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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 60 Part I, 27 March 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 60 Part I, 27 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 EUROPEAN UNION: EMBRACING ENLARGEMENT AND ECONOMIC UNION The EU takes two important steps this month toward implementing a unified currency and enlarging to include Central and Eastern European countries. These articles describe recent developments and describe the current economic status of four European countries. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/eumarch98/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN NOMINATES KIRIENKO, WARNS DUMA * WIDE RANGE OF ISSUES DISCUSSED AT "TROIKA" MEETING * TAJIKISTAN ENTERS CENTRAL ASIAN CUSTOMS UNION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN NOMINATES KIRIENKO, WARNS DUMA. President Boris Yeltsin has formally nominated Sergei Kirienko as prime minister and warned the State Duma against opposing him, Interfax reported on 27 March. Yeltsin said that he is appealing to the Duma "not to start new rounds of confrontation," an implicit threat that he will use his powers to dismiss the parliament and call new elections if deputies do not approve his nominee in the first three rounds of voting. Yeltsin added he will give full backing to Kirienko, who, he said, will need that support as he seeks to eliminate wage arrears and presses for further reforms. Also on 27 March, Yeltsin signed the 1998 state budget. PG REACTION MIXED TO KIRIENKO NOMINATION. Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said Prime Minister-designate Kirienko must consult with Duma leaders before that body considers confirming him in office, Interfax reported on 27 March. Russian news agencies suggest that the first vote could take place on 3 April. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said Kirienko's nomination is "a very good decision, absolutely expected." He added that "the Russian government is now working at full speed," Interfax reported. Communist Party leader Valentin Kuptsov, for his part, said the nomination was "a hasty move and [Yeltsin's] latest mistake." Business magnate Boris Berezovskii suggested that it would be "unreasonable" for the Duma to fail to back Yeltsin's nominee. PG YELTSIN PRAISES CHERNOMYRDIN. In his 27 March address nominating Kirienko, Yeltsin went out of his way to praise former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and to suggest that the latter will play a significant political role in the future, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin praised Chernomyrdin for his loyalty and hard work and stressed he has asked him "to concentrate on preparing" for the presidential elections in 2000. Chernomyrdin's "huge experience and ability to work with people," Yeltsin said, "will be an asset in this work. I am sure he will do a great deal yet for Russia." PG WIDE RANGE OF ISSUES DISCUSSED AT "TROIKA" MEETING. Yeltsin, French President Jacques Chirac, and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, meeting outside Moscow on 26 March, agreed that the "sudden application of pressure" in Kosovo is unnecessary at this point, and they reviewed Russia's ties with the EU and NATO. In discussions on a project to build a new generation aircraft, Yeltsin favored basing that project on the Russian-Ukrainian agreement on the An-70 airplane. Kohl spoke out strongly against Latvia's and Estonia's policies toward those countries' ethnic Russian minorities, saying Tallinn and Riga should not "overestimate the amount of support for them from Western European states." Chirac said he is against the Baltic States entering NATO. And Yeltsin stressed that an expanded Europe will become a major force in today's multipolar world. All three leaders underlined that their meeting poses no threat to any country. BP MOSCOW SCRAPS TRANSPORT CHARGES TO SUPPORT OIL. First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov has announced that the Russian government will not require Russian oil companies to pay for using the country's pipeline system. He added that the move is part of a broader program of supporting the oil industry in the face of falling world oil prices, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 March. But LUKoil and other Russian oil companies continue to press for $3.12 billion in tax relief because of declining world prices for oil, even as the government and LUKoil disagreed on whether to cut production. Meanwhile, Rosneft officials said on 26 March that they believe the $2 billion dollar price set by the government for a 75 percent stake in the oil concern is entirely fair, ITAR-TASS reported. And U.S. and Russian companies, meeting in Almaty on 26 March, discussed four options for pipe lines carrying Kazakh oil out of the Caspian basin, Interfax reported. PG GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN REJECTS REPORTS ON DOWNSIZING. Igor Shabdurasulov said on 27 March that he is puzzled by First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin's suggestions two days earlier that a special Finance Ministry commission is preparing cost-cutting measures to end chronic wage arrears to state employees, ITAR-TASS reported. Kudrin said the number of public employees will be reduced. For instance, regional branches of federal agencies will be downsized by a total of 70,000 employees. Jobs will also be cut in the health, education, and science sectors. The "Financial Times" on 26 March quoted Kudrin as saying a total of some 208,000 jobs will be cut, saving the federal government 40 billion rubles (some $6.7 billion). He said the plan will allow all other state employees to be paid on time, thereby reducing social tension. Shabdurasulov said that "no such official proposals" have been made. LB/PG MOSCOW WELCOMES CONTACT GROUP STATEMENT ON YUGOSLAVIA. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Moscow regards the latest final document of the international contact group on Yugoslavia as a "balanced reasonable decision," at least "for the time being," Interfax reported. At the same time, the ministry expressed the hope that "the arrival of radical nationalists in the Serbian government will not have a negative impact on the settlement of the situation in Kosovo or on relations between Moscow and Belgrade." PG RUSSIA, JAPAN PREPARE FOR SUMMIT. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigorii Karasin and Japanese Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi met in Tokyo 26 March to prepare for the 11-13 April summit between Yeltsin and Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, ITAR-TASS reported. Earlier, the two countries exchanged notes outlining plans to simplify the visa regime, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, a group of Duma deputies from the People's Rule group has sharply criticized recent statements by U.S. Ambassador James Collins backing Japanese claims to the Kuril Islands as "another gross interference" in Russian internal affairs, Interfax reported. And the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that Moscow has not ruled out the possibility of attending a security summit with leaders of Japan, the U.S., and China, Interfax said. PG LUZHKOV CALLS FOR ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST LATVIA. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov urged that Russia reduce the flow of goods through Latvia by exporting them through Kaliningrad and Leningrad, Interfax reported 26 March. The Russian government must do this in order to protect the "basic rights" of ethnic Russians living in that Baltic Republic. In other comments, Luzhkov said that he planned to support the new Russian government now being formed if it lives up to the promises the acting prime minister has given him. Meanwhile, Luzhkov launched 27 March a new national daily newspaper, "Rossiya," with an initial circulation of 100,000 copies. PG RUSSIAN PATRIARCH WANTS ROLE FOR CHURCH IN ARMY. Patriarch Aleksii II of Moscow and All Russia told Interfax on 26 March that he has asked the Russian military to allow representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and other traditional religions to visit the troops and help improve their spiritual upbringing. He said he favors creating a special center for moral upbringing to prepare young people for the draft. But Aleksii used the occasion to stress again that he does not believe the military should allow representatives of other denominations access to soldiers because such missionaries are "overcrowding the country." PG MILITARY PROSECUTOR URGES DESERTERS TO TURN THEMSELVES IN... The Chief Military Prosecutor's Office and the Soldiers' Mothers Committee have organized a joint program to encourage army deserters to turn themselves in, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 March. Since 23 March, when the program was launched nationwide, more than 150 deserters have turned themselves in, according to Yurii Demin, the chief military prosecutor. There are an estimated 17,000 army deserters in Russia. Demin has promised that criminal charges will not be brought against first-time deserters who fled the army to escape "difficult circumstances," meaning brutal hazing. Deserters who give themselves up will be sent to complete their military service in other units. LB ...AS PROSECUTOR-GENERAL PROPOSES AMNESTY FOR DESERTERS. Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov has submitted a proposal to the State Duma to amnesty army deserters, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 24 March. The newspaper said the proposal was drafted after prosecutors and investigators became convinced that commanders close their eyes to widespread hazing and that deserting is the only hope of survival for some soldiers. The current situation often prompts deserters to commit crimes to survive, since they are forced to live without documentation and are virtually unable to earn money legally. The constitution grants the Duma the sole right to declare amnesties. It is unclear whether Duma deputies would support an amnesty for deserters. The lower house has yet to adopt a law on alternative service for youths who do not want to serve in the army. LB VLADIVOSTOK POLITICAL FEUD HEATS UP. The long-running dispute between Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherpkov and regional government Yevgenii Nazdratenko intensified on 26 March. Police raided the mayor's office to seize documents they said were needed for an audit, Interfax reported. Regional officials denied they were behind the raid, but the incident prompted 500 supporters of the mayor to stage a counter-demonstration and several local officials to start a hunger strike. Some of those officials blamed the Nazdratenko administration and asked for Moscow's intervention. Meanwhile, the Russian prosecutor general is considering whether to bring charges against Nazdratenko in connection with the beating of a World War II veteran in October 1997, ITAR-TASS reported. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PREMIER COMMENTS ON ELECTION VIOLATIONS... Prime Minister and acting President Robert Kocharian told journalists in Yerevan on 26 March that he has documentary evidence that supporters of rival candidates committed procedural violations during the16 March presidential vote. He said, however, that he will not make that evidence public, Noyan Tapan reported. Kocharyan said he has dismissed the prosecutor of Yerevan's Mashtots Raion for failing to open criminal proceedings into cases of such violations. And he denied he intends to introduce "a militarized state" in Armenia. Also on 26 March, the Armenian Communist Party issued a statement saying it will endorse neither Kocharyan nor former Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchyan in the 30 March runoff because their programs do not take into account the "interests of the working people," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF ...PREDICTS ROBUST ECONOMIC GROWTH IN 1998. Kocharyan also said on 26 March that the economic outlook for Armenia for 1998 is positive and that economic growth is expected to reach 8-10 percent, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said the presence of leftist political groups in his electoral coalition will not affect his determination to continue with economic reform if he is elected president. Kocharyan drew parallels with some European countries where the Left is currently in power. "There is no alternative to a market economy," he said. He also remarked that the country's new prime minister should be a politician whose duties are not confined to managing the economy, but he declined to say whom he might appoint to that post. LF ARMENIA "CANNOT AFFORD" PROFESSIONAL ARMY. Addressing students in Yerevan on 25 March, Armenian Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsyan said the country cannot afford to maintain a professional army. But he denied rumors that the call-up period is to be extended from two to three years, Noyan Tapan reported. Sargsyan said Armenia is currently militarily stronger than Azerbaijan and is likely to remain so for 2-3 years, although the two countries have equal amounts of armaments. But he warned that "if some day Azerbaijan feels it is stronger than we are, it will resume hostilities regardless of opportunities to find a political settlement to the Karabakh conflict." LF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION SUBJECT TO THREATS, VIOLENCE. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Justice has issued a statement warning that legal action will be taken against people "who do not observe law as well as [against] parties and public movements not registered at the Ministry of Justice and engaged in illegal activities," Turan reported on 26 March. The statement charges that the Brotherhood, Evolution, and Modern Turan parties are engaged in illegal activities. The ministry also considers that the Democratic Congress, the Round Table, the Azerbaijan National Committee of the Helsinki Civil Assembly, the Youth Organization Turan, and the Society for Protection of Oilmen's Rights are illegal. Meanwhile, Sardar Jalaloglu, secretary-general of the Azerbaijan Democratic Party, was hospitalized after he and two other ADP members were severely beaten near the party's headquarters the previous day by unidentified assailants. LF CONFUSION OVER AZERBAIJANI AMBASSADOR TO IRAN CONTINUES. Alirza Bikdeli, Tehran's ambassador in Baku, has denied that the car of Aliyar Safarli, the Azerbaijan's ambassador to Iran, was stopped and searched at the Astara check point on 20 March, Turan reported. He also denied that Tehran had demanded that Safarli be recalled, saying the matter was "an internal affair of Azerbaijan." Iranian press reports claim that Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mortez Sarmadi and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev agreed to recall Safarli during talks in Baku on 17 March. LF WHO KILLED ZVIAD GAMSAKHURDIA? Manana Archvadze-Gamsakhurdia, widow of the former Georgian president, has accused former Georgian Finance Minister Guram Absandze of instigating her husband's murder, Interfax reported. Absandze was extradited from Moscow to Tbilisi last week on suspicion of having financed the 9 February attempt to assassinate current Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. Archvadze-Gamsakhurdia originally claimed that her husband committed suicide. She later said that members of his bodyguard team had shot him on orders from Bessarion Gugushvili, who was premier under Gamsakhurdia in late 1991. LF GEORGIA CLAIMS OWNERSHIP OF RUSSIAN WINERIES. Georgian Deputy State Property Minister Zurab Bakhtadze told journalists on 26 March that Tbilisi is claiming ownership of seven wineries and distilleries in Russian cities, ITAR-TASS reported. Moscow, for its part, has laid claim to 70 Georgian facilities, mostly at health resorts on the Black Sea coast. LF TAJIKISTAN ENTERS CENTRAL ASIAN CUSTOMS UNION. Tajikistan has been accepted as a member of the Central Asian Customs Union, whose founding members are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Meeting in the Uzbek capital on 26 March, the presidents of the four countries also agreed to form an international hydroelectric consortium and reached accord on common principles for creating a securities market. Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov said Tajikistan's entry into the union makes it eligible for "concrete assistance" from the other three members. Kazakhstan's Nursultan Nazarbayev commented that integration of the Central Asian states "does not distance those countries from the CIS." BP KARIMOV LASHES OUT AT PAKISTAN, WAHHABIS AGAIN. Speaking to journalists in Tashkent on 26 March, the Uzbek president repeated his claim that Wahhabi militants are training in Pakistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1998), Interfax reported. Karimov also blasted human rights organizations for complaining about the treatment of those arrested in Namangan for their alleged role in violence there late last year. Those arrested had "killed people by cutting off their heads," Karimov said. He argued that human rights activists are "defending for the sake of defending." And he said that the trial of those arrested will be attended by journalists and observers from various countries. BP TURKMEN PRESIDENT READY TO RELINQUISH SOME POWER. Saparmurat Niyazov told the parliament on 26 March that he is prepared to give up some of his powers following the 1999 elections to the legislature, Interfax reported. He noted that there would be changes in the cabinet over the next two years but gave no details. Interfax cites observers as saying this means the post of prime minister will be reinstated. Currently, Niyazov heads the government. Also on 26 March, the parliament approved the draft of a new civil code. BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "subscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. 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