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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 185, Part I, 23 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * Yeltsin Back in Kremlin, Roundtable Rescheduled * Armed Attack on Russian Unit in Dagestan Repulsed * Armenia Pleased by OSCE Copenhagen Meeting xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN BACK IN KREMLIN, ROUNDTABLE RESCHEDULED. President Boris Yeltsin returned to the Kremlin on 23 December after spending nearly two weeks in the Barvikha sanitorium. Russian news agencies reported on 22 December that roundtable talks on land reform have been rescheduled for 26 December. Senior officials representing the government, presidential administration, and both houses of parliament will take part in the roundtable, which is to be chaired by Yeltsin. Those talks were scheduled for 22 November, then postponed until 11 December in the midst of a government scandal over book fees, and postponed again after Yeltsin's latest illness was disclosed. LB ARMED ATTACK ON RUSSIAN UNIT IN DAGESTAN REPULSED. A group of gunmen -- variously estimated as numbering from 30 to 100 -- attacked a Russian army unit in Geralakh, a village in Dagestan, early in the morning of 22 December and took several hostages, all of whom were subsequently released, Interfax reported. The attackers were driven off with an unknown number of wounded on both sides. The Russian defenders also took a number of prisoners. Russian officials said the attackers were Chechens and Dagestanis, but the Chechen government in Grozny denounced the raid as a provocation. In the aftermath of the raid, border guards in Dagestan were placed on high alert, reinforcements were sent to posts on Chechnya's border with North Ossetia and Dagestan, and security was tightened on the border between Chechnya and Stavropol Krai, the site of a major hostage-taking by Chechens in 1995. PG BEREZOVSKII CRITICIZES CHECHEN POLICY. Former Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii has charged that the Russian government and presidential administration have no "systematic program of building strategic relations with Chechnya," Interfax reported on 22 December. Berezovskii warned that a "systematic approach to resolving the Chechen crisis" is needed to prevent future attacks such as the 22 December raid in Dagestan. Berezovskii also commented that a planned trip to Chechnya by Yeltsin in January is "simply out of the question." Berezovskii was involved in negotiations with Chechen leaders when he served on the Security Council from November 1996 to November 1997. On 17 December, he told Interfax that he maintains contacts by telephone and in person with Chechen First Deputy Prime Ministers Movladi Udugov and Shamil Basaev and with Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Akhmed Zakaev. LB OFFICIALS SIGN GAZPROM TRUST AGREEMENT. Rem Vyakhirev, the chairman of the gas monopoly Gazprom, and Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Kirienko on 21 December signed an trust agreement on management of a 35 percent state-owned stake in Gazprom. Under the agreement, Vyakhirev will be able to manage the stake until 1 March 1999 but will not be allowed to make certain kinds of decisions (such as changing the Gazprom charter or issuing more company stock) without the consent of the collegium of state representatives in Gazprom. In addition, the government may break the trust agreement, as long as Gazprom is warned three months in advance. Yeltsin recently removed several officials, including First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, from the collegium of state representatives at Gazprom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 1997). Nevertheless, Nemtsov hailed the agreement, saying it significantly strengthens the state's role in managing Gazprom. LB NEMTSOV SAYS GOVERNMENT HAS PAID ITS SHARE OF WAGE ARREARS. Nemtsov claimed on 22 December that the federal government will on 23 December finish transferring its share of the funds to pay wage arrears to state employees, Russian news agencies reported. The federal government is supposed to pay half the wage backlog. Regional governments are to pay the remainder out of their own budgets. Deputy Finance Minister Viktor Khristenko said the federal government has already transferred to the regions 97 percent of the 11.3 trillion rubles ($1.9 billion) it is contributing toward paying the back wages. Nemtsov charged that regional leaders will be to blame if the arrears are not settled by the end of the year, as Yeltsin has demanded. According to Khristenko, several regions are unlikely to meet the deadline, including Primorskii and Altai Krais, Sverdlovsk, Kemerovo and Chita Oblasts, and the Republic of Khakassia. LB CHUBAIS TO HEAD COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL ORGANIZATIONS. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais will head a new interdepartmental commission on cooperation with international financial and economic institutions, Interfax reported on 22 December, citing a government decision of 18 December. Chubais has already been conducting negotiations on behalf of Russia with institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, and Paris Club (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June, 18 and 23 September 1997). The decision on creating the new commission was made the same day that "Nezavisimaya gazeta," financed by Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ empire, charged that international financial institutions are trying to control Russian economic policy. On 20 December, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" directly accused Chubais of leaking information to officials in the World Bank and the IMF. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has said the government will find the source of the alleged leaks. LB TV COVERAGE OF SCANDAL REFLECTS POLITICAL SLANT. Russian Public Television (ORT) played up the scandal involving alleged leaks to the World Bank and the IMF on the weekly program "Vremya" on 20 December. ORT is 51 percent state-owned but is largely influenced by Berezovskii. Coverage of the scandal on the private network NTV on 21 December also stuck close to the script followed by ORT and "Nezavisimaya gazeta," implying that Chubais gave information to the IMF and World Bank. NTV is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most, and its coverage of recent scandals has favored Berezovskii's version of events. Meanwhile, fully state-owned Russian Television (RTR) on 21 December broadcast an interview with Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, who denied there was anything unusual about recent letters sent to Chernomyrdin by heads of the World Bank and IMF. RTR chairman Nikolai Svanidze is considered close to Chubais. LB 'NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA' KEEPS UP ATTACK ON NEMTSOV. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 23 December argued that First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov is rapidly losing influence in the government and may soon resign. The paper noted that Nemtsov recently lost the portfolio of the Fuel and Energy Ministry, and that Gazprom signed a trust agreement with the government only after Yeltsin removed Nemtsov from the collegium of state representatives in the gas monopoly. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" argued that Nemtsov may fade into obscurity, as have past "favorites" of Yeltsin such as Sergei Shakhrai (now the president's representative in the Constitutional Court) and Gennadii Burbulis (now a State Duma deputy). On 19 December, the newspaper slammed Nemtsov's conduct during his recent official visits to Chile, Mexico and Venezuela, saying he was unprepared for the trip and made statements that could harm Russia's interests. LB COURT FREEZES CONTROLLING STAKE IN SIBNEFT... The Moscow Arbitration Court on 19 December ordered that 51 percent of the shares in the Sibneft oil company be frozen pending the outcome of a legal challenge to the May privatization auction in which those shares were sold, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 December. The Financial Oil Company, which is linked to Boris Berezovskii, won the May auction. The firm KM-Invest, which is part of the Oneksimbank empire, was barred from competing in that auction and filed the lawsuit. The court's decision will prevent the Financial Oil Company from selling the Sibneft shares to a friendly firm before the court case is resolved. Hearings are scheduled to continue on 24 December. LB ...RULING COULD AFFECT BEREZOVSKII'S ROSNEFT PLANS. "Moskovskii komsomolets" argued on 23 December that the ruling by the Moscow Arbitration Court will hamper Berezovskii's efforts to find a foreign partner for the upcoming auction of a stake in the state-owned oil company Rosneft. Sibneft and Mikhail Khodorkovskii's Rosprom-Yukos group intend to submit a joint bid in the Rosneft auction but are still seeking a major foreign investor to join their consortium (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 1997). During the last six months, the popular "Moskovskii komsomolets," which is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, has devoted substantial negative coverage to Berezovskii and to his main business rival, Oneksimbank head Vladimir Potanin. The paper has also sharply criticized Berezovskii's leading enemy in the Russian government, First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais. LB AUDIT CHAMBER RECOMMENDS REVIEWING AUCTIONS. The Audit Chamber has concluded that laws were broken in the conduct of several privatization auctions this year and has recommended that the government review the results of those auctions, Interfax reported on 22 December. The chamber had previously announced that four major sales of state property were conducted with legal irregularities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 1997). Two of those -- the July sale of a stake in Svyazinvest and the August sale of shares in Norilsk Nickel -- were won by companies linked to Oneksimbank. The Audit Chamber also criticized the May auction for a stake in Sibneft (won by a company linked to Berezovskii), and the July sale of shares in the Tyumen Oil Company (won by Alfa Group). LB ALPHA FORCE COLONEL DECORATED POSTHUMOUSLY. Yeltsin signed a decree on 22 December posthumously awarding Colonel Anatolii Savelev the title of "Hero," according to Russian media. Savelev died after volunteering to exchange places with a Swedish diplomat taken hostage by a terrorist in Moscow on 19 December. The terrorist was later killed by Alpha antiterrorist force commandos. Savelev's death is still the source of controversy in the Russia. The chief cardiologist of the Russian Federal Security Service says Savelev died of a heart attack brought on by the extreme stress of the situation, not the four bullet wounds Savelev received during the attack which killed the terrorist. According to the doctor Savelev's autopsy revealed the colonel was already so stricken by the heart attack that Savelev could not have felt the bullet wounds, not fatal in any case. BP COMMUNISTS DO WELL IN TAMBOV, SMOLENSK... In elections to the Tambov Oblast Duma on 21 December, 13 candidates supported by the regional Communist Party branch and another five candidates supported by local communist organizations won seats, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported the next day. No other political party won a mandate in the 50-seat Tambov Duma. Communist-backed candidates also won 11 out of the 30 seats in the Smolensk Oblast Duma. A candidate from the Communist-allied Agrarian Party won one seat, and the remaining 18 mandates were won by candidates not affiliated with any political party, Interfax reported. LB ...POST STRONG SHOWING IN NOVOSIBIRSK. Communist Party candidates won 17 of the 49 seats in the Novosibirsk Oblast legislature on 21 December, and the Agrarian Party won three seats, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 22 December. A "third force" alliance of supporters of Grigorii Yavlinskii and Aleksandr Lebed won six seats, according to ITAR-TASS. The remaining seats were won primarily by independent candidates, many of whom are directors of prominent local enterprises. Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, which had performed well in Novosibirsk in the past, failed to win any seats. In the most high-profile race, LDPR State Duma deputy Yevgenii Loginov came in last out of four candidates in a district that was carried by Viktor Kuznetsov, the deputy chairman of the Novosibirsk legislature and the first secretary of the Communist Party in the oblast. LB NO PARTY DOMINATES KRASNOYARSK ELECTIONS. Preliminary results following the 21 December runoff elections to the Krasnoyarsk Krai legislature indicate that the Communist Party and the allied Agrarian Party have won 13 out of the 42 seats, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 22 December. Candidates considered to be on the democratic end of the political spectrum gained 10 seats. Candidates backed by former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed won five seats, while Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko movement won three seats. LB BUSINESS LEADERS FARE WELL IN TOMSK. Independent candidates, many of whom are directors or high-ranking executives in the local oil industry and banking sector, won most seats in the Tomsk Oblast legislative elections on 21 December, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 22 December. Candidates supported by the Communist opposition won only five out of the 42 seats in Tomsk. LB GONCHAR TO CONTEST MOSCOW ELECTION RESULTS. Nikolai Gonchar has vowed to contest the results of the Moscow City Duma elections in court, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 23 December. Gonchar led a bloc that was expected to win several seats in the city legislature but won none in the 14 December election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 17 December 1997). Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov actively campaigned against his critics, including Gonchar, although by law he was not allowed to participate in the campaign. In addition, Gonchar said he is gathering evidence of vote fraud in favor of candidates backed by the mayor. A commentary published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 December argued that there is ample reason to suspect that pro-Luzhkov officials falsified the election results. The State Duma has formed a commission to investigate alleged misconduct related to the Moscow City Duma elections. LB GAZ SIGNS DEAL WITH FIAT. Representatives of the Gorky Automobile Factory (GAZ) in Nizhnii Novgorod and the Italian car manufacturer Fiat on 22 December signed an agreement creating a joint venture called Nizhegorodmotors, Russian news agencies reported. Under the agreement, which is to involve some $850 million in direct investment, Nizhegorodmotors will produce three models of Fiats, beginning in late 1998. The cars will be sold for $12,000 to $17,000 each. According to GAZ President Nikolai Pugin, Yeltsin is to sign agreements relating to the joint venture, including a document on state support for the project, during a planned visit to Italy in February. LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA PLEASED BY OSCE COPENHAGEN MEETING. First deputy foreign minister Vardan Oskanian told a press conference 22 December that Yerevan was pleased that the meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had not produced any new documents on the Karabakh issue, Interfax reported. He said that progress in talks about the disputed area had been stalled following the Lisbon OSCE summit at which a statement critical of Armenia was adopted. And, consequently, the absence of any new statement or even a reassertion of the old meant that more progress could be made, Oskanian suggested. PG ARMENIA, RUSSIA FORM JOINT GAS COMPANY. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosian told the founding conference of the Armrosgazprom gas company on 22 December that this joint enterprise reflected the strategic partnership of the two countries on a variety of issues, Interfax reported. He expressed the hope that this company would eventually be able to expand its activities throughout the Caucasus. PG GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PLEASED BY ABKHAZ MEETING. In his weekly radio address on 22 December, President Eduard Shevardnadze said that a Georgian-Abkhaz meeting held in Sukhumi last week was "extremely important" and "an undoubted step forward" toward peace, Interfax reported. Shevardnadze said that he had received a letter from U.S. President Bill Clinton guaranteeing American help in settling the conflict and overcoming the destruction it has wrought. In other comments, the Georgian leader defended his decision to lift diplomatic immunity for Gueorgui Makharadze, a Georgian diplomat sentenced to seven years in prison in the United States after an automobile he was driving killed a pedestrian in Washington. Shevardnadze said no Georgian court would have given a lesser sentence. PG GEORGIA SEEKS TRANSFER OF RUSSIAN MILITARY FACILITIES. Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze said on 22 December that Tbilisi is asking that Russia transfer to the Georgian military some 50 military facilities on Georgian territory, Interfax reported. Nadibaidze said his Russian counterpart Igor Sergeyev had suggested Moscow might be willing to do so if the Georgian parliament ratifies an agreement allowing for Russian basing in Georgia. PG CHERNOMYRDIN IN UZBEKISTAN. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin arrived in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, on 22 December, according to ITAR-TASS and Interfax. Chernomyrdin and Uzbek President Islam Karimov signed six agreements, including pacts on peaceful use of nuclear power, protection of investments and means of counter- acting illegal financial operations. The two denied relations between their countries had worsened, noting that bilateral trade this year has surpassed last year's figures. Chernomyrdin also expressed satisfaction with the treatment of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in Uzbekistan. Chernomyrdin said his visit to Tashkent serves as a good basis for next year's planned visit by Boris Yeltsin to Uzbekistan. BP CORRUPTION IN KYRGYZSTAN. Kyrgyzstan's Procurator General Asanbek Sharshenaliev said at a 22 December press conference in Bishkek that 144 government officials at various levels, including ten in the parliament, are guilty of some economic crime, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Sharshenaliev also reported that the more than 10,000 economic crimes registered in Kyrgyzstan over the last 3 1/2 years had cost the country about $70 million. He said the legal system had recovered about 44 percent of the money. BP KYRGYZSTAN SEES WAHHABIS AS THREAT. Kyrgyzstan's Security Minister Feliks Kulov said on 22 December that the government is alarmed by "the activities of extremist religious groups" in the country's southern regions, according to ITAR-TASS. Kulov said the Kyrgyz government is particularly concerned about Wahhabi sects in light of recent events in neighboring Uzbekistan's city of Namangan (See "Newsline" 22 December) . Kulov announced that a special government commission will soon be formed to "keep under control" the growth and activities of these extreme groups. BP END NOTE Migration Among CIS States Large and Variable in 1990s by Michael Wyzan* The turmoil that accompanied the break-up of the Soviet Union has set large numbers of people in motion.. CIS Migration Report 1996, published recently by the Geneva- based International Organization for Migration (IOM), contains detailed information on these flows from 1989 to 1996. The biggest flows have involved Russians returning to Russia from other republics, with similar movements among the other 14 ethnic groups also reaching significant levels. Another important motivation for migrants has been a desire to leave republics troubled by civil strife (especially Armenia, Georgia, and Tajikistan) to find work, generally in Russia. Peoples deported by Stalin have migrated, returning to their original homelands (e.g., Crimean Tatars), moving somewhere else in the CIS (e.g., Meskhetians deported to Central Asia settling in Azerbaijan), or outside the CIS altogether (e.g., Volga Germans leaving Kazakhstan for Germany). Ecological and other disasters -have also produced large migratory flows. The most important of these are the 1986 accident at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (affecting Ukraine, Belarus, and parts of Russia), the shrinkage of the Aral Sea (in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan), the problems around the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site area (in Kazakhstan), and earthquakes in northern Armenia in 1988. The IOM study estimates that there have been 739,000 ecological migrants since the mid-1980s. In Armenia and Azerbaijan, large fractions of the population have become refugees or internally displaced persons as a result of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and related events. The Abkhaz conflict has created similar problems within Georgia. Finally, recent years have seen a flood of illegal migrants -- and smaller numbers of refugees and asylum seekers -- from Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East to Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, usually with hopes of finding their way legally or otherwise into Western Europe. The IOM reports that there are between 500,000 and a million illegal migrants in Russia alone. The figures on migratory trends in Russia mirror major socioeconomic developments there. The net balance of immigrants and emigrants rose steadily from 104,906 in 1991 to 914,597 in 1994, before subsiding again to 355,384 in 1996. During the 1980s, immigration to Russia consisted of both repatriation of Russians and inflows of other titular nationalities. Over the period 1990-96, some 2.4 million ethnic Russians were repatriated from other republics. However, the break-up of the Soviet Union -- and especially the partitioning of the Soviet Army -- abruptly reversed the latter flow for all nationalities except Armenians. During 1993-94, the fact that economic reform was proceeding faster in Russia than in most other CIS lands spurred an economically-motivated inflow from all such lands. The war in Chechnya and better economic performance in much of the CIS played a role in reducing this net inflow in 1995 and 1996. Over 1992-96, the Central Asian countries produced the greatest inflows to Russia. A surge in migration to Russia in 1994 came principally from Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. The average age of migrants into and out of Russia is similar to that of the general population, unlike world experience -- and that of the Soviet Union from the 1960s through the 1980s -- where migrants are younger than average. However, as elsewhere, Russia's immigrants and emigrants are more educated than average. After Russians, the largest numbers of migrants to Russia in 1996 were Ukrainians, other groups within Russia (i.e., ethnic groups with their own autonomous republics or administrative units), Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Belarusians, Georgians, Kazaks, and Tajiks. The numerical ranking of those leaving Russia is similar, except that Tajiks figure higher and Belarusians lower. Repatriation of Russians from other republics began in the mid-1970s, at which time repatriation had an economic motivation. Subsequently, outflows large relative to the size of the sending populations were generated by armed conflicts; in Tajikistan and Transcaucasia, all four countries lost about half of their Russians. Russian outmigration from the latter peaked in 1992 at 70,300 and then declined to 23,000 last year. In 1996, the outflows were dominated by republics with large Russian populations, such as Kazakstan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, rather than trouble spots. As regards migration from Russia beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union, the principal flows in the post- Soviet period have been of Germans returning to Germany and Jews moving to Israel or the United States. The outflow of Jews declined from 61,000 in 1990 to 14,300 in 1996, while that of Germans rose from 33,800 to 64,400 over that period. Russians account for an increasingly large share of such emigration. Research conducted at the Institute for Economic Forecasting in Moscow suggests that there is no relationship between where in Russia immigrants chose to settle and local unemployment or production statistics. There is, however, is a correlation between such migration and the extent of the local private sector. *Michael Wyzan is an economist living in Austria. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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