|A disagreement may be the shortest cut between two minds. - Kahlil Gibran|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 170 Part I, 3 September 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 170 Part I, 3 September 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: HOW RUSSIA IS RULED--1998 As the string of crises continue in Russia, the question remains: Who is in charge? This in-depth report analyzes the country's power structure. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/ruwhorules/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * GOVERNORS BACK CHERNOMYRDIN * CHERNOMYRDIN FORMS CABINET * KYRGYZ PRESIDENT CALLS FOR CHANGES TO CONSTITUTION End Note: THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE'S APPRENTICE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA GOVERNORS BACK CHERNOMYRDIN. The leaders of 20 regions and republics on 2 September met with acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. According to Interfax, Murtaza Rakhimov, president of Bashkortostan, said that only one or two regional leaders still oppose Chernomyrdin. Among those declaring their support for his candidacy were Aman Tuleev, governor of Kemerovo; Ruslan Aushev, president of Ingushetia, and Boris Govorin, Irkutsk governor. "Kommersant-Daily" concludes that the "economic and financial situation in the regions is close to collapse and the governors need someone who would be able to assume total responsibility." The Federation Council will meet on 4 September to consider Chernomyrdin's candidacy. In an abrupt reversal of his earlier sharp criticism, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, also declared his support, saying "Russia is in need of a government chairman with a sound knowledge of the current situation." Zhirinovsky said his 50-member faction abstained in the vote on Chernomyrdin earlier this week. JAC DUMA PREPARED FOR DISSOLUTION. "Segodnya" on 2 September reported that Vladimir Ryzhkov, State Duma deputy speaker, said the lower house will be dissolved no later than 14 September if Chernomyrdin is not confirmed. He added that the Communist Party is already preparing an appeal to the people in such an event. The newspaper writes that a new parliamentary election could be put off indefinitely, in part because the Federation Council and "other authorities are perfectly prepared to do without the Duma. And by some legal--or illegal--act they will certainly find an original solution to carry this out." Communist Party chief Gennadii Zyuganov remained defiant, telling reporters that "it is not a matter of the dissolution of the Duma but of the Russian Federation itself and the destruction of our statehood." JAC NO DUMA ELECTIONS BEFORE MAY 1999? The Justice Ministry on 2 September announced that no political party has the right to participate in parliamentary elections before May 1999, Interfax reported. The ministry explained that a September 1997 law requires that organizations planning to run in elections must first amend their charters and register them with the Justice Ministry and then wait a year to participate in elections. The Federation Council voted down an amendment passed by the Duma to reduce the waiting period to six months. JAC CLINTON MET GOVERNORS, OPPOSITION. U.S. President Bill Clinton met at the US embassy in Moscow on 2 September with regional leaders such as Samara governor Konstantin Titov, Arkhangelsk governor Anatolii Yefremov, Novgorod governor Mikhail Prusak, Saratov governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, and Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimeyev. He also met with leading Moscow-based political figures, including Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii. Zyuganov told reporters afterward that Clinton "seemed to be very surprised when I told him that Mr. Yeltsin did not work with parliament at all." Yavlinskii praised Clinton's timing, saying that "Clinton's visit here in the context of the very fierce economic and political crisis in Russia is a good sign, suggesting that maintaining friendly relations between our countries does not depend on temporary variations." JAC U.S., RUSSIA SIGN AGREEMENTS. Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin concluded several agreements and joint communiques at the close of the summit on 2 September. Two security agreements were signed, one pledging to exchange information on ballistic missile launches and the other reducing stocks of plutonium (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1998). The two countries also agreed to form working groups to tighten export controls on dual-use technology, combat terrorism, and persuade India and Pakistan to abandon their arms race. The joint communiques addressed the need for a cease-fire in Kosova, the banning of biological weapons, and cooperation in trade, investment, and technology. With regard to NATO, the two presidents agreed to disagree. Yeltsin told a press conference that "we have not deviated from our previous position-- we are against NATO expansion to the East." Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii declared that with President Clinton's visit, U.S.-Russian relations had "overcome an apparent recent slump." JAC CHINA TO THE RESCUE? While President Clinton linked additional economic assistance to concrete reform measures, China is willing to provide $540 million in aid to Russia, according to Britain's "The Guardian." On 3 September, the newspaper quoted Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan as saying China will provide aid through the IMF. According to the Dutch newspaper "Groot-Bijgaarden De Standaard," the EU will take up the issue of the Russian economic crisis on 3 September. The possibility of adjusting credits that Russia receives under TACIS will be discussed, but a EU spokesman said that the crisis in Moscow cannot be resolved by increasing credits. JAC CHERNOMYRDIN FORMS CABINET... Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 2 September signed a decree reinstating the following ministers from Sergei Kirienko's government: acting Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov, acting Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, acting Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, acting Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, acting Deputy Prime Minister Boris Fedorov, and acting Minister for Emergencies Sergei Shoigu. Acting Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev, acting Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, and acting Minister of the Economy Yakov Urinson were not named in the decree and are widely expected to leave the government. Most newspapers expect acting Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov to retain his position. Acting Minister of Industry and Trade Yurii Maslyukov, the only member of the Communist Party in the former government, said on 3 September that he is resigning because he opposes Chernomyrdin. JAC ...TAPS REGIONAL LEADERS. "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" reported on 1 September that the Chernomyrdin might tap Vladimir Torlopov, chairman of the Federation Council Committee for Social Policy, for the post of deputy prime minister with responsibility for social questions. According to "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 2 September, Torlopov, a former trade union leader in Komi Republic, was instrumental in forging a compromise during miners' strikes in Vorkuta in the late 1980s and 1990s. The government has also been wooing Samara governor Titov, according to "Noviye izvestiya" on 2 September. Titov told reporters that he will meet for a second round of talks on joining the government on 3 September. Titov believes that printing money would provide at least a partial solution to the current economic crisis. He said that "it is necessary to print not simply a mass of money but specific sums for specific tasks. For example, in order to pay the army and provide officers with housing." JAC DUMA CENSURES DUBININ. The Duma on 2 September passed a resolution by 267 votes with one abstention calling on President Yeltsin to remove Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin, characterizing his actions during the latest financial crisis as unsatisfactory and belated. According to Interfax, the Duma wants the Central Bank to tighten control over lending institutions' activities, protect savings, restore commercial banks' liquidity, and ensure that the banking system runs properly. Dubinin told the Duma's Budget Committee that he will not resign. JAC RUBLE, STOCKS SLUMP. On the morning of 3 September, the ruble quickly fell 4.8 percent to 13.5 rubles per $1 on the electronic exchange. The Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange resumed trading after a four-day hiatus. Stocks also declined, dipping 2.6 percent below the previous day's level, according to Bloomberg. Trading volume continues to be quite low, analysts suggest, in part because foreign-investor interest in Russian equities is almost non-existent. JAC TAX REVENUES SHORT OF TARGET. ITAR-TASS reported on 2 September that tax revenues in August reached 11.2 billion rubles ($83 million)--2 billion rubles less than was planned and almost 1 billion less than in July. According to Interfax, acting head of the State Tax Service Boris Fedorov said Gazprom paid 500 million rubles less in taxes in August than it should have. He attributed the rest of the shortfall to banks delaying transfers of tax payments owed by companies and to taxpayers using the financial crisis to postpone payments. JAC NEW CHECHEN DEPUTY PREMIER. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov on 2 September appointed Yusup Soslambekov as deputy prime minister and presidential representative for foreign policy issues, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Soslambekov was chairman of the Chechen parliament that was dissolved by President Djokhar Dudaev in 1993. Replacing Musa Shanibov as president of the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus, Soslambekov pursued a far more conciliatory policy toward Moscow than did Shanibov. In March 1998, Soslambekov proposed that Moscow recognize the independence of both Chechnya and Abkhazia, after which they could sign a new Union Treaty with Russia and Belarus (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 1, No. 5, 31 March 1998). Also on 2 September, Deputy Premiers Musa Shakhbazov and Shirvani Basaev and Construction Minister Aslanbek Ismailov resigned from the Chechen government, Interfax reported. LF DAGESTANI AUTHORITIES, ISLAMISTS REACH COMPROMISE. Talks took place on 2 September between members of the Dagestani government and inhabitants of two of the three Dagestani villages that last month declared an independent Islamic territory, RFE/RL's North Caucasus correspondent reported. The villagers, who are systematically denounced in the Russian press as Wahhabis, agreed to withdraw their declaration of independence in exchange for immunity from prosecution. The authorities rejected the villagers' offer to surrender their arms on condition that all other informal armed groups in Dagestan do likewise. Acting Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin is scheduled to meet with the Islamists on 3 September. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA KYRGYZ PRESIDENT CALLS FOR CHANGES TO CONSTITUTION... Askar Akayev appeared on national television on 1 September to announce a referendum on changes to the constitution, Interfax and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. The text of that decree was published in the 2 September "Slovo Kyrgyzstana." Under those amendments, the number of deputies in the Legislative Assembly would be increased from 35 to 67 and the number of representatives in the People's Assembly reduced from 70 to 38. Fifteen of the seats in the legislature would be given to representatives of parties that receive more than 5 percent of the vote in elections. Private land ownership would be introduced, as would the requirements that parliamentary candidates be resident both in the country and their constituency, immunity for deputies limited, and greater freedom for the media guaranteed. BP ...DRAWS CRITICISM FROM DEPUTIES. Akayev's call for a referendum on amending the constitution took deputies by surprise, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. On 1 September, at the Legislative Assembly's first session following summer vacation, there was no mention of amending the constitution. Many members of the assembly comnsplained the next day that they had not been consulted and were unaware of Akayev's intentions. Deputy Abyt Ibraimov called Akayev's move "a slap in the face" to the parliament. Deputy Daniyar Usenov noted that Akayev himself had said there would be no more referenda until the year 2000. This will be the third time in four years that a referendum has been held to change the constitution. BP JOINT MILITARY EXERCISE IN TAJIKISTAN. A Russian-Tajik military exercise began in southern Tajikistan on 3 September, ITAR-TASS reported. The exercise, described as "large-scale," involves troops of the Tajik Defense Ministry and Russia's 201st Motorized Rifle Division, which is stationed in Tajikistan. The stated purpose of the maneuvers is to practice "rebuffing enemy attacks." There is no information on the exact site of the exercises or its distance from the Tajik-Afghan border. BP ARMENIAN CENTRAL BANK UNFAZED AS DRAM LOSES VALUE. Armenian Central Bank Board member Nerses Yeritsian told journalists on 2 September that the bank does not plan any intervention to prop up the dram, which lost 4 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar the same day, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Yeritsian attributed the drop from 502 to 520 drams to $1 to small-scale speculation, adding that Armenia has sufficient foreign-currency reserves to protect attacks on the dram. But he admitted that the national currency has been weakened by sales of short-term Armenian government bonds by Russian investors who are short of foreign exchange. Until recently, Russian investors were estimated to account for up to 60 percent of government bond sales in Armenia. LF OBSTACLES TO ARMENIAN-IRANIAN TRADE. In an interview with National Television, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian called for the liberalization of trade with Iran, Noyan Tapan reported on 2 September. Oskanian said that Tehran has imposed heavy import duties on imported goods in order to protect local producers. Armenia's trade turnover with Iran, which is its most important trading partner, fell by 9.6 percent in 1997 to $131.3 million, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 3 September. Oskanian also admitted that the financing of the planned gas pipeline from Iran to Armenia has not yet been resolved. In June, Greece indicated that it might contribute to the costs of that project. The foreign ministers of Iran, Armenia, and Greece are scheduled to meet in Tehran next week. LF KARABAKH CELEBRATES ANNIVERSARY OF INDEPENDENCE DECLARATION. Armenian President Robert Kocharian, Prime Minister Armen Darpinian, and other government ministers attended celebrations in Stepanakert on 2 September to mark the seventh anniversary of the declaration of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. Addressing a joint session of the Karabakh government and parliament, the president of the unrecognized republic, Arkadii Ghukasian, said Karabakh's existence has been a success, and he vowed to prevent its return to Azerbaijani rule in the future. Ghukasian called for direct talks between Karabakh and Azerbaijan, which he said is the "shortest way" to settle the decade-long dispute. The ceremonies included the formal opening of a further section of the reconstructed road linking Karabakh to Armenia via the strategic Lachin corridor across Azerbaijani territory. Reconstruction of the entire highway is being financed by the All-Armenian Hayastan Fund. LF ANOTHER AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST BEATEN BY POLICE. Baku police on 1 September halted the car of Tali Hamid, editor of the independent newspaper "Mustagil," to prevent him entering a stretch of highway along which President Heidar Aliev was to drive 90 minutes later, Turan reported. The police verbally insulted Hamid and then dragged him from the car and beat him. Hamid subsequently lodged a complaint with the Prosecutor- General's Office, which has opened an investigation into the incident. LF COORDINATING COUNCIL DISCUSSES ABKHAZIA. The Coordinating Council for the Abkhaz conflict convened on 2 September for the first time since the fighting in Abkhazia's Gali Raion in May. Georgian and Abkhaz government delegations headed by Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze and Prime Minister Sergei Bagapsh attended together with the UN Secretary- General's special representative, Liviu Bota, and the U.S., British, French and German ambassadors to Tbilisi. Bagapsh told Caucasus Press that no concrete decisions were adopted at the meeting. Russian envoy for Abkhazia Lev Mironov said at the meeting that the continuing low level terrorism in Gali and the construction of fortifications on either side of the River Inguri (which forms the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia) show that both sides are preparing for a new war. He said the UN and Russia should set a deadline for Tbilisi and Sukhumi to reach a mutually acceptable political settlement of the conflict. LF END NOTE THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE'S APPRENTICE by Liz Fuller In mid-August, the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) parliamentary faction elected 28-year-old lawyer Mikhail Saakashvili as its chairman. That move is not simply the latest in Saakashvili's meteoric career; it could also prove crucial in determining the role of the SMK in Georgian politics over the next decade. Saakashvili, who spent several years studying in the U.S. after graduating from Kyiv State University in 1992, returned to Georgia in 1995 at the invitation of parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania. Since then, he has played a leading role in reforming Georgia's legal system and relentlessly criticized corruption within the upper echelons of power. (He is simultaneously chairman of the parliamentary anti-corruption committee and recently proposed the lustration of government ministers.) Saakashvili is one of very few leading Georgian politicians who embarked on their political careers only after the collapse of the Soviet system. As "Kavkasioni" correspondent Ia Antadze points out, this puts him at a certain disadvantage vis-a-vis older politicians who are skilled in the art of behind-the-scenes intrigue. In addition, Antadze argues, Saakashvili is a "revolutionary" to whom compromise does not come naturally. At present, however, both those relative "weaknesses" are compensated for by Saakashvili's widespread popularity (he was named Georgia's "Man of the Year" in 1997) and the fact that he has the unqualified support of both Zhvania and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. Zhvania and Saakashvili are the most prominent representatives of the progressive wing of the SMK, which Shevardnadze created in late1993 as a personal power base. The SMK is a marriage of convenience between disparate elements--the Greens, whom Zhvania originally headed; former Communist Party regional apparatchiks and bureaucrats-turned-businessmen, and youthful and ambitious scions of the former Communist intelligentsia- -all of whom chose to hitch their wagons to Shevardnadze's. Not surprisingly, this heterogeneity spawned major policy differences within the SMK's ranks following its victory in the November 1995 parliamentary elections. Those disagreements were exacerbated by personal animosities, for example between Zhvania and Minister of State Niko Lekishvili. It is, however, the young, reformist wing of the SMK that has dominated and directed parliamentary debate. In the process, it has frequently demonstrated its independence, for example by rejecting presidential nominees for various official posts. Its members have also criticized Shevardnadze's failure to act more decisively in replacing representatives of the corrupt "old guard" who still occupy senior posts. Moreover, Zhvania has consistently been more outspokenly critical of Moscow than has Shevardnadze. (Whether his role is that of stalking-horse for the president or sorcerer's apprentice is unclear. Alternatively, Zhvania could simply be capitalizing on most opposition parties' shared antipathy and profound mistrust of Russia in order to secure a power base extending beyond his own party.) Speaking on behalf of his fellow reformers within the SMK in July, Zhvania warned that failure to reform the local administrative system and the concomitant erosion of the leadership's authority had brought Georgia to the brink of catastrophe. He threatened to resign and assume the role of "constructive opposition" within the parliament unless radical measures were adopted to kickstart the stalled reform process. That warning effectively precipitated the resignation three weeks of both Lekishvili and the government. But some observers argued that Zhvania's statements were hypocritical and that neither he personally nor the SMK as a whole could disclaim a share of responsibility for the situation in the country. Assuming that the new cabinet succeeds in implementing measures to cure the present malaise, Zhvania and Saakashvili will be vindicated and their positions strengthened. But their respective futures will hinge on two factors: first, whether the SMK retains its majority in the November1999 parliamentary elections and second, how the political situation evolves in the post- Shevardnadze era. Under the Georgian Constitution, the parliamentary speaker assumes the presidency in the event of the president's sudden death. But a pre-term presidential poll would inevitably be a hard-fought and ugly battle, and its outcome at this juncture is impossible to predict. By the same token, there is no guarantee that the SMK would survive the departure of its founder from the political scene. On the contrary, it might split into rival factions-- especially if Zhvania failed in his bid for the presidency. In such a case, Saakashvili would be better placed than Zhvania to head the reformist wing of the SMK in its next incarnation. Finally, Zhvania and Saakashvili may at some point cease to be allies. Saakashvili could conceivably regard Zhvania's less than spotless business reputation as reflecting badly on the SMK as a whole. Zhvania, for his part, may consider that Saakashvili's uncompromising approach makes him ill-suited to the political horse-trading that will be necessary if the SMK fails to secure a clear majority in the next parliament. 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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