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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:


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

Headlines, Part I







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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

hospitalized in Almaty on 15 February with "complications from a cold," AFP
reported the following day, quoting the presidential press service. LF

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

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

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



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.

               Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc.
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