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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 129 Part I, 8 July 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 129 Part I, 8 July 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 * OFFICIALS SAY NEARING AGREEMENT ON BAILOUT * NEMTSOV CRITICIZES RUSH TO DEFEND GAZPROM * AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CALLS FOR AMENDMENTS TO ELECTION LAW xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA OFFICIALS SAY NEARING AGREEMENT ON BAILOUT... Unified Energy System chief executive Anatolii Chubais, who is leading Russia's negotiations with international financial organizations, told journalists on 7 July that Russia and institutions that may provide a stabilization loan have reached "an understanding in principle on the biggest issues," Reuters reported. He was speaking after another round of talks with officials from the IMF and the World Bank. Martin Gilman, the IMF's representative in Moscow, said that "all the major issues have been identified and broad agreement has been reached on what needs to be done." But he added that a final deal will depend on "some tough political decisions that will have to be taken very soon." He did not specify the nature of those decisions. LB ...AMID MORE BATTERING OF STOCK, BOND MARKETS. The statements by Chubais and World Bank and IMF negotiators came toward the end of a rough day on Russian financial markets. Russian stocks fell by up to 10 percent in early trading on 7 July but recovered slightly following reports about the talks on the stabilization loan. The main index of the Russian stock market closed down 4.5 percent. In trading on the secondary bond market, government treasury bills posted a steep decline, pushing yields up from roughly 90 percent to 120 percent. Aleksandr Pochinok, head of the government's department on financial issues, warned that the government will not sell treasury bills at interest rates of 120 percent. In an effort to avoid domestic borrowing at such high rates, the Finance Ministry on 8 July canceled two auctions for treasury bills. LB NEMTSOV CRITICIZES RUSH TO DEFEND GAZPROM. Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov has called on those "who are enthusiastically defending Gazprom" to defend "pensioners, mothers with many children, doctors, and teachers" instead, Russian news agencies reported. Speaking to reporters in Magadan on 7 July, Nemtsov argued that the government must collect taxes if it is to meet its financial obligations. Commenting on the "tremendous uproar" raised over the conflict between the government and Gazprom, Nemtsov said the reaction of unnamed "magnates"--who, he said, control leading media outlets--suggests that they do not want Russia to be a strong state. Reuters quoted Nemtsov as saying the government will "sort it out with the [Gazprom] management," using "all possible measures" if necessary to force the company to pay its taxes in full. An unnamed Gazprom official told ITAR-TASS that Nemtsov's remarks will not aid "constructive dialogue" between the company and the government. LB MEDIA TAKE DIFFERENT SIDES IN GAZPROM CONFLICT. Several Russian newspapers have joined Gazprom-financed "Trud" and "Tribuna" in criticizing the government's recent actions vis-a-vis Gazprom. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4 July charged that the government's efforts to collect 4 billion rubles ($644 million) in monthly tax payments from Gazprom have driven down the value of the ruble and cost Russia some $3 billion in lost privatization revenues and declines on stock and bond markets. On 7 July, the newspaper accused Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko of making numerous false and misleading statements about Gazprom during a recent interview on NTV (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii is the main financial backer of "Nezavisimaya gazeta." In contrast, newspapers financed by Vladimir Potanin's Oneksimbank, such as "Russkii telegraf" and "Izvestiya," have praised the government's attempt to crack down on Gazprom. LB GAZPROM STARTS SHUTTING OFF GAS TO CONSUMERS. Gazprom subsidiaries in several regions have begun reducing gas supplies to non-paying consumers, Reuters reported on 7 July. Mezhregiongaz has reduced gas supplies to Lenenergo, the regional utility based in St. Petersburg, by 40 percent. Lenenergo owes Mezhregiongaz some 59.2 million rubles ($9.5 million) for the period January-March 1998. Vladimir Sokolov, the head of the Sverdlovsk Oblast unit of Sverdlovsk Mezhregiongaz, told Reuters that gas supplies have been reduced or cut off entirely to 170 enterprises in the oblast, 60 of which are financed by the federal government. He said non-paying consumers in Sverdlovsk Oblast owe Gazprom 1.6 billion rubles, of which government- funded organizations owe 94 million rubles. In Chelyabinsk Oblast, where Gazprom is owed more than 3 billion rubles, the Gazprom affiliate has cut off gas supplies to 14 companies and reduced supplies to 2,884 others. LB OFFICIAL SAYS RUSSIA "NOT VIOLATING" CFE. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 7 July, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin rejected U.S. claims that Moscow has violated the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, Interfax reported. A U.S. government report submitted recently to Congress claimed that Russia handed over to Armenia armaments covered by the treaty and deployed forces in Moldova without the consent of the Chisinau government. Rakhmanin argued that the CFE treaty "does not limit or control exports of conventional armaments." He added that Russia and Moldova have concluded an agreement on the legal status of Russian forces at present temporarily deployed in Moldova. That agreement has not, however, been ratified by either parliament. The Foreign Ministry also criticized as "one-sided" proposals advanced by NATO last month relaxing limitations on force deployments in Central Europe while retaining the existing flank restrictions for Russia, Reuters reported. LF DUMA NOT TO RUSH ON START-2 BEFORE SUMMIT OF PRESIDENTS. State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev announced on 7 July that the Duma has no plans to speed up the process of ratifying the START-2 arms control treaty ahead of the upcoming summit between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his U.S. counterpart, Bill Clinton. U.S. and Russian officials announced the previous day that Clinton will visit Russia in early September. Moscow and Washington previously said the next summit of the presidents would be postponed until after ratification of START-2 by the Russian parliament. Speaking to journalists in Copenhagen on 7 July, Seleznev said the U.S. cannot insist that Russia ratify the treaty before Clinton's visit. He added that he has warned members of the U.S. Congress that the more people seek to put conditions on Russia, "the longer the ratification process will be." LB SPY SCANDAL SPARKS SOUTH KOREAN RETALIATION. South Korea has said it will expel diplomat Oleg Abramkin from Seoul in retaliation for the explusion of a South Korean diplomat from Russia for spying, Reuters reported on 8 July. The statement said Abramkin "has engaged in activities which violate a diplomat's status." Five days earlier, Cho Sung Woo, a counselor at Moscow's South Korean Embassy, was asked to leave Russia under suspicion of buying Russian state secrets from Valentin Moiseev, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry's First Asian Department, news agencies reported. South Korea issued a statement protesting Woo's detainment as a violation of the Vienna Convention and expressing regret that the scandal was leaked the mass media, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, the Federal Security Service will bring charges of high treason against Moiseev within the next few days. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev has put off a diplomatic trip to Seoul that was scheduled to begin on 5 July. BT ROKHLIN'S ALLIES REGROUP. The Movement to Support the Army convened an extraordinary congress in Moscow on 8 July to elect a successor to leader Lev Rokhlin, who was shot dead at his dacha on 3 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 7 July 1998). Delegates chose Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, an outspoken member of the Communist Party, Russian news agencies reported. Rokhlin founded the Movement to Support the Army last year and vowed to seek the ouster of Yeltsin and his associates, whom Rokhlin accused of destroying the armed forces. According to ITAR-TASS, Duma deputy Albert Makashov and Vladislav Achalov, founder of the All-Russian Officers' Assembly, were also in the running to replace Rokhlin. Meanwhile, an estimated 10,000 people, including many prominent opposition leaders, participated in a funeral procession and memorial service for Rokhlin on 7 July, Interfax reported, citing police estimates. LB MILITARY CORONERS PERFORMED AUTOPSY ON ROKHLIN. Interfax reported on 7 July that the autopsy on Rokhlin was performed at the Defense Ministry's central forensic laboratory. The results of that autopsy have not been made public. Anatolii Kapustin, deputy head of the Health Ministry's main forensic center, told the news agency that he was "bewildered" that civilian coroners did not perform the autopsy. Rokhlin retired from military service in January 1996, when he became a State Duma deputy. Kapustin said Health Ministry experts normally handle such cases, in light of the fact that the Prosecutor-General's Office--not the Military Prosecutor's Office--is investigating Rokhlin's murder. Some of Rokhlin's allies believe he was killed because of his outspoken criticism of Russia's political leaders and military policy. LB GOVERNMENT CONFIRMS DEFENSE ORDER. The government's defense production order for 1998, which has been reduced twice owing to insufficient funds, has been approved by a joint meeting of the cabinet and the special Commission for Military Reform, Economics Minister Yakov Urinson told a 7 July press conference. Urinson said the order includes 15.3 billion rubles ( $2.5 billion) for arms production and military research, although he declined to specify the total value of the order. At the meeting, government officials discussed plans to gradually pay state debts to defense enterprises from 1994-1997, which, Urinson estimated, amount to 16.5 billion rubles. They also considered the rescheduling of defense enterprises' debts to the federal budget, which amount to some 2 billion rubles. Also on 7 July, Prime Minister Kirienko told reporters that the government is determining the amount of the defense production order so that people "won't get any illusions" and "plants will not expect larger orders than the state can afford to finance." BT COURT AFFIRMS RIGHT TO APPEAL WHILE CRIMINAL CASE IS PENDING... The Constitutional Court on 2 July struck down two articles in the criminal-procedural code that barred defendants from filing court appeals until after they have been sentenced, ITAR-TASS reported. The newspaper "Vremya- MN" argued on 6 July that the court's ruling lifts one of the most "totalitarian" parts of the code, which has prevented thousands of criminal suspects from appealing against decisions to keep them in pre-trial detention (rather than releasing them on bail) or to delay their trials. One of those who filed the Constitutional Court appeal spent nearly three years in pre-trial detention and still has not been tried for the crime she allegedly committed. "Vremya-MN" said some 275,000 people are being held in Russian pre-trial detention cells. Criminal investigations have been completed in an estimated 180,000 of those cases. LB ...SAYS RIGHT TO APPEAL APPLIES TO ALL CONVICTIONS. The Constitutional Court on 6 July determined that convicted criminals have the right to appeal Supreme Court rulings if the Supreme Court was the first court in which they were tried, ITAR-TASS reported. The judges ruled that federal law may not restrict Article 50 of the constitution, which guarantees convicted criminals the right to appeal. Consequently, the court instructed the parliament to amend the criminal-procedural code. LB NEMTSOV SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH MAGADAN AUTHORITIES. Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov and the leadership of Magadan Oblast have signed an agreement that may become a model in economic relations between Russia's federal and regional authorities, an RFE/RL correspondent in Magadan reported on 7 July. The agreement gives officials in Magadan more leeway on the distribution of funds. In return, the regional authorities are obliged to forego the use of "authorized" commercial banks in handling budget funds, renounce the use of offsets to settle debts between the government and enterprises, and introduce tough cost-cutting measures. Nemtsov rejected a proposal by Magadan authorities to turn the oblast into a free economic zone with customs exemptions. However, he said the government may support giving gold-mining companies the right to export gold. Magadan relies on the gold-extraction industry for most regional revenues. LB WHERE IS VLASOV? Ingushetian Presidential Press Spokesman Manolis Chakhkiev has rejected as "misinformation" claims by Chechen officials that abducted Russian Presidential Envoy to Chechnya Valentin Vlasov has been transferred from Chechen territory to the Malgobek Raion of Ingushetia, Caucasus Press reported on 8 July. Chakhkiev said that the Ingush authorities are certain that Vlasov is still in Chechnya. A senior Chechen security official had told journalists in Grozny the previous day that Vlasov had been taken to neighboring Ingushetia, Russian agencies reported. The Chechen official said that the state of emergency imposed in Chechnya two weeks earlier forced Vlasov's abductors to move him but that they are now seeking intermediaries to negotiate his release for an undisclosed ransom. Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin predicted on 4 July that Vlasov would soon be freed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CALLS FOR AMENDMENTS TO ELECTION LAW... Heidar Aliev on 6 July sent a special missive to the parliament requesting amendments to the new law on the presidential elections, RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported. Those amendments provide for local observers to monitor the poll and limit to 2.5 percent the number of signatures supporting prospective presidential candidates that can be verified by electoral commissions. (Numerous opposition candidates were refused registration in the November 1995 parliamentary elections because signatures collected in their support were deemed to be forged.) The amendments did not, however, include the opposition demands for the minimum turnout to be reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent of registered voters and for 50 percent of the members of the Central and local electoral commissions to be nominated by the opposition, according to Turan. LF ...BUT OPPOSITION ADAMANT ON BOYCOTT. The five main prospective opposition presidential candidates issued a statement on 7 July saying the changes proposed by Aliev are inadequate to ensure that the 11 October poll will be free and fair, Turan reported. Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar and Democratic Party of Azerbaijan chairman Ilyas Ismailov both said that the five's decision is "final" and that they will not recognize the legitimacy of the president elected under current legislation. Also on 7 July, Ashraf Mekhtiev, head of the virtually unknown Association for the Victims of Illegal Political Repression, announced his intention to contend the poll, raising to five the number of candidates who have announced their intention to run. LF AZERBAIJANI CENSORS BAN ARTICLE ON PKK. The 7 July issue of the opposition Azerbaijani newspaper "Chag" was rejected for publication by censors because it contained a half-page article questioning whether the Azerbaijani authorities support the Workers' Party of Kurdistan (PKK), Turan reported, citing a statement by the paper's editorial office. The Azerbaijani National Security Ministry has denied any official PKK presence in Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 1998). LF ABKHAZ-GEORGIAN TALKS BOGGED DOWN. The 5 July talks in Moscow between Georgian Ambassador Vazha Lortkipanidze and Abkhaz Special Envoy Anri Djergenia failed to yield what Caucasus Press called "principally new proposals." Interfax quoted unnamed sources close to Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba as saying that the Abkhaz side offered "some significant compromises" but that the Georgian leadership is unwilling to make concessions. Djergenia told Interfax that documents have been prepared for signing at the proposed meeting between Ardzinba and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. "The ball is now in the Georgian court," he added. Shevardnadze has consistently said he will meet with Ardzinba only to sign an agreement that defines how and when ethnic Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia during fighting in 1992-1993 and in May 1998 will be repatriated. LF GEORGIAN-ARMENIAN INTER-PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION MEETS. A Georgian parliamentary delegation was in Yerevan from 5-7 July for the first session of Armenian-Georgian inter- parliamentary commission, Noyan Tapan and Caucasus Press reported. The discussions focused on bilateral trade and economic relations, the creation of regional bodies, and cooperation among the three Transcaucasus states. The Georgian delegation also met with Armenian government officials, including Prime Minister Armen Darpinian, to assess prospects for economic integration, specifically in the energy as well as the tax and customs sectors. Armenia has offered to supply electric power to Georgia to offset part of its debts for rail transportation, according to Caucasus Press on 7 July. LF ARMENIA, RUSSIA SATISFIED WITH BORDER COOPERATION. Meeting in Yerevan on 6 July with Russian Federal Border Service Director Colonel-General Nikolai Bordyuzha, Armenian President Robert Kocharian called for the continued presence in Armenia of the Russian border-guard troops who, together with the Armenian armed forces, are protecting Armenia's frontiers with Turkey and Iran, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Speaking to ITAR-TASS, Bordyuzha expressed "satisfaction" over his talks with both Kocharian and Armenian Interior Minister Serzh Sarkisian. Bordyuzha said the talks focused on deepening cooperation and "streamlining our structures." But he denied media reports that the Russian presence in Armenia will be reduced. LF UN OFFICIAL CONCLUDES VISIT TO TAJIKISTAN. UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Sergio Viera de Mello wrapped up a three-day visit to Tajikistan on 6 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Meeting with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov two days earlier, Viera de Mello said the UN will continue to offer Tajikistan humanitarian aid and to seek donor nations that are also willing to extend assistance. Rakhmonov said that rebuilding more than 10,000 homes in Tajikistan's Khatlon region is "the greatest problem," at present. Shortly before his departure, Viera de Mello noted that the peace process in Tajikistan is gaining momentum but that further success depends on the timeliness and quality of international aid. BP NIYAZOV IN IRAN. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov concluded a three-day visit to Iran on 8 July, IRNA and ITAR-TASS reported. During their two meetings, Niyazov and Iranian President Mohammad Khatami stressed that any agreement on the legal status of the Caspian Sea must be approved by all five littoral states. That statement followed the signing of the Kazakh-Russian deal on the division of the sea bed into sectors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). Both Niyazov and Khatami praised the development of Turkmen-Iranian ties and pointed to the joint gas pipeline opened at the end of last year and the Meshed- Sarakhs-Tedjen railroad as examples of success in bilateral relations. Also during Niyazov's visit, agreement was reached on setting up six joint commissions (on business, oil and gas, health protection, transport and telecommunications, finance, and power engineering). BP 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 of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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