|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 83 Part I, 30 April 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 83 Part I, 30 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 Note to readers: RFE/RL Newsline will not appear tomorrow, 1 May, a public holiday in the Czech Republic. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * CHUBAIS TO HEAD ELECTRICITY GIANT * CIS SUMMIT SIGNS OFF ON PERSONNEL APPOINTMENTS * KYRGYZ PRESIDENT WRAPS UP VISIT TO CHINA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA CHUBAIS TO HEAD ELECTRICITY GIANT. The board of directors of the electricity giant Unified Energy System (EES) on 30 April appointed former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais as the company's chief executive, Interfax reported. Opposition politicians and some influential businessmen have spoken out against putting Chubais in charge of EES, which owns controlling stakes in most Russian regional utilities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1998). Also on 30 April, President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko met at Yeltsin's residence outside Moscow to discuss the composition of the new government. At press time, no new cabinet appointments had been announced. LB OFFICIALS DEFINE DUTIES OF DEPUTY PRIME MINISTERS. Kirienko announced during a cabinet session on 30 April that Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko's duties will be similar to those performed by former First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais in the last government, NTV reported. Khristenko will supervise budget revenues and expenditures, placing special emphasis on budget relations between the federal and regional governments. Federal officials have repeatedly said that regional authorities will have to comply with certain policies (for instance, plans to reduce subsidies for housing and utilities) in order to receive transfers from the federal budget. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov will supervise energy policy and natural monopolies in the energy and transportation sectors, Reuters and AFP reported on 29 April, citing a document posted to Nemtsov's official page on the Internet. The third deputy prime minister will be in charge of social policies, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 April. LB WHO IS VIKTOR KHRISTENKO? Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko is not well known in Moscow or outside the capital. Although some media have described him as a technocrat, he is no stranger to partisan politics. He managed Yeltsin's re- election campaign in Chelyabinsk Oblast in 1996, RFE/RL's correspondent in Chelyabinsk reported on 29 April. (Yeltsin outpolled Communist candidate Gennadii Zyuganov in the region by 58.5 percent to 35 percent.) After a Communist-backed candidate won the December 1996 gubernatorial election in Chelyabinsk, Khristenko lost his job as first deputy governor in charge of economic issues but was appointed presidential representative in the region. Like fellow Chelyabinsk native Aleksandr Pochinok, who became head of the State Tax Service in April 1997, Khristenko is considered an ally of Chubais. He was appointed deputy finance minister in July 1997, four months after Chubais became the head of the Finance Ministry. LB MIXED REACTION TO BEREZOVSKII APPOINTMENT. Prime Minister Kirienko was restrained in his comments on Boris Berezovskii's appointment as executive secretary of the CIS. Kirienko said the Russian government is "ready to work with all people" oriented toward developing the commonwealth, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 April. Speaking to journalists in Israel the same day, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said his attitude toward Berezovskii remains unchanged, adding that "I do not believe that Berezovskii can do anything useful for Russia," Interfax reported. Popular Power State Duma faction leader Nikolai Ryzhkov also criticized the appointment. In contrast, former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed told reporters in Krasnoyarsk that Berezovskii's "energy and enthusiasm" will help move CIS integration forward, Interfax reported. (Berezovskii is helping finance Lebed's gubernatorial campaign in Krasnoyarsk.) Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov also praised the appointment, describing Berezovskii as "one of the sober-minded politicians" able to assess the situation in the Caucasus. LB ZYUGANOV SLAMS NEW GOVERNMENT. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 30 April described the new cabinet as the "third edition" of the government of former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, "with the teeth of Chubais," NTV reported. He argued that "the course of the new government is the same," saying Kirienko will implement policies supported by the IMF. However, Zyuganov said "the situation in the country continues to deteriorate" and again called for the formation of a "government of popular trust" in order to change Russia's policy priorities. Zyuganov said the Communist Party will not carry out "witch hunts" against members who broke party discipline by voting to confirm Kirienko, ITAR-TASS reported. He said the grassroots party organizations that nominated those people for seats in the State Duma will examine their actions and take the "necessary decisions." LB NEWSPAPERS CONCERNED ABOUT IMF'S INFLUENCE. "Tribuna" argued on 29 April that Russia's economic policies harm the interests of the country's own citizens and favor international creditors. The newspaper criticized the government and Central Bank's joint statement on economic policy for 1998, which, it said, was prepared in the IMF's Moscow office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1998). Among other things, it charged that policies outlined in that statement would allow foreign investors to buy Russia's remaining strategic natural resources. "Moskovskii komsomolets" also criticized numerous aspects of the joint policy statement in its 28 April edition, arguing that "Russia has lost all its economic sovereignty." "Tribuna" (formerly "Rabochaya tribuna") is financed by the gas monopoly Gazprom. "Moskovskii komsomolets" is close to Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, who has described Russia's "dependence" on the IMF as a "disgrace" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1997). LB ZYUGANOV OPPOSES START-2 RATIFICATION. Zyuganov told journalists on 30 April that "it makes no sense" to ratify the START-2 arms control treaty now, when, in his view, all aspects of Russian security have been weakened, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported. U.S. and Russian officials have expressed hope that the treaty will be ratified during the first half of 1998, paving the way for a summit between Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton later this year. But on 29 April, the State Duma's analytical department issued a report concluding that the START-2 treaty contains several clauses that "jeopardize [Russia's] national security interests," Interfax reported. The report argued that the treaty allows the U.S. to "reduce" its nuclear stockpile without "dismantling" weapons, allowing it to more than double its nuclear arsenal if an emergency arose. LB RUSSIA, NATO OFFICIALS DISCUSS TACTICAL NUKES. The NATO- Russia Permanent Joint Council discussed short-range nuclear weapons at a regular monthly session in Brussels on 29 April, Reuters and an RFE/RL correspondent in the Belgian capital reported. Officials from both sides confirmed that Russia and NATO are not targeting their nuclear arsenals at each other. U.S., British, and French officials gave detailed presentations about reductions of their countries' nuclear stockpiles. Russian officials at the meeting said Russia has reduced its tactical nuclear arsenal by some 50 percent, but their account was not as detailed as the presentations by their NATO counterparts. An unnamed NATO official told journalists that the Western alliance is interested in more information about what type of tactical nuclear weapons Russia plans to keep. LB TYUMEN OIL COMPANY GETS ANOTHER CHANCE. The president's commission on strengthening tax and budget discipline has approved a schedule of payments to the Pension Fund for the Tyumen Oil Company, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 April. Prime Minister Kirienko chaired the meeting and warned that if the oil company does not meet the payments schedule, the state will take all possible legal measures against it. If there are no grounds for annulling the contract under which the state sold a 40 percent stake in the company last year, Kirienko said that officials in the State Property Ministry and Russian Federal Property Fund will be punished. Kirienko recently warned that the government would annul the privatization of the Tyumen Oil Company if it did not meet its obligation to pay 600 billion old rubles ($98 million) in debts to the Pension Fund (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 April 1998). LB COMMUNISTS OPPOSE BOTH CANDIDATES IN KRASNOYARSK. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed's gubernatorial campaign received a boost on 29 April when the Krasnoyarsk Krai branch of the Communist Party decided to advise its supporters to vote against both Lebed and incumbent Valerii Zubov in the runoff election on 17 May. Communist candidate Petr Romanov, who received 13 percent of the vote in the first round of the election, told Interfax that he will not tell his supporters to back either Lebed or Zubov, even if the Communist Party leadership changes its mind on the matter. The Communist stand will make it even more difficult for Zubov to beat Lebed after trailing by 10 percent in the first round. LB NEWSPAPER SEES PLAN TO ANNUL ELECTION. "Segodnya" speculated on 29 April that the ground is being prepared to annul the Krasnoyarsk election. The newspaper noted that Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko has said Lebed received two warnings about violations of campaign regulations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April 1998). The mayoral election in Nizhnii Novgorod in late March, which a controversial candidate won, was annulled because of alleged violations during the campaign. Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Zyuganov told journalists on 30 April that the violations before the first round of the Krasnoyarsk election were more flagrant than in any other regional campaign he has witnessed, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He alleged that Lebed's campaign handed out numerous gifts for prospective voters in the countryside. Support for Lebed was strongest in rural areas and small cities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 1998). LB COURT STRIKES DOWN ELECTORAL RULES IN BASHKORTOSTAN. The Constitutional Court has struck down provisions of Bashkortostan's constitution and electoral law that set residency requirements and age limits for the republic's president, "Russkii telegraf" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 April. Formally, the court did not strike down the requirement that presidential candidates know both the Bashkir and Russian languages (which would exclude most of the republic's residents) on the grounds that Bashkortostan has no legislation specifying the required level of language proficiency. Pending the adoption of such regulations, the court said that citizens' right to participate in the electoral process should not depend on language proficiency. The court has therefore ordered that language restrictions not be applied during the runup to the presidential election in Bashkortostan, scheduled for 14 June. LB BASHKORTOSTANI LEGISLATION NOT ISOLATED CASE. "Russkii telegraf" noted on 28 April that language restrictions on candidates for political office violate both the Russian Constitution and the law on guarantees of voters' rights. But Bashkortostan is not the only republic with such requirements for presidential candidates. According to the 28 April edition of "Kommersant-Daily," Buryatia, Sakha (Yakutia), North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Tatarstan, Tyva, and Adygea also require that presidential candidates know the republic's titular language as well as Russian. LB REGIONAL AFFAIRS CIS SUMMIT SIGNS OFF ON PERSONNEL APPOINTMENTS... In addition to appointing Berezovskii as CIS executive secretary, the CIS summit participants decided that Yeltsin will remain chairman of the CIS Heads-of-State Council until 2000. They also appointed Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov chairman of the CIS Council of Heads of Government and Aueznur Kazhenov as chairman of the CIS Economic Court. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told Interfax on 29 April that by re-electing Yeltsin as chairman of the CIS Council of Heads of State, CIS leaders have stressed "there is no alternative" to the commonwealth. He added the Moscow summit showed that reform has begun in the CIS. Commenting on Berezovskii's appointment as CIS executive secretary, Kuchma said "I like intelligent people." LF/JM ...BUT FAILS TO ADOPT KEY DOCUMENTS. Participants at the 29 April CIS summit failed to adopt proposals drafted by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev on creating a single economic space and a free trade zone within the CIS. They did agree, however, to discuss proposals for its reform at a CIS interstate forum in July. The presidents also failed to adopt a draft Declaration on Further Equal Partnership and Cooperation, which, according to a Ukrainian official quoted by Interfax, was rejected by unspecified participants because it did not explicitly affirm the territorial integrity of CIS member states. But Caucasus Press quoted a member of the Georgian delegation as saying that the draft affirms support for the territorial integrity of member states and that Armenia has therefore refused to sign it. At a session of the CIS Foreign Ministers' Council on 28 April, the representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Turkmenistan, and Moldova refused to sign the draft, Noyan Tapan reported. LF CIS PRESIDENTS NOT UNANIMOUS IN SUPPORTING BEREZOVSKII? It is still unclear from Russian media reports how Berezovskii's candidacy for the post of CIS executive secretary was decided on. Yeltsin said that Berezovskii was proposed by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, but "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 April quoted Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev as claiming that Kuchma and Shevardnadze jointly suggested Kuchma after a lengthy argument between the presidents. Acting Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Rybkin, rumored to have been instrumental in proposing Berezovskii's candidacy, said that a total of seven possible candidates were discussed, including Yabloko faction leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko. Russian Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said that Berezovskii's candidacy was approved by all CIS presidents except for Armenia's Robert Kocharian, who canceled a scheduled post-summit press conference, Interfax reported. LF BEREZOVSKII OUTLINES CIS PRIORITIES. In an interview with ITAR-TASS on 29 April, Berezovskii said his most immediate task as CIS executive secretary will be preparing for the planned July forum to discuss reforming the CIS. He declined, however, to comment on how the CIS might be transformed into a "real commonwealth." Berezovskii said that the CIS's main achievements include the fact that it has not fallen apart and that relations between its members have been maintained at a level that "exceeds the mundane." LF PARTICIPANTS GIVE DIFFERENT POST-SUMMIT ASSESSMENTS. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists that the summit proved the CIS is needed "and will continue to exist and develop," although he admitted that it needs radical restructuring, ITAR-TASS reported. His Turkmen colleague, Saparmurat Niyazov, commented that for the first time, "we took into account...the experience and specifics of independent development" of the CIS member states. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, however, said the CIS heads of state summit was as fruitless as the previous day's CIS Customs Union meeting was profitable. He deplored the lack of progress toward reform. LF LUKASHENKA CRITICAL ABOUT CIS SUMMIT. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in Moscow on 29 April that the CIS summit has failed to agree on meaningful reform and restructuring of the commonwealth, adding that those issues will be discussed at the CIS interstate forum in July. Lukashenka argued that as long as there are no mechanisms for implementing CIS decisions, the commonwealth will remain a "talking shop." He also expressed satisfaction over the appointment of Boris Berezovskii as CIS executive secretary. "Berezovskii is able to fulfill his functions with our support," Interfax quoted the Belarusian leader as saying. JM TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DISCLOSES DETAILS OF ABKHAZ SETTLEMENT. Eduard Shevardnadze told Interfax on 29 April that the document on resolving the Abkhaz conflict endorsed by eight of the 11 CIS summit participants defines Georgia as a federation of which Abkhazia is a constituent part. It also proposes that an Abkhaz should head the federal Senate. Shevardnadze expressed satisfaction that the summit agreed to the redeployment of the CIS Abkhaz peacekeeping force throughout Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. He also greeted the appointment of Major-General Sergei Korobko to command that force, as did Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba. But Ardzinba has warned that Abkhazia will resort to armed resistance if the peacekeeping force is redeployed without its consent, while the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus has offered Abkhazia military support, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 April. The previous day, eight Abkhaz were killed in a clash with Georgian guerrillas in Gali, Caucasus Press reported. LF AZERBAIJANI ARMY OFFICER SENTENCED FOR SUBWAY BOMBING. The Azerbaijani Supreme Court on 29 April sentenced former army Captain Azer Aslanov to life imprisonment for masterminding a bomb explosion in the Baku metro in April 1994 that killed 13 people, Turan and Interfax reported. Aslanov, an ethnic Lezgin, pleaded not guilty to the charges. He said he was taken prisoner by Armenia in January 1994 and coerced into organizing the bombing; later, he said, he served in a private military formation in Dagestan. Armenian officials have denied any connection with Aslanov, whom the Russian Federal Security Service extradited to Azerbaijan in 1996. Seven other Lezgins were sentenced in March,1997 for their role in the explosion (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 21 February and 20 March 1997). LF IRAN DENIES RUSSIAN STEEL SHIPMENT INTENDED FOR MILITARY USE. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman on 29 April said the consignment of stainless steel plates intercepted by Azerbaijani customs officials on the Azerbaijani-Iranian frontier last month was not intended for the production of ballistic missiles (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 1998). He added that the alloy could have been ordered by a company in the private sector for civilian use. LF PROMINENT ARMENIAN POLITICIAN ARRESTED FOR ASSAULT. Ararat Zurabian, the deputy chairman of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (ARFD), was arrested in Yerevan on 27 April, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Zurabian has been charged with assault after he and a group of associates beat up Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHSh) party member Aghvan Vartanian in a Yerevan cafe. Vartanian is close to President Robert Kocharian and was his press spokesman during recent presidential election campaign. The ARFD newspaper "Yerkir" reported on 29 April that HHSh chairman Vano Siradeghian was in the cafe and "watched calmly" as Vartanian was beaten up. Siradeghian refused to comment on the incident when asked by RFE/RL the previous day. LF KYRGYZ PRESIDENT WRAPS UP VISIT TO CHINA... Askar Akayev wrapped up his five-day official visit to China on 30 April, RFE/RL correspondents in Beijing reported. During his visit, Akayev met with Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji and speaker of the parliament Li Peng. Zhu noted that trade with Kyrgyzstan has increased 1,000 percent since 1992. Akayev invited China to buy antimony and hydro-electric power from Kyrgyzstan and invest in Kyrgyz hydro-electric projects. Talks with Li Peng centered on the CIS-Chinese border agreement, to which Russia, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan are also parties. BP ...AFTER RELEASING STATEMENT WITH CHINESE PRESIDENT. In a statement released on 27 April, Akayev and Chinese President Jiang Zemin praised the confidence-building measures provided in the CIS-Chinese border agreement, Beijing's Xinhua news agency reported. They agreed to further develop economic ties, improve road, rail, and aviation links, increase cooperation in environmental protection, and work together to fight organized crime, terrorism, and drug and arms smuggling. Kyrgyzstan affirmed its recognition of Beijing's position on Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang. In return, China agreed to a "nuclear-free Central Asia," which is particularly important for the Kyrgyz as China's Lop Nor nuclear testing site is close to Kyrgyzstan's eastern border. BP FORCES OF TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION CLASH. Fighting broke out between forces of the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition 10 kilometers east of Dushanbe on 30 April, RFE/RL correspondents reported. At least three government soldiers are reported dead and eight wounded . UTO casualties have not been reported. Opposition fighters attacked a road checkpoint outside the town of Rokhaty. Gun fire was also reported in the Kofarnikhon region, where last month the most severe fighting between government and UTO forces took place since the signing last June of the peace accord. 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. 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