|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 115 Part I, 17 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 115 Part I, 17 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 * KIRIENKO MEETS WITH FINANCIAL OLIGARCHS * CHUBAIS SLATED FOR NEW JOB * TAJIK PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADER MEET xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA KIRIENKO MEETS WITH FINANCIAL OLIGARCHS. Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko on 16 June met with leading Russian businessmen to discuss the economic situation and proposals for the government's "anti-crisis program," Russian news agencies and NTV reported. The group included all but one of the 10 "oligarchs" who met with President Boris Yeltsin on 2 June: Unified Energy System chief executive Anatolii Chubais, Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev, Interros head and Oneksimbank founder Vladimir Potanin, Alfa group head Mikhail Fridman, SBS-Agro chairman Aleksandr Smolenskii, Rosprom-Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, Rossiiskii Kredit bank president Vitalii Malkin, Surgutneftegaz oil company head Vladimir Bogdanov, and LUKoil head Vagit Alekperov. (The 10th "oligarch," Media-Most head Vladimir Gusinskii, was abroad on 16 June.) CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii, who was not present at the 2 June meeting, was reportedly invited to the latest meeting with Kirienko, but it is unclear whether he attended. LB CHUBAIS SLATED FOR NEW JOB. Kirienko told journalists on 17 June that Chubais is the "most likely candidate" for a new post to be created: special presidential envoy to international financial organizations. Kirienko said the envoy will have a rank equal to that of deputy prime minister, but he suggested that the holder of that office will not be a cabinet member, ITAR-TASS reported. Chubais was the government's long-time main contact with organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF until Yeltsin dismissed him as first deputy prime minister in March. Citing unnamed government sources, Interfax reported on 16 June that Chubais will retain his position as chief executive of Unified Energy System if, as expected, he becomes Russia's official liaison with international financial organizations. LB IMF CONFIRMS PLANS TO SEND DELEGATION TO RUSSIA. Martin Gilman, the IMF's representative in Moscow, confirmed on 16 June that the fund is sending a delegation to Russia for an "extensive dialogue" on possible aid and measures to stabilize the situation on Russian financial markets, Russian news agencies reported. The delegation is due to arrive in Moscow on 22 June. Gilman said Russian officials have not formally requested aid beyond the four-year, $10 billion Extended Fund Facility the IMF has been disbursing to Russia in installments since 1996. However, there have been rumors widely reported in the Russian media that officials have raised the issue of a bailout package on several occasions: during Chubais's visit to Washington in May, during Prime Minister Kirienko's visit to Paris earlier this month, and most recently during Yeltsin's trip to Bonn. LB COMMUNIST ALLY WANTS COOPERATION WITH 'PARTY OF POWER.' Duma deputy Aleksei Podberezkin, the leader of the Spiritual Heritage movement, favors more compromise between the opposition and the "party of power" in order to combat "criminal financial groups," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 16 June. Although Podberezkin is a member of the Communist Duma faction and is considered an influential adviser to Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, he sometimes disagrees with the party's stands. For example, in his speech to the Spiritual Heritage congress, Podberezkin criticized the Communists' strategy during the recent gubernatorial campaign in Krasnoyarsk Krai. He said they forged an alliance with the incumbent "too late" to prevent the victory of Aleksandr Lebed. In his speech to the Spiritual Heritage congress, Zyuganov rejected Podberezkin's call for more cooperation with the authorities, saying "the party of power itself is becoming more and more criminal," ITAR-TASS reported. LB YELTSIN, LUZHKOV SIGN POWER-SHARING AGREEMENT. During a 16 June meeting in the Kremlin, Yeltsin and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov signed a power-sharing agreement on behalf of the federal and city authorities, Russian news agencies reported. Neither the Kremlin nor the Moscow government revealed the details of the agreement. Luzhkov and government officials clashed last year over plans to cut federal compensation payments to the city of Moscow, and the mayor threatened to impose new fees on federal facilities in the capital. Compensation payments were eventually added to the 1998 budget, but government officials have said payments may fall below budget targets this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May and 3 June 1998). Yeltsin told journalists on 16 June that he has "excellent relations" with Luzhkov and argued that the power-sharing agreement will help defuse "tension" between Moscow and federal authorities by making clear the obligations of each side. LB OFFICIAL SAYS U.S. VIOLATING START-1 TREATY. An unnamed senior Russian Defense Ministry official told Interfax on 16 June that "there remain concerns in connection with the U.S. not observing a number of important parts of the START-1 treaty." By way of example, he said the U.S. is testing ballistic missiles on Trident submarines and charged that such tests may be aimed at increasing the number of warheads on submarine-launched ballistic missiles above the level permitted by START-1. Reuters quoted the U.S. embassy in Moscow as saying that "we consider START-1 to be a significant arms control success. In any agreement as complex as this there are bound to be issues and questions of interpretation." LB DUMA DEPUTY LINKS START-2 WITH EVENTS IN KOSOVA. Duma Geopolitics Committee Chairman Aleksei Mitrofanov of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia on 16 June said possible military action by NATO in Kosova will rule out ratification of the START-2 arms control treaty by the Russian parliament, Interfax reported. Arguing that NATO has "put its military machine into gear" and is likely to carry out strikes in Kosova, Mitrofanov said "ratification of the START-2 treaty is out of the question." Appearing on NTV later the same day, Mitrofanov admitted that "our attitude in the Duma toward START-2 has always been negative." But he said opposition to the treaty has strengthened "because we are told to ratify it at a time when we can see NATO exercises near Kosova, when [U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine] Albright openly says that the U.S. does not want to consult the UN Security Council or anyone else." LB ORDINARY COURTS NOT ALLOWED TO INTERPRET CONSTITUTION. The Constitutional Court on 16 June ruled that it is the only court with the right to rule on whether federal or regional laws violate the Russian Constitution, ITAR-TASS reported. The court struck down rulings by the Supreme Courts of Komi Republic and the Republic of Karelia that argued certain provisions of republican laws are unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court ruled that other courts are not entitled to draw such conclusions on their own. Instead, they must send an inquiry to the Constitutional Court if they believe that a law violates the constitution. Verdicts of the Constitutional Court are not subject to appeal, the court noted. LB COURT SAYS CITIZENS LIVING ABROAD MAY RECEIVE PENSIONS... Emigres who have retained their Russian citizenship are entitled to receive Russian pensions, irrespective of when they left Russia and whether they lived in another country before moving abroad permanently, the Constitutional Court ruled on 15 June. The court struck down passages in a law and a government resolution that deprived Russians of their pensions if they left Russia before 1 July 1993 or lived in another country immediately before emigrating, ITAR-TASS reported. Seven Russian citizens, now living in Israel, Bulgaria, and Germany, filed the court appeal. Two of them had performed military service in Latvia during the Soviet period and emigrated from that country rather than from Russia directly. "Segodnya" predicted on 16 June that emigres will have to "fight" to receive their pensions, despite the court ruling. The Pension Fund already is unable to meet its financial obligations LB ...UPHOLDS MOST PROVISIONS OF LAW ON VOTERS' RIGHTS. The Constitutional Court on 10 June rejected all but one challenge to the law on citizens' basic electoral rights and their right to participate in a referendum, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11 June. Of the provisions disputed by the Federation Council and the legislature of the Republic of Karelia, the court struck down only the law's prohibition of regional referenda on matters over which federal and regional authorities have joint jurisdiction. The court found the following provisions consistent with the constitution: a requirement that electoral districts represent roughly equal numbers of citizens; a prohibition on referenda to end the term of elected bodies early; a clause allowing regions to impose age limits on candidates (if such limits are consistent with federal legislation); and a provision stating that elections are invalid if more votes are cast "against all candidates" than for any one candidate. LB HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER GOES TO YELTSIN WITH CAP IN HAND. Funding was high on the agenda during Oleg Mironov's meeting with Yeltsin on 16 June, his first talk with the president since the Duma elected him human rights commissioner last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1998). Mironov noted that the 1998 budget does not contain an article on funding for his office, Russian news agencies reported. He said he has "a pile of 600 complaints [from citizens] on my desk" and estimated that he requires a staff of 200-250 people and a budget of 30 million rubles ($4.8 million) for "normal work" this year. Yeltsin has a presidential commission on human rights, but before Mironov's election, Russia had been without a human rights commissioner for three years. LB RUTSKOI SAYS ARREST OF ASSOCIATES IS 'PROVOCATION.' Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi says the recent arrest of two of his deputies is a "provocation, " arguing they are "pawns" in Kursk Prosecutor Nikolai Tkachev's campaign against him, Interfax reported on 16 June. Deputy Governors Yurii Kononchuk and Vladimir Bunchuk were arrested on 11 June, while Rutskoi was visiting Bashkortostan. They are accused of large-scale embezzlement and corruption. For example, Kursk Oblast allegedly purchased grain harvesters using a firm owned by Kononchuk as a middleman, at great cost to the oblast budget. According to Interfax, Kononchuk and Bunchuk have begun a hunger strike. Also while the governor was in Bashkortostan, his brother Mikhail Rutskoi was sacked as deputy head of the Kursk branch of the Interior Ministry. He is now under investigation for swindling and abusing his authority, "Kommersant-Daily" and "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 16 June. LB EMPLOYEE OF OPPOSITION PAPER ATTACKED IN KALMYKIA. Semen Ageev, an employee of "Sovetskaya Kalmykia Segodnya," was beaten on 16 June as he was distributing the newspaper on a bus in the capital of Kalmykia, ITAR-TASS reported. The newspaper's editor, Larisa Yudina, was killed on 7 June. According to the Yabloko press service, the bus driver hit Ageev several times and said that "all of you should be killed," before throwing him off the bus. Meanwhile, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 17 June that local observers believe Tyurbi Boskomdzhiev, one of the two suspects who has confessed to Yudina's murder, was "set up" and had nothing to do with the crime. Citing unnamed sources, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported that Sergei Vaskin, the other suspect who has confessed to the crime, had a fresh deep scratch on his face when he was arrested--a possible result of a struggle with the journalist. LB MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX CLOSES RANKS. Heads of Russia's largest defense plants and representatives of the federal and regional governments attended a conference in Moscow last week to devise a strategy for reversing the defense industry's ongoing decline, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Izvestiya" reported on 16 June. The defense industry bosses addressed a statement to Russian President Yeltsin registering their objections to the "endless reform" of the defense sector, in particular the frequent changes of director of the arms export monopoly Rosvooruzhenie. Those changes, they claimed, deter potential arms purchasers from abroad. The conference participants also drafted measures intended to increase Russian arms exports and expand military-technical cooperation with foreign companies. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADER MEET. Emomali Rakhmonov met with United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri for three hours on 17 June to discuss opposition representation in the new coalition government, ITAR-TASS reported. They also discussed the recent law banning religious parties, which the opposition argues violates last year's peace agreement. A trilateral conciliation commission established by Rakhmonov to review that law is due to publicize its findings on 17 June. LF RESULTS OF TURKMENISTAN CASPIAN TENDER ANNOUNCED. The U.S. petroleum company Mobil and the Anglo-Chinese consortium Kern Energy-Texuna have won Turkmenistan's first international tender for the rights to exploit the country's offshore Caspian oil deposits, Russian agencies reported on 16 June. They must now draft production sharing agreements, which are to be submitted to President Saparmurad Niyazov within three months. Mobil has acquired the rights to the Serdar deposit, which has estimated reserves of 150-200 million metric tons of oil. Ownership of that deposit is claimed by Azerbaijan. Kern Energy-Texuna will develop the smaller Gaplan oil and gas field. Also on 16 June, Niyazov signed an agreement with a U.S. company on cooperation in developing and reconstructing water purification and desalination facilities, ITAR-TASS reported. LF BARSKOON EVACUEES BEGIN RETURNING HOME. A local official in the Kyrgyz district of Issyk-Kul told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 16 June that residents of the Barskoon village evacuated following the 20 May spill of sodium cyanide into the Barskoon River have started to return to their homes. Some 5,000 residents from the village were evacuated from 4- 9 June. Three people have died from sodium cyanide poisoning, more than 2,500 have been poisoned, and some 800 have been hospitalized. LF MOSQUES IN KYRGYZSTAN TO BE REGISTERED. Kyrgyzstan's Deputy Mufti Lugmar Aji told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 16 June that all mosques are to be registered with the country's Muslim Board. He noted that there are currently some 1,500 mosques in Kyrgyzstan, some of which have been built at the initiative of private individuals. LF KAZAKH PENSIONERS GO TO COURT. Two Almaty pensioners have lost a law suit against the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 17 June. The two pensioners had demanded that the ministry implement a 1992 presidential directive index-linking pensions to inflation. Pensions have remained unchanged for the past four years, at 2,800 tenges ($35) per month. An Almaty city court judge rejected the pensioners' suit but ordered the ministry to implement future presidential decrees promptly. LF AIDES TO AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADER ARRESTED. Two aides to former Azerbaijan President Abulfaz Elchibey were arrested in Baku on 14 June and a foreign-made pistol confiscated from one of them, Turan reported. Elchibey's Azerbaijan Popular Front has denounced the arrests as politically motivated. Neither man has yet been charged. LF. ADJAR LEADERSHIP TO FORM ALLIANCE WITH COMMUNISTS? Adjar Supreme Council chairman Aslan Abashidze told journalists on 16 June that he is prepared to form an alliance with the United Communist Party of Georgia, headed by Panteleimon Giorgadze, Caucasus Press reported. Abashidze also said that he may suspend some laws adopted by the Georgian parliament. LF FORMER SOUTH OSSETIAN LEADER AMNESTIED. Alan Chochiev, former head of the radical South Ossetian Popular Front and from 1992-1994 first deputy chairman of the region's Supreme Council, was released from prison on 16 June, ITAR-TASS reported. Chochiev was sentenced in July 1996 to five years in jail on charges of large-scale embezzlement. A committee created in his defense appealed to the South Ossetian authorities earlier this year for clemency, claiming that the evidence against him was fabricated, according to the 8 April "Nezavisimaya gazeta." LF 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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