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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 176 Part I, 11 September 1998
_________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 176 Part I, 11 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 * PRIMAKOV NOMINATION SET TO SAIL THROUGH DUMA * CENTRAL BANK RETURNS TO PAST * SUSPECTS FORMALLY CHARGED IN UN MURDERS IN TAJIKISTAN End Note: THE PROMOTION OF PRIMAKOV xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA PRIMAKOV NOMINATION SET TO SAIL THROUGH DUMA. At 5:00 p.m. local time on 11 September, the State Duma is scheduled to consider the candidacy of Yevgenii Primakov as prime minister. Primakov needs a simple majority of 226 votes. Since all factions, with the exception of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, which has only 50 votes, have expressed support for Primakov, he is expected to be confirmed. Zhirinovsky criticized Yeltsin's choice of Primakov, saying that the decision proves Yeltsin's weakness and is the "final degradation of the political regime." He called Primakov "a pro-American candidate" appointed by U.S. President Bill Clinton. JAC CENTRAL BANK RETURNS TO PAST. President Boris Yeltsin on 11 September finally accepted the resignation of Sergei Dubinin as head of the Central Bank and named Viktor Gerashchenko as the new chairman. Dubinin offered his resignation on 7 September. Gerashchenko, 60, headed the Central Bank both before and after the Soviet Union fell apart. He was sacked soon after 11 October 1994, Black Tuesday, when the ruble lost 25 percent of its value. Dubinin was minister of finance at the time. Since 1996, Gerashchenko has been chairman of the Board of the Moscow International Bank. JAC MASLYUKOV TO MAKE ECONOMIC POLICY? Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov said Yurii Maslyukov, former minister of trade and head of Gosplan, will be offered the position of deputy prime minister in charge of the economy. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, who first suggested Primakov for the job of prime minister, has also been tipped as a potential appointee for economic policy. However, he told Russian Public Television that Yabloko did not "need to be paid" for its support with the appointment of himself or fellow Yabloko member Vladimir Lukin, Russia's former ambassador to the U.S., to a cabinet position. He said, "Our reward will be to see increased stability in the country." ITAR-TASS reported on 11 September that Robert Markaryan, current director of the Foreign Ministry's Secretariat, would likely be appointed head of the government administration. JAC STOCKS FALL, RUBLE CLIMBS. On 11 September, the Russian benchmark stock index hit a record low, falling 5.4 percent from the day before. Traders cited concerns that Communist Party member Yurii Maslyukov will be appointed to a top economic policy-making post and the anticipated return of Viktor Gerashchenko to head the Central Bank. Meanwhile, the ruble strengthened against the dollar for the third consecutive day. According to Bloomberg, the ruble rose as high as 11.15 rubles to $1, compared with the previous day's high of 13.5 rubles to $1. The official ruble rate was 12.87 rubles to $1. Some traders expect the ruble to start losing value again because of the likely delay in the next IMF tranche and continued problems in the banking system. Acting Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov told Interfax on 10 September that the ruble's future exchange rate will largely depend on the composition of the new cabinet. JAC NEW CANDIDATES FOR FOREIGN MINISTER. Speculation about the composition of Primakov's cabinet continues. In addition to current Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Chair of the State Duma's Committee on International Affairs Vladimir Lukin, Deputy Foreign, Ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov, First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov, and Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov have all been dubbed potential candidates to replace Primakov at the helm of the Foreign Ministry. JAC WORLD LEADERS HAIL PRIMAKOV. World leaders heaped praise on Yeltsin's nomination of Primakov, suggesting that the diplomat-turned-prime minister will be able to restore some stability to Russia. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said that Primakov enjoys the trust of Western countries, while French Premier Hubert Vedrine said Primakov has the very qualities needed to restore the public's confidence in authority. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott called Primakov an "extremely able, skillful advocate of what he sees as Russia's national interest" and said that he "clearly recognizes the extraordinary importance of U.S.-Russian relations." Closer to Russia, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who has locked horns with Primakov in the past, said that "Yevgenii Primakov is a nominee acceptable for the majority of Russia's political forces." He continued that "being an experienced and well-educated politician, [Primakov] will be able to do much to achieve stability in Russia, in which Georgia is largely interested." JAC PRIMAKOV EARNS PRAISE FROM REGIONS... Russia's regional leaders appeared to have a uniformly positive reaction to Yeltsin's nomination of Primakov. Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed, who himself was considered a potential candidate, told reporters 10 September, "It's a victory and the result of a compromise between differently biased political forces." Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev also praised Yeltsin's choice, calling Primakov "an authoritative politician." Aman Tuleev, governor of Kemerovo, noted Primakov's "wisdom and considerable professional experience." And the governors of Perm and Primorskii Krai also added their voices to the chorus of commendations. JAC ...AND OLIGARCHS, GORBACHEV. Financial magnate Boris Berezovskii called Primakov's nomination "a decision with a plus sign in today's extremely complex situation." Most Bank head Vladimir Gusinskii described Primakov's nomination as "the best choice Russia can make today." Former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev said Primakov will "shape a government that will express national interests, not those of 10 percent or 20 percent of the population." JAC KOKOSHIN SACKED, SYSUYEV TO QUIT. Secretary of Russia's National Security Council Andrei Kokoshin was abruptly dismissed on 10 September. No reason was given other than that he has another job, the nature of which has not yet been made public. Earlier, Kokoshin was credited with forging a coalition in the cabinet willing to push through military reform (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1998). According to ITAR-TASS on 11 September, former Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov will replace Kokoshin as head of the Security Council. ITAR-TASS also reported the same day that acting Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuyev will quit the cabinet to take a "high-level" diplomatic job. JAC YELTSIN RELEGATED TO BACK SEAT? "Izvestiya" on 11 September predicted that Yeltsin, "having made one concession to his opponents, will inevitably be forced to make others and in this way will gradually withdraw from power." The newspaper added, "It is quite likely that before the year 2000, Yevgenii Primakov will have to carry out the duties of head of state as well as premier." In an interview with Russian Public Television, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii made similar comments. He said, "The first political figure in the country is the president, but now we have a 'political' prime minister, who in every situation will be able to discuss a whole range of political issues. He cannot take decisions on all of them, but he is a responsible figure for discussing and preparing the most important decisions." JAC KALMYKIA "REDIRECTS" ITS FEDERAL TAXES. "Vremya MN" on 11 September reported that the Russian Central Bank shut down its branch in Kalmykia Republic after it used 236 million rubles ($15 million) collected in taxes for the regional budget. Such rebellious actions may draw a harsh reaction under the new government. In brief remarks made to reporters on 11 September, Primakov said he is in favor of "preserving Russia as a single, strong state." JAC BUSINESSES CHARGED WITH PROFITEERING. ITAR-TASS reported on 10 September that inspectors in St. Petersburg fined more than 1200 trading companies for "unjustified price mark-ups" of more than 50 percent during the past three weeks. St. Petersburg Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev decreed that the price increases on staple foods, such as bread, baby food, milk, dairy products, flour, sugar, and soap should not exceed 15 percent. JAC AIRLINES TRIM COSTS. Valerii Okulov, director-general of Aeroflot, told reporters on 10 September that some aviation workers will have to be laid off and certain benefits eliminated. To save on hard currency, imported foods will be replaced by domestic ones for in-flight meals. According to ITAR-TASS, Okulov also admitted that the threat of a strike by both air traffic controllers and pilots exists because "pro-Communist parties are actively encouraging union leaders to join mass protest actions." According to AP, Alaska Airlines will drop its weekly flights to Russia's Far East because they are not profitable. JAC TATARSTAN INTRODUCES ANTI-CRISIS PROGRAM. Tatarstan Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov on 10 September announced that Kazan has introduced a series of short- term measures to overcome the economic crisis, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. The program includes the stabilization of prices for basic consumer goods through the end of September. Tatarstan National Bank Chairman Yevgenii Bogachev, meanwhile, said that the republic's banking system is in relatively better shape than the Russian Federation's. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GERMAN KARABAKH NEGOTIATOR IN YEREVAN. Ambassador Frank Lambach, Germany's representative to the OSCE's Minsk Group, arrived in Yerevan on 10 September, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Following meetings with senior Armenian officials, Lambach said the current situation, "a cease-fire without negotiations," is "not stable." And he noted that representatives of the three Minsk Group co-chairs will arrive in the Caucasus within the next few days to try to push the peace process forward. PG ARMENIAN-GREEK-IRANIAN GROUP MEETS. The cooperation group of Armenia, Greece, and Iran met in Tehran on 10 September to discuss how to carry out the planned construction of an Iranian-Armenian gas pipeline and other measures of economic cooperation, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The three foreign ministers in attendance also discussed the situation in the Balkans, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Afghanistan. The cooperation group, established in Athens in December 1997, will hold its third meeting in September 1999 in Yerevan. PG ARMENIA TO PRESS FOR MORE INVESTMENT. Armenian presidential adviser Vagram Nersisiants told Interfax on 10 September that Yerevan will press for more private foreign investment in order to increase the rate of economic growth to 6-7 percent a year. He said that Yerevan has concluded that it cannot count on government-to-government assistance over the longer term. PG SHEVARDNADZE WELCOMES ASSISTANCE FROM U.S. NAVY. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 10 September told visiting U.S. Vice Admiral Daniel Murphy that he is grateful for American assistance in developing Georgia's naval staff and infrastructure, AP reported. Murphy's flagship, the "USS LaSalle," had stopped at the Georgian port of Poti, bringing with it medical supplies and other forms of humanitarian assistance. In response to Shevardnadze's comments, Murphy said the visit by "USS LaSalle" to Poti, the first by a U.S. naval vessel to that port, has established a bridge for international cooperation. PG GEORGIAN OPPOSITION SEEKS SHEVARDNADZE'S IMPEACHMENT. Georgian Socialist Party leader Vakhtang Rcheulishvili told Interfax on 10 September that his party and its allies will press for the impeachment of the Georgian president based on the argument that he cannot serve simultaneously as head of the Georgian Citizens Union and chief of state. But Rcheulishvili acknowledged that the parliament's majority will not go along. As a result, Rcheulishvili said that his group will bring the case before the Constitutional Court. The opposition would like to force Shevardnadze to give up his Union leadership in order to reduce that group's chances in local elections scheduled for 15 November. PG SUSPECTS FORMALLY CHARGED IN UN MURDERS IN TAJIKISTAN. The Tajik Prosecutor-General's Office has filed formal charges against three men suspected of killing four UN employees in central Tajikistan in late July, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 September. According to the office's chief investigator, Sharif Kurbanov, the three will tried on charges of terrorism. BP KYRGYZ OFFICIAL CLARIFIES STATEMENT. Kyrgyz Deputy Foreign Minister Alibek Jekshenkulov said on 10 September that he has been misquoted by Russia's ITAR- TASS news agency, both Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. ITAR-TASS on 9 September had quoted Jekshenkulov as saying his country "did not exclude" recognizing the Afghanistan's Taliban movement as the legitimate government of that country. Jekshenkulov said that he had commented that the "question is a complex one and demanded consultations with our partners, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Russia." Jekshenkulov also said that Kyrgyzstan has received confirmation from representatives of the Taliban and the coalition opposing it that they will attend an international conference on Afghanistan in the Kyrgyz capital. He added that the conference will be the first in a series of such meetings in various countries. BP KYRGYZ PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTY DRAFTS BILL ON REFERENDA. Kyrgyz parliamentary member and leader of the Ata-Meken Party Omurbek Tekebaev told RFE/RL correspondents on 10 September he has prepared a draft law on referenda. Tekebaev said that according to the draft, a national referendum could not be held until the parliament has approved holding it first. He added that all details of the referendum, such as the exact date, would have to be announced at least one month before the vote. President Askar Akayev on 2 September announced that a referendum on amendments to the constitution would be held in "mid- October." He also called for a public debate on his proposals, but the parliament was informed neither about the proposed amendments nor the referendum itself before the president's announcement. To date, Akayev has not signed a decree on holding the vote. BP END NOTE THE PROMOTION OF PRIMAKOV by Paul Goble Boris Yeltsin's decision to nominate Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov as his prime minister is already sending shockwaves through Russia, Russia's neighbors, and the international community. But while this appointment may give the crisis- ridden Russian regime some room for maneuver, it is unlikely in itself to resolve the underlying problems now confronting the Russian Federation. By turning away from the obviously unpopular and apparently unconfirmable Viktor Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin has once again shown that he maneuvers best precisely when he is under the most intense political pressure. But if Yeltsin's decision to promote Primakov was somewhat unexpected, it nonetheless reflects three aspects of Yeltsin's general political style. First, the Russian president again has taken what many are certain to call a dramatic step only after he had denied that he would do it. Second, he has selected someone who may be able to recoup some of Russia's lost authority and influence in the West, a clear signal that Yeltsin still hopes to gain more Western aid even as he advances someone popular with many Russian nationalists at home. And third, Yeltsin has chosen someone with little experience in those areas--economics and domestic affairs--that a Russian prime minister is supposed to direct. This last fact makes it likely that Primakov will face fewer obstacles to being confirmed. After all, Duma factions, ranging from the communists to the reformers, are likely to believe they will be able to convince Primakov to advance their agendas. But precisely for that reason, Primakov's appointment may not affect the ways in which Moscow now conducts business. To the extent that proves the case, Primakov's appointment ultimately may not matter as much as some hope and others fear. The most obvious consequences of Primakov's appointment are likely to be in Moscow and the Russian Federation. Russian politicians of various stripes are already viewing Primakov's appointment as a victory for them or at least as a concession by Yeltsin to the growing power of the parliament. Moreover, his appointment is likely to attract new candidates for the race to succeed Yeltsin both because Primakov is not an obvious successor and because parliamentary deputies and governors undoubtedly feel themselves more important players in Russian politics than they did only a few weeks ago. And ordinary Russians are certain to welcome the appointment of Primakov, a man known for his toughness and staunch defense of Russian national interests. But even if these developments give Primakov a certain honeymoon in Moscow, they will not do anything to address Russia's economic collapse or the growing political disorder across the country as a whole. To address those problems, Primakov must not only craft a new set of policies but also reinvent the Russian government. Doing one or the other would be difficult for anyone. But having to do both at the same time almost certainly means that Primakov 's approach is likely to be an amalgam of various views, a pattern that has gotten Russia into trouble in the past and may get Primakov into trouble quicker than many expect. If the exact direction Primakov is likely to take domestically remains unclear, his approach to Russia's neighbors and to the West is certainly far clearer. Although Primakov has been foreign minister at a time when Russian power has declined in the former Soviet republics, he has been a forceful advocate of the view that Moscow must remain the dominant player in these countries. To the extent that he is able, he is certain to continue to advocate a tough approach to the neighbors. But Russia's weakness and Moscow's need to attract Western assistance may combine to force him to moderate his past approach. Perhaps Primakov's greatest role in the future will be one that he has already starred in: stoutly defending Russian national interests even while befriending Western leaders. Over his long career in the Middle East, as a Moscow think-tank head and as foreign minister, Primakov has pushed for a very forward Russian policy, one designed to take advantage of any Western weakness. Not surprisingly, many of his speeches and articles in the past have been openly anti-Western and anti- American. But despite this trend, Primakov has been remarkably successful in winning the friendship of Western leaders and gaining their confidence. Primakov's very public ties with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright are only the most recent example. And such attachments have allowed Primakov to obtain more assistance from the West than his views would seem to justify. Both he and Yeltsin clearly hope that Primakov will once again be able to work his magic, especially given the recent acknowledgment by Russian officials that they had lied about conditions there in order to gain Western aid. No Western leader wants Russia to fail. And consequently, the West is likely to respond more positively to a charm offensive by Primakov than it would have to any steps by a restored but rather dour Chernomyrdin. But unless Primakov can turn things around in Russia, an apparently Herculean task, he and his patron are likely to discover that Primakov's ability to woo Western leaders may not matter nearly as much as either man hopes. 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. 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