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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 84 Part I, 4 May 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 84 Part I, 4 May 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 COMPLETES SENIOR CABINET APPOINTMENTS * RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY TO CHECHNYA KIDNAPPED * MEDIATION EFFORTS QUELL FIGHTING OUTSIDE TAJIK CAPITAL End Note: RUBIK'S CUBE IN OSSETIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN COMPLETES SENIOR CABINET APPOINTMENTS. President Boris Yeltsin on 30 April signed decrees appointing 11 more government ministers, thereby filling most of the senior posts in the cabinet. Following a lengthy meeting with Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, Yeltsin named Oleg Sysuev as the third deputy prime minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 April 1998). Sysuev has been deputy prime minister since March 1997, but his new position is in effect a promotion since Kirienko has no first deputies and only three deputies. (Sysuev was one of eight deputy prime ministers in Viktor Chernomyrdin's government.) He will be tasked with coordinating the government's social policies. Yeltsin also kept on Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, who, like Sysuev, is considered ideologically close to Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and Unified Energy System chief executive Anatolii Chubais. The president is expected to name the rest of the new cabinet on 5 May. LB SEVERAL OLD HANDS STAY ON... Six of the 11 ministers appointed on 30 April served in the cabinet Yeltsin sacked in late March. Besides Sysuev and Urinson, Yeltsin kept on Farit Gazizullin as state property minister, a job he has held since last December. Natalya Dementeva will also stay on as culture minister, the post to which she was appointed last August. The president reappointed Vladimir Bulgak as minister for science and technology, although Bulgak, considered a close ally of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, lost the post of deputy prime minister and will no longer supervise matters related to the Communications Ministry. Sergei Frank, who became transportation minister in early March, will remain in that job. In another nod to continuity, Yeltsin named Pavel Krasheninnikov as justice minister. He had served as first deputy head of the Justice Ministry since last August and became acting justice minister in March, when Yeltsin picked Sergei Stepashin to head the Interior Ministry. LB ...WHILE SOME NEW BLOOD IN EVIDENCE. Sergei Generalov, whom Yeltsin appointed fuel and energy minister on 30 April, is the new cabinet's most senior official tapped from the business community. He was previously the deputy head of the Menatep bank, founded by Mikhail Khodorkovskii. (Khodorkovskii now heads the Yuksi oil company, the product of a merger between Yukos and Sibneft, which is part of CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii's business empire.) In appointing Generalov, Yeltsin passed over Viktor Ott, who was first deputy fuel and energy minister when Kirienko headed that ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1998). Yeltsin appointed Viktor Nekrutenko, an official from the government apparatus, to head the Natural Resources Ministry. Viktor Orlov had held that post since the ministry was created last August. Viktor Semonov, the former manager of a farm in Moscow Oblast and first deputy chairman of the Agroindustrial Union of Russia, became agriculture minister. Viktor Khlystun headed that ministry since May 1996. LB YABLOKO FACTION RECEIVES LABOR PORTFOLIO. Also on 30 April, Yeltsin appointed Duma deputy Oksana Dmitrieva as labor minister. Like Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, she suspended her membership in Yabloko upon joining the government. The Yabloko faction, the Duma's most consistent opponents of government policies, immediately released a statement saying Dmitrieva's decision to accept the post was "mistaken," ITAR-TASS reported. Political commentator Andrei Piontkovskii told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that Dmitrieva's appointment appears to be part of a government strategy to undermine Yabloko. Faction leader Grigorii Yavlinskii told NTV on 30 April that six or seven members of his faction were approached and that officials turned to Dmitrieva only after Tatyana Yarygina, a specialist on social issues, refused the labor portfolio. (Until now, Dmitrieva has headed a Duma subcommittee on the budget.) Yabloko member Aleksei Mikhailov was reportedly offered the job of fuel and energy minister. LB DECREE ABOLISHES FOREIGN TRADE, CIS MINISTRIES. Also on 30 April, Yeltsin signed a decree restructuring the executive branch, which liquidates the Foreign Trade Ministry, the Ministry for Cooperation with CIS States and several state committees and federal agencies, ITAR-TASS reported. A newly created Trade and Industry Ministry will take over some functions of the Foreign Trade and CIS Ministries, along with some responsibilities of the Economics Ministry. The Foreign Ministry will take over the rest of the functions previously handled by the Ministry on the CIS. The same decree creates a Ministry on Land Policy, Construction and the Housing and Utilities Sector, which will take care of matters previously handled by the State Land Committee, the State Committee on Housing and Construction Policy, and the Federal Service on Surveying and Cartography. The Ministry for Nationalities Affairs and Federative Relations has been renamed the Ministry for Regional and Nationalities Policy. LB RYBKIN LEFT OUT IN THE COLD. The latest government appointments suggest that Yeltsin will not name Ivan Rybkin to the new cabinet. Rybkin was Security Council Secretary from October 1996 until March 1998, when Yeltsin appointed him deputy prime minister in charge of CIS issues--a post that no longer exists. Rybkin is considered close to Boris Berezovskii, who reportedly worked behind the scenes to persuade Yeltsin to appoint Rybkin as prime minister. Meanwhile, the Socialist Party headed by Rybkin held its second congress in Moscow on 3 May, ITAR-TASS reported. The party is likely to compete in the parliamentary elections scheduled for 1999, but its prospects are poor. An electoral bloc headed by Rybkin gained just 1.1 percent of the vote in the 1995 elections to the State Duma. LB COMMUNIST REPORTEDLY TURNS DOWN CABINET POST. Duma Economic Policy Committee Chairman Yurii Maslyukov of the Communist faction has rejected an offer to serve as minister in charge of the government's council of experts, an unnamed government source told Interfax on 1 May. Maslyukov headed the Soviet state planning agency, Gosplan, during the Gorbachev period. One of only two Communist Duma deputies who supported Kirienko's confirmation in the second ballot (which was held by open vote), he was considered among the Communists most likely to be offered a cabinet post. Some media speculated that Yeltsin would appoint Maslyukov as economics minister. The source quoted by Interfax did not say why Maslyukov turned down the post offered to him, which would have involved little authority. LB REACTION TO CHUBAIS'S APPOINTMENT. Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov, a senior Communist Party official, told Interfax on 30 April that the appointment of Chubais as chief executive of Unified Energy System is "further confirmation that the regime of Boris Yeltsin is authoritarian." Duma Geopolitics Committee Chairman Aleksei Mitrofanov of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia argued that in his new job, Chubais will wield more power than he had in the government and may use that authority to help finance a candidate in the next presidential election. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kirienko announced on 30 April that Chubais has six months to prove himself and will be fired this fall if he does not handle his new duties well. Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev were among the influential politicians who recently spoke out against putting Chubais in charge of the electricity giant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 30 April 1998). LB LUZHKOV WARNS CHUBAIS NOT TO HARM MOSCOW'S INTERESTS. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 30 April predicted that Chubais will a "good administrator" in the energy sector and said his latest appointment may be "useful," ITAR-TASS reported. But while saying the Moscow city government is ready to cooperate with the electricity giant, Luzhkov warned that "the situation will change radically" if the company's policies harm the interests of Muscovites. For years, Luzhkov has been a vocal critic of economic policies endorsed by Chubais, especially the government's privatization program. Last fall, the mayor and then First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais sparred over whether the federal government should continue to compensate the city of Moscow for the costs of maintaining federal facilities in the capital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 1997). Compensation payments were eventually included in the 1998 budget. LB RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY TO CHECHNYA KIDNAPPED. The whereabouts of Valentin Vlasov are still unknown three days after armed men intercepted his car near the Ingush village of Assinovskaya on 1 May and abducted him. Chechen law enforcement agencies arrested Vlasov's Chechen driver and bodyguard the following day on suspicion of complicity in the kidnapping. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, CIS executive secretary Boris Berezovskii, and former Russian Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin all condemned the kidnapping as a political act intended to sabotage peace talks between Russia and Chechnya and to destabilize the North Caucasus. Maskhadov imposed additional security measures throughout Chechnya and appointed a special commission to locate Vlasov, but a senior Chechen official denied Russian media reports that Maskhadov has offered a $100,000 reward for information on the abductors. On 3 May, a joint Russian-Chechen headquarters was established in Ingushetia to coordinate the search for Vlasov. LF FINANCE MINISTRY SEEKS DEEP SPENDING CUTS. The Finance Ministry has proposed cutting federal budget spending by 62.4 billion rubles ($10.2 billion) this year, Russian news agencies reported on 30 April. The proposed cuts amount to 12.5 percent of all spending mapped out in the 1998 budget. The ministry has predicted that 1998 revenues will fall 63.9 billion rubles short of budget targets and will total 303.6 billion rubles for the year. Poor tax collection and the slump in world oil prices have cut into projected revenues. Speaking in the Federation Council before he was confirmed as prime minister, Kirienko said the government was drafting proposals on some 35-40 billion rubles in spending cuts. The Finance Ministry's announcement came during a Moscow visit by a team of IMF experts, who are checking Russia's compliance with the terms for continued disbursement of a four-year, $10 billion IMF loan. LB COMMUNISTS, TRADE UNIONS DEMONSTRATE ON MAY DAY. Some 173,000 people participated in more than 330 rallies held across the Russian Federation to mark 1 May, a traditional labor holiday, ITAR-TASS reported, citing Interior Ministry estimates. The Communist Party and allied political groups, including Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin's Movement to Support the Army, drew a crowd of some 30,000 on Moscow's Teatralnaya Square. Addressing that rally, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov lambasted Yeltsin and the new government. The Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR) organized a separate demonstration in Moscow, during which FNPR leader Mikhail Shmakov warned that the new cabinet "won't last a hundred days" if it tries to get by on promises alone, Reuters reported. Speaking to Interfax during that demonstration, Shmakov remarked that new Labor Minister Oksana Dmitrieva is not an expert on labor relations and was "not the best choice" to head the Labor Ministry. LB ANOTHER SUSPECT CHARGED IN KHOLODOV CASE. The Prosecutor- General's Office has filed criminal charges against a third suspect in the October 1994 murder of investigative journalist Dmitrii Kholodov, Interfax reported on 30 April. The authorities have not named the suspect but say he is a civilian. Two officers have already been charged with premeditated murder in connection with the case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 1998). LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA MEDIATION EFFORTS QUELL FIGHTING OUTSIDE TAJIK CAPITAL. Fighting that broke out just east of Dushanbe on 29 April between government forces and a group nominally associated with the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) has ceased following intensive mediation efforts. President Imomali Rakhmonov on 2 May held talks with the deputy leader of the UTO, Khoja Akbar Turajonzoda, to mediate the dispute. The same day, UN observers and government and opposition representatives met with the rebel group in the village of Teppoi-Samarkandi, 12 kilometers east of the Dushanbe, and reached an agreement on a cease-fire. Road check-points were established on the highway from Dushanbe to Kofarnikhon with the help of both government and UTO troops. The situation in Dushanbe was calm on 4 May, RFE/RL correspondents in the Tajik capital reported. BP BACKGROUND TO FIGHTING. The conflict began on 29 April after the Tajik government had issued an ultimatum to the UTO- affiliated group to withdraw to an area 12-15 kilometers outside Dushanbe by 16:00 local time. The deadline was extended by 90 minutes, but the group failed to comply with it. The government responded by ordering a military operation, with tanks and artillery, to clear the group from the capital's outskirts. Some members of the rebel group took up positions on hilltops in the capital and fired on the presidential palace and the Pakistani Embassy. No one was hurt at either location, though the embassy sustained some structural damage. Some 20 government soldiers, five rebel fighters, and 26 civilians are reported killed in the fighting. Those figures, however, are expected to rise as aid workers search for missing persons. BP UZBEKISTAN TIGHTENS CONTROLS OVER RELIGIOUS GROUPS. The parliament on 1 May passed a law imposing new restrictions on religious groups, Reuters and Interfax reported. The law requires all mosques and all religious groups with more than 100 members to register. Attending the parliamentary session, President Islam Karimov spoke out harshly against one such group, the Wahhabis, whom he accused of seeking to turn Uzbekistan into a second Tajikistan by "killing officials [and destroying] food factories, powers stations, and other strategic installations." Karimov added that "such people must be shot in the head. If necessary, I'll shoot them myself, if you lack the resolve." Wahhabis were blamed for violence that broke out in the city of Namangan last December in which several police officials were killed. BP KYRGYZSTAN ARRESTS UYGHUR SEPARATISTS. ITAR-TASS on 1 May reported that Kyrgyz authorities have arrested 20 Uyghurs who were allegedly involved in terrorist activities. According to Kyrgyz press reports cited by the Russian agency, those arrested belong to the organization "For Free Eastern Turkestan" and were in possession of weapons and Wahhabi training videos at the time of their arrest. "Vecherny Bishkek" reported the same day that many of the arrests took place in early April and began with an Uyghur citizen of China identified only as "Kasarli," who is alleged to have helped Kyrgyz youth travel abroad for Wahhabi training, mainly to Pakistan. The article claims Wahhabis have mosques not only in the Fergana Valley near Osh but also around Bishkek and in Kyrgyzstan's northern Chu Valley. It concludes by saying that the Kyrgyz Commission on Religious Affairs is unable "to resist the religious fundamentalist invasion." BP ARMENIA CLARIFIES POSITION ON BEREZOVSKII... President Robert Kocharian on 30 April said he does not oppose the appointment of Boris Berezovskii as CIS executive secretary but added that he has certain reservations about Berezovskii because of the constant "tension" surrounding him, ITAR-TASS reported. But Kocharian also said he had insisted that in compliance with the regulations on appointing CIS executives, Berezovskii's appointment should be reconfirmed within three months, Noyan Tapan reported. Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii had told Interfax the previous day that Berezovskii's appointment had been supported by all summit participants except Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 1998). LF ...AND CIS SUMMIT. Kocharian positively assessed the 29 April summit, which he said "opened the possibility for new development" of the CIS. He advocated rotating the chairmanship of the various CIS bodies, arguing that this would provide an incentive for member states to put forward specific problems and seek a solution to them within a given period. Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian told "RFE/RL Newsline" on 1 May that the draft Declaration on Further Equal Partnership and Cooperation within the CIS was not "put for signature" but that a decision on its adoption was postponed at the suggestion of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev. Interfax had reported on 29 April that several summit participants had refused to sign that draft. LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT OUTLINES MILITARY PRIORITIES. Eduard Shevardnadze on 30 April awarded newly appointed Defense Minister David Tevzadze the rank of major-general, calling the military leader "a brilliant specialist and a good warrior," Caucasus Press reported. Presenting Tevzadze to ministry staff the same day, the president argued that Georgia's national army must be "mobile, compact, and capable," according to Interfax. Shevardnadze said that Tevzadze's top priorities should be to improve living conditions for servicemen and to make military service "as safe as possible." Nodar Epremidze, president of the Society for the Rights of Soldiers, had told a 27 April news conference in Tbilisi that servicemen live in "elementary" conditions, exist on food that is extremely low in calories, and have ammunition and uniforms that do not meet required standards. LF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION SLAMS ELECTION LEGISLATION. Several Azerbaijani opposition figures have harshly criticized the draft laws on the Central Electoral Commission and on presidential elections, Turan reported on 30 April. The bill on the commission stipulates that 12 of the body's 24 members are appointed by the president and the remaining 12 by the parliament. The bill on presidential elections, which was passed in the first reading on 30 April, restricts the right to propose presidential candidates to political parties that are legally registered with the Ministry of Justice six months before elections, according to ITAR-TASS. Azerbaijan Popular Front Deputy Chairman Ali Kerimov said the requirement that would-be presidential candidates collect 50,000 signatures in order to register, including a minimum of 400 from each raion, is "unfair." Musavat party chairman Isa Gambar said the draft laws deal not with electing but appointing the president. LF END NOTE RUBIK'S CUBE IN OSSETIA by Liz Fuller It is unclear whether the draft document adopted at last week's CIS summit on resolving the conflict in Abkhazia will have the desired effect. But the January 1998 election of Aleksandr Dzasokhov as president of North Ossetia has given new impetus to the search for solutions to two other Caucasian conflicts--between North Ossetia and Ingushetia and between Georgia and South Ossetia. Dzasokhov immediately established a cordial working relationship with his Ingushetian counterpart, Ruslan Aushev, who had had strained relations with Dzasokhov's predecessor, Akhsarbek Galazov. Dzasokhov also assumed the task of mediating between the leadership of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia and the Georgian government to reach a framework agreement for restoring formal relations between the two. (In late 1990, the nationalist Georgian leadership of Zviad Gamsakhurdia responded to South Ossetia's demands to secede from Georgia by abolishing the region's autonomous status within that country. The move triggered intensive fighting in South Ossetia between Georgian Interior Ministry forces and local Ossetian paramilitaries as well as a violent backlash against Ossetians living elsewhere in Georgia. In all, some 100,000 Ossetians fled north from Georgia to escape the threat of ethnic cleansing. ) It is unclear whether Dzasokhov can claim some of the credit for the recent rapprochement between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali. A planned meeting of Georgian and South Ossetian leaders in December 1997 was canceled, allegedly because of what the former considered to be the latter's unacceptable demands: a Georgian spokesman said at the time that Chibirov continued to insist on his unrecognized republic's independence from Georgia and unification with North Ossetia. In his annual address to the parliament in March of this year, however, Chibirov called for renewed talks with Tbilisi on establishing "equal and mutually beneficial relations" on condition that such relations do not infringe on South Ossetia's "sovereignty." He also listed as a priority "greater integration" with North Ossetia," including the creation of a "common economic space." The Georgian leadership, for its part, has signaled its readiness to begin contributing to the South Ossetian budget (since 1992 the region has been funded entirely by Moscow), and a working group has been set up to discuss restoring transportation links. The one issue crucial to resolving both the Georgian- South Ossetia and the Ossetian-Ingush conflicts is the repatriation of those forced to flee their homes during the fighting. More than 40,000 Ossetians who fled Georgia from 1990-1992 settled in North Ossetia. Of those, some 16,000 occupied houses in North Ossetia's Prigorodnyi Raion after they were abandoned by ethnic Ingush during the fighting there in November 1992. Prigorodnyi Raion had originally been part of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR but was incorporated into North Ossetia following the deportation of both the Chechens and Ingush to Central Asia in 1944 and the ensuing abolition of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR as a territorial administrative unit. Following Secretary-General Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 "secret speech" to the 20th congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the deportees were allowed to return. But latent tensions between Ossetians and Ingush repatriates rose to the surface in 1991-1992 when the Ingush demanded the return of Prigorodnyi Raion. In late October 1992, those tensions erupted into fighting between Ingush informal militias and North Ossetian security forces backed by Russian Interior Ministry and army troops. In six days of violence, up to 700 people were killed and thousands of homes, mostly belonging to Ingush, destroyed. Almost the entire Ingush population of the district--estimates range from 34,000 to 64,000 people--fled to Ingushetia. Failure to expedite the return of those Ingush to North Ossetia was one of the factors that bedeviled relations between Galazov and Aushev. Vladimir Kalamanov, Russian President Boris Yeltsin's envoy to North Ossetia and Ingushetia, recently reasoned that the return of the Ingush to North Ossetia can neither be planned nor implemented in isolation but should be part of a broader effort that includes the repatriation to Georgia of the Ossetian refugees, some of whom are currently living in Ingush homes. That undertaking, however, is likely to prove problematic, given that the majority of Ossetian refugees currently domiciled in Prigorodnyi Raion are not from South Ossetia but from elsewhere in Georgia and are convinced that their lives would be in danger if they returned there. (In contrast, 52 Ossetian families returned last year from Ingushetia to South Ossetia.) Over the past five years, the Ossetian refugees from Georgia have put down firm roots in Prigorodnyi Raion, taking over the role in trade (and, according to one commentator, in crime) that was once played by the Ingush. While agreement has been reached on providing funds to enable Ingush who wish to return to Prigorodnyi Raion to build new homes there, the returnees' prospects of finding employment are dismal in view of North Ossetia's 50 percent unemployment rate. All the factors outlined above suggest that the large- scale, Rubik's Cube-type repatriation proposed by Kalamanov is utopian. Even the return of smaller numbers of Ingush to Prigorodnyi Raion might spark new tensions and rivalries with the recent Ossetian settlers, thereby undermining the chances for a lasting reconciliation between the two ethnic groups. 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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