|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 148 Part I, 4 August 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 148 Part I, 4 August 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 * DETAILS OF GAZPROM DEAL EMERGE * YELTSIN APPROVES LEANER MILITARY * AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT INVITES ARMENIAN COUNTERPART TO BAKU xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA DETAILS OF GAZPROM DEAL EMERGE. Interfax reported on 3 August that foreign investors will be able to participate in the government's upcoming sale of 5.87 percent of Gazprom's shares and that the shares will be sold in a single lot. First Deputy State Property Minister Aleksandr Braverman told Bloomberg the same day that the full terms of the sale will be announced soon. JAC IS SHELL GAZPROM'S PREFERRED BUYER? "Kommersant-Daily" on 4 August reported that Gazprom chairman Rem Vyakhirev wants the government to sell its 5 percent stake to Royal Dutch Shell, its "strategic partner," which already owns shares in the company. Vyakhirev wants to prevent in particular the sale of any part of the company to Oneximbank, which already holds a 4 percent stake and wants a seat on the board of directors, for which it needs a larger stake. Three months ago, Vyakhirev suggested that the government sell 3 percent of Gazprom for $1 billion. JAC EUROBOND SALES THIS YEAR TO BE LIMITED TO $2 BILLION. The Finance Ministry on 3 August announced that it will sell no more than $2 billion in Eurobonds this year. The following day, it announced that it is canceling its regular auction of Treasury bonds because borrowing costs are too high. Bloomberg notes that with only $22.6 billion in loans from the IMF and other international lenders, it remains a puzzle how Russia will finance its budget deficit and the $24 billion in debt payments due later this year. If President Boris Yeltsin tries to live up to his pledge to pay soldiers' back wages, then the financing crunch will only worsen. JAC NEMTSOV SEEKS TO MAKE ROSNEFT MORE ATTRACTIVE... Determined to make the state's next attempt at selling off Rosneft a success, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov named the Alliance Group, a management firm headed by a former president of SIDANCO, as the company's management consultant. He also named the Brunswick Warburg Financial Group to be the oil company's financial consultant. Alliance will oversee the company's current assets, ensure the financial transparency of its cash flows, and restructure its debts, Interfax reported on 3 August. Brunswick Warburg will prepare the company for sale and manage the auction. JAC ...AS DOES ROSNEFT ITSELF. In an additional measure to heighten its attractiveness to investors, Rosneft plans to announce its participation in an international consortium to develop an oil field off the eastern island of Sakhalin together with the U.S. companies Mobil and Texaco. Yelena Telegina, deputy fuel and energy minister and chairman of Rosneft's board of directors, told Bloomberg that Rosneft will sign an agreement with the two companies later this week for a 30 percent stake. JAC RUSSIA TO BUILD NEW NUCLEAR REACTORS. Rosenergoatom director Yevgenii Ignatenko told a press conference at Interfax head office on 3 August that Russia will build 15 new nuclear reactors, including two floating off Russia's Pacific coast, by 2010, AP reported. He added that the VVER-1000 1000- megawatt reactor, which has been granted a clean bill of health by experts as conforming to world safety standards, will become the mainstay of Russia's nuclear program. Greenpeace activist Igor Forofontov criticized the proposed expansion of nuclear power as "absurd" and "catastrophically unprofitable" under present economic conditions. LF YELTSIN APPROVES LEANER MILITARY. President Yeltsin on 3 August ended a four-year debate over the future of the Russian military by signing a new military policy. "Kommersant-Daily" on 4 August credited Defense Council Secretary Andrei Kokoshin with having forming a coalition of disparate government parties opposed to the bloated, inefficient army. The military policy document, which was drafted and debated for more than a year, streamlines the command structure, shrinks and professionalizes the ranks of soldiers, and calls for the development of newer, less expensive weapons. JAC DID KIRIENKO, MASKHADOV DISCUSS OIL TRANSIT? During their 1 August meeting in Nazran, Russian Premier Kirienko tried to persuade Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov to give a concrete pledge to ensure the unrestricted export via Chechnya of Caspian oil, according to the "Turkish Daily News" on 3 August. The daily added that Maskhadov is to discuss the oil issue with Turkish officials during his visit to Istanbul, which the Turkish government has insisted is strictly private, and during his upcoming visit to the U.S. Maskhadov has nominated Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriev as acting prime minister during his absence, ITAR-TASS reported. North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov unintentionally corroborated the Turkish report when he told ITAR-TASS on 3 August that "Moscow and Grozny are determined that oil should be transported through the Caucasus only." Dzasokhov lauded the Maskhadov-Kirienko talks as being "of great importance" to Russia and the entire Caucasus region. LF AFGHAN, IRANIAN, PAKISTANI AMBASSADORS CALLED TO FOREIGN MINISTRY. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the ambassadors of Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan for separate consultations on 3 August, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. Ministry officials expressed Moscow's "serious concern" over the current fighting in northern Afghanistan and over reports that Pakistani troops are involved. The ministry called for an immediate stop to the bloodshed. It also condemned foreign interference in Afghanistan and urged the resumption of dialogue between the opposing factions there. Taliban troops appear to have captured the capital of Jawzjan Province, Sheberghan. According to some reports, an advance has begun on one of the last major pockets of resistance to the Taliban, Mazar-i-Sharif. BP RUMBLINGS OF DISCONTENT WITHIN LEBED'S RANKS. The two-day joint conference of the National Republican Party and the Honor and Motherland movement ended on 31 July with a partial victory for Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed, according to "Kommersant-Daily." Lebed remains leader and his close associate and former war pilot, Yurii Shevtsov, was selected chairman of both groups. However, one-third of the expected 300 delegates failed to show up, and those that came expressed dissatisfaction with their leader and the lack of improvement in the economic situation in Krasnoyarsk. JAC SAKHALIN CRISIS EASES SLIGHTLY. Although the miners' strike in Sakhalin continues, government officials have managed to achieve some concessions, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 August. Miners who are blockading the main power plant on Sakhalin have agreed to allow 25 rail cars carrying about 1,500 tons of coal to make daily deliveries to the plant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 1998). Local officials had warned of a possible breakdown of the island's power grid, and they had cautioned that it might be necessary to turn off light signals and remote-control devices on railroads, according to Interfax. Sakhalin's 650,000 or so residents will continue receiving only five to six hours of electricity a day. JAC GRAIN HARVEST SET TO PLUMMET. Russian farmers may harvest only 65 million tons of grain this year--a 27 percent decrease from last year's level, Vice President of the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences Anatolii Shutkov predicted on 3 August. According to Interfax, he explained that the continuing sharp drop in the number of livestock will be insufficient to offset the damage caused to the crop by drought in the Volga region, Siberia, and the Urals. Some 40.2 million hectares of land have been affected. The Ministry of Agriculture reported that the pace of harvesting has been slowed by a shortage of machinery and irregular supplies of fuel and lubricants. Only 40 percent of available combine-harvesters are functional. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT INVITES ARMENIAN COUNTERPART TO BAKU. The Armenian Foreign Ministry announced on 3 August that President Robert Kocharian has received an invitation from Heidar Aliev to attend an international conference in Baku, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The conference, scheduled for 7-8 September, is organized by the EU to discuss implementation of its TRACECA program to create an east-west road, rail, and ferry network linking Central Asia with Europe via the Caucasus. Armenia and Azerbaijan were among the eight states that first launched that program in 1993. A spokeswoman for Kocharian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 4 August that "Armenia will by all means participate" in the conference and that a decision on the level of that participation will be made soon. Prominent Dashnak party member Vahan Hovannisian, who is one of Kocharian's aides, told journalists the same day that he thinks Kocharian should treat Aliev's invitation with "caution" and send a lower-level representative to the conference. LF LUKIN FAVORS CLOSER BILATERAL TIES WITH AZERBAIJAN. Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Vladimir Lukin, currently on an unofficial visit to Baku, met with President Aliev and with Azerbaijani parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov on 3 August, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Lukin told Aliev that occasional criticism in Moscow of Azerbaijani policy does not reflect the thinking of the Russian leadership. He added that both the Duma and the Russian government favor the so-called "Lisbon principles" as a basis for resolving the Karabakh conflict. Those principles are preserving Azerbaijan's territorial integrity while bestowing on Karabakh "a broad measure of autonomy" and security guarantees for its population. In this context, Lukin advocated a "carrot-and-stick" policy that would "stimulate Armenia to make concessions." LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT REJECTS OPPOSITION'S ELECTION DEMANDS. Representatives of Azerbaijani opposition parties and of the Movement for Democratic Elections and Electoral reform met for two hours on 3 August with presidential administration head Ramiz Mehtiev to discuss the conditions for five prominent opposition leaders to abandon their announced boycott of the 11 October presidential elections, Turan reported. Those conditions include the right to nominate half the members of the Central Electoral Commission and the "democratization of the political climate" in Azerbaijan. Mehtiev declined to respond to those demands, but he proposed resuming talks behind closed doors the following day. Following that meeting, opposition leaders told journalists that Mehtiev had informed them that President Aliev has rejected all their demands, RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported on 4 July. LF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADER DENIES CONTACTS WITH ARMENIAN DIASPORA. Exiled former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev, one of the five Azerbaijani opposition leaders who intend to boycott the presidential poll, told Turan on 3 August that claims he held talks with U.S. Armenians, including billionnaire Kirk Kirkorian, are false. The independent Azerbaijani television station ANS-TV reported last week that Guliev had discussed with Kirkorian the possible sabotage of the presidential elections by a new Armenian offensive against Azerbaijani forces. LF CIS PEACEKEEPERS TO STAY IN ABKHAZIA FOR NOW... In his Monday radio broadcast, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 3 August that the CIS peacekeepers currently deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia should not be withdrawn until arrangements have been made to replace them with an alternative force, Russian and Georgian agencies reported. The peacekeepers' mandate expired on 31 July. Londer Tsaava, who succeeded Zurab Erkvania as chairman of the Abkhaz government in exile in July, also reasoned that the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force will create "a vacuum" conducive to the resumption of hostilities, Caucasus Press reported on 4 August. But Tsaava, like Shevardnadze, criticized the peacekeepers for failing to protect ethnic Georgians in Abkhazia's Gali Raion. LF ...DESPITE GEORGIAN FUGITIVES' MISGIVINGS. Some of the Georgians constrained to flee Abkhazia during the May fighting have formally announced their lack of confidence in the Abkhaz leadership in exile and demanded a meeting with Georgian government representatives, Caucasus Press reported on 31 July. The fugitives announced that if the Russian peacekeeping force is not withdrawn immediately they will appeal to Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba to take measures to protect them from Abkhaz militants. One Abkhaz police officer was killed and two injured in Gali on 2 August when grenades were fired at their patrol car, Interfax reported. LF EMBATTLED GEORGIAN MINISTER REJECTS CORRUPTION CHARGES. Communications Minister Pridon Indjia, speaking to journalists in Tbilisi on 3 August, denied charges by the parliamentary anti-corruption committee that he misappropriated millions of dollars during the illegal privatization of the country's telecommunications system, Caucasus Press reported. He said he will take parliamentary State and Legal Affairs Committee chairman Mikhail Saakashvili to court for spreading false information about him. Indjia is the only government minister who has not complied with former Minister of State Niko Lekishvili's call to resign. He argues that to do so would be a tacit admission of guilt. Shevardnadze on 3 August declined to comment on Indjia's case, saying law enforcement bodies should "thoroughly investigate" the charges against him, Interfax reported. LF ABASHIDZE CLAIMS HE WAS OFFERED PREMIERSHIP. Adjar Supreme Soviet chairman Aslan Abashidze told journalists at his weekly press conference in Batumi on 3 August that Eduard Shevardnadze offered him the post of minister of state, Caucasus Press reported. The agency, however, did not clarify whether that offer was made following the 26 July resignation of Niko Lekishvili or when the position was first created, in late 1995. Abashidze said he rejected the offer as it was intended solely to weaken the position of Adjaria vis-a-vis the central Georgian government. LF MORE UTO MEMBERS CONFIRMED FOR GOVERNMENT POSTS. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov signed a decree on 3 August confirming another four members of the United Tajik Opposition for government posts, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. Shodi Kabirov is minister of agriculture, Salamshah Muhabbatov chairman of the State Committee for Oil and Gas, Muhammadjon Davlatov is chairman of the State Committee for Precious Stones and Metals and Muhammadruzi Iskandarov chairman of the State Committee for Emergency Situations and Civil Defense. UTO member Dovudkhoja Islomov, who was expected to receive the chairmanship of the State Committee for Milk and Meat, failed to show up for talks with Rakhmonov. The UTO now has 10 positions in the government. Under the terms of the 1997 Tajik peace accord, they are to receive 14. BP UN ENVOY TO TAJIKISTAN GROWING IMPATIENT. UN special envoy to Tajikistan Jan Kubis told RFE/RL's Tajik service on 3 August that he wants to know the results of the investigation into the killing of UN personnel as soon as possible. A special commission was formed by the Tajik government to investigate the 20 July murders of three UN observers and their driver-translator in central Tajikistan. Although the commission was supposed to make available its findings to Kubis by 1 August, the UN envoy has still received no information. Meanwhile, all UN observers have been recalled to Dushanbe, and Kubis said some or all may be pulled out of the country if the murders are not solved soon. Kubis added that the observers cannot fulfill their mandate by staying in the capital, nor can they return to areas throughout the country while the killers are still at large. BP COURT UPHOLDS DECISION AGAINST UZBEK JOURNALIST. An Uzbek appeals court on 3 August upheld a ruling against journalist Shodi Mardiev sentencing him to 11 years in jail, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Mardiev was found guilty of defamation for his satirical radio broadcast about the Samarkand deputy prosecutor-general in June 1997. He was arrested in November of that year and found guilty by a Syr- Darya regional court on 11 June. The Committee to Protect Journalists sent an appeal to Uzbek President Islam Karimov on 16 July asking for clemency for the 62-year-old Mardiev, who is said to be in poor health. 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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