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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 35, Part I, 20 February 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 35, Part I, 20 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 * RUSSIA, IMF AGREE ON 1998 ECONOMIC PROGRAM * RUSSIA HAS HIGH HOPES OF ANNAN'S IRAQI VISIT * UN STAFF STILL HELD HOSTAGE IN WESTERN GEORGIA * End Note: TEN YEARS SINCE START OF KARABAKH MOVEMENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIA, IMF AGREE ON 1998 ECONOMIC PROGRAM. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus announced on 19 February that Russia and the fund are agreed on a 1998 economic program for Russia, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The program calls for adopting a realistic budget, with lower projected revenues and planned expenditures. Following three days of talks with senior officials in Moscow, including President Boris Yeltsin, Camdessus said the IMF will extend the next quarterly tranche of its $10.1 billion loan to Russia, but he did not specify when. A communique issued by Camdessus and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said the two agreed to extend the current three-year IMF loan for another year, to March 2000, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. The communique also said the size of the loan is to be increased, although it gave no figure. The IMF has delayed some loan tranches to Russia, citing poor tax collection and other problems. LB CAMDESSUS DISCUSSES CAUSES OF ASIAN CRISIS. Camdessus told journalists on 19 February that he came to Moscow not only to discuss Russia's 1998 economic program but also to tell Russian leaders about the policy mistakes made by Southeast Asian countries, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He said that in order to attract foreign investment and lay the groundwork for economic growth, Russia must adopt a realistic budget, pass a new tax code, and maintain an open market with transparent corporate governance and equal conditions for all businesses. Referring to a recent presidential decree granting tax breaks to foreign automobile companies that invest in Russia, Camdessus argued that Russian taxpayers need not subsidize Western car manufacturers. Earlier the same day, Chernomyrdin announced that Russia will not cancel that decree, despite the demands of IMF experts, Russian news agencies reported. LB CHUBAIS SAYS IMPORT TARIFFS NOT TO BE CUT SOON. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais announced during a cabinet meeting on 19 February that Russia will not reduce certain import tariffs from 30 percent to 20 percent in the near future, Russian news agencies reported. He said IMF experts advocated such a reduction during negotiations with Russian officials. However, Chubais said cutting the tariffs would hurt both Russian industry and budget revenues. He added that Russian reductions in import tariffs should be matched by cuts in tariffs levied by other countries against Russian goods. LB SELEZNEV ACCUSES GOVERNMENT OF BREAKING LAW ON BUDGET ADOPTION. At a 19 February meeting with Camdessus, State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev charged that the government's last-minute proposals to amend the 1998 budget are a "gross violation of the law on the adoption of the budget," Interfax reported. Addressing a cabinet meeting the same day, Chernomyrdin acknowledged that the proposed amendments "violate the procedures in some way," ITAR-TASS reported. However, the premier said it is time "to stop fulfilling the budget by 80 percent year in, year out." He added that "it is better to say this honestly now than to explain things dishonestly" later in the year. LB RUSSIA HAS HIGH HOPES OF ANNAN'S IRAQI VISIT. Russian government officials are optimistic about UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's visit to Iraq in search of a peaceful solution to the crisis in the Persian Gulf. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov said Annan is bringing proposals that will allow Iraq to "save face." "If inspections were announced as visits..., nobody will be hurt," Primakov said. Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Annan is carrying an "impressive portfolio of solutions." But Ivanov noted that should Annan's trip prove unsuccessful, "the chances of a political settlement would shrink significantly." Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii noted Annan has the support of all the permanent members of the UN Security Council. He added that Annan "must be firm in substance but flexible in form." BP DUMA OFFICIAL WARNS U.S. ATTACK WOULD ENDANGER START-2. Vladimir Ryzhkov, the first deputy speaker of the Duma and a member of the Our Home is Russia faction, has stressed that any U.S. military action in the Persian Gulf would jeopardize the Duma's ratification of the START-2 treaty, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 February . Ryzhkov said if planes leave U.S. aircraft carriers in Persian Gulf to carry out strikes against Iraq, the prospects of the Duma ratifying START-2 will "vanish into the clouds." He added that there is a direct relation between the treaty's ratification and the settlement of the Iraqi crisis. But Vladimir Yakovlev, the commander of Russia's strategic rocket forces, argued there is no link between the treaty and a possible U.S. attack against Iraq, saying such an attack "has nothing to do with nuclear missile strategy." BP DUMA RATIFIES EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS. The State Duma on 20 February voted 294 to 11 to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights, Reuters reported. Russia signed the convention when it joined the Council of Europe in February 1996. Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko told the Duma that ratifying the convention "is an important step on the road to providing real protection for human rights in Russia." Among other things, ratifying the accord will allow Russian citizens to file appeals with the European Court, the rulings of which would be binding. "Novye izvestiya" reported on 6 February that the European Commission on Human Rights, which refers cases to the European Court, has received more than 800 complaints from Russian citizens over the last two years. LB COMMUNIST LEADERS DEMAND ROUNDTABLE TALKS. During a meeting with Chernomyrdin on 19 February, high-ranking Communist Party officials, including party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, demanded that roundtable talks be convened to discuss various pressing issues, Interfax reported. The government's promise last October to hold such talks regularly was one of the concessions that persuaded the Communist faction to withdraw a vote of no confidence from the Duma's agenda. Since then, only one roundtable meeting has been held, in late December. Zyuganov told Interfax that the Communist leaders demanded talks at which energy tariffs and plans to compensate citizens for lost savings would be discussed, among other issues. He also noted that supervisory boards of Russian Public Television and Russian Television have not yet been appointed. Last October, the government promised to include opposition members on new supervisory boards for those networks. LB RUSSIA PLANNING 'SHOW TRIALS' TO BOOST TAX COLLECTION. Vladimir Popov, the head of the State Tax Service's department on extracting overdue tax payments, announced on 19 February that Russia plans to hold "show trials" against 88 tax debtors, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 February. After a new law on bankruptcy goes into effect on 1 March, the first such trial will be held against the Volzhskii pipe factory, which did not pay a single ruble in taxes last year. According to Popov, some 800,000 Russian enterprises owe a total of 297.9 billion rubles ($49 billion) to the federal budget in taxes, fines, and penalties. Those firms owe some 554.9 billion rubles to the consolidated budget (federal and regional budgets). By comparison, the draft federal budget for 1998 calls for some 500 billion rubles in planned expenditures. LB LAW ON EXCISE DUTIES GOES INTO EFFECT. A new law on excise duties, which went into effect on 18 February, is expected to raise consumer prices on many goods, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. The law raises duties on 20 out of the 25 categories of goods subject to such charges, including wine, liqueur, champagne, vodka, cigarettes, and some imported automobiles. It lowers duties on beer and jewelry and rescinds the duty on Russian light automobiles. However, "Kommersant-Daily" argued that those reductions will not necessarily lead to lower prices for consumers. LB LUZHKOV AGAIN ATTACKS 'YOUNG REFORMERS.' Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov charged on 19 February that the government's "young reformers"--code words for First Deputy Prime Ministers Chubais and Boris Nemtsov--are not capable of solving Russia's economic problems, Russian news agencies reported. He expressed doubt that Chubais will be able to organize fair privatization auctions. He also said the government's "reformers" have pursued short-term rather than long-term goals, adding that they "took the easiest way, finding money to pay wages and fund the state apparatus through the tax system, loans, and sale of raw materials." Luzhkov again expressed the hope that the government will end the "age of monetarism" in favor of a policy to boost domestic industry. LB SUSPECT IN HIGH-PROFILE CORRUPTION CASE FOUND DEAD. Sergei Dovbysh, a leading suspect in a high-profile embezzlement case, was found hanging in his prison cell on 19 February, Interfax reported. Officials are investigating whether Dovbysh committed suicide, why prison guards left him unattended before his death, and why a Moscow court delayed handing down a verdict in his case for nearly 18 months. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 February, Dovbysh was the "right hand man" of Andrei Kozlenok, whose Golden-Ada company allegedly embezzled more than $180 million out of Russia. Kozlenok remains jailed in Athens pending his appeal to the Greek Supreme Court against two lower court rulings that he be extradited to Russia. The case against Kozlenok is politically explosive, as it involves several high-level former government officials and members of the State Committee on Precious Metals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 26 January 1998). LB CHELYABINSK OPPOSITION DECRIES CENSORSHIP. Members of the Chelyabinsk Oblast opposition movement Southern Urals on 19 February sent an appeal to Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov asking him to intervene to halt alleged censorship in the region, RFE/RL's correspondent in Chelyabinsk reported on 19 February. The appeal charges that "active opponents" of the president's policies use their control over the legislative and executive branches in Chelyabinsk to "persecute supporters of democratic reforms." It cites a recent order issued by the head of the regional state-run radio and television company demanding that an executive considered close to Chelyabinsk Governor Petr Sumin screen all reports about the governor or other top officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1998). Southern Urals urged Chelyabinsk prosecutor Anatolii Bryagin to open a criminal case against the oblast leadership for introducing censorship, but he has ignored that appeal. LB YELTSIN CONGRATULATES MORDOVIAN PRESIDENT. Yeltsin on 19 February sent a message to Mordovian President Nikolai Merkushkin congratulating him on his recent re-election, ITAR-TASS reported. The message states that Merkushkin's "convincing victory" demonstrates that "the republic's residents support your efforts to achieve political stability and accord" in Mordovia. Merkushkin won with some 96.6 percent of the vote amid allegations that serious challengers were barred from the campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 16 February 1998). LB LUKOIL TO PARTICIPATE IN BAKU-CEYHAN PROJECT? LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov met with Turkish Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer in Moscow on 19 February, Interfax reported. The two men discussed LUKoil's possible participation in the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline for exporting Caspian oil, the export of Russian oil via Turkey, and refining LUKoil crude in Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem proposed last month that Russia be compensated if the main export pipeline for Caspian oil bypassed its territory. Also on 19 February, the chief Russian engineer engaged in planning construction of the underwater gas pipeline across the Black Sea from Russia to Turkey announced that work on that project will get under way by year's end. LF CHECHEN LEADERSHIP SEEKS TO NEUTRALIZE RADUEV. President Aslan Maskhadov issued a decree on 19 February imposing a temporary ban on all public rallies, demonstrations, and strikes, according to ITAR-TASS. The measure is reportedly directed, above all, against supporters of maverick field commander Salman Raduev, whose Marsho TV company is banned under the same decree. National Security Council Director Lecho Ultygov said that Marsho had engaged in anti-Chechen propaganda and anti-state activities. Also on 19 February, the Chechen Prosecutor-General's Office again summoned Raduev for questioning in connection with his claim of responsibility for the 9 February attempt to kill Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. Raduev ignored a summons to that office on 15 February. First Deputy Prosecutor-General Magomed Magomadov told "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 20 February that Raduev might be charged with an attempt on the life of a foreign head of state or with creating a terrorist organization. Both charges can be punished with the death sentence. LF INGUSH REFERENDUM STILL POSSIBLE? Ingush President Ruslan Aushev told journalists in Moscow on 19 February that whether the 1 March referendum on amendments to the Ingush legal and judicial system takes place will depend on a ruling handed down by the Conciliation Commission. That commission is composed of representatives of the Russian presidential apparatus, the Russian Constitutional Court, and the Republic of Ingushetia. A ruling would specify the division of legal and judicial powers between the Russian Federation and Ingushetia. Aushev added that Ingushetia will cancel the planned referendum if it considers the proposed division of powers acceptable. Earlier this week, the Russian Supreme Court declared the planned referendum illegal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February 1998.) LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA UN STAFF STILL HELD HOSTAGE IN WESTERN GEORGIA. The four members of the UN observer mission abducted on 19 February in Zugdidi are unharmed but all efforts to negotiate their release have been unsuccessful, Caucasus Press reported on 20 February. Supporters of the late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia claiming to represent Georgia's "legal government" are holding the four men (two Uruguayans, one Czech, and one Swede), their Georgian driver, and five members of a Georgian family in the village of Djikhaskari, north of Zugdidi. They are demanding the release of seven men arrested in connection with the failed 9 February bid to kill Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, the release of all Georgian political prisoners, and the withdrawal from Georgia of all Russian troops stationed there. They have threatened to kill their hostages if those demands are not met. LF UN CONDEMNS HOSTAGE-TAKING. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the UN Security Council condemned the UN officials' abduction and demanded their unconditional and immediate release, AFP reported. The UN Security Council termed the incident an attempt to undermine Georgia's international image and deter international organizations from their ongoing efforts to mediate a solution to the Abkhaz conflict. Liviu Bota, the UN secretary-general's personal representative in Georgia, met on 19 February with Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba to discuss the hostage-taking, according to Caucasus Press. The Georgian Foreign Ministry has condemned the failure of the CIS peacekeeping force deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia to prevent "terrorist actions" on Georgian territory. LF ARMENIA'S HAIRIKYAN HINTS AT ELECTORAL ALLIANCE. Self-Determination Union chairman and Armenian presidential candidate Paruir Hairikyan told journalists in Yerevan on 19 February that he has held "quite promising" talks with other presidential hopefuls on the possibility of several of them withdrawing to back a single candidate, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Hairikyan neither confirmed nor denied that Prime Minister and acting President Robert Kocharyan would be that single candidate. Earlier, Hairikyan ruled out an alliance with National Democratic Union chairman Vazgen Manukyan, in favor of whom he withdrew his candidacy in the 1996 presidential elections. LF OSCE BLAMES AZERBAIJAN FOR SHOOTING INCIDENT. Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe representative Andrzej Kasprczyk told AFP in Baku on19 February that Azerbaijan bears responsibility for an incident on 17 February in which OSCE monitors patrolling the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier were fired on. Noyan Tapan quoted two OSCE field aides as noting that both Armenia and Azerbaijan were informed in advance of the monitoring exercise and that the monitors had displayed a white flag. On 18 February, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry had issued a statement blaming Armenia for the shooting. LF KAZAKH STRIKERS BEATEN, JAILED. Kazakh authorities on 17 February sent some 1,000 policemen and OMON troops to disperse striking workers from the Janatas Phosphorus plant who were blocking the tracks at the Taraz railroad station (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 18 February 1998), RFE/RL correspondents reported. Some strikers were beaten and thrown into rail cars destined for Janatas, while 11 others were taken into custody. Charges have been brought against three of the detainees. On 20 February, the opposition movement AZAT organized a rally in front of the former parliament building in Almaty to express solidarity with the strikers. Police dispersed the crowd. BP TURKMEN PRESIDENT ISSUES 'FLAG DAY' DECREES. Turkmenistan celebrated National Flag day on 19 February, which is also the birthday President Saparmurat Niyazov. To mark the occasion, Niyazov signed several decrees, including one calling upon citizens to send letters to the government citing violations of their rights by members of law-enforcement agencies, RFE/RL correspondents in Ashgabat reported. Another decree changes the official name of the "militia" to "police," reportedly in a bid to change the image of that body. Wages for state employees will be doubled and pensions tripled, but neither wages nor pensions will exceed the equivalent of $50 a month. In the past, however, such increases have been outpaced by inflation before payments are received. BP END NOTE TEN YEARS SINCE START OF KARABAKH MOVEMENT By Emil Danielyan Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh will hold official ceremonies on 20 February to mark the 10th anniversary of the mass movement for the re-unification of the two territories. Politicians, prominent intellectuals, and the media will stress the significance of the occasion for the Armenian nation and call for the restoration of the national solidarity that reigned 10 years ago. They will also try again to evaluate the profound influence the movement for reunification has had on Armenia. When the legislative body of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast declared its desire to split away from the then Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan and join the Armenian SSR, very few people foresaw what the consequences of that demand would be. Undoubtedly, the possibility of a war with Azerbaijan did not enter the minds of the hundreds of thousands of Armenians who took to the streets of Yerevan to support what they saw as the just cause of their Karabakh co-ethnics. But the nationwide campaign of rallies and petitions that ensued gave birth to perhaps the most intractable territorial dispute in the former Soviet Union. The Kremlin rejected the Armenian demands as endangering the stability of the empire. That, however, did not prevent the Karabakh movement from gathering momentum as it progressed from the romantic idealism of the perestroika era to a solid anti-Communist platform and the emergence of a new political elite, the so-called Karabakh committee, which in the late 1980s enjoyed the virtually unlimited support of the population. The committee soon expanded the movement's agenda to include democratization and market reforms. A party created on the basis of the committee, the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), came to power in the 1990 elections to the Supreme Soviet. The movement for the unification of Karabakh with Armenia also engendered nationalist sentiments in neighboring Azerbaijan, where anti-Communist groups not only opposed Karabakh's secession but also agitated for abolishing the region's autonomy. Increasingly, the attitudes of the two peoples became polarized. And as Moscow's control over the union republics eroded, sporadic clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani militias, the latter backed by Russian troops, developed into large-scale warfare. The collapse of the USSR in December 1991 signaled the beginning of war. One of the questions Armenians will be asking themselves today is whether the Karabakh movement has achieved its aim. Owing to its decisive military victory over Azerbaijan in 1993-1994, the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh is de facto independent, even though that independence has not formally been recognized by any other country. It has a powerful army and unfettered links with Armenia proper. To put it succinctly, it is now totally "Armenian." Yet the conflict has also taken an appalling toll on Armenia: thousands of war casualties and hundreds of thousands of refugees, a dramatic drop in living standards, economic decline, and mass emigration. But, most important, the military victory did not bring a lasting peace. Despite the Armenian leadership's commitment to a peaceful solution of the conflict, the war threatens to resume at any moment. Moreover, Azerbaijan's and Turkey's blockade of Armenia stifles economic growth. So was it worth all the trouble? Most of the Armenian elite would say "yes" and would advocate evaluating the Karabakh problem within the context of Armenia's 3,000-year history, rather than in terms of immediate economic interests. Indeed, despite all the suffering it caused, the war has helped Armenians overcome an inferiority complex acquired over centuries of defeat and foreign oppression. And, as regards a future peace deal on Karabakh, the bargaining positions of the Armenians are now incomparably stronger than 10 years ago. Armenians in general tend to be more ambivalent. Years of hardship have generated war fatigue among them. But aspirations to a better life are offset by a deep distrust of Azerbaijan. Many people are convinced that Baku would guarantee neither the Karabakh Armenian population's security nor respect for its ethnicity, pointing to anti-Armenian pogroms in Azerbaijan from 1988-1990. Moreover, Armenians did not rally behind former President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, who promised prosperity in exchange for major concessions to Azerbaijan. On the contrary, it seems that for the time being, Armenians will give Ter-Petrossyan's more hard-line opponents a chance. Two of those opponents, Prime Minister and acting President Robert Kocharian and former premier and National Democratic Union Chairman Vazgen Manukian, are the key contenders in the 16 March presidential elections. The two men agree that Karabkh's relationship with Azerbaijan must be on an equal footing, testifying to a consensus in Armenian society on both the Karabakh movement and the future of the peace process. Armenia's Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian recently suggested that even if Armenians had known in 1988 what they know now, they would still have agreed to forfeit their relative prosperity for the sake of Karabakh. And all the signs today are that he is right. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Yerevan. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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