|A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner. - Samuel Johnson|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 161 Part I, 21 August 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 161 Part I, 21 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: CZECHOSLOVAKIA IN 1968--AN INVASION REMEMBERED Thirty years ago today Soviet tanks crushed the Prague Spring reform movement. This special report looks at the invasion's history and impact. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/invasion1968/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN DENOUNCES U.S. AIR STRIKES * KIRIENKO, GOVERNMENT FACE HOSTILE DUMA * PLANS FOR TURKMEN-PAKISTAN PIPELINE SUSPENDED End Note: MOSCOW MAYOR'S MEDIA EMPIRE CONTINUES TO GROW xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN DENOUNCES U.S. AIR STRIKES. Speaking in Murmansk on 21 August, Russian President Boris Yeltsin condemned U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan, ITAR-TASS reported. "My attitude is indeed negative as it would be to any act of terrorism, military interference, failure to solve a problem through talks. I am outraged and I denounce this." Yeltsin added that it was "indecent" that he was not informed in advance. Yeltsin's press spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembskii, appeared to be less critical: he suggested that with regard to terrorism, Russia and the U.S. are "in the same boat," and he reaffirmed that the September summit will take place as scheduled. Communist chief Gennadii Zyuganov said that the U.S. has "in fact become a terrorist state." And Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that the U.S. action should lead Russia to change its foreign policy and cancel the summit. The Russian Foreign Ministry announced it will issue a formal statement later on 21 August. PG YELTSIN TAKES DIRECT CONTROL OVER MILITARY POLICY. Having arrived in Murmansk on 21 August to observe a fleet exercise and missile launch, Yeltsin announced that he will take full control over military policy and military technical cooperation, presidential press spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told ITAR-TASS. Yeltsin indicated that by doing this, he will be able to ensure that officers and soldiers are paid. PG KIRIENKO, GOVERNMENT FACE HOSTILE DUMA. Speaking to the State Duma on 21 August, Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko said that the country is now entering "a serious financial crisis" as a result of the growing state debt and falling prices for Russia's major exports, ITAR-TASS reported. Kirienko added that "we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of being a popular government," pointing out that the full impact of the country's economic difficulties is still ahead. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov and Central Bank chairman Sergei Dubinin also spoke to the deputies, noting respectively that Russia now has few opportunities to borrow abroad and that the Duma needs to adopt the anti-crisis measures the government has proposed. Many Duma members were sharply critical, while the Communists said they now have enough signatures to force a no-confidence vote and again called on Yeltsin to resign. PG POLITICIANS DIVIDED ON GOVERNMENT'S FATE. In advance of the 21 August Duma session, politicians across the political spectrum staked out positions revealing just how divided they remain and how unlikely they are to unite on most questions, Russian agencies reported. Communist leader Zyuganov said his party will demand Yeltsin's immediate resignation or ouster. Liberal Democratic Party leader Zhirinovsky said some people in the government should be replaced but not the entire cabinet, a view shared by many other leaders. Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev and Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev both argued that the resignation of the government will not solve anything. Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was in partial agreement with the left opposition on the economic situation but disagreed on the question of whether Yeltsin should go. Chernomyrdin urged that all politicians consult in order to prevent the escalation of the economic crisis into a political one. Meanwhile, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii said that Central Bank chairman Dubinin is doing a good job and should stay but that the government may have to leave in the fall. And former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev repeated his call for early presidential and parliamentary elections. PG CENTRAL BANK GUARANTEES RUSSIAN DEPOSITS. In a move designed to restore confidence in the country's beleaguered banking system, the Russian Central Bank on 20 August promised to guarantee deposits in Russian banks, ITAR-TASS reported. The guarantees would be given through arrangements with Sberbank, according to statement released by the Central Bank. But Central Bank Deputy Chairman Sergei Aleksashenko told Interfax that a number of banks, including some of the 20 largest, may soon go bankrupt. And he acknowledged that Central Bank reserves fell $2 billion in the last week alone and that there has been some $4 billion in capital flight from Russia between May and mid-August. PG MOSCOW SEEKS TO REASSURE FOREIGN INVESTORS. Prime Minister Kirienko, presidential envoy to international financial institutions Anatolii Chubais, Deputy Prime Minister Boris Fedorov, and Central Bank chairman Dubinin met with 50 major foreign investors on 20 August to reassure them that the government will not discriminate against them and will pursue a "transparent" approach to any policy changes, ITAR- TASS reported. But some investors may not have been entirely reassured. Dubinin said earlier in the day that even more of Russian bank commitments to foreign investors should be restructured, Interfax reported. Also on 20 August, Dubin sent a letter to the central banks of the G-7 countries and Switzerland asking them to show "moral support" for Russian banks during this "difficult period" and saying that all problems could be solved during negotiations beginning on 24 August, ITAR-TASS reported. PG RUBLE STABILIZES, EQUITY MARKETS CONTINUE TO FALL. The ruble declined by half a kopeck on 20 August closing at 6.995 to $1, ITAR-TASS reported. Exchanges on the street reported rates of 7.5 to 9.0 rubles to the dollar, with markedly less fluctuation and demand than earlier this week. But stock markets continued to fall from 4 to 6 percent on the lightest day of trading so far this year. There was little demand, and traders said the market is likely to continue to fall until the government resolves the treasury bond rescheduling. PG LIVSHITS SAYS MOSCOW NOW CANNOT BORROW ABROAD. Aleksandr Livshits, President Boris Yeltsin's former economic adviser, who resigned on 17 August, told AP on 20 August that Moscow will be unable to borrow much on world financial markets for at least the next two years because of its radical and unexpected change in economic policy. Livshits said that he told people that "we'd do everything possible to keep the ruble stable, not to let it drop. I'd said if it drops, I go." PG EU CONSIDERS GIVING RUSSIA MORE HELP. European Commission President Jacques Santer has asked the EU to propose ways in which the EU might be able to help Russia overcome its financial crisis, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 August. But EU Finance Commissioner Yves Thibault said Moscow must work to restore the trust of its Western partners and that East European countries seeking to join the EU should be "vigilant" in dealing with any impact the Russian crisis may have on them. PG ECONOMIC CRISIS HITS KALININGRAD, OTHER REGIONS. The introduction of the broader ruble corridor has made it impossible to implement a program to provide housing certificates to Russian military personnel, an official overseeing the program told ITAR-TASS on 21 August. Leningrad Oblast deputy governor Sergei Susekov told the Russian agency the same day that price increases of 23-30 percent are likely by the end of the year. He added that local police officials are busy tracking down cases of unlawful price hikes and inflated exchange rates. But in most regions, people are more concerned about the instability that the decline in the ruble signals rather than about the decline itself, Russian agencies reported. PG YELTSIN MARKS PRAGUE SPRING, 1991 COUP. President Yeltsin on 20 August said that the 1968 Prague spring, crushed by Soviet tanks, was an attempt to "escape from ideological dogmatism and lies," AP reported. And he also suggested that Russians should remember the August 1991 coup when in "protecting democracy," they proved that there is "no power that can stop the drive of the people toward democracy. " Yeltsin's comments came in a message to a gathering of poets, activists, and former dissidents who were marking the 30th anniversary of the Czechoslovak reform move (see also Part II). PG 1991 COUP LEADER SEES NO POSSIBILITY OF REPETITION. Former Soviet Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov told Interfax on 20 August that there is no possibility of a coup like the one he helped launch seven years ago. "Those who have offices similar to those of the 1991 coup leaders will not take the risk," Pavlov said. He claimed that he and his colleagues would have prevented the economic and political collapse of the country, noting that "today everyone can see where an accelerated, Bolshevik-like approach to building a capitalist society has led us." PG GORBACHEV WOULD TESTIFY AGAINST YELTSIN. Reversing his earlier statements that he would not appear before a Duma commission considering the impeachment of Boris Yeltsin, former Soviet leader Gorbachev told Ekho Moskvy on 20 August that he would appear before such a commission. Gorbachev said that Yeltsin's approach had made it impossible for the Soviet Union to continue. PG HEALTH MINISTRY TO KEEP MEDICINE PRICES LOW. Health Minister Oleg Rutkovskii told ITAR-TASS on 20 April that the ministry is to introduce a system of price controls on pharmaceutical products. While he acknowledged that the prices of some imported medicines will inevitably increase, Rutkovskii suggested that there is no need for Russians to stock up now in anticipation of shortages. PG CYPRIOT DIPLOMAT DENIES S-300s ALREADY DEPLOYED. The controversial Russian S-300 air defense missiles that originally were to have been delivered to Cyprus in July or August have not yet been sent to the island, the Cypriot charge d'affaires in Moscow told Interfax on 20 August. He added that the new delivery date was agreed to during a meeting in July between Russian President Yeltsin and his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Glafcos Clerides. Clerides told journalists after the meeting that the schedule for deployment remains unchanged (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1998). But Cypriot spokesmen subsequently said the missiles will be deployed in November. LF DAGESTAN'S MUFTI KILLED BY CAR BOMB. Saidmukhamed Abubakarov and two other passengers were killed when the car in which they were traveling was destroyed by a car bomb in Makhachkala on 21 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Abubakarov was known for his hard-line stance on Wahhabism. LF DAGESTAN SAYS WAHHABIS COULD SPARK CIVIL WAR... Speaking at an emergency session of Dagestan's State Council on 19 August, chairman Magomedali Magomedov said the decision by three villages to declare an "independent Islamic territory" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1998) "will lead to civil war," "Vremya-MN" reported on 19 August. Dagestani Security Council acting Secretary Magomed-Salikh Gusaev said the residents of the three villages, most of whom are Wahhabis, are propagating the concept of an independent Islamic republic comprising Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachaevo-Cherkessia. The council ordered the Dagestani police to take resolute action to restore control over the villages. The villagers themselves told journalists from "Nezavisimaya gazeta" earlier this month that they armed themselves only in response to systematic oppression by the republic's authorities. LF ...BUT MOSCOW DOWNPLAYS DANGER. Russian Nationalities Minister Yevgenii Sapiro stressed on 20 August that only three villages are involved, and that the use of force to resolve a "local problem" could cause the protest to escalate "on the Chechen scale." Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev warned that he will deploy his troops to protect the villagers if the Dagestani authorities resort to violence against them, Interfax reported on 20 August. In response, Gusaev stated that Dagestan will treat any Chechen move to support the Wahhabis as an act of war, RFE/RL's North Caucasus correspondent reported on 21 August. LF CHECHEN RAID FAILS TO LOCATE, FREE VLASOV. Acting on information received, members of the Chechen anti-abduction squad raided a town in the southern raion of Shatoi on 19 August but failed to locate and free kidnapped Russian presidential envoy Vladimir Vlasov, whom they believed was being held there, ITAR-TASS reported. Anti-abduction squad commander Shadid Bargishev told journalists in the Chechen capital on 20 August that one Russian hostage was released during the Shatoi operation. Bargishev estimated the number of hostages still being held in Chechnya at 17, including two British and two Turkish citizens. Independent observers believe the number is closer to 50. LF INGUSH LEADERSHIP'S ECONOMIC POLICY UNDER FIRE. Employees of Ingushetia's oil and gas complex have written to the republic's government requesting that it reconsider a deal concluded in May with the U.S. oil company Pacific Petroleum, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 August. The deal allows the U.S. company to exploit the republic's most promising deposits and retain over 80 percent of the anticipated profits, leaving the local oil workers to develop deposits that are virtually exhausted. In a letter to President Ruslan Aushev, Ingushetian oil and gas industry head Belan Khamchiev outlined alternative proposals for the sector to expand annual production from 1998-2001 to 300,000 metric tons. Khamchiev was subsequently fired. On 12 August, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" criticized Aushev's policy of investing the proceeds from Ingushetia's status as an offshore zone in grandiose projects that proved economically unviable. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA PLANS FOR TURKMEN-PAKISTAN PIPELINE SUSPENDED. Following the U.S. strikes on terrorist-related positions in Afghanistan and Sudan on 20 August, the U.S. company UNOCAL Corp. has suspended its participation in a planned Turkmen-Pakistan natural gas pipeline via Afghanistan, the "Los Angeles Times" reported. A spokesman for the company is quoted as saying that "In light of the U.S. government's actions...., we feel it appropriate to suspend all activities on the proposed pipeline. We will not move forward." For several years, UNOCAL and Saudi Arabia's Delta Corp. have been discussing the pipeline with the Turkmen and Pakistani governments as well as representatives of Afghanistan's Taliban movement. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said earlier this month that construction of the pipeline will begin before the end of 1998. BP YERKRAPAH OFFERS MINOR CONCESSION ON ELECTION LAW. Smbat Ayvazian, chairman of the majority Yerkrapah parliamentary group, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 20 August that the group still advocates allocating the majority of seats in the next parliament in single-member constituencies but is prepared to increase from 30 percent to 40 percent the number allocated on the basis of party lists. Other political parties, however, are likely to reject that proposal and to continue insisting that the majority of seats be allocated in accordance with the party-list system. Ayvazian said the group will submit its own draft election law to the relevant parliamentary committees within the next few days. It rejects all three existing variants, which give precedence to the party list system. LF GEORGIA, ABKHAZIA TO CREATE WORKING GROUP ON BORDER ISSUES. Meeting in Sukhumi on 20 August, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba and Georgian Border Guard commander Major-General Valerii Chkheidze agreed to create a working group to discuss the defense of Georgia's frontiers, Caucasus Press reported on 21 August. Arzdinba rejected Chkheidze's proposal that Abkhaz and Georgian forces jointly control the Abkhaz sector of Georgia's frontiers, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Tbilisi. Meanwhile, Abkhaz units continue to erect concrete and barbed wire fortifications along the Inguri River (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 1998), according to Caucasus Press. LF AZERBAIJANI POLICE RELEASE DETAINED OPPOSITIONIST. Democratic Party leader Sardar Djalaloglu was released from custody on 20 August, 24 hours after being detained on suspicion of calling for crimes against the state, Turan reported. On 18 August, Azerbaijani television had aired footage of a Baku resident who claimed Djalaloglu had offered him money to telephone bomb warnings to various locations in Baku on the eve of the 15 August opposition demonstration. An investigation is continuing. Also on 19 August, Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar called for the postponement of the presidential elections scheduled for 11 October and the adoption of a new and democratic election law that would prevent the present authorities from monopolizing the election campaign, AP reported. 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