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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 16, Part I, 26 January 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 16, Part I, 26 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 * GROZNY NAMES ALLEGED MURDERER OF RED CROSS PERSONNEL * DUMA REJECTS DRAFT LAWS ON STATE SYMBOLS * ARMENIAN LEADERSHIP RIFT DEEPENS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA GROZNY NAMES ALLEGED MURDERER OF RED CROSS WORKERS. An aide to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov on 25 January accused Adam-Shamala Deniev, head of the movement For the Rebirth of the Chechen People of plotting the December 1996 murder of six Red Cross workers in the Chechen village of Novie Atagi. Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov told ITAR-TASS the same day that Chechen Prosecutor-General Khovash Serbiev has demanded Deniev's extradition from Moscow to Grozny. Deniev has denied any involvement in the killings and accused the Chechen leadership of seeking to implicate him because of his political activities, AFP reported, citing RIA. LF RUSSIAN-CHECHEN TALKS AGAIN FAIL TO MAKE PROGRESS. Delegations headed by Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin and Chechen Foreign Minister Udugov held three-hour talks in Nazran on 23 January but failed to reach a compromise on the wording of Article 1 of a comprehensive treaty, Russian agencies reported. Udugov warned the next day that the issue of Chechnya's status could be manipulated by candidates contesting the Russian presidency in 2000 if the issue has not been resolved by then. LF DUMA REJECTS DRAFT LAWS ON STATE SYMBOLS. The State Duma on 23 January rejected two versions of a federal constitutional law on Russia's state symbols, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Just 108 deputies supported the version submitted by President Boris Yeltsin, while 243 voted against and seven abstained. The president's version would have established the double-headed eagle as the state emblem, a white, blue and red Russian flag, and a song by the composer Mikhail Glinka as the national anthem. The Duma also voted down a Communist-backed version of the law that would have reinstated the red flag and the Soviet-era national anthem as the state symbols. The Communist draft was supported by 273 deputies, with 75 voting against and three abstaining. Federal constitutional laws require the support of two-thirds of the Duma (300 deputies) rather than a simple majority. LB DUMA DECLINES TO INTRODUCE 'IMPERATIVE MANDATE'... The Duma has rejected a proposal to allow factions to strip some members of their mandates if they violate party discipline. A proposal to introduce the "imperative mandate" was voted down when the Duma approved a new set of regulations on 22 January, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, a member of the Communist faction, has advocated introducing the imperative mandate, saying the 225 Duma deputies elected to the chamber on party lists should be obliged to cooperate with the group that offered them a seat in the Duma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August and 2 September 1997). LB ...BUT COMMUNISTS RETAIN LEVERAGE OVER ALLIES. The new regulations approved by the Duma provide for the annual re-registration of Duma factions, "Segodnya" reported on 23 January. The rules allow the Communist faction to retain leverage over its allies, the Agrarian and Popular Power factions. Both of those factions would fall short of the 35 members required for official registration if the Communist faction recalled deputies elected to the Duma as Communists and "donated" to the Agrarian and Popular Power groups. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 January that Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin could split the Communists in the Duma if he decided to form his own Duma faction. However, Rokhlin told the newspaper that he will not form his own faction without the blessing of Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, who, he said, has so far told Rokhlin he would be against the creation of such a group. LB DUMA DEMANDS 'URGENT MEASURES' ON COAL MINES. The Duma on 23 January appealed to Yeltsin to take "urgent measures" to provide for safe working conditions in coal mines, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. According to the resolution, accidents at coal mines in 1996 killed 174 miners and injured 3,350. In 1997, accidents killed 277 miners and injured 15,180. The Duma resolution claimed that 38 miners have already been killed in work-related accidents this year. An 18 January explosion at a coal mine in Vorkuta (Komi Republic) killed 27 miners. Meanwhile, Interfax reported on 23 January that workers at the Komsomolskaya coal mine have called for a nationwide extraordinary congress of miners. They blame the "increasing number of tragedies" in coal mines on "thoughtless" government policy on restructuring the industry, insufficient financing, and a lack of funds for safety measures. LB COMMISSION RECOMMENDS REVISING TAX CODE BY 1 FEBRUARY. The government commission on economic reforms has recommended that the government send a revised tax code to the parliament by 1 February, Russian news agencies reported on 24 January. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, who chaired the commission meeting, acknowledged that the code still needs substantial revisions. However, he argued that the government should resubmit its version to the Duma before deputies begin considering other tax code proposals. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 24 January, seven alternative tax codes have been submitted to the Duma, and versions backed by Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev and Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel are considered the "most promising." The daily also reported that State Tax Service chief Aleksandr Pochinok is displeased with the Finance Ministry's revisions to the code and has tried unsuccessfully to delay the submission of the new version to the government for approval. LB YELTSIN, NAZARBAYEV MEET. Yeltsin met "informally" with his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, outside Moscow on 23- 24 January, Russian media reported. The two presidents later released a statement calling for the Russian and Kazakh governments to finalize by 1 March the terms for Russia's continued use of the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The statement also called for the two countries to complete a draft Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, which would then be given to the other three littoral states--Turkmenistan, Iran. and Azerbaijan--for review. Both sides confirmed their desire for the transport of oil from western Kazakh fields to world markets to begin "as soon as possible." BP PRIMAKOV MEETS WITH CHEVRON PRESIDENT. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov met with the president of the U.S. company Chevron in Moscow on 23 January, ITAR- TASS reported. The two discussed the activities of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium. Russian "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Rossiiskaya gazeta" recently reported that Kazakhstan is seeking to replace consortium director-general Vladimir Stanev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1998). The Chevron president said he favors transporting oil from the Tengiz field in northern Kazakhstan to the new Russian terminals at Novorossiisk, which, he said, is the shortest, most economical route for carrying oil to world markets. Kazakh President Nazarbayev has hinted that he will support whoever can get oil from his country to world markets first. BP GREECE TO EXTRADITE SUSPECT IN EMBEZZLEMENT CASE. Greek Justice Minister Evangelos Giannopoulos told ITAR-TASS on 24 January that Greece plans to extradite Andrei Kozlenok, who is wanted in Russia on charges of embezzling some $180 million in state funds through a fraudulent contract with the State Committee on Precious Metals (Roskomdragmet). However, Giannopoulos said that if Kozlenok appeals to the Greek Supreme Court, the extradition process could take several months. The Roskomdragmet case threatens to become politically explosive if Kozlenok is tried in Russia or cooperates with Russian investigators. In addition to former Roskomdragmet Chairman Yevgenii Bychkov, several other high-ranking former officials may have been involved in the case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 1998). LB SOBCHAK SAYS WILL RETURN WHEN HEALTH PERMITS. Former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak says he will return to Russia as soon has he has finished a course of medical treatment in Paris, where he has been since mid-November. In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 24 January, Sobchak said his treatment will require another one- and-a-half months. Russian investigators are seeking to question him in a corruption case against his former associates, but Sobchak said he does not trust Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov or Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, because, he alleged, they have not punished the investigators who "caused me to have a heart attack" during an interrogation in October. Sobchak also confirmed that he plans to run for the Duma when he returns from France (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"14 November 1997). LB PRIVATE CONVICTED FOR CAUSING AMMO DEPOT BLAZE. A military court has sentenced private Sergei Chugaev to 10 years in prison for causing a fire last April at an ammunitions depot, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 January. Some 300 billion old rubles ($50 million) in damage was caused by the fire and accompanying explosions at the depot in Bira (Jewish Autonomous Oblast). Chugaev is said to have caused the fire by accidentally dropping a cigarette while on duty. Some analysts have argued that explosions at Russian arms depots have been set deliberately to conceal illegal arms sales (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 1997). LB 'FINANCIAL TIMES' ENDS PUBLICATION WITH 'IZVESTIYA.' As of late April, the "Financial Times" and "Izvestiya" will no longer jointly publish "Finansovye izvestiya," a Russian-language supplement to "Izvestiya" dealing with economic news, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 January. "Finansovye izvestiya," which has appeared twice a week since October 1992, will continue to be published after April but will no longer include materials from the "Financial Times." Ben Hughes, the "Financial Times" regional director for continental Europe, explained that although the joint project has been successful, the "Financial Times" plans to concentrate on developing its market in the U.S. "Kommersant-Daily" speculated that the London-based newspaper may have ended the project in order to remain independent of large financial groups. LUKoil and Oneksimbank are major investors in "Izvestiya." In recent months, news coverage in "Kommersant- Daily" has been sympathetic to Oneksimbank's business rivals and political opponents. LB REGIONAL AFFAIRS RUSSIAN DUMA CONCERNED ABOUT BALTIC CHARTER, NATO EXPANSION. The Russian State Duma on 23 January passed a resolution expressing concern about the U.S.-Baltic partnership charter, Russian news agencies reported. The resolution said the charter is seen by the Baltics as "a step toward [their] admission into NATO." It warned that NATO expansion is incompatible with the Founding Act signed by Russia and NATO last May. In addition, the resolution expressed the hope that protection of human rights in the Baltics will be improved when the Baltic charter is implemented. Also on 23 January, the Duma approved a resolution asking the Russian president and government to devise a program to counteract NATO expansion. The resolution described NATO enlargement as the "most serious military threat to our country since 1945" and charged that NATO member states "have not renounced the use of force as a method to resolve foreign-policy problems." LB COUNCIL OF BALTIC SEA STATES ISSUES DECLARATION. In a declaration following the 22-23 meeting in Riga (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 1998), the prime ministers of the 11 member countries of the Baltic Sea Council confirmed their desire to promote regional cooperation in order to establish a Europe "without dividing lines." The council discussed various economic issues, focusing on a proposal to create a "Baltic Ring" that would link the gas and electricity systems of the eastern and western Baltic shores. It also extended the mandate of an organized crime task force, set up at the previous council meeting in 1996. JC CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS EU EXPANSION MUST NOT HARM RUSSIAN INTERESTS... Addressing the council on 23 January, Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin warned that EU enlargement must not be at Russia's expense. "It is important that, in the context of the forthcoming expansion of the EU, the trade and economic interests of Russia and other members of the CIS are taken into consideration," Interfax quoted him as saying. Chernomyrdin also stressed that Russia is prepared to assume a leading role in creating a "climate of mutual confidence" in the Baltic Sea region, BNS reported. He added that Russian President Boris Yeltsin's October 1997 offer of security guarantees to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania affirms Moscow's desire to base security in the Baltic region "not on balanced military potential but on practical cooperation and confidence." At his meeting with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl the previous day, Chernomyrdin had stressed that Russian-EU cooperation must complement the union's eastward expansion, dpa reported. JC ...WARNS LATVIA'S ULMANIS OVER RUSSIAN MINORITY. At his 23 January meeting with Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, Chernomyrdin stressed that Moscow considers the situation of Russian speakers living in Latvia to be a "priority issue" in Russian-Latvian relations. He warned that if Riga does not take concrete steps to grant ethnic Russians citizenship, it cannot count on progress in its relations with Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, Chernomyrdin welcomed Ulmanis's efforts to meet the recommendations of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on improving the situation of Latvia's ethnic Russians, who constitute some 40 percent of the Latvian population. In an interview with the Russian news agency, the Russian premier said it is "unacceptable for people living in the middle of Europe at the end of the 20th century to be humiliated the way Russians are in Latvia." JC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN LEADERSHIP RIFT DEEPENS. Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian has again pledged support for Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan and his government, saying that Kocharyan's resignation is "impossible," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 23 January. Sarkisian charged that the Armenian Pan- National Movement stage-managed three recent attacks on senior officials as a pretext for demanding the government's resignation. He added that the three officials targeted had been warned in advance. But Deputy Interior Minister Major-General Artsrun Markaryan, who was wounded in a shooting on 21 January, refused to comment on Sarkisian's allegations, saying he does not want the attack on him to be exploited for political ends. National Security and Interior Minister Serzh Sarkisian told the newspaper "02" on 24 January that the APNM's reaction to the shootings is aimed at destabilizing Armenia. LF ARMENIAN RULING PARTY MOVES TO STRENGTHEN ITS POSITION. Also on 23 January, Defense Minister Sarkisian said the "Armenian armed forces will not intervene in the political struggle," ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The defense minister claimed that people whom he refused to identify had sought unsuccessfully to recruit the support of senior army commanders against the government. "Golos Armenii" quoted Khachik Stamboltsian, a former prominent APNM member, as claiming that the APNM is creating its own armed units to counter those loyal to Vazgen and Serzh Sarkisian. The newspaper added that weapons are being distributed to the movement's Yerevan branches. "Azg" reported that Mesrop Harutyunian, the editor of the official daily "Hayastani Hanrapetutytun," resigned on 23 January at the request of the National Assembly. LF NAGORNO-KARABAKH OFFICIALS RESPOND TO YEREVAN. Zhanna Krikoryan, a spokeswoman for the government of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has rejected criticism by Armenian Presidential press spokesman Levon Zurabian as "unfounded," RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported on 23 January. Zurabian had told RFE/RL three days earlier that statements by Karabakh president Arkadii Ghukasyan in support of Armenian Premier Kocharyan constitute interference in Armenia's internal political affairs. Krikorian argued that neither Stepanakert nor Yerevan can be considered to have a monopoly on the unresolved Karabakh conflict. On 24 January, the NKR government issued an official statement condemning "irresponsible leaders" of the APNM for linking the recent shootings in Armenia to disagreement over how to resolve the Karabakh conflict. The statement said the charges were "provocative" and intended to destabilize Armenia. It called on all Armenian politicians to be "guided by pan-national rather than parochial interests." LF STROEV IN YEREVAN... Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev met with Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan and parliamentary speaker Babken Ararktsian in Yerevan on 23 January, ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan reported. Stroev later told journalists that talks focused on Nagorno-Karabakh and that Ter-Petrossyan had made proposals for gradually resolving the conflict, which the Armenian leader had asked to be passed on to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev. Stroev expressed support for Ter-Petrossyan's insistence on resolving the Karabakh conflict through concessions. But he noted that rejection of such an approach by hard-liners within the Armenian leadership would not impact on Russian-Armenian relations, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ter-Petrossyan affirmed that there are no outstanding problems in Russian- Armenian relations, but Stroev noted mutual concern that economic cooperation accords are not being fully implemented. LF ...AND BAKU. Karabakh also figured prominently in Stroev's talks with President Aliev and parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov in Baku on 23-24 January. Stroev said that Moscow continues to support a peaceful solution to the conflict and Azerbaijan's territorial integrity but warned against pressuring the conflict sides to take "hasty decisions." Stroev affirmed that Russian relations with all three Transcaucasian states are improving, but Aliev stressed that Russia's deliveries of arms to Armenia and the presence of Russian military bases in Armenia and Georgia are hindering an improvement in bilateral relations. Stroev assured Aliev that those bases "are not directed against Azerbaijan." Meanwhile, the Russian State Duma on 23 January voted overwhelmingly in favor of ratifying the Russian-Azerbaijani and Russian-Armenian treaties on friendship and cooperation, signed last July and August, respectively. LF KAZAKH UNIONS SAY GOVERNMENT FIGURES ARE WRONG. The Federation of Trade Unions claims the government's figures on unemployment and migration are grossly inaccurate, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 January. The official unemployment figure is 4 percent but the unions say 25-28 percent is more realistic. Despite government claims that emigration has slowed and is offset by immigration, the unions say that in the last nine months of 1997, 230,000 people left Kazakhstan while only 28,000 moved to the country, of whom most are ethnic Kazakhs. The unions have sent a letter to President Nazarbayev asking him to seek to rectify the social situation in the country. BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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