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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 167 Part I, 31 August 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 167 Part I, 31 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 RUSSIA IN CRISIS Continuing coverage in English and Russian of Russia's economic and political crisis. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/ruchaos98/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * DUMA FACTIONS THREATEN TO REJECT CHERNOMYRDIN * DEFENSE MINISTRY PREPARED FOR TROUBLE * KARIMOV WARNS DEPUTIES OF TALIBAN THREAT End Note: Russia -- A State Nation Among Nation States xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA DUMA FACTIONS THREATEN TO REJECT CHERNOMYRDIN... Leftist opposition groups have vowed to reject acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bid to head the government. "Chernomyrdin has neither a program nor a real opportunity to shape a cabinet, because 90% of Russian citizens do not trust him," Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told reporters on 31 August. Yabloko officials, meanwhile, reiterated their previously-stated intention to reject Chernomyrdin. Viktor Ilyukhin, Duma Security Council Committee chairman and Communist Party member, told Interfax on 31 August that Duma factions would approve Chernomyrdin's candidacy for prime minister but only if President Boris Yeltsin resigns. The State Duma Council ordered Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin to draft guidelines for an alternative list of candidates for premier; however, CIS Executive Secretary and financial magnate Boris Berezovskii predicted that Yeltsin would dismiss the Duma before he agreed to an alternate candidate. He told Interfax on 31 August that "President Boris Yeltsin wants Viktor Chernomyrdin to become the prime minister, and I do not recall a case like this where he changed his mind." JAC ...SCUTTLE POLITICAL AGREEMENT. Despite announcements on 30 August that representatives of the Duma, Federal Assembly and presidential administration had reached an arrangement for an 18-month-long political ceasefire, Zyuganov declared that his party opposes the truce because it lacks sufficient enforcement guarantees. On 30 August, Zyuganov told the television program "Itogi" that Yeltsin's family should "convince him to resign and not to drag the entire country into the grave with his bony hand." The People's Power and Agrarian factions also declared their opposition to the agreement. JAC STOCKS TUMBLE AS AGREEMENT CRUMBLES. Stocks fell 5-15 percent during the first 45 minutes after the Russian stock exchange opened on 31 August, Interfax reported. Bloomberg cited traders who predicted that the Duma's rejection of Chernomyrdin would be bad for the market. JAC DEFENSE MINISTRY PREPARED FOR TROUBLE. "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 29 August that the Defense Ministry has been sending out "secret instructions" to the commanding officers of units based in Moscow, Tula, Ryazan, and Tver to be ready for an emergency situation. The leadership of the armed forces is also preparing operational documents for coordinating the actions of army units and MVD troops in the "event of mass disturbances." The paper also reports that Defense Minister Igor Sergeev assured President Yeltsin in a recent private meeting of his "complete loyalty" and pledged the army's support during "this difficult period for Russia." On 29 August, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that State Duma Security Committee chairman Ilyukhin, said that he received information from various military units about a "suspicious intensification of their activities." Tank units have been supplied with fuel. JAC YELTSIN HAD AGREED TO POWER SHIFT. According to the version of the proposed political agreement initialed by Chernomyrdin and Duma leaders on 30 August, the Duma agreed not to initiate either a no-confidence vote or an impeachment proceeding for a period of 18 months. At the same time, Yeltsin would agree not to disband the parliament during the same time period. In addition, the prime minister would appoint cabinet ministers together with the parliament, while the president would retain the right to appoint ministers of defense, security, and foreign affairs. At the Communist Party's urging, the document also contained a proposal for a new media law that would allow for increased public control over TV and radio outlets. JAC CONSTITUTION SLATED FOR ALTERATION? The political agreement so dramatically shifted current political arrangements that it would have required constitutional amendments. Aleksandr Kotenkov, presidential liaison to the Duma, said on 29 August that Yeltsin agrees that draft amendments should be prepared that outline the process for selecting cabinet ministers and the participation of the Duma in that process. He also told reporters on 30 August that draft laws to lift the immunity of Duma deputies and revise the election procedures for the Duma would be prepared within a month. According to ITAR-TASS, the government wants to create a rotational system so that one quarter of the Duma deputies are elected every year. JAC YELTSIN VOWS TO STAY ON THE JOB UNTIL 2000. In a television interview with RTR on 28 August, President Yeltsin pledged to remain in office until his term expires in 2000, putting an end to rumors that he was poised to resign. He also clearly stated that he would not run in 2000. "It is impossible to remove me, especially considering my character," he said. "I will not go anywhere. I will not resign, I will work as long as the constitution allows." Yeltsin also promised to make every effort to preserve Russian citizens' savings and keep inflation to a minimum. Yeltsin rejected the notion that he had increased the powers of the office of the prime minister, saying such powers had already been quite "extensive." Despite the president's assurances, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 29 August continued to assert that Yeltsin will resign, based on the Kremlin's active pursuit of legal and material guarantees for Yeltsin once he retires (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 1998). Duma deputy speaker Baburin predicts that the announcement of Yeltsin's resignation will occur on 3 September. JAC GOVERNMENT POISED TO NATIONALIZE SBS-AGRO BANK. On 28 August, the Central Bank put the nation's eighth largest bank in terms of capital and primary creditor for the agricultural sector, SBS-Agro Bank, under its provisional administration, suspending its operation with individual and commercial depositors. The Central Bank will conduct an inventory of SBS-Agro's assets. The Central Bank asked the Duma to accelerate passage of a law on the state regulation of SBS-Agro Bank. According to Interfax, the SBS-Agro Bank accumulated debts of more than 680 million rubles ($87 million) to its clients, despite more than 1 billion rubles worth of loans from the Central Bank. On 28 August, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that although the government must prevent the collapse of the banking system, "nationalization of banks is a stupid idea." JAC FEDOROV STAYS, CHUBAIS GOES. Yeltsin issued a decree on 28 August dismissing long-time ally Anatoly Chubais from his post as presidential envoy to international financial institutions as well as eliminating the position itself. Earlier, members of the Communist Party as well as Our Home is Russia had demanded that Chubais be absent from the next government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 1998). Meanwhile, Boris Fedorov, acting deputy prime minister, was chosen to head a team of economic reformers, including Central Bank chairman Sergei Dubinin, acting Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, Vnesheconombank chairman Vladimir Kostin, and State Property Fund head Igor Shuvalov, that is charged with alleviating the financial crisis, according to the "Financial Times" on 31 August. The paper quoted Sergei Markov, professor of politics at Moscow State University, who said that Fedorov's appointment suggests that the government will be more oriented towards reform than previous Chernomyrdin administrations but less radical than that of sacked Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko. JAC BULGARIA, RUSSIA CONCLUDE AGREEMENTS. Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov met with Yeltsin, Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev, State Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev and acting Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on 28 August. Russian and Bulgarian officials signed a variety of cooperation agreements, covering cultural and scientific activities, environmental protection and border issues. The two presidents also agreed to form a joint working group that would advance relations by drafting an action program for the next two years. Yeltsin admitted that Russian-Bulgarian relations had once been "extremely rich" but had weakened in recent years. Upon his return, Stoyanov said he was pleased with the results of the visit, and particularly with the fact that he received guarantees from "the highest echelons" that Russian commitments to settle the problem of custom duties on Bulgarian imports and a $48 million debt owed to Bulgaria will be settled by the delivery of spare parts to Bulgaria's Air Force. JAC/MS VIETNAMESE PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO RUSSIA. Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong finished his five-day visit to Russia on 29 August, Russian media reported. Luong met with President Yeltsin on 25 August and in a joint statement afterward outlined cooperation between the two countries in the spheres of oil and gas production and military technology. Russia will help Vietnam construct a chain of power generating facilities, build an oil refinery, and help increase oil output in Vietnam to 15-16 million tons annually. Yeltsin said he will send Defense Minister Sergeev to Vietnam "in the next few months" to discuss further sales of Russian military hardware to Hanoi. Luong also visited St. Petersburg, the sister city of Ho Chi Minh City, on 27- 29 August before leaving for Minsk (see story in Part II). BP LEBED WARNS CHECHENS AGAINST SECESSION. Speaking in Grozny on the second anniversary of the Khasavyurt accords that he helped craft and that ended the fighting between Moscow and Chechnya, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed said that "the Chechen people will not attain well-being by seceding from Russia," ITAR-TASS reported on 30 August. At the same time, the retired general said he would support the creation of "a special body" to handle relations between Moscow and Grozny and to ensure both that the Russian government would live up to its promises and that the international community would be able to send aid as well. On 29 August, Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov had claimed that no progress had been made on defining Russian- Chechen relations since the signing of the Khasavyurt agreement, according to Interfax. Udugov said that Chechnya still considers itself an independent state despite Moscow's refusal to recognize it as such. PG/LF KHAKASIYA DECLARES ECONOMIC INDEPENDENCE. Aleksei Lebed, governor of the Republic of Khakasiya, announced on 26 August that the republic will no longer make any contributions to the federal budget, "Vremya MN" reported the following day. Lebed said that the region is perfectly capable of surviving without subsidies from Moscow, having paid 641 million rubles more in taxes over the past seven years than it has received in subsidies. Aleksei Lebed and his brother, Aleksandr, governor of neighboring Krasnoyarsk krai, were reported to be consulting earlier this month on a series of economic agreements intended to improve economic conditions in Khakasiya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 1998). LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES UN ROLE. Following a meeting with U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Nancy Soderberg on 28 August, Eduard Shevardnadze said through his press service that UN Security Council resolutions on Abkhazia had been "less effective" in dealing with Abkhazia than had "European structures," ITAR-TASS reported. (On 3 August, Shevardnadze had characterized the most recent UN resolution as a breakthrough for Georgian diplomacy, given that its tone was "firmer and more categorical" in its condemnation of Abkhazia than earlier resolutions.) The press statement also indicated that "certain forces would not like the peace process" in Abkhazia to go forward. Soderberg, for her part, said that it was "imperative" for UN resolutions to be implemented, including the dispatch of "a certain UN contingent to the conflict zone." PG/LF SHEVARDNADZE SOFTENS CRITICISM OF SECURITY FORCES. In his regular weekly radio broadcast on 31 August, Shevardnadze warned against "seeking scapegoats" and "blaming the power ministries for all misfortunes," Caucasus Press reported. That statement represents a retreat from his recent categorical criticism of the work of the security ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 1998). Shevardnadze stated that he will not dismiss National Security Minister Djemal Gakhokidze, reasoning that "the change of one minister for another one may be justified, if the new candidate is better than the previous minister, and we do not have such candidates today." Gakhokidze was appointed in July 1997 following the resignation of Shota Kviraya, who had been accused of blackmarketeering, telephone tapping, and the shooting of six men suspected of looting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1997). LF RUSSIAN-GEORGIAN BASES DECISION POSTPONED. Meeting in Moscow on 27 August, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and his Georgian counterpart Davit Tevzadze agreed to postpone any further discussion of the future of the Russian military bases in Georgia pending the drafting of a concept of bilateral military cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. The two ministers also agreed that Sergeev's planned visit to Georgia, originally scheduled for February but postponed three times, will take place only after a new Russian government is named. Moscow has consistently rejected Georgian claims for financial compensation for military equipment allegedly removed from Georgia following the demise of the USSR. LF ARMENIAN PREMIER ASSESSES ECONOMIC IMPACT OF KARABAKH CONFLICT. Meeting on 28 August with a group of visiting Finnish parliamentarians, Armen Darpinian said it is wrong to proceed on the assumption that Armenia is incapable of developing economically until a final settlement of the Karabakh conflict is reached, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said that overcoming that "illusion" would contribute to reaching a settlement of the conflict. Darpinian argued that both Georgia and Azerbaijan would benefit if the blockade of Armenia by Azerbaijan and Turkey were lifted, adding that Armenia and Azerbaijan could become "natural economic partners," according to Interfax. LF ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL POLITICAL COUNCIL CONVENES. Armenian President Robert Kocharian chaired on 28 August the first session of the political council he created to provide a forum in which those political parties not represented or underrepresented in the National Assembly can exchange views, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian characterized the creation of the council as "the first attempt to consolidate political forces" and called upon the eleven parties represented on the council to demonstrate tolerance towards each other in the runup to next year's parliamentary elections. Union of Constitutional Rights chairman Hrant Khachatrian, who was elected the council's first chairman, told RFE/RL on 29 August that he will endeavor to persuade the Communist Party and Vazgen Manukian's National Democratic Union to name representatives to the council. They have thus far declined to do so. LF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PROPOSES CONVENING PEOPLE'S CONGRESS. On 26 August the Democratic Congress, which comprises a dozen influential opposition parties, set up a working group to prepare for a people's congress to debate the problems Azerbaijan currently faces and possible solutions to the present political crisis, according to Turan on 27 August and "Russkii telegraf" of 29 August. The Azerbaijani authorities have rejected the opposition's application to hold a mass demonstration on 5 September on Baku's Freedom Square, RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported. Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar told Turan that the opposition will demand legal proceedings against the city's mayor for "illegally" violating citizens' constitutional right to hold such demonstrations. On 26 August, the Ministry of Justice refused for the second time to register the Movement for Democratic Elections and Democratic Reforms as a public organization, Turan reported. LF KARIMOV WARNS DEPUTIES OF TALIBAN THREAT. Uzbekistan's parliament opened its 12th session on 28 August, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. President Islam Karimov began the session by warning about the possible consequences of the Taliban movement's successes in neighboring Afghanistan. Karimov said the conquest of Afghanistan may not satisfy the Taliban and "we have to take this into account." Karimov dismissed claims that the Taliban seek to spread their rule to Uzbekistan's ancient city of Samarkand, saying "someone wants to create a conflict." Karimov also spoke about Tajikistan, voicing his support for "the government led by Imomali Rakhmonov" and adding that "these (Uzbek-Tajik) relations should remain stable and solid." The parliament approved Ghofur Barnoyev as head of the Central Electoral Commission. BP KARIMOV'S HOPES ON RUSSIA. On Russia, Karimov said the economic crisis there would affect Uzbekistan and hoped "Russia will ensure currency and financial stability as soon as possible." Karimov noted, however, that Russian banks are not very active in Uzbekistan and that Russia accounts for only 15-20 percent of Uzbekistan's turnover of goods. Karimov said he supports Viktor Chernomyrdin in the post of prime minister, adding "we regard him as the organizer ... of our republic's gas complex." BP KAZAKHSTAN TO SHUT DOWN AGED NUCLEAR REACTOR. Kazakhstan will decommission a 25-year old nuclear reactor in Mangyshlak with U.S. assistance, Interfax reported. The reactor was built to last 20 years but following the collapse of the USSR in 1991 the Kazakh government did not have the funds to shut the reactor down. Spent nuclear rods were stored in a special pool but such facilities provide for a storage time of three years and the rods have been there for ten years. The U.S. will provide special containers and railway cars to ship the rods to a burial site in Kazakhstan's Semipalatinsk region, the former site of Soviet nuclear tests. BP END NOTE Russia: A State Nation Among Nation States by Paul Goble Underlying all of Russia's current problems -- the collapse of its currency, stock markets, and public confidence in its government -- is the fact that the Russian Federation is a country different from most others around the world. Russia is a state nation rather than a nation state. That is, the Russian people define themselves in terms of the state rather than the state being defined by the people, a pattern that undermines the state's ability to maintain authority when its power is weak. In contrast to most of its neighbors, the Russian state thus lacks the authenticity that states rooted in a nation generally have. Consequently, it cannot count on either the authority that such rooting often gives or on popular willingness to go along with the state when it is unable to deliver but has to make tough choices. And that, in turn, predisposes the Russian state whenever it finds itself weakened to try to demonstrate its effectiveness either by relying, as now, on outside support or by using coercive measures to compel its population to go along. Neither of these means represents a full solution to its political dilemmas, but the absence of the kind of natural deference to the political authorities that a nation state provides gives the Russian state few alternatives and helps to explain why historically it has been so difficult for Russia to escape from one of its periodic times of troubles. This very contemporary Russian problem has its origin in a special feature of Russian history. Namely, the Russian state became an empire long before the Russian people became a nation. Beginning half a millennium ago, the Russian state began a rapid expansion across an enormous territory coming to embrace dozens of different peoples and cultures. But because the central authorities, first tsarist and then Soviet, defined the population as Russia's, the ethnographic group known as the Russians was left in an extremely difficult position. On the one hand, their identities were defined by the state, leaving them at the mercy of its strength and also with no clear definition of who they were and equally important who they were not. And that, in turn, meant that they seldom were clear about the borders around themselves and their people. On the other hand, the state could claim the allegiance of these people not as its representative because of who they were but only in terms of its ability to demonstrate power and deliver the goods. Whenever the Russian state has been strong, the loyalty of the Russian people to it has been impressive, even remarkable. But whenever the Russian state has been weak, that loyalty has tended to snap, further reducing the ability of the state to gain the kind of support it needs to regain its strength without taking measures that will repel others. Just how serious this problem is for Russia becomes clear in any comparison with the nation states that surround it. Sometimes the relative success of the non-Russian countries which gained or regained their independence in 1991 is explained by their small size. Sometimes it is explained by the fact that these countries generally view the collapse of the Soviet empire as a gain rather than -- like most Russians -- as a loss. But underlying both of these is the presence in many of these countries of a bond of loyalty between the state and the nation, a bond that is inevitably complicated and imperfect but one that allows the state to count on at least some support even when it is relatively weak and when it cannot deliver everything it promises. To take the most dramatic example, the Estonian state immediately after the recovery of independence was able to ask its nation to make some extraordinary sacrifices in order to allow the country to escape the consequences of Soviet domination. Despite economic measures that hurt many people in that country, Estonians generally supported the state precisely because they saw an identity between its interests and their own. Since 1991, the Russian state has not been able to draw on such a reserve of support. And while that does not explain all of Russia's current difficulties, it does help to explain why they are as large as they are and why both the Russian state and the Russian people are having a far more difficult time than other states and nations in the region. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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