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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 86 Part I, 6 May 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 86 Part I, 6 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 * KIRIENKO FORMS GOVERNMENT PRESIDIUM * FORMER PRIVATIZATION CHIEF CHARGED WITH EMBEZZLEMENT * THIRD ATTACK ON GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ANTICIPATED xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA KIRIENKO FORMS GOVERNMENT PRESIDIUM. Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko on 5 May appointed an eight-member government presidium, Russian news agencies said. The presidium will consist of Kirienko, Deputy Prime Ministers Boris Nemtsov, Viktor Khristenko and Oleg Sysuev, Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, State Property Minister Farit Gazizullin, and Science and Technology Minister Vladimir Bulgak. Officials have not yet announced the precise functions of the presidium. Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told journalists on 5 May that Kirienko's government will have more authority than the government Yeltsin sacked in March, but also more responsibilities, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Draft government documents will no longer have to be cleared by the presidential administration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1998). LB YELTSIN APPOINTS LAND POLICY MINISTER. Also on 5 May, President Boris Yeltsin appointed Ilya Yuzhanov head of the newly created Ministry of Land Policy, Construction and the Housing and Utilities Sector, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Since May 1997, Yuzhanov has headed the State Land Committee, which no longer exists. Before that, he chaired the St. Petersburg Committee on Land Resources for three years. His appointment suggests that there will be continued friction between the legislature and the executive over the adoption of a land code. Yuzhanov was a harsh critic of the code passed by the parliament last year, and he also opposed a protocol Yeltsin signed last December, which called for drafting a compromise version of that code (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July and 25 September 1997 and 8 January 1998). Several cabinet posts remain unfilled, including the head of the newly created Trade and Industry Ministry and the head of the renamed Ministry for Regional and Nationalities Policy. LB RYBKIN'S FUTURE STATUS UNCLEAR. Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii announced on 6 May that Ivan Rybkin will stay in the government and will continue to be involved in CIS affairs, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that Rybkin's future status has not yet been determined. His most recent post, that of deputy prime minister for CIS affairs, no longer exists, and the Ministry for Cooperation with CIS States has been liquidated. Rybkin is rumored to be under consideration for the job of deputy foreign minister in charge of relations with the CIS. But ITAR-TASS quoted unnamed sources in the presidential administration as saying Rybkin is also a candidate for the post of presidential representative in the North Caucasus. Former Deputy Prime Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov is reportedly being considered for that post as well. LB TOP GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN RESIGNS. Igor Shabdurasulov has resigned as the head of the government's Culture and Information Department, a post he has held since October 1996, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 May. Shabdurasulov declined to specify the reason for his resignation from the government apparatus, where he has worked since 1992. He is considered a close ally of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. He said he has not yet decided on a new job. Once he leaves public service, it is not clear whether Shabdurasulov will be able to remain on the board of directors of the 51 percent state-owned Russian Public Television network (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 18 February 1998). LB YELTSIN ORDAINS STRICTER CONTROLS ON MILITARY TECHNOLOGY EXPORTS. Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii told journalists on 5 May that Yeltsin has instructed the government to draft measures to ensure that exports of military and dual-purpose technology are more stringently monitored, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin termed such controls an important national security policy. LF THE MOSCOW-BEIJING HOTLINE STARTS FUNCTIONING. The Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministries exchanged notes on 3 May confirming the start of the hotline between the two countries' presidents, ITAR-TASS reported. It is the first hotline between the Chinese president and leader of another state. In other news, a senior official from Russia's airplane manufacturing company, Aviaprom, said Russia and China are ready to set up a joint corporation, Interfax reported on 5 May. Aleksandr Batkov said his company together with China will produce aircraft to compete on world markets in the 21st century including long-haul, short-haul and supersonic transport planes. BP TASHKENT, MOSCOW TO COORDINATE POLICY ON FUNDAMENTALISM. Uzbek President Islam Karimov on his first official visit to Russia, met with Boris Yeltsin at the Kremlin on 6 May. Prior to their meeting Yeltsin spoke of a need for the two countries to strengthen ties which have seriously deteriorated in recent years. Yeltsin later told Karimov, Russia is "aware of your influence on the countries that surround you." During their meeting the two presidents promised to sign a ten-year economic cooperation agreement when Yeltsin visits Uzbekistan in October. They also signed an agreement for cooperation in building Il-76 and Il-78 aircraft and an agreement guaranteeing the rights of each others journalists on the other's soil. In a surprise announcement following the meeting, Karimov said his country, Russia and Tajikistan will coordinate efforts to combat the spread of fundamentalism in Central Asia. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov gave his consent by phone. BP RUSSIA CRITICIZES U.S. SENATE VOTE ON NATO. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin on 5 May said the U.S. Senate's recent vote in favor of NATO membership for Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic is "unlikely to contribute to stabilization on the European continent," Russian news agencies reported. Nesterushkin repeated that Russia considers the policy of NATO enlargement to be "incorrect." But he expressed the hope that regular meetings at the ministerial and ambassadorial level between Russian and NATO officials will alleviate some of the "concerns" that will arise during the expansion of the western military alliance. Meanwhile, Anatolii Kvashnin, the head of the Russian General Staff, flew to Brussels on 5 May to attend a session of the Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council the following day. LB TATARSTAN'S PARLIAMENT SPEAKER APPOINTED RUSSIAN ENVOY TO EU. Presidential press spokesman Yastrzhembskii said on 5 May that Yeltsin has appointed Vasilii Likhachev as Moscow's permanent representative to the European Union. Likhachev was born in Gorky in 1952 and graduated from Kazan State University, after which he taught for several years in Africa before embarking on a career as a party functionary in Kazan. He was named parliament speaker in 1995 and has been deputy speaker of the Federation Council since January, 1996. "Vechernii Kazan" on 6 May quoted Likhachev as saying that representing the interests of Russia's regions, including Tatarstan, is an important aspect of his new job. LF YELTSIN SETS GOALS OF FUTURE BUDGET POLICY. Yeltsin on 5 May sent the government a message on budgetary policy for 1999, Russian news agencies reported. The president instructed the government to enact "budget reform," which involves the adoption of a new tax code and a budget code. Yeltsin said the budget code should impose strict deadlines for adopting the document. He added that the government's draft budget should take effect if the parliament failed to meet those deadlines or included budget expenditures not covered by realistic revenue projections, Interfax reported. (The constitutionality of such a provision is questionable, since the constitution states that both houses of parliament are required to approve the federal budget.) The president also instructed the government this year to prepare a realistic budget for 1999, reduce state expenditures, and complete the transition away from using authorized commercial banks to handle budget funds. LB GOVERNMENT TO IMPOSE NEW CONDITIONS ON REGIONAL AUTHORITIES. Yeltsin has signed a decree outlining additional measures to improve state finances and ensure that salaries are paid to state employees, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 5 May. According to presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii, the decree instructs the government and regional authorities to sign agreements within two months on new conditions for federal transfer payments. For instance, regions seeking the payments will be required to collect all taxes in "real money" and prohibit the common practice of cancelling tax debts against debts owed to enterprises. Regional authorities will also have to implement policies to reduce subsidies for rent and municipal services, ITAR-TASS reported. In addition, the decree stipulates that companies that owe taxes to federal or regional budgets will be ineligible for financial aid from regional budgets. LB FORMER PRIVATIZATION CHIEF CHARGED WITH EMBEZZLEMENT. The Moscow Prosecutor's Office has charged former State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh with embezzlement in connection with an alleged scheme to distribute prime apartments to officials, Russian news agencies reported on 5 May. Two other former officials have already been charged in connection with the case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1998). Moscow Deputy Prosecutor Yurii Semin told Interfax that charges will also be filed against others allegedly linked to the scheme. He mentioned former State Property Committee Chairman Sergei Belyaev (now a deputy in the State Duma) and former Federal Bankruptcy Administration chief Petr Mostovoi (now first vice president of the diamond monopoly Almazy Rossiya-Sakha). Kokh is not currently in Russia, but Moscow Prosecutor Sergei Gerasimov told ITAR- TASS on 6 May that "Kokh's whereabouts are known, and he has gone abroad with the permission of the Moscow Prosecutor's Office." LB GOVERNMENT GIVES OIL COMPANIES MORE INCENTIVE TO PAY TAXES. Oil companies that have no tax debts to the federal or regional budgets will be allowed more access to state-owned pipelines as of 1 July, according to a new government directive, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 May. Since pipeline capacity is limited, the greater access for companies that pay their taxes will come at the expense of firms that are tax debtors. In addition, oil companies that owe taxes will have to set up special bank accounts so that the State Tax Service will be able to collect taxes directly out of the proceeds earned through oil exports. In March, the government reduced some taxes and transport charges for oil companies in response to the slump in oil prices on world markets. But the government is also under pressure to take steps to improve tax collection. LB KIRIENKO TO HEAD COMMISSION ON MILITARY REFORM. Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii says Yeltsin favors creating a state commission on restructuring the armed forces, to be chaired by Prime Minister Kirienko, Interfax reported on 5 May. The last Russian government had two commissions on military reform: one headed by then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the other headed by then First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais. LB ZYUGANOV SAYS COMMUNISTS TO CHANGE STRATEGY... Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced on 5 May that "working with the masses" is now his party's top priority, Interfax reported. He called for a "direct dialogue with the masses at plants, factories, [and] military settlements," since, in his view, dialogue with Yeltsin has not yielded any results. Commenting on meetings of the "big four" (president, prime minister, speakers of both houses of parliament) and roundtable talks, Zyuganov said they were merely a cover used by Yeltsin in order to continue his "barbarous, destructive, absolutely anti-popular and anti- humane" policies. In a concession to the Communist-led opposition, Yeltsin agreed last year to hold occasional "big four" meetings and roundtable talks, but the talks do not appear to have affected government policies. LB ...URGES VOTERS TO REJECT LEBED. At the same press conference, Zyuganov urged residents of Krasnoyarsk Krai not to vote for former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed in the 17 May runoff gubernatorial election, Russian news agencies reported. Zyuganov warned that a Lebed victory "would mean misfortune beyond your worst dreams. Think of your children and grandchildren." Alluding to the circumstances under which Adolf Hitler rose to power, Zyuganov said the current situation in Krasnoyarsk reminds him of Germany from 1931 to 1933. However, he stopped short of endorsing the current governor of Krasnoyarsk, Valerii Zubov. Meanwhile, Zubov has promised to form a "government of popular trust" in Krasnoyarsk if he is re-elected, ITAR- TASS reported on 6 May. The pledge is aimed at winning over the 13 percent of the electorate who backed Communist candidate Petr Romanov in the first round of the election. LB YASTRZHEMBSKII CRITICIZES KRASNOYARSK GOVERNOR'S WARNING. Presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii on 5 May castigated Zubov, saying it is "inadmissible" to play "games with the fire of [regional] separatism," Reuters and Interfax reported. During a recent televised address, Zubov warned Yeltsin that if the federal government does not settle its debts to Krasnoyarsk Krai, the krai will stop transferring taxes collected in the krai to the federal budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 May 1998). LB BUDDHIST BOOK FROM BURYATIA BOUND FOR USA. Despite protests from the local Buddhist community in Buryatia, a 19th century copy of a 17th century "Atlas of Tibetan Medicine" was put on a flight to the United States where it will be on exhibit until the end of 1999 (See "RFE/RL Newsline 5 May, 1998), ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. An investigation has been launched into police treatment of the protesting Buddhists. There are reports that riot police struck monks who were attempting to prevent the book from being taken away from a museum where it was housed. BP OFFICIALS CONFIRM FORMER MINISTER'S ELECTION TO DUMA. Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko confirmed on 6 May that former Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha's election to the State Duma is valid, ITAR-TASS reported. Zaveryukha won a recent by-election for a vacant seat in Kamchatka Oblast, but his narrow victory was contested by Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, which nominated the candidate who came in second (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 1998). The Kamchatka Oblast Electoral Commission recently informed Zhirinovsky that it uncovered no evidence that the election results were falsified, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 April. LB YELTSIN VOWS RETRIBUTION FOR VLASOV KIDNAPPING. Speaking to journalists on 5 May before meeting with Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, Yeltsin said said the "hotheads" who abducted his Chechen envoy Valentin Vlasov on 1 May should understand that "we will not forgive" that action. Russian Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasilev told journalists in Moscow on 5 May that the search for Vlasov is focusing on three possible alternative reasons for his abduction: to torpedo the peace talks between Moscow and Grozny, to demand a ransom, or to exchange him for Chechens detained in Russia. Chechen National Security Chief Lecha Khultygov told Interfax that he believes Vlasov was abducted by the Russian Federal Security Service, and that he will be exchanged within days for former Grozny mayor Beslan Gantemirov, who is under investigation in Moscow on charges of embezzling federal funds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 1998). LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA THIRD ATTACK ON GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ANTICIPATED. Security measures in Tbilisi have been intensified to counter a possible third attempt to assassinate Eduard Shevardnadze, Interfax reported on 5 May, quoting security service head Vakhtang Kutateladze. Mamuka Areshidze, chairman of the Georgian parliament commission for relations with Caucasian peoples, said last month that the Georgian Ministry of National Security is aware that preparations are being made in the North Caucasus for a further attempt on Shevardnadze's life (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April, 1998). Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Demuri Mikadze and several other senior ministry officials were fired on 5 May for alleged incompetence in reacting to and investigating the 9 February mortarbomb attack on Shevardnadze's motorcade, Caucasus Press reported. LF SOUTH OSSETIA CONCERNED AT SLOW PACE OF RECONSTRUCTION. In a statement addressed to the Georgian and Russian leaderships and to international organizations, the Ministry for Foreign Relations of Georgia's unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia complains that the central Georgian government is not complying with agreements it signed in 1993 and 1997 on providing funding for the reconstruction of buildings devastated during the 1990-1992 war, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 6 May. The ministry statement argues that the delay in reconstruction is holding up the repatriation of tens of thousands of displaced persons who fled during the fighting, and consequently undermines the entire peace process. The ministry calls on Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to accelerate that process, which it denies is Georgia's exclusive prerogative. The Georgian government has suspended free bread supplies to some displaced persons from South Ossetia, Caucasus Press reported on 6 May. LF CONTROVERSY OVER DRAFT AZERBAIJANI ELECTION LAW CONTINUES. The 13 Azerbaijani opposition parties that make up the Round Table union are demanding that parliament debate an alternative draft law on presidential elections prepared by the Azerbaijan Popular Front, Turan reported. In a statement, the Round Table charged that the official draft law, which has been widely criticized by opposition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4-5 May 1998), "is aimed against the state system, territorial integrity and political stability of Azerbaijan." That version was adopted on first reading last week. On 5 May, the parliament briefly debated the law but failed to adopt it on second reading. LF LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER VISITS ARMENIA. Rafik Hariri paid a one-day visit to Yerevan on 5 May to present his congratulations to newly elected President Robert Kocharian and meet with the new government, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Hariri denied that his visit had been prompted by criticism from the Lebanese Armenian community of his February visit to Baku. Hariri's talks with Kocharian and Prime Minister Armen Darpinian focused on expanding economic cooperation; the two sides reached agreement on creating a joint commission on banking, energy and telecommunications. During a previous visit to Armenia in October, 1997, Hariri and then Prime Minister Kocharian signed a friendship and cooperation agreement and an agreement on creating an Armenian-Lebanese bank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1997). LF LACK OF FUNDING HURTS TB CLINIC IN KAZAKHSTAN. A tuberculosis clinic in the northern Kazakh region of Kustanai has temporarily discharged 300 patients due to lack of funding, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 May. Another 200 patients are receiving only part-time care. The clinic's management said it has received only 10 percent of the money it was promised. In the country of 16 million, 53,000 people are registered as suffering from tuberculosis and the death rate among them has reached 50 percent. BP TAJIK PRESIDENT IN KYRGYZSTAN. Imomali Rakhmonov paid a visit to neighboring Kyrgyzstan on 6 May, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. Rakhmonov met with Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev and Kyrgyz Prime Minister Kubanychbek Jumaliev. Akayev and Rakhmonov signed documents on deepening bilateral relations and cooperation in law enforcement. An additional 15 agreements were signed on such matters as refugees, customs, and mining. Rakhmonov's delegation includes Deputy Prime Minister Khoja Akbar Turajonzoda and two other members of the United Tajik Opposition. BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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