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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 110 Part I, 10 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 110 Part I, 10 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 * FEDOROV TO PURGE TAX OFFICE * WAS JOURNALIST'S MURDER POLITICALLY MOTIVATED? * KARABAKH PARLIAMENT REBUFFS PRESIDENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA FEDOROV TO PURGE TAX OFFICE. The director of the Federal Tax Service, Boris Fedorov, announced on 9 June that he will "purge" his office of senior officials suspected of corruption, Interfax reported. Fedorov also spoke of the need to improve coordination between the tax police and tax inspectorate and repeated the call for the creation of a new "ministry of revenues," which would unite several bodies now working independently. In a country of 150 million people, only 3.2 million tax declarations were submitted last year, Fedorov said. He added that his first targets will be rich Russians and foreigners. AW MORE DETAILS EMERGE ON ARREST OF YURKOV. Fedorov's announcement followed the detention of Yurii Yurkov, the director of Russia's State Statistics Committee, on suspicion of distorting information about major companies to help them avoid paying taxes. The Prosecutor-General's Office later the same day announced that more than 20 people were involved in the scheme, including the head of the agency's data processing center, Boris Saakyan. In a statement, the Prosecutor-General's Office said both Yurkov and Saakyan have pleaded guilty to the charges. More than $1 million was found in Yurkov's apartment, while another $500,000 and a large amount of jewelry were seized from the residences of the others arrested. AW KIRIENKO LAUDS ARRESTS, BUT RATING AGENCY UNIMPRESSED. Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko said on 9 June that the arrests highlight government efforts to battle economic crimes, ITAR-TASS reported. "I do not think that today's arrest of Yurii Yurkov is a misfortune," Kirienko said, adding that the arrests were a combined effort of the Russian security service and the Prosecutor-General's Office. But the international rating agency Standard and Poor's seemed unimpressed. Citing tax problems among the reasons, the agency on 9 June cut Russia's long-term foreign-currency rating to B+ from BB-. Standards and Poor's said, however, that the long-term outlook is stable. And it praised Russia's commitment to low inflation, running at an annual rate of 12 percent. AW TAX SERVICE PRESSED TO INCREASE COLLECTION. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko announced on 9 June that the government has instructed the Federal Tax Service to boost collections by 40 percent in June, ITAR-TASS reported. Khristenko said the tax service's work overall is "unsatisfactory" but added that urgent measures implemented at the end of May will greatly improve tax collection. AW MORE MONEY FLOWS OUT OF COUNTRY. Russian security officials said on 9 June that more than $25 billion has been smuggled out of Russia illegally since the collapse of the Soviet Union in order to dodge paying taxes, Interfax reported. Most of the money has ended up in bank accounts in Switzerland, Cyprus, Britain, and Israel, Interfax said. Investigators said they have leads on $5 billion of the smuggled funds. AW WAS JOURNALIST'S MURDER POLITICALLY MOTIVATED? Leading media outlets, human rights organizations, and some politicians are alleging that the murder of Larisa Yudina in the southern republic of Kalmykia, was politically motivated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1998). The Kalmykian authorities, however, deny that was the case. Yudina was co- chairwoman of the local branch of the pro-reform Yabloko movement and an editor of "Sovetskaya Kalmykia Segodnya," the republic's only non-government newspaper. That newspaper frequently published articles critical of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Kalmykia's president and a wealthy businessman . Following harassment by the local authorities, it was forced to print outside Kalmykia. NTV reported that demonstrators took to the streets of Elista, Kalmykia's capital, on 9 June carrying banners that read "Ilyumzhinov-- who killed Yudina?" FF SKURATOV TO HEAD PROBE INTO YUDINA'S SLAYING. Prosecutor- General Yuri Skuratov has agreed to lead the probe into Yudina's murder. The State Duma backed Yabloko's request that he head the investigation. Meanwhile, Skuratov has responded by ordering a special group of Moscow investigators and prosecutors to Kalmykia and personally taking charge of the case, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported on 9 June. AW MEDIA MOST OFFICIAL TO HEAD GAZPROM MEDIA. Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev has said that Media Most president Sergei Zverev will become his deputy, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 9 June. Vyakhirev said Zverev will head Gazprom Media, which is in charge of structuring and developing Gazprom's numerous media assets. "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day that Viktor Ilyushin, who until now headed Gazprom Media, will become head of Gazprom's public relations and regional relations department. Vyakhirev said Zverev was appointed as part of a "reorganization" of Gazprom's media holding. Gazprom owns a 30 percent share in NTV, Media Most's main electronic media asset. Russian media said on 10 June that Zverev will head the group of consultants advising former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in his bid to become a member of the Duma before running in the 2000 presidential election. FF RUSSIA DENIES S-300s ALREADY DEPLOYED ON CYPRUS. Russian, Turkish, and Turkish Cypriot spokesmen have all denied a Russian newspaper report that Russia has already sent S-300 air defense missiles to Greek Cyprus, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 10 June. Yevgenii Ananev, head of the Russian arms export monopoly Rosvooruzhenie, has repeatedly said that the missiles will be sent on schedule to Cyprus, in August. But "Segodnya" reported on 9 June that the missiles have already been shipped to the island. A Rosvooruzhenie spokesman said the "Segodnya" report is "thoroughly baseless." Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said Russia "is a reliable commercial partner" and will fulfill its obligation to supply the S- 300s on schedule, Reuters reported. LF DUMA POSTPONES START-2 HEARINGS UNTIL FALL. The Duma voted by 235 to 39 on 10 June to postpone hearings on the START-2 nuclear arms reduction treaty from June 16 until the fall, ITAR-TASS reported. Communist Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev has warned that the hearings will be further delayed if U.S. President Bill Clinton continues to pressure Russia to ratify the treaty. Clinton has said he would prefer to visit Moscow for a proposed summit with Yeltsin after START-2 has been ratified. Retired General Albert Makashov, a communist deputy who backed ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky's proposal to put off the hearings, said the Kremlin wants Duma deputies to convince their colleagues to ratify the treaty. But Makashov added that "it's Clinton who needs [the treaty ratified]." AW RUSSIA CONTINUES CUTS IN TRADE MISSIONS. Russia announced on 9 June that it will continue reducing its overseas trade missions by consolidating offices in South Africa, Mozambique and Nigeria, ITAR-TASS reported. In 40 countries, Russian trade missions, often separate entities with their own support staff and facilities, have already seen their operations cut as part of the government's efforts to reduce spending. AW RUSSIAN PATRIARCH NOT TO ATTEND TSAR'S REBURIAL. After a meeting of the Holy Synod on 9 June, it was announced that the Patriarch of All Russia and Moscow Aleksei II will not attend the ceremony to bury the remains of Nicholas II and his family on 17 July in St. Petersburg, Interfax reported. Metropolitan Yuvenalii said the Church still has doubts whether the bones are genuine. A government commission said in January it is satisfied that exhaustive tests conducted in Russia and abroad proved the bones found in Yekaterinburg in 1991 were those of Nicholas II and his family. The commission also agreed to hold a funeral in the former imperial capital exactly 80 years after the family was murdered. Metropolitan Yuvenalii also repeated calls for a symbolic memorial grave to be set up as a place of repentance for the sins of the communist era and of prayer for its victims. AW SIBERIAN TEACHERS TAKE OFFICIAL HOSTAGE TO DEMAND BACK PAY. ITAR-TASS reported on 9 June that teachers in Siberia's Maiminsk region are holding a local administration chief in his office to demand months of unpaid wages. It said the teachers, who have barricaded the office for two days, will not free the official until their wages are paid. AW NO PROGRESS IN NORTH OSSETIAN HOSTAGE CRISIS. The five Ingush bus passengers abducted in the North Ossetian village of Zilgi and another six Ossetians kidnapped the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1998) have not yet been released, despite an agreement between the premiers of the two republics that the groups will be exchanged, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokov has proposed a meeting with his Ingush counterpart, Ruslan Aushev. Aushev, who has enjoyed good working relations with Dzasokhov since the latter's election as president in January, accused the North Ossetian leadership of being unable to control the situation in North Ossetia. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko, Federal Security Service chief Nikolai Kovalev, and other leading law enforcement officials arrived in the North Ossetian capital, Vladikavkaz, on 10 June, ITAR-TASS reported. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA KARABAKH PARLIAMENT REBUFFS PRESIDENT. The parliament of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic voted overwhelmingly on 9 June not to allow President Arkadii Ghukasian to assume the duties of prime minister, arguing that this would "disrupt the balance" among the three branches of power, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. Murad Petrosian, chairman of the parliamentary Defense and Security Committee, argued that Ghukasian's performance record since taking office last September has been unimpressive and that therefore it makes no sense to place any further "burden" upon him. Petrosian also criticized "political games" by the Armenian leadership "aimed at excluding any influence by Nagorno-Karabakh on Armenian foreign policy." LF ARMENIAN REVOLUTIONARY FEDERATION ISSUES ULTIMATUM. Following the 9 June parliamentary session in the Nagorno- Karabakh Republic, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation's Karabakh organization issued a statement criticizing the enclave's leadership for deviating from the path of democracy and national unity, RFE/RL reported. The statement called on Ghukasian to take immediate measures to safeguard Karabakh's "victories." Those measures included pre-term parliamentary elections, elections to local government bodies, a major government reshuffle, an active policy of economic development, and the resettlement of the occupied territories adjacent to Karabakh. LF GEORGIAN OPPOSITION TO DEMAND PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION. Akaki Asatiani, parliamentary speaker under Zviad Gamsakhurdia and leader of the opposition Union of Georgian Traditionalists, has said his party will begin collecting signatures to demand the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze, Caucasus Press reported on 10 June. Several other opposition parties have called for Shevardnadze's resignation following the expulsion of some 30,000--40,000 ethnic Georgians from Abkhazia last month (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 15, 9 June 1998). Asatiani told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" in March that he will contend the 2000 presidential poll rather than allow the country to become "a battlefield between two former Georgian Communist Party first secretaries," meaning Shevardnadze and his successor, Djumber Patiashvili. LF AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT PASSES CONTROVERSIAL ELECTION LAW. The parliament has passed the law on the presidential elections in the third and final reading, Turan and Reuters reported on 9 June. The legislature will set the date of the poll, due in October, only after its summer recess, to the annoyance of international observers. Although numerous amendments have been made to the original draft on the recommendation of the OSCE, opposition politicians still object that it is undemocratic, pointing to the provision for deploying police and security officials at polling stations. Azerbaijan Popular Front deputy chairman Ali Kerimov, Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar, Democratic Party chairman Ilyas Ismailov, and Liberal Party chairwoman Lala- Shovket Gadjieva have all declared their intention to boycott the elections. A leading member of the Movement for Democratic Reforms and Democratic Elections told Turan that the movement will stage demonstrations to protest the law. LF EVACUATION OF BARSKOON AREA COMPLETED. Kyrgyz Minister of Health Care Naken Kasiev told a press conference in Bishkek on 9 June that the evacuation of the Barskoon area, on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, has been completed, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The evacuation follows the spill last month of sodium cyanide into a local river when a truck belonging to the Kumtor gold mining operation overturned. Kasiev said the authorities have temporarily relocated 4,800 people to the northern shore of the lake. and that 5,349 people from the affected area have sought medical help. Two experts from the World Health Organization said at the same press conference that the level of sodium cyanide in the water and ground is now at acceptable levels and pose no danger to the population. BP NAZARBAYEV GIVES INTERNET INTERVIEW. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev appeared on nationwide television on 8 June to answer questions put to him via the Internet. He said that $188 million has been spent on government buildings in the new capital, Astana, and that part of that sum was contributed by foreign firms. Some $250 million has been spent on other structures. Nazarbayev said Kazakhstan has a free press and that journalists who feel that their rights have been violated can take their case to court. The president praised the work of Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev's government, noting that Kazakhstan now ranks among the leaders in the CIS in terms of per capita foreign investment ($500) and average monthly wages ($120). The economy, he added, shows signs of improvement, despite declining world prices for oil and metals (which are among Kazakhstan's leading exports). BP TURKIC SUMMIT IN ASTANA. The fifth Turkic summit took place in the new Kazakh capital, Astana, on 9 June, ITAR-TASS reported. The leaders reaffirmed their commitments to cooperating in the fields of economics, culture, and science. They also released a statement calling on India and Pakistan to halt nuclear testing and sign the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty. BP KARIMOV ON TURKIC UNITY, "EXTREMISTS." Before departing for Astana, Uzbek President Islam Karimov on 8 June said that past summits have shown "unhealthy rivalry and competition." He argued that there should be limits to Turkic unity, pointing to the example of to the Uyghurs in China's Xinjiang Province: "Uyghurs...want Turkic-speaking states to help them. If we support them, our relations with the great China might be destroyed tomorrow." At a press conference following the summit , Karimov spoke out against religious extremism, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Karimov said the idea that an ideological vacuum has been created in Central Asia following the break up of the Soviet Union is "a myth." He also said the fight against Wahhabism should not be regarded as a fight against Islam in general. "Islam is the religion of 70-80 percent of Uzbekistan's population...[and is] sacred to us." BP KAZAKH DEMONSTRATORS ARRESTED. A protest march to the new capital, Astana, by about 200 residents of the southern city of Kentau was halted by police and National Security forces on 8 June, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. The group was protesting wage and pension arrears. Most of the protesters were requested to return home. However, 29 were arrested, of whom 14 are to remain in detention for up to two weeks. BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word "subscribe" as the subject or body of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "unsubscribe" as the subject or body of the message. 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