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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 154 Part I, 12 August 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 154 Part I, 12 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 * RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET SINKS * LARGE STAKE OF SVYAZINVEST UP FOR SALE * ARMENIAN PRESIDENT NOT TO VISIT BAKU xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET SINKS. Russia's benchmark stock index on 11 August fell to its lowest level in more than two years. Yields on long-term government debt rose to 130-140 percent from 90-110 percent the previous day. Shares in some companies slipped by as much as 20-25 percent. According to Interfax, traders feared that Russia will not be able to cope with the rising costs on both its domestic and foreign debt and that a devaluation of the ruble is inevitable. JAC TEACHERS STRIKES TO ACCOMPANY START OF SCHOOL YEAR? According to "Izvestiya" on 12 August, unless teachers are paid part of the 12 billion rubles ($1.9 billion) in back wages they are owed, strikes by teachers at the start of the school year appear inevitable. With the exception of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Dagestan, Samara Oblast and the Yamalo-Nenetsk autonomous okrug, teachers across Russia have not been paid. On 3 August, teachers at a school in the Sverdlovsk oblast declared a hunger strike. However, the Ministry of Education does not believe that the public should be alarmed. It considers the situation in Sverdlovsk to be peaceful and notes that wages have been paid without interruption and the region has not required any federal assistance. However, "Izvestiya" reports that teachers there have, in fact, not received any wages since April. JAC GOVERNMENT DEPLOYS POLICE AGAINST MINERS. Police have questioned Aleksandr Sergeev, head of the Independent Union of Mineworkers, about his members' blockade of the Trans- Siberian railroad near Chelyabinsk. ITAR-TASS reported that more than 500 policemen stopped miners from the Chelyabinskugol coal-mining company from trying to extend their blockade of railroads through to the Dubrovka station, some 30 kilometers south of Chelyabinsk. Chelyabinsk regional prosecutor Anatolii Bragin said that force was used only against those who tried to expand the current blockade. JAC ACCORD REACHED WITH MINERS? Interfax had reported on 8 August that miners in Chelyabinsk have agreed to end their strike following a promise of back wages worth 25 billion ($4 billion) from Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1998). But Reuters reported that part of the railroad in Chelyabinsk remained blocked on 11 August, and according to ITAR-TASS, an agreement with union leaders, Chelyabinsk Governor Petr Sumin, and Chelyabinskugol company officials, was not signed until that day. ITAR-TASS reported on 12 August that although the rails have been cleared, protesters at the Potanino Station continue to stand next to the tracks, while police and OMON forces remain in position along other parts of the line. JAC/BP GOVERNMENT WORKERS FACE CUTS. "Trud" reported on 11 August that more than 100,000 state employees will be dismissed by the end of 1998. The 20 July government decree "On the content, limited number, and wage resources of the territorial organs of the federal bodies of the executive branch" determines the number of employees for each ministry. The Transport Ministry will have to lay off only 728 people or 19 percent of its staff, while the Federal Tax Service will have to cut its personnel by some 28,000 people (15 percent). The State Statistics Committee will lose more than 20 percent of its staff, and the Federal Security Service will cut more than 4,000 posts. JAC LARGE STAKE OF SVYAZINVEST UP FOR SALE. Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 11 August signed decrees authorizing the sale of 50 percent minus one share of the telecommunications company Svyazinvest. Twenty-five percent plus one share will be available at auction, while 25 percent minus two shares will be sold via an investment tender. Foreign companies may make bids for both packages. Last year, a 25 percent stake in the company was sold for $1.9 billion to an international consortium led by Oneximbank. Losing bidders charged the auction was fixed in Oneximbank's favor (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 1 August 1997). JAC EU CHARGES RUSSIAN FIRMS WITH DUMPING. The EU on 10 August imposed a 32 percent anti-dumping tax on fiber boards manufactured in Russia, according to Interfax. Eighty percent of Russian fiber board exports go to the EU. Russian manufacturers of seamless pipes are facing a similar anti- dumping tax of 26.8 percent. There is a long history of friction between Russia and the EU on trade issues. Last year, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov refused to meet with the EU's top trade official, Leon Brittan, during a visit to Moscow to protest what he called the EU's discrimination against Russian imports. JAC FORMER ROSVOORUZHENIE BOSS JOINS LUZHKOV'S TEAM. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has offered Major-General Aleksandr Kotelkin the post of first deputy director of the Department of Municipal Property, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 12 August. That post entails supervising the capital's defense industry enterprises and seeking overseas markets for their output. After being fired one year ago from his post as director of the arms export monopoly Rosvooruzhenie, Kotelkin worked for several months as first deputy minister of foreign economic relations and trade. LF RUSSIA WARNS OF TALIBAN THREAT... Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin said on 11 August that Russia considers fighting in northern Afghanistan to constitute a threat to CIS borders, Interfax reported. Nesterushkin said the Taliban movement is ignoring the desire "of the Afghan people to restore peace and maintain [territorial] integrity." Nesterushkin described the Taliban as "a regime based on religious fanatic ideas, extremism, and intolerance to different opinions." He added that "peace and accord can be established in Afghanistan only through talks between the confronting sides without foreign interference." Nesterushkin said Russia maintains the right to use all measures to ensure security along the southern CIS borders, but he repeated an earlier offer to mediate and "participate constructively in seeking political solutions for the conflict in Afghanistan." BP ...AGAIN LINKS PAKISTAN TO AFGHAN EVENTS. Nesterushkin pointed to Pakistan as an example of a foreign country interfering in Afghan affairs, saying "Pakistani military experts directly help [the Taliban] in planning, conducting operations and providing material and technical supplies," Interfax reported. According to Nesterushkin, "concrete facts" such as the capture of "numerous Pakistani servicemen" by forces opposing the Taliban are evidence of Pakistan's role in the Afghan conflict. He also noted that such "massive military assistance...encourages [the Taliban's] aggressive [striving], fueling dangerous armed conflict which can exert a negative impact on international peace and stability" (see also below). BP RUSSIAN-CHINESE RAIL LINK OPENS. The first rail traffic passed through the Russian-Chinese border crossing of Makhalino-Hunchun on 12 August, ITAR-TASS reported. The 22- kilometer rail track is expected to handle 500,000 tons of cargo annually this year and in 1999. That figure is forecast to reach 3 million tons by 2002. The track will boost trade between Russia's Primore Region and the northern provinces of China. BP TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRESIDENT NOT TO VISIT BAKU. Robert Kocharian told journalists on 12 August that he will not travel to Azerbaijan next month at the invitation of his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian said that an official delegation, most probably headed by Prime Minister Armen Darpinian, will travel to Baku to attend the 7-8 September conference on the TRACECA project. Kocharian did not explain why he declined the invitation, but he noted that security considerations had no bearing on his decision. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT TO RUN FOR RE-ELECTION... Aliev announced his candidacy for the 11 October presidential elections on state television on 11 August, Russian agencies reported. Nine of the 10 individuals who had expressed their intention to contend the presidency submitted the required documentation to the Central Electoral Commission before the 11 August deadline. The nine are Aliev, Azerbaijan Party of National Independence chairman Etibar Mamedov, Independent Azerbaijan Party chairman Nizami Suleymanov, Association of Victims of Political Repression chairman Ashraf Mehtiev, Umid [Hope] Party chairman Abulfar Ahmedov, Social Welfare Party chairman Hanguseyn Kazimli, Azerbaijan Communist Party-2 chairman Firidun Hasanov, pedagogue Ilgar Kerimov, and Abutalib Samedov of the Alliance for Azerbaijan. United Communist Party of Azerbaijan Secretary- General Sayad Sayadov failed to submit the necessary application and signatures in support of his candidacy, according to Turan. LF ...AS HIS POWER BASE CONTINUES TO CRUMBLE. Three of the 91 founding members of Aliev's Yeni Azerbaycan Party have released a statement accusing the president of betraying the group of people who engineered his return from Nakhichevan to Baku in 1993, Turan reported. The three also announced their intention to quit the party. A fourth founding member of the party, Musa Heydarov, similarly wrote to Aliev on 11 August announcing he plans to join the opposition. Several hundred members have left Yeni Azerbaycan in recent months, some of whom founded the Democratic Azerbaijan Party (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 16, 16 June 1998). LF CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADER DROPPED. The Azerbaijani Prosecutor's Office on 11 August dropped the criminal case against Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar, Turan reported. Gambar was accused of using force against the population for ordering army units to open fire on insurgents led by Suret Huseinov in June 1993, when Gambar held the post of parliamentary speaker. Gambar is one of five opposition figures who made their participation in the 11 October presidential elections conditional on concessions by the Azerbaijani authorities, including dropping criminal charges against Gambar and one of his successors as parliamentary speaker, Rasul Guliev. Also on 11 August, Labor Party leader Sabutay Hadjiev was released from prison after serving less than two years of a three-year sentence for illegal weapons possession. The Labor Party is loyal to former President Ayaz Mutalibov. LF GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY FACTION ELECTS NEW CHAIRMAN. The Union of Citizens of Georgia faction on 11 August elected as its chairman 29-year-old Mikhail Saakashvili, chairman of the parliamentary committee on state and legal affairs, Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili replaces Giorgi Baramidze, who will spend a year studying at Georgetown University. LF MORE CLASHES IN ABKHAZ-GEORGIAN BORDER ZONE... Four Abkhaz police officers were killed and a fifth wounded when Georgian guerrillas opened fire on their patrol car in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion during the night of 10-11 August, Russian agencies reported. Early in the morning of 11 August, some 10-15 unidentified men crossed the Inguri River and shelled dwellings in two villages in Zugdidi Raion that lie within the 12 kilometer zone controlled by the CIS peacekeeping force, Caucasus Press reported. No injuries were reported. The Abkhaz government in exile said the men were Abkhaz, but an eye-witness told Caucasus Press that they spoke Russian and Mingrelian. LF ... ELICIT CONDEMNATION OF RUSSIA, ABKHAZIA. The Abkhaz Interior Ministry issued a statement on 11 August blaming the Georgian government for the ongoing series of attacks on Abkhaz police in Gali in recent weeks, Interfax reported. It claimed that since June 1998, Georgian guerrillas have perpetrated 11 terrorist acts in which 24 people, including 13 Abkhaz policemen and five members of the Russian peacekeeping force, were killed. Also on 11 August, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a similar statement calling on Georgia to take "effective steps to prevent the infiltration of armed formations into Gali." It also appealed to the Abkhaz leadership "to exercise restraint and desist from steps that could trigger dramatic consequences." LF OSCE DELEGATION MEETS WITH ABKHAZ PRESIDENT. On a one-day visit to Sukhumi on 11 August, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel explained to Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba that the OSCE abides by the principle of territorial integrity of member states. At the same time, he noted that there are different forms of self- determination. Van der Stoel said that he believes Georgia and Abkhazia can arrive at a mutually acceptable solution to the conflict if they make the "maximum effort" to do so. Ardzinba told the OSCE delegation that politics appear to take precedence over international legal norms, which he said are applied "selectively," ITAR-TASS reported. LF TAJIKISTAN CALLS FOR CIS, UN ACTION ON AFGHANISTAN. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov met with senior security officials on 11 August to discuss the situation in neighboring Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported. They later issued a statement calling on the CIS states to take all necessary measures to strengthen security along the CIS border with Afghanistan. The statement also called on warring factions inside Afghanistan to begin negotiations and for nations giving military support to those factions to cease their activities. In a separate statement, Tajikistan called on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to take urgent steps to end fighting in Afghanistan and to find a political solution to the conflict. BP RUSSIAN DIVISION TO STAY IN TAJIKISTAN. Interfax on 11 August quoted an unnamed source in the Russian Defense Ministry as saying the 201st Motorized Infantry stationed in Tajikistan will remain there. The source said the division will remain in the assigned barracks but "will be ready for combat." Other media sources claim units of the 201st division are being moved into support positions near Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan. ITAR-TASS reported that armed soldiers of Afghanistan's Taliban movement have been observed by Russian border guards at two locations near the Tajik-Afghan border. BP TURKMENISTAN DENIES CONSULATE IN AFGHANISTAN ATTACKED. The Turkmen Foreign Ministry on 11 August denied that the Turkmen Consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif was attacked by Taliban forces and that personnel there were forced to evacuate the building, Interfax reported. The denial came after reports from Iranian Radio earlier the same day claiming that Taliban soldiers had "broken into" the Turkmen Consulate, examined documents, equipment, and interrogated staff there. According to the Turkmen Foreign Ministry, the staff at Mazar-i-Sharif continues to work normally and has already established contact with Taliban forces in the city. BP TURKMEN PRESIDENT UPBEAT ABOUT ECONOMY, AGRICULTURE. Saparmurat Niyazov, chairing an 11 August meeting of the expanded cabinet, said the country has reached "a new boundary" in economic reform," Interfax reported. Niyazov noted that this year's successful grain harvest showed "Turkmen soil is fertile." He said that fulfillment of the grain quota means that 40 percent of the processed grain products can be sold to low-income families at a reduced rate, the rest at free-market prices. He also called on regional governors to account for every kilogram of cotton during the harvest of that crop, which is due to begin on 15 August, and to meet the target figure of 1.5 million tons. There is "every chance of getting a bumper cotton harvest this year," he commented. BP UZBEKISTAN TO INVESTIGATE BEATING OF RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin on 11 August said Moscow has received assurances from Uzbekistan that "competent bodies" there will investigate the 1 August beating of Russian journalists Vitalii Ponomarev and Nikolai Mitrokhin, ITAR-TASS reported. The journalists were attacked by "unidentified young people" in Tashkent. They were in Uzbekistan to collect material on the unrest in the Fergana Valley. That unrest, which began last December, is attributed to an extremist religious group. Nesterushkin acknowledged that the Russian journalists did not have accreditation from the relevant Uzbek authorities. BP 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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