|He who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 32, Part I, 17 February 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 32, Part I, 17 February 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 SPECIAL REPORT: A quarter of Russia's labor force receives its wages late, in kind or not at all. This three-article series on the RFE/RL Web site examines why. Russia's Workers: Why They Go Without Wages http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rulabor/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN DEMANDS 'REALISTIC' 1998 BUDGET * YELTSIN, PRIMAKOV ON IRAQ * GEORGIAN PRESIDENT WANTS "EQUAL RELATIONS" WITH RUSSIA * End Note: REPRESENTING TATARSTAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN DEMANDS 'REALISTIC' 1998 BUDGET... In his fifth annual address to a joint session of the parliament, President Boris Yeltsin on 17 February said the draft 1998 budget must be "realistic," even if that requires amendments to the document. The State Duma is scheduled to debate the budget in the fourth and final reading on 18 February. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais has called for amending the budget in light of recent trends on Russian financial markets. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 17 February, Duma First Deputy Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov of the Our Home Is Russia faction described Yeltsin's comments on the budget as a "sensation." Ryzhkov said the government is to submit its proposed budget amendments to the Duma later on 17 February. According to Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, Yeltsin may refuse to sign the budget if those amendments are not approved, Reuters reported. LB ...OUTLINES OTHER ECONOMIC GOALS. In his address to the parliament, Yeltsin said the government must reduce the growth of non-payments in the Russian economy by the end of 1998, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 February. He added that wage arrears to state employees must not be allowed to mount this year. Yeltsin was interrupted by applause only once during his 35-minute speech, in response to his statement that cabinet changes may follow if the government fails to cope with its economic tasks, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. (Yeltsin told reporters on 16 February that he will not dismiss any cabinet ministers soon after his speech.) Also on 17 February, Yeltsin said a new tax code must be passed this year, echoing an appeal for tax reform in his 1997 speech to the parliament. The president also called for the 1999 budget to be balanced, excluding debt servicing costs, Reuters reported. LB YELTSIN URGES PARLIAMENT TO RATIFY START-2... During his 17 February address, Yeltsin described ratification of the START-2 arms control treaty as an "urgent task" for the parliament, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma is not scheduled to debate that treaty during the first half of the year. In his speech, Yeltsin also said Russian policy toward NATO remains unchanged: Moscow opposes the eastward expansion of the Western military alliance and will review its relations with NATO if the alliance offers membership to the Baltic States. With regard to relations with CIS states, Yeltsin said that Russia will pursue greater cooperation within the CIS but will not sacrifice its own national interests for the sake of such cooperation. LB ...WANTS BANKS TO INVEST IN INDUSTRY. Yeltsin also expressed the hope that large Russian banks will increase their investments in Russian industry this year, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 February, citing a text of the address that was circulated to State Duma and Federation Council deputies. In that text, the president said Russia "can count on the investment activities of banks, above all large banks, that bought important industrial enterprises during the course of privatization. To this end, the state promoted the concentration of financial and industrial resources. Now society has the right to count on reimbursement." While Yeltsin acknowledged the need to attract foreign investment in Russian industry, he said government policy should not be based on attracting "speculative foreign investment" in the markets. LB ZYUGANOV UNIMPRESSED BY PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 17 February that Yeltsin's address was an "empty" and "uninteresting" speech that contained no priorities, tactics, or strategy. The government's proposed amendments to the draft 1998 budget are expected to cut projected spending. Planned expenditures were increased largely at the insistence of the Communist-led opposition during negotiations between government and parliamentary representatives last fall. LB MAJOR NETWORKS INDIFFERENT TO SPEECH. In the days preceding Yeltsin's address to the parliament, the Russian press was replete with speculation about what the president would say and rumors about how drafts of the speech had been revised. However, only one of Russia's three major television networks--fully state-owned Russian Television--carried Yeltsin's speech live on 17 February. Russian Public Television, which is 51 percent state-owned, showed footage of the Olympic Games instead, while the private network NTV broadcast a game show. LB YELTSIN, PRIMAKOV ON IRAQ. Also on 17 February, Yeltsin warned that the use of force against Iraq is the "ultimate and most dangerous means" of resolving the ongoing crisis. But he pledged that Moscow "will firmly demand Iraq's compliance with UN resolutions." Speaking to journalists in Athens the previous day following his talks with Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov similarly warned against the use of force, arguing that the diplomatic and political possibilities of persuading Iraq to allow UN inspectors unrestricted access to suspect sites have not yet been exhausted. He greeted the growing international support for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to visit Baghdad but added that Annan "should not present an ultimatum." Also on 16 February, Russian special envoy Viktor Posuvalyuk met in Baghdad with Iraqi Deputy Premier Tareq Aziz to assess ongoing diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. LF PRIMAKOV CENSURES ZHIRINOVSKY. In a letter to Duma deputies, which Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev circulated on 16 February, Primakov said that Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Chairman Vladimir Zhirinovsky's behavior during his forced stopover in Yerevan was "shameful" and "outrageous." In particular, Primakov criticized Zhirinovsky's physical and verbal assault on Russian ambassador Andrei Urnov at Zvartnots airport on 11 February. A plane carrying Zhirinovsky, other LPDR members, and Russian and foreign journalists was forced to land in Yerevan three days earlier, after being refused permission to overfly Iran. LF RUSSIA REFUSES TO BUDGE ON S-300s. During his 16 February news conference in Athens, Primakov said Russian-Greek relations are characterized by "great proximity or unanimity of views" on most issues, Interfax reported. The Russian foreign minister affirmed Moscow's intention to proceed with the planned sale to Greek Cyprus of S-300 air defense systems. He argued that those systems are defensive weapons, adding that Russia will halt the agreed sale "only if the entire island is demilitarized." He repeated Russia's long-standing opposition to any restrictions on maritime traffic through the Turkish straits but said recent shifts in Turkey's position on that issue are "constructive." Primakov also held talks with the Russian-Greek Prometheus Gas enterprise, in which Gazprom is represented, to discuss possible Russian gas deliveries to Albania and Italy via Greece, ITAR-TASS reported. LF CENTRAL BANK LOWERS REFINANCING RATE. The Central Bank on 16 February announced plans to lower its annual refinancing rate from 42-39 percent, effective 17 February. The bank raised that rate, at which it lends to commercial banks, from 28-42 percent on 2 February. Irina Yasina, the director of the Central Bank's press service, told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that the bank was reacting to the recent "stabilization" on the Russian financial markets. However, some market analysts say the interest rate cut was motivated by political considerations. Mikhail Rubinchik, the chief executive of Pioner-Bank, told RFE/RL that the cut does not reflect any significant improvement on the markets. Instead, he argued, the change was a "gift" to Yeltsin on the eve of his annual address to the parliament, intended to show that the government and Central Bank are working in tandem and closely monitoring the situation on the financial markets. LB YELTSIN PRAISES LAW-ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES. Yeltsin praised the work of Russian law enforcement agencies during meetings on 16 February with Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov, Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, and Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Kovalev, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking to reporters before the meeting, the president noted that progress has been made in several high-profile cases, such as the 1994 murder of journalist Dmitrii Kholodov. Skuratov gave Yeltsin materials related to alleged financial improprieties at the electricity monopoly Unified Energy System (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January and 2 February 1998). LB CHERNOMYRDIN BACK IN KREMLIN. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin returned to the Kremlin on 16 February following a two-week vacation. The premier spent at least two days of his vacation at the Barvikha sanitarium, where he underwent unspecified medical tests but continued to hold meetings with cabinet officials, according to government spokesmen on 3-4 February. LB BEREZOVSKII HOSPITALIZED. Former Security Council Secretary Boris Berezovskii checked into Moscow's Central Clinical Hospital on 16 February. Citing unnamed sources close to Berezovskii, ITAR-TASS reported that he suffered mild spinal injuries in a recent snowmobile accident but is expected to return to work in several days. LB FORMER DEFENSE MINISTER TO RUN FOR DUMA. Igor Rodionov, who was defense minister from July 1996 until May 1997, has been registered as a candidate for a State Duma by-election in Moscow this April, Interfax reported on 16 February. Rodionov said that if elected, he will cooperate with "state-minded people, like [Duma Speaker] Gennadii Seleznev." He added that he shares many of the views of Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. Some 24 candidates have declared their intention to run for the Duma seat vacated by Irina Khakamada when she joined the government last fall. Would-be candidates who have submitted registration documents include former Federal Border Service Director Andrei Nikolaev, former RSFSR Prime Minister Ivan Silaev, Officers' Union head Stanislav Terekhov, and Yurii Chernichenko, the leader of the pro-reform Peasants' Party. LB FORMER DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER RELEASED PENDING TRIAL. Konstantin Kobets was released from custody on 16 February, Russian news agencies reported. He was arrested in May 1997 on charges of bribery, corruption, and illegal possession of firearms. According to an official in the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office, the charges against Kobets have not been dropped, and he is prohibited from leaving the Moscow area, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 February. Kobets was transferred to a hospital in January but had remained under guard. He is said to have chronic health problems and reportedly has lost some 40 kilograms (88 pounds) since his arrest. LB MAYORAL ELECTIONS IN DAGESTANI CAPITAL. Deputy Prime Minister Said Amirov was elected mayor of Makhachkala on 15 February with more than 70 percent of the vote, "Kommersant-Daily" reported two days later. According to RFE/RL's North Caucasus correspondent, Amirov is reputed to be a competent and efficient administrator who has registered some successes in battling corruption. To date, he has survived four assassination attempts. A staunch secularist, Amirov opposes the so-called "Islamic path" of development for Dagestan proposed by his election rival Shirukhan Gadzhimuratov, who polled 29 percent of the vote. Local observers say that Amirov's election as Makhachkala mayor improves his chances in the vote later this year for a new head of Dagestan's State Council. LF KRASNODAR OFFICIALS AGAINST ZIONISTS, 'COSMOPOLITANS.' "Izvestiya" reported on 17 February that various officials and public figures in Krasnodar Krai assailed the Russian authorities and mainstream media at a forum recently convened by the krai administration. Governor Nikolai Kondratenko, who has frequently expressed anti-Semitic views, assailed Zionists in his speech to the forum. Krai Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Denisov called for defending the public against the "cosmopolitans around the Kremlin, who provide intellectual services to the policy of genocide against [ethnic] Russians and other peoples of Russia." Human rights activists have charged that official racism has run rampant in Krasnodar since Kondratenko was elected governor in December 1996 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1997). In a recent interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta," human rights defender Sergei Kovalev argued that the local media have exacerbated the situation by portraying certain ethnic minorities, such as Meskhetians, as "criminal elements." LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN PRESIDENT WANTS "EQUAL RELATIONS" WITH RUSSIA. In his traditional weekly radio address on 16 February, Eduard Shevardnadze called on Russia to "cooperate" in restoring "the best traditions" of relations between the two countries. But Shevardnadze stressed that Russia's interests in the Caucasus can be served only by a friendship with Georgia based on equality Shevardnadze said that last week's failed bid to kill him has served to consolidate Georgian society and that some 88 percent of the population support his policies, according to Caucasus Press. Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said the assassination attempt was an internal Georgian issue. He added that Russia would assist the Georgian authorities in investigating the attack if asked to do so but noted that no such request has been received to date. LF MORE CANDIDATES IN ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. Another three candidates have announced their intention to contend the 16 March presidential elections, raising the total number of candidates to 12, Armenian agencies reported on 16 February. The latest contenders are Hrant Khachatrian, the chairman of the Union of Constitutional Law, parliamentary deputy Artashes Gegamian of the National Unity organization, and former Deputy Education Minister Ashot Bleyan of the "New Path" political movement. At a special congress on 16 February, the Armenian Pan-National Movement decided not to propose a presidential candidate, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That movement is the senior member of the Hanrapetutyun coalition, which lost its parliamentary majority earlier this month. Former President Levon Ter-Petrossyan attended the congress but refused to speak to journalists. LF AZERBAIJAN ACCUSES IRAN OF ESPIONAGE. Speaking at a news conference in Baku on 14 February, National Security Minister Namik Abbasov said that Iran is continuing to engage in espionage in Azerbaijan, Turan reported. He also claimed that the intelligence services of unnamed states are seeking to promote Wahhabism in Azerbaijan. Abbasov disclosed that an investigation has confirmed the sale of Azerbaijani oil products to Armenia. His ministry has handed over to Prime Minister Artur Rasi-Zade the findings of that investigation, Abbasov added. LF KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA REACH PRELIMINARY AGREEMENT ON CASPIAN. At talks between Russian and Kazakh experts in Astrakhan on 9-10 February, agreement was reached on delineating the two countries' sectors of the Caspian Sea bed and on the common use by all five littoral states of the Caspian's water resources, Interfax reported on 16 February, quoting Kazakh Ambassador to Russia Tair Mansurov. The delegations also proposed holding talks with Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Iran on coordinating approaches to dividing the sea's resources. At their Moscow summit last month, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev, agreed that by 15 March their governments should draft and submit to the other littoral states a convention on the legal status of the Caspian. LF NAZARBAEV SUFFERS FROM "ANDROPOV SYNDROME." Kazakh President Nazarbaev was hospitalized in Almaty on 15 February with "complications from a cold," AFP reported the following day, quoting the presidential press service. LF UIGHURS CONDEMN CHINA'S OPPRESSION OF UIGHURS. Leaders of organizations representing the Uighur communities in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, held a press conference in Almaty on 17 February, RFE/RL's bureau there reported. Among those organization were Ittifaq and Liberation of Uighurstan. The speakers criticized "severe and cruel measures" taken by the Chinese authorities against the Uighur population of Xinjiang. LF KYRGYZ FOREIGN MINISTER WRAPS UP CHINA VISIT. Muratbek Imanaliev concluded a six-day visit to China on 16 February, during which he met with his Chinese counterpart, Qian Qichen, and Prime Minister Li Peng, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Imanaliev also traveled to Xinjiang, where he reached agreement with the local leadership on establishing a working group to promote bilateral cooperation. Xinjiang is home to an estimated 150,000 ethnic Kyrgyz. LF ARE CENTRAL ASIAN ISLAMIC MILITANTS BEING TRAINED IN PAKISTAN? Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov told journalists in Tashkent on 16 February that underground Islamic organizations in Pakistan are training some 400 Uzbek, Tajik, and Kyrgyz citizens to carry out sabotage and terrorist acts. Kamilov said that they are being prepared to destabilize the situation in Central Asia with the ultimate aim of establishing Islamic states there. He said that such militants were responsible for a series of attacks in Uzbekistan's Namangan province in 1997 in which several local officials were killed. Kamilov absolved the Pakistani government of involvement in the training program but added that Uzbekistan has formally asked Islamabad to crack down on such activities. LF END NOTE REPRESENTING TATARSTAN by Paul Goble Tatarstan has announced it will open a representation office in the United Arab Emirates later this year, the 15th such institution that the middle Volga republic has established since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Were Tatarstan internationally recognized as an independent country, such an announcement would be entirely normal and probably unworthy of any particular notice. But Tatarstan is, by both its own acknowledgment and that of the international community, part and parcel of the Russian Federation. Consequently, the existence of such institutions raises some important questions: Is Tatarstan on the way to becoming an independent state? Or do those representations reflect nothing more than the efforts of a region to attract international trade and investment? While there is no definitive answer to those questions, Tatarstan's use of such institutions appears to reflect an innovative combination of three very different traditions. First, from the earliest days of the USSR, the union regions and republics maintained what were called "permanent representations" in Moscow and the capitals of some of the other republics. While such institutions often served as little more than post offices for documents being sent between cities or as travel agencies for people visiting in one direction or another, they retained a certain symbolic importance for peoples who had few other trappings of sovereignty. Not surprisingly, these institutions often figured prominently in fiction of non-Russian writers. One Uzbek novel of the late Soviet period, for example, was set largely in the office of the Uzbek SSR permanent representation in Moscow. Then when the Soviet Union fell apart, those permanent representations of the union republics served as the foundation for the development of genuine embassies. To that extent, the Tatarstan permanent representations--particularly those in Moscow, Sverdlovsk, and St. Petersburg--continue a tradition with deep roots in the Soviet era. Second, in the scramble to attract foreign investment, many regions of the Russian Federation have established trade offices abroad modeled on those that the regions of European countries and the states of the United States have in other countries. Frequently, those institutions were set up on the advice, if not the insistence, of Western countries interested in developing regions long cut off from outsiders. As in the case with these other regions and republics, Tatarstan has done the same, implicitly in the case of its permanent or plenipotentiary representatives in France, Australia, the U.S., Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan and explicitly in the case of trade representatives in Ukraine, Lithuania, and Austria. Third, those institutions reflect the assertion of Tatarstan's sovereignty, of its interest not only in promoting its unique economic interests but also in establishing its political presence. On the one hand, Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiyev is simply acting on the advice of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who famously told an audience in Kazan some years ago that Tatarstan, like the other parts of the Russian Federation, should assume as much sovereignty and independence as it could handle. Many in Tatarstan took and continue to take Yeltsin's words to mean that they could hope some day to have their own independent state, recognized by the world community and with a seat at the UN. For such people, the creation of ever more representations abroad represents a step-by-step approach toward that goal, an approach less likely to offend Moscow than a more dramatic assertion of independence and hence one more likely to be effective. On the other hand, Shaimiyev and other politicians in Tatarstan undoubtedly see the existence of such representative offices abroad as a useful lever in their negotiations with Moscow. That lever may help the Tatars to achieve more from the central Russian government even if full independence is not on the agenda of either the Russians or themselves. By highlighting Tatarstan's ability to reach beyond the borders of the Russian Federation and by attracting a kind of implicit, if not explicit, international recognition of that republic's distinctiveness, such institutions seem destined to play a major role in the future not only of Tatarstan but of the Russian Federation's other regions as well. But whether they will continue as a vestige of the Soviet past, as a means of decentralization of the Russian Federation, or as a harbinger of more radical changes will depend less on how many such representations are created than on how they are viewed by those who send them, by those who receive them, and by Moscow. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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