|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 98 Part I, 25 May 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 98 Part I, 25 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 CRISIS ON UKRAINIAN FARMS The decline of Ukraine's agriculture sector has been continuous since Kyiv declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. This report includes articles and photos. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/ukraine-farms/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * MINERS END BLOCKADE OF TRANS-SIBERIAN RAILROAD * POLICE OFFICER KILLED IN DAGESTAN CLASH * ABKHAZ FIGHTING CONTINUES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA MINERS END BLOCKADE OF TRANS-SIBERIAN RAILROAD... Unpaid coal miners on 24 May lifted their blockade of the Trans- Siberian railroad, which began in Anzhero-Sudzhensk (Kemerovo Oblast) 10 days earlier, Russian media reported. The move followed several days of negotiations between government representatives, led by Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev, and Kemerovo miners. Sysuev told journalists that the government has recognized the need to provide greater social support for miners, ITAR-TASS reported. The government has promised to spend 39 million rubles ($6.3 million) on creating new jobs for employees of mines slated for closure, and the Railroad Ministry has also pledged to allocate 53 million rubles toward helping miners find new jobs. On 15 May, the government proposed some 526 million rubles in spending cuts to free up extra funds for the coal industry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 21 May 1998). LB ...AND NORTH CAUCASUS RAILROAD. On 23 May, miners in Shakhty (Rostov Oblast) ended their six-day blockade of the North Caucasus Railroad. Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov held two days of negotiations with miners, local officials, and representatives of the mining company Rostovugol, NTV reported. According to ITAR-TASS, during Nemtsov's visit funds were found to pay three months of back wages to the miners. Meanwhile, as of 25 May, miners in Komi Republic continue to prevent freight trains from traveling on the Moscow-Vorkuta railroad. Economics Minister Yakov Urinson visited Komi but returned to Moscow on 23 May, having failed to end the protest. He promised miners that by the end of May, the government would find some 55 million rubles ($8.9 million) from various sources to help settle wage arrears. However, he said the government could not immediately help the miners receive all 172 million rubles that they are owed. LB YELTSIN URGED INVESTIGATION OF MINERS' PROTESTS. Prosecutor- General Yurii Skuratov told journalists on 22 May that President Boris Yeltsin considered it necessary to restore order in the coal industry and to investigate the actions of miners blocking railroads, ITAR-TASS reported. Following a meeting with Yeltsin, Skuratov quoted the president as saying that the miners had "gone too far" and that their actions violated the constitution. Skuratov also said Yeltsin believed that coal miners "have not yet learned to work in a market economy." The Railroad Ministry announced on 22 May that the stoppages had incurred 181.4 million rubles ($29 million) in financial losses for Russia's railroads. The blockades also hurt numerous industrial enterprises that could not transport their goods to markets or obtain vital supplies, such as fuel. LB POLICE OFFICER KILLED IN DAGESTAN CLASH. A police officer was shot dead on 23 May in the village of Karamakhi, southwest of the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, Russian media reported. Some 25 police officers had converged on the village to investigate an attack on a police post two days earlier. The village inhabitants, most of whom are Wahhabis, surrounded the policemen and demanded that they surrender their weapons. The officers escaped, but shooting ensued in which an unknown number of people were injured. Additional policemen were brought to the district on 24 May but were later withdrawn after an agreement was reached with the villagers on investigating the previous day's killing. LF FOREIGN, DEFENSE, INTERIOR MINISTERS JOIN GOVERNMENT PRESIDIUM. A government resolution has named Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, and Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin to the cabinet's presidium, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 May. The other eight members of the presidium, named earlier this month, are Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, Deputy Prime Ministers Nemtsov, Viktor Khristenko and Sysuev, Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, State Property Minister Farit Gazizullin, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, and Science and Technology Minister Vladimir Bulgak. The functions of the presidium have not yet been clearly defined. LB KIRIENKO PROMISES FUNDING FOR NUCLEAR FORCES. Kirienko told ITAR-TASS on 23 May that the government will provide financial support for Russia's military nuclear program. The prime minister on 22-23 May visited the federal nuclear research center in Sarov (formerly Arzamas-16, Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast) in order to prepare for a June session of the Security Council. That session will consider a government program for developing Russia's strategic nuclear forces, Kirienko said. Last July, on the eve of a gubernatorial election in Nizhnii Novgorod, then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin visited Sarov and promised that the government would pay its debts to the center. However, the Sarov center and nuclear research in general continued to face chronic underfunding (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September and 22 December 1997). LB COMMUNISTS HOLD EXTRAORDINARY CONGRESS... The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) held an extraordinary congress in Moscow on 23 May to adopt changes to the party charter and discuss strategy, Russian news agencies reported. The congress was closed to journalists, but according to a KPRF press release on 25 May, the congress adopted a statement calling for the president to step down, early presidential elections, and constitutional amendments to reduce presidential powers. Only a "massive popular protest" can force Yeltsin to step down, the statement said. The appeal also charged that unnamed "appeasers" in the leadership of the Communist-led Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia are "impeding the battle of the people for their rights." That union was formed in August 1996 out of parties and movements that supported Gennadii Zyuganov's presidential bid earlier that year. LB ...TRY TO BLOCK FORMATION OF 'LENINIST-STALINIST PLATFORM.' KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov told journalists on 23 May that delegates to the party congress unanimously rejected an attempt to change the party's charter to allow groups to form "political platforms" within the KPRF, ITAR-TASS reported. Some members of the KPRF's Central Committee are trying to form a "Leninist-Stalinist platform," and State Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov, a high-ranking KPRF official, told Interfax on 23 May that a Central Committee plenum in June will involve a "detailed discussion" of that platform. The Communist dissenters have released a statement saying the formation of a Leninist-Stalinist platform is needed because "the influence of national-reformist and religious- democratic views within the [Communist] party leadership has grown, and the deviation from Leninist ideological and organizational principles of party-building has strengthened," Interfax reported on 24 May. LB DUMA ELECTS COMMUNIST AS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER. The State Duma on 22 May elected Communist legal expert Oleg Mironov as Russia's human rights commissioner, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Mironov ran unopposed in the second round of balloting, because in the first round, he was the only one of the 11 candidates for the job who received the two-thirds majority needed to advance to the second round. Mironov will give up his Duma seat, but he told NTV on 22 May that as human rights commissioner, he will retain his immunity from criminal prosecution unless the Duma votes to strip him of it. The Duma sacked Sergei Kovalev, an outspoken critic of the war in Chechnya, as its human rights commissioner in March 1995. LB DEAL BETWEEN COMMUNISTS, NDR CLEARS PATH FOR NEW COMMISSIONER. Although the federal constitutional law outlining the duties of Russia's human rights commissioner was adopted in March 1997, attempts to elect a commissioner in April and September of that ended in stalemate. In each attempt, Mironov gained more votes than any other candidate, but no candidate received enough votes to advance to the second round of balloting in the Duma. A deal between the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) and Communist factions finally broke the deadlock, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 22 May. The Communists agreed to allow the NDR to appoint Roman Popkovich as Duma Defense Committee chairman, replacing Lev Rokhlin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May 1998). In exchange, the NDR agreed to support Mironov as human rights commissioner. LB DUMA TO CONSIDER IMPEACHMENT MOTION IN JUNE. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev says the lower house of the parliament will on 2 June consider a Communist-backed motion to impeach Yeltsin, Interfax reported. Many Russian commentators say the Duma has no chance of forcing Yeltsin to end his term and have described the impeachment effort as a publicity stunt to shore up support within the Communist camp. The constitution outlines an arduous procedure for removing the president from office. First, at least two-thirds of Duma deputies must support an impeachment motion. Second, the Supreme Court must rule that there is evidence the president committed high crimes or treason. The Constitutional Court must then rule that no procedural violations were committed during the adoption of the impeachment motion. Finally, at least two-thirds of Federation Council deputies must vote to remove the president from office. LB DUMA URGES YELTSIN TO PRESERVE MINISTRY ON CIS. Also on 22 May, the Duma passed a resolution asking the president and government to preserve the Ministry for Cooperation with CIS States, ITAR-TASS reported. That ministry was created in summer 1996, but Yeltsin recently ordered that it be abolished and that its functions be transferred to the Foreign Ministry. Boris Pastukhov was recently named first deputy foreign minister in charge of relations with the CIS. LB RUSSIA, VIETNAM SIGN OIL REFINERY DEAL. Russian oil exporting company Zarubezhneft and Vietnam's PetroVietnam on 22 May signed a deal to construct the first oil refinery in Vietnam, ITAR-TASS reported. The refinery will be built in Quang Ngai Province by 2001 and will have an annual capacity of 6.5 million tons of oil. The estimated cost of the project is $1.3 billion. Zarubezhneft expects that its investment will be returned after five years of operation. Russian Deputy Minister of Fuel and Power Anatoly Kozyrev said it may be possible to "increase the status of the agreement" and have it signed as a Russian-Vietnamese governmental accord on cooperation in the fuel and energy sector. BP TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ABKHAZ FIGHTING CONTINUES... At a 22 May meeting in Tbilisi of the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council, Georgian and Abkhaz representatives signed a cease-fire agreement aimed at ending sporadic clashes over the past several days between Georgian guerrillas and Abkhaz police in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. But the same day, four people were killed in new fighting in the village of Tskhiri, and fierce hostilities continued on 23-25 May. More than 20 Georgian civilians, four Georgian guerillas and 40 Abkhaz troops have been killed in the past few days, according to ITAR-TASS. On 23 May, Georgian officials denied Abkhaz claims that Georgia has airlifted Interior Ministry forces to the region. Meanwhile, Georgian guerrilla leader Zaur Samushia on 25 May warned that his men will target the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in Abkhazia unless that force stops supplying the Abkhaz with artillery. Georgian Television reported that some 15,000 Georgian repatriates to Gali have again been force to flee fighting in the area. LF ...DESPITE DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS. The Georgian National Security Council on 23 May adopted unspecified measures to aid the Georgian fugitives from Abkhazia, Interfax reported. Georgian parliamentary chairman Zurab Zhvania telephoned twice with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba to discuss how to "normalize" the situation in Gali. Georgia's ambassador to Russia, Vazha Lortkipanidze, met with Ardzinba on 24 May in Sukhumi and drafted a protocol aimed at ending hostilities, Reuters reported. The Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a statement the same day calling on the UN and the Russian peacekeeping force to take all possible measures to end the fighting. Addressing Georgian fugitives in Zugdidi, close to the border with Abkhazia, Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze warned that "we cannot unleash a full-scale war." LF ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON KARABAKH-AZERBAIJANI RELATIONS. Vartan Oskanian said on 21 May that Armenia currently advocates neither complete independence for the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic nor its unification with Armenia. He explained that Yerevan wants the relationship between the region and the central Azerbaijani government to be one of two equal entities, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. NKR President Arkadii Ghukasian had told "Respublika Armeniya" on 19 May that Nagorno-Karabakh is de facto an independent state but is prepared to compromise on concluding "parity and treaty relations" with Azerbaijan. Four days earlier, Armenian parliamentary speaker Khosrov Harutiunian said the agreement on bilateral cooperation concluded between the parliaments of Armenia and the NKR constitutes "de facto but not de jure" recognition by Armenia of the NKR's independence from Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. LF TURKEY, ARMENIA AT ODDS OVER OSCE SUMMIT VENUE. The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 23 May criticizing an Armenian Foreign Ministry protest against plans to have Istanbul as the venue of the next bi-annual summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 25 May. That summit, scheduled to take place in 1999, is to adopt a landmark charter on a European security model for the 21st century. An Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman told journalists on 21 May that Foreign Minister Oskanian informed his OSCE counterparts that Armenia will oppose the choice of Istanbul as venue for the 1999 summit. The spokesman said Armenia cannot agree to sign the OSCE charter in a country with which it has no diplomatic relations and that has blockaded Armenia for the past five years. The Turkish Foreign Ministry expressed surprise at the Armenian protest, noting that Armenian officials have attended summits of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation in Turkey. LF AZERBAIJANI RELIGIOUS LEADER CRITICIZES MISSIONARY ACTIVITIES. Speaking at a press conference on 22 May, Sheikh-ul-Islam Haji Allakh-Shukur Pashazade, the head of the Spiritual Department of Muslims of Azerbaijan, claimed that the activities of Hare Krishna, Wahhabi, and Christian missionaries have created a "dangerous situation" and could "split the country," Turan reported. Pashazade said his department has written to heads of all Baku local councils asking them for information on "illegal activities" by religious bodies. He also said that using the terms "Allah" and "Prophet" in addressing or greeting Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev constitutes a "sin." LF TAJIK PARLIAMENT BANS RELIGIOUS, OTHER PARTIES... Lawmakers on 23 May adopted a draft law banning religious parties and parties that receive financing or "ideological guidance" from other countries, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The law also prohibits parties whose goals include the overthrow of the constitutional system or inciting inter-ethnic, social, or religious unrest. The leader of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), Said Abdullo Nuri, has requested that President Imomali Rakhmonov veto the law. The backbone of the UTO is the Islamic Renaissance Party, which was first banned in 1993. Nuri said that such legislation must be proposed by the National Reconciliation Commission, which he heads. Under the new legislation, it appears that the Communist Party's property will be nationalized. A member of that party said the law will leave only the president's party registered ahead of elections scheduled for next year. BP ...FAILS TO VOTE ON OPPOSITION CANDIDATES. The debate on political parties precluded a second vote on the candidacy of UTO members Khoja Akbar Turajonzoda as first deputy prime minister and Davlat Usmon as economics minister. The parliament had voted against both on 21 May, and a second vote had been expected to take place the following day, after Rakhmonov returned from a donor conference in Paris. Nonetheless, lawmakers did find time to adopt a law defending the honor of the president, ITAR-TASS reported. Insulting or slandering the president is now punishable by a fine or prison sentence. Moreover, only the president of Tajikistan can use the title "president." Heads of enterprises and organizations must employ another designation. Finally, a law on security agencies was adopted that largely leaves the agencies' powers in tact. A number of deputies had wanted those powers curtailed. BP OFFICIALS CLAIM NO DAMAGE TO ISSIK-KUL... Following an accident in which nearly two tons of sodium cyanide leaked into a river close to Kyrgyzstan's biggest lake, Issik-Kul (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 22 May 1998), Deputy Environmental Minister Tilekbai Kyshtobayev said at the scene of the accident that "there are no grounds for panic. No ecological disaster is expected," ITAR-TASS reported. That viewpoint was echoed by Gerhard Glates, the head of the nearby Kumtor gold mine. Glates said there will be no serious environmental consequences and that his company will cover all expenses for the cleanup. BP ...BUT MEDIA REPORTS SUGGEST OTHERWISE. Both ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL correspondents report that dead fish and cattle have been found near the scene of the accident. They also say that residents of the area have been warned against drinking unboiled water or swimming in the river or lake. Minister of Ecology Kulubek Bokonbayev told RFE/RL correspondents that since the 20 May accident, some 250 residents of the Issik- Kul region have sought medical help. Issik-Kul is a major tourist attraction in Central Asia. BP REGIONAL AFFAIRS LUKASHENKA SIGNS COOPERATION AGREEMENT WITH RUSSIAN REGIONS... Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 23 May signed an agreement on boosting economic cooperation between Belarus and the Central Russia association, which is composed of 12 oblasts, ITAR-TASS reported. Lukashenka, on a visit to Russia's Yaroslavl Oblast, said at a meeting with Russian regional leaders that direct contacts with Russian regions will increase the economic integration of the two states. But he commented that the "subjective will of certain officials in Moscow" is an obstacle to integration within the Russia-Belarus Union, Interfax reported. The Belarusian leader added that he does not intend to create a single state with Russia and denied rumors that he wants to run for the Russian presidency in 2000. JM ...CALLS FOR "EASTERN SLAVS" TO UNITE. Speaking at a conference entitled "The Slav World: Unity and Variety" in Yaroslavl on 23 May, Lukashenka called for the consolidation of "Eastern Slavs" and warned against Western attempts "to impair the creation of any civilized association" on former USSR territory. He said the Russia-Belarus union is "not a closed society but the core of a multi-faceted and equal unity of Slavs and other peoples." Belarus has now taken on the role of a "unifier of Slavic territories," he commented. At the same time, he said that Belarus wants to develop "cooperation [with the West] in all spheres" but stressed that this should be "equal cooperation rather than one-way traffic," Interfax reported. JM DUMA FAILS TO RATIFY ACCORD ON MILITARY WITHDRAWAL FROM BELARUS. The Russian State Duma has voted by 209 to 51 with three abstentions against ratifying the 1993 agreement between the Belarusian and Russian governments on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 May. Duma Committee for CIS Affairs Chairman Georgii Tikhonov said the pullout was illegal without the Duma's ratification of the agreement. Duma deputies have appealed to the Prosecutor-General's Office "to instigate criminal proceedings regarding the illegitimate pullout of Russian troops from the territory of Belarus." JM END NOTE DIFFICULTIES IN REFORMING TURKMENISTAN'S ECONOMY by Michael Wyzan The leadership of Turkmenistan has chosen to move slowly on economic reform. It is tempting to see that attitude as indicative of the government's unwillingness to jettison the command economy owing to a lack of interest in establishing market institutions or its desire to keep on the old guard at enterprises and in ministries. However, there are structural features of Turkmenistan's economy that make reform unusually difficult. Production and exports are dominated by gas, cotton, and oil. In 1994, gas accounted for 66 percent of both GDP and export revenues. Those percentages have declined enormously since then (gas represented less than 21 percent of GDP in 1997), but that the decline is the result of falling gas production and exports, rather than of increased output and exports of other goods. Once pipeline issues are settled, gas will undoubtedly resume its commanding position in the economy. Turkmenistan's energy sector is dominated by five monopolies. Since January 1996, the functions formerly belonging to the Ministry of Oil and Gas have been performed by five enterprises: gas exports are under Turkmenrosgaz, which is 51 percent owned by Turkmengaz (the state monopoly responsible for gas production), 45 percent by Gazprom, and 4 percent by a Russian trading company. The other four monopolies are Turkmenneftegaz (oil and gas marketing), Turkmenneft (oil production), Turkmenneftgazstroy (construction), and Turkmengeologia (exploration). Countries are usually hesitant to privatize such strategically important assets, and even when such companies are privatized, they tend to wield enormous power both domestically and abroad (as in the case of Gazprom). The distribution and sale of gas are a natural monopoly; there is always only one pipeline from a gas field to a given destination The real question concerns the fate of the revenues generated for the state by the energy sector: are they used to diversify the economy and to allow the entire population to share in the wealth? The other mainstay of the economy is agriculture, especially cotton. Production and exports of the crop have plummeted since the Soviet era, but it has accounted for as much as 18.5 percent of GDP and almost 21 percent of exports (both figures from 1995). Cotton production is another sector in which it is difficult to employ conventional privatization methods. Peasants continue to work on the large farms that are the descendants of the Soviet kolkhoz. When growing an industrial crop (that is, one intended for processing) under desert conditions, the key issues are access to water and the provision of credit and procurement activities. Those activities remain in the hands of the state. Local branches of the Ministry of Water make all decisions on water allocation; this is not surprising, given that once again this activity is a natural monopoly. However, although purchasing the cotton harvest and providing credits to farmers are also large-scale activities, it is less clear why they should be undertaken by the state. Moreover, agriculture has seen little reform. The provincial authorities continue to own most of the land and to set output targets for producers of cotton and wheat. Under a December 1996 decree, land is leased to farmers free of charge for 10-15 years; for the first two years, they are required to grow and achieve target yields for specified products. If at the end of this period performance is acceptable, as judged by a local commission, the farmer earns the right to grow whatever crops he sees fit, to lease the land, and to use it as collateral; he may not sell it, however. Banking remains specialized and noncompetitive. One commercial bank, Investbank, is responsible for crediting the gas sector, while 53 local branches of the Daykhan Bank provide banking services to the former Soviet collective farms. The reform approach has also been timid for industrial enterprises that cannot be deemed natural monopolies. A program in September 1994 listed 4,343 enterprises to be privatized. Although the list contained all state firms except those in various sectors, in practice only small enterprises have been privatized, mostly through sale to their employees. However, there has been some progress recently on privatization. Legislation passed in March 1997 stipulates that industrial enterprises will be privatized by auction and that foreigners may participate in the auctions (and own up to 50 percent of firms). In February, it was decided that 18 medium-sized enterprises would be turned into open joint- stock companies and the stock sold to the public. Moreover, Turkmenistan has been successful in forming joint ventures with Turkey (and other Western countries) for producing textiles. During his recent visit to the U.S., President Saparmurat Niyazov said that there are such facilities in the country. However, unless attempts are made to privatize the energy and agricultural sectors, Turkmenistan will remain one of the world's few economies with most of production in the hands of the government. The author is an economist living in Austria. 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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