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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 119 Part I, 23 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 119 Part I, 23 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 CALLS FOR 'RADICAL MEASURES' ON ECONOMY * KIRIENKO SAYS IMF AID WOULD NOT BE 'FOR CONSUMPTION' * GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ PRESIDENTS TO MEET IN TSKHINVALI? End Note: THE AUTUMN OF THE PATRIARCH xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN CALLS FOR 'RADICAL MEASURES' ON ECONOMY. President Boris Yeltsin told an expanded cabinet session on 23 June that "radical measures are required to bring order to the economy," NTV and Reuters reported. He argued that "the economic crisis has become so acute that there are social and political dangers," and he called on the parliament to approve the government's "anti-crisis program," which seeks to plug holes in the 1998 budget and restore calm to Russian financial markets. If the plan is not approved before the parliament's summer recess begins in mid-July, Yeltsin vowed to take "other measures" but did not elaborate. Only parts of the anti-crisis plan could be imposed by presidential decree, and it would be difficult for Yeltsin and the government to force the parliament to adopt the rest of the plan. The constitution does not cite the refusal to pass legislation as grounds for dissolving the State Duma. LB GOVERNMENT REVEALS DETAILS OF 'ANTI-CRISIS PROGRAM.' The government on 23 June submitted its "anti-crisis program" for discussion at a cabinet session also attended by numerous parliamentary deputies and some business leaders. The program includes measures announced in recent weeks to cut 1998 federal spending by 42 billion rubles ($6.8 billion), ITAR-TASS reported. The government plans, among other things, to downsize the number of state employees and transfer to regional authorities responsibility for running hundreds of health, education, sports, and cultural facilities. The government also seeks to reduce subsidies for industry, agriculture, and transportation and to include non-budgetary funds such as the Pension Fund in the federal budget. The plan calls for raising revenues by some $20 billion a year, in part by increasing the tax authorities' powers, raising the land tax, and--a familiar government objective--increasing penalties for the illegal production and sale of alcohol. LB KIRIENKO SAYS IMF AID WOULD NOT BE 'FOR CONSUMPTION.' Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko on 22 June announced that the Supplemental Reserve Facility Russia is seeking from the IMF is "not intended for consumption," but only to protect the ruble and boost investor confidence, Russian news agencies reported. Kirienko told journalists that "we are only talking about stabilization resources for the Central Bank. This will boost the reliability of the ruble and allow for tougher defense against any speculative attacks." Unified Energy System chief executive Anatolii Chubais, who is Russia's chief liaison to international financial organizations, has also suggested that Russia may not spend additional aid it receives from the IMF (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 June 1998). Meanwhile, Economics Minister Yakov Urinson on 22 June assured those attending the third Central and East European economic forum in Salzburg that the government will not permit a significant devaluation of the ruble, ITAR-TASS reported. LB SPOKESMAN HAILS PLAN TO CREATE BUSINESS ADVISORY COUNCIL. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 22 June said media reports on the proposed creation of a council of business leaders to advise the government were "exaggerated," Russian news agencies reported. He hailed the "interest in cooperation and readiness to act together to counter the crisis displayed by both the government and the business community." Yastrzhembskii noted that he sees "nothing extraordinary" in the idea of having business elites advise the government on economic policy, adding that "it is a pity that such a council was not set up before" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 22 June 1998). LB ZYUGANOV SEEKS TO REMOVE YELTSIN ONLY BY LEGAL MEANS. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov has issued a statement denying reports that his party aims to use illegal means to remove the current regime, Interfax reported on 22 June. Zyuganov said the party leadership believes that "Communists and all patriotic forces" in Russia can overcome the crisis by working within "constitutional and legal norms." Interfax on 20 June quoted Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin as saying that the Communist Party may use any means, "including illegal ones," to remove the Yeltsin regime, since criminals "must be fought with whatever means at one's disposal, not those the regime itself has imposed." A Justice Ministry statement called on the Communist Party leadership to disavow Ilyukhin's comments. LB RUSSIAN, JAPANESE DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. Grigorii Karasin and Minoru Tamba attended a 22 June meeting in Tokyo of the subcommission working on a Russian-Japanese peace treaty to officially end World War II, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Karasin, the meeting also focused on a "broader treaty" on bilateral cooperation and friendship in the 21st century. Following the meeting, Tamba said his government is awaiting Boris Yeltsin's reply to a proposal made by Japan's Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto at their informal summit in Kawana, Japan, in April. That proposal deals with ownership of the Kuril Islands. However, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin has hinted in Moscow that a solution to that issue is not close at hand. On 22 June, he told a press briefing that he "would not take the liberty" of saying the treaty will be signed when Hashimoto makes an official visit to Russian this fall. BP SWITZERLAND EXPELS RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT. An unnamed member of Russia's permanent representation for international organizations and the UN was ordered to leave Switzerland for alleged espionage two weeks ago, dpa reported on 21 June, citing the Swiss newspaper "Sonntagszeitung." Since 1994, the diplomat had been receiving NATO and Slovak security information, including reports related to NATO expansion, from a Slovak UN diplomat in Geneva in exchange for bribes and gifts, the newspaper alleged. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nesterushkin expressed "bewilderment and regret" that the diplomat was expelled without explanation from the Swiss government. As well, he indicated that "initial contacts with Switzerland gave reason to believe that this incident would not be made public," Interfax reported on 22 June. "This will not strengthen Switzerland as one of the major centers of world diplomacy," Nesterushkin told Reuters on 22 June. BT DUMA MOVES TO INTRODUCE BORDER TAX. The State Duma on 19 June passed an amendment to the law on the state border to introduce a border tax, Russian news agencies reported. If the Federation Council approves the amendment and Yeltsin signs it, individuals will be charged 80 percent of the monthly minimum wage, which is currently 83 rubles ($13.4), upon filling out documents when leaving Russia. The tax for trucks and buses will be equal to the minimum wage, while the levy on cars will be double that amount. The government sought to impose a border tax last year, but the Constitutional Court ruled that such a tax may be introduced only through a federal law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 1997). The court rejected Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev's claim that the tax violates the right to enter and leave Russia freely. LB POTANIN MOVES PAST BEREZOVSKII ON 'FORBES' LIST. Oneksimbank founder Vladimir Potanin, the head of the Interros holding company, is the wealthiest Russian citizen, according to the latest edition of the U.S. magazine "Forbes." Potanin was ranked 186th out of the world's 200 wealthiest citizens and was the only Russian on that list. The magazine estimated his net worth at $1.6 billion, up from some $700 million last year. CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii was the highest-ranked Russian on the "Forbes" list last year, with a net worth of $3 billion, but the magazine now says he is worth $1.1 billion. "Forbes" named Berezovskii and three other Russian citizens on a separate list of those who did not make the top 200: Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev (estimated net worth $1.4 billion), Rosprom-Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii ($1.3 billion), and LUKoil head Vagit Alekperov ($1.2 billion). LB YAVLINSKII SLAMS YELTSIN ON POLICY TOWARD REGIONS. In an open letter to Yeltsin, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii has blasted the president for tolerating and sometimes openly supporting "the excesses of regional authorities in a number of Russian Federation subjects," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 19 June. Yavlinskii cited the "grandiose profanation called a presidential election" in Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 June 1998). He argued that Yeltsin's "inaction serves as confirmation for numerous governors and presidents in our country that everything is permissible and justified." Yavlinskii warned that such an attitude could lead to the country's "feudal disintegration" and is already making Russia "more and more resemble a confederation of principalities." The Yabloko leader asked Yeltsin whether he is ready to assume responsibility for "future political murders," since he condones "illegal 'elections' and arbitrary rule" in the regions. Yabloko is conducting its own investigation into the recent murder of Kalmykian journalist Larisa Yudina. LB BASHKIR PRESIDENT BEGINS SECOND TERM... Murtaza Rakhimov began his second term as the president of Bashkortostan on 20 June following a lavish inauguration ceremony in Ufa, ITAR-TASS reported. Yurii Yarov, first deputy head of the presidential administration, attended the inauguration on behalf of the Kremlin and Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev on behalf of the government. Speaking during the ceremony, Sysuev said Rakhimov represents a 21st-century leader. He said that Bashkortostan has developed a stable political and social environment and that the republic's leaders have great authority, having carried out successful economic reforms while devoting attention to social support of the population. LB ...BUT WOULD-BE CHALLENGER STILL SEEKS TO OVERTURN ELECTION. Duma deputy Alekansdr Arinin is appealing to the Supreme Court to overturn the results of the Bashkir presidential election, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 22 June. Arinin has already won one court appeal against the Bashkir Electoral Commission's refusal to register him as a candidate. However, the commission ignored the Supreme Court's instruction to include him on the ballot (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1998). Arinin criticized the federal authorities for keeping silent about the legal violations leading up to the Bashkir election. He added that a campaign of civil disobedience is gaining support in the republic and is demanding a new presidential election. Rakhimov faced no genuine challenger on the ballot, but more than 15 percent of voters cast their ballots "against all candidates," including more than a third of voters in the republic's capital, Ufa. LB NEWSPAPER SAYS FEDERAL OFFICIALS PROTECTING KALMYKIAN PRESIDENT. "Moskovskie novosti" charged in its 14-21 June edition that high-level federal officials have long protected Kalmykian President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, despite convincing evidence of widespread corruption in his administration. The newspaper noted that shortly after the recent murder of "Sovetskaya Kalmykia Segodnya" editor Larisa Yudina, the Federal Security Service transferred Vladimir Timofeev, its director in Kalmykia, to a post in Vladimir Oblast. In an interview with Yudina, Timofeev had spoken of alleged corruption in the republic. According to "Moskovskie novosti," the federal government and presidential administration have taken no action concerning alleged embezzlement of federal funds by Kalmykian authorities. A Kremlin official who once told "Sovetskaya Kalmykia Segodnya" that Ilyumzhinov and his circle "live on stolen money" is no longer sent on business trips to the republic, and a Kalmykian prosecutor who once offered to help Yudina was transferred to Moscow. LB INGUSH PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR STATE OF EMERGENCY IN PRIGORODNYI RAION. The parliament of Ingushetia has appealed to the president, government, and Russian Security Council to impose a state of emergency in Prigorodnyi Raion, in neighboring North Ossetia, Caucasus Press reported on 22 June. The appeal said that only a state of emergency can prevent further acts of terrorism and kidnapping and facilitate the return to their homes of ethnic Ingush families forced to flee the raion during the November 1992 fighting. Russian President Yeltsin rejected an appeal by his Ingush counterpart, Ruslan Aushev, to impose presidential rule on the district during a wave of violence last summer (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1997). LF BY-ELECTIONS IN NORTH OSSETIA. Elections took place in North Ossetia on 22 June for the Duma seat vacated by Aleksandr Dzasokhov following his election as the republic's president in January, Russian media reported. Independent candidate Hazbi Bogov, head of the "Ossetia" intensive economic development scheme, polled 39 percent of the vote, defeating 13 other candidates. Bogov advocates tougher measures against crime and increased economic cooperation between North Ossetia and other Russian regions, according to ITAR- TASS. LF DAGESTAN SECURITY CHIEF TO QUIT. Magomed Tolboev on 22 June announced he will step down as head of Dagestan's Security Council following the election later this month of a new State Council chairman, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Tolboev said he is no longer able to control the situation in Dagestan, which he described in a 2 June interview with "Trud" as a struggle for power between criminal clans. A former cosmonaut, Tolboev is notorious for his ability to negotiate the release of North Caucasus kidnapping victims. Also on 22 June, one Russian OMON police officer was killed and another 10 injured when the van in which they were traveling exploded in Dagestan's Kizlyar Raion, according to Interfax. LF KOMMERSANT PUBLISHING HOUSE TO SELL MAJOR STAKE. Vladimir Yakovlev, president and co-founder of the Kommersant publishing house, says he and two business partners have decided to sell a major stake in the publishing house, which owns "Kommersant-Daily" and several weekly publications. In an interview published in the daily on 23 June, Yakovlev said they plan to protect the independence of the publications by selling to 10-15 investors "who share our views." He said no one person will be able to acquire a controlling stake and promised that the buyers' names will be made public. (The sources of the publisher's current financing are a matter of widespread speculation among Moscow journalists.) Yakovlev said he and his partners will "regulate the number and composition" of shareholders but did not explain how they could prevent one investor from buying enough shares from the others to eventually acquire control over Kommersant. LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ PRESIDENTS TO MEET IN TSKHINVALI? In his traditional weekly radio address on 22 June, Eduard Shevardnadze said that South Ossetian President Lyudvig Chibirov's proposal that Shevardnadze and his Abkhaz counterpart, Vladislav Ardzinba should meet in the South Ossetian capital for talks is "interesting." Previously, Shevardnadze had commented that he would meet personally with Ardzinba only if there were a chance of signing formal agreements on the repatriation to Abkhazia of ethnic Georgian displaced persons. Shevardnadze said that during talks on19 June in Sukhumi with Georgian and Russian officials and with CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii, Ardzinba agreed that Abkhazia will ensure the security of the returnees, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 23 June. Shevardnadze had refused on 20 June to sign either a draft peace agreement or an accord on repatriation approved by Ardzinba during his talks with Berezovskii the previous day. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CANCELS PLANNED VISIT TO TURKEY. Heidar Aliev canceled a private visit to Turkey to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations of the newspaper "Hurriyet" just hours before his scheduled departure on 22 June, ITAR-TASS reported. No explanation was given for the cancellation. LF NEW ARMENIAN POLITICAL PARTY UNVEILS PROGRAM. The leaders of the Rule of Law State Party told journalists in Yerevan on 19 June that the primary goal of their party is to ensure "the rule of law" and legal protection for citizens of Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. One of the party's founders, parliamentary Committee on State and Legal Affairs chairman Albert Baghdasarian, argued that the development of democracy in Armenia is hindered by the existence of many laws "contradicting one another" and also by people's widespread ignorance of their rights. He also complained that some laws "breach human rights" but did not elaborate. Baghdasarian said the party will strive to boost citizens' awareness of Armenian laws and legislation. LF RUSSIA DROPS HINT TO TAJIK PARLIAMENT. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nesterushkin told a press briefing in Moscow on 22 June that Russia supports the compromise solution to the ban on religion-based political parties reached by a newly formed Tajik commission and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, ITAR-TASS reported. The commission reviewed laws adopted by the parliament in late May that prohibit religion-based parties from participating in the election process. The commission and Rakhmonov agreed on a compromise solution whereby political parties would not be allowed to use the premises of religious organizations. They also sent the law back to the parliament. Nesterushkin said Russia is counting on the Tajik parliament "to accept the decision, which answers the greater interests of the nation and makes it possible to further progress toward national reconciliation." BP KYRGYZ PRESIDENT WARNS ABOUT RADIOACTIVE WASTE. The presidential press service on 22 June issued a statement on Askar Akayev's concerns about the storage of radioactive waste in 45 of the country's uranium waste storage facilities, Interfax reported. Akayev had visited several sites the previous day. He said that owing to the poor maintenance of these facilities, particularly in the south, a landslide could damage carry the waste into the water supply. Akayev singled out the Kara Balta ore dressing plant, 45 kilometers west of Bishkek, and ordered that repairs be carried out immediately. The plant is located close to the Chu River, which flows into Kazakhstan. BP KYRGYZSTAN TO HOLD REFERENDUM IN FALL. The chairman of Kyrgyzstan's Central Electoral Commission, Sulaiman Imambayev, announced on 22 June that a referendum on proposed amendments to election laws is expected to be held in either September or October of this year, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Some proposals are still being discussed but are likely to deal with the structure of the bicameral parliament and minimum voter turnout. Local elections are due to be held early next year and to the parliament and the presidency in 2000. BP END NOTE THE AUTUMN OF THE PATRIARCH by Liz Fuller On 9 June, the Azerbaijani parliament passed in the third and final reading a law on the presidential elections that Socialist Democratic Party leader Zardusht Ali-zade has described as "tailor-made for one individual." In other words, it is formulated in such a way as to virtually guarantee the re-election for a second term of the authoritarian incumbent, former KGB boss and Azerbaijan Communist Party first secretary Heidar Aliev. That outcome is all the more likely, given that most potential opposition candidates have announced their intention not to contend the poll if it takes place under legislation they consider undemocratic. But even if Aliev's re-election appears assured, recent political developments may herald the gradual erosion of his power base. Anticipating the introduction of unequal conditions for prospective presidential candidates, the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan announced in March the creation of an informal Movement for Democratic Elections (subsequently renamed the Movement for Democratic Elections and Electoral Reform). As many as two dozen political parties and NGOs subsequently aligned themselves with the movement, whose main aims were to prevent the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party from monopolizing the election campaign and to ensure that all candidates enjoyed equal rights. In late April, the parliament began debating two draft laws, one on the Central Electoral Commission and the other on the presidential elections. The opposition criticized both those bills as undemocratic, objecting in particular to the procedure for appointing the Central Electoral Commission, half of whose 24 members are nominated by the president and the remainder by the parliament. The opposition, which has only a handful of deputies in the parliament, will in effect be deprived of any say in the composition of the commission. Opposition parties also criticized the minimum required voter turnout of 50 percent plus one vote, reasoning that in recent years, some 2 million people have left Azerbaijan out of a declared population of 7.5 million . And they condemned the provision allowing the presence at polling stations of police and Security Ministry officials. In mid-April, the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party had unveiled an alternative draft election law stipulating a minimum turnout of 25-30 percent and advocating measures to preclude violations, including transparent glass ballot boxes. It also entitled all registered candidates to 180 minutes free air time on state television and 15 million manats ($4,000) from the state budget to finance their campaigns. The parliament passed the law on the Central Electoral Commission in mid-May. The law on the presidential elections was submitted for comment both to the Council of Europe and to the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Both organizations suggested amendments, which were duly made to 32 of the law's 59 articles, but those changes failed to satisfy the opposition. When the law was passed in the third and final reading in June, all potential opposition presidential candidates announced they will boycott the poll. That boycott should not, however, be construed as the opposition's acknowledgment that defeat under these circumstances is inevitable. Rather, it testifies to the unifying influence of the one person who, if he were able to contend the poll, would pose a serious challenge to Aliev. Rasul Guliev has lived in exile in the U.S. since he was stripped of the post of Azerbaijani parliamentary speaker in September 1996, one month after publishing a damning critique of Aliev's leadership in a Russian journal. The parliament voted in December 1997 to strip him of his deputy's mandate. Four months later, it lifted his deputy's immunity and approved Prosecutor-General Eldar Hasanov's proposal to open criminal proceedings against him on charges of financial mismanagement and large-scale embezzlement during his tenure as head of one of Azerbaijan's largest oil refineries. Guliev, who in January 1998, announced his intention of running for president, now risks arrest if he returns to Azerbaijan. In recent months, Guliev has written to U.S. senators and to the Council of Europe denouncing Aliev as a totalitarian dictator. He also issued an appeal in early June to members of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party (founded by Aliev in late 1992 as his personal power base) to quit the party. Several hundred, mostly younger members of the party have complied with Guliev's appeal, saying they were motivated to do so by widespread corruption within the party and by its betrayal of its original goal to create a democratic and just society. Some of those defectors have since founded the Democratic Azerbajian Party. Spokesmen for Yeni Azerbaycan have conceded that a handful of its members have quit, but they deny either a mass exodus or any connection between the resignations and Guliev's appeal. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party newspaper "Azadlyg" reported on 12 June that Aliev's son Ilham, who is currently vice president of the state oil company SOCAR, is forming his own team of progressive economists and industrial managers. The newspaper interprets that move as a bid to create both a personal power base and a seemingly more democratic elite with which the opposition might be willing to cooperate following the demise of the elder Aliev. 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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