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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 187, Part I, 28 September 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 187, Part I, 28 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 Note to readers: We regret that owing to staffing problems, this issue of "RFE/RL Newsline" covers developments in the Transcaucasus and Central Asia only until 16:00 CET on 26 September. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * SHOKHIN, VASILIEV RESIGN * NEXT IMF TRANCHE FACES LONG DELAY * POLITICAL CRISIS IN TAJIKISTAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA SHOKHIN, VASILIEV RESIGN. No sooner than some cabinet spots were filled on 25 September than new vacancies emerged. Angry that Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov was reappointed, Aleksandr Shokhin and Dmitrii Vasiliev both resigned from their respective posts as deputy prime minister with responsibility for finance and head of the Federal Securities Commission. In 1994, Shokhin also resigned from government over the appointment of another finance minister, Vladimir Panskov, although Shokhin more recently touted Panskov as a possible replacement for Zadornov. Shokhin told NTV that Zadornov's appointment means that Yevgenii Primakov's government is "prepared to inherit the decisions taken by the previous cabinet and Central Bank," which he considered a "political mistake." Both Prime Minister Primakov and State Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev condemned Shokhin's resignation after less than 10 days in office as "capricious" and irresponsible, given the country's acute crisis. JAC SHOKHIN'S DEPARTURE MAY MEAN FEDOROV STAYS. "Moscow Times" reported on 26 September that in addition to being former first deputy minister of economics, newly appointed Minister of the Economy Andrei Shapovalyants was a former top official at Gosplan. He has served in the Ministry of Economy in every government since 1991. New Minister of Science and Technology Mikhail Kirpichnikov is a biologist by training and has also served as an official either in one of the ministries or in the government's apparatus since 1991. Several cabinet slots still lack confirmed ministers, such as the Ministries for Anti-Monopoly Policy, State Property, Health, Agriculture, and Labor. "Kommersant-Daily" speculated on 26 September that Shokhin's departure from the government may boost acting head of Federal Tax Service Boris Fedorov's chances of being reappointed. The newspaper hinted that Fedorov's reappointment would ensure fireworks between Fedorov and First Deputy Prime Minster Yurii Maslyukov and Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko. JAC NEXT IMF TRANCHE FACES LONG DELAY. Despite entreaties from then deputy prime minister Shokhin to conclude an agreement, IMF officials on 25 September offered only to return again to continue talks on 12 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1998). The fund also issued a statement that "the economic situation in Russia is critical and must be resolutely addressed" and that the fund will consider the timing and size of new disbursement only when a program has been agreed upon. According to Interfax, Alexei Mozhin, IMF executive director for Russia said that fund and Russian officials will reach an agreement on budget and monetary targets toward the end of October. Shokhin was more pessimistic, telling Interfax after he resigned that it will be very difficult for Russia to obtain its next disbursement from the fund before the end of 1998 or maybe even during next year. JAC ARMY BATTLES ITSELF. In response to a recent rash of violent incidents with Russian soldiers killing other soldiers, "Trud" reported on 25 September that the army has drafted resolutions requiring commanders to respect psychologists' recommendations regarding specific servicemen and assigning a military psychologist to advise draft commissions. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that crimes in the armed forces for the first eight months of 1998 alone are up 12 percent compared with the total number of crimes registered for the whole of 1997. At the head of the list is the Strategic Missile Troops followed by the Navy. As a consequence of the deterioration of discipline among troops, the newspaper concluded that the Russian army is "not battleworthy, with the exception of the fully-staffed elite units." According to "Segodnya" on 24 September, this fall's draft will still take place but will number 30,000 less than the previous year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1998). JAC VOTERS TO TRY AGAIN IN VLADIVOSTOK... ITAR-TASS reported on 28 September that although more than the required percentage of eligible voters cast their ballots in the mayoral election in Vladivostok, the election is likely to be declared invalid because half of the voters voted against all candidates. Polls suggested that about 50 percent of the electorate had planned to vote for incumbent Mayor Viktor Cherepkov, who had been barred from running at the last minute. A local court had barred him from running again because he used state money to finance his election campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 1998). Reuters reported that by election day, some polling stations had crossed Cherepkov's name from the ballot, while others had not. A city election official said a date for new mayoral elections will be announced shortly. JAC ...AND NIZHNII NOVGOROD. Meanwhile in Nizhnii Novgorod, ITAR- TASS reported on 28 September that none of the 10 candidates won more than half of the vote in mayoral elections. A second round has been scheduled for 11 October and will include Yurii Lebedev, former presidential representative to the city, Dmitrii Bednyakov, former mayor of Nizhnii Novgorod, and Vladimir Semago, Duma deputy and former member of the Communist Party. According to preliminary data, Lebedev lead other candidates with 33.5 percent of the vote, compared with 25 percent for Bednyakov and 22 percent for Semago. JAC ABDULATIPOV OUTLINES PRIORITIES. Ramazan Abdulatipov, who was appointed minister for nationalities on 25 September, told ITAR-TASS the same day that ethnic factors lie behind only 10 percent of the conflicts in the North Caucasus while the remainder result from political and economic rivalries. He said that Russia's nationalities policy should not juxtapose Russians and other ethnic groups but "provide equally for all the nations of the Russian Federation." He advocated adopting a formal convention outlawing ethnic discrimination. Abdulatipov told Interfax his ministry will focus specifically on nationality issues. adding that for that reason his jurisdiction does not extend to relations with Chechnya. Discussing what he termed the "very difficult" situation in his native Dagestan, he warned that "the practice of selecting regional leaders based on their loyalty to Moscow is wrong." LF CADRE SHAKE-UP AT FOREIGN MINISTRY? Interfax reported on 25 September that upper-level staff of the Russian Foreign Ministry will soon be reshuffled. Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov will likely be reassigned to Washington, while Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Yulii Vorontsov may be replaced, according to Vladimir Lukin, head of the Duma's Committee on Foreign Relations. Another deputy foreign minister, Nikolai Afanasyevskii, is expected to replace Russia's current ambassador to France, Yurii Ryzhkov. On 24 September, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met with his fellow foreign ministers from G-7 countries in New York and reaffirmed that Russia will continue to pursue economic reforms and honor its foreign debts. JAC ZHIRINOVSKY TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky reaffirmed his intention to run for president in the 2000 elections. He said "voters will have to choose between himself and [Moscow Mayor Yurii] Luzhkov." He added that Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed is "a dictator" and pointed out that only 7 percent of the population supports former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, while leader of the Communist Party Gennadii Zyuganov will "not be allowed to take power." Meanwhile, Galina Starovoitova, leader of the Democratic Russia Party, declared her intention to run for the governor's seat of Leningrad Oblast, according to "Kommersant Daily" on 25 September. Earlier, Zhirinovsky declared his intention to run for that office, and Starovoitova said keeping Zhirinovsky from gaining office has compelled her to run (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 1998). JAC LUZHKOV, NEMTSOV CONDEMN REGIONAL SEPARATISM. Both Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov have voiced their concerns about the possible disintegration of the Russian Federation and suggested possible remedies, according to Interfax on 25 September. Luzhkov urged federal authorities to create a unified tax system and to subsidize selected regions so that living standards for state workers, pensioners and the poor are the same throughout the country. Earlier, Luzhkov had proposed that the number of regions be reduced through consolidation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 1998). Nemtsov suggested that "a movement of locally-elected councils might reunite the nation." He added that governors who close their borders and refuse to remit taxes should be "brought to trial for violating the Russian Constitution and Criminal Code." JAC CHESS TOURNAMENT OPENS IN KALMYKIA. An international chess tournament began on 26 September in the republic of Kalmykia. Human rights activists had urged players to boycott the games because of Kalymkian President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's alleged abuses of human rights and diversion of federal monies earmarked for agricultural and industrial programs to fund the chess tournament in what Ilyumzhinov promised would be high style. "Kommersant-Daily" disclosed on 16 September that when Ilyumzhinov had difficulty raising money to finish preparations for the Chess Tournament, Moscow Mayor Luzhkov sent his wife's brother, who happens to be a construction firm executive, to finish the project. In return for the favor, Luzhkov will reportedly receive shares in two oil projects. JAC NEWSPAPER WANTS YELTSIN EXAMINED. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 September ran an article by an "expert psychiatrist" and chairman of the board of the political Human Rights Party suggesting that President Boris Yeltsin may be displaying some first signs of a particular kind of Alzheimer's disease. The author proposed that the Constitutional Court call for a comprehensive psychiatric examination to determine the Yeltsin's fitness for office. He also claimed that the president's pauses during conversations are "psychopathological in nature" and occur because "he cannot immediately follow a shift in conversation." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives financial backing from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA POLITICAL CRISIS IN TAJIKISTAN. Meeting on 25 September, leading representatives of the United Tajik Opposition announced they are suspending their participation in the government and their cooperation with the National Reconciliation Commission pending the arrest of the killers of prominent opposition figure Otakhon Latifi, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Latifi was shot dead leaving his home in Dushanbe on 22 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 1998). An opposition statement released on 26 September accused unnamed members of the Tajik government of crimes ranging from murder to drug-trafficking. Also on 26 September, President Imomali Rakhmonov met with opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri in a bid to prevent the peace process from collapsing, ITAR-TASS reported. LF KYRGYZSTAN'S ACCESSION TO WTO POSTPONED. Kyrgyzstan's acceptance into membership of the World Trade Organization, which was scheduled to take place at a meeting in Geneva on 24 September, has been postponed until next month, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported citing an unnamed Ministry of Trade official. Kyrgyzstan will still, however, be the first former Soviet republic to join the WTO. "Vremya-MN" on 24 September observed that in joining the WTO Kyrgyzstan is violating one of the fundamental principles of the five-nation CIS Customs Union, of which it is also a member. In Baku, Elcin Nadirov, head of the Ministry of Trade secretariat, said that a decision on Azerbaijan's entry into the WTO will be made in late 1999, Caucasus Press reported on 26 September. LF ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS CHALLENGE TO PRESIDENT. The Armenian Constitutional Court on 26 September declined to rule that President Robert Kocharian's failure to convene an emergency parliament session violates the constitution, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Parliamentary deputies had demanded an emergency session in June to debate the sale of the Yerevan cognac factory to France's Pernod-Ricard group for $30 million, arguing that the price was too low. The Armenian Constitution rules that the president must comply with such a request, but it does not specify the time frame within which he must do so. Seventy-one deputies had appealed earlier this month to the Constitutional Court to censure Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 September 1998). But court chairman Gagik Harutunian said on 26 September that "the court has no authority...to resolve constitutional disputes between various branches of government." LF ARMENIAN PRESIDENT BLAMES AZERBAIJAN FOR PEACE TALKS DEADLOCK. Addressing the UN General Assembly on 25 September, Robert Kocharian blamed the deadlock in the Karabakh peace process on Azerbaijan's refusal to engage in direct talks with representatives of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian again called for a settlement to the conflict that would preclude Karabakh's subordination to Baku and provide it with international guarantees of its future status and a land corridor linking the enclave with Armenia. Kocharian also said that Turkey and Azerbaijan constitute a "serious obstacle" to Armenia's integration into the world economy and its participation in regional economic initiatives. In Baku, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov told journalists on 25 September that Armenia is trying to prolong the peace process indefinitely, rather than achieve a settlement, according to Reuters. Armenian presidential foreign policy adviser Aram Sarkisian rejected that charge, accusing Azerbaijan of violating the confidentiality of the peace talks. LF AZERBAIJAN EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER ARMENIAN-RUSSIAN MANEUVERS. Azerbaijani presidential adviser Vafa Gulu-zade said on 25 September that Russian-Armenian maneuvers that began the previous day "cause on the whole legitimate concern" insofar as they "enhance the military capacity of Armenia, with which Azerbaijan is practically at war," ITAR-TASS reported. Gulu- zade also expressed concern that Russia, which is one of the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group attempting to mediate a settlement of the Karabakh conflict, has become what he termed "a military ally" of Armenia. But Armenian Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian and Lieutenant-General Vladimir Andreev, who headed the Russian contingent participating in the maneuvers, told Interfax on 25 September that such apprehensions are unfounded, given that the exercises do not have "any hidden intent." LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT REJECTS TALKS WITH OPPOSITION. Meeting with voters in Baku on 24 September, Heidar Aliev rejected a proposal to postpone the presidential poll scheduled for 11 October, according to RFE/RL correspondents in the Azerbaijani capital. The proposal was signed by 10 leading members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Elections and Electoral Reform, including those opposition candidates who have declared their intention to boycott the poll. LF GEORGIAN MINISTER OF STATE VISITS YEREVAN. Vazha Lortkipanidze and his Armenian counterpart, Armen Darpinian, signed several economic agreements on 26 September following two days of talks in Yerevan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Darpinian told journalists that those talks signal the beginning of "a new phase" in bilateral relations. One of the accords calls for the protection of property rights of Georgian and Armenian citizens engaged in business activities in the other country. The two premiers also reached an agreement on dealing with mutual debts between Armenian and Georgian enterprises. But they expressed dissatisfaction with the current volume of bilateral trade, which totaled a mere $16 million in the first eight months of this year. They also underscored the importance of joint participation in regional initiatives such as the TRACECA transport corridor. LF DISPLACED PERSONS AGAIN PREVENTED FROM CONVENING CONGRESS. The Georgian fugitives from Abkhazia who were barred by police from holding a congress in the Philharmonic building in Tbilisi on 23 September finally managed to convene that meeting on other premises two days later, Caucasus Press reported on 25 September. But the gathering was halted after 15 minutes when the electricity supply to the building failed. Congress organizer Boris Kakubava again demanded that the displaced persons be permitted to convene in the Philharmonic building, pointing out that they had paid in advance for use of that building. LF GEORGIAN COMMUNIST PARTY REFUSED REGISTRATION FOR LOCAL ELECTIONS. Retired General Panteleimon Giorgadze, chairman of the United Georgian Communist Party, told Interfax on 25 September that his party has been refused permission to contend the 15 November local elections. He said the Central Electoral Commission informed him that a political party that calls for the reinstatement of the USSR does not have the right to participate in those elections. Giorgadze said he will appeal the commission's ruling in the Constitutional Court. LF EPIDEMIC IN EASTERN KAZAKHSTAN. Some 228 inhabitants of the town of Zyriyanovsk, including 90 children, have been hospitalized with an as yet undiagnosed intestinal infection, RFE/RL correspondents in the region reported on 25 September. Experts from the Kazakh State Committee on Extraordinary Situations and State Sanitary Control Agency are investigating the outbreak. 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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