED FROM KARABAKH DISCUSSION. Journalists were not permitted to attend a session of the majority Hanrapetutyun parliamentary faction on 19 November at which President Levon Ter-Petrossyan discussed the ongoing Karabakh peace process, Armenian media reported the next day. Participants at the meeting refused to reveal details, with the exception of the chairman of the ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement, Vano Siradeghian, who told the daily "Aravot" that Ter-Petrossyan essentially repeated arguments he had made to that party on 10 November. "Aravot" also quoted Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian as denying reports that he disagrees with the president's Karabakh policy. LF ARMENIAN VOUCHER PRIVATIZATION TO BE COMPLETED IN 1998. Newly appointed Privatization Minister Pavel Ghaltakchian told journalists in Yerevan on 20 November that so-called voucher privatization will be completed by the end of 1998, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ghaltakhchian said that more than 90 percent of all privatization certificates distributed to Armenian citizens in late 1994 have already been used, while the remaining 10 percent are valid until December 1998. According to Ghaltakhchian, more than 1,200 state enterprises have been privatized to date, mainly using vouchers. He said the government will adopt a "more flexible and diverse approach" in selling off the remaining state property, noting that auctions for cash will be the principal means of distributing such property. LF ARMENIA TO BEGIN FLIGHTS TO TURKEY. Representatives of the Turkish Civil Aviation Department who were in Yerevan from 11-14 November reached agreement with the Armenian government on regular flights between Yerevan and Erzerum, Noyan Tapan reported on 20 November. On 21 November, a delegation from the Union of Industrialists and Businessmen of Armenia will travel to Erzerum, Kars, and Trebizond to discuss expanding bilateral economic contacts, Armenpress reported. Turkey and Armenia do not have diplomatic relations, but the indirect trade turnover between the two countries via Iran and Georgia is estimated at between $120 and $150 million. LF NEW AGREEMENTS ON REGIONAL ELECTRICITY SALES. Turkish Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer told journalists on 20 November that Turkey will buy 300 megawatts of electricity from Azerbaijan in 1998, AFP reported. The electricity will be transported via Georgia. During bilateral talks in Tbilisi on 19 November, Armenian and Georgian government officials reached a preliminary agreement on the sale of electricity from Armenia to Georgia. The two countries' power grids were linked on 1 November, according to ArmenPress. LF HUNDREDS POISONED IN GEORGIA BY CONTAMINATED DRINKING WATER. Between 500 and 600 people in the Georgian industrial city of Rustavi are suffering from poisoning after drinking water contaminated by sewage. Thirty children are reported to have been hospitalized. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has set up a commission to investigate the incident and decreed that all those affected are to receive free medical treatment. LF AZERBAIJANI-IRANIAN CONSULATE DISPUTE CONTINUES. Turan on 20 November quoted Azerbaijan's Ambassador to Tehran, Aliyar Safarli, as saying that if Iran continues to block the opening of an Azerbaijani consulate in the north Iranian city of Tebriz, Baku may close the Iranian consulate in Nakhichevan. That consulate was opened in 1992 following a visit to Tehran by Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, who at that time was still Nakhichevan parliamentary speaker. LF HUMANITARIAN AID EMBEZZLED IN AZERBAIJAN. The state commission for receipt, registration, storage, and distribution of humanitarian aid has announced that executives of charity organizations and local government officials have misappropriated humanitarian aid worth several million dollars, Turan reported on 20 November. Part of the aid was destined for the estimated 800,000 displaced persons who fled their homes during the Karabakh conflict. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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