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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 134 Part I, 15 July 1998
via email on 15 July. We apologize for any inconvenience that this caused.] RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC ___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 134 Part I, 15 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 * FINANCE MINISTER DEFENDS NEW FOREIGN LOANS IN DUMA * DUMA CONSIDERS ANTI-CRISIS PLAN * UN REPRESENTATIVE SHOT DEAD IN GEORGIA End Note: THE TSARIST PAST RUSSIA WANTS TO FORGET xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA FINANCE MINISTER DEFENDS NEW FOREIGN LOANS IN DUMA. Mikhail Zadornov addressed the State Duma on 15 July to discuss new loans from international financial organizations, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The IMF, World Bank, and Japan are to lend Russia a total of $14.8 billion this year, most of it in new credits (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1998). Zadornov claimed that the Central Bank may not need to draw on funds added to its hard-currency reserves. He also argued that credits from international financial organizations are issued on more favorable terms than any other loans. Addressing concerns about alleged plans to split up natural monopolies in the energy sector, Zadornov said Gazprom and Unified Energy Systems will not be dismembered and that no such plans were discussed during the negotiations over the bailout package. LB MIXED REACTION TO BAILOUT AGREEMENT. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev on 14 July expressed concern about the new loans Russia is to receive from international financial institutions, ITAR-TASS reported. Seleznev warned against following the example of Bulgaria, which, he charged, has been unable to pay back its foreign debt and has therefore "lost its sovereignty" because foreigners determine the country's economic and budget policies. Also on 14 July, Vladimir Nikitin of the Popular Power faction drafted a Duma statement noting that "all agreements on foreign loans come into effect only after their ratification, if their implementation demands changes in the current legislation or the adoption of new laws," Interfax reported. Speaking to Interfax, Aleksandr Livshits, deputy head of the presidential administration, hailed the new loans but cautioned that "one should understand that this is the last time" international financial institutions will trust Russia as long as there are "no positive changes" in the economy. LB DUMA CONSIDERS ANTI-CRISIS PLAN. The Duma convened an extraordinary session on 15 July to consider a package of government-backed laws on tax and social policy, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Government officials have warned that the executive branch will implement tougher measures unilaterally if the parliament does not approve the anti- crisis program. Speaking to journalists in Tokyo on 14 July, Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko said that measures not backed by the Duma will be introduced by presidential decree, Interfax reported. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko announced on 10 July that the government has "levers" to implement austerity measures without parliamentary approval, but he declined to elaborate, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. LB NEMTSOV URGES APPROVAL OF TAX LAWS. Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov warned during a 14 July session of a government commission that "it will be very, very difficult to improve the [economic] situation" without parliamentary approval of four key tax laws, Russian news agencies reported. The Duma has rejected initial versions of those laws, which would change the income tax scale, establish a single rate of value-added tax, introduce a sales tax, and raise the land tax. Nemtsov estimated that those four laws would bring in an additional 100 billion rubles ($16 billion) in budget revenues--as much as the new planned loans to Russia from the IMF and World Bank, he noted. Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov, a high-ranking Communist Party official, told Interfax on 14 July that the Communist faction (the largest in the Duma) opposes plans to introduce a sales tax and revise the income tax scale. LB INFLUENTIAL GOVERNOR WANTS REVISIONS TO TAX PROPOSALS... Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov, who also chairs the Federation Council's Budget Committee, has called for revisions to some of the government's tax proposals, including the new tax code, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 14 July. Titov told journalists that on the whole he supports the government's anti-crisis program, but he called for amending some proposals to take the interests of regional governments into account. Among other things, the Federation Council wants regions to receive a greater share of tax revenues. It also proposes income tax exemptions for wages below the subsistence level and earnings spent on construction. With respect to the stabilization loan the IMF is to extend to Russia this year, Titov argued that following all the IMF's demands would provoke a political crisis in Russia. LB ...AND FORGIVENESS OF FINES FOR BACK TAXES. During his 14 July press conference, Samara Governor Titov also called on the government to write off fines and penalties levied against enterprises with tax debts, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Titov argued that when those fines were piling up, the government was carrying out a bad industrial policy. He added that forgiving the fines would make Russian enterprises more attractive to potential investors. He did not name any enterprises that he believes would benefit from such a measure. However, the AvtoVAZ automobile manufacturer, one of the largest employers in Samara Oblast, owes the federal government 12 billion rubles ($1.9 billion), "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 July. Back taxes account for only 3 billion rubles of that sum. Fines and penalties make up the rest of the AvtoVAZ debt. LB YELTSIN, DUMA DEPUTIES FIND COMMON GROUND. President Boris Yeltsin and the Duma deputies with whom he met on 14 July unanimously criticized media speculation about creating "a certain State Council," presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced after the meeting. Duma Speaker Seleznev confirmed that during the Kremlin meeting, the Duma deputies spoke out against forming "any unconstitutional bodies like a State Council" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 1998). At the same time, Yeltsin and the deputies discussed resuming meetings of other extra-constitutional bodies, such as roundtable talks involving executive and legislative officials and the "council of four" (president, prime minister, and speakers of both houses of the parliament). Several of those present later described the talks as cordial. Agrarian faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov commented that he has attended many meetings with Yeltsin, but "today was the first time that tea was served," Russian news agencies reported. LB YELTSIN AGAIN DENIES THIRD TERM AMBITIONS. During his meeting with the Duma deputies, Yeltsin announced that "I want Russia to start working calmly with a new president in the year 2000," Interfax reported, citing the presidential press service. The Constitutional Court is expected to consider in October whether Yeltsin has the right to run for president again when his current term expires in 2000. Although the president has said on many occasions that he does not plan to seek re-election, many Russian commentators have speculated that Yeltsin plans to run again. Yeltsin recently fired a longtime adviser, Sergei Shakhrai, shortly after Shakhrai publicly endorsed Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov for the presidency. LB KIRIENKO MAKES STOPOVER IN CHINA. Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko made a five-hour stopover in Beijing on the way back to Russia from Japan, Russian sources and China's Xinhua news agency reported. Kirienko met with his Chinese counterpart, Zhu Rongji, to discuss how to improve trade relations. Both agreed that though bilateral trade is weak (about $6 billion annually), there are possibilities for increasing the total volume. They called for implementation of agreements to boost cooperation in nuclear energy, modern technologies, civil aviation, and communications. Kirienko invited Zhu to visit Moscow in 1999 and also met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin to discuss the Chinese leader's "informal" visit to Moscow in September. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov is due to visit China at the end of July. BP KIRIENKO APPOINTS ACTING HEAD OF STATISTICS COMMITTEE. Prime Minister Kirienko has appointed former Deputy Chairman of the State Statistics Committee Vladimir Sokolin as acting head of that committee, Interfax reported on 13 July. His predecessor Yurii Yurkov, who was arrested on 8 July for embezzlement, lost an appeal in a Moscow municipal court to be released from pre-trial detention, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11 July. Defense lawyer Vitalii Khavkin said in an interview with "Vremya MN" published on 7 July that Yurkov's detainment was illegal insofar as prosecutors took advantage of Yurkov's "state of shock" to elicit a written confession. Meanwhile, two more people have been charged in association with the statistics scandal: Mikhail Malyshev, the leader of the Labor Ministry's Scientific Research Office, and Boris Saakyan, the director of the Statistics Committee's computer center, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 and 9 July. BT MAYOR OF CITY AT CENTER OF COAL PROTESTS RESIGNS. Viktor Makarkin, the mayor of Anzhero-Sudzhensk (Kemerovo Oblast), announced his resignation on 14 July, Interfax reported. The coal miners blockading the Trans-Siberian Railroad since 3 July have long demanded his resignation. On 15 July, Tomsk Oblast Governor Viktor Kress appealed to President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Kirienko to send a working group to Kemerovo Oblast to negotiate an end to the blockade, ITAR- TASS reported. The protest is threatening the oblast's food supplies and a number of industrial enterprises, which have been left without raw materials, Kress claimed. A government group headed by Deputy Fuel Minister Igor Kozhukhovskii again failed to reach agreement with the protesters, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 July. BT CONSTRUCTION OF NUCLEAR PLANT STOPPED IN ROSTOV. Yurii Vishnevskii, the head of the Russian Atomic Energy Inspectorate, announced on 13 July that the Volga regional department of that inspectorate has given permission to end construction of a nuclear power station in Rostov Oblast, Interfax reported. Some $1.5 billion has already been spent on building the unfinished plant, he said. The decision is a major victory for environmental activists, who have fought for years against building the plant. The Rostov Oblast Soviet voted to end construction in August 1992, according to the 9 April issue of the "IEWS Russian Regional Report." But in 1996 federal authorities ordered that construction be resumed. Environmentalists say the nuclear plant would threaten a major water reservoir and could be vulnerable to earthquakes. They organized a blockade of the road leading to the construction site last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 1997). LB FOUR ARRESTED ON SUSPICION OF HIGH-PROFILE MURDER IN ST. PETERSBURG. Four men accused of involvement in the August 1997 killing of St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Mikhail Manevich have been arrested in the Osh region of Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported on 15 July. Manevich, the top privatization official in St. Petersburg, was shot dead by a sniper on his way to work. According to an Osh administration official, the suspects are two Russian citizens and two citizens of Uzbekistan (ethnic Russians who are brothers). The official said the four were arrested in a joint operation by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Osh branch of the Kyrgyz security forces. Interfax reported that three men were detained on 14 July and the fourth was arrested several days earlier. The FSB suspects the men of committing various contract killings in Russia between 1993 and 1997. LB BASAEV ASSESSES ACHIEVEMENTS AS PREMIER. In an interview with Chechen Television, Shamil Basaev said the primary achievement of his six months' tenure as acting prime minister was the shift of the Chechen economy from Russian and toward local markets, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 July. Basaev added that both he and his cabinet ministers will report on their work to President Aslan Maskhadov after the state of emergency imposed by the latter three weeks ago expires on 15 July. In an interview with Interfax on 14 July, Basaev called for the severing of all ties between Chechnya and Russia, saying that "Russia cannot be trusted as it never deemed it necessary to fulfill its commitments." He said that unspecified foreign countries are prepared to help Chechnya if it breaks with Russia. LF BASAEV'S ALLY RELEASED IN DAGESTAN. Also on 14 July, the Dagestani authorities released Adallo Aliev, the deputy chairman of the Congress of Peoples of Chechnya and Dagestan, which Basaev chairs, ITAR-TASS reported. Aliev was apprehended on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan late last week for illegally carrying a pistol (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 July 1998). It is unclear whether his release is the result of a clandestine meeting that took place on 13 July between Maskhadov and Dagestani State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomadov at the former's request. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA UN REPRESENTATIVE SHOT DEAD IN GEORGIA. Maria Magdalene Kawioska, a secretary of the UN mission in Georgia, was shot dead late on 14 July at the door of her Tbilisi apartment, Caucasus Press reported. The Georgian prosecutor-general has launched an investigation. LF MOSCOW ACCUSES GEORGIA OF SUPPORTING GUERRILLAS. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 14 July condemning the Georgian Interior and Security Ministries' reaction to the deaths of five Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia's Gali Raion two days earlier, Interfax reported. The Russian statement condemned the killings as an act of terrorism by Georgian guerrillas and affirmed that "any attempts to present the White Legion or the Forest Brothers as organizations that have nothing to do with the Georgian special services are an attempt to ignore reality." The Georgian leadership has repeatedly denied any connection with either of those guerrilla organizations. The Russian statement also criticized the Georgian leadership for failing to comply with written commitments to crack down on groups engaged in terrorism and sabotage. And it slammed the Abkhaz leadership for failing to create conditions for the return to Gali Raion of ethnic Georgians forced to flee during the fighting in May. LF GEORGIAN EX-DEFENSE MINISTER ON HUNGER STRIKE. Tengiz Kitovani has launched a hunger strike to demand a revision of his prison sentence and his immediate release from prison, an RFE/RL correspondent in Tbilisi reported on 14 July. Kitovani, who together with fellow warlord Djaba Ioseliani ousted President Zviad Gamsakhurdia in early 1992, was sentenced in October 1996 to eight years' imprisonment for setting up an illegal armed formation. In a written statement, Kitovani has demanded that he be recognized as a political prisoner. He also characterized Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze as a dictator and called for his resignation. LF RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN YEREVAN. Igor Sergeev arrived in Yerevan on 14 July and held talks with President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Armen Darpinian on the situation in the Transcaucasus and the implementation of bilateral agreements on military cooperation, Armenian and Russian agencies reported. Sergeev also met with his Armenian counterpart, Vazgen Sargsian. Speaking to journalists, Sergeev denied reports that Moscow plans either to reduce its troop presence in the Transcaucasus or to redeploy to Armenia some forces currently stationed in Georgia. Sergeev declined to comment on Russian media reports that Moscow intends to station S-300 air defense missiles in Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY MAY MODERATE STANCE. Senior members of the National Democratic Union (AZhM) told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 14 July that the party does not exclude participating in the Coordinating Council recently established by President Robert Kocharian. But they expressed doubts that their participation would have any impact given that the council is dominated by parties from the Justice and Unity bloc, created in March to support Kocharian's presidential bid. Kocharian established the council last month in order to ensure that small parties that are either underrepresented or not represented at all in the parliament participate in politics. The AZhM, whose chairman Vazgen Manukian came third in the presidential elections with 12.24 percent of the vote, had earlier laid down conditions for supporting Kocharian. LF AZERBAIJANI PROSECUTOR-GENERAL DETAILS CHARGES AGAINST GULIEV. The Azerbaijani prosecutor-general and Interior Ministry issued a statement on 14 July accusing former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev of embezzling $73 million from the state budget in 1992-1993, Turan reported. At that time Guliev was director of one of Azerbaijan's largest oil refineries and a vice president of the state oil company SOCAR. The statement claims that he illegally exported more than 150,000 tons of diesel fuel and 32,000 tons of aviation fuel. Guliev has lived in the U.S. since leaving Azerbaijan in September 1996. He told journalists in Istanbul on 13 July that he plans to return to Azerbaijan in the near future to contest the 11 October presidential elections even though a warrant has been issued for his arrest, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 14 July. LF FORMER AZERBAIJANI PREMIER GOES ON TRIAL. Court proceedings against Suret Huseinov opened in Baku on 14 July. Huseinov is charged under 30 articles of the Azerbaijani Criminal Code. Those charges include treason, attempting to launch a coup, maintaining illegal armed formations, embezzlement, and drug-dealing. He has pleaded guilty only to charges of illegal possession of weapons and living in the Russian Federation under an assumed identity, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in the Azerbaijani capital. Huseinov claims he has been subjected to physical and psychological pressure during the investigation into his case. In June 1993, Huseinov launched the insurrection that culminated in the flight from Baku of then President Abulfaz Elchibey and the return to power of the present incumbent, Heidar Aliev. Huseinov fled to Russia in October 1994 after what Aliev described as a failed coup attempt. He was extradited to Azerbaijan in March 1997. LF TURKMENISTAN FULFILLS GRAIN QUOTA. Turkmenistan has met its grain target figure of 1.2 million tons, according to Turkmen media and Interfax. Since independence, the country had failed to meet its target figure for grain; and in 1996 and 1997, the harvest was half of projected levels. President Saparmurat Niyazov recently criticized the poor condition of fields, and Turkmen media reports claim that the Mary Region fulfilled only 80 percent of its quota. Niyazov said during the sowing season earlier this year that those who fail to meet their grain quotas may face criminal charges. BP END NOTE THE TSARIST PAST RUSSIA WANTS TO FORGET by John Varoli On 17 July, Russia will write the last page in the final chapter of its tsarist era by burying the remains of Tsar Nicholas II. But as in life, so in death Nicholas II has served only to divide Russia. While the tsarist family's burial has been billed by the government as an act of reconciliation and repentance, it has proved a source of division. Most of Russia's political establishment will skip the burial. Moreover, less than half of Russia's population (47 percent) believes the remains are authentic, according to a survey carried out by the Russian public opinion research center VTsIOM. The root of this uncertainty is the Russian Orthodox Church's decision not to recognize the remains as authentic and not to send ranking officials to the burial. "The burial has become a serious political problem," Yevgenii Volk, an analyst at the Moscow office of the Hermitage Foundation, told RFE/RL. "No one wants to quarrel with the Church." Church leaders say they fear a division within both the Church and society if they recognize the remains. They claim that many would defect to the dissident Orthodox Church Abroad, which holds that the Bolsheviks destroyed all the Romanov remains with acid shortly after the murder in 1918. And they also argue that the issue of sainthood for the Romanovs demands an even more thorough scientific investigation to establish the remains' authenticity than the one conducted by the government over the past seven years. But some analysts believe that those arguments are just excuses for other, more sinister problems. "The problem about sainthood and the threat of a defection to the Church Abroad are not serious arguments," said Volk. "The Church Abroad is not that strong in Russia, and few Russians hold Nicholas in great esteem. The Orthodox Church's main consideration is not to open old wounds about its Soviet-era collaboration." The Orthodox Church has never publicly repented of its close collaboration with the Soviet government and has consistently prevented any discussion of the topic. "The Church is one of the few remnants of the Soviet past, and one of society's most conservative institutions," adds Volk. "Recognizing the remains would raise many questions about the Church's past relationship with the government that executed Nicholas." Father Gleb Yakunin, a defrocked Russian Orthodox priest who often speaks out about the Church's past collaboration, has another view. At a press conference in Moscow on 13 July, he said that the Church "is deliberately casting doubt on the remains' authenticity and has chosen not to attend so as not to incur the wrath of the Communists." He added that the Church has postponed discussion on canonization of the Romanovs until 2000 in order to see if communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov wins the presidential election. If he wins, the Romanovs will not be canonized, Yakunin argued. Regardless of whether this is the case, Nicholas II is certainly a controversial figure, and the government's attempt to make him into a Bolshevik martyr has failed. History is not uniting Russia but splitting it, says Volk. People are still influenced by the communist propaganda that the tsar was "Bloody Nicholas." "It all boils down to the unwillingness of Russian society honestly to examine its past and repent of past sins," said Volk. "It is easier to proclaim democracy than actually overcome the totalitarian mentality." Many Russians have negative attitudes toward tsarism. After all, Nicholas II's incompetent leadership did lead the country to two disastrous wars and two bloody revolutions. According to VTsIOM, a majority (56 percent) of respondents have a negative opinion of Nicholas II. Only 25 percent of the 1,600 polled think that Nicholas II was "an innocent victim of the Bolshevik regime." This strong resentment is evidenced by incidents of vandalism, targeting places specific to Nicholas II. Last year, the first monument to Nicholas II, located just beyond the Moscow city limits, was dynamited only months after having been erected. In February, on Armed Forces Day, two bombs exploded at the site where the Romanovs were executed, damaging a newly built wooden chapel and memorial cross. The original chapel was burned down in 1996 on the anniversary of the Romanovs' execution. The St. Petersburg city government promises, however, that security will be tight for both the funeral procession and the burial later this week. Vice Governor Vladimir P. Yakovlev, the top city official in charge of overseeing the burial arrangements, told RFE/RL that "we will take all necessary precautions." When pressed on what that entails, he stopped short of providing details. If there really is a significance to the tsarist burial, it is simply that the monarchist idea is dead in Russia. Few Russians have sympathy for it. In Russia's quest for a national idea, the country's leaders will have to look elsewhere. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in St. Petersburg. 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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