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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 17, Part I, 27 January 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 17, Part I, 27 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN LAUNCHES 1998 GOVERNMENT PROGRAM * YELTSIN SENDS DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER TO IRAQ * ARMENIAN PAN-NATIONAL MOVEMENT LEADER BACKPEDALS * End Note: WITHOUT REMORSE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN LAUNCHES 1998 GOVERNMENT PROGRAM. President Boris Yeltsin announced on 26 January that he has signed a list of 12 main tasks for the government this year, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The names of several cabinet members and at least one official from the presidential administration are listed after each of the 12 tasks. Yeltsin promised that the document will allow for more "discipline, precision, and responsibility" in the government's work, Interfax reported. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's signature is at the bottom of the government program, but his name is not listed after any specific task. In an interview with RFE/RL, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov explained that Chernomyrdin "answers for everything" in the program. Some of the points, such as restructuring the system of social benefits, were among the seven main tasks set for the government last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 1997). LB CHUBAIS, NEMTSOV GIVEN DIFFICULT TASKS. The government's plan for 1998 assigns responsibility for many of the most difficult tasks to First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Nemtsov. Chubais and Nemtsov are among those officials responsible for policies to alleviate the non-payments problem and cut back on state expenditures. Both are also partly responsible for implementing the government's military housing program. Chubais must ensure that taxes are reduced and a new tax code adopted by the end of the year. He also is responsible for paying state debts to the defense industry. Nemtsov must ensure that pensions and wages to state employees are paid on time and that natural monopolies in the energy and transportation sectors reduce their fees. He is also responsible for reducing expenditures on subsidies to housing and municipal services and for restructuring social benefits so that only the poor receive financial support from the state. LB PLAN SETS AMBITIOUS ECONOMIC TARGETS. Yeltsin's government plan calls for an annual inflation rate of 5-7 percent in 1998, Russian news agencies reported. Inflation in 1997 was estimated at 11 percent. The Central Bank is expected to lower the refinancing rate, at which it lends to commercial banks, to 16-18 percent. (The bank raised the refinancing rate from 21 to 28 percent last November.) In addition, the plan calls for stimulating investment in domestic industry by lowering yields on treasury bills to 15-18 percent. Among those responsible for meeting those targets are Chubais, Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, and Aleksandr Livshits, the deputy head of the presidential administration. The plan calls for economic growth of 2-4 percent this year. Cabinet officials have expressed different views about the likely growth rate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1998). LB NEMTSOV SAYS REGIONAL LEADERS MAY BE PUNISHED. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Nemtsov warned that "there are ways to punish" governors who are found to have misused federal funds earmarked to pay wage arrears. He cited unspecified "administrative measures," adding that prosecutors or the Federal Security Service could also be used to deal with governors who have broken the law. Yeltsin recently blamed regional officials for the failure to promptly pay back wages to state employees and vowed to punish those who "sabotaged" such efforts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 1998). The political survival of Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, who has been accused of misallocating federal funds, illustrates how difficult it is for Yeltsin to punish regional leaders. Governors have been elected in every oblast, krai, and okrug, which means the president no longer has the power to dismiss them. LB NEMTSOV SAYS POOR PENSIONERS TO BENEFIT FROM INCREASE. Nemtsov told journalists on 26 January that the country's poorest pensioners will receive an additional 30-35 rubles ($5-6) a month when pensions are recalculated as of 1 February, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He said the increase will affect some 15 million people or some 40 percent of all pensioners. The government's estimate of 760 rubles as the average monthly wage in calculating the new pensions has drawn fire from State Duma deputies, who claim that average wages are much higher (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1998). However, Nemtsov argued that the government took Pension Fund resources into account when making that estimate. He added that if an average wage of 1,200 rubles were used as a basis for calculating the new pensions, as the Duma has demanded, pension arrears would mount this year, ITAR-TASS reported. LB YELTSIN SENDS DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER TO IRAQ. Presidential press spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced on 26 January that Yeltsin has sent Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk to Baghdad in an attempt to resolve the most recent standoff over UN inspections of weapons facilities. Earlier this month, the Iraqi government had barred a group of UN inspectors from such facilities on the grounds that the group included too many U.S. citizens. Also on 26 January, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the use of military force against Iraq is "unacceptable," Interfax reported. LF KOKOSHIN ENDS VISIT TO CHINA. A Russian delegation led by Defense Council Secretary Andrei Kokoshin wrapped up a five-day visit to China on 26 January, Russian and Chinese media reported. Delegates visited several military complexes and discussed with Chinese officials military cooperation, state security, and the defense industry. "Segodnya" wrote on 23 January that Kokoshin's visit was in part aimed at persuading China to buy more Russian military hardware. China is the biggest purchaser of Russian military equipment. Since U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen's recent visit to China, there has been speculation that the U.S. will soon lift embargoes on U.S. companies against selling military equipment to China . BP RUSSIA-JAPAN TO STRENGTHEN MILITARY TIES. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev met with Masahiro Akiyama, first deputy director-general of Japan's National Defense Agency, in Moscow on 26 January, Russian media reported. Sergeev said later that Russia and Japan will develop closer military contacts, including holding joint naval exercises. The Japanese delegation, for its part, requested that China be included in any talks between Russia, Japan, and the U.S. on security in the Asian-Pacific region. Akiyama also met with Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov to discuss the May visit to Russia of Japanese Admiral Kadzua Natsukawa. BP CHECHEN PRESIDENT, PARLIAMENT DISAGREE. In a 26 January statement, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov criticized the Chechen parliament for interfering in the work of the executive branch and for revealing confidential information about the activities of the National Security and Interior Ministries, Interfax reported. Maskhadov also accused the parliament of obstructing work on a new constitution that would "allow the creation of an Islamic state." The parliament has accused Maskhadov of violating the existing constitution by dismissing the entire cabinet. It claimed that the constitution empowers the president only to fire individual ministers, "Segodnya" reported on 23 January. The parliament recently amended the constitution to restrict freedom of religious belief to those "religions that conform with the norms of Islam." LF YELTSIN APPOINTS NEW BORDER SERVICE CHIEF. Yeltsin on 26 January appointed Colonel-General Nikolai Bordyuzha as director of the Federal Border Service, Russian news agencies reported. Until now, Bordyuzha has been deputy director of the service. In an interview with NTV on 26 January, Bordyuzha confirmed that Andrei Nikolaev resigned last month as head of the border service because he disagreed with the way a Russian-Georgian dispute was resolved (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 22 December 1997). Meanwhile, Yeltsin is expected to issue a decree within a month subordinating the Federal Border Service to the Federal Security Service (FSB), Interfax reported on 23 January, citing an unnamed source in the Defense Ministry. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 27 January, Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, a Communist and vocal critic of the president, said he would support subordinating the border service to the FSB. LB SHOKHIN ELECTED DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COUNCIL OF EUROPE ASSEMBLY. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 26 January elected State Duma deputy Aleksandr Shokhin as the assembly's deputy chairman for Russia, Russian news agencies reported. That post had been vacant since January 1997 because the Russian delegation could not agree on a nominee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 1997). Shokhin, the leader of the Our Home Is Russia Duma faction, recently replaced Aleksandr Dzasokhov as head of the Russian delegation to the Council of Europe after Dzasokhov was elected president of North Ossetia. Meanwhile, Chuvashian President Nikolai Fedorov, who is also a member of the Russian delegation to the Council of Europe, argued on 26 January that the council's Parliamentary Assembly should disband its special commission on Chechnya, which was set up in 1995. LB GOVERNOR CALLS FOR CHANGING ELECTORAL SYSTEM. Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov told ITAR-TASS on 25 January that he believes the proportional representation system used to elect half of the State Duma deputies is unconstitutional and should be abolished. Under the current electoral law, 225 out of the 450 Duma deputies are chosen from the "party lists" of electoral blocs that receive at least 5 percent of the vote. The other 225 deputies are elected from single-member districts. If Duma elections were held only in single-member districts, regional leaders would have more influence over the results. "Kommersant-Daily" speculated on 27 January that the Kremlin, which has called for abolishing proportional representation, would likely settle for lowering or eliminating the 5 percent threshold for electoral blocs seeking Duma representation. However, the regional leaders who make up the Federation Council would be unlikely to support such a compromise, the newspaper noted. LB PROTESTERS DEMAND ELECTION IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA. More than 5,000 protesters rallied in the city of Cherkessk on 23 January demanding that Yeltsin fire Karachaevo-Cherkessian President Vladimir Khubiev and call presidential elections the republic, an RFE/RL correspondent in the North Caucasus reported. The demonstration was organized by workers of the local firm Merkurii, which suspended operations last month. Merkurii's top executives have been charged with tax evasion. Some observers believe that the charges are politically motivated, since the firm's former head, Stanislav Derev, was recently elected mayor of Cherkessk and is considered a strong potential presidential candidate. Khubiev has been in power since 1980. He is the only regional leader in the Russian Federation who has not had to face an election. The republican legislature has not complied with an order from the local Supreme Court to set a date for presidential elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 1997). LB YELTSIN ANNULS DIRECTIVES IN NORTH CAUCASUS REPUBLIC. Yeltsin has signed a decree annulling several directives issued by the government of the Republic of Adygeya, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 January. The directives, adopted by the Adygeyan authorities last June, list tasks to be carried out by various collective farms and companies in the agrarian sector. They also put raion officials and the Adygeyan Agriculture Ministry in charge of monitoring how those tasks are carried out. Yeltsin's decree says the directives limit the economic freedom of the enterprises affected and thereby violate the Russian Constitution, the civil code and several federal laws. Last month, Yeltsin issued a decree annulling several directives issued by Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi on similar grounds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 1997). LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PAN-NATIONAL MOVEMENT LEADER BACKPEDALS... Vano Siradeghian, mayor of Yerevan and chairman of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (the senior partner within the ruling Hanrapetutyun coalition), said on 26 January that the media have exaggerated the degree of dissent within the Armenian leadership over how to resolve the Karabakh conflict. Siradeghian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that he believes the leaderships in Yerevan and Stepanakert will reach a consensus within "a month or two." He refused to comment on Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian's 23 January statement suggesting that the Armenian Pan-National Movement had stage-managed the recent shootings in order to create a pretext for demanding the government's resignation. On 21 January, Siradeghian and other APNM leaders criticized the government for what they called its passivity over the attacks on senior officials. LF ...WHILE OPPOSITION CALLS FOR PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION. Meanwhile, two Armenian opposition parties have argued that only the resignation of President Levon Ter-Petrossyan can resolve the domestic political crisis. The National Democratic Union issued a statement on 26 January accusing the president of resorting to violence because his power is "jeopardized" by those within the leadership opposed to his insistence on concessions over Karabakh, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Similarly, the board of the National Progress Party called on Ter-Petrossyan to step down as a prelude to free and fair elections, as did former National Security adviser David Shahnazarian, Noyan Tapan reported. Dashnaktsutyun board member Hrayr Karapetian suggested that the APNM's demands for the government's resignation may have been prompted partly by the loss of its ministerial posts. The Self-Determination Union predicts that the standoff may result in the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan. LF SUSURLUK REVELATIONS STRAIN TURKISH-AZERBAIJANI RELATIONS. Azerbaijan has formally requested that the Turkish government deny allegations contained in an official report on the investigation into the so-called Susurluk scandal, according to Turan and "The Washington Post" on 26 January. Last week, parts of the report were leaked to the press. The investigation, which focused on links between Turkish politicians and organized crime, confirmed rumors that the government of former Prime Minister Tansu Ciller was involved in an unsuccessful coup attempt against Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev in March 1995. The report also claimed that Aliev handed over to a Turkish citizen a casino built in Azerbaijan using Turkish Ex-Im Bank credits as repayment for a $6 million gambling debt incurred by Aliev's son Ilham. Heidar Aliev is reportedly so incensed by that charge that he has threatened to cancel a visit to Turkey scheduled for February. LF SELEZNEV PROMISES CONTINUED COOPERATION WITH TAJIKISTAN. At the end of his three-day visit to Tajikistan, Gennadii Seleznev, the speaker of the Russian State Duma, signed an agreement on cooperation between the two countries' parliaments, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 26 January. Seleznev also met with members of the National Reconciliation Commission and separately with Said Abdullo Nuri, the commission chairman and leader of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). Commenting on Russian soldiers in Tajikistan, Seleznev said their presence is still needed to guarantee the continuation of the peace process, but he added that a gradual withdrawal could begin. Seleznev also discussed Tajikistan's possible entry into the CIS Customs Union. BP CASES DROPPED AGAINST TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADERS. Prosecutor-General Salomiddin Sharipov has announced an amnesty for leaders of some opposition parties, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported on 26 January. Charges have been dropped against UTO leaders as well against Shodman Yusupov of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan and Abdumassad Khimmatov of the Islamic Renaissance Party. The amnesty paves the way for the return of Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, the deputy leader of the UTO. But Turajonzoda has consistently said he will not return until he is officially offered the post of deputy prime minister. BP AKAYEV ISSUES DECREE ON KYRGYZ LANGUAGE. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev signed a decree on 26 January aimed at boosting efforts to use Kyrgyz as the state language, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. A special 21-member council is to coordinate the use of Kyrgyz language in the activities of government agencies and public organizations. BP ALMATY RESIDENTS DEMAND GAS, ELECTRICITY. As the problem of gas and electrical shortages worsens, hundreds of Almaty residents took to the streets on 26 January to demand the full restoration of supplies, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Marat Bulqairov, the deputy mayor of Almaty, met with the demonstrators but blamed the Belgian Intergas Company, which manages gas and electric supplies in southern Kazakhstan, for the shortages. Bulqairov promised the problem will be solved soon. BP END NOTE WITHOUT REMORSE by Paul Goble A statement by the new chief of the Russian air force that he has no regrets about having given the order to shoot down a Korean civilian airliner in 1983 and would do so again raises a series of disturbing questions both about that individual and the military and political system of which he is a part. Colonel-General Anatolii Kornukov told the Russian television program "Hero of the Day" last week that he would "always be sure" that his order to shoot down the KAL flight that had strayed into Soviet airspace over Sakhalin Island was correct. Moreover, he added, "if something like that would happen now, I would act the same way." The shooting down of that civilian plane and the killing of all 269 people aboard was one of the chilliest moments in the Cold War. Not only was it criticized by many Western leaders, but it has been denounced by Russian President Boris Yeltsin as one of the greatest tragedies of that period. But if Yeltsin has denounced it, he has now appointed to command the Russian air force the man who 15 years ago gave the order to shoot down that plane and who continues to insist that he acted properly. This episode raises three serious questions: First, why did Yeltsin act so inconsistently? Second, what are the real attitudes of the high command of the Russian military today? And third, and most important, how can Russia or any of the other post-communist states proceed to a democratic future without a full acknowledgment of the crimes of the Soviet past? Yeltsin's role is especially murky. More than any other Russian leader, he has spoken out forcefully against the KAL shootdown. Consequently, it is more than a little surprising that he has appointed the man who ordered that move as commander of the Russian air force. Why then did he take that step? There are several possible explanations. Yeltsin may have believed that Kornukov had learned his lesson, although the general's statement last week suggests otherwise. Or Yeltsin may have felt that he was the best available candidate, especially given the president's push for a complete revamp of the military establishment. Alternatively, Yeltsin may have had no choice in the matter. He may have been pressured to accept the dictates of hard-liners in the military and at the foreign ministry. Or the appointment may be a reflection of Yeltsin's own current thinking, a desire on his part to stake out a tougher line similar to the one adopted by his Soviet predecessors. But whatever Yeltsin's intentions, the rise of this Soviet-trained general draws attention to how little has changed in the psychology and views of the Russian military. While many Russian generals appear to have accepted the new post-Soviet reality, Kornukov's comments show that not all of them have escaped the suspiciousness and aggressiveness of the Soviet military. Kornukov's promotion is likely simultaneously to encourage those who have not changed their way of thinking since the end of the Soviet era and to discourage those who have advocated a change in the way they conduct themselves in the new environment. But Kornukov's elevation and his unapologetic stance about an action almost universally condemned inevitably raise a far broader and more difficult question: how can Russia or indeed any post-Communist country move forward without an honest assessment of what its current leaders did in the past? Since the collapse of the Berlin wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, many in both the West and the countries immediately involved have argued that a thorough evaluation of the past actions of officials would lead to chaos or even bloodshed. According to that view, the past actions of current officials should be kept in the past both because so many current officials have problematic backgrounds and because many of them have demonstrated a new commitment to democracy and freedom, which in itself constitutes a kind of atonement. But if this argument is not without weight, it is also not without difficulties. Not only does it make it difficult for those who have been victims of such past actions to feel that the new democratic political system will give them justice, but it means that the ideas that animated such officials in the past may continue to drive them in the future. And as the Kornukov declaration shows, that danger may be just as great as would be the one caused by an honest evaluation of the Soviet past. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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