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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 108 Part I, 8 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 108 Part I, 8 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN AGAIN SEEKS TO CALM WESTERN MARKETS * YELTSIN WARNS OF DANGER AFTER INDIAN, PAKISTANI TESTS * TWO MORE CIVILIANS KILLED IN ABKHAZIA End Note: PRESIDENTS, PARLIAMENTS, AND POWER xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN AGAIN SEEKS TO CALM WESTERN MARKETS. In an interview with "Der Spiegel" published on 8 June, President Boris Yeltsin stressed again that Russia's financial crisis is over. Yeltsin said the "time for begging is over for Russia" but added that Moscow will still seek foreign loans "for strategic tasks...because our economy must be restructured." Yeltsin acknowledged that past credits were misspent to "patch a shabby skirt with good fabric." His comments came ahead of a visit to Bonn later the same day for talks with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl that are expected to focus on Russia's financial turmoil as well as security and bilateral issues. AW RUSSIAN CENTRAL BANK SAYS MARKETS STILL FRAGILE. The Russian Central Bank said in a statement on 5 June that financial markets are still fragile and the recent upturn can be consolidated only through cooperation between the bank and the government, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement was issued after Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin met with leading commercial bankers to discuss the situation on financial markets and the state of the banking system. AW RUSSIAN TYCOONS THROW SUPPORT BEHIND YELTSIN. Three days after meeting with Yeltsin, 10 leading industrialists and bankers signed a statement on 5 June vowing support for the president's efforts to stabilize Russia's finances and urging their countrymen to do likewise. "The decisions taken today by the government are very tough but they are necessary and without them there can be no economic development," according to the statement. The tycoons said they expected more bankruptcies as a result of Russia's financial crisis, but they also urged foreign investors to take advantage of Russian business opportunities. The statement was signed by the heads of Rosprom-Yukos, Most Group, Interros, Alfa Group, SBS-Agro Bank, Rossiiskii Kredit Bank, Gazprom, Unified Energy System, and the LUKoil and Surgutneftegaz oil companies. AW FYODOROV DENIES TARGETING RICH IN TAX COLLECTION CAMPAIGN. One day after the Federal Tax Service announced it will audit some 1,000 prominent Russians, director Boris Fyodorov denied on 5 June that he is drawing up a "hit list" to target wealthy tax dodgers. "I simply think that it is time to start monitoring prominent people's tax history. They must set an example of a tax-paying culture to other citizens," Fyodorov told "Kommersant-Daily" in an interview. Fyodorov gave no hint as to who might be on the initial list besides himself. "Kommersant-Daily," however, came up with its own short version of the 238 "most renowned and richest people in Russia." That list includes Central Bank chairman Sergei Dubinin, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zuganov. AW YELTSIN WARNS OF DANGER AFTER INDIAN, PAKISTANI TESTS. Yeltsin on 6 June told Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee that Indian-Pakistani nuclear rivalry has set a dangerous precedent and could lead to further proliferation of nuclear weapons, Reuters reported. Speaking by telephone, Yeltsin urged Vajpayee to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, according to the Kremlin press service. Yeltsin and Vajpayee also discussed how Russia might play a role in encouraging a dialogue between India and Pakistan. The same day, Yeltsin spoke by telephone with British Prime Minister Tony Blair about international issues, including the crisis in Yugoslavia's troubled Kosova province. AW KREMLIN STEPS UP DRIVE FOR START-2 RATIFICATION. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and other security officials met with State Duma faction leaders on 5 June to urge the ratification of the START-2 nuclear arms reduction treaty. Asked later if START-2 might be ratified before the Duma begin its summer recess on 10 July, Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev replied "No, there is no point getting into a disarmament race." Vladimir Lukin, the chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, said he "would be amazed if the Duma is ready for ratification before the fall." Seleznev said he put forward two conditions for ratification: the passage of a bill on strategic nuclear forces and releasing funds allocated to the defense budget. The government has released only 3 percent of the army budget since the beginning of the year, he said. AW U.S. MISSILE FORCE CHIEF SAYS RUSSIAN NUKES SAFE. General Eugene Habiger, head of the U.S. Strategic Command, said on 7 June that Russia's nuclear arsenal is under strict control and observation, ITAR-TASS reported. Habiger made the comment following a week-long tour of Russian nuclear sites. AW STEPASHIN DETERMINED TO COMBAT ORGANIZED CRIME. Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin was quoted on 8 June by the German newspaper "Die Welt" as saying it is necessary to "undermine the financial foundations of organized crime." Stepashin said organized crime has risen 8.5 times over the past seven years. He stressed that Moscow needs international cooperation in fighting organized crime, citing the information exchange between Russian and German police. AW LEBED SWORN IN AS GOVERNOR. Reserve General Aleksandr Lebed on 5 June was sworn in as governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai in an elaborate ceremony. Following the inauguration ceremony, Lebed accused the federal government of monopolizing 84 percent of the country's wealth, but he pledged to work with federal authorities. "All the blood has flown to the head. I am afraid that the country might have a heart attack," Lebed said in an obvious reference to Yeltsin, whom he may challenge in the presidential elections in 2000, should the incumbent seek a third term in office. AW YELTSIN MEETS WITH REPUBLICAN HEADS. Yeltsin met with the heads of 18 of Russia's 21 republics in Moscow on 5 June, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Absent were Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, Ingush President Ruslan Aushev, and Khakasian leader Aleksei Lebed. Yeltsin ordered the leaders to economize on administrative costs and proposed "a moratorium on pompous buildings, festivals, and receptions." But he also hinted that Moscow may be prepared to amend the power-sharing agreements concluded with federation subjects if those agreements "have become outdated in some respects." Yeltsin also held separate talks on the situation in Dagestan with the head of that republic's State Council, Magomed-Ali Magomadov. In an allusion to Chechen aspirations to create an independent North Caucasus state that would include Dagestan, Yeltsin warned that "we shall not allow anyone else to interfere in Dagestan's jurisdiction over its territory," Interfax reported. LF POLICE CHIEF IN ST. PETERSBURG SACKED. Anatolii Ponidelko was sacked on 6 June after being accused of breaking Interior Ministry rules and manipulating official figures to show a big drop in crime in the city, Russian Public Television reported. Ponidelko said his dismissal was a political decision prompted by his battle against corruption in the city's law-enforcement bodies. "Somebody in St. Petersburg does not want order enforced," he said in televised remarks following his sacking. AW BEREZOVSKII CONVINCED CIS HAS ROLE TO PLAY. CIS Executive- Secretary Boris Berezovskii told NTV on 7 June that despite its dismal record, the CIS can still play a role tackling internal conflicts and solving other member-state problems. Berezovskii said the root of the CIS's problems is its bureaucratic administration, which, the Russian tycoon said, is "cut off from reality." Berezovskii also said that in recent talks with the presidents of CIS states, he found that "the notion of the West as a kind of 'messiah' has disappeared.... People now realize that free cheese is only found in mouse traps and that Westerners are not just nice gentlemen but rational people," he commented. AW TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA TWO MORE CIVILIANS KILLED IN ABKHAZIA. Two Georgians were shot dead and another three injured by Abkhaz militants in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion on 6 June, Reuters reported. Two days earlier, Georgian Prosecutor-General Djamlet Babilashvili said that a total of 35 Georgian civilians and 17 Interior Ministry troops were killed in last month's hostilities and 1,695 Georgian homes burned, according to ITAR-TASS. Caucasus Press on 5 June quoted unnamed Georgian government officials as saying the number of displaced persons who fled from Abkhazia to Georgia's Zugdidi and Tsalendjikha Raions outnumbers permanent residents of those districts. Those officials warned of possible unrest if the fugitives are not quickly repatriated. LF ABKHAZ PEACE TALKS CONTINUE. Abkhaz and Georgian presidential envoys Anri Djergenia and Vazha Lortkipanidze continued their talks in Moscow on 5-6 June, Russian agencies reported. On 5 June, they also met with CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii. The two envoys have drafted several documents for discussion at the proposed meeting between Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and his Abkhaz counterpart, Vladislav Ardzinba. (No date has yet been set for that proposed meeting.) The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry special task force for Abkhazia, Lev Mironov, told Interfax that one of the documents deals with the repatriation of Georgian displaced persons to Gali. Other Russian Foreign Ministry officials have cast doubts on the effectiveness of Berezovskii's mediation. Georgian Parliament Defense and Security Committee Chairman Revaz Adamia told Caucasus Press on 5 June that he fears antagonism between Berezovskii and the Russian Foreign Ministry could negatively affect the chances of resolving the conflict. LF GEORGIAN COMMUNIST PARTY MAY BE BANNED. Speaking at a news conference in Tbilisi on 4 June, Georgian Prosecutor-General Djamlet Babilashvili said the United Communist Party, headed by General Panteleimon Giorgadze may be banned for "anti- constitutional activities", including calls for the overthrow of the present Georgian leadership, Interfax reported. Giorgadze, for his part, rejected the charge of anti-state activities and said his party will go underground if it is banned, Caucasus Press reported on 6 June. LF ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION MEETS. President Robert Kocharian on 6 June presented a nine-point program to the first session of the recently created commission to amend the country's constitution, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The proposals include restrictions on the powers of the president, the decentralization of government, greater access to the Constitutional Court, and the lifting of the ban on dual citizenship. Kocharian said he is ready to cede part of his powers to the legislative and judicial branches, but he ruled out any "revolutionary" change in the current constitutional order. His proposals would place restrictions on the president's unlimited right to dissolve the parliament and abolish the mandatory presidential endorsement for government decisions. Those amendments, together with others proposed by the commission, will be put to a nationwide referendum after they are approved by the parliament. LF ARMENIAN ECONOMIC GROWTH CONTINUES. The Armenian economy grew by 6.4 percent during the first three months of this year, compared with the same period in 1997, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 6 June, citing official statistics. Industrial output was up 4.3 percent, with a dozen enterprises significantly increasing output. Foreign investment totaled $100 million. Inflation reached 8 percent in late March but fell 2 by percent in April. The annual inflation rate is projected at 10 percent, While exports rose by 58 percent to $56.7 million, they have failed to substantially reduce Armenia's huge trade deficit because imports totaled $201 million. The government also reported vastly improved tax revenues, up 84 percent during the first five months of this year, compared with the same period in 1997. LF ANOTHER SEVEN UZBEK TERRORISTS SENTENCED. Uzbekistan's Supreme Court on 5 June sentenced seven men to prison terms of between six and 10 years , Reuters and Interfax reported. All seven were found guilty of "undermining the constitution, fomenting racial and religious hatred, and illegally crossing the border." All were branded by the government as "Wahhabis." The prosecution had demanded sentences of 13-20 years, but the court took into consideration the "sincere repentance" showed by the men. The seven are the first to be sentenced in Tashkent for crimes committed last December in the eastern Uzbek city of Namangan. In May, a Namangan court found 12 men guilty of involvement in the violence in Namangan and sentenced them to between five and eight years. Another eight men are due to go on trial in Tashkent soon. BP TAJIK PRESIDENTIAL GUARD ATTACKED. A 4 June attack on a presidential guard unit in the Faizabad District, 50 kilometers east of Dushanbe, left one Tajik soldier dead and two others wounded, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Presidential guards fought off the attackers, estimated to have numbered 70 or so, and chased them into the nearby mountains. Representatives of the government and United Tajik Opposition have visited the area and are attempting to identify who was responsible for the attack. BP TURKMEN PRESIDENT INVITES CLINTON TO VISIT. During his 5 June meeting with Stephen Sestanovich, the U.S.'s special envoy to the Newly Independent States, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov handed over an invitation for U.S. President Bill Clinton to visit Turkmenistan, Interfax reported. Niyazov and Sestanovich also reviewed progress in finding a company to conduct a feasibility study for a Trans-Caspian pipeline. Sestanovich said the winning company will be announced soon. When Niyazov visited Washington in April, the U.S. said it will donate $750,000 to the study BP TURKMEN-PAKISTANI PIPELINE IDEA REVIVED? Despite renewed fighting between groups in Afghanistan, a Turkmen official said he has secured agreements from warring factions there to allow construction of the Turkmen-Afghan-Pakistan gas pipeline, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 June. Former Turkmen Oil and Gas Minister Gochmurad Nazjanov, who is now the Turkmen government's coordinator for the proposed pipeline, met with leaders from Afghanistan's Taliban Movement and the Northern Alliance at the end of May and received security guarantees for "the pipeline and its builders." The project has been discussed for several years, but fighting within Afghanistan has prevented work from starting. The Turkmen government, the U.S. company Unocal, Saudi Arabia's Delta Corp. and companies from Japan, South Korea, and Pakistan are all involved in the project. BP KAZAKH PLANE WITH RADIOACTIVE CARGO GROUNDED IN UKRAINE. An Il-76 cargo plane belonging to a Kazakh airline has been grounded by Ukrainian authorities after police found 40 tons of "unidentified" radioactive material aboard, Interfax reported on 6 June. The plane, which was bound for Russia from Germany, stopped at Ukraine's Rovno airport for refueling when the discovery was made. The material was in metal barrels and measurements near the containers showed radioactivity levels "seriously above the norm." BP END NOTE PRESIDENTS, PARLIAMENTS, AND POWER by Paul Goble The transition from Communism in the post-Soviet states currently finds some countries with a strong president, others with a strong parliament, and a growing number in which real power lies outside the government itself. Examples of each have been very much in evidence recently. In Azerbaijan, where the executive is clearly in charge, President Heidar Aliev has dominated the discussions at a Baku meeting of Western oil companies interested in gaining access to the petroleum of the Caspian basin. In Ukraine, where the parliament is predominant, the failure of the parliament to elect a new speaker has sent shock waves through the political system and prompted predictions that Kyiv will remain unable to address the country's numerous economic problems. And in Russia, the country's economic crisis has highlighted just how much power has passed from the government to institutions beyond its reach. Instead of calling in bankers, journalists, and others and giving them directions, as would have been true only a few years ago, Russian officials from President Boris Yeltsin down have been consulting with them and requesting their assistance. Such variations are entirely natural and up to a point welcome. There is no one model for how democratic political regimes should organize themselves, nor for what should be the balance of power between the executive, the legislative, and society as a whole. The devolution of power from the executive, always the most powerful--in fact, if not on paper--in the Soviet era, is a necessary part of the transition from the communist past. But if this pattern is both natural and welcome, it also presents some real problems for the countries themselves, for their interactions with one another, and for other countries that seek to deal with them. For each of the countries of the region, this pattern has created two very different problems. On the one hand, most people living in these states began their post- communist existence with a belief that only a strong legislature could guarantee democracy. But experience has taught many of them that legislatures may, in fact, block further change and that only a strong executive can help them institutionalize the arrangements that make democracy possible. On the other hand, everyone in this region recognized that the all-embracing Soviet state was too strong. But ever more countries confront a situation in which the state is so weak that it cannot defend the interests of the population against uncontrolled private power or outside interference. For the region as a whole, such variations make it increasingly difficult for these countries to cooperate. Most immediately, it makes it difficult to decide who should meet with whom--sometimes the president in one country is the appropriate representative and sometimes the prime minister or speaker of the parliament. And perhaps more important, it means that even when the appropriate officials are brought together--which does not always happen--they lack the power to implement any of the commitments they make. For outsiders who want to work with the governments of this region, this incredible variety also creates some serious problems. Not only does it introduce a certain confusion over whether ambassadors focus on presidents, prime ministers, or someone else but it also means that outside governments may create problems by the choice they make in this regard. Some Western governments have promoted a "presidentialization of politics" in these countries, both for simplicity and out of a sense that it is easier to deal with one person rather than a group. While understandable, that approach carries with it some real dangers. Not only may it restrict the transition to democracy by consolidating executive power at the expense of the legislative; it also tends to ignore the real devolution of authority away from the governments to other centers of power in the society. Democracy, as any number of analysts have pointed out, is often a very messy form of government. But as the experience of the post-Soviet states shows, it can be even messier if those involved with it fail to understand just how many forms that messy system can take. 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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