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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 51, Part I, 16 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 51, Part I, 16 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 ALL BROADCASTS FOR SIX SERVICES LIVE ONLINE All programs of RFE/RL's Armenian, Azerbaijani, Bulgarian, Kyrgyz, Russian and Ukrainian Services are online live in RealAudio. The Russian Service broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To tune in, go to: http://www.rferl.org/realaudio/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN DELAYS RETURN TO KREMLIN * FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LAW ON COOPERATION WITH IRAQ * ARMENIANS VOTE FOR NEW PRESIDENT * End Note: A NEW ELECTION PARADIGM xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN DELAYS RETURN TO KREMLIN. President Boris Yeltsin remained at his residence outside Moscow on 16 March. The president's chief doctor, Sergei Mironov, said in a statement released by the presidential press service that Yeltsin still has cold symptoms and a hoarse voice and is to spend part of the day in bed while being treated with antibiotics. The Kremlin statement said Yeltsin's wife, Naina, is also sick. Sergei Shakhrai, Yeltsin's representative in the Constitutional Court, met with the president on 16 March and said Yeltsin's health is improving, although he noted that the president's voice has not regained its full strength, ITAR-TASS reported. Presidential spokesmen have not clarified whether Yeltsin is expected to recover in time for a CIS Customs Union meeting on 18 March and a CIS summit to begin the following day in Moscow. LB CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CONSIDERS PRESIDENT'S VETO POWER. The Constitutional Court on 16 March starts hearings in the parliamentary appeal over Yeltsin's refusal to sign the law on cultural valuables after both houses of the parliament overrode his veto of that legislation last spring. The court will not consider the legality of the "trophy art law" itself, although Yeltsin has argued it contradicts international norms. Shakhrai, Yeltsin's representative in the court, admits that the president is obliged to sign laws within seven days if both houses of parliament override his veto. However, Shakhrai argues that the parliament did not in fact override Yeltsin's veto, because illegitimate balloting procedures were used in both chambers. The Constitutional Court previously ruled that Yeltsin may return laws unsigned to the parliament if he concludes there are procedural flaws in the adoption of those laws (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 23 April 1996). LB FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LAW ON COOPERATION WITH IRAQ... The upper house on 13 March rejected a law on expanding Russia's cooperation with Iraq, Russian news agencies reported. Just 30 deputies supported the law, with 70 voting against and three abstaining. Federation Council Deputy Speaker Vasilii Likhachev told ITAR-TASS that the vote does not signify that the upper house has changed its position on cooperation with Iraq. But Likhachev emphasized that any bilateral cooperation must correspond to UN resolutions. Last July, the upper house rejected a similar law on Iraq for the same reason (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1997). LB ...AND LAW ON TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY. Also on 13 March, the Federation Council rejected by 89 to seven a law on Russia's territorial integrity, "Russkii telegraf" reported on 14 March. That law would have prohibited any attempt to secede from the Russian Federation and would have allowed the president to deploy armed forces immediately to settle a "non-international" conflict threatening Russia's territorial integrity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 1998). It also would have given regional legislatures the right to approve any exchange of territory with neighboring states--a provision that would have made it even more difficult for Russia to resolve territorial disputes with Japan and China. The Council's Committee on Federation Affairs criticized various phrasings in the law. "Russkii telegraf" also reported that the regional leaders may have feared the law would allow even budgetary disputes to be branded "separatist" attempts. LB PROSECUTOR-GENERAL MULLING CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST ZHIRINOVSKY. Yurii Skuratov has 10 days to consider a State Duma request that a criminal case be opened against Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told Interfax on 13 March. The Duma sent the Prosecutor-General's Office videotapes of Zhirinovsky's recent behavior, when he insulted and threw water on fellow deputies. The Yabloko faction has vowed to boycott Duma sessions until Skuratov evaluates Zhirinovsky's conduct (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March 1998). If the prosecutor-general decides a criminal case is warranted, the Duma would still have to vote to lift Zhirinovsky's immunity from prosecution. Meanwhile, Zhirinovsky arrived in Tripoli on 14 March for talks with Libyan leaders, AFP reported. LB CHUBAIS MAY SERVE IN GOVERNMENT, ELECTRICITY GIANT. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais has sought to dispel speculation that he may leave the government next month if he is appointed chairman of the board at the electricity company Unified Energy System (EES). The government has nominated Chubais to chair the EES board, and his candidacy is to be considered at a 4 April board meeting. In an interview with Russian Television on 15 March, Chubais said he would not have to leave the government in order to work in the electricity company, Reuters reported. EES chief executive Boris Brevnov, a close associate of First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, on 12 March said he expects Chubais to be appointed chairman of the EES board, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Anatolii Dyakov, the current chairman, tried to oust Brevnov from the company earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 1998). LB BEREZOVSKII SLAMS CHUBAIS... Former Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii, whom Chubais has sharply criticized in several recent interviews, responded to that criticism in his own interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 13 March. Berezovskii again charged that Chubais has a "revolutionary" mentality ill-suited to Russia's current conditions. He compared Chubais to Gorbachev-era Politburo member Yegor Ligachev, who once held fairly progressive views but by 1990 was viewed as a "retrograde." Berezovskii also argued that Chubais's work in the government over the past year has been "catastrophic" and expressed confidence that the first deputy premier's "weeks, if not days, in power are numbered." In addition, Berezovskii charged that Chubais and Nemtsov must "share responsibility" for a steadily "deteriorating" situation in Chechnya. Chubais and Nemtsov were credited with convincing Yeltsin to remove Berezovskii from the Security Council last November. LB ...CONTINUES TO RECEIVE TREATMENT IN SWITZERLAND. Interfax on 13 March quoted "sources close to Berezovskii" as saying that Berezovskii has been discharged from a Swiss hospital, where he was being treated for spinal injuries he reportedly suffered in a 15 February snowmobiling accident. However, Berezovskii is to continue rehabilitation treatment in Switzerland for another two or three weeks. He flew to Switzerland a few days after his accident and was originally expected to stay for only 10-12 days. LB ACCUSED SPIES LEAVE NORWAY. Two Russian diplomats left Norway on 15 March, three days after they were accused of spying and declared persona non grata, Reuters and AFP reported. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry denied that it will respond in kind if Moscow retaliates against Oslo's recent decision to bar three other Russian diplomats from entering Norway. In a 14 March interview with NTV, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov argued that Norway acted "inappropriately" by expelling the diplomats and postponing a visit to Moscow by Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik. The same day, Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek said he will visit Murmansk this month, as planned. Vollebaek noted that despite the spying allegations, "we cannot forget our cooperation with the Russians." Meanwhile, the Russian Federation Council on 13 March voted 95 to four, with two abstentions, to ratify a 1995 Russian-Norwegian agreement on investments, ITAR-TASS reported. LB MASKHADOV SAYS THATCHER TO STUDY RUSSIAN-CHECHEN TIES. On his return to Grozny on 15 March, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov said former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has agreed to head a group that will look into the issue of relations between Russia and Chechnya, Interfax reported. Maskhadov also said Thatcher had told him she wants to visit Chechnya. However, Thatcher's spokeman told Reuters on 16 March that Thatcher has "no plans to visit Grozny." In other remarks, Maskhadov said he used his five-day visit to the British capital to seek investments in Chechnya, to reassure London that he is doing all he can to secure the release of two English hostages, and to promote the idea of Chechen independence. PG PROGRESS AT MARGINS OF CHECHEN-RUSSIAN TALKS. In talks in the Ingush capital of Nazran on 13 March, Chechen and Russian negotiators reached agreement on accords whereby Grozny airport may reopen for flights to CIS countries and some $2 million may be donated for Chechen children, Interfax reported. But Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Rybkin and Movladi Udugov, the leader of the Chechen negotiating team, made no progress on the basic issue dividing Moscow and Grozny: Chechnya's status. Moreover, members of the Chechen negotiating team said the real test of any progress in those talks is whether Moscow will keep its earlier promises, which, they said, it has so far not done. PG ARMY INTRODUCES COST-CUTTING MEASURES. In accordance with an order issued by Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, soldiers will not be issued dress uniforms this year, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 March. They will receive only winter and summer fatigues. The order is one of a series of cost-cutting measures adopted recently by the Defense Ministry. Sergeev announced on 3 March that the ministry will sell 589 military compounds and 181 buildings in connection with upcoming military reforms. The ministry's press service said the same day that some 13,000 electricity meters will be installed in order to promote energy conservation. The government has vowed to tighten control over energy usage by budget-funded organizations. Military installations frequently fail to pay their energy bills, contributing to the non-payment crisis that leaves utilities unable to pay suppliers and employees. LB PLANS UNVEILED FOR 1998 MILITARY DRAFT. Defense Minister Sergeev on 13 March said 200,000 people are to be drafted this year, of whom 130,000-140,000 will be sent for military service, Interfax reported. Sergeev said those who are in poor physical or mental health will be excluded from the call-up. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Krasnaya Zvezda" reported on 14 March that there are problems with the call-up because local military induction centers are underfunded and therefore procedures for screening potential recruits or rooting out draft dodgers are ineffective. In Moscow, where dodging the draft is most widespread, the authorities plan to introduce programs in schools whereby young people would be prepared, both physically and psychologically, for military service. BP REFORM OF AIR FORCE CONTINUES. Air Force Commander Colonel-General Anatolii Kornukov says that by the end of this year, personnel will be cut by 125,000, of whom 48,000 will be officers, Interfax reported on 13 March. Kornukov, who is overseeing reforms following the merger between the air force and air defense forces, said the cuts will not effect combat readiness. At the same time, he admitted that current "combat fitness of aviation equipment" is only 45-55 percent. He also said new equipment, including anti-aircraft missiles, will not be available until the year 2000. BP MAJOR-GENERAL HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR VIETNAM CRASH. A military court has found Vladimir Grebennikov responsible for the crash of four Su-27 airplanes in Vietnam in December 1995. Grebennikov was flying the lead plane, an Il-76 cargo plane, into Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay airfield. According to the court, he descended to an "inadmissably low altitude," causing the planes following his aircraft to collide into a mountain side. Grebennikov was immediately released after the court determined that he qualified for an amnesty declared by the Duma last December. BP LATEST TANK ACCIDENT CLAIMS THREE LIVES. Two servicemen died immediately and another on the way to the hospital when a tank overturned on a road from Tuva to Khakassia on 13 March. A military commission is investigating the incident, which is the second involving a tank in recent weeks. During a training exercise near Novosibirsk on 2 February, a tank that had apparently gotten lost in a blizzard suddenly rolled onto the field where the exercise was taking place, killing four soldiers and injuring four others. BP GOVERNMENT LIMITS DUTY-FREE IMPORTS THROUGH KALININGRAD. The government on 12 March issued a directive limiting imports of 35 types of goods through Kaliningrad Oblast, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 March. In accordance with a law adopted in early 1996, Kaliningrad--a western enclave that does not border the rest of the Russian Federation--is a "free economic zone," where customs duties and value-added tax are not charged on imports. Among the goods affected by the directive are automobiles, furniture, meat, cigarettes, and several types of alcoholic beverages. "Kommersant-Daily" said the Kaliningrad administration lobbied for the government restrictions in order to help protect Kaliningrad industry from foreign competition. LB TOMSK MAYOR WINS SUIT AGAINST NEWSPAPER. A Tomsk district court has found that the newspaper "Tomskaya nedelya" libeled the city's mayor, Aleksandr Makarov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 March. The court awarded Makarov damages of 91,000 rubles ($15,000) and ordered the newspaper to pay another 30,000 rubles to co-plaintiff Nina Igorenkova, a local official in charge of fighting economic crime. The lawsuit was over one article on the business practices of Makarov's relatives and another accusing the mayor of ordering or carrying out attacks on the property of his political opponents. "Kommersant-Daily" noted that Oleg Pletnev, the editor of "Tomskaya nedelya," also serves on the Tomsk city council and is an outspoken opponent of Makarov. Pletnev has vowed to appeal the ruling. LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIANS VOTE FOR NEW PRESIDENT. Most of the 2.2 million eligible voters are expected to go to the polls on 16 March to choose a replacement for former Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan, who recently resigned . None of the 12 candidates is expected to receive the 50 percent of the vote needed for election, and a runoff is expected on 30 March between two of the three front-runners: Prime Minister and acting President Robert Kocharian, former Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchyan, and former Prime Minister Vazgen Manukian. Observing the elections are 180 OSCE monitors and a variety of officials from the Council of Europe, the CIS, and Russia (see also "End Note" below). PG ABKHAZ VOTING SPARKS VIOLENCE. Local elections in Abkhazia led to violence on 14 March, ITAR-TASS reported. Several people were killed and many more wounded in clashes between ethnic Abkhazians who wanted the poll to go ahead and ethnic Georgians who opposed the vote. Both Russia and Georgia had denounced the elections as likely to contribute to instability. The previous day, the UN Security Council President Abdoulie Momodou Sallah of Gambia released a statement declaring the vote "illegitimate." PG AZERBAIJAN PROTESTS TO YELTSIN OVER ARMS TO ARMENIA. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev sent a letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin last week expressing Baku's serious concern about reports that Moscow will supply Armenia with various new weapons systems, including the S-300 missile, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 March. In a related development, the Azerbaijani Security Council has urged Aliev not to attend the CIS summit in Moscow on 19-20 March. PG GEORGIA, TURKEY AGREE ON BAKU-CEYHAN PIPELINE. During a visit to Tbilisi on 13-14 March, Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz signed accords with President Eduard Shevardnadze and other Georgian officials calling for the construction of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline to carry Caspian petroleum to the West, ITAR-TASS reported. The two sides also agreed to build power lines and rail roads between their countries, and Turkey committed itself to providing assistance to upgrade Georgian roads. PG SHEVARDNADZE TO ATTEND MOSCOW SUMMIT. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze announced on 16 March that he has decided to go to Moscow to attend the summit of CIS presidents on 19-20 March, an RFE/RL correspondent in Tbilisi reported. The Azerbaijani Security Council recently recommended that President Heidar Aliev skip the summit, and Shevardnadze said most members on the Georgian Security Council had advised him to do the same. However, he said he decided to attend the summit "out of respect for my colleagues." Two days of "intensive consultations" between Russian, Georgian, and Azerbaijani officials preceded Shevardnadze's announcement. LB VIOLENCE BREAKS OUT IN CENTRAL TAJIKISTAN. Three members of the security forces were seriously wounded in a violent incident in central Tajikistan on 14 March, RFE/RL correspondents and ITAR-TASS reported. A group of 200 fighters loyal to Mullo Abdullo, who supports the Tajik opposition, attacked the Ali-Galabon check point, beating government soldiers and taking their weapons. Earlier that week, on 9 March, the local headquarters of the Interior Ministry came under fire in Rogun. Said Abdullo Nuri, chairman of the National Reconciliation Commission, and Amirkul Azimov, secretary of the Security Council, are scheduled to visit the area on 16 March. BP TAJIK PRISONERS APPEAL FOR PRESIDENTIAL PARDON. Six men who were sentenced to death by a Tajik court last week have appealed to President Imomali Rakhmonov to pardon them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March 1998), RFE/RL correspondents reported. The six were found guilty of staging the attempted assassination of Rakhmonov in Khujand in April 1997. The lawyer of 47-year-old Abdulkhafiz Abdullayev, who allegedly masterminded the attempt, said her client has asked for the "humanism and compassion of the head of state for a seriously ill man," ITAR-TASS reported on 14 March. Abdullayev is terminally ill and more than twice the age of those convicted with him. First Deputy Chairman of the Tajik Supreme Court Shukhrat Mustafakulov called the verdict "severe" but "just." BP END NOTE A NEW ELECTION PARADIGM by Liz Fuller It is possible to identify four factors that--either singly or combined--have influenced voting patterns in elections in the North Caucasus and Transcaucasus over the past few years. None, however, is relevant to the Armenian presidential elections that are taking place on 16 March. The first factor is the fear of jeopardizing the status quo when fragile political stability has been restored following a period of political chaos, war, and/or economic collapse. That factor played a role in Eduard Shevardnadze's election as Georgian president in November 1995 and in the emergence of his Union of Citizens of Georgia as the largest faction in the parliamentary elections held at the same time. It also contributed to the recent re-election of Ruslan Aushev as president of Ingushetia. The second, related factor is a desire on the part of individual voters to play safe. Particularly among older voters, there is a preference to vote for that candidate who is perceived as certain to win. This, too, contributed to Eduard Shevardnadze's 1995 presidential election victory and to the re-election in November 1995 of Heidar Aliev as president of Azerbaijan. It may also have contributed to Aslan Maskhadov's election as Chechen president in January 1997 insofar as Moscow made clear that Maskhadov, who together with former Russian Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed had signed the agreement ending hostilities between Chechnya and Russia, was its preferred negotiating partner. The third factor is a protest vote against a status quo perceived as no longer tolerable. Voting against a given individual and the policies he stands for explains the meteoric rise in popularity of opposition candidate Vazgen Manukian during the final weeks of the 1996 Armenian presidential election campaign. It also explains why incumbent Akhsarbek Galazov, who tried to distract the North Ossetian electorate's attention from the repercussions of economic collapse by organizing bombastic and elaborate Soviet-style propaganda-cultural galas, lost the January 1998 presidential race to a rival former Soviet party apparatchik, Aleksandr Dzasokhov. The fourth factor is the practice of restricting or prohibiting the participation of various parties or candidates. For example, the alliance between the suspended Dashnak Party and the Union for Constitutional Rights was refused registration for the July 1995 Armenian parliamentary elections, and the Musavat party was similarly prohibited from registering candidates for seats to be contested under the proportional system in the November 1995 Azerbaijani parliamentary elections. The pre-term Armenian presidential elections differ from earlier regional election scenarios insofar as on the eve of the poll it was impossible to predict with any degree of certainty which of the main candidates would win. Moreover, factors other than those listed above were in play: nostalgia and the phenomenon of personality or charisma. Karen Demirchian, who was Armenian Communist Party first secretary from 1974 to 1988, appeared set to benefit from the former, and Prime Minister and acting President Robert Kocharian and National Democratic Union chairman Vazgen Manukian from the latter. It also seemed possible that Kocharian would profit from a widespread desire for national consolidation, which played a key role in Zviad Gamsakhurdia's election as Georgian president in May 1991. Whether nostalgia, the phenomenon of personality, and/or the desire for national consolidation will impact on the next Armenian parliamentary elections or whether voters will return to traditional voting patterns is impossible to predict at this point. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "subscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO RETRIEVE BACK ISSUES VIA EMAIL (1) Send an email to email@example.com with the letters "ls" as the subject or body of the message. This will retrieve a list of available files. 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