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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 13, Part I, 21 January 1998
_______________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 13, Part I, 21 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 * YELTSIN REPLACES AIR FORCE COMMANDER * RUSSIA PROPOSES DISARMAMENT EXPERTS FOR IRAQ * ARMENIAN RULING PARTY TO DEMAND GOVERNMENT'S RESIGNATION? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN REPLACES AIR FORCE COMMANDER. President Boris Yeltsin on 20 January issued a decree dismissing Petr Deinekin as commander of the Air Force, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The same decree appointed Colonel-General Anatolii Kornukov, who has headed the Moscow district of the Air Defense Force since 1991, as commander of the combined Air Force and Air Defense Force. Deinekin was criticized following a crash of a military cargo plane in Irkutsk in December. Soon after, Deinekin turned 60, the mandatory retirement age, and Yeltsin refused to make an exception to allow Deinekin to continue to serve. Military expert Aleksandr Zhilin argued that Deinekin's dismissal is most likely connected not to plane crashes, but to an investigation of commercial deals involving the Air Force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 1997). Zhilin said Kornukov is highly respected as a "first-class pilot" and a principled officer. LB SPACE AGENCY, DEFENSE MINISTRY TO COORDINATE ACTIVITIES. Yeltsin on 20 January signed a decree authorizing the Russian Space Agency to create a "unified policy" for the aerospace industry's civilian and military activities, Russian media reported. The agency is responsible for developing strategic military rockets, missile-attack warning systems, space reconnaissance, space aided-navigation, and other space equipment. However, Svetlana Savitskaya, former cosmonaut and a Communist State Duma deputy, said the situation in the space industry is already grim owing to years of underfunding and that this latest step is "beneficial only for certain political forces." Those forces, she claimed, want to "control what has not been misappropriated" and "influence the military." BP YELTSIN SAYS RESISTANCE TO MILITARY REFORM OVERCOME. While chairing a 20 January Defense Council meeting, Yeltsin announced that "we have managed to break down the resistance to the military reform among the military itself, among politicians, and even among the opposition," Russian news agencies reported. The president claimed that military personnel were reduced by 200,000 in 1997, although he gave no figure for the current number of troops in service. He has previously promised to cut the armed forces to 1.2 million by the end of 1998. It is unclear how much the cuts will affect the number of troops subordinated to other ministries and government agencies, such as the Interior Ministry and the Federal Border Service. Meanwhile, Interfax reported on 19 January that Yeltsin has instructed Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev to draft proposals on raising wages of military personnel. LB CUTBACKS CONTINUE IN AIRBORNE TROOPS. Lieutenant- General Nikolai Staskov, the deputy commander of the Airborne Troops, announced on 18 January that Sergeev has approved a plan to complete the reorganization of the troops by mid-1998, ITAR-TASS reported. Staskov said the number of paratroopers will be cut from 46,000 to 36,000. Cutbacks in the Airborne Troops have been among the most controversial proposals related to military reform, and last year Yeltsin halted planned personnel cuts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 21 May 1997). Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed, himself a former paratrooper, has been one of the most vocal critics of the downsizing plans. LB RUSSIAN MILITARY CALL-UP A SUCCESS IN 1997? "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 January that while the number of draftees for the call-up last fall reached 188,000, which meets the quota for that period, the number of draft dodgers increased to 40,000 in 1997 from 31,000 the previous year. Most of the draft dodgers were from the Moscow region, St. Petersburg, and Dagestan. The newspaper also claimed that law enforcement officials do little to apprehend such people. Also, one-third of prospective conscripts are not signed up for health reasons. BP RUSSIA PROPOSES DISARMAMENT EXPERTS FOR IRAQ. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadii Tarasov on 20 January told journalists that Moscow has submitted to the UN special commission on Iraq a list of some 60 experts who could oversee destruction of Iraq's nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, Interfax reported. Tarasov also said that Russia could provide the commission with an aircraft for surveillance flights. Speaking in Lulea, Sweden, where he is attending the Barents Euro-Arctic Council meeting, Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov again said that Baghdad's compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions is "essential." But he also called for increasing the effectiveness of the special commission's work and ensuring Iraq's constructive cooperation with that body. This, Primakov argued, could pave the way for lifting sanctions against Iraq. LF YELTSIN ASSESSES INTER-CIS RELATIONS. Speaking to journalists on 20 January prior to a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Serov, Yeltsin predicted a period of intensified activity for the CIS in 1998. In an apparent reference to Georgia, Yeltsin added that last year, "some had considered opting out" of the CIS. Serov, however, affirmed that the presidents of all CIS member states wholeheartedly endorse Yeltsin's December appeal for suggestions as to how the CIS can be made more effective. The presidents of Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan have responded with specific proposals. LF BABURIN STRIPPED OF AUTHORITY TO SUPERVISE CIS ISSUES. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev announced on 20 January that Duma Deputy Speaker Svetlana Goryacheva of the Communist faction will replace Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin as the deputy speaker responsible for CIS issues, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Baburin, one of the leaders of the Popular Power faction, told RFE/RL that Seleznev's decision is an "anti-Russian action" motivated by Baburin's opposition to treaties Russia has signed with Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. Baburin believes those treaties do not sufficiently protect ethnic Russians in Crimea, the Transdniester, and Abkhazia. Seleznev told RFE/RL that under Baburin's leadership, "we have damaged relations with CIS states" and hearings on vital documents have been delayed. Russian media have speculated that Baburin will soon be removed as Duma deputy speaker as well. He was appointed to that post under a January 1996 agreement among the seven Duma factions. LB AGREEMENT REACHED ON REPLACING DEFENSE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN? Aleksandr Shokhin, the leader of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia (NDR) faction, told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 20 January that Lev Rokhlin will soon be replaced as chairman of the Duma Defense Committee. NDR appointed Rokhlin to that post under the January 1996 agreement among the Duma factions. However, Rokhlin was expelled from the NDR faction in September 1997, a few months after he began to sharply criticize the government and Yeltsin. He has since formed an opposition movement. Shokhin said the Communist faction, which has supported Rokhlin's new movement, has agreed to let NDR appoint Roman Popkovich to head the Defense Committee. He also charged that Rokhlin has slowed down military reform because he is busy trying to register his new movement and is looking ahead to the 1999 Duma elections. LB FORMER ROSVOORUZHENIE HEAD "HAS NOT BEEN FIRED." General Aleksandr Kotelkin has not been fired from the post of first deputy minister of foreign economic relations and trade, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 January, citing Kotelkin's assistant Vladimir Vasyutkin. Kotelkin was appointed to the deputy minister post in September 1997, following his replacement one month earlier as head of the arms export giant Rosvooruzhenie. Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Minister Mikhail Fradkov on 15 January denied reports that Kotelkin had been dismissed during personnel reductions at the ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 1998). LF NEMTSOV SAYS YELTSIN RE-ELECTION BID WOULD BE 'STABILIZING' FACTOR. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said on 21 January that a third presidential bid by Yeltsin could be a "stabilizing" factor in Russian politics, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio, Nemtsov again said he has no plans to run for president in 2000, adding that Yeltsin's candidacy would "not be the worst variant," provided that the Constitutional Court rules that Yeltsin is legally entitled to seek a third term. Nemtsov noted that Chernomyrdin and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, whom he described as the potential candidates from the "party of power," would not challenge Yeltsin. In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 20 January, Nemtsov predicted that the Russian bureaucracy will back Luzhkov in the next presidential race if Yeltsin does not run. He added that the bureaucrats' support could be a "decisive factor." LB NEMTSOV COMMENTS ON OIL COMPANY MERGER. Also on 21 January, Nemtsov said he is not against oil company mergers such as that announced recently by Yukos and Sibneft, "as long as the market is not monopolized," ITAR-TASS reported, quoting comments made by Nemtsov on Ekho Moskvy. He argued that "superholdings" are good "from the point of view of international competition." But he noted that the State Anti-Monopoly Committee must approve such deals and would oppose mergers if the new company would control more than 25-30 percent of the Russian market. Supervising the Anti-Monopoly Committee is among Nemtsov's governmental duties. LB NEWSPAPER SEES MERGER LINKED TO PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. "Russkii telegraf" charged on 20 January that Yuksi, the company formed from the merger of Yukos and Sibneft, will be "a campaign fund to elect [Prime Minister] Chernomyrdin as president." Chernomyrdin spoke at the signing ceremony on the merger (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 January 1998). In addition to Mikhail Khodorkovskii, who will be president of Yuksi, and Boris Berezovskii, a major investor in Sibneft, the signing ceremony was also attended by Aleksandr Smolenskii, who heads the SBS-Agro bank, and Vladimir Gusinskii, who founded Most bank and currently heads the Media-Most holding company. "Russkii telegraf" claimed that media financed by Gusinskii and Berezovskii coordinate their news coverage and are already preparing for the next presidential campaign. "Russkii telegraf" is fully owned by Oneksimbank, whose president, Vladimir Potanin, is the main business rival of Berezovskii and Gusinskii. LB POLISH COURT REJECTS REQUEST TO EXTRADITE STANKEVICH. The Warsaw Appeals Court on 20 January upheld a lower court ruling rejecting the extradition of Sergei Stankevich, a former aide to Yeltsin and former deputy mayor of Moscow. Stankevich, who was arrested in Warsaw in April 1997, faces charges in Russia that he took a $10,000 bribe in 1992. Last November, a Warsaw court cited several reasons in its refusal to extradite Stankevich, including Stankevich's claim that he is a victim of political persecution, RFE/RL's correspondent in Warsaw reported. The European Convention on Extradition, which Poland has ratified, bans the extradition of persons who may be discriminated against for their political beliefs. Stankevich is seeking permanent residence in Poland. However, an unnamed Russian diplomat based in the Polish capital told Interfax on 20 January that the Warsaw Prosecutor's Office will probably appeal the case on Stankevich's extradition to the Supreme Court. LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA MORE ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTS IN ARMENIA? Major- General Artsrun Markarian, the commander of the Internal Troops, was wounded in the legs when an unidentified gunman opened fire on him near his home on 21 January, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Markarian is said to be a protege of Vano Siradeghian, the chairman of the ruling Armenian Pan- National Movement (HHSh) and mayor of Yerevan. An HHSh official, Ruben Hayrapetyan, was wounded by a hand grenade on 20 January. LF ARMENIAN RULING PARTY TO DEMAND GOVERNMENT'S RESIGNATION? Leading members of the Armenian Pan- National Movement , including its chairman, Vano Siradeghian, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 21 January that they plan to call on President Levon Ter-Petrossyan to fire Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian and possibly the entire government. They argued that the "indifference " of Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan's government to the recent assassination bids threatens to plunge the country into chaos. The Pan-National Movement unequivocally supports Ter- Petrossyan's insistence on resolving the Karabakh conflict through compromise. Kocharyan, Serzh Sarkisian, and Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian back the leadership of the unrecognized Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh in its steadfast rejection of the latest "phased" peace plan proposed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. LF PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN WARNS KARABAKH ARMENIANS. Levon Zurabian, press secretary to Armenian President Ter-Petrossyan, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 20 January that the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic is free to take a position on any issue but that "attempts to meddle in Armenia's internal politics are unacceptable." Zurabian added, however, that Yerevan will not release any official statement to that effect. The previous day, Nagorno-Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasyan had condemned speculation about the possible resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, his predecessor as president of Karabakh. Zurabian last week denied Armenian press reports that Kocharyan tendered his resignation during the 7-8 January Armenian Security Council session. That meeting failed to overcome differences between Yerevan and Stepanakert, as well as within the Armenian leadership, over the best way to resolve the Karabakh conflict. LF ARMENIA UNVEILS NEW EUROPEAN POLICY. Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian on 12 January chaired the first session of an inter-governmental commission on European integration and cooperation with European regional organizations. In an interview published in "Respublika Armeniya" five days later, Arzoumanian's first deputy, Vartan Oskanian, explained that Armenia's new European policy is based on direct talks with the EU and the Council of Europe, in the hope of eventually receiving associate member status, and on more active participation in European regional initiatives. Oskanian conceded that Armenia's integration into European structures will be "extremely difficult" and may take decades. But he added that creating a "new image" and disseminating a "new geo-political ideology" will expedite Armenia's being perceived as a European country and counter the erroneous impression that Europe is not a top priority of Armenian foreign policy. LF SPOKESMAN FOR GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS APPEALS TO UN. Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the so- called Abkhaz parliament in exile (which is composed of ethnic Georgian deputies elected to the Abkhaz parliament in September 1991), has appealed to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Caucasus Press reported on 20 January. Nadareishvili calls on the UN to take measures to expedite the repatriation of ethnic Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 hostilities, and to restore Georgia's territorial integrity. Nadareishvili, who has in the past called for military intervention to restore Georgia's hegemony over Abkhazia, claimed that 1,200 ethnic Georgian repatriants to Abkhazia's southern-most Gali Raion have been killed by Abkhaz militants since the deployment in mid-1994 of CIS peacekeepers along the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia (see also "End Note" below). LF FORMER AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT SPEAKER DENIES COUP CHARGES. In a written statement released in Istanbul on 20 January, Rasul Guliev again rejected claims by the Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General's Office that he had planned a coup to oust President Heidar Aliev, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 21 January. In an interview with that newspaper two days earlier, Guliev had accused Aliev of creating a totalitarian regime and reaffirmed his intention to contend the October presidential elections. In Yerevan, political commentator David Petrossyan predicted that Aliev will not run for reelection but that his son Ilham, vice president of the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, will do so, Noyan Tapan reported. LF TAJIK OPPOSITION COMMANDER MURDERED. A field commander loyal to the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) and three of his bodyguards were killed on the evening of 19 January, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported. Mahmud Rajabov was returning home from his unit's barracks in the Kofarnikhon area when unknown assailants attacked him and his guards. UTO representative Habib Sanginov said Rajabov was one of the first commanders to officially declaring his unit's support for the opposition and have his unit relocated in accordance with last June's peace agreement. Both the Tajik government and UTO have warned against further provocation by any faction, including a "third party" not interested in seeing peace in Tajikistan. That "third party" is being blamed for the Rajabov's murder. BP KYRGYZ JOURNALIST FREED. Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court has ruled to find journalist Yrysbek Omurzakov guilty according to the civil code, rather than the criminal one, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported on 20 January. Omurzakov was found guilty of libel for publishing an article in the opposition newspaper "Res Publica" in January 1997 alleging corruption on the part of a Bishkek factory manager. He was sentenced last September to two-and-a-half years in prison under provisions of the criminal code. The Supreme Court, however, decided to find him guilty under the civil code instead. Omurzakov was pardoned under a law on amnesty signed on 1 January 1998. BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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