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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 78 Part I, 23 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 78 Part I, 23 April 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 Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN ASKS ZYUGANOV TO PUT COUNTRY BEFORE PARTY * DUMA PASSES REVISED LAND CODE * BAKU DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST RFE/RL BAN End Note: MOVES TOWARD A REAL PEACE IN TAJIKISTAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN ASKS ZYUGANOV TO PUT COUNTRY BEFORE PARTY. President Boris Yeltsin telephoned with Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 23 April to lobby for the confirmation of Sergei Kirienko as prime minister. According to Interfax, Yeltsin argued that the Communist leadership should "think about the state, not about [the interests of] their party," when considering Kirienko's candidacy in the third and final vote. The State Duma would seal its own dissolution if deputies rejected Kirienko a third time. Earlier on 23 April, Zyuganov told journalists that 21 senior members of the Communist Party have agreed to urge the party's Central Committee to oppose Kirienko's confirmation, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Yeltsin told Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev during a Kremlin meeting that he does not plan to visit the State Duma on 24 April to present Kirienko in person. LB DUMA VOTE LOOKS TOO CLOSE TO CALL. Our Home Is Russia Duma faction leader Aleksandr Shokhin, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and Russian Regions faction leader Oleg Morozov have all confirmed that their factions will support Kirienko on 24 April, ITAR-TASS reported. Those three factions can deliver a combined total of some 160 votes. Agrarian faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov announced on 23 April that more than half of the Agrarians in the Duma plan to vote for Kirienko, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Opinion is also divided in the Popular Power faction. Even if most Agrarians and Popular Power deputies, along with some independent deputies, vote for Kirienko, the acting prime minister would still need some Communist support in order to obtain the 226 votes needed for confirmation. Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko faction will either unanimously reject Kirienko or, if the Duma conducts the vote by secret ballot, will decline to participate. LB FEDERATION COUNCIL ASKS DUMA TO CONFIRM KIRIENKO. The Federation Council on 22 April adopted an appeal calling on the Duma to ensure that all branches of government will be able to function without interruption, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The Council's appeal, adopted shortly after Kirienko addressed the upper house, does not mention the acting premier by name. Council deputies do not necessarily support Kirienko but do not want to see legislative activity halted for several months pending new Duma elections. The appeal also calls on Yeltsin to take the opinions of members of parliament into account when forming the next government. Although the upper house does not have a formal role in confirming the prime minister, the views of regional leaders are believed to carry weight in the Duma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 1998). LB OFFICIAL SAYS EARLY ELECTIONS REQUIRE NEW RULES... Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko announced on 22 April that Yeltsin will be required to issue decrees regulating new parliamentary elections if such elections become necessary, ITAR-TASS reported. He argued that the September 1997 law on the rights of voters contradicts some passages of the 1995 law on parliamentary elections and that only presidential decrees can resolve those contradictions. Ivanchenko implied that Yeltsin could do away with the proportional representation system currently used to elect half the Duma. He pointed out that the law on the rights of voters says political parties and movements cannot compete in parliamentary elections unless they have amended their charters at least one year prior to those elections. No existing party or movement could meet that requirement if the Duma were dissolved and new elections held this year. LB ...BUT YELTSIN'S RIGHT TO CHANGE SYSTEM REMAINS QUESTIONABLE. There is no consensus regarding Ivanchenko's assertion that Yeltsin could change the electoral system by decree. Constitutional Court Chairman Marat Baglai recently argued that Yeltsin has no right to issue decrees overriding the 1995 electoral law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 1998). "Kommersant-Daily" commented on 23 April that the Kremlin "could not think up a more frightening threat" for Duma deputies than Ivanchenko's announcement. But even if Yeltsin did order that the new Duma be elected only in single-member districts, it is unclear whether such a Duma would be more amenable to the president's policies. Abolishing proportional representation would be devastating for the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and would also harm Yabloko, but the Communist Party and its allies would likely win far more seats than pro-government or pro-Yeltsin movements. LB DUMA PASSES REVISED LAND CODE. The Duma on 22 April passed a revised version of the land code by 265 to three with two abstentions, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma overrode Yeltsin's veto of an earlier version of the code last year, but the Federation Council did not override that veto (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 February 1998). Duma Agrarian Affairs Committee Chairman Aleksei Chernyshev said Yeltsin's comments were taken into account when the land code was revised. But like the previous version, the code approved on 22 April would prohibit the purchase and sale of farmland--a provision Yeltsin is almost certain to find unacceptable. Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 April that Saratov Oblast has now held four auctions at which agricultural land was sold. The legislature of the Republic of Tatarstan has also approved a law allowing the purchase and sale of farmland. LB UPPER HOUSE APPROVES LAW ON ELECTRICITY GIANT. The Federation Council on 22 April overrode Yeltsin's veto of a law regulating the distribution of shares in the electricity monopoly Unified Energy System (EES), Russian news agencies reported. Deputies voted by 131 to two with one abstention, in favor of the law, which requires the state to hold at least a 51 percent stake in EES and more than half of the state-owned shares to be managed by regional authorities. The law also restricts foreign ownership of EES to 25 percent of the company. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 April that foreign shareholders currently own some 30 percent of the company's shares. Anatolii Sliva, Yeltsin's representative in the Federation Council, told Interfax that the law "will undermine foreign investors' confidence in the Russian stock market." Yeltsin is constitutionally obliged to sign the law within seven days. LB IRAN AGAIN DEFENDS NUCLEAR COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA. Iranian Foreign Ministry official Mahmud Mohammadi on 22 April said that Iran's cooperation with Russia in the field of nuclear energy serves "exclusively peaceful means" and is carried out "in strict compliance with international law," ITAR-TASS reported. The previous day, Russian acting Nuclear Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov told visiting U.S. Under-Secretary of State John Holum that Russian-Iranian cooperation in nuclear-power engineering has purely peaceful purposes and observes both the spirit and the letter of the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty, Interfax reported. Also on 22 April, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that visiting U.S. special envoy on nuclear non-proliferation Robert Gallucci and Yurii Koptev, director of the Russian space agency, discussed new U.S. claims that Moscow has provided nuclear weapons technology to Iran. LF GOVERNMENT SEEKING WAYS TO FILL BUDGET GAP. Acting Prime Minister Kirienko announced on 22 April that the government is drafting plans to reduce 1998 budget expenditures by 35- 40 billion rubles ($5.8-$6.5 billion), Russian news agencies reported. Addressing the Federation Council, Kirienko said one such measure, which would save an estimated 10 billion rubles, would impose limits on the energy and heat consumption of budget-funded organizations. The 1998 budget calls for some 500 billion rubles in total expenditures, but analysts agree cuts will be necessary because tax collection remains low and falling oil prices have cut into government revenues. Also on 22 April, the State Property Ministry announced that planned 1998 revenues from privatization and the management of state property have been raised from the targeted 9.5 billion rubles to 17.5 billion rubles. LB SKURATOV CALLS FOR REPAYING DEBTS TO DEFENSE INDUSTRY. Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov has sent a letter to acting Prime Minister Kirienko calling for steps to repay debts to defense enterprises, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 April. Those enterprises produced military equipment requested by the Defense Industry Ministry, which was dissolved in March 1997. The Economics Ministry took over its duties but has yet to repay the debt to the enterprises (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February and 20 March 1998). Skuratov said his office receives many complaints about the debts, since defense enterprises often find it difficult or impossible to pay their employees. LB SERGEEV DOUBTS SOLDIERS' WAGES CAN BE RAISED THIS YEAR. Acting Defense Minister Igor Sergeev has expressed doubts that Russia can afford to increase salaries for military personnel this year, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 April. Earlier this year, officials promised to increase soldiers' wages substantially in 1998. However, Sergeev said the authorities must concentrate their efforts on paying 11.4 billion rubles ($1.9 billion) currently owed to military personnel. He also spoke out against adopting laws that contain funding requirements that exceed the government's capabilities. The Duma recently overrode a presidential veto on a law that would raise soldiers' wages significantly. The Federation Council has yet to consider that law. LB YELTSIN WANTS TO KEEP CRIMINALS OUT OF PUBLIC OFFICE. Yeltsin has submitted to the Duma a draft law aimed at preventing convicted criminals from gaining public office, Russian news agencies reported on 21 April. The bill would amend the law on voters' rights to require convicted criminals to disclose all information about their criminal records in order to compete in elections. If they concealed such information, they could be denied registration as candidates. The president also proposed amending a law on requirements for government employees in order to prohibit the appointment of people with certain types of criminal convictions. Several people with alleged criminal ties or criminal records have won elections in the Russian regions, most recently in the Nizhnii Novgorod mayoral election, which was subsequently annulled. LB FORMER GROZNY MAYOR IMPLICATES GRACHEV, KULIKOV, KORZHAKOV. In an interview with the most recent issue of "Ogonek," Beslan Gantemirov claimed that former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, former Federal Security Service director Mikhail Barsukov, former Yeltsin bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov, and current Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov diverted billions of rubles allocated for reconstruction programs in Chechnya in 1996. Gantemirov said that Russian officials knew in advance of the planned terrorist attack in Budennovsk in June 1996 but did nothing to prevent it in order to create a pretext for the replacement of then Interior Minister Viktor Yerin by Kulikov. A former head of Djokhar Dudaev's presidential guard, Gantemirov split with Dudaev in 1992 on "ideological grounds" He was mayor of Grozny under President Doku Zavgaev until May 1996, when he was arrested and extradited to Moscow on charges of embezzling 7 billion old rubles ($1.7 million) intended for reconstruction in Chechnya. LF TATAR NEWSPAPER CLOSED OVER TECHNICALITY. A district court in Tatarstan ordered the closure of "Altyn Urda," the newspaper of the opposition Ittifaq Tatar National Independence Party, on a minor technicality. According to Tatar-Inform on 22 April, the newspaper has violated Article 11 of the republic's media law by publishing some articles in Russian when it is registered as a Tatar-language publication. Tatar-Inform also noted that "Ittifaq" has systematically published articles insulting President Mintimer Shaimiev, which the Ministry of Information cited in instigating legal proceedings to have the newspaper closed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1998). LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA BAKU DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST RFE/RL BAN. Police and security officials on 22 April forcibly dispersed some 100 young protesters who picketed the Ministry of Communications to protest the government's decision to suspend the rebroadcasting on medium-wave of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani- language programs. Fifteen demonstrators were detained and an unknown number injured, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The opposition Liberal Party has created a Radio Liberty Defense Committee, and that body has drafted a letter to the UN and U.S. leaders protesting the Azerbaijani government's move. Representatives of four newspapers and 26 political parties in Baku have signed the letter. LF AZERBAIJAN PREVENTS EXPORT OF DUAL TECHNOLOGY TO IRAN. According to a statement released on 22 April by the Azerbaijani National Security Ministry, Azerbaijani customs officials at the Astara frontier crossing with Iran on 26 March intercepted a consignment of stainless steel plates allegedly intended for construction of liquid-fuel ballistic missiles, Turan and ANS-Press reported. International law prohibits the export of such components to third countries. The consignment was shipped by a Russian company. LF CRIME RATE IN ARMENIA CONTINUES TO FALL. Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian told journalists in Yerevan on 22 April that some 1,300 crimes were committed in the country during the first quarter of 1998, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That figure represents a 25 percent decrease, compared with 1,724 crimes committed during the first quarter of 1997, and a continuation of the fall in crime registered last year. Sarkisian said the investigation into the case of some two dozen men arrested in February on charges of murder, armed robbery, and illegal possession of weapons has yielded "interesting revelations." But he declined to confirm speculation that the group is connected with the chairman of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement, former Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradeghian. LF ADJAR-GEORGIAN TENSIONS INTENSIFY. The Revival faction within the Georgian parliament has announced that it will boycott future parliament sessions, an RFE/RL correspondent in Tbilisi reported on 22 April. The same day, the chairman of the Adjar Supreme Council, Aslan Abashidze, said Adjaria will boycott the next Georgian parliamentary elections unless his republic's demands are met. Those demands include the creation in the Adjar capital, Batumi, of a free economic zone and the revision of the Georgian election law to reduce the number of deputies elected by proportional representation. He also announced that Adjaria plans to amend its constitution and that in cases where those amendments contradict the Georgian Constitution, the Adjar basic law will take precedence. Abashidze did not rule out the possibility that he will run against incumbent Eduard Shevardnadze in the presidential elections in 2000. LF KULIEV RETURNS TO MOSCOW. Avdy Kuliev, a Turkmen opposition leader and former Turkmen foreign minister, returned to Moscow on 22 April after nearly a week in Turkmenistan, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Kuliev had been detained by Turkmen authorities after his arrival in Ashgabat on 17 April; following his release, he was kept under house arrest. Officials from the Russian Embassy requested that Kuliev, a Russian citizen, return to Moscow. They said that Turkmenistan and Russia had agreed it would be better for Kuliev to leave Turkmenistan to avoid creating turmoil there. BP FOUR DIE IN DUSHANBE SHOOT-OUT. Four men were killed in a shoot-out in Dushanbe on 22 April, RFE/RL correspondents reported. All four were reportedly members of the Tajik armed forces. The reasons for the shoot-out are unclear, but RFE/RL correspondents in Tajikistan say a group loyal to the Chalov brothers in Kulyab was involved. One of the Chalov brothers was arrested several weeks ago in possession of a large amount of heroin. Since then, some of his relatives and their followers have been disarming guards at roadside checkpoints between the southern city of Kulyab and Dushanbe. The group, which is reported to be just outside the capital, is seeking the release of the arrested brother. BP WORLD BANK TO LOAN TAJIKISTAN $50 MILLION. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov met with a representative of the World Bank in Dushanbe on 22 April, Interfax reported. After the meeting,it was announced that the World Bank will extend $50 million in soft loans to Tajikistan this year. The first installment of the loan, worth $20 million, will be released in the third quarter and is intended for health care, education, telecommunications, highways, and public transportation. The release of the remainder will depend on how successfully the first installment is used. BP KYRGYZ LAWMAKERS APPROVES PLAN FOR FURTHER PRIVATIZATION. The upper house of the Kyrgyz parliament has approved a plan for the fourth stage of privatization, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported on 22 April. That stage will involve sales of state enterprises in sectors such as telecommunications, mining, and energy industries. Deputy Daniyar Usenov called for an investigation into whether members of parliament are making personal profit from the privatization process. Another deputy, Adakhan Madumarov echoed Usenov's call, noting that many mistakes have been made already. By way of example, Madumarov pointed out that former Bishkek Mayor Boris Silayeva sold a large home repairs store for 4 million som (about $220,000) when its real value was 60 million som. Silayev is now deputy prime minister. BP END NOTE MOVES TOWARD A REAL PEACE IN TAJIKISTAN by Roland Eggleston The chairman of Tajikistan's Commission for National Reconciliation, Said-Abdullo Nuri, says that by the end of this week, most opposition armed forces should have gathered in demobilization centers in the Garm and Karatigen valleys. Nuri told the visiting chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, at the weekend that those forces include about 5,000 armed men in Tajikistan and about 500 others across the border in the Taloquan region of Afghanistan. The men are supposed to surrender their weapons on arrival at the demobilization centers. Within a month or less, they are to be offered the chance of either joining the regular Tajik forces or taking a civilian job. The disarmament of the armed forces is a core element in the peace agreement reached between the government and opposition last June to end five years of civil war that cost the lives of thousands. However, this first stage of what is called the "military protocol" of the peace agreement is months behind schedule. As a result, the elections scheduled for this June or July will now probably be delayed until next year. Despite the delay, Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov told journalists accompanying Geremek that--if the disarmament is successful--it will be a "considerable step forward" in implementing the peace agreement. But he warned that the peace progress is "at the very beginning.... It is not easy to pass from the dialogue of the Kalashnikov to the dialogue of words and thoughts," he said. Both Nazarov and Nuri acknowledged that even under the best circumstances, not all the armed forces in Tajikistan would be brought safely under control in the demobilization center. Large areas of the countryside outside Dushanbe is under the control of local warlords who have unknown numbers of troops and have ignored the demands of the peace agreement. Despite the peace agreement, tensions remain high in Dushanbe, and kidnapping is a constant danger. A curfew is enforced from 7:00 p.m., but the silence of the night is still shattered by gunfire. Nuri himself lives in constant danger of assassination. His meeting with Geremek took place in a heavily guarded building in central Dushanbe. Men armed with Kalashkinovs, pistols, and other weapons stood outside the entrance and lined the stairways to the meeting place on the second floor. Nuri spends each night in a guarded government compound in downtown Dushanbe, where officials sent to Dushanbe by the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank also live. Officials attached to the OSCE' s permanent mission in Dushanbe said they are "hopeful" that the gathering of opposition armed forces in the demobilization centers will bring a real end to the outbursts of fighting, but they say it is unlikely that all shooting will come to an end. "The peace treaty ended real fighting, but there are still frequent skirmishes," said one official who preferred not to be identified. "Both sides have a problem with teenage boys who have known nothing but conflict since they were young. They don't have work and so they run around with their guns. Often it comes to shooting." Some officials query the figure of 5,000 opposition fighters named by Nuri. They say not all opposition fighters are in the "regular" opposition. Officials believe there are also others who have jobs in the countryside and a gun at home. At times, they leave those jobs to become involved in a shooting operation and then return to their daily work. There are also armed gangs, some of which seize foreigners as hostages. Opposition leader Nuri told journalists accompanying Geremek that the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) genuinely wants the peace agreement to work and elections to be held. He added that he believes that President Imomali Rakhmonov also wants peace. "We are on the threshold of democratization," he said. "But it is impossible to move toward democracy in the situation we now have in Tajikistan." Nuri said the reason for the delay in implementing last year's peace agreement is the lack of trust between the government and the opposition. He also said that the war was "imported from outside" and had involved "those who wanted democracy and freedom and those who wanted totalitarianism and bureaucracy." He charged that those who favored totalitarianism had "misused the religious and nationalist feelings of the people." There are eight legal political parties in Tajikistan and several others that were banned, including Nuri's own group the Islamic Revival party . Last year' s peace agreement included a lifting of that ban. Nuri said he is confident that the UTO will do well in the elections, whenever they are held. That vote must be preceded by meetings of various commissions on military, political, and legal issues in which the government and the opposition have equal representation. The ideas generated by those groups are intended to produce a series of amendments to the 1994 constitution, which must first be approved by President Rakhmonov and then put to the public in a referendum. With considerable luck, such a referendum may be held later this year. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Munich, Germany. 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. 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