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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 112 Part I, 12 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 112 Part I, 12 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 * CABINET PLANS ANTI-CRISIS PROGRAM * THREE ARRESTED FOR MURDER OF KALMYKIA JOURNALIST * GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS ADJOURN End Note: HOW NOT TO FIGHT AN ANCIENT EVIL xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA CABINET PLANS ANTI-CRISIS PROGRAM. The government on 11 June agreed to submit an anti-crisis program to the State Duma by the end of the month, Russian agencies reported. It also approved increasing Russian international bond issues from $3.5 billion to $6 billion this year in order to reduce interest rates domestically and keep the budget deficit within planned limits. And it approved a draft bill that would significantly simplify taxes on small businesses by establishing a single lump sum payment from each. Also on 11 June, the Central Bank reported that its reserves of currency and gold increased by nearly $500 million from 29 May to 5 June. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister's Office has denied reports that the government has decided to raise tariffs on imports by 5 percent, but a spokesman admitted that a plan to do so is being studied. PG MINERS MARCH FOR PAY, YELTSIN'S OUSTER. Hundreds of miners from Komi Republic marched through Moscow on 11 June to demand payment of back wages and the removal of President Boris Yeltsin from office, Reuters reported. Aleksandr Sergeev, the head of the Independent Union of Russian Miners, told a news conference that "we are tired of empty promises." But he said he is against any effort by other political groups to exploit the miners' protest, according to Russian agencies. In a related development, the head of the energy and construction workers union, Lev Mironov, said that some of his members are so angry wage arrears that they have begun to stage spontaneous work actions, including turning off oil wells, Interfax reported. PG YELTSIN SAYS RUSSIA "ON RIGHT COURSE." President Yeltsin on 12 June that despite financial problems, industrial strikes, and difficulties that were not foreseen when the Russian Congress of People's Deputies declared the Russian Federation's sovereignty eight years ago, the country is "on the right course," dpa reported, citing Interfax. Yeltsin expressed confidence that "in the end all the problems will be overcome and in the new millennium, Russia will be a dynamically developing, strong, and prosperous country." Yeltsin was speaking at a Kremlin reception to present awards to cultural figures on the occasion of Russia's Day. He also made a nationwide radio address to mark the anniversary. Later on 12 June, some 500,000 people are to gather on Red Square for a gala concert, ITAR-TASS reported. PG/LF ROSNEFT SLATED TO BE PRIVATIZED THIS YEAR. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told Interfax on 11 June that Rosneft will be privatized this year. To aid that process, the oil company will stage exhibitions for possible foreign buyers in the U.K. and the U.S. PG YELTSIN ORDERS CUT IN CONSUMER GAS PRICES. President Yeltsin has signed a decree ordering suppliers to cut prices to wholesalers and the latter to cut prices to consumers over the next 18 months, Interfax reported on 11 June. The decree calls on Gazprom to draft a plan over the next month to give discounts and allow for the restructuring of debts to that firm. PG IMF REPORTEDLY PRESSES RUSSIA TO ADOPT AUSTERITY MEASURES. Western agencies and newspapers on 11 June reported that the IMF has sent a letter to Moscow urging the Russian government to reduce its budget deficit, pass tax reform, dismember Gazprom, and provide more transparency in its economic statistics. But the reports did not say whether the fund would offer Russia assistance if it took those steps. Nor is it clear whether Moscow would accept them or whether the G-7 meeting in London this week would back any additional funds in the short term. PG DUMA WANTS CHUBAIS REMOVED AS UES HEAD. By a vote of 230 to one, the Duma passed a non-binding resolution calling on the government to use its status as a stockholder in the Unified Energy Systems of Russia in order to nullify the selection of Anatolii Chubais as UES chief executive on 4 April. The resolution also calls for the overturning of other decisions on the UES taken at the spring meeting of that company's shareholders. PG SENIOR STATISTICIANS CHARGED. Three senior officials at the State Committee for Statistics--including former committee head Yurii Yurkov, who was arrested earlier this week--have been charged with embezzlement, Interfax reported on 11 June. Prosecutors said others are likely to be charged in the future. Meanwhile, Russian Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov told Russian independent television NTV that "widespread" corruption threatens the future of the country. And two deputy governors were arrested in Kursk, apparently also for economic crimes, ITAR-TASS reported. PG THREE ARRESTED FOR MURDER OF KALMYKIA JOURNALIST. Under pressure from international media groups, Russian officials announced on 11 June that they have arrested three suspects in connection with the 8 June murder of Larisa Yudina, the editor of the only opposition newspaper in Kalmykia, Russian agencies reported. MOSCOW HAS NO PLANS TO RECALL AMBASSADOR IN MINSK. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told Interfax on 11 June that Moscow has no plans at present to recall its ambassador in the Belarusian capital, despite the ongoing controversy over the inviolability of diplomatic residences there (see Part II). PG DUMA OPPOSITION GROUP OUTLINES CONDITIONS FOR START II. The Spiritual Inheritance Movement, a member of the opposition Patriotic Union in the Duma, released a statement on 11 June saying that it will vote to ratify START II if Yeltsin sends a draft law guaranteeing stable financing for Russia's nuclear forces over the next year, pushes for a START III accord, and receives guarantees that the U.S. will live up to the provisions of the 1972 anti-ballistic missile accord that bans ABM deployment. PG SECURITY COUNCIL CONSIDERS MILITARY CONSTRUCTION POLICY. The Security Council on 11 June examined a draft concept paper on military construction over the next seven years, ITAR- TASS reported. Unlike previous discussions of the military's future plans, this document focuses not only on the military itself but on "other units and bodies important for protecting the country," the agency reported. PG MOSCOW DISCUSSES NON-PROLIFERATION, PROVIDES SUB TO INDIA. Even as Russian Security Council secretary Andrei Kokoshin met with Indian special envoy Brajeshi Mishru on 11 June to discuss the recent nuclear explosions by India and Pakistan, a Russian firm was preparing to turn over a new Kilo-class submarine to the Indian navy on 18 June, Interfax and ITAR- TASS reported. And also on 11 June, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that India's first deputy defense minister, Ajit Kumar, will visit Russia on 14-19 June. PG FSB LISTS FOREIGN FIRMS WORKING IN NUCLEAR AREA. The Federal Security Service on 11 June released a new list of foreign companies believed to be working on the development of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, Interfax reported. Russian firms are prohibited from selling sensitive technology to such firms. Among those listed is Iran's Sanam whose personnel, the FSB said, "have tried to obtain data on the latest Russian developments" in various advanced technology areas. PG NEW AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM INSTALLED IN KALININGRAD. Major General Fedor Krisanov, the commander of the Russian Baltic fleet's air defense, told "Russkii telegraf" that a new mobile air defense system, the S-300PS, had been installed in the Kaliningrad region, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 June. The newspaper said this shows how serious Moscow is in opposing the expansion of NATO to the east. PG U.S. FINDS NO CFE VIOLATIONS IN NORTH CAUCASUS. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 11 June that a group of U.S. military inspectors has found no violations of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty during a visit to the North Caucasus military district . PG MOSCOW TO SHIP AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM TO CYPRUS ON SCHEDULE. Despite press reports that the Russian government might delay the delivery of the S-300PMU-1 air defense system to Cyprus because of opposition from Turkey and others, the head of the Russian state arms exporting company Rosvooruzhenie, Yevgenii Ananev, told Interfax that the shipment will be on schedule, in mid-summer. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS ADJOURN. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili joined the Abkhaz and Georgian envoys for a further round of talks in Moscow on 11 June. The talks adjourned without reaching agreement either on mechanisms for precluding further hostilities in Abkhazia's Gali Raion or for the repatriation of ethnic Georgians forced to flee during last month's fighting. They will, however, resume at an unspecified date after the envoys have held consultations in Tbilisi and Sukhumi. Georgian envoy Vazha Lortkipanidze told journalists after the talks that Georgia has not requested the withdrawal from Gali of the Russian peacekeepers deployed there. Helicopters carrying members of the CIS peacekeeping force were fired on while overflying Gali on 10 June, but no passengers or crew were injured, Interfax reported the following day. LF ABKHAZIA ACCUSES RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY. Speaking at a press conference organized by Interfax on 11 June, Anri Djergenia, the Abkhaz presidential envoy to the Moscow talks, accused the Russian Foreign Ministry of abetting Georgia. Specifically, Djergenia claimed that it was Russia that proposed Georgia should make the lifting of the restrictions on the Abkhaz-Russian frontier contingent on the successful repatriation of the fugitives. He also claimed that printed documents prepared by the Russian Foreign Ministry distorted the preliminary agreements he had reached with Lortkipanidze. LF GEORGIAN LAWMAKER DENIES FUGITIVES WILL ACCEPT ABKHAZ CONDITIONS. Georgian deputy parliamentary speaker Vakhtang Kolbaya on 11 June denied media reports that said Georgian displaced persons from Gali are prepared to comply with Abkhazia's insistence that acceptance of Abkhaz citizenship be a precondition for repatriation (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 11 June 1998), Caucasus Press reported. Tamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the so-called Abkhaz parliament in exile, has claimed that as many as 4,000 ethnic Georgians from Gali have already applied for Abkhaz citizenship in order to qualify for repatriation, Interfax reported on 11 June. LF LAGODEKHI ELECTIONS RESULTS DECLARED VOID. The Georgian Central Electoral Commission has declared the poll in two electoral precincts in Lagodekhi void and has scheduled new elections for 21 June, Caucasus Press reported on 12 June. In the 7 June by-election, Socialist Party candidate Valeri Bakradze polled 35 percent, closely followed by ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia candidate David Kapanadze with 32.8 percent. Spokesmen for both parties accused the other of flagrant procedural violations. LF KARABAKH ARMENIANS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF DEFENSE MINISTER. Several thousand people demonstrated in Stepanakert on 11 June to demonstrate support for General Samvel Babayan, defense minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, in his bid to assume the vacant post of prime minister, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. One speaker at the demonstration proposed that Babayan combine the posts of prime minister and defense minister, while a second advocated pre-term presidential elections if President Arkadii Ghukasian rejects the demonstrators' demands. Ghukasian told RFE/RL on 12 June that the question of whether Babayan be allowed to combine the posts of defense minister and premier is currently being discussed. Ghukasian said he will appoint a new prime minister in two- three days. LF ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER WARNS AGAINST SPLIT IN KARABAKH LEADERSHIP. Meeting in Stepanakert on 10 June with Ghukasian and Babayan, Vazgen Sarkisian warned against discord within the Karabakh leadership as long as the possibility of a new war persists. Sarkisian said that all solutions to the ongoing leadership crisis are acceptable to Yerevan. But he also underscored that "the army is a centralized and centripetal force" that excludes the possibility of combining military and political functions. LF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS DRAFT ELECTION LAWS. Lawmakers on 11 June rejected three draft laws providing for a system of proportional representation system in parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Yerkrapah-- the majority group within the parliament--continues to insist that all but 40 seats in the next 131-member parliament should be allocated to single-member constituencies. Most other parties--including those aligned with the Yerkrapah in the Justice and Unity bloc, created to support Robert Kocharian in the March 1998 presidential elections--advocate proportional representation. Yerkrapah deputy Razmik Martirosian argued that no political party in Armenia can "take full responsibility for the country." He said the Yerkrapah is committed to drafting new electoral legislation from scratch. Meeting with the Yerkrapah on 9 June, Kocharian argued against pre-term parliamentary elections, except in the event of a "crisis," according to Noyan Tapan. LF AZERBAIJANI LEADERSHIP, OIL CONSORTIUM AT ODDS. Ilham Aliev, president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, has hinted that Baku may seek international arbitration in its dispute with an international consortium exploiting three off-shore Caspian oil fields. Aliev charged that experts from the Azerbaijan International Oil Consortium greatly underestimated the extent of repairs needed to the Baku- Supsa pipeline that was to have gone into operation this fall. He insists that the consortium pay the additional $276 million needed to complete those repairs. The AIOC says that SOCAR should make up the shortfall from oil sales. Aliev also criticized AIOC for deliberately delaying a decision on the route for the so-called Main Export Pipeline. That decision was to have been taken this fall, but an AIOC executive told AFP earlier this month that "we're running late" because of AIOC's disagreements with SOCAR. LF MORE DEATHS BLAMED ON TOXIC SPILL IN KYRGYZSTAN. Two more deaths are being blamed on the spill of sodium cyanide into the Barskoon River, raising the total to four, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL correspondents reported on 11 June. Doctors say that the cause of death of a 72-year-old woman on 10 June was poisoning. The other latest victim was Sherimbek Sharsheev, who organized the Manas anniversary festivities in 1995. He died shortly after paying a visit to Issyk-Kul to assess the damage himself. BP TERRORISM IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN? Law enforcement authorities in the Osh region of southern Kyrgyzstan have taken four people into custody in connection with two explosions in the area, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL correspondents reported. Two people were killed while traveling on a mini- bus on 30 May, and two others in a private home two days later. Both those incidents were initially thought to have been gas canister explosions caused by carelessness. On 6 June, the Security Ministry announced it was exploring the possibility that the explosions were acts of terrorism. According to the ITAR-TASS on 11 June, authorities say the four men taken into custody have links to the Wahhabis. BP END NOTE HOW NOT TO FIGHT AN ANCIENT EVIL by Paul Goble Many governments and political leaders in the post- communist states are responding to manifestations of anti- Semitism and ethnic extremism in ways that seem certain to make these problems worse. Some mainstream leaders deny that any problem exists or claim that it is so marginal that it need not be addressed. Others assume that banning the symbols of such extremist groups will be sufficient to deal with these phenomenon. Still others appear to believe that the best way to deal with such groups is to adopt part of the extremists' program in order to undercut the extremists. The history of Western Europe suggests that none of these strategies will work. Even more, it indicates that democratic leaders must take an active role in fighting such phenomena to prevent the latter from expanding and threatening democracy itself. Since the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, governments and mainstream political leaders across the region have routinely denounced anti-Semitism and ultra-nationalism. Sometimes leaders make these declarations under pressure from the West. Sometimes they do so out of a genuine commitment. Sometimes they speak from a recognition of just what these extremist movements might mean to the still fragile democratic systems in their countries. But a rising tide of anti-Semitic and ultra- nationalist activities across this region shows that these leaders have not yet found a way to implement these commitments. Not surprisingly, many governments and mainstream political leaders have dismissed incidents like the attacks earlier this year on the Moscow and Riga synagogues as the work of a few extremists who enjoy little support in the broader population. That is certainly what many in these countries and the West want to believe, but public opinion polls in these countries show that far more people continue to harbor anti-Semitic and extreme nationalist views. A recent poll in Russia, for example, found that approximately half the population could be described as anti-Semitic to one extent or another. If the authorities fail to bring those responsible for anti-Semitic or extreme nationalist actions to justice, many people are likely to conclude that the extremists enjoy even more support than they do. And such conclusions, in turn, will give these groups more influence, not less. Faced with that challenge, other leaders are considering taking actions that would ban the symbols of the extremists, such as the Nazi swastika. Such steps, these leaders believe, would be sufficient to keep the extremists at bay. However, as the experience of Western Europe shows, such bans may have an unintended effect. They may even give extremist groups the ability to win support among people who do not share their core views but who are angry at the government for other reasons. But the most dangerous pattern in the post-communist region now, however, is not that of denial--either by claiming the problem does not exist or outlawing hated symbols. Rather, it is the tendency of governments or political leaders to succumb to the temptation to exploit anti-Semitic or ultra nationalist rhetoric or actions to win support for themselves. Many times politicians do this without any apology. Thus, Russian communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov used openly anti-Semitic language in his effort to win votes in the last Russian presidential race. But often political leaders advance a different argument, one suggesting that they can only isolate the extremists and win support for themselves by adopting part of the extremists' programs. Unfortunately, all too many both in these countries and abroad appear willing to accept that argument, at least implicitly, thereby failing to see that it can open the door to even worse horrors. A tragic example of this is the decree issued in October 1993 by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and backed by President Boris Yeltsin calling for the expulsion from the Russian capital of "persons of Caucasian nationality." Seeking to exploit the hatred many Russians feel toward persons from the North Caucasus and Transcaucasus, Luzhkov and his backers apparently felt that they needed to take this step to build up their own support in the wake of the bloody conflict between Yeltsin and the old Supreme Soviet. But despite violating the Russian Constitution and despite its ominous echo of Stalin's decrees against Jews nearly 50 years ago, this decree is still on the books, nearly five years after the conflict that was used to justify it. And even if, as some like to suggest, Luzhkov's decree is at present not always enforced, its continued existence not only casts a shadow over Russian democracy but almost inevitably encourages other forms of ethnic extremism. That danger -- and it exists in many places across the region -- underscores why it is too soon to declare victory over these ancient evils and why it is absolutely necessary that everyone involved continue the fight. 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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