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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 174 Part I, 9 September 1998
_________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 174 Part I, 9 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 Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN KEEPS DUMA, NATION IN SUSPENSE * RUBLE RALLIES SLIGHTLY, ECONOMY CONTRACTS * TRACECA CONFERENCE PARTICIPANTS SIGN 'BAKU DECLARATION' End Note: CADETS REMAIN FAITHFUL TO TSARIST IDEA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN KEEPS DUMA, NATION IN SUSPENSE. By mid-afternoon local time, Russian President Boris Yeltsin had not named his candidate for the post of prime minister in the third round of voting. "Izvestiya" on 9 September argued that Yeltsin "realizes that in the event of the [State] Duma's dissolution, he will not have 100 percent control of the situation." It added that he has not immediately put forward acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's name for a third time because Duma factions continue to promise they will swiftly reject it. "Kommersant-Daily" criticized the president harshly for the delay: "Now Yeltsin--not the Duma--has prolonged for at least two days a lack of power.... It is again uncertain not only whether there will be a prime minister in Russia for some time but also whether there is a president." JAC SOME PLACE BETS ON PRIMAKOV, MASLYUKOV... "Izvestiya" on 9 September said that the candidacy of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has been pushed too forcefully and that Yeltsin characteristically resists pressure. "For Yeltsin," the newspaper concluded, "Prime Minister Luzhkov means political capitulation. Prime Minister [Yevgenii] Primakov means an organized retreat." Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev called Yabloko's proposal of acting Foreign Minister Primakov for prime minister "surprisingly appropriate." However, Primakov told reporters on 8 September that he would not agree to accept the post of prime minister if offered to him. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov hinted that Yeltsin is considering former Minister of Industry Yurii Maslyukov for prime minister. Zyuganov told journalists that Maslyukov has been called back from vacation for "an important meeting."JAC ...OTHERS ON LEBED. According to Interfax, Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov told a local radio station on 9 September that Krasnoyarsk Governor General Aleksandr Lebed would form a government in Russia this week. Lebed arrived in Moscow the same day for talks with regional leaders, telling Interfax that he would be ready to assume responsibility for leading the country out of its present crisis. On 8 September, Interfax reported that Lebed said he regards financial magnate Boris Berezovskii as one of his political partners. He noted that Berezovskii has "quite concrete interests in Russia. These are Aeroflot, LogoVAZ, and shares in ORT [Russian Public Television], therefore he obviously wants to preserve the state. And I am interested in anyone, without exception, who takes the position of preserving a single and indivisible Russia." Many Moscow observers believe that Berezovskii orchestrated Chernomyrdin's recent return to the Kremlin. JAC RUBLE RALLIES SLIGHTLY, ECONOMY CONTRACTS. On 9 September, the demand for dollars weakened slightly with the ruble rate rising to 16 to $1 on Russia's electronic foreign exchange. Traders said Russian banks need to buy rubles to pay debts.. The Central Bank on 9 September set the official exchange rate at 20.83 rubles to $1, a drop of 9.24 percent from the previous day's level of 18.9 rubles to $1. The ruble has fallen almost 70 percent against the dollar since 17 August, when the Central Bank said it would abandon its defense of the ruble owing to the lack of foreign exchange reserves. Bloomberg reports that the ruble is the world's poorest performing currency and that Russian economy could contract by 4.5 percent this year, its worst performance in four years. The agency quotes Western economists as forecasting declines in GDP for the second half of 1998 that range from 4 percent to 9 percent. In August, the monthly inflation rate climbed 15 percent, the biggest monthly increase in more than four years. JAC DUMA CONSIDERS YELTSIN'S 'CRIMES'... Chairman of the Duma Security Committee, Viktor Ilyukhin, told ITAR-TASS on 8 September that the special Duma impeachment committee has concluded that "there are elements of a crime" in President Yeltsin's signing of the Belavezha agreements, which dissolved the Soviet Union in 1991. If the Duma Council agrees with this assessment, then a draft conclusion on the first count of impeachment could be submitted to the Duma as early as 11 September. However, Duma deputy and Yabloko member Yelena Mizulina told reporters on 8 September that the president's participation in the disintegration of the Soviet Union was "rather a historic mistake than a criminal offense." She thought that the Russian Supreme Court would confirm only the second and third counts of impeachment: the president's initiation of the conflict in Chechnya and his forcible disbandment of the Supreme Soviet in October 1993. JAC ...DANGLES IMPEACHMENT THREAT. Mizulina said that if President Yeltsin nominates Chernomyrdin a third time, then the Duma will put forward the issue of impeachment first. That way, it can prevent an immediate dissolution of the Duma after it rejects Chernomyrdin for a third time. Three hundred deputies need to vote in favor of impeachment for the accusations to be brought formally before the Federation Council. JAC GERASHCHENKO TO RETURN TO CENTRAL BANK? Several Russian newspapers on 8 September reported that Moscow International Bank head Viktor Gerashchenko has the best chance of replacing Sergei Dubinin, who offered his resignation as chairman of the Central Bank on 7 September. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" noted that Gerashchenko has the support of many different members of different political factions, while "Russkii telegraf" said that Gerashchenko's "professionalism" is respected by both Russian oligarchs and Western bankers. "Kommersant- Daily" pointed out that Gerashchenko's only liability is the perception that he "is not an entirely apolitical figure" since his name has increasingly been linked with that of Moscow Mayor Luzhkov. Other candidates suggested by "Kommersant-Daily" are Aleksandr Shokhin, leader of the Our Home is Russia faction, Dmitrii Tulin, head of Vneshtorgbank and former Central Bank official, Sberbank chief Andrei Kazmin, and former presidential aide Aleksandr Livshits. JAC CHERNOMYRDIN'S 'PLAN' COMES UNDER CRITICISM. The economic program that acting Prime Minister Chernomyrdin outlined during his speech to the Federation Council on 4 September has drawn some stinging criticisms. Democratic Choice party leader Yegor Gaidar told reporters on 8 September that Chernomyrdin's plan is "adventurous and extremely dangerous." He said "if the printing of money is added to the present panic, all rubles will only go one way--demand for dollars at any price--and we will enter into classic hyperinflation." IMF Deputy Managing-Director Stanley Fisher told the "Wall Street Journal" on 8 September that the latest plan to rehabilitate the Russian economy is "very destructive." He said Russia should increase tax collection, not print more money. ITAR-TASS on 8 September quoted acting Deputy Prime Minister Boris Fedorov as saying that the government's plan "does not envisage the printing of money but aims to resume genuine economic reform" through three steps: the introduction of a tough monetary system, the passage of a balanced budget, and the implementation of a radical tax reform. JAC STRIKE PARTICIPANTS NOT TO SEEK NEW ELECTIONS. ITAR-TASS reported on 8 September that participants in the national strike planned for 7 October will not demand simultaneous elections to the presidency and State Duma. However, President Yeltsin's resignation will remain one of the key demands. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 8 September suggested that the All-Russia Strike Committee, headed by Vorkuta miner Viktor Semenov, is the logical nucleus for Russia's next social revolution. The newspaper noted that the committee emerged directly from the spontaneous workers' movement, rather than from the official establishment. And although "it is by no means certain that current crisis in Russia will develop into some kind of social upheaval..., a revolution is the result of purposeful ideological and organization work by a defined circle of people, who transform a single explosion into a significant occurrence. It seems such people are beginning to appear in Russia." JAC REGIONS REMAIN RESTLESS. Kaliningrad Governor Leonid Gorbenko has denied media reports that he declared a regional state of emergency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1998). He said that he spoke only of urgent measures required for the economic and social spheres, according to ITAR-TASS. He declared the introduction of a state of emergency in the "political sphere" out of the question. Meanwhile, regional "rebelliousness" continues. Interfax on 9 September reported that Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev has reduced the profit tax for local processing enterprises by 40 percent and lowered electricity tariffs without first consulting Moscow authorities. Tuleev told ITAR-TASS that "the Finance Ministry is not recognizing previous agreements, although its minister, Mikhail Zadornov, has retained his post." Unless federal authorities "change their attitude toward the regions," he warned in comments to Interfax, "the threat of a split in the federation will become more real every day." JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA TRACECA CONFERENCE PARTICIPANTS SIGN 'BAKU DECLARATION'... Participants at the 8 September TRACECA conference in Baku signed a multilateral framework agreement on construction of the Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Four technical agreements on road and rail transport and customs procedures were also signed. Speakers at the conference underscored that all states that participate in the corridor project stand to benefit, predicting that it will facilitate economic cooperation and trade and underpin regional stability. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma noted that the project will "put an end to the threat of the Balkanization of the Caucasus and Central Asia." LF ...WHILE RUSSIA, TURKEY FOCUS ON LIMITATIONS. Deputy Transport Minister Yevgenii Kazantsev, the Russian representative at the conference, criticized the TRACECA concept as less cost-effective than existing communications via the Russian Federation, given that Russian transport tariffs are considerably lower than those envisaged within the TRACECA framework, Interfax reported. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel ruled out opening a frontier crossing between Turkey and Armenia, while Foreign Minister Ismail Cem rejected Armenian Prime Minister Armen Darpinian's proposal to route via Armenia the planned railroad from Kars to Tbilisi and to construct a second rail link from the Georgian Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi via Nakhichevan and Armenia to Iran. Both Turkish officials said such transport links can be considered only after Armenian forces withdraw from occupied Azerbaijani territory and the Karabakh conflict is resolved. LF CHOLERA OUTBREAK IN ARMENIA. Two elderly residents of the village of Zartonk, west of Yerevan, have died of cholera and "several dozen" villagers have been hospitalized with the disease, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 8 September, quoting presidential spokeswoman Gassia Apkarian. Apkarian said that the outbreak has been localized and that no cases have been reported in Yerevan. Most residents of Zartonk are Yezidi Kurds. LF PROGRESS, RISKS IN RESOLVING SOUTH OSSETIAN CONFLICT. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 9 September quoted OSCE Ambassador to Georgia Michael Libal as expressing approval of the progress toward settling the South Ossetian conflict. Libal singled out the role in that process of South Ossetian President Lyudvig Chibirov but urged the resumption of talks between the Georgian and South Ossetian leaderships to find "new ideas" to resolve the conflict. He also warned against delaying such talks until the Abkhaz and Karabakh conflicts have been resolved. Since January, 363 Ossetian refugees have returned from North to South Ossetia under a program funded by the UNHCR and the Norwegian Refugee Council. But a Georgian from South Ossetia told Caucasus Press on 8 September that the repatriation process is forcing the local Georgian population to leave and could ultimately trigger a new conflict. LF NETANYAHU CANCELS GEORGIAN VISIT. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has canceled his one-day visit to Georgia on 9 September for health reasons, Caucasus Press reported. Netanyahu was to have participated in celebrations to mark the 2,600th anniversary of the arrival in Georgia of the first Jewish settlers. LF KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT OPPOSES PRESIDENT... The Legislative Assembly on 8 September convened to discuss amendments to the country's constitution proposed by President Askar Akayev, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Only 25 of the 35 deputies attended the session, but of those, 21 rejected Akayev's proposals. In particular, the deputies objected to the proposal to introduce private land ownership, saying it is still too early to adopt such a measure. They also objected to the proposal that a new government body, rather than the parliament, oversee financing for the parliament. The deputies suggested that in the October referendum on the proposed amendments, citizens be allowed to vote on each issue separately. The 1996 referendum on amending the constitution required only a single "yes" or "no" vote. BP ...OVERRIDES PRESIDENTIAL VETO. Also on 8 September, the Legislative Assembly overruled a presidential veto of an amendment raising the eligible age for drawing a pension, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The amendment, which was adopted by the parliament in June, raises the retirement age from 55 to 58 for women and 60 to 63 for men. Akayev signed a draft of the law but later refused to approve the official version. Several government officials claim there is no money in the budget to implement the legislative change. BP NUMBER OF UZBEK GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS TO BE CUT. Uzbek President Islam Karimov has signed a government resolution that will cut the number of state officials by 25 percent, Interfax reported on 8 September. The cuts must be made by 1 January 1999. BP ONE TURKMEN DISSIDENT RELEASED, ONE BADLY BEATEN. Former presidential spokesman Durdumuhammed Gurbanov, arrested on embezzlement charges last month, has been released from detention, RFE/RL correspondents in Ashgabat reported on 8 September. The previous day, some 30 people demonstrated in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, to demand Gurbanov's release. Amnesty International issued a statement on 8 September expressing concern about the arrest and noting that his detention is more likely the result of political rather than criminal activities. In interviews with RFE/RL earlier this year, Gurbanov criticized the Turkmen government. Meanwhile, the head of Turkmenistan's unregistered Democratic Development Party, Durdymurat Khojamuhammedov, was severely beaten in Ashgabat on 4 September. BP END NOTE CADETS REMAIN FAITHFUL TO TSARIST IDEA by John Varoli Amid Russia's economic and political crisis, cadets ended a 10-day convention in Moscow on 8 September that was designed to infuse them with the ideals of the Tsarist military. The convention was the first-ever gathering in Russia of the United Russian Cadet Corps Abroad, a group of descendants of exiled White Army officers dedicated to preserving the military ideals of the Tsarist era. Since 1992, the group has been playing an active role in preparing new generations of Russian soldiers. Some 42 senior cadets, most between the ages of 60 and 75, returned to Russia for the convention. The convention was the cadets' 16th major meeting since 1931. "This is an extremely emotional event for us," Alexei Jordan, vice president of the New York chapter of the Russian Cadet Corps Abroad, told RFE/RL. "It is the first time that we, the sons of White officers who fought during the Civil War and who were educated as cadets abroad, have met in Russia." Jordan is also the father of the leading Russian- U.S. banker Boris Jordan, head of MFK-Renaissance. Over the past three years, Boris Jordan has made significant personal contributions to the Cadet Corps in St. Petersburg. Also, according to the MFK-Renaissance public relations office, Jordan's bank has donated $200,000 to various cadet activities and to renovating the grave of the 18th-century Russian general Alexander Suvorov. Russia's cadet corps dates back to the reign of Empress Anne. In 1731, she decreed the creation of the corps to prepare boys for study at an institution of higher education that would eventually lead to a career either in the military or in the state civil service. But when the Russian Revolution of 1917 swept away the Tsarist order, only eight of Russia's 301 cadet corps were able to make their way to Crimea, then a stronghold of the anti-Bolshevik White Army, under the command of General Pyotr Wrangel. Those boys who did not make it were executed by the Bolsheviks. The Whites abandoned Crimea in 1920, and the eight cadet corps sailed with other refugees to Yugoslavia, whose king, Alexander I, had also studied in the Russian cadets school in St. Petersburg. In Yugoslavia, a new generation of cadets were raised in the imperial spirit of, "Faith, Tsar, and Fatherland." There, they waited to return to Russia, hoping for the collapse of the Bolshevik regime. The cadets were pushed farther west by Soviet troops entering Yugoslavia at the end of World War II. Many were scattered as far as the U.S. and France. By 1956, the last educational institution of the Russian cadet corps had closed its doors in Paris. Igor Andrushkevitch, a chief ideologue for the Russian Cadet Corps Abroad, told RFE/RL that the so- called Soviet morality was based on economic materialism and this emphasis has led to moral decline in contemporary Russia. The Russian Cadet Corps Abroad offers to fill what its members see as a moral void with the ethics of bygone days. "The purpose of the cadet [corps] is to educate youths with the ideas of service to the Motherland," Yerzhan Yusupov, a former Soviet army captain and co-organizer of the conference, told RFE/RL. "It is time to do something about the utter lack of values in the Russian military," Vladimir Braun, chairman of the Russian Order of St. George, told RFE/RL. "If we do not change the current situation in the military, then we'll have a potentially explosive situation on our hands." It is unclear whether any representatives of the active Russian military took part in the convention either as participants or observers. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in St. Petersburg. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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