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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 10, Part I, 16 January 1998
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 * CHERNOMYRDIN DEALS NEW BLOW TO CHUBAIS * CHECHEN PRESIDENT UNVEILS NEW CABINET * UTO PULLS OUT OF RECONCILIATION COMMISSION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA CHERNOMYRDIN DEALS NEW BLOW TO CHUBAIS... Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has redistributed the responsibilities of top cabinet officials, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 January. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais will continue to oversee some economic policies and agencies such as the tax inspectorate and tax police. However, Chernomyrdin will now be directly responsible for the Finance Ministry, budget and monetary policy, and development of the banking sector. (Mikhail Zadornov reportedly insisted on being directly subordinate to Chernomyrdin before he replaced Chubais as finance minister.) In addition, Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Bulgak, who was previously charged mainly with issues relating to culture and science, will replace Chubais as the government's coordinator of media-related issues. On 15 January, Bulgak was appointed chairman of the collegium of state representatives in the 51 percent state-owned network Russian Public Television. LB ...REPLACES NEMTSOV AS ENERGY POLICY COORDINATOR. Under the redistribution of responsibilities, Chernomyrdin will coordinate the activities of the Fuel and Energy Ministry, ITAR-TASS reported. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov previously supervised that ministry's work, even after Yeltsin removed him as fuel and energy minister last November. Chernomyrdin ran the USSR Ministry of the Gas Industry during the Gorbachev period and is considered close to major companies in the Russian energy sector, especially the gas monopoly Gazprom. Nemtsov will continue to coordinate the government's policies on restructuring state subsidies for housing and utilities. LB CHERNOMYRDIN DENIES RUMORS ON HEALTH. Also on 16 January, Interfax quoted Chernomyrdin as denying that he went to the Barvikha sanitarium the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 1998). The prime minister said he feels fine, adding that he may take a short vacation after Yeltsin returns to work. The president has been at a government residence in Valdai for nearly two weeks and is scheduled to resume work in the Kremlin on 19 January. LB RUSSIA AGAIN OPPOSES USING FORCE AGAINST IRAQ. An Iraqi spokesman on 16 January welcomed the offer made by Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev in Paris the previous day to provide surveillance aircraft to monitor Baghdad's compliance with UN Security Council rulings, AFP reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin on 15 January again affirmed that "any use of force against Iraq is inadmissible" and that the ongoing tensions between Baghdad and the UN should be resolved exclusively by political and diplomatic means, Interfax reported. Commenting on plans by Russian Liberal-Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky to send a further consignment of humanitarian aid to Iraq next month, Nesterushkin said that the cargo would be transported by a direct non-stop flight with UN approval. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told Interfax on 15 January that Russia should intensify its efforts to secure the lifting of international sanctions on Iraq. LF CHECHEN PRESIDENT UNVEILS NEW CABINET. Aslan Maskhadov on 15 January signed a decree listing the new 24- member cabinet. Shamil Basaev is one of two first deputy prime ministers and acting premier for a period of six months. As anticipated, former First Deputy Prime Minister Movladi Ugugov is appointed foreign minister, while Basaev's brother, Shirvani, is chairman of the State Committee for Fuel and Energy. Endorsement of the new cabinet by the Chechen parliament may prove problematic. Parliamentary speaker Ruslan Alikhadzhiev on 15 January pointed out that most members of the new government served in the old cabinet, which Maskhadov had accused of inefficiency. Former Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed told Interfax that Moscow should overlook Basaev's former involvement in terrorist activities and embark on a dialogue with his new government, given that "only authoritarian people with a firm will can control the situation in Chechnya." LF LUZHKOV SUPPORTS CHECHEN INDEPENDENCE, PREVENTIVE STRIKES. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told journalists on 15 January that Russia should allow Chechnya to become an independent state, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He noted that he opposed the cease-fire agreement negotiated in August 1996 by Maskhadov and then Russian Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed on the grounds that it was a "capitulation." But having implemented that agreement, Luzhkov argued, Russia should recognize that it lost the war in Chechnya. He again praised Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov's widely condemned proposal to bomb some targets in Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 January 1998). Luzhkov argued that "this is done by other countries in the civilized world" in order to keep "bandits" from attacking their territory. He added that if a neighboring state carries out terrorist acts, then "the side defending itself should have the right to carry out preventive strikes." LB GOVERNMENT APPROVES MILITARY HOUSING PROGRAM. The government on 15 January approved a five- year, 25 billion ruble ($4.2 billion) program intended to provide housing for some 210,000 families of retired military personnel, Russian news agencies reported. The program is to cover 160,000 families of soldiers who have already left the armed forces and 50,000 families of those who will be retired during upcoming military reforms. Families will receive housing certificates to cover 80 percent of the cost of apartments. They will have the right to take out low-interest bank loans to cover the remainder of the cost. LB SERGEEV SAYS MILITARY REFORM TO TAKE MORE TIME. Defense Minister Sergeev acknowledged on 15 January that owing to financial difficulties, military reform will not be completed by 2000, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin issued a decree in May 1996 promising to end conscription and create a professional army by 2000. Speaking to reporters in Paris, where he is meeting with French officials, Sergeev said Yeltsin's orders will be fulfilled but gave no timetable. The government has yet to approve a detailed military reform program; experts in the Defense Ministry and Defense Council are still drafting proposals. LB FORMER ROSVOORUZHENIE HEAD FIRED FROM NEW POST? ITAR-TASS on 15 January reported that Aleksandr Kotelkin has been fired from his post as first deputy minister for foreign economic relations and trade. He had been appointed to that post in September 1997, following his removal the previous month as head of the arms export company Rosvooruzhenie (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1997). The official reason cited for Kotelkin's removal from his new post was personnel cuts, but ITAR-TASS and "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 January suggested his strained relations with Deputy Prime Minister Yakov Urinson was the real reason. Foreign Economic Relations Minister Mikhail Fradkov, however, told Interfax that all four first deputy ministers will be fired by 7 March 1998 and that only three first deputies will be reappointed. LF YELTSIN TO REJECT COALITION GOVERNMENT PROPOSAL. Sergei Shakhrai, the president's representative in the Constitutional Court, told Interfax on 15 January that Yeltsin will reject proposals on forming a coalition government that would have the support of a majority in the parliament. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev has pledged to submit proposals on forming a coalition government to Yeltsin by the end of January. He claimed in December that the president had agreed to consider the issue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 December 1997). LB ZYUGANOV SAYS DUMA WON'T CHANGE ELECTORAL SYSTEM. Communist Party leader Zyuganov has vowed that the Duma will unanimously reject the president's proposals on changing the law on parliamentary elections, Interfax reported on 15 January. Yeltsin recently urged the Duma to abolish the proportional representation system whereby half of Duma deputies are currently elected (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 1997). Zyuganov denounced the president's proposal as "unconstitutional and absolutely immoral." He noted that Yeltsin himself introduced the proportional representation system in fall 1993. Zyuganov added that Yeltsin's proposal to elect all Duma deputies in single-member districts would harm the development of Russian political parties and would "turn the Duma into a corporation of mafia clans." LB CRIMINAL CASE OPENED IN OLD BANKING SCANDAL. Vladimir Kazakov, who heads the Department on Especially Important Cases in the Prosecutor-General's Office, told Interfax on 15 January that a criminal case has been opened concerning alleged embezzlement of hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds. Last July, Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin accused several former officials, MFK bank, and Unikombank of arranging the allegedly fraudulent deals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 18 July 1997). In particular, Dubinin's accusations involved Former First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov, who in February 1997 authorized the transfer of government funds to finance a contract on supplying MiG fighter planes to India. Vavilov became the head of MFK bank, which is part of the Oneksimbank empire, after leaving the Finance Ministry in April 1997. Oneksimbank President Vladimir Potanin was first deputy prime minister from August 1996 until March 1997. LB REPORT SLAMS OFFICIAL RESPONSE TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. According to a new report by the Women's Rights Project of Human Rights Watch, the Russian law enforcement system "creates numerous and substantial obstacles" to combating violence against women, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 15 January. For instance, the report says police officers and prosecutors are often hostile to women who have been raped. It urges the Russian government to devote more attention and resources to the problem but charges that diplomatic efforts by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and others "have done little to change high-level indifference to the brutality Russian women endure without recourse." Yekaterina Lakhova, who heads a presidential commission on women, children, and demographics, has estimated that some 14,000 women in Russia each year are killed by husbands or family members (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1997). LB PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION PREPARING PROGRAM ON HUMAN RIGHTS. Vladimir Kartashkin, who chairs a presidential commission on human rights, announced on 15 January that the commission is preparing recommendations on defending human rights in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. He said his commission will concentrate this year on tackling poor conditions for soldiers and prisoners and widespread infringement of social and economic rights. Yeltsin has declared 1998 the year of human rights in Russia. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Kartashkin said his commission has encountered "administrative difficulties," since it has fewer than half as many members as when it was chaired by renowned human rights defender Sergei Kovalev. Kovalev and several others quit the commission in January 1996 to protest Russia's actions during the war in Chechnya. LB DUMA DEMANDS QUICKER COMPENSATION FOR OLD SAVINGS ACCOUNTS. The Duma on 14 January passed a resolution urging the government to speed up compensation payments to citizens whose pre-1992 savings accounts were rendered worthless by high inflation in the 1990s, ITAR-TASS reported. In particular, the resolution called for compensation to be paid sooner to all citizens suffering from cancer. Up to now, only citizens born before 1921 have been able to receive compensation for their old savings accounts. Sberbank has begun paying holders of those accounts up to 1,000 times the face value of their deposits. LB REGIONAL AFFAIRS BALTIC PRESIDENTS SAY CHARTER WILL HELP TIES WITH RUSSIA. The presidents of the three Baltic States have defended the partnership charter with the U.S., saying it will help, not damage, their relations with Russia. Speaking in Washington on 15 January, Latvia's Guntis Ulmanis said the document shows that Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania support attempts to increase mutual trust with Russia. Lithuania's Algirdas Brazauskas said the charter is not directed against a third country and that he does not believe it will worsen ties with Russia. Estonia's Lennart Meri said his country wants to look forward to improved relations with Russia in the future and not dwell on the enmity of the past. U.S. President Bill Clinton and his three Baltic counterparts are due to sign the charter in Washington on 16 January. JC RUSSIA RESPONDS CAUTIOUSLY TO CHARTER. Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told a news conference in Moscow on 15 January that Russia welcomes any steps aimed at establishing open, equal, and good neighborly cooperation in the Baltics as part of the process of building a new Europe without dividing lines. Nesterushkin said Moscow's attitude to the U.S.-Baltic Charter will depend on the extent to which its content meets that goal. He added that the Moscow will renew its proposal to offer security guarantees to the Baltics at international gatherings next week in Riga and Sweden, Reuters reported. That proposal, first made by President Yeltsin last fall, was rejected by all three Baltic States. JC ADAMKUS DENIES KALININGRAD STATEMENT. Lithuanian President-elect Valdas Adamkus has denied he told a Polish weekly that the status of Kaliningrad Oblast remains an "international problem" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 1998), Russian agencies reported. Adamkus's spokesman issued a statement on 15 January saying that the president-elect had not given an interview to "Wprost." Adamkus "regards the question of Kaliningrad Oblast as having been settled long ago and firmly stands for good relations with Russia," the spokesman stressed. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry told Interfax that Adamkus considers the "Wprost" report to be a "provocation." JC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA UTO PULLS OUT OF RECONCILIATION COMMISSION. The United Tajik Opposition on 15 January carried out its threat to withdraw its representatives from the National Reconciliation Commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 1998). UTO leader and commission chairman Said Abdullo Nuri said the government's failure to hand over 30 percent of government positions to the UTO, the delay on an official amnesty for UTO members taken prisoner during the five-year civil war, delays in assigning permanent bases for UTO troops (now part of the Tajik Army), and the failure to bring back the last of the UTO fighters from Afghanistan all contributed to that decision. At the same time, he stressed the UTO's withdrawal from the commission is temporary only, depending on the government's response. BP TAJIK-CHINESE DEFENSE ACCORD. Tajik Defense Minister Sherali Khairulloyev and his Chinese counterpart, Chi Haotian, signed an accord on "broader contacts" between their ministries, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 January. Khairulloyev and Chi also discussed regional security, especially the situation in Afghanistan. BP DIRECT FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN KAZAKHSTAN IN 1997. Kazakh National Bank Chairman Uraz Jandosov has announced that direct foreign investment in Kazakhstan last year totaled $1.7 billion, Interfax reported on 14 January. Jandosov speculated that 1998 would see a drop in direct foreign investment owing to the economic crisis in some Asian countries. He noted that two of Kazakhstan's biggest foreign investors are the South Korean firms Daewoo and Samsung, both of which are heavily affected by the financial problems in Asia. BP AZERBAIJANI EX-PARLIAMENT SPEAKER ACCUSED OF PLANNING COUP. The Prosecutor-General's Office and National Security Ministry on 15 January issued a joint statement accusing former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev of conspiring from abroad to overthrow President Heidar Aliev. The statement claimed that while head of Azerbaijan's largest oil refinery, Guliev systematically embezzled millions of dollars with which he funded a series of meetings to discuss ways of destabilizing the present situation in Azerbaijan and training terrorists and assassins. Guliev denied the allegations in a telephone interview with Reuters. Representatives of several opposition parties rejected the charges as "irresponsible" and called on the authorities to provide concrete evidence to substantiate them. Guliev was stripped of his parliamentary deputy's mandate in December 1997 and subsequently announced his intention to contend the presidential election due later this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 1997 and 13 January 1998). LF ARMENIA COMMEMORATES BAKU MASSACRE. Several thousand Armenians staged a march in Yerevan on 15 January to commemorate the anniversary of the 1990 pogroms in Baku, in which dozens of ethnic Armenians were killed, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The mass killings, which forced 250,000 Baku Armenians to flee the city, served as a pretext for the Soviet troops' belated intervention during the night of 19-20 January 1990. Up to 150 Azerbaijanis were killed on that night. Representatives of the Iranian embassy in Yerevan participated in the 15 January march to "pay tribute to innocent victims," Noyan Tapan reported, quoting a senior Iranian diplomat. The march was organized by the opposition Dashnak Party (HHD) and the Organizational Committee to Support Nagorno-Karabakh, which represents various opposition parties. LF ABKHAZIA ACCUSES GEORGIA OF "STATE TERRORISM." In a statement released on 15 January, the Abkhaz Foreign Ministry questions the international community's objectivity in evaluating the Abkhaz conflict, Interfax reported. The statement claims that Georgia has conducted "undeclared sabotage and a terrorist war" against Abkhazia since the May 1994 signing of a formal cease-fire agreement, and alleged that this policy of "state terrorism" has the tacit support of the international community. The ministry called for a meeting of Abkhaz, Georgian, Russian, UN, and OSCE representatives to assess the situation. On 14 January, one of the members of a group of Georgian saboteurs belonging to the so-called White Legion was killed by an explosion that destroyed a water tower in the Abkhaz town of Ochamchira, Abkhaz Security Minister Astamur Tarba told ITAR-TASS. LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT IN ISRAEL. During his visit to Israel on 14 January, Eduard Shevardnadze met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and signed a "declaration of friendship." Shevardnadze invited Netanyahu and Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon to visit Georgia later this year to discuss possible cooperation in the energy sector. Shevardnadze was also presented with an award by the Israeli Institute of Democracy for his contribution to promoting democracy in Georgia. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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