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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 184, Part I, 23 September 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 184, Part I, 23 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 REARRANGES GOVERNMENT * INDUSTRIAL LOBBY GAINS STRENGTH * UN PERSONNEL ATTACKED, INJURED IN ABKHAZIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN REARRANGES GOVERNMENT. In his 22 September decree, President Boris Yeltsin abolished three ministries, three state committees, and two federal services and created five new ministries, five new state committees, and two federal services. That results in a net gain of two new ministries and two new state committees. The new ministry for Anti-Trust Policies and Support of Entrepreneurship will handle the work of several old committees and federal services, including the now defunct State Anti-Monopoly Committee. Yeltsin divided the old Ministry for Regional and Ethnic Policy into two separate ministries: the Ministry for Regional Affairs and Ministry for Ethnic Policy. He also restored the Ministry for CIS Affairs (abolished at the last CIS summit, in April) and created a Ministry of Trade, eliminating the old Ministry of Industry and Trade. The new state committees will deal with land, youth affairs, fishing, construction, and standardization and metrology. And in a move likely to undermine the independence of the Central Bank and Academy of Sciences, Yeltsin made their chairmen cabinet-level officials. JAC INDUSTRIAL, AGRICULTURAL LOBBY GAINS STRENGTH. "Kommersant- Daily" on 22 September reported that representatives of Russia's military-industrial complex have gained influence in the Kremlin at the expense of the "oil and gas lobby" and the "oligarchs." The newspaper cited Primakov's recent appearance at a meeting of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, where Primakov was presented with a proposal for the government to provide "targeted loans for high-tech exports." It concluded that the interests of the agriculture sector will also be well represented by Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik. A member of the Agrarian faction, Kulik "intends to lobby for maintaining agricultural output prices at the same level as manufacturing." JAC ZYUGANOV-LUZHKOV ALLIANCE EMERGING? "Kommersant-Daily" on 22 September pointed out the sudden show of public warmth between Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and concluded that the pair have formed an alliance of convenience to promote their mutual interests in the State Duma. However, the partnership may last only until presidential elections in 2000, when both men are likely to run for president. Zyuganov told reporters on 19 September that Luzhkov had "adopted a stance in favor of strengthening order in the country" during the crisis. According to the newspaper, Luzhkov on 21 September "stated unambiguously that he really is headed in the same direction as the Communists: 'It is not a question of a chance situation occurring but of a consolidation for the sake of implementing the important principles that we serve.'" JAC FIGHTER PLANES TURNED INTO PLOWSHARES? Despite one of the worst harvests in the last three decades, acting Minister of Food and Agriculture Viktor Semenov told Interfax on 22 September that Russia will not import large quantities of grain. He said grain imports will not exceed 3 million tons. Semenov, however, does not rule out barter. The same day, Interfax reported that Russia has offered Hungary between five and eight MiG-29s in exchange for wheat. JAC RUSSIAN AUDITOR MISQUOTED... Audit Chamber Deputy Chairman Yurii Boldyrev told Ekho Moskvy on 22 September that his agency has discovered that the Central Bank violated regulations governing the financial institution, such as not financing its expenses out of its profits. In addition, Boldyrev claims that the bank spent large sums of money intended for public purposes on "various centers and funds," which, in turn, paid their employees wages of $3000 to $15,000 a month and negotiated "preposterous contracts" for consulting services. Meanwhile, according to "Trud," Veniamin Sokolov, chief auditor of the Audit Chamber, said his recent interview with BBC was mistranslated and that he did not in fact claim that the Central Bank had made inappropriate use of the IMF credit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 1998). JAC ...AND WORLD BANK MISUNDERSTOOD? The Audit Chamber released its report on the Russian government's use of World Bank loans on 22 September. The chamber claimed, according to Interfax, that the Russian government used $1.4 billion extended to the government by the World Bank for economic restructuring projects to finance federal spending and servicing the foreign debt. The report concluded that "as a result, the target economic indices were not reached--the budget deficit has not decreased and GDP has not increased-- which were the main goals of the loans." However, the "Moscow Times" of 23 September cited an economist familiar with the bank's work as saying that the Audit Chamber misunderstood the conditions of the bank's structural loans. The Finance Ministry had discretion to use the Bank monies as it wished and the so-called "target economic indices" are conditions of IMF credits not World Bank loans, according to the economist. JAC GERASHCHENKO INSTALLS ANOTHER ALLY AT BANK. On 23 September, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Central Bank chairman Viktor Gerashchenko has appointed Oleg Mozhaiskov, an associate from his first tenure at the Central Bank during the Soviet era, as deputy chairman. Mozhaiskov was deputy board chairman of the International Moscow Bank, which Gerashchenko previously headed. JAC PURER VODKA MAY MEAN STRONGER GOVERNMENT. Contradicting an earlier statement by his spokesman, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov said that a state monopoly on tobacco and alcohol will be introduced and the money used for pensioners and low-income families, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 1998). Tax inspectors in St. Petersburg told ITAR-TASS that tougher control over alcohol production and trade added 82 million rubles ($5 million) to excise duties in the first half of 1998. Russian Television reported that Prime Minister Primakov signed a resolution for the formation of a working commission for the implementation of a state monopoly on alcohol as well as tobacco. In his book "A History of Vodka" (London: Verso, 1992), Russian historian William Pokhlebkin argued that over centuries, a direct correlation existed between tight state control over vodka production and a strong central authority in Moscow. JAC NEMTSOV LANDS NEW JOB. On 22 September, President Yeltsin appointed former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov to the post of deputy chairman of the Local Self-Government Council, which works with mayors of cities and towns. Nemtsov explained he will work without pay because he wants to say and do what he "deems necessary, regardless of bureaucratic interests," according to ITAR-TASS. The next day, "Komsomolskaya pravda" speculated that former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko has his eye on the post of president of Transneft, which is currently occupied by Kirienko's old colleague from Nizhnii Novgorod, Dmitrii Savelev. JAC RUSSIAN UNEMPLOYMENT INCREASING. Russia's financial crisis is already impacting on the labor market, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 22 September. The newspaper predicts that between 500,000 and 1 million people across the country will lose their jobs. The number of people applying to Moscow employment services has grown by 30 percent, compared with September 1997. The demand for specialists in Moscow has fallen by 30-40 percent, and some 30,000 vacancies have been cut. Most job openings in Moscow are for manual labor or junior medical personnel, and 40 percent of those jobs pay no more than 900 rubles. The newspaper predicts that over the next few months, the number of registered unemployed in Moscow may rise to 55,000, while the total number of unemployed could be two or three times higher. LF COMMUNISTS OUT OF TOUCH WITH WORKERS. According to a resolution passed by the Communist Party's recent Central Committee Plenum and published in "Sovetskaya Rossiya" on 22 September, labor protests are growing but the Communist Party does not have firm control over the movement. The resolution cites a '"fivefold increase" in the number of striking enterprises since the beginning of 1998 but notes that many Communist Party raion and city organizations have "little influence" on local labor collectives. Also included in the resolution is the Central Committee decree that the council of the Communist Party's Duma faction should set up public tribunals throughout the Russian Federation "to bring charges against Boris Yeltsin for the acts he has committed against the people." JAC GUMILEV PUBLISHED IN FULL. "Noviye izvestiya" reported on 22 September that the complete works of Russian poet Nikolai Gumilev will be published in Russia for the first time. Accused of participating in an anti-Soviet conspiracy, Gumilev was killed by a firing squad in 1921. JAC PROTEST MARCH UNDER WAY IN DAGESTAN. Some 500 supporters of Magomed Khachilaev, the head of the Kazi Kumukh organization representing Dagestan's ethnic Lak minority, have begun a march on the capital, Makhachkala, to demand his release, AP reported on 22 September. Magomed Khachilaev was arrested on 9 September in connection with his participation in the 21 May storming of the Dagestan government building. The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has issued an arrest warrant for Khachilaev's younger brother, Nadirshakh, in connection with that incident. In an interview published in "Kommersant- Daily" on 22 September, Nadirshakh Khachilaev claimed that the 18 September vote by the Russian State Duma to strip him of his deputy's immunity was falsified. Duma deputy speaker Mikhail Gutseriev told "Moskovskie novosti" that he believes the charges against the Khachilaev brothers are politically motivated rather than part of a crackdown on crime, as the Dagestani leadership has claimed. LF KARACHAEVO-CHERKESS PARLIAMENT PASSES ELECTION LAW. The parliament of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia enacted legislation on 22 September providing for the direct election of the head of that republic, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. A new session of the People's Assembly will be convened to set the date for the poll. The current republican head, Vladimir Khubiev, was appointed by Russian President Yeltsin in 1995. Thousands of demonstrators had gathered in the republican capital, Cherkessk, last week to demand the passage of the election law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 1998). The chairman of the Inter-National Council of the Peoples of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Boris Batchaev, told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that his organization will appeal to President Yeltsin to impose presidential rule in the republic during the runup to the elections. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA UN PERSONNEL ATTACKED, INJURED IN ABKHAZIA. Gunmen opened fire on a minibus carrying members of the UN observer force in the Abkhaz capital, Sukhumi, late on 21 September. Four UN servicemen were injured, three of whom were evacuated to Turkey for hospital treatment. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba condemned the shooting, which he blamed on Georgia, as intended to destabilize the region. He also imposed a night-time curfew throughout Abkhazia, according to ITAR- TASS. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the attack, which it said "once again proves the need for resolute action on the part of the Georgian and Abkhaz authorities to normalize the situation." While both UN personnel and Russian peacekeepers have been attacked in the vicinity of the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, this is the first attack on UN personnel in Sukhumi, which, located some 50 km from the border, is outside the normal sphere of operation of Georgian guerrilla organizations. LF ABKHAZ PREMIER IN TBILISI. Sergei Bagapsh was in Tbilisi on 22 September to attend a session of the Coordinating Commission created last November under UN auspices to deal with Abkhaz economic issues, Caucasus Press reported. Bagapsh told journalists before leaving Sukhumi that the talks will focus on resuming rail transport between Georgia and Abkhazia, natural gas supplies, and repairs to the Inguri hydroelectric power station, according to ITAR-TASS. Bagapsh also held separate talks with Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze and with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who expressed his willingness to travel to Sukhumi for direct talks with Ardzinba. Ardzinba had proposed such a meeting in a letter to Shevardnadze. In the same letter, he also expressed concern about reports that Tbilisi is preparing new terrorist acts in Abkhazia's Gali Raion on 30 September. LF ADJAR LEADER ON DJAVAKHK. Speaking on Adjar Television, Supreme Council chairman Aslan Abashidze said he has held talks with representatives of Djavakhk, the organization that is lobbying for autonomy for several predominantly Armenian- populated districts in southwestern Georgia, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 23 September. Abashidze said the Armenians have proposed that the districts be subsumed into neighboring Adjaria, which has autonomous status within Georgia. Abashidze said that he does not consider that proposal "separatist." Caucasus Press on 7 September had quoted Abashidze as denying having invited Djavakhk's leaders to Adjaria or being aligned with them. LF DETAINED AZERBAIJANI DEMONSTRATORS RELEASED. Following a meeting on 22 September between Azerbaijani Prosecutor- General Eldar Huseinov and members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Elections and Electoral Reform, the Azerbaijani authorities released 28 of the 63 people detained during the 12 September clashes between police and demonstrators in Baku. The criminal charges against those released remain in place, however. Former Premier Panah Huseinov, one of those released, confirmed opposition claims that some of the detainees had been tortured, but he denied that he personally had been beaten, according to Turan. LF FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER'S AIDE RELEASED. Akezhan Kazhegeldin's aide, Mikhail Vasilienko, who was detained in Astana by Kazakh security officials on 18 September, has been released after being tried and sentenced on charges of hooliganism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 1998), RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 23 September. Vasilienko had planned to submit to the Kazakh leadership four volumes of proposals drafted by the Businessmen's Association on amending the country's electoral legislation and constitution. LF KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT TO DISCUSS REFERENDUM. Parliamentary speaker Abdygany Erkebayev told journalists in Bishkek on 22 September that lawmakers plan to debate the proposed referendum on changes in the parliament's structure and powers at the fall session, which begins on 29 September, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Erkebayev said he learned of the planned referendum from the media and that neither President Askar Akayev, who announced the referendum on 1 September, nor any member of the presidential staff has discussed with him the implications of the proposed changes. Those changes would increase the number of deputies in the Legislative Assembly from 35 to 67, of whom 15 are to be elected on party lists. The number of seats in the People's Assembly would be cut from 70 to 38. In addition, the conditions under which deputies can be granted immunity from prosecution will be limited. LF UN CONDEMNS TAJIK MURDER. The UN mission in Tajikistan on 22 September issued a statement deploring the murder earlier that day of prominent oppositionist Otakhon Latifi and calling upon both the Tajik government and the opposition to abide by their commitment to the peace process, Interfax reported. Both the government and opposition have condemned the killing as "a stab in the back" to the peace process and as intended to create the impression of instability in the country. The Aga Khan, who is currently visiting Dushanbe, expressed his condolences to United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri. The two men discussed programs aimed at improving the economic situation in the country and the ongoing repatriation of Tajik refugees from Afghanistan, according to ITAR-TASS. LF RETURN OF TAJIK OPPOSITION FIGHTERS HALTED. The repatriation from Afghanistan to Tajikistan of the last contingent of Tajik opposition fighters, which began on 21 September, was suspended almost immediately, Russian agencies reported. Some 150-200 men, together with 50 or so refugees, are believed to comprise that contingent. Interfax reported that a 20 kg bomb was found on the barge that was to transport the returnees across the Pyandj River, which marks the border between the two countries. LF UZBEK DEFENSE MINISTER WARNS OF AFGHAN THREAT. Echoing alarmist statements by President Islam Karimov, Khikmatulla Tursunov on 22 September characterized Afghanistan as a center of international terrorism, religious extremism, and worldwide drug-trafficking. Developments in that country, he said, threaten "to spiral out of control" and threaten neighboring states. Therefore, Tursunov continued, Uzbekistan must take effective measures to increase its defense capacity and safeguard its national security. Tursunov was speaking at the opening of the Centrazbat-98 international military maneuvers at a military base near Tashkent. A total of 1,443 military personnel from the U.S., Russia, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan will take part in those maneuvers within the framework of the NATO Partnership for Peace program. LF WORLD BANK TO CONTRIBUTE TO UZBEK HEALTH, ENVIRONMENT PROJECTS. The World Bank has approved a $30 million loan to Uzbekistan to fund improvements in the country's health service, dpa reported on 22 September. The Uzbek government will provide the remaining funding for the project, which focuses on Fergana, Navoi, and Syr-Darya Oblasts. Meeting in Tashkent on 21 September with President Karimov, World Bank Vice President Johannes Linn discussed the bank's contribution to programs to reverse the shrinking of the Aral Sea. The World Bank provided $11 million toward that program earlier this year. LF 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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