|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 93 Part I, 18 May 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 93 Part I, 18 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 * YELTSIN AT G-8 SUMMIT IN BIRMINGHAM * LEBED WINS KRASNOYARSK ELECTION * MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN CONTINUE TALKS End Note: STILL STRANGERS IN THEIR OWN HOMELAND xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN AT G-8 SUMMIT IN BIRMINGHAM. President Boris Yeltsin said he was satisfied with the results of the G-8 summit in Birmingham, England, Russian media reported. Yeltsin said he spoke on all 12 issues on the summit's agenda and "defended our stance if it did not coincide with the opinion of the other summit participants." Russian press hailed the summit as the first at which Russia participated as a full member but noted that Yeltsin did not attend a meeting to discuss the Asian financial crisis and that the Russian financial minister was not invited to an earlier session of the group's ministers. Yeltsin, however, pointed out that no one referred to the summit as the "G-7." British Prime Minister Tony Blair, for his part, on 17 May praised the Russian contribution to the "G-8" summit. Members voted to postpone a decision on Yeltsin's proposal to hold the 2000 annual gathering in Russia, rather than Japan, but expressed support for his suggestion to organize a meeting in Moscow next year on combatting crime. BP YELTSIN MEETS WITH CLINTON... Yeltsin held a one-hour meeting with President Bill Clinton on 17 May, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Yeltsin told the U.S. leader that he is "determined" to have the START-2 treaty ratified and that he is looking forward to Clinton's visit to Russia, which, he said, he hopes will take place in July. Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii went one step further, saying that after ratification of START-2, Russia will begin a "practical phase of negotiations" designed to facilitate the signing of START-3 and establish the "complete parity of Russia and the United States in that sphere." Both presidents called for the G-8 members to increase controls over the export of military, rocket, and dual-purpose technology. Yeltsin backed a continued U.S. military presence in Macedonia. And he introduced Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov to Clinton as the "next Russian president." BP ...AND WITH BLAIR, BRITISH BUSINESSMEN. Yeltsin met separately with Tony Blair on 15 May and reached tentative agreement on an informal "meeting without neckties" (a term used in Yeltsin's recent meetings with the Japanese prime minister) in Russia next year. Yeltsin invited Britain to participate in a project with Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany to produce An-70 transport planes. Yeltsin also met with leading representatives of the British business community, whom he called "our tried and trusted partners." Some of the businessmen complained that starting prices for shares in the Russian company Rosneft are too high. Yeltsin said he will examine the issue. BP YELTSIN TO HOLD TALKS WITH LATVIAN PRESIDENT? Arriving in Birmingham on 15 May, Yeltsin said he is confident he will soon meet with Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis and "reach an agreement." He welcomed recent proposals by Riga to relax citizenship regulations, noting that the "message" of those proposals is "not to discriminate against Russians." "There will be no discriminatory measures against the Baltic States on our part," Yeltsin said. The president added that relations with Estonia are "somewhat more complicated but we will reach a solution to the problem." The next day, Yastrzhembskii sounded a somewhat less conciliatory note, saying Yeltsin plans to meet with Ulmanis but only "on the basis of a request from the Latvian side." He said that without changes in the citizenship law recommended by such international bodies as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, "it is hard to expect progress in Russian-Latvian relations." JC LEBED WINS KRASNOYARSK ELECTION... Former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed won the 17 May gubernatorial election in Krasnoyarsk Krai with 57 percent of the vote. His rival, incumbent Valerii Zubov, gained 38 percent, despite running a more active campaign than Lebed in the runup to the second round. Turnout was some 63 percent, roughly the same as in the first round. After the early returns were announced, Zubov told NTV that he will not contest the election results. But ITAR-TASS quoted an unnamed source in the Krasnoyarsk Krai Electoral Commission as saying Lebed's staff violated several campaign regulations. The source said the violations were sufficient to justify annulling the election and that the prosecutor's office has already been informed about those violations. Some commentators have predicted that the authorities would annul the election in the event of a Lebed victory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 12 May 1998). LB ...LEAVES DOOR OPEN ON PRESIDENTIAL BID. Appearing on NTV on 18 May, after the early election results were announced, Lebed said he has no plans "for now" to run for president in 2000. He noted that presidential campaigns are expensive and time-consuming and that "big and difficult" work awaits him as Krasnoyarsk governor. However, he did not rule out a presidential bid "if I am needed." During the campaign, Zubov repeatedly charged that Lebed has no roots in Krasnoyarsk and merely wants to use the Siberian region's natural resources to help finance a presidential campaign. Lebed has repeatedly said he will not run for president until he improves the Krasnoyarsk economy. During a 15 May appearance on local television, he appeared to rule out running in 2000, saying that "it is not possible to turn around the situation in the region within two years," AFP reported. LB GOVERNMENT PROMISES SUPPORT FOR COAL INDUSTRY... Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko announced on 16 May that the federal government has found additional funds for the coal industry, although he did not specify how much will be spent on top of the 5.7 billion rubles ($930 million) allocated in the 1998 budget, Russian news agencies reported. Speaking to journalists after a meeting with leaders of trade unions that represent coal industry workers, Kirienko said privatization and alcohol sales will bring in additional revenues, and money will be saved by limiting energy consumption by budget-funded organizations. Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, who also attended the meeting, said the government will spend 385 million rubles on back wages for miners by the end of May. LB ...AS KIRIENKO LINKS ADDITIONAL FUNDS TO BUDGET CUTS. Kirienko addressed the State Duma on 15 May after Communist deputies threatened to block parliamentary proceedings if the prime minister did not come to the chamber to report on the situation in the coal industry, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Kirienko proposed a draft law that would cut 1998 spending on the State Duma, the Federation Council, the government, the Audit Chamber, and the presidential administration by 25 percent. He said the measure would save 500 million rubles ($81 million), which would be used to support the coal industry. The Duma passed the law in the first reading by 369 to two, Russian news agencies reported on 15 May. However, Agrarian faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov accused Kirienko of using the difficult situation in the coal sector to propose a "hidden sequester of the 1998 budget." The budget projects 500 billion rubles in total 1998 spending. LB MINERS UNIMPRESSED BY PROMISES. The promises by top government officials to find more money for the coal sector did not persuade miners in Komi Republic or Kemerovo Oblast to end their blockades of the Moscow-Vorkuta railroad or the Trans-Siberian railroad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 1998). Meanwhile, 100 coal miners in Perm Oblast blocked a major highway on 18 May, ITAR-TASS reported. LB KIRIENKO OUTLINES HIS RESPONSIBILITIES... Prime Minister Kirienko has signed a document assigning the responsibilities within his cabinet, Russian news agencies reported on 15 May. In addition to supervising the activities of other cabinet members, Kirienko will be directly involved in the work of the following ministries: Atomic Energy, State Property, Science and Technologies, Agriculture, Finance, Economics, and Justice. He will also monitor the work of the "power ministries," which are directly subordinate to the president, and will coordinate Russian policy on arms exports, military and technical cooperation with other countries, and military reform. LB ...AND DIVISION OF LABOR AMONG HIS DEPUTIES. Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov will carry out the prime minister's duties in Kirienko's absence, according to the document signed by Kirienko. He will also be responsible for land reform and housing policy and will coordinate government policies on energy, transportation, regulating natural monopolies, ensuring competition, and supporting small businesses. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko will be responsible for a wide range of economic issues, including the development of the banking sector, the management of state property, privatization, revenue collection efforts, and matters related to Russia's internal and external debt. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev will supervise the government's social policies, in particular pension reform, restructuring the social benefits system, and health and education matters. He will also coordinate the government's relations with the mass media, trade unions, public associations, and religious organizations. LB CHUBAIS REASSURES FOREIGN SHAREHOLDERS. Unified Energy System (EES) chief executive Anatolii Chubais on 16 May said a new law on the distribution of the company's shares does not threaten foreign shareholders, Interfax reported. He criticized the law, which restricts foreign ownership of EES to a maximum of 25 percent, but added that the Russian civil code protects the rights of shareholders. The law does not specify how foreign ownership of EES, currently above 25 percent, is to be reduced (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 1998). Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii on 15 May charged that the Duma "stabbed the market economy in the back" by passing the law on EES shares. He did not comment on the fact that Yeltsin was compelled to sign the law only after the Federation Council, made up of regional legislative and executive leaders, also overrode the president's veto. LB MAYOR CRUSHES INCUMBENT GOVERNOR IN SMOLENSK. Smolensk Mayor Aleksandr Prokhorov won the 17 May gubernatorial election in Smolensk Oblast with 67.3 percent of the vote, ITAR-TASS reported. Incumbent Anatolii Glushenkov gained just 26.5 percent, according to preliminary returns. The Smolensk race was unusual in that Prokhorov had the backing of both the Communist Party and the presidential administration, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 May. The Communists were disillusioned with Glushenkov, whom they supported in the 1993 gubernatorial election. The Kremlin recognized that Prokhorov had better electoral prospects and is counting on him to "forget" the promises he made to the Communists during the campaign. The oblast has traditionally been a Communist stronghold: Gennadii Zyuganov received 56 percent of the vote in the region in the 1996 presidential election, while Yeltsin gained just 38 percent. LB INCUMBENT LEADER LOSES IN KARELIA. Preliminary returns suggest that Sergei Katanandov gained 49.5 percent of the vote in the 17 May election for the top executive post in the Republic of Karelia, ITAR-TASS reported. Incumbent Viktor Stepanov, who was backed by the Communist Party and its political allies, gained 43.4 percent. Katanandov was until last month mayor of Petrozavodsk, the republic's capital city, but he did not seek re-election, choosing instead to challenge Stepanov. His supporters included the Our Home Is Russia movement, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. Katanandov told ITAR-TASS that among his first actions will be to conduct an audit of his predecessor's allocation of funds. LB COURT APPROVES DECISION TO ANNUL NIZHNII ELECTION. A raion court in Nizhnii Novgorod on 15 May approved the decision by the city's electoral commission to annul the 29 March mayoral election, Russian news agencies reported. The court found that Andrei Klimentev, the apparent winner of the election, and several rival candidates violated various campaign rules in the weeks leading up to the election. The city's electoral law allows election results to be canceled if candidates break campaign rules. But some observers have said the Nizhnii Novgorod statute violates federal law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1998). A representative for Klimentev announced plans to appeal to the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Court. LB RUSSIAN, CHECHEN INTERIOR MINISTERS DISCUSS COOPERATION. Meeting in the Ingush capital, Nazran, on 16 May, Sergei Stepashin and Kazbek Makhashev agreed on measures to intensify cooperation between their ministries. Makhashev told journalists that the talks were "productive and useful" and that, as a professional, Stepashin understands the importance of coordinating measures to combat kidnapping and political terrorism. He also said that the man who shot dead Chechen Deputy Security Minister Shamsudi Uvaisayev, former Foreign Minister Ruslan Chimaev, and two others during the night of 15-16 May was insane. Makhashev ruled out any political dimension to the murders. The following day, Stepashin met with Chechen field commanders to discuss how to secure the release of some 50 Russian and foreign hostages, including Russian presidential envoy to Chechnya Valentin Vlasov. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN CONTINUE TALKS. The co-chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group met with Armenian President Robert Kocharian in Yerevan on 15 May. Kocharian again called for direct talks between the Karabakh and Azerbaijani leaderships and ruled out any direct subordination of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan. He also advocated establishing a "sub-regional security system" to create a balance of forces in the region. The president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Arkadii Ghukasyan, said on 15 May that he believes the conflict can be resolved if all sides demonstrate the necessary political will, Interfax reported. Ghukasyan said that the Minsk Group co-chairmen showed "understanding" for the Karabakh Armenian position. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev told the co-chairmen in Baku on 16 May that he hopes for a swift solution to the conflict. He also reaffirmed his commitment to the cease-fire agreement signed in May 1994. LF UN SPECIAL ENVOY ASSESSES ABKHAZ SITUATION. Speaking in Sukhumi on 16 May, Liviu Bota expressed concern at the increased incidence of what he termed professionally planned and executed terrorist activities in Abkhazia, ITAR-TASS reported. Bota said that neither Abkhazia nor Georgia appears to want peace and that the withdrawal of peacekeeping forces from the region would render the situation potentially explosive. Bota also rejected Georgian calls for a stricter economic blockade of Abkhazia, saying he does not believe the embargo is conducive to resolving the conflict. The Georgian leadership wants the blockade to remain in force until ethnic Georgians who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 fighting have been repatriated. But Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba on 15 May told representatives of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly that the beginning of repatriation should be contingent on lifting the embargo. LF ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT, PRESIDENT REJECT CIS PROPOSALS. The Abkhaz parliament on 15 May adopted a resolution rejecting the "Additional Measures on resolving the Abkhaz conflict" adopted at last month's CIS summit, Caucasus Press reported. The resolution said those measures are a concerted effort to exert pressure on Abkhazia by the Russian and Georgian Foreign Ministries. It called on Ardzinba to propose that the CIS peacekeeping force's mandate be revoked and to reject further Russian mediation. Ardzinba, for his part, rejected the proposals contained in the "Additional Measures" to extend the security zone in which the CIS peacekeepers are deployed and to create joint Abkhaz- Georgian local government bodies in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. Ethnic Georgian displaced persons are to be repatriated to that area. LF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION AGAIN PROTESTS ELECTION LEGISLATION. Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar and Azerbaijan Popular Front chairman Abulfaz Elchibey said that the parliament's adoption in the third and final reading of a new law on the creation of the Central Electoral Commission is "an erroneous step by the authorities," Turan reported on 15 May. Under that law, half of the 24 members of the Central Electoral Commission are to be appointed by the president and the other half by the ruling New Azerbaijan party. Elchibey hinted that opposition parties may boycott the October presidential poll to protest the law. By the same token, Gambar said that his party may boycott the elections if changes are not made in the draft law on the presidential elections to remove the minimum 50 percent plus one turnout. LF UTO COMPLAINS ABOUT 'TROIKA' AGREEMENT. The leader of the United Tajik Opposition, Said Abdullo Nuri said the decision to form a "troika" of Russia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to combat the threat of fundamentalism in Central Asian endangers the Tajik peace process, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 May. Nuri called the threat "an invention" of "certain circles" and said "fundamentalism does not exist in Tajikistan." The next day, ITAR-TASS quoted Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov as a saying fundamentalism is a real threat in the region and claiming that religious radicals are already disseminating fundamentalist propaganda in Tajikistan. BP AKAYEV TO RUN FOR ANOTHER TERM AS KYRGYZ PRESIDENT? Kyrgyz Prime Minister Kubanychbek Jumaliev on 14 May said that current President Askar Akayev is eligible to run in the 2000 presidential elections, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Akayev was elected by the Supreme Soviet as president of the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic in 1990, and he was twice voted Kyrgyz president in direct elections, in 1991 and 1995. The Kyrgyz Constitution stipulates that a president may stay in office for only two terms, but Jumaliev said the constitution was adopted in 1993 and therefore covers only the last presidential election. There are also reports that parliamentary deputies are drawing up an amendment to make possible a third term in office for the president. BP END NOTE STILL STRANGERS IN THEIR OWN HOMELAND by Mubeyyin Batu Altan On 18 May, Crimean Tatars mark the 54th anniversary of their mass deportation from Crimea by the Soviet authorities. Although that was one of the saddest days in the history of the Crimean Tatar people, they are by no means the only ones who have to live with such a heritage. Among the other nations deported by Stalin were the Koreans, Chechens, Ingush, Karachais, Volga Germans, and Kalmyks, to name just a few. Why then do we, the Crimean Tatar community, consider 18 May so important? The reason is simple: the "Surgun," as the mass deportation is called in Crimean Tatar, has not yet ended. More than half of the Crimean Tatars deported 54 years ago have so far been unable to return, even though most other deported groups are now back in their historical homelands. Along with the Ahiska (Meskhetian) Turks, the Crimean Tatars stand out as the nation that continues to experience the direct effects of deportation and not just the resulting dislocation. If the Crimean Tatars had been helped to return to their homeland, had received an apology from those responsible, and had been compensated for their losses, 18 May would not have the significance it is currently accorded. It would, of course, be commemorated as a time of mourning. But the next day, Crimean Tatars would return to normal life. Unfortunately, they do not have that option. And as a result, the Crimean Tatars have no choice but to make a big fuss about their deportation and thus keep the memory of 18 May 1944 alive. Their nation remains divided; many still have relatives in Uzbekistan or other parts of the former Soviet Union who cannot yet return to Crimea . Indeed, many continue to search for relatives lost during the "Surgun," as a glance at Crimean Tatar newspapers shows. Advertisements in those papers reveal that even now, many Crimean Tatars have been unable to find out whether their loved ones are alive or dead. Moreover, it appears that many Crimean Tatars are losing ground in their peaceful struggle to return and resettle in their Crimean homeland. Some 90.000 Crimean Tatars were denied the right to cast their ballots in the March 1998 Ukrainian elections because Kyiv does not consider them citizens of Ukraine--despite the fact that they were forcibly and unjustly uprooted from their homeland and did not become Uzbek citizens by choice. As a result, the Crimean Tatars have almost no representation in the current Crimean parliament--in sharp contrast to the situation before the March ballot, when they had 14 representatives in the legislature. Mustafa Jemilev and Refat Chubarov, the two Crimean Tatar representatives in the Ukrainian parliament in Kyiv, are bound to find it extremely difficult to shoulder the responsibility for an entire people, even with the support of the Ukrainian government. And unfortunately, it appears that there are many in Kyiv who will seek to block their efforts to help the Crimean Tatars. On 17 May, Crimean Tatars living in the U.S. once again peacefully gathered to commemorate the "Surgun." At a special ceremony in Corum, New York, they dedicated the first Crimean Tatar monument in honor of all Crimean Tatars who were killed or died during the "Surgun" and its aftermath. And, in particular, they remembered those whose bodies were thrown off the trains carrying the Crimean Tatars from their homeland to Uzbekistan. But for the Crimean Tatars in Crimea and for those still living in exile, everyday is another "18 May." This will remain the case until all the Crimean Tatars are able to return and settle in their ancestral homeland, until they are allowed to live there in peace and harmony with other nationalities just as they did before the "Surgun." But as they continue their struggle, it is both their hope and ours that there will be no more martyrs to add to the long list of those who have already died for the Crimean Tatar national cause. The author is editor of "Crimean Review," a U.S.-based, English-language publication dedicated to recording the history and current status of the Crimean Tatars. 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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