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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 153 Part I, 11 August 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 153 Part I, 11 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 SPECIAL REPORT: TURKEY AT A CROSSROADS A veteran RFE/RL correspondent reports from Turkey on politics and religion, minorities, economics and foreign relations. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/turkey xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * GOVERNMENT TO PRESENT NEW ANTI-CRISIS LAWS * SUPPORT FOR CHUBAIS REVIVING AMONG RUSSIAN ELITE * UZBEKISTAN READY FOR AFGHAN REFUGEES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA GOVERNMENT TO PRESENT NEW ANTI-CRISIS LAWS... According to Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, the government has prepared seven new anti-crisis laws for the State Duma's special mid-August session (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1998). ITAR-TASS reported on 10 August that two of those laws, "On the Financial Rehabilitation of Insolvent Enterprises" and "On Changes to the Code for Administrative Offenses," will be reviewed by the cabinet on 13 August and immediately sent to the Duma. The other legislation included in the anti-crisis package is a draft law proposing changes to legislation regulating the Federal Tax Service, a law establishing a fund from 2.8 percent of increased tax collections to assist the activities of tax agencies, a law restructuring enterprises' debts to the federal budget, a law on changes in the taxation of companies providing mobile communications or paging services, and a law introducing a tax on private means of transportation. JAC ...ALONG WITH OLD LAWS. The government will also resubmit the draft law on the individual income tax . According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 8 August, the government is not seeking to revise the income tax scale but to broaden the tax base by levying a tax on the interest earned on bank deposits. The government will also propose that 40 percent of income tax revenues go to the federal budget and 60 percent to regional budgets. Under current legislation, 100 percent of income tax revenues flow to local budgets. Aleksandr Zhukov, Duma Budget Committee Chairman, told ITAR-TASS that the government will also submit draft laws on social spending and on changes in the fees paid to the social and extra-budgetary funds. JAC DUBININ, ZADORNOV TO SUE 'NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA.' "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" on 8 August reported that Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin and Minister of Finance Mikhail Zadornov plan to sue the newspaper for a report two days earlier alleging that the Central Bank had closed off the Finance Ministry's access to its own account so that it could misuse the funds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 1998). The Central Bank and Finance Ministry have issued a joint statement charging "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" with trying to destabilize relations between the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance and in the country as a whole. The newspaper contends that the original article was correct in substance, if not in every detail. JAC SUPPORT FOR CHUBAIS REVIVING AMONG RUSSIAN ELITE. "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" argues that many prominent Russian politicians and businessmen consider Anatolii Chubais, presidential envoy to international financial institutions, an ideal candidate for president. "The elite's attitude toward Chubais has shifted from tender love to intense hatred and now back again," it argued. Only Chubais exhibits the qualities of leadership needed for a country in crisis, according to the newspaper. And it also wrote that the political experience of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov is no longer relevant, while Chubais understands world financial markets and can manage fiscal federal relations. Boris Berezovskii's LOGOvaz group is a financial backer of "Nezavisimaya Gazeta." JAC RUSSIAN-U.S. HI-TECH VENTURES GARNER SUSPICION. "Delovoi Vtornik" on 4 August charged that the U.S. company Lockheed Martin colluded with the U.S. National Security Agency to construct a satellite so powerful that its true purpose, the newspaper argued, must be surveillance. According to "Delovoi Vtornik," as soon as Russian specialists from the company Intersputnik voiced their suspicions about the company's true intentions, Lockheed Martin decided it no longer needed a Russian partner. Meanwhile, "The Washington Post" reported on 8 August that the U.S. State Department has ordered Boeing to suspend work on a project to develop commercial satellites with Russian and Ukrainian rocket manufacturers because sensitive U.S. space information had been passed along to Russian and Ukrainian engineers. JAC AIR FORCE SLIMS DOWN. Air Force commander Anatolii Kornukov told Interfax on 10 August that more than 90,000 officers and servicemen have been put on reserve because of a merger between the air force and air defense forces. He added that another 40,000 positions are likely to be cut during the second stage of the air force's reorganization. By redistributing equipment from the eliminated units, the air force has been able to increase the condition of its aircraft to almost 80 percent suitability, he noted. JAC RUSSIAN TV COMPANIES LODGE PROTEST. According to Interfax on 10 August, the heads of more than 30 Russian television companies, including Russian Public Television director- general Xeniya Ponomareva and NTV director-general Oleg Dobrodeyev, sent a written appeal to the government, protesting government ordinance No. 844 of 27 July 1998. The new law gives the All-Russian State Television and Radio Company (VGRTK) the right to oversee other stations' use of regional television transmitters as well as significant tax and custom breaks. The other television companies claim that the new law gives VGRTK an unfair advantage and is inconsistent with Articles 8 and 27 of the constitution. JAC KLIMENTEV HEADED FOR PRISON. The elected mayor of Nizhnii Novgorod, Andrei Klimentev, lost his appeal in the Russian Supreme Court on 10 August, ruling out the possibility that he will compete in new elections scheduled for September. In May, Klimentev was convicted for forging documents and embezzling part of a government loan to a local shipyard plant. He was sentenced to six years in prison. JAC MILITARY ANALYST: BOMB IRAQ--SAVE RUSSIA'S ECONOMY. Writing in "Segodnya" on 7 August, Pavel Felgengauer argues that Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's victory in arranging within the UN that Iraq be allowed to double its oil exports was actually a defeat for Russian economic interests. The real cause of Russia's current economic difficulties is not the Asian financial crisis but the dip in oil prices caused by new Iraqi volumes on the world oil market, he argued. "If just one bomb fell on Baghdad, oil prices would double by the beginning of heating season in the northern hemisphere," he wrote, adding "that would be good for everyone." Rosneft might be sold for a handsome price and the extra money could be given to the miners and servicemen, he concluded. JAC CHECHEN COURT SENTENCES TWO FOR ESPIONAGE. The Chechen Supreme Shariat Court on 10 August sentenced a man and a woman to five years' imprisonment for collaborating with the Russian Federal Security Service, ITAR-TASS reported. Both are residents of Chechnya and were detained in February on the border between Chechnya and Stavropol Krai in possession of files on Chechen police officers and Russian police identity cards. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA UZBEKISTAN READY FOR AFGHAN REFUGEES. UN High Commission for Refugees representative in Uzbekistan Taslimar Rahman on 10 August said the Uzbek government is prepared to provide temporary shelter and help to transport any Afghan refugees across its territory, Interfax reported. The UN refugees office was moved to Termez, Uzbekistan, on the border with Afghanistan, after the Taliban overran Mazar-i-Sharif on 8 August. Formerly, the office had been located in the Afghan city. Rahman said no fugitives have crossed CIS borders so far. Meanwhile, there are numerous reports that people have fled northern cities as the Taliban troops advance northward. BP KAZAKH FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR JOINT ACTION OVER AFGHAN SITUATION. Kasymjomart Tokayev on 10 August said that the situation in Afghanistan should be discussed "immediately" by the foreign ministers of those countries that are concerned about the conflict, Interfax reported. Tokayev referred to a statement adopted by Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan in October 1996, after Kabul fell to the Taliban. That statement urged an end to the bloodshed. Tokayev noted that action will be taken in accordance with the CIS collective security treaty if the CIS's southern borders are threatened. BP KILLERS OF UN OBSERVERS IN TAJIKISTAN IDENTIFIED. UN special envoy to Tajikistan Jan Kubis told ITAR-TASS on 11 August that the Tajik government finished its investigation into the murders of four UN employees on 20 July. Kubis said "the identities of those responsible for the heinous crime have been established without doubt." He did not give any names but said he is now waiting for the quick arrest of the killers and an explanation of their motives. The results of the investigation have not yet been made public. BP TURKISH COMPANY WINS RIGHTS TO SELL TURKMEN ELECTRICITY. The Turkish company STFA has been granted exclusive rights by the Turkmen Energy and Industry Ministry to sell Turkmen energy to third countries, Interfax reported on 7 August and ITAR-TASS on 10 August. A condition of the agreement is that STFA use profits to finance projects to develop Turkmenistan's energy infrastructure and to increase the country's potential for exporting energy. STFA will build an electric substation to transport power to Turkey via Iran and will lay a 500-kilowatt power line to Pakistan via Afghanistan. The combined cost of those two projects is estimated at more than $300 million. BP ARMENIAN PRESIDENT NAMES NEW ADVISOR. Vahram Nercissiantz, former head of the World Bank mission to Armenia, was appointed adviser to President Robert Kocharian on 10 August, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. His area of responsibility was not specified, but he is expected to focus on economic issues. Nercissiantz, who is a U.S. citizen, said on completing his tour of duty in Yerevan in June that Armenia needs a special presidential body to oversee the use of international loans. LF GHUKASIAN WELCOMES ARMENIAN PRESIDENT'S INVITATION TO BAKU. Speaking on Karabakh state television at the weekend, Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, said Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev took a "very serious step" in inviting his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, to attend an international conference in Baku, an RFE/RL correspondent in Stepanakert reported on 10 August. Ghukasian welcomed the possibility of direct talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan but warned that Stepanakert should not be excluded from the Karabakh peace process. He praised Armenia's "clear approach" to resolving the conflict, saying that "we have a considerable capacity to jointly defend our positions on the international stage." Ghukasian described the economic situation in Karabakh as "unsatisfactory" but expressed the hope that privatization will bring improvement. He pledged to ensure fairness in privatizing agricultural land and to ensure that the local elections scheduled for September are democratic. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADERS TRADE ACCUSATIONS. Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar has sent a written response to President Aliev's appeal to five prominent opposition politicians to abandon their proposed boycott of the 11 October presidential elections, Turan reported on 10 August. While describing the abolition of censorship as a positive development, Gambar said progress toward democratization in Azerbaijan is insufficient. He expressed doubt that the existing Central Electoral Commission will be enable to ensure free and democratic elections. The majority of the commission's members were nominated either by Aliev or by the parliament. Aliev had told journalists on 9 August that charges made by Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman Abulfaz Elchibey in his response to Aliev's appeal are groundless. Aliev added that the opposition "does not have the right to put forward conditions," claiming that it was involved in earlier attempts on his life. LF AZERBAIJAN EXPELS TURKISH KURDS. Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov has confirmed media reports that a group of ethnic Kurdish Turkish citizens who entered Azerbaijan illegally has been expelled from the country, Caucasus Press reported on 11 August, citing ANS-Press. But Usubov added that his ministry cannot confirm that those persons were members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). In early July, the Azerbaijani National Security Ministry denied reports in opposition publications that the PKK has established an official presence in Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 1998). LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT GIVES REASONS FOR PENSION ARREARS. In his weekly radio broadcast on 10 August, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said corruption and shortcomings within the tax system are to blame for frequent delays in paying pensions and wages, Caucasus Press reported. Meeting with tax department officials on 6 August, Shevardnadze had called for "serious structural changes" within the tax service. He said corruption was the sole reason for the failure to collect all budget revenues in 1997, noting that only 79 percent of planned tax revenues were collected during the first six months of this year. Also on 6 August, the government approved a proposal to raise state-sector wages by an average of 10 percent beginning on 1 September. It also announced that pensions and unemployment benefits will be increased beginning 1 November, ITAR-TASS reported. LF xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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