|The burnt child shuns the fire until the next day. - Mark Twain|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 183, Part I, 19 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 RFE/RL's 1997 Year in Review and Top Ten Stories Web page assesses developments in its listening region over the past 12 months. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/yearend97/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * CONFUSION SURROUNDS YELTSIN'S HEALTH * PRIMAKOV OUTLINES RUSSIA'S VISION OF OSCE * ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN COPENHAGEN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA CONFUSION SURROUNDS YELTSIN'S HEALTH. President Boris Yeltsin on 19 December visited a Moscow Cardiological Center for a routine checkup, but accreditation for a briefing on the results of that examination was limited to just a few journalists, AFP reported. Interfax on 19 December quoted Yurii Yarov, deputy head of the presidential administration, as saying Yeltsin may need another week in the Barvikha sanatorium, where he has been treated since 10 December. However, the news agency withdrew that report and later quoted Yarov as saying Yeltsin may leave Barvikha at any time. Yeltsin said on 18 December that he was ready to leave the clinic the following day, but his spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembskii, told journalists later that the president will stay in the clinic until he has spent 10 to 12 days there. Kremlin officials continue to insist that the president is suffering from an ordinary respiratory infection. LB PRIMAKOV OUTLINES RUSSIA'S VISION OF OSCE. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov argued at the meeting of foreign ministers of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe in Copenhagen on 18 December that only an organization including all European states, such as the OSCE, can play the central coordinating role in ensuring European security. Primakov argued that NATO cannot do so, since not all European countries are alliance members. Primakov also rejected the proposal, backed by the U.S. and Germany, that the OSCE adopt the principle of "consensus minus one" in decision-making in order to preclude one of its 54 members imposing a veto. He said the "consensus-minus- one" principle would hinder a settlement of the Karabakh and Abkhaz conflicts, Interfax reported. He affirmed that Russia would welcome a greater OSCE role in mediating CIS conflicts. The OSCE charter currently under discussion should not empower the organization to interfere in the domestic affairs of member states, Primakov argued. LF SELEZNEV WARNS CLINTON AGAINST 'PRESSURING' DUMA. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev on 18 December warned U.S. President Bill Clinton not to try to "pressure" the Duma to ratify the START-2 arms control treaty, Russian news agencies reported. U.S. and Russian officials have recently said that Clinton and Yeltsin have agreed that the U.S. president will not come to Russia in 1998 until after START-2 has been ratified. Seleznev said a date for consideration of the treaty by the lower house of the parliament "may never be set" if Clinton seeks to "impose terms" on the Duma. LB DUMA CONDEMNS YELTSIN'S STATEMENTS IN STOCKHOLM. Also on 18 December, the Duma passed a resolution condemning statements made by Yeltsin in Stockholm as "irresponsible" and "inconsistent with Russian laws." While in Sweden, Yeltsin said Russia would unilaterally reduce its nuclear stockpile and cut its troops in northwestern Russia by 40 percent. Other officials confirmed Yeltsin's statement on the troop reductions but clarified his remarks on the nuclear arsenal, saying the president was only talking about making reductions "in parity" with U.S. disarmament. Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii on 18 December accused some Duma deputies of distorting the meaning of Yeltsin's statements. LB YELTSIN SAYS TAX COLLECTION COMMISSION MUST RESPECT LAWS. Aleksandr Livshits, presidential economic adviser and deputy head of the presidential administration, announced on 18 December that Yeltsin has instructed Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to make sure decisions of the government emergency commission on tax and budgetary discipline comply with Russian laws, ITAR-TASS reported. In particular, Yeltsin told Chernomyrdin to bring decisions adopted by that commission on 8 December into line with the law. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais chaired the 8 December meeting, which approved the seizure and sale of property of two companies in order to pay their tax debts. Chernomyrdin chaired the next meeting of the commission, at which those companies were given more time to pay their tax arrears (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December). LB ADVISER VIEWS GOVERNMENT LEAKS TO WESTERN INSTITUTIONS. Also on 18 December, Livshits told journalists that information "known to a very limited circle" of Moscow officials has been leaked to western financial institutions, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He cited recent letters sent to Prime Minister Chernomyrdin by World Bank President James Wolfensohn and IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus. Livshits said the letters contained details about the implementation of decisions adopted by the government commission on 8 December. Livshits's charge echoes recent allegations in "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which on 18 and 19 December accused IMF and World Bank officials of trying to control Russia's economic policy. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," financed by Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, has previously accused Chubais of taking instructions from the U.S. Treasury (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September and 18 December 1997). LB YELTSIN REPLACES REPRESENTATIVES IN GAZPROM... Yeltsin on 18 December signed a decree replacing several state representatives in the 40 percent state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom, Interfax reported. Yeltsin appointed Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Kirienko to chair the collegium of state representatives. He also appointed Livshits, Anti-Monopoly Committee head Nataliya Fonareva and Deputy Economics Minister Nikolai Shamraev to the collegium, Yeltsin simultaneously removed First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, and Aleksandr Kazakov from the collegium. Kazakov was dismissed from the presidential administration in November during a scandal over book fees, but previous reports had indicated that he would keep his position on the Gazprom board. LB ...BUT TRUST AGREEMENT WITH GAS MONOPOLY STILL UNSIGNED. Yeltsin's latest decree appears to reflect the rising influence of Chernomyrdin, who has close ties to Gazprom, and the diminishing clout of Nemtsov and Chubais, who pledged earlier this year to restructure state management of "natural monopolies" in the energy and transportation sector. A new trust agreement on management of the government stake in Gazprom still has not been signed, although Yeltsin on 2 December instructed Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev and Nemtsov to sign it "as soon as possible." Nemtsov on 14 December told ITAR-TASS that the agreement was not signed before his recent visit to Mexico and South America because of an "annoying misunderstanding," which he did not clarify. LB YELTSIN PRAISES WORK OF SECURITY FORCES. In an 19 December radio address, Yeltsin praised the work of the security forces on the eve of the "day of the employees of Russia's security forces" and the 80th anniversary of the creation of the Cheka, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin said people could proudly remember security work carried out against the Nazis during World War Two and in obtaining information for developing the "fatherland's atomic weapons," which, he argued, "helped prevent a third world war." He also noted that security workers are invaluable in keeping the government informed about modern-day trouble spots and in combating terrorism. Yeltsin assured Russian citizens that security forces would never again act as the "ideological watchdogs of society." BP COMMISSION VOWS TO TIGHTEN CONTROL OVER MILITARY FUNDING. The government's emergency commission on tax and budgetary discipline on 17 December approved steps intended to tighten control over defense spending, ITAR-TASS reported. Chairing the meeting, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin slammed as "disgraceful" the frequent diversion of funds allocated to pay the salaries of military personnel. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said the commission approved measures to improve accounting techniques in the military and eventually process all military funding through the treasury system. (Although many government agencies have been ordered to close their accounts in commercial banks, some of those banks are still authorized to handle Defense Ministry funds.) Sergeev said the financial system in the armed forces is to be reorganized "no later than during the first half of 1998." LB YELTSIN WANTS BETTER MANAGEMENT OF DEFENSE INDUSTRY. Yeltsin on 17 December ordered the government to draft proposals to better manage the defense industry, Russian news agencies reported. Spokesman Yastrzhembskii said Yeltsin's instruction was a response to a recent request by Duma Speaker Seleznev and Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev. Seleznev and Stroev favor recreating a special government agency to manage the defense industry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 December 1997). LB ROKHLIN'S ALTERNATIVE CONCEPT FOR MILITARY REFORM. Duma Defense Committee head Lev Rokhlin said on 17 December that not only has reform in the Russian army over the past five years failed but "its concept has not even been fully developed," according "Sovetskaya Rossiya" of 19 December. Rokhlin said the "Russian armed forces no longer exist as a single military institution" and blamed the inability to reform the army and navy on the "incompetence" of the General Staff and the Defense Ministry. Rokhlin's movement in support of the army has prepared a 40-page document that provides for the "basic transformation of the 14 Russian power structures into a military organization of the state with centralized control." BP YELTSIN FIRES THREE TOP MILITARY BRASS. Yeltsin issued a decree on 18 December dismissing General Viktor Prudnikov, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Defense Forces, who was named chief of staff for coordinating inter-CIS military cooperation at the October CIS summit, Russian media reported. One day earlier, Yeltsin had dismissed Colonel- General Aleksandr Chindarov and Lieutenant-General Viktor Sorokin, the first deputy and a deputy commander of the Airborne Troops, as part of the overall downsizing of the armed forces, ITAR-TASS reported. LF YELTSIN TAKES ON RUTSKOI AGAIN. Yeltsin on 18 December signed a decree canceling several directives issued this year by Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi, ITAR- TASS reported. The decree says the directives, which regulate the metals industry and the transfer of grain outside Kursk, violate various federal laws and articles of the constitution. Rutskoi was Yeltsin's vice president from June 1991 until fall 1993. He was arrested in October 1993 for helping lead attempts to remove Yeltsin from office after the president sought to shut down the Supreme Soviet. He was released under an amnesty passed by the Duma in February 1994 and continued to criticize Yeltsin. However, since being elected governor of Kursk in October 1996, Rutskoi has kept a low profile, mostly eschewing comment on national political issues. LB RUSSIA WILL PUSH FOR INTEGRATION WITHIN CIS. Yeltsin has sent an unequivocal message to the presidents of other CIS member states outlining proposals for further integration within that body, presidential press spokesman Yastrzhembskii told journalists on 17 December. The letter focuses on issues raised at the CIS summit in Chisinau in October, at which several participants expressed extreme dissatisfaction at relations between member states and at Russia's role. Responses to Yeltsin's letter will be incorporated into his address to the CIS summit scheduled for late January 1998. Also on 17 December, Vladimir Lukin, the chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, criticized Russia's CIS policy and its mediation efforts in Abkhazia, Transdniester, and Karabakh as "unsuccessful." But Vyacheslav Igryunov, the deputy chairman of the Duma Committee for Relations with the CIS, told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 18 December that the Duma has no clear position on how to strengthen the CIS. LF INSTITUTE DIRECTOR COMMITS SUICIDE. Yurii Mamatov, the director of the Yaroslavl Institute for Computer Technology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, shot himself on 18 December, ITAR-TASS reported. Friends and relatives said Mamatov had been depressed over a lack of funding that forces his institute to sell equipment and furniture in order to pay staff's salaries. In October 1996, the director of the Federal Nuclear Center in Chelyabinsk Oblast committed suicide, also reportedly over funding shortfalls that left him unable to pay the wages of the center's employees. LB NEW PROSECUTOR APPOINTED FOR ST. PETERSBURG. The Prosecutor-General's Office has appointed Ivan Sydoruk as acting prosecutor for St. Petersburg, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 December. He replaces Vladimir Yeremenko, whose term of office ran out in May but who continued to serve as acting prosecutor pending the appointment of his successor. Yeremenko has been implicated in various corruption scandals, including alleged misappropriation of some $600,000 allocated to refurbish the building where his office is located. The Prosecutor-General's Office sought to appoint Sydoruk in the summer, but the St. Petersburg legislature refused to confirm his candidacy. "Kommersant- Daily" speculated that the city deputies may oppose Sydoruk because he has recently investigated allegations of law- breaking by legislators. LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN COPENHAGEN. Alexander Arzoumanian says that despite the OSCE's long- term involvement in mediating a solution to the Karabakh conflict, a political settlement has been impeded by Azerbaijan's refusal to engage in direct talks with the Karabakh leadership and by the OSCE chairman-in-office's December 1996 statement pre-determining Karabakh's future status within Azerbaijan. Arzoumanian was addressing the meeting of OSCE foreign ministers in Copenhagen on 18 December. He accused Azerbaijan of seeking a military solution to the conflict and of violating its Conventional Forces in Europe commitment by engaging in a military buildup. He also called for the resumption of negotiations for which no preconditions are set and in which Karabakh would have the status of a full party to the conflict. Arzoumanian said a settlement must allow Karabakh "full control over its territory" and provide both security guarantees for Karabakh and a "geographic contour that will end its enclave situation." LF ABKHAZ TALKS RESUME. The first session of the Coordinating Council on resolving the Abkhaz conflict opened in Sukhumi on 18 December, Russian media reported. The council was created at talks in Geneva in November under the auspices of the UN, and will oversee three bilateral working groups that will address security and economic issues and the repatriation to Abkhazia of ethnic Georgians forced to flee during the 1992-1993 fighting. Vazha Lortkipanidze, Georgia's ambassador to Russia, told journalists on 17 December that Tbilisi wants the commission's decisions to be binding on both parties. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba told Interfax that UN representative Liviu Bota has ruled out the attendance at the session of Tamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the so-called Abkhaz parliament in exile in Tbilisi. LF RUSSIA MOVES DISPUTED POST ON BORDER WITH GEORGIA. Russian border guards on 17 December finally restored the disputed Verkhnii Lars border post to its original position on the frontier with Georgia, Russian agencies reported. The post had been moved 1,300 meters into Georgian territory in November without the consent of the Georgian government, prompting protests by the Georgian parliament and political organizations. At Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov's talks with members of the Georgian leadership in Tbilisi on 9 December, it was decided to move the post back to its original position. LF GEORGIA SIGNS PROTOCOL WITH GAZPROM. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Gazprom chairman Rem Vyakhirev met in Tbilisi on18 December and signed a protocol on renewing cooperation, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. The protocol provides for the resumption of natural gas supplies to Georgia and the export of gas via Georgia to unspecified third countries. It also calls for the creation of a joint-stock company, GruzRosGaz, but there is no agreement so far on division of shares in that company. Vyakhirev told journalists that Russia prefers the planned underwater Black Sea pipeline for exporting gas to Turkey because it is shorter. He said that Bulgarian claims that such a pipeline could pose an ecological hazard are "groundless." LF ENERGY SHORTAGE IN KYRGYZSTAN. The Kyrgyz Security Council meets on 19 December to discuss the energy shortage in the country, ITAR-TASS reported. In more than half of Kyrgyzstan's regions, electricity is currently cut off for five to six hours during the day, and many households are without any power supplies during the night. Even hospitals, schools, and the Ministry of Defense are often without electricity, according to the news agency. The power company Kyrgyzenergo claims the shortages are due to a 25 percent reduction in the water level at the Tokhtogul hydroelectric reservoir, which is the largest in the country, and the failure of many people to pay their electricity bills. BP AZAMAT LEADER JAILED IN KAZAKHSTAN. Galym Abelseitov was taken into police custody on arrival at Almaty airport on 18 December and sentenced to 15 days in jail for his part in organizing the 30 November unsanctioned rally in the Kazakh capital, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Abelseitov, who was in Moscow for more than one month, has launched a hunger strike in his cell. Leaders of Azamat and other opposition movements in Kazakhstan held a press conference on 19 December to demand Abelseitov's release. BP STRIKING KAZAKH WORKERS CLASH WITH POLICE. Striking workers from the Janatas Phosphorus Producing Plant fought with police officers outside the Kazakh presidential office in Almaty on 18 December when the police attempted to disperse them, according to RFE/RL correspondents. The police first tried ordering the workers from the area but met with physical resistance from the strikers. The workers are demanding the payment of $2 million in back wages. BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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