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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 42, Part I, 3 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 42, Part I, 3 March 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 RFE/RL CAUCASUS REPORT: A WEEKLY REVIEW OF POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS AND TRANSCAUCASIA FROM RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY This new email weekly covers Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia's North Caucasus. To subscribe, send an email message to email@example.com with the word "subscribe" in the subject line or body of the message. The first issue (March 3, 1998) and all future issues will be online at the RFE/RL Web site. http://www.rferl.org/caucasus-report/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * CABINET RESHUFFLE CLAIMS ANOTHER VICTIM * KOKOSHIN REPLACES RYBKIN ON SECURITY COUNCIL * RUSSIA MAY WITHDRAW TROOPS FROM GEORGIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA CABINET RESHUFFLE CLAIMS ANOTHER VICTIM. President Boris Yeltsin on 2 March dismissed Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov, one of the longest-serving cabinet members, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Mikhailov had not been considered a likely candidate for dismissal. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said Mikhailov resigned from the government in order to focus on scientific research, adding that the president thanked him for the work of his ministry during his tenure, Interfax reported. Mikhailov had headed the Atomic Energy Ministry since March 1992. Commenting on the recent cabinet dismissals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 1998), Chernomyrdin said "the government's current policy is not being changed and will not be changed," but he noted that there will be changes in "the methods and approaches used" by the heads of some ministries. Yeltsin downplayed the significance of the reshuffle, adding that "ministers come, ministers go," ITAR-TASS reported. LB DID MIKHAILOV JUMP OR WAS HE PUSHED? A Russian commentator interviewed by RFE/RL on 2 March suggested, however, that Mikhailov may have been under pressure to resign, noting that his ministry was not informed in advance of his resignation. Andrei Piontkovskii said that Mikhailov, who began his career at Arzamas-16 under the late Andrei Sakharov, had implemented "his own personal policy," particularly toward sales of nuclear technology to Iran, and regarded himself as a "hawk" defending Russia's dwindling super-power status. But Piontkovsii concluded that the decision to replace Mikhailov as minister was probably not dictated by foreign-policy considerations; rather, it is likely to have stemmed either from disagreements within the ministry over uranium sales to the U.S. or from personal tensions between Mikhailov and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. First Deputy Premier Boris Nemtsov has consistently criticized Mikhailov's ministry for failing to pay wage arrears to its employees, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 3 March. LF CHECHEN RESPONSE TO RYBKIN'S APPOINTMENT. Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov told ITAR-TASS on 2 March that it is "immaterial' who succeeds Ivan Rybkin as secretary of the Russian Security Council. Udugov said that Rybkin's appointment as Russian deputy prime minister for CIS affairs will expedite the establishment of Chechen-Russian ties and the recognition of Chechen independence, according to Interfax. He noted that Rybkin retains his post as head of the commission to negotiate the terms of a Russian-Chechen treaty. One of the Chechen members of that commission, Khozh-Akhmed Yarikhanov, praised Rybkin's contribution to economic reconstruction in Chechnya, to the repatriation of prisoners of war, and to ensuring the "signing of basic documents." Rybkin told journalists that he will have to pass on to his successor an "enormous amount of information" on Chechnya. LF KOKOSHIN REPLACES RYBKIN ON SECURITY COUNCIL. Yeltsin on 3 March appointed Defense Council Secretary and Chief Military Inspector Andrei Kokoshin as secretary of the Security Council, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. According to presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii, the Defense Council has been abolished. Its personnel, along with that of the State Military Inspectorate, has been incorporated into the Security Council. Kokoshin, a civilian, was first deputy defense minister before being appointed to head the Defense Council and the newly created military inspectorate last August. The abolition of the Defense Council is unlikely to have a major impact, since most of its members are also on the Security Council. When Yeltsin created the Defense Council in July 1996, that body was widely seen as a counterweight to Aleksandr Lebed, who had been appointed Security Council secretary the previous month. LB REACTION TO OTHER CABINET CHANGES. According to the 3 March issue of "Novye izvestiya," Education Minister Vladimir Kinelev was fired because of the total failure of education reform plans, which, the newspaper said, were drafted by top officials without sufficient input from teachers. "Novye izvestiya" also argued that Aleksandr Tikhonov, Kinelev's replacement, will represent the government's interests rather than standing up for those of the education sector in the government. "Rossiiskie vesti" suggested on 3 March that First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov instigated the decision to sack Transportation Minister Nikolai Tsakh. The newspaper said Tsakh had been a vocal critic of the Railroad Ministry, which is one of the ministries under Nemtsov's supervision. Meanwhile, Russian news agencies reported on 2 March that Sergei Frank, until now first deputy transportation minister, will replace Tsakh. Earlier the same day, Yastrzhembskii had said Yeltsin appointed Yurii Mikhailov to that post. LB OPPOSITION FORMS 'SHADOW CABINET.' Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov says the "popular-patriotic forces" have formed a "shadow cabinet" whose members are to be announced soon, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 March. Speaking to journalists in Orenburg Oblast, where he is campaigning on behalf of opposition candidates in upcoming legislative elections, Zyuganov said participants in a nationwide protest planned for 9 April will demand the creation of a "government of people's trust or national unity." Zyuganov is also the head of the Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia, a Communist-led umbrella movement formed out of organizations that supported his 1996 presidential bid. LB CHUBAIS, NEMTSOV LOSE BODYGUARDS. Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii announced on 2 March that Yeltsin has signed a decree revoking the right of 12 high-ranking officials to have state-funded personal bodyguards, Russian news agencies reported. The decree affects First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatolii Chubais and Nemtsov, deputy prime ministers, and Yurii Yarov, the first deputy head of the presidential administration. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 3 March, those officials will retain bodyguards when they are outside Moscow. Although Yastrzhembskii described the decree as a cost-cutting measure, "Kommersant-Daily" said the saving will be minimal and that the decree is more likely a political move against Chubais and Nemtsov. Last December, Yeltsin signed a decree requiring first deputy prime ministers to use commercial airlines for official travel. Special government planes are now used only by six top officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 1997). LB PROSECUTOR-GENERAL LESS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT LISTEV CASE. Yurii Skuratov on 2 March told journalists not to expect the March 1995 murder of television journalist Vladislav Listev to be solved soon, ITAR-TASS reported. Skuratov acknowledged that progress has been made in the investigation but cautioned against drawing "analogies" between Listev's murder and the October 1994 killing of journalist Dmitrii Kholodov. Two suspects have been charged in the Kholodov case. On 28 February, ITAR-TASS quoted Skuratov as predicting that the Listev case would soon be solved. Petr Triboi, the chief investigator in the case, told "Izvestiya" on 27 February that he has received death threats. He also charged that some close colleagues of Listev have sought to hinder his investigation, but he singled out former Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii as having been particularly cooperative (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February and 2 March 1998). LB ELECTORAL COMMISSION WANTS STRICTER REGULATIONS... Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko says his commission wants the parliament to amend the law on parliamentary elections to toughen the regulations on submitting signatures for registration and to raise the minimum turnout requirement. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 26 February, Ivanchenko expressed the hope that the law will prevent electoral blocs and individual candidates from submitting a total number of signatures that exceeds the required amount by more than 10 percent. (In the past, candidates and blocs have often submitted far more signatures than they need in case a large number of signatures are invalidated by the electoral commission.) Ivanchenko also advocated a 50 percent minimum turnout for elections to the State Duma, although he said he supports retaining the current 25 percent minimum for by-elections for Duma seats. LB ...TAKES NO STAND ON ABOLISHING PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION. In the same interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Ivanchenko said the Central Electoral Commission has no preference on whether the Duma should be elected entirely in single-member districts or by means of a mixed system involving proportional representation, as under the current law. He said he is against calling a nationwide referendum on changing the electoral law, which some presidential advisers have proposed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 1998). Ivanchenko noted that holding a referendum would be very expensive. Commenting on proposals to change the law to require runoffs in single-member districts if no candidate gained more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, Ivanchenko said such a move would raise the costs of conducting the elections by 25 percent at most. LB YELTSIN APPROVES BURIAL PLANS FOR LAST TSAR. Yeltsin on 2 March approved plans to bury Nicholas II and his family in St. Petersburg on 17 July, Russian news agencies reported. The government unanimously supported those plans at a 27 February cabinet meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 1998). LB DUMA HEARS REPORTS ON DRUG USE. The Duma on 2 March heard reports on the growing problems related to drug use in the country. Nikolai Gerasimenko, the chairman of the Duma's Health Committee, said there are now more than 2 million regular drug users in Russia; 4 million people have experimented with narcotics, while some 400,000 are addicts. Gerasimenko said he expects those figures to double by 2000. Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Kolesnikov, the deputy chairman of the government commission on drug abuse and sales, said there were 185,000 drug-related crimes in Russia last year, a 91 percent increase over 1996. The largest increases were among young adults, minors, and women. Gennadii Onishchenko, the chief state sanitary physician, said the growth in the use of drugs is contributing to an increase in HIV cases. He noted that of the 4,300 people registered as HIV positive, more than 90 percent are drug addicts. BP LEBED SUBMITS SIGNATURES IN KRASNOYARSK. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed on 3 March handed over to the Krasnoyarsk Krai Electoral Commission registration documents, including petitions with 23,000 signatures supporting his candidacy for governor, ITAR-TASS reported. State Duma deputy Petr Romanov, the Communist-backed candidate and former director of a factory in the krai, submitted his signature lists on 2 March. Lebed is considered the main rival to incumbent Governor Valerii Zubov, but Romanov could become a kingmaker if he finishes a strong third in the first round of the election on 26 April. "Russkii telegraf" reported on 28 February that incumbent Governor Valerii Zubov is conducting negotiations with local Communists, who fared well in legislative elections in the krai last December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 23 December 1997). The newspaper argued that if Zubov can reach an agreement with the Communists, who are sharp opponents of Lebed, the incumbent's chances will improve dramatically. LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIA MAY WITHDRAW TROOPS FROM GEORGIA. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told journalists on 2 March that Russia is ready to consider withdrawing its troops from Georgia if there is a consensus that its military bases there are no longer needed, Russian agencies reported. Since 1993, the Georgian opposition has opposed Russia's military presence in Georgia. Last week, Tbilisi requested that Sergeev postpone his visit scheduled for 27-28 February until after the19-20 March CIS summit. A new agreement on the status of the three Russian military bases in Georgia was to have been signed during that visit. LF ARMENIAN PREMIER PLEDGES ELECTION TRANSPARENCY. Robert Kocharyan has once again pledged that the Armenian authorities will take all possible measures to ensure that the 16 March presidential poll is free and fair, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharyan made that pledge at meetings with U.S. Assistant Under Secretary of State Stephen Coffey in Yerevan on 1 March and with the heads of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's election monitoring mission staff the following day. Kocharyan also said he has reached agreement with rival candidate Vazgen Manukyan that candidates' proxies will be empowered to monitor voting by military personnel. Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisyan said on 2 March that police will strictly abide by the regulation prohibiting their presence at electoral precincts. By the 1 March deadline, 12 candidates had submitted to the Central Electoral Commission the documentation and minimum 25,000 signatures necessary to run in the election, Noyan Tapan reported. LF AZERBAIJANI PROSECUTOR-GENERAL ON EXTRADITIONS FROM RUSSIA. In an interview published in "Trud" on 28 February, Azerbaijani Prosecutor-GeneralEldar Hasanov argued that the extradition from Russia of a number of prominent political figures to stand trial on charges of terrorism or treason is in accordance with a Russian-Azerbaijani agreement concluded in 1992 and the subsequent Minsk Convention signed by CIS states. Hasanov rejected Russian press allegations that Azerbaijanis are extradited to Baku because of their political beliefs. He also denied that he has ever received a request from President Heidar Aliev to demand the extradition of one of Aliev's political opponents. But a recent bulletin released by the Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan cites several cases in which Azerbaijani political refugees in Ukraine have been detained and mistreated before their extradition to Azerbaijan, where they were tried and sentenced. LF TURKEY, CASPIAN LITTORAL STATES DISCUSS EXPORT PIPELINE. Meeting in Istanbul on 1-2 March, the foreign ministers of Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan expressed varying degrees of support for the construction of the Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil. They failed, however, to make a definite commitment to that project. At the same time, they stressed they are committed to multiple oil and gas pipelines in order to transport Caspian hydrocarbon resources to the West. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem suggested that Russian and U.S. representatives be invited to future meetings to discuss the Baku-Ceyhan project, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 2 March. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov was not invited to the Istanbul talks. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Caucasus Press on 2 March that the proposed northern pipeline from Baku to Novorossiisk is "more rational and economical" than the Baku-Ceyhan option. LF GEORGIAN PIPELINE AGREEMENT SIGNED. Chevron Overseas, Britain's Caspian Trans Company, and the Georgian state oil company signed an agreement in Tbilisi on 2 March on the reconstruction of two sections of the export pipeline to transport Azerbaijani Caspian oil to Georgia's Black Sea coast. Work on the Khashuri-Batumi section will begin within four months, and that section will be linked to the Ali-Bayramli-Khashuri pipeline by mid-1999. The annual throughput capacity of the Ali-Bayramli-Batumi pipeline will be 7.5-8 million metric tons, according to Chevron President Richard Matzke. The pipeline will transport not only Azerbaijani crude but some Kazakh oil from the Tengiz field that Chevron is developing together with Mobil and Kazakh and Russian oil companies. More than 1 million metric tons of Tengiz oil have been exported by tanker to Baku and then by rail through Georgia since 1997. LF KYRGYZSTAN'S INDEPENDENT MEDIA COMPLAINS OF DISCRIMINATION. The Kyrgyz Association of Independent Electronic Mass Media has sent a letter to the cabinet complaining of "discriminatory actions of government structures against non-government mass media." RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, who has obtained a copy of the letter, said the association singles out the difficulties experienced by Mezon TV in acquiring a license to broadcast in 1997, the shutdown of Radio Almaz on 23 February, and the temporary closure of the television and radio station VOSST one week earlier. The association notes a "serious violation of Article 8 of the law on mass media" in the case of both Radio Almaz and VOSST, whose closure was ordered by the National Agency on Communications. Under the mass media law, a broadcasting station can be closed down only in accordance with a decision by the station's management or the courts. BP KAZAKH PRESIDENT MEETS WITH FOREIGN INVESTORS. Nursultan Nazarbayev, meeting with foreign investors and government officials in Almaty on 2 March, said the cabinet will continue to give "support and help...necessary [for foreign investors] to work successfully" in Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. However, Nazarbayev warned investors they are subject to Kazakh laws on taxation and should not over-report costs to keep down reported profits. After listening to reports by foreign investors, Nazarbayev heavily criticized some members of the government. The president asked one minister why it takes some four months to issue investors with licenses. He added that, "As of today, I am relieving your ministry of responsibility for licensing." BP TURKMENISTAN TO TRIPLE GAS EXPORTS TO IRAN IN 1999. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has said the country's gas industry must be ready to export 12 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Iran via the Korpedzhe-Kurdkui pipeline in 1999, Interfax reported on 2 March. This year, Turkmenistan plans to export 4 billion cubic meters, of which 35 percent will be in payment for the construction by Iran of the pipeline. Tehran is to pay $40 per 1,000 cubic meters for the remainder of the gas. During his visit to Turkmenistan in January, Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin offered to pay $36 per 1,000 cubic meters, but Russia would re-export the gas to third countries at a far higher price. BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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