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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 79 Part I, 24 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 79 Part I, 24 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 * COMMUNIST DEFECTORS HAND VICTORY TO KIRIENKO * KIRIENKO PROMISES NOT TO BREAK UP NATURAL MONOPOLIES * NIYAZOV AT WHITE HOUSE End Note: ARMENIANS REMEMBER 1915 GENOCIDE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA COMMUNIST DEFECTORS HAND VICTORY TO KIRIENKO. The State Duma on 24 April voted by 251 to 25 in a secret ballot to confirm Sergei Kirienko as prime minister. Communist deputies appear to have defied party discipline in order to hand Kirienko the winning margin. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced following a plenum of the party's Central Committee on 23 April that the Communist faction would oppose Kirienko and would seek to conduct an open vote. He added that if the Duma conducted a secret ballot, Communist deputies would not participate in the voting. However, many Communist deputies did pick up ballots on 24 April, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko faction did not take part in the secret ballot as a sign of their united opposition to Kirienko. President Boris Yeltsin did not visit the Duma before the vote, limiting his lobbying efforts to a written appeal asking deputies to support Kirienko. LB KIRIENKO PROMISES NOT TO BREAK UP NATURAL MONOPOLIES. Addressing the Duma before deputies voted on his candidacy for the last time, Kirienko promised that the government will not break up natural monopolies in the energy and transportation sectors or sell its controlling stakes in those monopolies, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He also promised to enact measures to help oil companies, which have been hurt by falling oil prices on world markets. In an indirect appeal for the deputies' support, Kirienko said that "the huge amount of tasks in the Russian economy's complex situation gives us a joint responsibility before Russia and the people," Reuters reported. He added, "Let us show this responsibility not with words but with deeds. There is no time to lose." If the Duma had rejected Kirienko on 24 April, Yeltsin would have been constitutionally obliged to dissolve the Duma, setting back legislative activities for several months pending new elections. LB CONFLICTING REPORTS ON CHUBAIS'S POSSIBLE APPOINTMENT. The presidential press service on 23 April "categorically denied" that Yeltsin has agreed to appoint former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais as chief executive of the electricity giant Unified Energy System (EES), Russian news agencies reported. Earlier the same day, Ekho Moskvy quoted an unnamed source close to the presidential administration as saying Yeltsin has assented to the appointment. Chubais's spokesman Andrei Trapeznikov described the report as "disinformation" designed to deter the Duma from voting to confirm Kirienko. Chubais's possible appointment is strongly opposed by some influential businessmen as well as by politicians including Communist Party leader Zyuganov, Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. In contrast, media financed by Oneksimbank have advocated appointing Chubais to EES and putting acting First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov in charge of supervising natural monopolies in the energy and transportation sectors. LB YELTSIN PROMISES TO HELP COAL MINERS... Yeltsin has promised to issue a decree that will outline "unconventional" measures to help coal miners, Russian news agencies reported on 23 April. At a Kremlin meeting with delegates from miners' trade unions, coal enterprise directors, and officials from regions with a large coal sector, Yeltsin instructed acting Prime Minister Kirienko and Aleksander Livshits, deputy head of the presidential administration, to prepare that decree. He suggested that some of the proceeds from the privatization of coal enterprises may be spent on improving mine safety and that some funds obtained through the government's alcohol policy will be allocated to the coal industry. In addition, Yeltsin said part of a $1.5 billion loan from Japan may be spent to build housing for miners, and he told Kirienko to restructure the debts of coal-mining companies. Yeltsin made the promises one day before a congress of coal industry workers began in Moscow. LB ...AS DOES KIRIENKO. Addressing the Duma on 24 April, Kirienko said the government has drafted plans to ensure that coal enterprises receive regular financing. In a speech to the Federation Council two days earlier, the acting prime minister promised that the government will enact a program to double funding for coal-mining regions this year. Meanwhile, Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Igor Kozhukhovskii announced on 21 April that Russia is conducting negotiations with the World Bank on a possible $600 million loan that would be used primarily to resettle coal miners from the country's northern regions to more central areas. Russia has already received two World Bank loans to support the coal industry, for $500 million and $800 million. Only $400 million of the second loan has so far been allocated. LB KORZHAKOV SLAMS BEREZOVSKII. Duma deputy Aleksandr Korzhakov, Yeltsin's longtime bodyguard, leveled numerous accusations against the businessman Boris Berezovskii in an interview with "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 22 April. Korzhakov said Berezovskii helped arrange a lucrative deal to publish Yeltsin's memoirs and was also behind business deals for other members of Yeltsin's family. He declined to specify how much Yeltsin and his family earned from those deals. Korzhakov also admitted that he helped Berezovskii take control of the Sibneft oil company, which, according to Korzhakov, Berezovskii said he needed as a source of financing for the Russian Public Television network. In addition, Korzhakov accused Berezovskii of embezzling more than $100 million from Yeltsin's re-election campaign. "Moskovskii komsomolets" is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, a political opponent of Berezovskii. The popular daily was reported to be involved in a media campaign to persuade Yeltsin to oppose certain "oligarchs" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1998). LB LUZHKOV CREATES PUBLIC RELATIONS DEPARTMENT. Luzhkov has created a new department on public relations in the Moscow city administration, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 April. Luzhkov appointed Olga Kostina to head the department, which will coordinate all activities to shape the mayor's public image. Kostina has denied the new department was created with a view toward the next presidential election, but "Kommersant-Daily" cast doubt on her denial. Kostina has been an unofficial adviser to Luzhkov since 1996. In 1994-1995, she was a public relations adviser for Mikhail Khodorkovskii, the founder and then head of the Menatep Bank. LB KRASNOYARSK GOVERNOR CLAIMS DIRTY TRICKS USED AGAINST HIM. Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Valerii Zubov on 23 April ordered the confiscation of some 850,000 copies of a newspaper reportedly published by former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's campaign headquarters, ITAR-TASS reported. The newspaper contained an article alleging that Zubov's campaign is preparing to commit "a subversive act" and blame that act on Lebed's supporters. Lebed has said "his people" had "nothing to do" with the article. On 22 April, Zubov charged that some candidates are trying to bribe voters in violation of federal and regional laws. Neither Lebed nor Zubov is expected to gain more than 50 percent support in the first round of the gubernatorial election on 26 April. LB IS GROUND BEING PREPARED TO ANNUL ELECTION? "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 24 April that the Krasnoyarsk Krai electoral commission has issued a warning to Lebed over the distribution of printed campaign materials that do not contain all the required information. The commission has also uncovered evidence that four candidates, including Zubov and Communist-backed Duma deputy Petr Romanov, have received financial contributions that exceed the maximum allowable level. Alleged violations during the campaign before a 29 March mayoral election in Nizhnii Novgorod were cited by the city's electoral commission as grounds for annulling that election after a controversial candidate won by a narrow margin. LB STARS TAKE PART IN LEBED CAMPAIGN RALLY. French actor Alain Delon appeared alongside Lebed at a 23 April rally of some 10,000 people in Krasnoyarsk, Russian news agencies reported. Several well-known Russian pop singers also performed at the rally. In an interview with ITAR-TASS, Delon said he believes Lebed could play the same role in Russia that Charles de Gaulle played in France. NTV reported that Delon has denied he was paid to come to Krasnoyarsk on Lebed's behalf. Meanwhile, Lebed charged on 22 April that Moscow Mayor Luzhkov is supporting Zubov, because the federal authorities need an "obedient governor" who will not stand up for the interests of his region, Interfax reported. Lebed also accused Luzhkov of planning to use Zubov for his own presidential campaign in 2000. Speaking to Interfax, Luzhkov denied he is supporting Zubov at Yeltsin's request and repeated that he does not have presidential ambitions. LB SUSPECT IN ATTEMPT TO BLOW UP PETER THE GREAT STATUE ARRESTED. Russian security officials on 22 April arrested a senior Interior Ministry official in connection with the abortive July 1997 attempt to blow up a Moscow monument to Tsar Peter the Great, Russian agencies reported. The official, who has been charged with terrorism, had collaborated with members of the so-called Revolutionary Military Council of the RSFSR in an attempt to destroy the controversial statue. Members of that organization tipped off Interfax and the bomb, which was due to explode on the night of 5-6 July, was defused (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 1997). LF RUSSIA'S MUSLIMS PROTEST PLANNED PUBLICATION OF 'SATANIC VERSES.' At a news conference in Moscow on 23 April, Union of Muslims of Russia Chairman Nadirshakh Kharchilaev, Council of Muftis of Russia Chairman Ravil Gainutdin, and other Muslim leaders expressed concern over the planned publication of a Russian translation of Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses." The Limbus-Press publishing house in St. Petersburg has announced it will publish a translation of the controversial novel next month. Kharchilaev said the planned publication is "an insult and a challenge" to Russia's estimated 20 million Muslims. He hinted that some of them could resort to violence against Limbus-Press's staff or premises. Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini pronounced a death sentence on Rushdie when the novel was published in 1988, accusing the author of profanity. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA NIYAZOV AT WHITE HOUSE. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov met with U.S. President Bill Clinton and Vice President Albert Gore at the White House on 23 April. Agreements were signed whereby the U.S. will provide $750,00 for a feasibility study of Trans-Caspian oil and gas pipelines on the Caspian sea bed and the U.S. Export-Import Bank will grant more credit to Turkmenistan for purchasing U.S.-made goods. The previous day, Turkmen officials signed agreements with U.S. companies Mobil and Exxon on the exploration and extraction of oil in western Turkmenistan. ITAR-TASS on 24 April quoted Niyazov as saying the agreements will be "useful to all the governments of the region." But the Tehran Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran on 23 April said the "legal regime of the Caspian Sea and water borders of its littoral states are not determined yet." It added that the Iranian route is by far the cheapest for exporting Turkmen gas and oil and that Turkmenistan 'should not submit to the ad hoc pressure exerted by powers outside the region." BP IS THE TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINE REALLY NECESSARY? In its annual study released on 23 April, the International Institute for Strategic Studies casts doubts on U.S. claims that Caspian oil reserves amount to 200 billion barrels, equal to 16 percent of the world's known reserves. It suggests that a more realistic estimate is between 25 and 30 billion barrels, Reuters and AFP reported. LF NIYAZOV'S VISIT DRAWS STRONG CRITICISM. The Russian newspaper "Kommersant-Daily" on 23 April described Niyazov's visit as the U.S.'s latest bid to break up the CIS and "ensure" that at next week's CIS summit Central Asian and Trancaucasian leaders "are not overly compliant." The Helsinki Commission wrote a letter to President Clinton saying "no political reforms or human rights issues matter to the United States as long as you have oil or natural gas." White House spokesman Michael McCurry said the U.S. is calling for a multiparty system, fair elections, and the release of political prisoners in Tajikistan. With regard to the last-named, Niyazov said "they're free" as he left the White House. Previously, he has denied there are any political prisoners in Turkmenistan, and he has consistently told journalists in the U.S. that they are "poorly informed" in response to questions about the country's poor human rights record. BP TAJIK GOVERNMENT, UTO REJECT ABDULLOJONOV'S PARTICIPATION. Abdumalik Abdullojonov, the leader of the Tajik National Revival Movement, has sent a letter to the Tajik National Reconciliation Commission requesting that his group be included in current negotiations, Interfax reported on 23 April. Abdullojonov, a former prime minister, said that "no real peace will be reached in Tajikistan" until his movement is included. The commission rejected Abdullojonov's request, saying Abdullojonov's "initiatives can harm the tangible results already achieved in the [negotiating] process." Abdullojonov's movement, enjoys widespread in the northern Leninabad region. BP ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN SET TO BEGIN IN KAZAKHSTAN. At a 23 April session of the parliament at which a draft law on corruption was discussed, Alnur Musayev, chairman of the National Security Committee, said that "corruption is deeply rooted in Kazakhstan and poses a threat to the republic's national security," Interfax reported. He went on to say "if we don't take urgent and resolute measures, this threat will undermine the foundations of our state system." President Nursultan Nazarbayev said "anyone taking bribes is considered an opponent of the president's policy," ITAR-TASS reported. The parliament is expected to adopt the law in June. BP ARMENIA CONDEMNS AZERBAIJANI CHARGES OF "GENOCIDE." The Armenian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement responding to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's decree last month naming 31 March the "Day of the genocide of the Azerbaijani People." That decree claims that in the19th and 20th centuries, Armenia and its "protectors" implemented "a systematic policy of genocide" against the Azerbaijani people, expulsion of Azerbaijanis from the Armenian SSR, and dismemberment of Azerbaijan's historical territory. The Armenian Foreign Ministry rejected those claims as "senseless," unfounded, and aimed at erasing the memory of the genocide against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and elsewhere in Azerbaijan. It said Armenia "categorically condemns the unconstructive approach of the Azerbaijani authorities, which impedes the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict." "Nezavisimaya gazeta", which published Aliev's decree on 22 April, noted its anti-Russian tone and its promulgation one month before the upcoming CIS summit. LF DEFEATED ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE OPTIMISTIC. National Democratic Union chairman Vazgen Manukian told RFE/RL on 23 April that his party is gaining strength and many new members, despite his defeat in last month's early presidential election. Manukian came third in the first round of voting, which he later condemned as unfair. Manukian said his party "has remained clean" and will continue competing for power. He predicted that the party will have an important impact on future political developments in Armenia, but he refused to discuss its new strategy or the possibility of new opposition alliances in the runup to the next parliamentary elections. Manukian also denied reports that new President Robert Kocharian repeatedly offered him the post of prime minister. LF FIVE AZERBAIJANIS JAILED FOR PROTESTING RFE/RL BAN. Five people who took part in demonstrations in Baku on 22 April to protest the suspension of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani-language medium-wave broadcasts have been sentenced to between three and10 days in jail, AFP reported on 23 April. The Radio Liberty Defense Committee said on 23 April that it will stage further protests next week. LF RUSSIAN COMPANY ACQUIRES CONTROLLING STAKE IN GEORGIAN MANGANESE MINE. The Association of Industry, a Yekaterinburg-based joint-stock company, has paid $1 million for a 75 percent stake in the Chiatura manganese mine, Caucasus Press reported. Once one of the country's major industrial enterprises, the mine has been idle for the past two years. Meeting on 22 April with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Association of Industry president Aleksandr Vyatkin said his company will pay off the mine's estimated $60 million debt, fund reconstruction of the Chiatura municipal infrastructure, and create some 2,500 new jobs. LF REGIONAL AFFAIRS RUSSIAN, LATVIAN OFFICIALS MEET AMID DISPUTE. Latvia and Russia have had their first direct official contact since bilateral relations deteriorated last month over the Baltic State's ethnic Russian minority. Latvian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins was in Brussels on 23 April to meet with Russian acting Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev. Riekstins later told Reuters by telephone that the discussion had been "normal." But he would not say whether the talks were a step in improving ties between the two neighboring states. Riekstins also said there was agreement that further talks were necessary but added that no date had been set. JC KREMLIN SPOKESMAN SAYS LATVIA MUST CHANGE CITIZENSHIP LAW. Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Interfax on 23 April that Russia will not lift economic measures against Latvia unless Riga brings its legislation into line with European and international standards. He said that the amendments to the citizenship law submitted to the Latvian parliament this week are "just the very first step" toward "respect for the rights of Russian-speakers" living in Latvia. Yastrzhembskii argued that Russia is "not making super-demands" but that Riga should ensure the "free integration" of ethnic minorities into Latvian society and lift all restrictions on those minorities imposed by Latvian legislation. JC RUSSIAN ORGANIZATION TO VACATE RIGA BUILDING. The Russian Community of Latvia has agreed to vacate an historical building in downtown Riga within the next two weeks, "Diena" reported on 24 April. A small group of ethnic Russians refused earlier this week to leave the premises of the so- called Peter I Palace (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 1998). They have now reached an agreement with the building's new owner, the Estonian company MERKS, whereby they will have 14 days into which find alternative premises for their offices. The president of the Russian Community of Latvia warned, however, that the fight for the building was not over and that his organization will "continue to work" with the government to get the building back. JC MOSCOW WARNS VILNIUS AGAINST DEPORTING RUSSIAN CITIZEN. A Russian Foreign Ministry official has warned that Russian- Lithuanian relations could be harmed if Vilnius deports Russian citizen Valerii Ivanov, BNS reported on 23 April. Ivanov was jailed for 12 months last year for defaming the victims of the January 1991 Soviet crackdown in Vilnius; previously, he had served a prison sentence for backing the crackdown but was released after seven months under an amnesty. Lithuanian Interior Minister Vidmantas Ziemelis sent a petition to a Vilnius court earlier this week requesting that Ivanov be deported when he is released from prison in July. Russian Foreign Ministry official Vladimir Rakhmanin said that Moscow hopes Vilnius will "demonstrate good-will and humanism toward [Ivanov] and prevent actions that would impair the atmosphere of good-neighborly relations." JC END NOTE ARMENIANS REMEMBER 1915 GENOCIDE by Emil Danielyan Armenians throughout the world are today commemorating the 83rd anniversary of the genocide in which more than one million of their compatriots were massacred and another one million or so forced out of their homeland. In Yerevan, hundreds of thousands of people are to proceed slowly toward the genocide memorial on Tsitsernakabert Hill in order to pay tribute to the victims. Many scholars argue that the 1915 genocide was premeditated by the Ottoman Turkish leadership and aimed at the annihilation of Armenians (the largest remaining Christian minority) in the empire's eastern provinces. The arrest on 24 April 1915 of the entire Armenian intellectual elite of Constantinople and their subsequent execution signaled the start of the genocidal policy. Mass executions of Armenian males, who were mobilized into the Ottoman army but then disarmed, were followed by the systematic deportation of their families and the infamous "death marches" to the south. Most of the women, children, and elderly people forced to take part in those marches died in armed attacks, of hunger, or from disease before they could reach their destination, the Syrian desert. Those who survived took refuge in the Middle East and later in Europe and the Americas. A significant number of people escaped to the territory of the present Republic of Armenia. The huge number of victims and the loss of some 80 percent of their historical homeland deeply scarred the Armenians. Turkey, meanwhile, continues to deny the genocide. According to the official Turkish version, it was a "peaceful evacuation" of the treacherous Armenians to preclude their collaboration with advancing Russian troops. For generations of Diaspora Armenians--the direct descendants of survivors--achieving international recognition of the 1915 genocide has been their life's chief aim. Appeals to various governments and international organizations and demonstrations in front of Turkish embassies have been part and parcel of Diaspora life. The issue also has far-reaching implications for Armenia's foreign policy, in general, and relations with Turkey, in particular. The authorities of independent Armenia have so far not considered recognition of the genocide as a precondition for developing ties with Turkey. Nonetheless, there is still a deep divide between the two nations. Turkey continues to be regarded as the number one threat to the country's national security--hence, the desire to have a powerful foreign protector. Historically, it was Russia that took on that role. The Russian empire guaranteed the security of its Armenian citizens, something that Ottoman Armenians could only dream about. Even after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Moscow continued to play that role. The troops Russia maintains in Armenia will be welcome as long as there is no political reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey. Indeed, mutual trust between Ankara and Yerevan, a potentially strong stabilizing factor in the region, seems virtually impossible without agreement on the interpretation of the 1915 events. Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said earlier this week that the issue of recognizing the 1915 genocide will be on the agenda in the new government's dealings with Turkey, stressing that its inclusion will be "not for the sake of conflict but in order to establish more healthy cooperation." This is a significant shift from the policy of the Ter-Petrossian leadership, which had tried to sidestep the problem, at least in the short term. Many in Armenia opposed that policy, which they claim has not resulted in gestures of good will on the part of Turkey. They point out that Ankara closed its borders with Armenia, refused to establish diplomatic ties with its eastern neighbor, and gave unconditional backing to Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It may well be that by putting the issue on its agenda, Yerevan aims to have leverage to counter Turkish engagement in the Caucasus. Meanwhile, lack of recognition of the 1915 genocide undermines Turkish efforts to become involved in the Karabakh peace process. Armenia rejects such involvement out of hand. The average Armenian still identifies Azerbaijanis with Turks and looks at developments surrounding the Karabakh dispute through the prism of the 1915 genocide. Some analysts have suggested that a final peace in Karabakh may require Turkey to face its troubled past and finally recognize the events of 1915. But such a development does not seem likely in the near future. The author is a Yerevan-based RFE/RL correspondent. 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. 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