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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 87 Part I, 7 May 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 87 Part I, 7 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 SAYS FINAL CABINET APPOINTMENTS TO COME SOON * LEBED CONTESTS WARNINGS FROM ELECTORAL COMMISSION * AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION MAY BOYCOTT PRESIDENTIAL VOTE End Note: READING FUNDAMENTALISM RIGHT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx *** Note to readers: RFE/RL Newsline will not appear on Friday, 8 May, a holiday in the Czech Republic. *** RUSSIA KIRIENKO SAYS FINAL CABINET APPOINTMENTS TO COME SOON. Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko announced at a 7 May cabinet meeting that he will meet with President Boris Yeltsin on 8 May, after which the president will make final cabinet appointments, NTV reported. The posts still to be filled include the trade and industry minister, the nationalities minister, and the health minister. Aleksandr Shokhin, the leader of the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) faction in the State Duma, on 6 May denied rumors that he has been asked to head the newly created Trade and Industry Ministry, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The NDR has reportedly proposed Duma deputy Sergei Mitin for that post, although Shokhin has expressed doubts about the wisdom of creating a Trade and Industry Ministry that is separate from the Economics Ministry. LB OUR HOME IS RUSSIA NOT HAPPY WITH CABINET APPOINTMENTS. Duma deputies Sergei Boskholov and Vitalii Linnik of the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) faction say some NDR members are "perplexed" over how the new government is being formed, Interfax reported on 6 May. No Duma deputies from the NDR have been named to the cabinet, although the faction unanimously supported Kirienko's confirmation in the third and decisive vote in the Duma. In contrast, Russian Regions faction member Vladimir Goman is slated to become chairman of the State Committee on the North, and Yabloko member Oksana Dmitrieva was given the labor portfolio, even though Yabloko opposed Kirienko's confirmation in all three Duma votes. Several ministers are formally NDR members, such as Science and Technology Minister Vladimir Bulgak, Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu, and Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, but they are not active in the movement. LB ARE REGIONAL LEADERS DESERTING CHERNOMYRDIN'S MOVEMENT? "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 May that regional leaders are "running away" from the NDR now that its leader, Viktor Chernomyrdin, is no longer prime minister. Valerii Kokov, the president of the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, has announced plans to resign as deputy chairman of the movement. Formally, Kokov said he is stepping down because Kabardino-Balkaria's constitution does not allow him to be a member of political parties and movements. But "Kommersant- Daily" noted that the restriction did not deter Kokov from holding a seat on the NDR council while Chernomyrdin was prime minister. The newspaper predicted that more leaders will follow Kokov's example, which will substantially weaken the influence of the NDR in the regions. Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, who is on the NDR political council, recently announced that he plans to create his own political party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 1998). LB MORE ON KARIMOV VISIT TO MOSCOW. Following talks with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 6 May, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said he was "completely satisfied with the results," Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin said, "We agreed on everything." The two agreed to fight the spread of what the called "fundamentalism" both in Central Asia and the northern Caucasus, though neither elaborated on what form that cooperation would take. They did say both their countries would increase efforts to help Tajikistan, the third party in the fight against fundamentalism, recover following its five-year civil war. Yeltsin and Karimov expressed their alarm at renewed fighting in Afghanistan after the Afghan peace talks broke down earlier this week and called on the warring parties to resume negotiations. Concerning an agreement on the status of journalists, Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii said it would " liquidate the existing legal vacuum and create safer conditions for the work of Russian journalists in Uzbekistan." BP DUMA MAY TRY TO FORCE CHUBAIS OUT OF NEW POST. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev says the Duma may ask the Prosecutor- General's Office to check the legality of the recent appointment of Anatolii Chubais as chief executive of the electricity giant Unified Energy System (EES). According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 7 May, the Audit Chamber has already informed the prosecutor's office of its conclusion that numerous laws were broken during an extraordinary meeting of EES shareholders, which was held on 4 April. The chamber maintains that all decisions made at that meeting should be annulled, including the election of the EES board of directors. That board appointed Chubais on 30 April. The newspaper also claimed that a new law on the distribution of shares in EES, which Yeltsin is obliged to sign, would place the legality of Chubais's appointment in doubt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 30 April 1998). LB READING PUBLIC FACES LONG WAIT FOR HISTORY OF PRIVATIZATION. A notorious book on the history of Russian privatization, which was at the center of a scandal that cost several officials their jobs last November, will not be published before late 1998 or early 1999. Aleksei Kostanyan, the top editor at the Vagrius publishing house, told Interfax on 6 May that the manuscript contained too much scientific jargon and has been sent back to the authors for revisions. Vagrius purchased the rights to the book from the Segodnya-Press publishing house, which paid then First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais and several of his political associates $90,000 each for writing the manuscript. Segodnya-Press is partly owned by Oneksimbank, the winner of two controversial privatization auctions in 1997. In a recent interview with the magazine "Novoe vremya," Chubais claimed that the book is in the "final stages" of editing and will be published between June and August. LB ANOTHER POTENTIAL BIDDER LOSES INTEREST IN ROSNEFT. British Petroleum chief executive John Brown has said his company is unlikely to participate in an auction for a 75 percent stake in the oil company Rosneft, given the price being asked for the shares, "Kommersant-Daily" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 7 May, citing Bloomberg Business News. Last November, British Petroleum agreed to become a minority shareholder in the Sidanko oil company, in which Oneksimbank has a controlling stake (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 1998). The British firm and Oneksimbank were expected to submit a joint bid for the Rosneft auction, which is scheduled for later this month. The Russian government has set the starting price at some $2.1 billion, prompting other potential bidders to say they will not take part. The auction will be declared invalid if fewer than two bids are submitted for the Rosneft stake. LB LUZHKOV SEEKS TO DELAY LAST TSAR'S FUNERAL. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has proposed postponing the funeral of Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. The government has scheduled the funeral for 17 July, the 80th anniversary of the murder of the tsar and his family in Yekaterinburg. Government officials say exhaustive testing has confirmed that the bones are those of the tsar's family, but the Russian Orthodox Church has expressed doubt about the authenticity of the "Yekaterinburg remains" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March1998). Luzhkov proposed interring the remains in a symbolic grave until their authenticity has been proven. Nicholas II is scheduled to be buried in St. Petersburg, the final resting place of every tsar since Peter the Great. Luzhkov, who has not previously expressed doubt about the authenticity of the remains, had lobbied for the funeral to be held in Moscow. LB CHECHENS CONTINUE SEARCH FOR KIDNAPPED RUSSIAN ENVOY. Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Kazbek Makhashev told ITAR- TASS on 6 May that the release of kidnapped Russian envoy Valentin Vlasov was a "matter of honor" for Chechnya, but he said that there was as yet no progress to report in the search. But Chechnya's acting prime minister, Shamil Basaev, took a different position. He said on 6 May that there was no evidence yet that Vlasov had been kidnapped in Chechnya and that consequently his government was "not going to show special concern over what happened," ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, the Russian news agency reported, Chechen forces released two Dagestani policemen who had been kidnapped in November 1997. But in a sign that relations between Chechnya and Dagestan are anything but smooth, Dagestan's minister for nationalities and external relations, Magmetsalikh Gusaev, denounced the recent Chechen-promoted Congress of Peoples of Chechnya and Dagestan as an "unfriendly act," ITAR-TASS said. PG LEBED CONTESTS WARNINGS FROM ELECTORAL COMMISSION. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed has filed a court appeal challenging the two warnings his gubernatorial campaign has received from the Krasnoyarsk Krai Electoral Commission, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 6 May. Lebed's supporters were accused of breaking the rules on printed campaign materials. The commission has accused other candidates of breaking the rules as well, and some commentators have predicted that those warnings may be used as a pretext to annul the election if Lebed wins the runoff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April 1998). "Moskovskie novosti" claimed in its 3-10 May edition that Viktoriya Mitina, the deputy head of the presidential administration, and Yeltsin's representative in Krasnoyarsk both favor cancelling the election result in the event of a Lebed victory. LB DUMA SPEAKER SLAMS LEBED. Duma Speaker Seleznev says "it will be a tragedy for Russia" if Lebed wins the gubernatorial election in Krasnoyarsk, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 7 May. Seleznev compared Lebed to former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and said his gubernatorial campaign is being financed with "dirty money." The Krasnoyarsk Krai branch of the Communist Party has called on its supporters to vote against both Lebed and incumbent Governor Valerii Zubov in the second round of the election, but Seleznev described that decision as having been made too "hastily," Interfax reported. Citing unnamed sources in the Communist Party leadership in Moscow, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" said some Communist leaders have decided to provide "hidden support" for Zubov before the runoff election. Communist Gennadii Zyuganov recently drew an analogy between Lebed's gubernatorial bid and Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 1998). LB DUMA DEPUTY EXCLUDED FROM BASHKORTOSTAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. The Republic of Bashkortostan's Electoral Commission has revoked the registration of State Duma deputy Aleksandr Arinin as a candidate in the presidential election scheduled for 14 June, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 May. Officials say the republican branch of the Interior Ministry found that seven percent of the signatures endorsing Arinin's candidacy were invalid, which exceeds the amount allowed under the republican electoral law. But Arinin claimed at a Moscow press conference that police went from door to door and forced people to disavow their signatures in support of his candidacy. Arinin, a member of the Our Home Is Russia faction, blamed incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov, whom he described as "the top policeman in a police state." The Central Electoral Commission is sending a group of monitors to Bashkortostan to investigate the decision to exclude Arinin from the race. LB NOVOSIBIRSK GOVERNOR DEMANDS PAYMENT FROM FEDS. Novosibirsk Oblast Governor Vitalii Mukha has announced plans to cut off deliveries of goods to federal facilities that owe debts to the oblast, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 May. Novosibirsk is owed an estimated 900 million rubles ($146 million) from the federal authorities in unpaid state orders for foodstuffs and other goods. Mukha made the announcement after local trade unions organized a 5,000-person rally on 1 May in Novosibirsk. Union leaders warned the governor that if the situation does not improve, they will launch a general strike in the oblast at the end of the month. Krasnoyarsk Governor Zubov recently threatened to stop transferring tax payments to the federal budget if federal authorities do not pay their debts to his region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 May 1998). LB BUDDHISTS IN BURYATIA STILL OUTRAGED. More than 1,000 Buddhists in held a demonstration in the Buryat capital Ulan-Ude on 6 May to protest the removal of an "Atlas of Tibetan Medicine" to the United States for a museum tour (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 May 1998), ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, a commission from Russia's Interior Ministry has arrived in Ulan-Ude to investigate reports that local police used excessive force to clear Buddhist monks from blocking the removal of the book from the museum where it was kept. BP LAW SCHOOL HEAD GETS LESSON ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM. Aleksandr Lbov, the head of the law school in the Vladimir Polytechnical University, has been arrested on charges of systematic bribe-taking, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. According to Yurii Yevtukhov, the senior investigator on the case, law students were expected to pay 50,000 to 100,000 old rubles ($8 - $16) in order to pass certain tests, while a high grade on exams cost 100,000 to 150,000 old rubles. LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION MAY BOYCOTT PRESIDENTIAL VOTE. Five leading opposition figures released a joint statement on 5 May indicating that they would not participate in this fall's presidential elections if a new election law goes into effect, AFP reported on 6 May. Isa Gambar, Albufaz Elchibey, Lala Shovket, Ilyas Ismailov and Rasul Guliyev said the legislation gives the government of Heidar Aliyev an unfair advantage and will encourage vote fraud. Meanwhile, Aliyev granted amnesty to 81 convicts, including several involved in the attempted coup of October 1994, and he proposed a resolution to the parliament that would allow for pardoning 10,000 additional convicted criminals, Interfax reported. PG ARMENIAN PRESIDENT REINSTATES DASHNAK PARTY. President Robert Kocharian issued a decree on 6 May lifting a ban on the activities of the Dashnak Party that had been imposed by his predecessor in December 1994, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Dashnak leaders told RFE/RL that they were pleased by Kocharian's move because he did not suggest that the Dashnak's were ever in violation of the law, as the Justice Ministry had implied in February 1998 when it lifted the ban on the basis of a finding that the Dashnaks were now in compliance with the law. PG ARMENIA: OUTSIDE PEACEKEEPERS MAY NOT BE NEEDED IN KARABAKH. Speaking in Bonn, Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian said on 6 May that there would be no need for any outside peacekeepers if all the parties to the conflict could reach agreement, Itar-Tass reported. In other comments, Oskanian praised Russia's role in helping to resolve the conflict and said that only proposals "without preliminary preconditions" have any chance of leading to a resolution of the conflict, an obvious swipe at the OSCE Minsk Group and the Lisbon Principles. PG KAZAKH CAPITAL BECOMES 'CAPITAL'. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree on 6 May changing the name of the country's new capital from Akmola to Astana, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Nazarbayev said negative translations of the word "Akmola" prompted the move. The word can be translated as "white grave" or as Interfax reported on 6 May "white welfare." Astana, on the other hand, is the Kazakh word for "capital." When Kazakhstan became independent in 1991 the city was called Tselinograd. BP UZBEKISTAN CUTS GAS SUPPLIES TO KAZAKHSTAN BY HALF. Uzbekistan has cut supplies of natural gas to regions in southern Kazakhstan by nearly half, according to RFE/RL correspondents and ITAR-TASS. The Belgian company Tractabel, which is responsible for purchasing gas from Uzbekistan and delivering it to customers in Kazakhstan, cited unpaid bills from consumers in Kazakhstan as the reason the company could not pay its Uzbek supplier. Supplies were reduced from 40,000 cubic meters per hour to 25,000. BP KAZAKH PERIODICALS UNDER INVESTIGATION. Kazakhstan's Procurator General's office has opened investigations into some of the country's periodicals, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported on 6 May. The statement released by the office did not specify which periodicals were under investigation and added that the names would not be released to the public until the investigations were over. The office said the periodicals are under examination for inciting "racial, tribal, ethnic and religious hatred." BP END NOTE READING FUNDAMENTALISM RIGHT By Paul Goble Many Central Asian leaders have failed to recognize that repressive policies are more likely to strengthen Islamic fundamentalism in their countries than to weaken or destroy it. That they should make such a fundamental error is not surprising given their experiences in Soviet times, their desires to remain in power regardless of the consequences, and the often uncritical support they have received from Russia and the West for just such an approach. But at least some Western leaders appear to be changing their views on this point. And that shift is likely to have major consequences for the policies of Central Asian governments over the longer term, even if -- as seems certain -- this change in the West will have little or no impact in the near term. Two weeks ago, the current chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislav Geremek, met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov to discuss how Tashkent is coping with a rising tide of Muslim activism both in Uzbekistan and elsewhere in Central Asia. As he has before, Karimov insisted that Islamic fundamentalism was the main threat to stability in his country and across the region, that such a movement could either destabilize the situation as in Tajikistan or bring to power a theocratic regime as in Iran. And he further argued that the West must understand the need to take strong, even repressive measures against such Muslim activists. In the past, such arguments often were sufficient to forestall most criticism from Western leaders who themselves fear instability or Iranian radicalism. But in a meeting that his spokesmen characterized as "frank," Geremek responded to Karimov in a way that suggests that era may be ending. During his April 20 meeting with the Uzbek president, the Polish foreign minister pointed out that in many Muslim countries, government moves against what some call politicized Islam and others Islamic fundamentalism had actually strengthened these groups. Indeed, Geremek suggested, in many cases, such extremists had no chance to win power unless they were perceived as being persecuted. Geremek's argument is interesting in three respects. First, it is not directly about human rights. Instead, it is about stability and thus challenges the claims of Karimov and others that their policies will work to control the situation. Second, it suggests that governments bear a heavy responsibility for how much Islamic fundamentalism there is: If they are repressive, there will be more. If they are not, there will be less of it. And third, by focusing on the responsibility of individual governments for dealing with Islamic challenges, Geremek's argument undercuts those both in Uzbekistan and elsewhere who suggest that Islamic fundamentalism is spreading out like a tidal wave from Iran or Algeria or Afghanistan or some other center of infection. Not surprisingly, Karimov has not been led to change his position overnight. Last Friday, for example, he told his country's parliament that Muslim activists were so danger that they "must be shot in the head." And he added that "if you lack the resolve, I'll shoot them myself." Unless the parliament was prepared to follow his lead, Karimov continued, "Tajikistan will come to Uzbekistan tomorrow." In response, Uzbekistan's rubber-stamp parliament adopted a new "freedom of conscience" law that requires all religious groups with more than 100 members and all mosques to register with the state. This measure will give legal cover to what a variety of Western human rights groups, Western journalists and Western governments have described as Tashkent's increasingly repressive policies toward Islam. Many officials across Central Asia undboutedly still feel that they have no choice but to follow Karimov's line, especially since until recently, they could count on nearly unanimous sympathy for such a position from both Russia and the West. But now that Geremek has spoken out, perhaps ever more people there and elsewhere will begin to understand what a mistake it can be to purchase short-term control at the cost of long-term stability. And to the extent that happens, they can begin to correct a mistake that has already given rise to so many tragic consequences. 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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