|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 91 Part I, 14 May 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 91 Part I, 14 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxSPECIAL REPORTxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx COMMUNIST HOUSING: A FLAW IN THE DESIGN More than 170 million people in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union live in decaying housing complexes. This five-part series examines the issues, compares East Berlin's rehabilitation success story with Prague's less than successful efforts, and describes the state of U.S. public housing. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/housing/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT LAW ON BUDGETARY DISCIPLINE * YELTSIN PROPOSES RUSSIAN VENUE FOR G-8 MEETING IN 2000 * MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN IN YEREVAN End Notes: THE COMING GENERATIONAL SHIFT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT LAW ON BUDGETARY DISCIPLINE. The government on 14 May approved a bill that would block laws from going into effect if they do not specify sources of financing for all expenditures not foreseen in the federal budget, NTV reported. The government will soon submit the draft to the State Duma. According to ITAR-TASS, some cabinet ministers suggested that the measure might be unconstitutional because it could deprive of citizens of benefits to which they are entitled under federal law. Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko instructed the Justice Ministry to examine that question but argued that citizens' rights are violated when the parliament adopts laws without providing financial sources for their implementation. LB KIRIENKO SEEKS TO 'ERADICATE LOBBYING.' Kirienko on 14 May announced that during his planned meeting with President Boris Yeltsin the same day, he will discuss measures to "eradicate lobbying," ITAR-TASS reported. Kirienko has already signed a directive whereby the government will not consider proposals involving increased budget expenditures unless those proposals specify sources of revenue to fund the new spending, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 14 May. He and Yeltsin are to discuss a draft presidential decree that would oblige the presidential administration to impose similar conditions for its consideration of measures that would increase expenditures. "Kommersant-Daily" argued that such measures will largely "save paper" rather than money. The newspaper noted that the cash-strapped government is already unable to implement numerous presidential decrees and government directives. LB YELTSIN PROPOSES RUSSIAN VENUE FOR G-8 MEETING IN 2000. Boris Yeltsin has proposed that the venue for the 2000 annual meeting of the world's leading industrial nations be changed from Nagano, Japan, to somewhere in Russia, AFP reported on 12 May. Yeltsin said in a live Internet session that he wants to host that meeting as it will be the last year of his presidency. As the scheduled host nation, Japan has the right to accept the change. The following day, Yoshio Hatiro, the secretary-general of the Japanese Association for Friendship with Russia, said he favors the change of venue as a "sign of concession," just as Japan hopes for a similar sign from Russia over the issue of the Kuril Islands. The Russian-Japanese peace treaty formally ending World War II between the two countries is due to be signed in 2000. BP ZYUGANOV ON START-2, INDIA. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 13 May spoke out against ratifying the START-2 arms control treaty, Russian news agencies reported. He called for postponing ratification until after Russia has adopted a "security concept." He added that Russia and the U.S. had nuclear "parity" when the treaty was signed but that the current condition of the Russian defense industry makes it "impossible" to achieve an equal status. Regarding the recent nuclear tests conducted by India, Zyuganov said India "once again confirmed that it is a major global power to be reckoned with." He added that he was pleased to learn that "even the CIA was not informed" about the tests in advance. But while Zyuganov said he supports a "strategic partnership" between Russia and India, he noted he would not like India to threaten the security of any other country. LB RUSSIA ADAMANT ABOUT S-300S TO CYPRUS. The press service of the Russian arms export company Rosvooruzhenie issued a statement on 13 May reaffirming its commitment to proceed with the delivery to Cyprus this summer of S-300 air defense missiles, the "Turkish Daily News" reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax the same day that Moscow's position on Cyprus remains unchanged, stressing that the S- 300s are a "purely defensive" weapon. Over the past week, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine have both tried to persuade the Greek Cypriot leadership not to go ahead with the planned deployment. LF ZHIRINOVSKY STILL HOPING FOR GOVERNMENT POSTS. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky on 13 May expressed the hope that members of his party may yet be invited to join Kirienko's cabinet, ITAR- TASS reported. He noted that although Yeltsin has now appointed all the ministers, the LDPR is seeking several posts as deputies or first deputies in ministries. The LDPR Duma faction voted unanimously to confirm Kirienko as prime minister in the third and decisive vote. LB NO CHARGES FILED IN BOOK SCANDAL... The Moscow Prosecutor's Office will not file criminal charges against former officials who earned $90,000 each, allegedly for co- authoring a book on privatization. Prosecutor Sergei Gerasimov told Interfax on 13 May that since a private firm paid the officials, there is no evidence that they embezzled money from the state. He added that although examination of the manuscript suggests the publisher paid excessive fees, it is not a crime to pay authors too much. The Segodnya- Press publishing house, which is partly owned by Oneksimbank, paid the fees to, among others, former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, former State Property Committee Chairman Alfred Kokh, and former State Property Minister Maksim Boiko. Many commentators have charged that the payments were tantamount to bribes, noting that firms linked to Oneksimbank won two controversial privatization auctions in 1997. LB ...WHILE KOKH STILL FACES CHARGES. Gerasimov told Interfax on 13 May that Kokh is still under criminal investigation for a separate book deal, in which he received $100,000 from a Swiss firm while he headed the State Property Committee. The deal raised eyebrows because of apparent connections between the Swiss company and Oneksimbank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 1997). Gerasimov said the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has requested information from the Swiss Prosecutor's Office relating to the case. Kokh, who is currently in the U.S., told ITAR-TASS on 13 May that his book will soon be published in English. He added that he plans to return to Moscow, where he faces criminal charges for allegedly misusing his official post to obtain a desirable apartment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 1998). LB PROMINENT DUMA DEPUTY LEAVES OUR HOME IS RUSSIA. Nikolai Travkin has left the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) Duma faction, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 14 May. A statement released by the NDR said Travkin quit the faction because he wants to run as an independent candidate for governor of Moscow Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported. But "Nezavisimaya gazeta" quoted an unnamed source as saying Travkin is dissatisfied with the "bureaucratic style" of the NDR leadership. Travkin, the founder of the once-prominent and now marginal Democratic Party of Russia, was sacked as that party's leader in late 1994 and was one of the NDR's top 10 candidates in the 1995 Duma election. His defection is the latest sign that prominent politicians are reluctant to maintain links with the NDR now that the movement's leader, Viktor Chernomyrdin, is no longer prime minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 1998). LB ROKHLIN'S MOVEMENT TO SUE DEFENSE MINISTRY. Duma Defense Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin's Movement to Support the Army is preparing to sue the Defense Ministry for failure to meet its financial obligations toward military personnel, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 14 May. Rokhlin says his movement will also ask the Prosecutor-General's Office to open a criminal case on charges that chronic arrears are driving soldiers to suicide. Rokhlin recently sought unsuccessfully to have the Duma initiate impeachment proceedings against Yeltsin. He is expected to lose the chairmanship of the Defense Committee when the seven Duma factions complete the reallocation of leadership positions in the chamber. That reorganization was scheduled for January, but negotiations stalled over a few posts and were further delayed by events surrounding the cabinet dismissal and confirmation of Prime Minister Kirienko. LB GOVERNMENT LIKELY TO DELAY OIL SECTOR PRIVATIZATIONS. First Deputy State Property Minister Aleksandr Braverman told Interfax on 13 May that the government is likely to postpone auctions for stakes in the Tyumen Oil Company, the Eastern Oil Company, and the Slavneft Oil Company (which is partly owned by Belarus). Braverman expects the sales to be postponed until the fall. He noted that several recent attempts to sell shares in those companies have fallen through because of lack of demand. The State Property Ministry is considering several options for selling off the shares but will make a final decision based on the situation on the stock market and the result of an upcoming auction for a 75 percent stake in the oil company Rosneft. That sale is planned for late May, but several potential investors have balked at the high price the government has set as the minimum bid. LB RUSSIA EXPORTING MORE OIL BUT FOR LESS MONEY. Russian oil exports during the first quarter of 1998 totaled 29.66 million metric tons, up nearly 3 million metric tons compared with the same period in 1997, Interfax reported on 13 May, citing the State Customs Committee. However, the total value of Russian oil exports for the first quarter of the year was some $2.6 billion, down $0.92 billion compared with the same period the previous year. First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin announced on 11 May that the federal budget will lose an estimated $1.5 billion to $2 billion in 1998 as a result of slumping oil prices on world markets, ITAR-TASS reported. LB YELTSIN SIGNS LAW ON PRIVATE PENSION FUNDS. Yeltsin has signed a law establishing a foundation for the activities of Russia's non-state pension funds, which have existed for six years, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 May. The main cause of the long delay in adopting the law was a dispute over whether the Labor Ministry or the Federal Securities Commission would be granted the authority to monitor the funds. Then First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov broke the impasse in March at a meeting involving several high- ranking officials and parliamentarians. Soon after, the Federation Council approved the Duma's version of the law, which puts the funds under the supervision of the Labor Ministry. Federal Securities Commission Chairman Dmitrii Vasilev lobbied unsuccessfully for a presidential veto. Implementing the law will require the adoption of various government resolutions regulating the activities of the non- state pension funds. LB LEBED, ZUBOV FACE OFF IN TV DEBATE. Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Valerii Zubov clashed in a televised debate on 13 May, four days before the second round of the krai gubernatorial election. Zubov fielded questions well and cast doubt on many of Lebed's campaign claims, RFE/RL's correspondent in Krasnoyarsk reported. For example, he noted that the krai already has a law outlining a process for recalling elected officials, including the governor. (A major theme of Lebed's campaign is the need to adopt such a law.) Zubov also defended his record on attracting investment to the krai. However, Lebed had a better television presence than the governor, according to RFE/RL's correspondent. He appeared confident, steady, and unruffled, while Zubov came across as nervous. LB ZYUGANOV KEEPS UP ATTACK ON LEBED... Communist Party leader Zyuganov again blasted Lebed on 13 May, warning that his victory in the Krasnoyarsk election would allow the resource-rich krai to "dictate terms" to the federal authorities and eventually could lead to the "destruction of Russia," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. He alleged that Lebed has flouted campaign finance regulations, while Yeltsin and the Central Electoral Commission keep silent. Zyuganov also repeated his call for voters to support Zubov's plans to appoint a coalition government. LB ...BUT COMMUNIST CAMP SPLIT OVER KRASNOYARSK RACE. The Communist camp is not united over the party leadership's endorsement of Zubov, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 13 May. Duma Deputy Petr Romanov, the Communist candidate who placed third in the first round of the election, told RFE/RL that Communist leaders should have warned the public about the dangers of electing Lebed earlier. He claimed that such warnings might have prevented Lebed from doing so well in the first round. Romanov believes that the stance of the Communist leadership now works to Lebed's advantage. Romanov will travel to Krasnoyarsk to encourage the krai branch of the Communist Party not to change its recommendation that residents vote against both Lebed and Zubov. LB BOMB EXPLODES IN MOSCOW SYNAGOGUE. A bomb explosion caused extensive damage to a synagogue in downtown Moscow on 13 May, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Rabbi Berel Lazar of the Lubavitch Marina Roshcha synagogue said it was not the first act of terrorism against the synagogue. Lazar called the bombing a "clearly anti-Semitic act" and demanded that the authorities find those responsible "in order to assure the Jews of Moscow and Russia they are safe." Worshippers had left the synagogue following the Lag B'Omer service just minutes before the bomb went off. The explosion did not prompt the Jewish community to cancel plans to hold a religious procession. "We will not be intimidated by this act," Lazar said. Meanwhile in Irkutsk, vandals damaged or destroyed 149 tombstones at a Jewish cemetery, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May. It was the third act of vandalism at the cemetery since December. BP FOUR KILLED IN GROZNY BOMBING. Four people were killed on 13 May when a bomb exploded in the Chechen capital. Magomed Koriev, first deputy director of the Chechen Security Service, said the bomb was directed at Deputy Prosecutor- General Magomed Magomadov, who is in charge of anti- kidnapping operations. Magomadov heads the Chechen team investigating the 1 May abduction of Russian presidential envoy to Chechnya Valentin Vlasov. LF RUSSIA DENIES RANSOM DEMANDED FOR VLASOV. Interviewed by NTV on 13 May, Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin denied claims by Federal Security Service Deputy Director Viktor Zorin that Vlasov's abductors have demanded a large ransom for his release. But "Segodnya" the next day reported that the kidnappers have proposed exchanging their prisoner for acting Ingush Interior Minister Daud Korigov, who is currently under investigation in Moscow. Also on 13 May, Yeltsin's representative in Chechnya, Georgii Kurin, met with Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Kazbek Makhashev to discuss Vlasov's kidnapping, ITAR-TASS reported. LF DAGESTANI ORGANIZATIONS OPPOSE CHECHEN-DAGESTAN UNION. The leaders of 20 Dagestani political and public organizations issued a statement in Makhachkala on 13 May condemning the creation last month of a Congress of Chechen and Dagestani Peoples, Interfax reported. The signatories to the statement pointed out that they did not send delegates to the congress, which proclaimed its commitment to the peaceful unification of Chechnya and Dagestan. Claims that all Dagestani ethnic groups and political forces were represented at the congress are therefore "groundless," the statement said. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN IN YEREVAN. The three co-chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group met in Yerevan on 13 May with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, who outlined Armenia's new approach to resolving the Karabakh conflict. Yerevan rejects the "phased" peace plan, which was proposed by the Minsk Group last year and which Azerbaijan has accepted. Instead, it insists on a "package" solution that resolves all contentious issues within one framework document. Armenia also wants direct, unconditional talks between Baku and the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The co-chairmen declined to comment on those demands, but Azerbaijani Presidential adviser Vafa Gulu-Zade has made direct talks with the Karabakh leadership contingent on the latter's acceptance of autonomy for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan, Noyan Tapan reported. Oskanian told journalists that the co-chairmen made no new proposals. LF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES GOVERNMENT PROGRAM. Speaker Khosrov Harutiunian on 13 May declared the parliament's approval of the program presented to lawmakers the previous day by Prime Minister Armen Darpinian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The parliament had lodged no formal objections to that program. Harutiunian congratulated the premier on what he termed a "vote of confidence" in the government. Darpinian, for his part, acknowledged informal criticisms by several parliament factions that the program is not specific enough, Noyan Tapan reported. LF GEORGIAN, NORTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENTS MEET. Aleksandr Dzasokhov was in Tbilisi on 13 May for talks with his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, on resolving the South Ossetian and other Caucasian conflicts. Dzasokhov argued that it is important to achieve a breakthrough in resolving one of those conflicts in order to create a precedent. He endorsed Shevardnadze's proposal that Georgia become a federal state, urging the Georgian leadership to be "generous" in deciding the degree of autonomy South Ossetia should receive. Dzasokhov warned that unless such federations are created in the Caucasus, the region risks "global disintegration into nation states," Interfax reported. Shevardnadze called for expediting the repatriation to South Ossetia of both Ossetian and Georgian refugees and displaced persons. He also praised the "positive" role of the Russian peacekeeping force in South Ossetia. LF ANNAN WANTS BETTER PROTECTION FOR OBSERVERS IN GEORGIA. UN Secretary-General Annan has proposed deploying a 294-man UN force to protect the unarmed UN observer mission in western Georgia, Reuters reported on 13 May. Four members of that mission were abducted in February; three were subsequently released and one escaped. Annan said the Georgian government has approved his proposal, while the Abkhaz leadership has expressed reservations. LF AZERBAIJANI LIBERAL PARTY PROTESTS HARASSMENT. The leadership of the Azerbaijan Liberal Party has called on the prosecutor-general to take action against police officers who forced entry into the party's headquarters on 8 May, Turan reported on 13 May. The officers temporarily detained two of the party's members. LF KYRGYZ PRESIDENT OVERSEES BATTLE WITH "EXTREMISTS." Presidential spokesman Kanybek Imanaliyev told a press briefing on 13 May that Askar Akayev is personally supervising the battle against religious extremism, ITAR- TASS reported. Imanaliyev said the president is concerned about the "appearance of Wahhabi missionaries." Kyrgyzstan, like neighboring Uzbekistan, has ordered all mosques to be registered. And according to Reuters, it will "keep track of who preaches there, where they are from. If they do not meet our standards they must account for themselves." However, Emil Kaptagaev, the chairman of the government Committee on Religious Affairs, told journalists his committee has found no evidence of Wahhabi activity in Kyrgyzstan. But Adylbek Kadyrbekov, the chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Defense and Security, was also at the briefing and contradicted Kaptagaev's statement. BP WORLD BANK GRANTS LOAN TO KYRGYZSTAN. The Kyrgyz presidential press service announced on 13 May that the World Bank has approved a loan for the country worth $50 million, Interfax reported. The loan is intended for agricultural programs, in particular improving irrigation techniques. BP KAZAKH PARLIAMENT REJECTS POLYGAMY PROPOSAL. The lower house of the parliament on 13 May voted down a proposal to re- introduce polygamy, in accordance with Islamic law, ITAR- TASS reported. "We want to be a civilized country not only of an Asian but also of a European type," a parliament statement said. BP TRANSNATIONAL COMPANY SUES KAZAKH GOVERNMENT. A transnational corporation is suing the Kazakh government for breach of contract, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 May. The Toronto-based World Wide Minerals corporation--which is also registered in the U.S., where it has filed suit--signed a contract to mine and process uranium ore in the Stepnogorsk region. The corporation assumed the debts of the previous owner, a Kazakh company, and paid wage arrears and pensions to workers. World Wide Minerals planned to sell the uranium to the U.S. company Consumers Energy but claims it has lost $220 million because the Kazakh government has failed to grant it an export license. BP END NOTE THE COMING GENERATIONAL SHIFT by Paul Goble Many post-Soviet states are now confronting a problem that some of their leaders thought they could put off dealing with or even avoid: how to transfer power from one generation to another in a way that does not compromise stability, independence, and national aspirations. Both the problem and the different ways national leaders are addressing it have been thrown into relief by two recent events: Russian President Boris Yeltsin's renewal of his government last month and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's 75th birthday celebrations on 10 May. In the Russian Federation, Yeltsin sacked his longtime prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, a man of his own generation and hence of longtime Soviet experience. In his place, Yeltsin installed Sergei Kirienko, someone a generation younger who came of age in the post-Soviet world. And the Russian president has advanced the careers of a number of other young reformers. Many in Russia and abroad have greeted this move. Not only does it suggest that Yeltsin is prepared to push further and faster on reform than Chernomyrdin was doing, but it also allows a new group of officials to gain the kinds of experience that will make them credible as candidates for more senior positions, including eventually the one that Yeltsin now occupies. But others in both places have been more skeptical. On the one hand, Yeltsin is likely to have far more influence over Kirienko than he sometimes had over Chernomyrdin. And because Yeltsin has proved so changeable over time, his influence may push Kirienko's government in very different directions than some now hope and others fear. And on the other, the sacking of Chernomyrdin may have cleared the way for Yeltsin to run for yet another term as president if his health holds up. While in office, Chernomyrdin had gained the kind of experience that made him plausible as a successor to Yeltsin. Kirienko does not yet have that experience and consequently does not appear a likely candidate. There thus appear to be two possibilities: either Yeltsin runs again, despite an apparent constitutional prohibition against a third term, or the candidates for that office will likely have little or no experience in the post- Soviet Russian central government, a situation that could adversely affect future developments there. In Azerbaijan, by contrast, Aliev has not yet begun this process of renewing elites, even though it is quite obvious that the issue of transferring power to a younger group of leaders while maintaining the stability and independence of his country is now very much on his mind. But because of his age, Aliev's failure to push this process further could call into question the very achievements he is most interested in guaranteeing: removing Russian troops from his country, attracting sizable Western investment, and helping build the economic and political bridge between Central Asia, Georgia, Ukraine, and the West. Indeed, even as leaders from around the region and the world greeted him on his 75th birthday, Aliev appeared particularly unwilling to explore ways in which he could renew his own regime and guarantee that his achievements will survive their creator. Last month, Aliev proposed new legislation to regulate the October presidential elections. Because of its restrictive provisions which appear to give the incumbent unfair advantages, five leading members of the opposition issued a joint declaration that they would refuse to run if the law were adopted. Even more problematic than this declaration of the five, Azerbaijani police dispersed a demonstration of some 400 people protesting the legislation in Baku late last week and arrested more than 100. Among those taking part and possibly among the arrested were former government officials and opposition activists. The lack of any bridge between Aliev and these people or of a means of including at least some of the social forces they represent in the government suggests that the transition after Aliev could be a very rocky one. Despite the steps he has taken, Yeltsin has not yet solved this problem. Indeed, if he uses Kirienko's lack of experience to keep himself in office, Yeltsin may make matters worse. But Aliev's approach until now is a reminder that failing to address the problem head on is not a solution but rather a guarantee that the problem itself will become even more pressing. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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