|The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 173, Part I, 5 December 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 * COMMUNIST DEPUTIES TO VOTE AGAINST DRAFT BUDGET * COMMUNIST DEPUTIES TO VOTE AGAINST DRAFT BUDGET * NO PROGRESS IN KARABAKH TALKS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA COMMUNIST DEPUTIES TO VOTE AGAINST DRAFT BUDGET... Communist party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 4 December announced that his parliamentary faction has "decided unanimously" to vote against the draft 1998 budget. Earlier the same day, the party leadership recommended that its deputies reject the government's proposal, which is to be debated on 5 December. Zyuganov told journalists that the draft is "not ready for passage" and that his faction cannot support it "because it does not change the socio-economic course." Zyuganov's announcement is somewhat surprising, since State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a Communist, had recently said he expects the Duma to back the budget on the first reading. The Communist faction, along with its allies, accounts for 212 seats in the 450-seat Duma. JG ...AS WILL YABLOKO FACTION. The liberal opposition Yabloko faction has also announced it will oppose the draft 1998 budget, Russian news agencies reported on 4 December. Yabloko deputy leader Sergei Ivanenko told reporters that the faction will instead urge a no-confidence vote in the government. Ivanenko said Yabloko deputies are convinced that "adopting a bad budget would make matters even worse...than having no budget at all." Yabloko has 54 of the 450 Duma seats. JG CHERNOMYRDIN DEFENDS BUDGET PROPOSAL. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, commenting on the Communists' decision to vote against the draft budget, said there are no real grounds for putting off the budget debate or rejecting the draft in the first reading, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 December. At the same time, Chernomyrdin noted that another delay of the budget debate or a rejection of the draft will not find the government "unprepared." First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov accused the Communists of being indifferent to how the country's citizens live. He added he expects the government to find a way to pass the 1998 budget. JG RUSSIA, WORLD BANK WRAP UP NEGOTIATIONS. Michael Carter, the head of the World Bank's mission in Moscow, said on 3 December that his mission and the Russian government have completed talks on extending a second coal loan and on an economic restructuring loan to Russia, Russian news agencies said. Carter told reporters the loans are expected to total $1.6 billion but that a final decision will be taken at a World Bank board of directors' meeting in Washington on 18 December. The economic restructuring loan is intended for overhauling the banking and tax systems as well as for privatization projects. JG IMF SAYS NO FINANCIAL CRISIS IN RUSSIA. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus told a news conference in Tokyo on 4 December that the Asian financial crisis has not spread to Russia and that Russia's financial situation is not at a crisis point. Camdessus, however, said that if necessary, the IMF would be ready to discuss a financial assistance package for Moscow. JG DEUTSCHE MORGAN GRENFELL CONFIRMS TALKS WITH MOSCOW. The head of Deutsche Morgan Grenfell's office in Moscow said on 4 December that, at Moscow's request, the bank is holding talks with the Russian government on a major loan from Western banks. Nicholas Chorton, however, declined to reveal the size of the loan. A spokesman for Credit Suisse First Boston also said that several banks are involved in discussions about the Russian government's request for additional credit, an RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow reported. The "Financial Times" reported that First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais has asked four Western banks, including Deutsche Morgan Grenfell and Credit Suisse First Boston, to raise a syndicated loan of up to $2 billion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 1997). JG YELTSIN WRAPS UP VISIT TO SWEDEN, REASSURES INVESTORS. President Boris Yeltsin met on 4 December with Swedish business leaders and again urged them to invest more actively in the Russian economy. First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov, who was accompanying Yeltsin, said in Stockholm that even though a government-proposed draft tax code may not be passed by the parliament, he is sure Russia will succeed in streamlining its tax system within the next few months. The reassurances came after the head of the Swedish forestry group AssiDoman told the business newspaper "Dagens Industri" that the risks of working in Russia are too great and that his company faces numerous problems such as bribery and red tape. Later the same day, Nemtsov signed a memorandum with Swedish car maker Volvo on the production of buses and trucks in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. JG GOVERNMENT DISCUSSES CRACKDOWN ON CRIME. At a 4 December meeting, the government approved a two-year draft plan to step up the fight against crime, Russian news agencies reported. A final version of the plan is to be drawn up within the next two weeks. Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov said implementation of the plan will cost the equivalent of $3.9 billion. He added that some 20,000 crimes by organized groups have been solved this year. Noting that weapons are now "freely available throughout Russia," Prime Minister Chernomyrdin instructed the Interior Ministry to draft a law stipulating harsher punishments for the illegal production, possession, and sale of arms, Interfax reported. JG RUSSIAN, ESTONIAN INTERIOR MINISTRIES TO COOPERATE. Also on 4 December, Interior Minister Kulikov met with his Estonian counterpart, Robert Lepikson, in Moscow to sign an agreement on cooperation between their ministries, BNS and ETA reported. Kulikov said the main aim of the agreement, which took some two-and a-half years to prepare, was to step up the fight against organized crime, drug trafficking, car theft, illegal migration, weapons-smuggling, and tax fraud. Under the agreement, Estonian police prefectures and Russian oblast interior affairs administrations will be able to conclude regional cooperation protocols. The accord must now be ratified by the Estonian and Russian parliaments. JC SYSUEV URGES REOPENING OF KEMEROVO MINE. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev, who is leading the government inquiry into the 2 December explosion at the Zyryanovskaya mine in Kemerovo Oblast, says the mine should be reopened. Sixty-seven people were killed in the methane blast, making it one of Russia's worst coal-mining accidents. Sysuev, speaking in Kemerovo on 5 December, said the mine "must regain its previous profitability." According to ITAR-TASS, the Zyryanovskaya mine was among the most modern and profitable in the region. JB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA NO PROGRESS IN KARABAKH TALKS. The co-chairmen of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group made no progress during talks in Stepanakert on 3-4 December, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The Karabakh authorities rejected the OSCE's principle of a step-by-step approach, which both Armenia and Azerbaijan have accepted. They also repeated their insistence on a package deal. PG ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR CHANGES IN BUDGET. During a 4 December debate on the government's proposed 1998 budget, various political groups criticized the draft for alleged failing to promote the "development" of Armenia, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The parliament asked that the cabinet revise the budget and resubmit it on 5 December. The government may seek a vote of confidence as a means of pushing through its budget proposal. Under the Armenian constitution, the government can ask for a vote of confidence and, if it wins that vote, the draft becomes law. PG MESKHETIANS PROTEST DRAFT LAW ON RIGHTS OF REPRESSED. Representatives of the Muslim Meskhetians who were deported from Georgia in November 1994 are continuing their protest against a new draft Georgian law that would give special benefits to Georgian citizens who were repressed in the past but would not help them because they are not citizens of the Republic of Georgia. According to a 4 December appeal by the International Meskhetian Youth Association, the group hopes to meet with President Eduard Shevardnadze. It also called on international organizations to intercede on the behalf of the Meskhetians. PG AJARIAN LEADER SEES GEORGIANS BEHIND DEATH RAY ATTACK. Aslan Abashidze, the outspoken leader of the autonomous Ajarian region in southern Georgia, said on local television on 4 December that assailants from Georgia used a special death ray camera to cause him to have a heart attack last summer. "The camera gave off electromagnetic rays, which led to my heart attack," Abashidze said. "Without the quick intervention of the doctors, I would have died." Georgian officials did not comment on his charges. PG GEORGIAN PRESIDENT IN TURKMENISTAN. Shevardnadze, paying a one-day visit to Turkmenistan on 5 December, met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, RFE/RL correspondents in Ashgabat reported. The two signed eight agreements, including one on avoiding double taxation and another on industrial cooperation Discussions also focused on rescheduling Georgia's debt to Turkmenistan for gas supplies, which totals $464.9 million. BP NAZARBAYEV WARNS OPPOSITION PARTY. At a 4 December press conference in Almaty, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev warned the leaders of AZAMAT that a repeat of the 30 November demonstration in front of the Kazakh parliament building could lead to criminal charges being filed against them, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Nazarbayev called such demonstrations illegal, saying it would be up to the Constitutional Court to make any changes to the 1995 decree banning unsanctioned rallies. He added that anyone who organizes such meetings could face between three and five years in jail. BP CHAIRMAN OF KYRGYZ STATE PROPERTY FUND SACKED. Askar Sarygulov was dismissed by presidential decree on 4 December, ITAR-TASS reported. His sacking followed a six- month investigation by a special commission that found the chairman had been "incompetent" in carrying out his duties and had "lost control" of the fund. The commission also found that Kyrgyzstan lost 25 million som (some $1.5 million) during Sarygulov's tenure as chairman of the fund and that 10 percent of state property so far privatized was sold at below market prices. Seven criminal charges have been filed against Sarygulov. BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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