|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 122 Part I, 26 June 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 122 Part I, 26 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 * IMF APPROVES LOAN TRANCHE * RUSSIA TO CUT OIL EXPORTS * GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS RESUME End Note: A NEW NATIONAL SOCIALIST THREAT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA IMF APPROVES LOAN TRANCHE. The IMF board of directors on 25 June approved the release of a $670 million loan tranche to Russia, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. The tranche will bring to $5.8 billion the funds allocated to Russia under a four-year, $10 billion IMF Extended Fund Facility. Unified Energy System chief executive Anatolii Chubais, who is also President Boris Yeltsin's envoy to international financial institutions, described the IMF decision as "quite natural and logical," Interfax reported. He argued that "it is important in principle that IMF board members...regard the ailments of the Russian economy as quite curable." Despite the news about the IMF loan tranche, the main index of the Russian stock market fell more than 5 percent in early trading on 26 June. Negotiations between Russian and IMF officials over a possible $10-15 billion aid package are expected to take weeks. LB COMMUNISTS WANT LOAN CONDITIONS MADE PUBLIC. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov on 24 June demanded that the government and Central Bank release all documents they have sent to the IMF, along with information about the conditions for receiving IMF loans and plans for spending such funds, Russian news agencies reported. He claimed that the IMF has made a possible $10-15 billion loan conditional on Russia agreeing to break up its natural monopolies, raise the pension age by five years, and push through legislation on land sales and the ratification of the START-2 arms control treaty. Zyuganov also mentioned that he met with a group of Russia's leading "oligarchs" on 24 June to discuss the economic crisis. Duma Economic Policy Committee Chairman Yurii Maslyukov, also a Communist, said "the government cannot do without foreign loans" but called for more "transparency" in the process of receiving those loans. LB ARGENTINE PRESIDENT IN MOSCOW. Argentina's President Carlos Menem was in Moscow on 25 June, making the first ever official visit by an Argentine head of state to Russia, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko welcomed Menem to the government headquarters in Moscow, calling Argentina Russia's "most important partner in Latin America." Menem later met with Boris Yeltsin and signed agreements on the basic principles of relations between the two countries, protection of investments and combating illegal trafficking in narcotics and weapons. However, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 June that Yeltsin expressed his country's displeasure with Argentina's relationship with NATO. Menem for his part noted that Russia still supports Great Britain's position on the Falkland Islands. BP YELTSIN POSTPONES TRIP TO KAZAKHSTAN. Following a telephone conversation between Boris Yeltsin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on 25 June, it was announced that Yeltsin will not make a scheduled trip to Kazakhstan at the end of June, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Yeltsin said it is necessary to stay in Russia at this time and deal with financial and socio-economic matters. Yeltsin was scheduled to sign an "eternal friendship treaty" with Nazarbayev which would define relations between their two countries into the next century. A meeting of the leaders of the CIS "four plus one" Customs Union (which also includes Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) was also scheduled, in addition to a meeting with Nazarbayev, Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and Chinese President Jiang Zemin to review the border treaty between the five countries. Yeltsin has tentatively rescheduled his visit to Kazakhstan for September. BP GOVERNMENT SUBMITS MORE LAWS TO DUMA. Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov on 25 June delivered to the State Duma six more draft laws that are part of the government's anti- crisis program, ITAR-TASS reported. The entire package consists of more than 20 laws, including six submitted on 24 June, eight sent to the Duma earlier this year, and one that has yet to be submitted to parliament. According to Reuters, Prime Minister Kirienko said the package would increase monthly federal budget revenues by 1.5-2.5 billion rubles ($240-$400 million), and both he and Nemtsov urged the Duma to pass the package in its entirety. But First Deputy Duma Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov of Our Home is Russia told ITAR- TASS that the Duma is likely to reject several of the proposals, such as a fourfold increase in the land tax and a freeze on the payment of child allowances. LB DUMA DELAYS VOTE ON PRIVATIZATION PROGRAM. The government on 25 June withdrew its privatization program for 1998 from the State Duma after it became clear that deputies would reject the document in the first reading. Although the Yabloko, Our Home Is Russia, and Russian Regions factions supported the program, the Communist and Agrarian factions spoke out against it. The program slated 57 companies for either privatization or transformation into joint-stock companies this year, Russian news agencies reported. After First Deputy State Property Minister Aleksandr Braverman offered to introduce some changes, the Duma postponed consideration of the program until mid-July. Under a law that went into effect in August 1997, the government must seek parliamentary approval for its privatization plans. Meanwhile, State Property Ministry officials met with representatives of about a dozen foreign banks on 25 June to encourage them to participate in Russian privatization auctions. LB RUSSIA TO CUT OIL EXPORTS. Russia agreed on 25 June to reduce its exports of oil and other petroleum products by some 100,000 barrels per day, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Generalov agreed to the cuts during a meeting in Vienna with ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Earlier this year, OPEC asked Russia, the world's third- largest oil producer and a non-OPEC country, to reduce its oil exports by 100,000 barrels a day. Russian officials first said exports would not be reduced and then agreed to smaller cuts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 1998). "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 June that if oil prices rise as much as Russian and OPEC experts hope, Russia will by the end of this year earn $500 million more from its oil exports than it would have without the reductions agreed to in Vienna. LB CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS RESHUFFLE CONTRIBUTED TO ECONOMIC PROBLEMS... Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 25 June charged that the economic crisis was exacerbated by the dismissal of his government in late March, Interfax and RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Chernomyrdin noted that Russia was without a government for a month during the wrangling over the confirmation of his successor, Sergei Kirienko. The other two main factors contributing to the Russian economic situation, in Chernomyrdin's view, were turmoil on Asian financial markets and falling oil prices on world markets (which has hurt Russian budget revenues). Although he has admitted that his dismissal came as a surprise to him, Chernomyrdin has refrained from overt criticism of Yeltsin. During his 25 June press conference he slammed attempts by the president's opponents in the Duma to launch impeachment proceedings. LB ...DENIES PLANS TO RETURN TO GAZPROM. Chernomyrdin on 25 June vigorously denied that he plans to return to a top post at the gas monopoly Gazprom, which he helped found and headed until he became prime minister in December 1992, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The gas monopoly is holding its annual shareholders meeting on 26 June, amid rumors that the government's representatives in the company may try to remove chief executive Rem Vyakhirev. In recent days, Chernomyrdin has met with Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko and Yeltsin's Chief of Staff Valentin Yumashev, fueling speculation that he may be a candidate to replace Vyakhirev. Two Moscow-based newspapers that are financed by Gazprom, "Trud" and "Tribuna" (formerly "Rabochaya tribuna"), have repeatedly criticized the government's economic policy since Chernomyrdin's dismissal. Those newspapers alleged in April that the new government is "hostile" to Gazprom. LB LEBED WANTS GREATER ROLE FOR INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE. Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed on 25 June advocated allowing the International Court of Justice in The Hague jurisdiction over war crimes no matter where they are committed, Reuters reported. Speaking in Wiesbaden, where he received a peace prize for helping negotiate an end to the war in Chechnya in 1996, Lebed said that "when each potential war criminal will imagine himself sitting in the dock, he will think again before he gives an order to start military operations." He also called for prosecuting in the International Court those who committed crimes during the war in Chechnya, charging that "the Russian justice system is unable, for several reasons, to bring to justice those who have profited from the war, and in the course of it dealt with prisoners and civilians in an inhuman way." LB CHUBAIS CONFIDENT ON FUTURE OF RUSSIA'S DEMOCRATIC CHOICE. Unified Energy System chief executive Chubais says Yegor Gaidar's party Russia's Democratic Choice (DVR) can easily clear the five percent barrier in the next parliamentary elections if it forms a strong coalition with other like- minded groups. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau broadcast on 25 June, Chubais predicted that the DVR will be able to form an influential faction in the State Duma. He did not name possible partners for an electoral coalition. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii has ruled out such an alliance, and many other politicians are wary of associating with the unpopular Gaidar and Chubais, who has no formal leadership role in the DVR but has been a highly influential member since the party's creation. Chubais said the DVR already has a candidate in mind for the next presidential election, but refused to name that candidate. LB NTV CANCELS PROGRAM AFTER BELARUSIAN PROTEST. The private network NTV has cancelled a morning talk show called "Chas byka" after its host, Andrei Cherkizov, ran afoul of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. On a 23 June program, Cherkizov referred to Lukashenka as a "boor," prompting the Belarusian authorities to send an angry message to NTV, an RFE/RL correspondent in Minsk reported. An official in Lukashenka's administration suggested that NTV transmissions could be cut off in Belarus. An NTV newscaster apologized to Lukashenka and the Belarusian public on the air on 23 June, but the following morning Cherkizov compared Lukashenka to a "swine" during his program. The same day, NTV's news director announced plans to cancel "Chas byka." Although he will no longer appear on NTV, Cherkizov will continue to work at the radio station Ekho Moskvy, which, like NTV, belongs to Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most holding company. LB NETWORK HAS HISTORY OF STRAINED RELATIONS WITH LUKASHENKA. In 1997 Lukashenka repeatedly found fault with Russian news coverage of events in Belarus, and he particularly criticized NTV. In March of that year, Belarusian authorities stripped the accreditation of Aleksandr Stupnikov, an NTV correspondent in Minsk, and expelled him from the country. In the subsequent months, Lukashenka accused NTV and 51 percent state-owned Russian Public Television (ORT) of participating in a campaign orchestrated by his political enemies to undermine the Russian-Belarusian union. Relations have since improved. In January of this year, Media-Most head Gusinskii and Boris Berezovskii, who is an influential figure at ORT, travelled to Minsk with key journalists from media they finance for a meeting with Lukashenka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January 1998). LB PROSECUTOR-GENERAL WARNS INTERIOR MINISTER OVER PRISON CONDITIONS. Yurii Skuratov has written to Sergei Stepashin warning that human rights are "systematically and massively violated" in Russia's prisons, where sanitary conditions, overcrowding, inadequate nutrition and lack of medicinal facilities have caused epidemics of tuberculosis, dystrophy, food poisoning and AIDS, Russian news agencies reported on 25 June. Skuratov alleged that lack of funding is less to blame than "mismanagement and misuse" of budgetary funds allocated for prison maintenance. An October 1997 presidential decree ordered the transfer of the penitentiary system from the Interior Ministry to the Justice Ministry by 1 June 1998, to conform with Council of Europe recommendations, but the transfer has not materialized (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 15 October 1997 and 26 February 1998). Meanwhile, on 25 June Russia's Main Government Sanitary Doctor Gennadii Onishchenko told journalists that tuberculosis rates in prisons are 5 times the national average, ITAR-TASS reported. BT STATE COUNCIL CHAIRMAN REELECTED IN DAGESTAN. Amid stringent security precautions, Dagestan's Constitutional Assembly elected a new 14-man State Council, whose members represent the republic's various ethnic minorities, on 25 June. Magomedali Magomedov, who has headed the State Council since July, 1994, was reelected its chairman. 162 of the Constitutional Assembly's members voted for Magomedov and 78 for his sole challenger, Pension Fund head Sharaputdin Musaev, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 June. LF SAMARA PASSES LAND LAW. The Samara Oblast Duma on 25 June approved a law to legalize the purchase and sale of farmland, ITAR-TASS reported. Governor Konstantin Titov is a strong supporter of the legislation. Saratov Oblast adopted a similar law last November, drawing protests from State Duma deputies who charged that regions have no right to legalize such land sales in the absence of a federal land code. But those objections did not deter the legislature of Tatarstan, which adopted a similar law earlier this year. Meanwhile, the Kaliningrad Oblast Duma on 25 June refused to consider a land law proposed by the oblast administration, which would have legalized the purchase and sale of farmland, ITAR-TASS reported. Deputies voted down earlier drafts of that law in January and March. They declined to consider the latest version on the grounds that a federal land code should first be adopted. LB TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS RESUME. Georgian Ambassador to Russia Vazha Lortkipanidze met for three hours in Sukhumi on 25 June with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba and presidential envoy Anri Djergenia, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Both envoys subsequently told journalists that progress had been made towards reaching agreement on a peace protocol, and two further protocols on rebuilding the Abkhaz economy, and the return to their homes in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali raion of the 35,000 ethnic Georgians who fled during last month's fighting. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze rejected an earlier draft protocol on repatriation on 20 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 1998). LF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION DEMANDS ABOLITION OF CENSORSHIP. The Democratic Congress that comprises ten opposition parties issued a statement on 25 June arguing that free and democratic presidential elections will not be possible unless political censorship and existing restrictions on the activities of opposition political parties are abolished, Turan reported. The Democratic Congress also demanded the immediate release of two young opposition activists arrested for drafting what the authorities have termed a blueprint for destabilizing the political situation in Azerbaijan. That document was confiscated during a search of the editorial office of the opposition newspaper "Chag" (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 18 June 1998). On 24 June, Azerbaijan Popular Front Party deputy chairman Ulvi Hakimov, arrested 10 days earlier for obstructing the police, was released from custody. Meanwhile Azerbaijani human rights activists have founded a new organization to counter repression by the Azerbaijani authorities of potential opposition presidential candidates. LF AZERBAIJANI EX-PARLIAMENT SPEAKER ACCUSES PRESIDENT. In an interview given to "Moskovskie novosti" and summarized by Turan on 25 June, Rasul Guliev alleged that President Heidar Aliev and his family have misappropriated $900 million from the sale of oil, metals and cotton. Guliev claimed that Aliev knew in advance of the coup launched by rebel colonel Suret Huseinov that resulted in the ouster of President Abulfaz Elchibey in June, 1993. Guliev also alleged that Aliev and former Armenian parliament speaker Babken Ararktsian colluded in the surrender to Armenian forces in summer, 1993, of six Azerbaijani raions bordering on Nagorno-Karabakh. LF WORLD BANK GIVES LOANS TO KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYZSTAN. The World Bank issued loans to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan on 25 June, ITAR-TASS reported. Kazakhstan received $300 million for pension reform making "transition from the Soviet-era retirement system to a model using individual savings accounts" possible. Kyrgyzstan received $15 million for improving the heating and energy sector in the capital, Bishkek. BP IMF GIVES $128 MILLION CREDIT TO TAJIKISTAN. The International Monetary Fund announced on 25 June that it will grant Tajikistan a $128 million credit for restructuring the country's economy, ITAR-TASS and the Russian Information Agency reported. Tajikistan, in the first year of three-year restructuring program, will receive $48 million in 1998, half now and the rest in six months. According to Tajik government plans, there will be 4 percent annual GDP growth in the period 1999-2001, inflation should drop to eight percent (from 164 percent in 1997), and the fiscal deficit will drop from the present 3.3 percent to 0.3 percent. BP END NOTE A NEW NATIONAL SOCIALIST THREAT by Paul Goble The same social problems that powered the rise of national socialism in Germany in the 1930s have emerged in many post-communist countries and now threaten their transitions to democracy and the free market. Across this region, a variety of sources suggest, all too many people feel a sense of national humiliation and want to find a scapegoat. They feel threatened by economic dislocations that have allowed some to become fabulously wealthy while leaving others more impoverished than ever before. And they feel that they need a single ruthless leader rather than a fractious parliament to lead them out of their difficulties. Despite these obvious parallels and the appearance of a small number of explicitly neo-nazi fringe groups in several of the countries of this region, most people both there and beyond have assumed that the post-communist states are somehow immune to such a development precisely because of their own experience with and struggle against Nazi Germany a half century ago. But that may be changing. On 22 June, Russian President Boris Yeltsin warned that Nazi-like extremism now threatened his country and called on everyone to recognize just how dangerous it is. Speaking on the 57th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, the Russian leader said that "those obsessed with the ideas of national supremacy and anti- semitism should ask themselves whether they realize what they are doing." And noting that Russia "saved the world from Nazism half a century ago," Yeltsin himself asked "Will Russians allow the most fearful ideology ever known to mankind to take root on our soil?" Some observers have concluded that Yeltsin's words, coming on the eve of his announcement of a new anti-crisis program, are simply intended to frighten the West into providing his government with more aid. After all, no one in the West would want to see Yeltsin supplanted by a fascist dictatorship if sending more financial assistance alone could prevent that from happening. Other reporters have suggested that Yeltsin was only talking about those small groups in Russian society that openly flaunt Nazi symbols like the swastika or that have attacked synagogues and non- Russians in the Russian Federation. Such groups, various human rights organizations have concluded, now number only about 4,000 people in Moscow itself. But regardless of Yeltsin's exact intention, his words seem likely to have the effect of calling attention to a broader set of problems not only in the Russian Federation but in other post-communist states as well. And such attention has the effect of highlighting both the reasons that there is a new national socialist threat in these countries and also why it may not come to pass. On the one hand, virtually all these countries are suffering from the traumas of transition. And because they still have little experience with the tensions inherent in democratic politics and free market economies, some in their populations are increasingly susceptible to the appeals of those who would combine a nationalist message of revenge with a socialist set of promises for economic security. Sometimes this combination is dismissed as the "red- brown coalition, the coalition between the old communist nomenklatura and the new nationalists found in many parliaments and some executive offices. But often it is more subtle and affects the styles and messages of otherwise democratic leaders. And the fact that such messages are being delivered by otherwise mainstream leaders has the effect of opening the door to ever more extreme groups. But on the other hand, none of these countries yet has the one element that linked these two sets of ideas together in a way that tore apart the political fabric in Western Europe in the pre-World War II period. That element is the presence of a single charismatic leader who can convince people that he and he alone can lead them out of their current difficulties. If there is no such leader yet in power in any of these countries, there are several obvious candidates for the job in many of them. Yeltsin's warning by itself will not prevent them from seeking such positions. But it may make everyone involved more sensitive to the dangers their rise would inevitably entail. 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 of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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