|To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 96 Part I, 21 May 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 96 Part I, 21 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 * NEMTSOV SAYS GOVERNMENT WON'T GIVE IN TO MINERS' 'BLACKMAIL' * SHOOTINGS, ANTI-GOVERNMENT DEMO IN DAGESTANI CAPITALE * GEORGIANS FLEE AS ABKHAZ FIGHTING INTENSIFIES End Note: FORMER KREMLIN SECURITY CHIEF MAKES MORE DISCLOSURES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA NEMTSOV SAYS GOVERNMENT WON'T GIVE IN TO MINERS' 'BLACKMAIL.' Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov announced on 20 May that striking coal miners will not succeed in "blackmailing the government," Russian news agencies reported. Addressing the Federation Council, Nemtsov said that those who are blocking railroads will not be paid more than they are slated to receive from the 1998 budget. He noted that while the constitution guarantees the right to strike, "no one has the right to destroy the country" and paralyze the economy by blocking railroads. Meanwhile, Tax Police chief Nikolai Medvedev said tax police squads will be sent to five coal-mining regions to investigate the causes of the current crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. He suggested that directors of private coal companies employ dubious financial practices and are responsible for many of the problems afflicting unpaid miners. LB UPPER HOUSE SEEKS JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SESSION WITH YELTSIN. The Federation Council on 20 May voted in favor of inviting President Boris Yeltsin to a joint session of both chambers of the parliament, Russian news agencies reported. Earlier in the day, the State Duma passed a similar appeal for convening a joint session of parliament, to be attended by Yeltsin, to discuss the current situation in the coal industry. Yeltsin has not yet responded to the proposal, which Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev vowed to raise in person at a meeting of the "big four" scheduled for 21 May. In televised remarks on 20 May, Yeltsin cautioned against "over-dramatizing" the situation in the coal industry, saying he recently signed a decree that satisfied miners, trade unions, regional authorities, and railroads. LB RAILROAD OFFICIAL SAYS MINERS' PROTESTS MISGUIDED. Railroad Minister Nikolai Aksenenko on 20 May expressed sympathy for unpaid coal miners but criticized the practice of blocking railroads, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Suggesting that the miners are hurting their own cause, Aksenenko said some factories that cannot receive coal shipments are seeking to purchase coal from abroad in order to meet their needs for fuel. (ITAR-TASS reported that the Severstal metallurgical plant in Vologda Oblast has already starting buying coal from Finland.) According to the Railroad Ministry's press service, nearly 300 trains have been delayed because of the miners' strikes. As of 20 May, the blockages have cost Russian railroads 111.2 million rubles ($18 million). Miners have entirely cut off the Trans-Siberian and North Caucasus railroads and are allowing only passenger trains to pass a blockade on the Moscow-Vorkuta railroad. LB STUDENTS, EDUCATORS HOLD ONE-DAY PROTEST. More than 50,000 people took part in dozens of protests staged on 20 May by students, teachers, and professors in 32 regions of the Russian Federation, ITAR-TASS reported, citing estimates released by the Interior Ministry. Some 10,000 people attended a rally in St. Petersburg, at which speakers slammed education reform plans and the chronic underfunding of the education system, RFE/RL's correspondent in the city reported. In Moscow, protesters marched to the government's headquarters. In many cities, educators suspended classes or attended demonstrations. Teachers in Arkhangelsk Oblast went further, announcing that they will not conduct graduation exams until they receive all back wages, ITAR-TASS reported. LB MINISTER TRIES TO ALLAY FEARS ON EDUCATION REFORM. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev, who is in charge of coordinating the government's social policies, announced on 20 May that a proposal to reform Russia's education system has been withdrawn from the agenda of a cabinet session scheduled for June, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking to a group of participants in the teachers' and students' protests, Sysuev also said the government will on 21 May consider urgent measures to settle wage arrears to workers in the education sector. Earlier this year, officials announced planned cost- cutting reforms in Russia's education system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 25 March 1998). The plans have triggered anxiety among students and teachers. Several protesters interviewed on 20 May by an RFE/RL correspondent expressed concern that the reforms will put higher education out of reach for those who do not come from wealthy families. LB SHOOTINGS, ANTI-GOVERNMENT DEMO IN DAGESTANI CAPITAL. Police in Makhachkala have surrounded a house owned by State Duma deputy and chairman of the Union of Muslims of Russia Nadirshakh Khachilaev, Russian media reported. A group of gunmen took refuge in the house after shooting dead one police official and injuring three more in a dispute on 20 May. The gunmen again clashed with police while trying to break through the cordons the next day. Also on 21 May, several thousand people occupied the government building in the center of Makhachkala to call for the resignation of the region's government and for free presidential elections, ITAR-TASS reported. The republic's parliament amended the constitution in March to allow the present state council chairman Magomedali Magomadov to seek a second term. The state council chairman is elected by a 242-person Constitutional Assembly, not by direct vote. LF DUMA APPROVES SPENDING CUTS TO AID COAL INDUSTRY. The Duma on 20 May approved in the second and third readings a government-backed amendment to the 1998 budget calling for 526 million rubles ($86 million) in spending cuts, ITAR-TASS reported. The law calls for saving 94 million rubles in spending on the presidential administration, 90 million rubles on maintaining the Duma, 32 million rubles on the Federation Council, 296 million rubles on executive agencies (including 32 million rubles in spending reductions on the government's apparatus), as well as 14 million rubles in savings on holding elections and referenda. The law earmarks the saving for state support for the coal industry and now goes to the Federation Council for approval. The 1998 budget calls for 499.9 billion rubles in total expenditures. LB GAZPROM TO FORGE AHEAD IN IRAN. Gennadii Yezhov, press secretary to Gazprom board chairman Rem Vyakhirev, said on 20 May that Vyakhirev welcomes the U.S.-EU agreement not to impose sanctions on the three companies that intend to exploit Iran's South Pars natural gas field, Interfax reported. Gazprom formed a consortium last year with France's Total and Malaysia's Petronas to develop South Pars. Vyakhirev affirmed that Gazprom intends to continue its activities in Iran regardless of the possible threat of penalties. On 19 May, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov had welcomed the U.S.-EU decision not to impose sanctions, which he termed a victory for common sense. LF DUMA DEPUTY CLAIMS OLIGARCHS COMPETE FOR FISSIONABLE MATERIALS. Aleksandr Pomorov of the Communist faction charged on 20 May that influential businessmen Boris Berezovskii and Vladimir Potanin have abandoned their competition to control oil reserves and are now engaged in a struggle to gain control of nuclear enterprises, Interfax reported. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, Pomorov claimed that some provisions of the Russian-U.S. agreement on the use of highly enriched uranium extracted from nuclear missiles violate existing non-proliferation agreements. He said the Duma has prepared a draft law on ending the non- regulated export of fissionable materials. LF TURKISH CHIEF OF STAFF IN MOSCOW. General Ismail Hakki Karadayi held talks in Moscow on 20 May with his Russian counterpart, Anatolii Kvashnin, and Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, the "Turkish Daily News" reported. Karadayi and Kvashnin signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening the national security of both countries and security in the Black Sea region as a whole. The document also seeks to step up the participation of both countries in joint exercises within NATO's Partnership for Peace program. The two generals also agreed to prepare an accord on cooperation in the defense industry. Karadayi later told journalists he asked for "clarification" of Russia's position on the sale to Greek Cyprus of S-300 air defense missiles. "There is not yet a clear Russian position on this issue..., we don't yet know what the Russians will do," he commented. LF STAGE SET FOR IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov announced on 20 May that his faction and its allies have collected 177 signatures in favor of initiating proceedings to remove Yeltsin from office, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The Duma can now create a special parliamentary commission to consider the charges against the president before an impeachment motion is put to a vote. According to Interfax, the Communist faction has prepared a 12-page document outlining evidence of "high crimes" committed by Yeltsin. The document cites the economic hardship that has accompanied the implementation of policies supported by Yeltsin. It also blames Yeltsin for current demographic trends and says the president must be called to account for signing the agreement to dissolve the USSR in December 1991, for carrying out a "state coup" in October 1993, for the war in Chechnya, and for the decline in the Russian armed forces. LB DUMA REPLACES ROKHLIN AS DEFENSE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN. The Duma on 20 May approved an agreement distributing the chamber's leadership posts among the seven Duma factions, Russian news agencies reported. Of the 28 Duma committees, 25 retain the same heads that were selected in January 1996. But Our Home Is Russia member Roman Popkovich will replace Lev Rokhlin as chairman of the Defense Committee. Rokhlin was the number three candidate for Our Home Is Russia in the 1995 Duma elections, but last year he became an outspoken critic of the authorities. Russian Regions faction member Aleksandr Zhukov will chair the powerful Budget Committee, which was headed by Yabloko member Mikhail Zadornov before he joined the government last November. In exchange, Yabloko member Boris Misnik will become head of the Committee on the Far North, replacing Russian Regions member Vladimir Goman, who was recently appointed to the cabinet. LB FEDERATION COUNCIL IGNORES YELTSIN'S OPINION ON LAWS. The Federation Council on 20 May overrode a presidential veto of the law on the status of military personnel, despite Yeltsin's objection that the state lacks the financial resources to implement that law, ITAR-TASS reported. In addition, the Council overrode a veto of a law making it a crime to carry out "unlawful" power cuts that could lead to deaths. Anatolii Sliva, the president's representative in the upper house, called on deputies to postpone consideration of that law pending clarification of the term "unlawful stoppage." Earlier in the day, the Council approved a land code that is almost certain to be rejected by Yeltsin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 1998). From 1994- 1996, when Yeltsin had the power to sack most regional leaders, the Federation Council rarely passed laws opposed by the president or garnered the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. LB LUZHKOV LOSES LIBEL SUIT AGAINST GAIDAR. A Moscow municipal court has rejected Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's and the Moscow city government's libel lawsuit against Russia's Democratic Choice leader Yegor Gaidar, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 May. The lawsuit was based on an article Gaidar wrote for "Moskovskie novosti" in February. In particular, the city authorities objected to the following passage: "Economic life in Moscow is terribly bureaucratized and regulated, the result of which is a massive proliferation of corruption, and everyone who has had and has dealings with the Moscow municipal structures knows this very well." During the court hearings, Gaidar's attorney submitted evidence of numerous cases of bribe-taking by city officials. He also criticized Luzhkov for refusing to implement a Constitutional Court decision banning the system of residence permits (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 March 1998). Luzhkov has long been a vocal critic of the economic policies advocated by Gaidar. LB MOSCOW AGAIN REJECTS CHECHEN CALL FOR DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Interfax on 20 May that Moscow has again rejected a proposal by the Chechen government to establish diplomatic relations. Noting the Chechen leadership's "exceptional stubbornness" in raising the issue, the spokesman said Moscow's top priority is to establish economic cooperation with Chechnya. He noted that under the 1996 Khasavyurt agreement, a decision on Chechnya's status vis-a-vis the federal center must be taken no later than 2001. But Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov told journalists that Chechnya formally declared its independence from the Russian Federation on 6 September 1991 and that the bilateral treaty signed in May, 1997, constituted Russia's formal recognition of Chechen independence. He also said Chechnya has asked the German and Turkish governments to recognize its independence. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIANS FLEE AS ABKHAZ FIGHTING INTENSIFIES. Ethnic Georgian repatriates are fleeing from Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion as fighting between Georgian and Abkhaz guerrilla formations continues, Caucasus Press reported on 21 May. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told journalists on 20 May that Abkhaz guerrillas began reprisals against the Georgian repatriates the previous day. A spokeswoman for the so-called Abkhaz parliament in exile, composed of Georgian deputies from the Abkhaz parliament elected in 1991, told Caucasus Press that the Abkhaz are wearing the uniforms and using the heavy weapons of the Russian contingent of the CIS peacekeeping force stationed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. Abkhaz Defense and Interior Ministry spokesmen said the fighting is solely between Abkhaz forces and guerrillas from the Georgian White Legion. Estimates of the death toll range from 10 to 30. Both the Abkhaz and Georgian armed forces have been placed on alert. LF ARMENIA REPORTS PROGRESS IN SOLVING HIGH-PROFILE KILLINGS. Prosecutor-General Henrik Khachatrian told reporters on 20 May that progress has been made toward solving a series of murders of prominent figures in 1993-1994, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Those deaths include the killings of Hambartsum Ghandilian, former railroad chief, and Hambartsum Galstian, ex-mayor of Yerevan and a member of the Karabakh Committee. He said fresh facts are being discovered about two dozen men arrested last January on charges of murder and robbery and suspected of involvement in Ghandilian's murder. Khachatrian has also reviewed the investigations into the deaths of former KGB chairman Marius Yuzbashian, shot while walking his dog, and former Writers' Union chairman Vardges Petrossian. He disclosed that an arrest warrant has been issued for Romik Ghazarian, former head of the presidential security service, who is currently in Moscow. LF ARMENIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER OUTLINES PRIORITIES. Yervand Zarkarian told journalists in Yerevan on 20 May that his primary task is to ensure safe and reliable communications with the outside world via Georgia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He noted the importance of rail communications with the Georgian Black Sea ports of Batumi and Poti, which are the transit points for most of Armenia's foreign trade. Zarkarian said Armenia hopes to receive funding from the EU to upgrade the Yerevan-Giumri-Batumi highway within the framework of the EU's TRACECA project. That project entails expanding the existing road, rail, and ferry network linking Central Asia and the Transcaucasus with Europe via Turkey. LF DONOR CONFERENCE PROVIDES FUNDS FOR TAJIKISTAN. At a donor conference in Paris on 20 May, Tajikistan received pledges of $280 million in aid over the next three years, RFE/RL correspondents reported. A statement released by the World Bank says there is need for greater donor involvement in Tajikistan and that the World Bank will lend Tajikistan $220 million. The statement also notes that 80 percent of Tajikistan's population is currently living in poverty and urges the Tajik government to "pay particular attention to privatization and farm restructuring." Another $60 million will be given as humanitarian aid, and the European Commission promised $220,000 to the Red Cross/ Red Crescent for alleviating the effects of flooding and landslides in southern Tajikistan. BP NEW UN ENVOY FOR TAJIKISTAN. Jan Kubis of Slovakia was named to replace Gerd Merrem as UN special envoy to Tajikistan on 20 May, Reuters reported. Kubis faces the task of accelerating the reconciliation process in Tajikistan, which is lagging behind the schedule established last June, when the Tajik peace accord was signed. Last week, UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan urged Tajikistan not to hold parliamentary elections this year, as stipulated in the peace accord. Annan said the continued unrest would make it difficult to hold free and fair elections. BP NIYAZOV APPOINTS NEW HEAD OF GAS, OIL INDUSTRY. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov on 20 May signed a decree dismissing Oil and Gas Minister Batyr Sarjaev and replacing him with Turkmenneft deputy chairman Rejepbai Arazov, Interfax reported. The previous day, Niyazov had attended a ceremony marking the beginning of oil production at western Turkmenistan's Burun oil field. Niyazov said his country has created the proper conditions for foreign investment, pointing by way of example to the Monument-Mobil company, a U.S.-British joint venture, which runs the field. Niyazov also mentioned his country's cooperation with Iran, which, he said, was based on "geopolitical and economic realities." BP FBI ARRESTS THREE IN KAZAKH KIDNAPPING CASE. Agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation have arrested three people who are allegedly part of a Russian mafia group and responsible for a kidnapping in Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 May. The operation was coordinated with Kazakhstan's secret services and began after a Kazakh businessman was abducted in Almaty and held for a $100,000 ransom. The ransom was paid in installments to a bank account at a New York branch of Chase Manhattan bank. FBI agents traced the owner of the account and the owner's accomplices, while agents in Kazakhstan made the three arrests and continue to search for another four suspects. BP END NOTE FORMER KREMLIN SECURITY CHIEF MAKES MORE DISCLOSURES by John Helmer Aleksandr Korzhakov, the former Kremlin security chief and confidante of President Boris Yeltsin, has made more revelations that may have a bearing on the fate of Andrei Kozlenok, a Russian diamond trader who is currently in an Athens jail awaiting extradition to Moscow. Kozlenok was arrested by Greek police as he arrived at Athens airport in January. In a warrant issued by the Russian prosecutor-general, he is accused of embezzling some $180 million in diamonds and precious metals from Russian state stocks in 1993 and 1994. Russia has applied for his extradition, and last week, Greece's Supreme Court ruled that Kozlenok should be extradited. The Greek Justice Ministry, which has the final say on extraditions, is expected to approve the ruling. Kozlenok argued that the case against him is politically motivated and that Russian authorities will intimidate or silence witnesses who could vindicate him. He also said that if he returns to Russia, he may suffer the same fate as a former associate found hanged in his jail cell. Russian authorities say that death was suicide. Several former high-ranking officials in the government and the State Committee on Precious Metals may be implicated in the case as a whole. Kozlenok has also claimed that his diamond operations were authorized by the Kremlin for political purposes. Kozlenok told a Russian newspaper in April that one of those operations paid for the publication of a book of memoirs by Yeltsin. According to Kozlenok, money from his diamond operations went "into the fund of presidential programs of Russia. Probably, the money was used for publication of the book." Russia has been applying intense diplomatic pressure on the Greek government to return Kozlenok. The Russian press has been filled with unsubstantiated speculation about Kozlenok's spending sprees and the involvement of high- ranking officials in the alleged embezzlement. During the period of Kozlenok's activities, Korzhakov was the head of Yeltsin's personal security service and one of Yeltsin's constant companions. In time, Korzhakov became a powerful and influential decision-maker in his own right, keeping watch over all the president's subordinates and ministers. However, four days after the first round of the 1996 presidential elections, Korzhakov was sacked after officers from the Presidential Security Service apprehended two Yeltsin campaign aides carrying more than $500,000 out of government headquarters. The two aides were associates of Anatolii Chubais, who misleadingly portrayed their detention as a frame-up by Korzhakov's men. Korzhakov then successfully campaigned for a seat in the State Duma, where he remains today. He has also published a memoir of his time with Yeltsin in which he openly attacks the president, his family, and those who currently run the Kremlin. "The president is an empty bottle, filled by others around him," Korzhakov told RFE/RL in a recent interview. Korzhakov publicly warns that he has details of corruption among Yeltsin's advisers and high-ranking government officials amassed from investigations he and his subordinates conducted when they were in the Kremlin. A new book containing those details is to be released very soon, Korzhakov said. Asked what he knows about Kozlenok, Korzhakov told RFE/RL he had investigated the diamond transactions by Kozlenok's San Francisco-based company, Golden ADA. "I received the materials about Golden ADA, and sent them to the President. They were met with total indifference. There were major violations and shady deals, but nothing was done." Korzhakov suggests the Kremlin investigation he ordered could substantiate the claim that some of the money generated by the scheme was diverted to Yeltsin's book. "I don't exclude this," Korzhakov said, adding that he thinks it likely because Boris Berezovskii, the Yeltsin family's adviser and a wealthy financier, "was in charge of this book." Korzhakov expresses deep hostility toward Berezovskii. Korzhakov returned several times in his interview with RFE/RL to the theme of Yeltsin's betrayal of those closest to him. He also claimed he had predicted former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's dismissal well before it happened--in an interview with "Argumenty i Fakty" that was never published. According to Korzhakov, the president "now lives in a virtual world. He is not in control of himself." And Korzhakov claims the dominant influence is exercised by Yeltsin's daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko. The appointment of Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko was arranged by her, Korzhakov argues, after a family business associate brought Kirienko to Dyachenko's attention. Kirienko is "the president's Barbie doll", Korzhakov said, adding that he is convinced Yeltsin intends to run for a third term. The author is a Moscow-based journalist who routinely contributes to RFE/RL. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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