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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 106 Part I, 4 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 106 Part I, 4 June 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 RUSSIAN MEDIA EMPIRES III A new prime minister has taken office, Boris Berezovsky's now a CIS official, and the state plans to form a new media holding company. See our updated media report. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rumedia3/index.html (English) http://www.rferl.org/bd/ru/russian/content/reports/rumedia3/ index.html (Russian) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * RUSSIAN MARKETS RECOVER FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE DAY * YASTRZHEMBSKII AGAIN HINTS THAT YELTSIN MAY RUN IN 2000 * BEREZOVSKII MEDIATES IN SUKHUMI End Note: A RENEWED SOURCE OF NATIONALISM xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIAN MARKETS RECOVER FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE DAY... Russian stock markets recovered for the second day on 3 June, giving the government a breathing space in which to deal with the country's financial crisis. In an auction of short-term Treasury bills, the government raised 5.83 billion rubles ($950 million), Russian news agencies reported. Most observers consider the auction to be a crucial sign that investor's confidence will soon reappear following last week's panic. Up for sale were three types of T-bills, including a seven-day bill, the shortest-ever issued in Russia. The auction was judged a "moderate success" by market operators, and leading share prices rose 11 percent, after increasing 12 percent on 2 June, Interfax reported. The ruble remained stable at 6.15 to the U.S. dollar on the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange. The Finance Ministry also sold $1.25 billion in Eurobonds to international investors. FF ...WHILE KIRIENKO PRESSES FOR ACCESS TO EUROPEAN MARKETS. On a two-day visit to Paris originally scheduled by his predecessor, Viktor Chernomyrdin, Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko has met with President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. Kirienko said he is visiting France to press for "equal access to EU markets" rather than to obtain any "concrete aid," Interfax reported on 3 June. Kirienko asked that France recognize Russia as a market economy nation, with all the access to European markets that status would imply. The following day, he assured French business representatives that Russia will meticulously meet its commitments to repaying foreign debts, according to ITAR-TASS. Interfax reported on 3 June that President Boris Yeltsin has endorsed Chirac's proposal on developing a Russian-French automobile construction project. PG/LF POCHINOK NAMED TO NEW GOVERNMENT POST. Aleksandr Pochinok has been named head of the government's Department of Finance and Credit Regulation, Russian news agencies reported on 3 June. Pochinok was fired last week as head of the Federal Tax Service and replaced by former Finance Minister Boris Fedorov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 1998). On 2 June, Yeltsin sharply criticized tax collection efforts during April and May and said he fired Pochinok because of the latter's "inert" work. However, announcing the new appointment, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko praised Pochinok as a "high-level expert in his field," according to ITAR-TASS. In his new post, Pochinok will be in charge of analyzing and forecasting the government's economic policy. "Kommersant-Daily" on 4 June reported that Pochinok will also oversee the tax service. FF YASTRZHEMBSKII AGAIN HINTS THAT YELTSIN MAY RUN IN 2000... Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 3 June hinted again that Yeltsin may seek a third term in the next presidential election. Yastrzhembskii told Russia's TV- Center that the issue of Yeltsin's participation in the election, scheduled for June 2000, "remains open." Yeltsin has repeatedly said he will "drop out of the election contest." However, most observers in Moscow argue that the president's renewed activities since the government's 23 March reshuffle indicate that running again remains an option and that conflicting statements are aimed at testing public response. Yastrzhembskii noted Yeltsin's statements "clearly signal he has not made a final decision." Under the constitution, an individual may hold the presidency for only two terms, but Kremlin officials argue that Yeltsin's first term does not count since it began before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Constitutional Court is expected to rule on the issue later this year. FF ...WHILE BUSINESSMEN SEEM IMPRESSED BY PRESIDENT'S PERFORMANCE. Some of Russia's financial leaders and industrial tycoons who met with Yeltsin in the Kremlin on 2 June told "Kommersant-Daily" that they were impressed by the president's performance during the one-and-a-half-hour meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 1998). Media-Most Director-General Vladimir Gusinskii said that "for the first time," he saw that Yeltsin "was completely involved with economic problems." According to Gusinskii, Yeltsin "does not listen to opinions but has his own position. This is a big difference [from the past]." According to Vladimir Potanin, head of the Interros-Oneximbank group, Yeltsin's understanding of Russia's current economic crisis "is absolutely adequate to the situation." And Aleksandr Smolenskii, chairman of the SBS-Agro bank, suggested that Yeltsin may have called the so-called oligarchs to the Kremlin "in order to share responsibility" for Russia's financial difficulties. FF YELTSIN POSTPONES MEETING WITH UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT. Although Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko said recent economic problems were not sufficient to keep him from going to Paris, Boris Yeltsin cited precisely those difficulties in a letter to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma seeking a delay in their informal summit scheduled for later this month. The Russian president also pointed to the need to travel to various parts of Russia. PG MOSCOW CALLS FOR WORLD EFFORT AGAINST PROLIFERATION. First Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 3 June said that the international community must move quickly to prevent a "chain reaction of nuclear testings in South Asia and beyond," ITAR-TASS reported. Many countries, he suggested, could quickly become nuclear states if the world does not take forceful steps to prevent that from happening. Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told Interfax the same day that Russia does not regard India or Pakistan as a member of the nuclear club. And Russian Atomic Energy Ministry spokesman Georgii Kaurov told ITAR-TASS that Russian experts do not believe North Korea has a bomb. "Izvestiya" on 4 June argued that Russia should propose a global anti-ballistic missile system under the aegis of the UN but at the same time ensure that its own theater ABM system is reliable "in the face of potential regional crises in the Near East, the Korean peninsula, and southern Asia." PG DUMA CLEARS WAY FOR START II HEARINGS. The Duma on 3 June failed to pass a resolution proposed by Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky calling for the cancellation of hearings on the ratification of the arms control accord, Interfax reported. Only 149 deputies voted for the measure, far short of the 226 needed. Consequently, the committee hearings remain scheduled for 9 June. In other parliamentary news, the Duma rejected a bill calling for cooperation with Taiwan, approved on first reading a law laying out plans for sweeping military reforms, and passed a law regulating the legal status of foreigners on Russian soil. PG RUSSIA IN COMPLIANCE WITH CFE LIMITS. A team of Greek military experts have inspected military facilities in the Moscow military district and found no violations of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 June. PG DUMA DENOUNCES YELTSIN MEDIA DECREE. The Duma passed on 3 June a non-binding address to Yeltsin protesting his decree that would put radio and television broadcasting facilities under the control of a single state agency, ITAR-TASS reported. Such a measure, the appeal said, would violate freedom of speech and make it impossible for opposition deputies to receive air time either in Moscow or in the provinces. PG INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS JOIN PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION. Three generals have been added to the Russian Security Council, Interfax reported on 3 June. Lieutenant-General Vladimir Potapov will oversee the military's general development. Lieutenant-General Grigorii Rapota of the Foreign Intelligence Service (FSB) will monitor international security. And Colonel-General Aleksei Molyakov, also of the FSB, will deal with internal security. In other developments, FSB officers Nikolai Petrushev and Viktor Zorin have been added to the presidential administration, replacing the heads of the comptroller's office and the special program board, respectively. PG GAZPROM MAKES ECONOMIC, POLITICAL MOVES. Russia's gas giant on 3 June acquired a 13.2 percent stake in the country's second biggest bank, Inkombank, Russian news agencies reported. It repeated that it is considering purchasing Rosneft and announced plans to expand exploration for more natural gas. Gazprom also cut gas supplies to Yugoslavia because Belgrade has not paid for gas already supplied and threatened to cut supplies to Tatarstan as of 8 June for the same reason. Finally, Gazprom's Moscow offices served as the venue for continuing conversations among Russian leading businessmen on how to overcome the country's economic difficulties. PG/LF SUPREME COURT HEAD URGES REPEAL OF DEATH PENALTY. Vyacheslav Lebedev, the chief judge of Russia's Supreme Court, told Interfax on 3 June that the Duma should abolish the death penalty. He said that Russia must do so in order to keep its pledge to the Council of Europe in January 1996. No Russians have been executed since August 1996, but Russian courts continue to sentence people to death under existing law, and nearly 1,000 convicts are still on death row. PG TAX POLICE HELP PAY WAGE ARREARS TO MINERS. The Federal Tax Police have transferred nearly 27 million rubles ($4.39 million) to accounts that will allow a Rostov coal concern to pay back wages to miners there, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 June. The funds were seized in the course of tax investigations, some of which may lead to indictments, according to the news agency. The same day, the Russian government sent funds to pay back wages to miners in the Kuzbass region. And the Duma passed a non-binding resolution calling on the executive to consider "raising pay for workers of public sector organizations." The Duma noted that past failures to index those wages to inflation means that almost 98 percent of all such workers have incomes at the subsistence level or below. PG WAR GAMES IN DAGESTAN POSTPONED. Military maneuvers scheduled to take place in Dagestan from 5-7 June (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 14, 2 June 1998) have been postponed until July because of the "tense situation" in the republic, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 4 June, quoting an officer of the North Caucasus Military District. On 21 May, supporters of Union of Muslims of Russia chairman Nadirshakh Khachilaev temporarily occupied the government building in Makhachkala to demand the government's resignation. Elections to the Constitutional Assembly are scheduled for 7 June. LF RANSOM DEMANDED FOR UNHCR OFFICIAL. The abductors of Vincent Cochetel, who was abducted in North Ossetia earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January 1998), have demanded $1.5 million for his release, Interfax reported on 3 June. North Ossetian Interior Ministry officials say Cochetel is being held hostage in Chechnya. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA BEREZOVSKII MEDIATES IN SUKHUMI... CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii held talks in Sukhumi on 3 June with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, Interfax reported. Berezovskii told journalists before the meeting that "vast potential" for resolving the conflict exists, given that both Ardzinba and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze have demonstrated the "political will" to do so. Ardzinba, for his part, said he is ready to meet with Shevardnadze, but without preconditions. Shevardnadze has said such a meeting is contingent on Abkhazia's compliance with the 25 May protocol on a cease-fire and on the return of Georgian fugitives to Gali Raion. Also on 3 June, the Abkhaz and Georgian special envoys continued talks in Moscow aimed at preparing the agenda for an Ardzinba-Shevardnadze meeting. LF ... AND TBILISI. Following talks with Berezovskii in Tbilisi later the same day, Shevardnadze said that the CIS executive secretary's ability to influence the outcome of the conflict is limited as "the CIS peacekeeping force in the region is not subordinate to him," Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze added that Berezovskii was appointed to his present position solely in order to prepare for the CIS fall summit and that "if even [just] one president has any complaints to make," Berezovskii will be fired. In Moscow, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov hinted that the CIS peacekeepers will be withdrawn after their mandate expires on 31 July if there is no political progress toward a settlement and if they continue to be subjected to "slander and lies." Georgia has claimed that the peacekeeping force supplied Abkhaz Interior Ministry troops with heavy artillery, while Abkhazia says they failed to curtail the activities of Georgian guerrilla units in Gali. LF U.S. TO GIVE AID FOR GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS. Following a meeting in Tbilisi on 3 June with Shevardnadze, U.S. Special Envoy to the Newly Independent States Stephen Sestanovich said the U.S. will give Georgia $3.1 million in aid for the ethnic Georgians forced to flee their homes in Gali during the recent fighting. Sestanovich said the replacement of the CIS peacekeeping force in Gali is impossible without the written agreement of both Georgia and Abkhazia. (Abkhaz special envoy Anri Djergenia said on 1 June that Sukhumi will not request the CIS peacekeepers' withdrawal.) Sestanovich also said he does not believe a Bosnia-style peace enforcement operation is appropriate to resolve the Abkhaz conflict, according to Interfax. LF KARABAKH PRESIDENT TO ACCEPT PREMIER'S RESIGNATION. Arkadii Ghukasian told journalists in Stepanakert on 3 June that he will shortly accept Prime Minister Leonard Petrosian's resignation, which the latter tendered several weeks ago, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ghukasian said that Petrosian's decision to resign was prompted by differences with other cabinet members over economic policies, rather than by personal friction. Armenian media had claimed that Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan had pressured Petrosian to resign because of his own ambition to become prime minister (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 14, 2 June 1998). Ghukasian said that most government members want him to combine the posts of president and prime minister, but he has not yet decided whether to do so. LF KARABAKH DIPLOMACY UPDATE. EU Commissioner for Foreign Relations Hans van den Broek and U.S. special envoy Sestanovich met separately with Armenian President Robert Kocharian in Yerevan on 2-3 June, respectively, to discuss the OSCE Minsk Group's attempt to mediate a settlement of the Karabakh conflict, Russian and Armenian agencies reported. Both officials expressed support for direct talks between Baku and Stepanakert. Meeting on 30 May in Beirut with Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, French President Jacques Chirac expressed support for Armenia's insistence on a "package" peace plan rather than the "phased" variant proposed last year by the Minsk Group co- chairman, Noyan Tapan and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Turan on 2 June quoted Azerbaijani Presidential adviser Vafa Gulu-zade as hinting that Azerbaijan might accept a "package" peace plan that preserved the country's territorial integrity. LF AZERBAIJAN REBUKES FRANCE OVER GENOCIDE RESOLUTION. Meeting on 3 June with a visiting French government delegation, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev expressed his displeasure at the resolution passed on 29 May by the French National Assembly recognizing the 1915 genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, Interfax and Reuters reported. Aliev termed the French parliament vote "unfair" and reprehensible, given France's position as one of the OSCE Minsk Group co- chairmen. He said that the 1992 killing of Azerbaijanis by Armenians in the village of Khojali similarly constituted "genocide." LF KAZAKH COURT UPHOLDS RULING AGAINST OPPOSITION LEADER. The Almaty city court on 3 June upheld a district court ruling sentencing a leader of Kazakhstan's Workers Movement, Madel Ismailov, to one year in jail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1998), ITAR-TASS reported. Ismailov was found guilty of insulting the honor and dignity of the country's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. BP END NOTE A RENEWED SOURCE OF NATIONALISM by Paul Goble Environmental disasters--some left over from Soviet times, others the product of the actions of weak new governments, and still others the result of the activities of foreign firms--may reignite nationalist passions in many post-Soviet states. There are three reasons behind this somewhat surprising conclusion. First, as a recently released poll shows, citizens in the post-Soviet states appear even more concerned about the environment than are residents of other countries around the world. Second, the leaders of many of the national movements in these countries started as environmental activists in Soviet times and thus are now simply returning to their roots as a result of new ecological disasters . And third, the media have focused increasing attention on such disasters, especially when corrupt local officials or foreign firms appear to be to blame. The United States Information Agency last month released the results of two surveys its researchers conducted in late 1997 in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan on popular attitudes toward environomental issues. Those polls found that majorities in all three countries--including more than 65 percent in Russia--said they favored protecting the environment even if doing so meant that they would have to put up with slower economic growth. Such support for environmental activism would be impressive anywhere; it is especially striking in countries whose economic situation is anything but good. In addition, the survey showed that the citizens of these three countries were extremely critical of what their respective governments were doing to clean up environmental pollution. Some 70 percent of Kazakhs, 85 percent of Russians, and a similar percentage of Ukrainians felt their national governments were doing a poor job in this respect. Not surprisingly, politicians both in power and in opposition are sensitive to such attitudes, seeing them either as a threat or an opportunity. And that is particularly the case with those political figures who began their careers as spokesmen for ecological causes in Soviet times. In the 1960s and 1970s, environmental concerns were among the few issues that opposition groups, especially in the non-Russian regions, could raise without falling afoul of the Soviet state. Many of these environmental activists subsequently became active in the preservation of historical monuments when that became possible. And later still, they adopted an openly nationalist agenda as the Soviet state crumbled around them. Now in the post-Soviet environment, these same people are drawing strength from others appalled by the environmental degradation visited upon them by past Soviet practices, by the failure of their own governments to prevent new disasters, and by the poor ecological record of many Western firms now operating in these countries. And just as in Soviet times, they are focusing attention not so much on the environment in general but rather on conditions in their own country or even in one part of it. According to the USIA poll, only one person in 50 was concerned about global climate change, but virtually everyone was worried about more immediate environmental degradation. The media in these countries are playing up these issues, frequently with an increasingly nationalist gloss directed either at the Soviet past, an uncaring and corrupt local regime, or foreign firms. Recently, for example, the press in Kyrgyzstan has called attention to the environmental disaster visited on that country's Lake Issyk- Kul by a Kyrgyz-Canadian gold-mining concern. Ukrainian media have continued to discuss the fallout from the Chornobyl nuclear accident, a disaster made all the worse by Soviet policies and the West's unwillingness to help. And the Georgian media have raised questions about the consequences for that country if Turkey builds a dam on the border between the two countries. Many both in the West and in these countries may be inclined to dismiss such concerns as relatively unimportant to the political life of this region. But the experience of these countries in the past and the intense feelings that environmental issues can still arouse point to a different conclusion. They suggest that future environmental disasters in this region may quickly lead to a nationalist response, particularly if those responsible are individuals and groups from abroad. That conclusion, in turn, indicates that anyone seeking to do business with those countries must be especially environmentally responsible to avoid unleashing a popular movement that no one will be able to control. 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. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. 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