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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 94 Part I, 19 May 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 94 Part I, 19 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 INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE: MAKING IT WORK FOR HUMANITY Next month, work will begin on the creation of a permanent International Criminal Court. This four-part series explores the ramifications of a new criminal court and how the current war crimes tribunals are handling cases related to the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/courts/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * CENTRAL BANK RAISES INTEREST RATES AMID MARKET TURMOIL * LEBED SETS AGENDA AS KRASNOYARSK GOVERNOR * ARMENIAN NEWSPAPER ROW ENDS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA CENTRAL BANK RAISES INTEREST RATES AMID MARKET TURMOIL. The Central Bank on 19 May raised the refinancing rate and the Lombard rate to 50 percent, an 18-month high. The rate hikes were announced the evening of 18 May, after the Russian stock market posted a 12 percent fall earlier that day and Russian bond markets were battered. Market analysts quoted by Western news agencies attributed the declines to flight by foreign investors and nervousness related to the market turmoil in southeast Asia. According to AFP, the Russian stock market has fallen 40 percent since the start of the year. On 15 May, the Central Bank announced plans to raise the Lombard rate from 30 percent to 40 percent, effective 18 May, but said the refinancing rate would remain unchanged at 30 percent. The rate hikes are intended to stave off a sharp devaluation of the ruble. LB OFFICIAL SAYS RATE HIKE 'SHORT-TERM' MEASURE. Interfax on 19 May quoted Central Bank Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Potemkin as saying the "harsh" measure to increase the refinancing and Lombard rates to 50 percent will be "of a short-term nature." He expressed the hope that "in the near future we will be able to return to a more acceptable level of interest rates that are easier on the economy." Earlier this year, the Central Bank announced plans to bring the refinancing rate down to between 15 percent and 18 percent by the end of 1998. Inflation is expected to register in single digits for the year. LB LEBED SETS AGENDA AS KRASNOYARSK GOVERNOR. Aleksandr Lebed outlined several priority tasks he will address after he is inaugurated as governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai during a lengthy interview with NTV on 18 May. Lebed said he is preparing a package of more than two dozen agreements to supplement a power-sharing treaty that President Boris Yeltsin and then Krasnoyarsk Governor Valerii Zubov signed last November on behalf of the federal and krai authorities. He also said he plans to work within the Federation Council to change policies on taxation and transportation fees, which, he said, are hurting industry in Krasnoyarsk. (All regional leaders automatically become deputies in the upper house of the Russian parliament.) Lebed repeated that he will try to prevent "fires" in the North Caucasus region from being "rekindled," adding that "I have authority and influence there. People there respect me." LB KREMLIN OFFICIALS SAY THEY WILL COOPERATE WITH LEBED. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Ekho Moskvy on 18 May that the presidential administration will cooperate with all three winners of the 17 May regional elections, including Lebed. Aleksandr Livshits, the deputy head of the presidential administration, told journalists in Moscow that "we are ready to work with any governor," Interfax reported. He added that "political and ideological qualities vanish" after someone is elected governor and needs to tackle the region's economic relations with the federal authorities. Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 18 May described Lebed's victory as a "misfortune" for Russia. But Lebed, who is likely to face Zyuganov in a future presidential campaign, told Interfax that the Krasnoyarsk election shows the Communist leader is "out of the game." Zyuganov has described Lebed as "a young Yeltsin, but three times worse," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 13 May. LB YELTSIN TO PUSH PARLIAMENTARY LEADERS ON START-2. President Yeltsin is to make the case for ratifying the START-2 arms control treaty during a meeting of the "big four" (Yeltsin, Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, and State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev) within the next few days, presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii announced during an 18 May appearance on Ekho Moskvy. Both Russian and U.S. officials have said the next summit meeting between Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton will not take place until Russia has ratified the treaty. The Duma was scheduled to hold closed hearings on the treaty next month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 1998), but Duma Geopolitics Committee Chairman Aleksei Mitrofanov of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia told Russian news agencies on 19 May that the hearings have been postponed until September. LB RUSSIA NEEDS AID TO DESTROY CHEMICAL WEAPONS. Colonel- General Stanislav Petrov, commander of the Defense Ministry's Radiation, Chemical and Biological Defense Forces, says Russia currently lacks the funds to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles within the time frame imposed by the Chemical Weapons Convention, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 18 May. Appearing at a conference in The Hague on Russia's chemical weapons, Petrov said Russia faces "significant financial and political problems" and will need to attract non-budgetary sources of financing, as well as foreign aid and technical assistance, in order to meet the deadline for destroying the stockpiles. The Chemical Weapons Convention, which Russia ratified last November, requires treaty members to destroy their chemical weapons within 10 years of ratification. Russia has the world's largest chemical weapons stockpile, estimated at 40,000 tons. LB RUSSIA STILL PLANS TO CONSTRUCT NUCLEAR POWER PLANT IN INDIA. Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov told journalists on 18 May that recent nuclear tests conducted by India will not affect his ministry's plans to construct a nuclear power plant in Kudankulam, India, Russian news agencies reported. He said that if Russia were to abrogate the contract on building the plant (signed during the Soviet era), it would look as if Moscow is imposing sanctions against India, "which is not Russia's stand." Georgii Kaurov, press secretary of the Atomic Energy Ministry, told Interfax that while the ministry does not welcome India's nuclear tests, it distinguishes between peaceful and military uses of nuclear energy. Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Yastrzhembskii announced on 16 May that during a visit to India planned for 6-8 December, Yeltsin will urge India to join treaties on non-proliferation and on banning nuclear tests. LB SELEZNEV SUPPORTS INDIA'S NUCLEAR TESTS. Duma Speaker Seleznev on 16 May said that India "acted correctly" in conducting nuclear tests, Russian news agencies reported. He argued that "one can only rejoice at India's enhanced feeling of national pride. It has not curtailed its nuclear program, despite U.S. pressure." LB MINERS' PROTESTS CONTINUE TO SPREAD. Unpaid coal miners in Anzhero-Sudzhensk (Kemerovo Oblast) blocked the Trans- Siberian railroad on 19 May for the fifth straight day, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. A trade union official in Kemerovo told RFE/RL by telephone that miners in Prokopevsk may block another section of the Trans-Siberian, which would cut off all rail traffic from the Far East. Meanwhile, miners from the Donbass region of Rostov Oblast on 18 and 19 May blocked the North Caucasus railroad. A trade union official in Tula Oblast told Interfax on 18 May that miners may block six major railroads and highways if the federal government does not meet miners' demands. On 19 May, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov is to meet with leaders of regions that have a substantial coal industry. Nemtsov chairs a government commission on the socio-economic problems of coal-mining regions. LB SCIENTISTS BLOCK MAJOR ROAD IN PRIMORE. More than 200 scientists from research institutes in Primorskii Krai blocked a major road connecting Vladivostok and Khabarovsk for two hours on 19 May, ITAR-TASS reported. They were protesting the low level of state support for the sciences and monthly wages averaging a mere 300-400 rubles ($49-65) for scientific workers. Also on 19 May, teachers across Primorskii Krai interrupted their classes to stage demonstrations outside local administration buildings. Wage arrears to teachers in Primore are estimated at 110 million rubles. LB GREECE TO EXTRADITE KEY FIGURE IN CORRUPTION CASE. The Greek Supreme Court on 15 May decided to extradite Andrei Kozlenok to Russia, where he faces charges in connection with a $180 million embezzlement case, Russian news agencies reported. The Greek Justice Ministry, which has the final say on the extradition, is expected to approve the ruling. Kozlenok argued that the case against him is politically motivated and that the Russian authorities will intimidate or silence witnesses who could vindicate him, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 May. He also claimed that if he returns to Russia, he will suffer the same fate as a former associate who was found hanging in his jail cell (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February 1998). Several former high-ranking officials in the government and the State Committee on Precious Metals may be implicated in the case, which involves the sale of diamonds and precious metals. LB LAWYERS DECRY CHARGES AGAINST ENVIRONMENTALIST. Genri Reznik and Yurii Shmidt, who are representing retired Navy Captain Aleksandr Nikitin, said on 15 May that the criminal charges against their client violate Russian law and the constitution, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Nikitin helped write a report for the international environmental group Bellona about possible radioactive contamination from Russia's Northern Fleet. He was arrested in February 1996 and held in pre-trial detention for 10 months before being released and ordered not to leave St. Petersburg. Criminal charges were recently filed against him for the seventh time. Federal Security Service officials and Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov, among others, have claimed that Nikitin revealed state secrets in the Bellona report. Reznik and Shmidt say the charges are based on secret Defense Ministry documents and note that the constitution prohibits charging citizens with a crime based on unpublished information. LB CE CRITICIZES PRESIDENTIAL POWERS, HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD. The Council of Europe has warned in a report released on 15 May that the broad powers of the Russian presidency could in "cases of abuse" lead the country to a "presidential dictatorship," AFP reported. The report suggested that a dictatorship could arise if the growing activity of organized crime groups enhanced popular support for a "commanding figure" to restore order. The report also charged that prison conditions are in some cases "tantamount to torture" and alleged that prison overcrowding is partly caused by the "excessive use of arrest as a means of repression." The report slammed what it called the "basic failure to observe recent rules and regulations," citing Russia's failure to adopt a legislative ban on the death penalty. Abolishing capital punishment is a condition of membership in the council, which Russia joined in early 1996. LB EXTREMIST LEADER DENIES RESPONSIBILITY FOR SYNAGOGUE BOMBING. Aleksandr Barkashov, leader of the national- socialist group Russian National Unity (RNE), on 15 May denied that his group carried out the 13 May bombing at a Moscow synagogue, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 1998). Earlier on 15 May, Interfax quoted Moscow police sources as saying an anonymous caller claimed responsibility for the bombing on behalf of the RNE. But Barkashov alleged that the act was a "callously planned provocation mounted by the victims themselves." The RNE publishes neo-Nazi literature and claims that Jews, Chechens, and other minority groups are subjugating ethnic Russians. Regional and Nationalities Policy Minister Yevgenii Sapiro speculated during a 15 May press conference that one of Russia's parties whose members wear "black uniforms and swastikas"--a description that fits the RNE-- may have carried out the bombing, ITAR-TASS reported. LB GROUP'S LEGAL STATUS UNCERTAIN. Barkashov's movement is registered in some Russian regions, and paramilitary units trained by the RNE have helped the police patrol the streets in a few cities, such as Voronezh. However, the Justice Ministry, which is in the process of re-registering political parties and movements, has refused to register Barkashov's movement at the federal level. In January, the RNE lost an appeal against that decision in a Moscow district court, and last month it lost another appeal in the Moscow City Court, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 April. High-ranking members of the movement have vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court. Even if that appeal is rejected, the RNE could still be registered later this year if it holds a congress to approve certain changes to its charter, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta." LB KARELIAN LEADER SEEKS TO CHALLENGE ELECTION RESULT. Viktor Stepanov, who lost his job as the top official in the Republic of Karelia in a 17 May election, says he has appealed to the republican Supreme Court to examine possible vote fraud, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 18 May. State Duma deputy Aleksandr Salii of the Communist faction, who observed the Karelian elections, says ballots were handled carelessly and were printed on newsprint without any special precautions against falsification. But "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 May that both the Karelian Prosecutor's Office and the republican electoral commission have announced that the election results were valid. During the final week of the campaign, Stepanov accused the campaign staff of his opponent, Sergei Katanandov, of using "dirty methods," including slander, according to the 14 May "IEWS Russian Regional Report." LB DAGESTANI OFFICIAL ASSASSINATED. Kurban Kurbanov, head of the local administration of Daghestan's Akusha Raion, and his driver were shot dead by unidentified killers early on 19 May, an RFE/RL correspondent in Vladikavkaz reported. Kurbanov was elected district administration head in March, after his predecessor was killed in the same way. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN NEWSPAPER ROW ENDS. The staff of the Russian- language daily newspaper "Respublika Armeniya," which is funded by the parliament, has ended its standoff with parliamentary speaker Khosrov Harutiunian and agreed to his appointee as the newspaper's new editor, Ramkavar-Azatakan Party member Shamiram Aghabekian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 18 May. The newspaper's staff had protested that Aghabekian's appointment was illegal, and some launched a strike to demand that acting chief editor Ashot Gazazian be appointed permanently to that post. Gazazian and four other journalists have resigned, however, rather than work under Aghabekian. LF MORE GUERRILLA CLASHES IN ABKHAZIA. Georgian guerrillas killed 17 Abkhaz policemen in a surprise attack in the village of Repi in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion on 18 May, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Tbilisi. Also on 18 May, the Russian-Georgian Inter-Parliamentary Commission met in Sochi to discuss means of resolving the Abkhaz conflict. Two Abkhaz parliamentary deputies also attended the session. Kakha Chitaia, chairman of the Georgian parliamentary Commission on International Affairs, stressed Georgia's readiness to achieve a peace settlement based on compromise. LF BAKU-SUPSA PIPELINE TO BE COMPLETED ON SCHEDULE. Meeting in Baku on 18 May with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, Georgian parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania said that reconstruction of the oil export pipeline from Baku to the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa and construction of terminals at Supsa and Poti will be completed by October 1998, Interfax and Turan reported. He said he is confident that the financial problems connected to the pipeline repairs can be overcome. Estimates of the cost of those repairs were recently raised, triggering disagreements between the Azerbaijani International Operating Company exploiting three offshore Caspian oil fields and Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 20 April 1998) over how the repairs will be funded. LF TURKEY, AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA AFFIRM SUPPORT FOR BAKU-CEYHAN PIPELINE. Following three days of talks, Turkish Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer and senior Georgian and Azerbaijani oil sector officials signed a memorandum of intent in Istanbul on 15 May, Caucasus Press reported on18 May. That document affirms their support for the Baku-Ceyhan route for the main export pipeline for Caspian oil. The presidents of the three countries are to sign an agreement to this effect in September, 1998. LF TURKMEN PRESIDENT ON CASPIAN PIPELINES, CIS. In a speech to foreign diplomats in Ashgabat on 16 May, Saparmurat Niyazov affirmed his opposition to the Russian and Kazakh demand that the Caspian seabed, but not its waters, be divided into national sectors, Interfax reported. Niyazov said that the proposed Trans-Caspian pipeline is contingent on resolving the dispute between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan over the delineation of their respective sectors of the Caspian. He added that the Trans-Caspian pipeline is not an alternative to planned Trans-Iranian pipelines for exporting Turkmen gas to Europe and the Persian Gulf. He also invited Russian participation in the construction of pipelines and the exploitation of Turkmenistan's hydrocarbon resources. And he repeated his objection to the creation of supranational regulating agencies within the CIS, expressing skepticism that the planned CIS interstate conference will yield solutions to the problems facing the organization. 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