|Be slow of tongue and quick of eye. - Cervantes|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 95 Part I, 20 May 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 95 Part I, 20 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx SPECIAL REPORT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 * NO END TO MINERS' STRIKES IN SIGHT * CENTRAL BANKER WARNS FOREIGN 'SPECULATORS' * STORMS HIT CENTRAL ASIA End Note: STILL NO POLITICAL SETTLEMENT IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA NO END TO MINERS' STRIKES IN SIGHT. Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev on 20 May declared a state of emergency in the region after miners in Prokopevsk blocked the Great Siberian Ring railroad, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. That railroad was being used to reroute some traffic from the Trans-Siberian, which miners have blocked for six days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 May 1998). Coal miners in Rostov Oblast and Komi Republic continue to block major railroads, ITAR-TASS reported. Miners in the Republic of Buryatia, Chelyabinsk and Sakhalin Oblasts also staged protests on 20 May, and former gold miners in Krasnoyarsk Krai blocked a railroad connecting the Trans-Siberian to the Republic of Khakassia. Meanwhile, during negotiations with a group of federal officials in Perm Oblast on 19 May, miners placed the group under "house arrest" until urgent steps are taken to solve their problems. LB KIRIENKO ORDERS MINISTERS TO VISIT COAL-MINING REGIONS. Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko has ordered Deputy Prime Ministers Oleg Sysuev and Boris Nemtsov to cancel planned trips abroad in order to visit regions that have been affected by the unrest among coal miners, Russian news agencies reported on 20 May. Sysuev will go to Kemerovo, instead of South Korea, and Nemtsov, who was scheduled to fly to Italy, will travel to Rostov Oblast. The previous day, Nemtsov discussed the crisis in the coal industry with leaders of some 20 regions of the Russian Federation. Meanwhile, Kirienko on 20 May ruled out the use of force against coal miners taking part in civil disobedience, ITAR- TASS reported. The same day, the State Duma passed a resolution calling on President Boris Yeltsin to convene an emergency joint session of the two houses of the parliament to discuss the situation in the coal industry. LB STRIKES HURTING RAILROADS. The wave of protests by unpaid coal miners is taking a huge financial toll on railroads, "Izvestiya" reported on 20 May. The Railroad Ministry lost 12.7 million rubles ($2.1 million) during the first three days of the blockade of the Trans-Siberian. The blockage of the North Caucasus railroad by miners in Rostov Oblast caused losses of 3 million rubles in two days. Protesters in Komi Republic are allowing passenger trains to use the Vorkuta-Moscow route, but cargo traffic remains at a standstill, ITAR-TASS reported. On 19 May, the management and trade union committee of the West-Siberian railroad warned Kemerovo miners that their actions are leaving railroad workers and their families without money. Vladimir Starostenko, the head of that railroad, told ITAR-TASS that more than 100 freight trains are stalled on the Trans- Siberian and that many would-be passengers are demanding refunds on train tickets. LB COMMUNISTS TO LAUNCH IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced during a 20 May Duma session that the Communist and allied factions are collecting signatures demanding Yeltsin's removal from office, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. By the end of the day, they are likely to obtain the 150 signatures needed in order to place an impeachment vote on the Duma's agenda. But Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has already said his faction will not support the impeachment motion, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. Without Zhirinovsky's support, such a motion is highly unlikely to gain the 300 votes needed in the Duma. Even if the Duma calls for Yeltsin's impeachment and sends the motion to the Supreme Court, as required by law, the court is almost certain to rule that there are no grounds for removing the president from office. LB FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES REVISED LAND CODE. The Federation Council on 20 May passed a revised version of the land code by 97 to 21, with eight abstentions, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The new draft is somewhat different from the version passed by both houses of the parliament last year, but it retains a prohibition on the purchase and sale of farmland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 1998). Yeltsin has said he will not sign any land code that does not give farmers full land ownership rights. While the State Duma would likely override a presidential veto, their allies in the Federation Council would probably find it difficult to gain the two-thirds majority needed to force Yeltsin to sign the code. LB CENTRAL BANKER WARNS FOREIGN 'SPECULATORS.' Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin on 19 May called for the government to "reconsider its relationships" with foreign financial institutions that have been involved in the latest speculative attacks on the ruble and on Russian treasury bills, Reuters and Interfax reported. During the last week, the Central Bank spent some $520 million defending the ruble, bringing Russia's gold and hard-currency reserves down to $15.5 billion. It also raised interest rates to their highest level in the last 18 months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 1998). Dubinin said that "it's hard to imagine that some Western investment institution can simultaneously be both a consultant to the government for some deal on distributing Eurobonds and so on and be involved in the collapse of the government securities market and national currency." Nevertheless, he advised speculators not to "count on" a sharp devaluation of the ruble. LB 'RUSSKII TELEGRAF' BLAMES MARKET TURMOIL ON 'NEZAVISIMAYA.' "Russkii telegraf" on 19 May blamed "Nezavisimaya gazeta" for the recent collapse in the market for government treasury bills (GKOs). "Russkii telegraf" argued that the widespread sell-off of GKOs was not an inevitable result of events in southeastern Asia. It charged that an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" alleging that the GKO market is a dangerous "debt pyramid" was translated and widely distributed to foreign investors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 1998). It also accused "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of publishing unfounded claims that a law on shares in the electricity monopoly Unified Energy System will lead to the "nationalization" of company shares currently held by foreigners. "Russkii telegraf," which is owned by Oneksimbank, claimed that a ruble devaluation and declining share values for Russian companies would be advantageous for Boris Berezovskii, an Oneksimbank rival and financial backer of "Nezavisimaya gazeta." LB 'NEZAVISIMAYA' SAYS RUSSIA 'ON THE BRINK OF DEVALUATION.' "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 May claimed that the Central Bank is "ready to sharply devalue" the ruble but wants the president or prime minister to take the political responsibility for such a decision. The newspaper compared Russia's current financial condition to a patient in a coma who can be saved only by a major operation--in this case, a ruble devaluation. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" also noted that in a recent article for the weekly "Ekspert," Central Bank First Deputy Chairman Sergei Aleksashenko acknowledged that devaluation is one instrument for improving a country's trade balance, even as he argued against devaluing the ruble. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" challenged the official government viewpoint that there are no "objective" reasons for the current market turmoil in Russia. It also warned that Russia's financial crisis "is developing on the Indonesian model." LB GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO INVALIDATE LAW ON ELECTRICITY GIANT. The government has announced plans to appeal to the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court to prevent the implementation of the law on shares in Unified Energy System (EES), Russian news agencies reported on 19 May. The government believes the law violates the civil code and the constitution. The law's most contentious provision restricts foreign shareholders to at most a 25 percent stake in EES. More than one-quarter of the company's shares are currently in foreign hands. Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov on 19 May attributed the recent declines on the Russian stock market in part to the adoption of the law, which Yeltsin was forced to sign after both houses of the parliament overrode his veto. Also on 19 May, Federal Securities Commission Chairman Dmitrii Vasilev told journalists that his commission will take "all necessary measures" to protect the rights of EES shareholders. LB RUSSIA TO ATTEND OPEC ANNUAL MEETING. Following a meeting in Moscow on 19 May with OPEC Director-General Rilwanu Lukman, Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov said Russia will attend the annual OPEC summit next month for the first time, Russian agencies reported. Nemtsov told journalists that Moscow and OPEC reached agreement on coordinating their efforts to stabilize world oil markets following the slump in world oil prices. Russia is the world's third-largest oil exporter. LF ROSVOORUZHENIE HEAD SLAMS PREVIOUS MANAGEMENT. In a interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 May, Yevgenii Ananev, head of the arms export monopoly, accused his predecessor, Aleksandr Kotelkin, of financial mismanagement, saying that he invested millions of dollars in Russian banks that subsequently collapsed, tolerated kickbacks, and lacked a long-term strategic blueprint to maintain Russia's position in international arms trade. Ananev expressed concern that as a result of Kotelkin's lack of vision, Rosvooruzhenie lost valued customers, including most former Warsaw Pact countries. He also said claims that Russia could earn $10 billion annually from arms exports are "unrealistic." LF WOMEN GAIN TOP POSTS IN KARELIAN LEGISLATURE. Women will head both chambers of the Karelian legislature, which has chosen its top officials following 26 April legislative elections in the republic, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 May. Valentina Pivnenko has been re-elected as head of the House of Representatives. Natalya Kotsyuba, up to now director of the Karelian branch of the Federal Bankruptcy Service, has been chosen to head the House of the Republic and has announced plans to step down as head of the Karelian branch of Victor Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia movement. Karelian legislators have not yet determined whether Pivnenko or Kotsyuba will represent the republic in the Federation Council. (The top legislator in each region of the Russian Federation automatically becomes a member of the upper house of the parliament.) The only other woman in the Federation Council is Koryak Autonomous Okrug Governor Valentina Bronevich. LB OPPONENTS OF NIKOLAEV FAIL TO HAVE BY-ELECTION REVIEWED. The Supreme Court on 19 May upheld a Moscow City Court ruling that rejected an appeal for a review of the Duma by-election won last month by former Federal Border Service chief Andrei Nikolaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 14 April 1998). Several politicians who dropped out of the race for the Duma seat shortly before the election filed the lawsuit. They claimed that Nikolaev's campaign staff committed numerous violations of the law on parliamentary elections and the law on the electoral rights of voters. The Moscow city authorities supported Nikolaev's campaign, which, opponents charged, gave the former federal border chief an unfair advantage. LB CHECHEN PARLIAMENT CALLS ON SECURITY MINISTER TO RESIGN. Lawmakers on 19 May called on Islam Khalimov to resign, blaming him for the inadequate performance of his Sharia Security Ministry in combatting kidnappings and murders. Russian agencies reported. Khalimov had been summoned to the parliament, together with heads of other power ministries, but failed to appear. The parliament's call for his resignation must be approved by President Aslan Maskhadov. LF DAGESTANIS BLOCKADE BORDER CROSSINGS TO CHECHNYA. For the past two days, residents of Dagestani border districts have been blocking traffic on several main roads leading from Dagestan to Chechnya, including the main Rostov-Baku highway, to protest continued cross-border raids and abductions by Chechen criminal groups, ITAR-TASS and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 19 May. In an interview published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" the next day, Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin said that the "most varied, mutually exclusive forces" are on a rampage in Dagestan. He added that his ministry must provide the maximum assistance to its Dagestani counterpart "before the situation gets out of control." LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA STORMS HIT CENTRAL ASIA... Heavy rains and strong winds have left many parts of Central Asia without power and cut off from roads and other transport links. At least three people died in floods in eastern Kazakhstan, after heavy rains on 18 May washed away sections of roads and submerged some 50 houses, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Gale force winds in the eastern Caspian Sea are thought to have been responsible for the sinking of a patrol boat belonging to Kazakhstan's Customs Service. The boat's crew was lifted to safety by a helicopter. The same day, storms in southern Kyrgyzstan caused damage to more than 1,000 houses in the Suzdak district, and some 40,000 residents of the Jalalabad Region were forced to leave their homes by the worst mud slides in 20 years. BP ...AND PARTICULARLY TAJIKISTAN . In Tajikistan, torrential rains cut off power to regions in the south on 18 May, while Dushanbe was without power for several hours after lines to the Nurek hydro-electric dam were severed, ITAR-TASS reported. All roads to the capital were flooded. A 19 May broadcast from Radio Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported than more than 16,000 people have been left homeless. Last month, the central regions of Tajikistan were heavily flooded. The Red Cross/ Red Crescent has already sent aid to the affected areas, and neighboring Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are continuing to send help as well. BP WORLD BANK PLEDGES AID TO KYRGYZSTAN WORTH $610 MILLION. The World Bank has pledged to extend aid worth $610 million to Kyrgyzstan over the next two years to help continue economic reform, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. Speaking at a donor conference in Paris, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia Johannes Linn noted that the Kyrgyz economy has grown by 7 percent annually over the last two years and that great progress has been made in the privatization of agriculture and industry. He added, however, that poverty remains a problem in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Kubanychbek Jumaliev, who attended the conference, said "not everyone can find their place in the new socio-economic conditions." He said that 60 percent of the population earns less than the minimum wage, calculated on the basis of the consumer food basket, and 18 percent live in "absolute poverty." BP ARMENIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS COMMISSION ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM. Robert Kocharian on 19 May issued a decree creating a commission tasked with drafting amendments to the constitution, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The commission is to be headed by his adviser on legal reform, Paryur Hayrikian. The draft amendments are expected to include measures on curtailing the extensive powers of the president and augmenting those of the parliament and cabinet of ministers. They will be put to a nationwide referendum. LF ARMENIA, ISRAEL ASSESS BILATERAL RELATIONS. At a 19 May meeting, Armenian President Kocharian and Israeli Ambassador Ehud Moshe Eidman discussed establishing closer ties and expanding economic cooperation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian said Armenia is particularly interested in agriculture and high technology, noting that Israel's experience "may be useful" to Armenia. He added that the Israeli experience is all the more relevant to Armenia as both countries are not rich in natural resources but possess "strong intellectual potential." LF NEW GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER OUTLINES PRIORITIES. At his first press conference since his appointment as defense minister last month, David Tevzadze said conditions in the Georgian armed forces are "unbearable" and one of the reasons for a recent upsurge in desertion among conscripts, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20 May. Tevzadze cited no figures, but the Georgian newspaper "Kavkazioni" last summer estimated that some 3,000 servicemen, or 10 percent of the nominal strength of the army, were on the run. In a move to bring the Georgian army closer to NATO standards, Tevzadze proposed introducing civilian structures and appointing a civilian as one of his deputies. He also said that Georgia will use every opportunity to train its officers abroad. Georgia has concluded training agreements with Turkey and the U.S. LF REGIONAL AFFAIRS BEREZOVSKII ADVOCATES POSTPONING CIS INTERSTATE FORUM. Addressing a meeting convened in Minsk on 19 May to prepare for the CIS interstate forum tentatively scheduled for July, CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii proposed postponing that forum until the fall, Interfax reported. The forum is to debate reforming the CIS. Berezovskii said that he concluded from his meetings earlier this month with the presidents of Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, and Georgia that it is "unrealistic" to hold the forum in July, given that "no hasty moves will bring a radical improvement," according to ITAR-TASS. Almost all participants at the April CIS summit in Moscow expressed dissatisfaction with the way the CIS operates. Berezovskii positively assessed the role of the CIS in containing conflicts between its members. And he warned against blindly copying the experience of other international bodies such as the EU. LF END NOTE STILL NO POLITICAL SETTLEMENT IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH by Emil Danielyan It has been four years since the fighting ceased in Nagorno-Karabakh. That respite has saved thousands of Armenian and Azerbaijani lives but has failed to materialize into a lasting peace. Recent developments in the region suggest that the peace process still has a long way to go before the parties to the conflict will reach an agreement. Although there is little information about the visit last week to Yerevan, Stepanakert, and Baku by the three co- chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, they evidently made scant progress toward breaking the stalemate. Yet the very fact that the cease-fire has largely held for four years without the presence in the region of peace- keepers is quite remarkable. Initially signed for three months only on 12 May 1994 by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic with Russia's mediation, the cease-fire agreement has come to acquire a permanent nature. It has suspended a bitter war, in which more than 20,000 people were killed, and left Karabakh Armenians in control of virtually the entire disputed region and territories in Azerbaijan proper, which surrounds Karabakh. Minor skirmishes from time to time disturb the calm on the front line around the Armenian-populated enclave, but they have so far not developed into all-out hostilities. However, many believe that it is only the parties' own interests that prevent the war from resuming. The latest toughening of Armenia's position will either provoke strong pressure from the Minsk Group or cause the latter to restart its peace efforts from scratch. The new authorities in Yerevan reject the group's most recent "phased" plan, which provides for the return of the occupied Azerbaijani territories ahead of an agreement on Karabakh's status. Armenia and Karabakh favor a "package" deal, settling all contentious issues by means of a single framework accord. The Armenians also vigorously oppose any kind of "subordination" in future relations between Baku and Stepanakert. Under such circumstances, it is reasonable to expect pressure on the Armenians as the recalcitrant party (Azerbaijan has accepted the OSCE's plan). But there are few indications that the Russian, U.S., and French co-chairmen of the Minsk Group will go so far as to advocate "peace enforcement." Hence the "wait-and-see" strategy of Armenian President Robert Kocharian, who appears to want to stick to the harder line, avoiding "hasty" concessions. Indeed, Kocharian may well be in a position to continue that line for several years to come. With the flow of the "main" Azerbaijani oil expected no earlier than 2003, Azerbaijan will hardly be able to embark on a large-scale military build-up before then. Kocharian may also think that Western oil giants, too, have a vital interest in peace and will therefore pressure Baku to make concessions. The constant threat of war puts their multi-billion-dollar investments at enormous risk. In one respect, the package strategy is more conducive to peace than a step-by step one, which is full of pitfalls, as evidenced by the Middle East peace process. The formal establishment of Nagorno-Karabakh's status would pave the way for settling other bones of contention, such as security guarantees and a land corridor with Armenia. Such a development would require reconciling "the highest degree of autonomy for Karabakh in Azerbaijan," supported by the international community, and "horizontal" ties between two equal entities, as demanded by Armenia. "Horizontal ties" resemble the Bosnia option, with each ethnic community having its own army and enjoying an equal, internationally guaranteed status. This would be a face-saving solution whereby the principle of the inviolability of existing frontiers would not be compromised. But it is unlikely that Azerbaijan will agree to serious concessions at this juncture, not least because of presidential elections scheduled for October. Although President Heidar Aliev is virtually assured an election victory, he will nonetheless be reluctant to discuss a compromise during the election campaign. And Azerbaijani presidential adviser Vafa Gulu-Zade insisted last week that direct talks between Baku and Stepanakert are possible only if the latter agrees beforehand to autonomous status within Azerbaijan. Moreover, the co-chairmen's visit to the Transcaucasus failed to clarify whether they will press on with the current plan or shift to the package option. (Armenia and Karabakh both stressed their desire to resume peace negotiations in the hope of quickly reaching a solution.) Thus, a delay in the peace process until the fall now seems likely and would give the mediators more time to consider which strategy to adopt. Even more than till now, the future of the troubled region will depend on that strategy. The author is a Yerevan-based RFE/RL correspondent. 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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