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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 188, Part I, 29 September 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 188, Part I, 29 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 * CABINET FORMATION INCHES FORWARD * KOHL'S DEFEAT TO MEAN FEWER D-MARKS FOR RUSSIA * TAJIK OPPOSITION TO RESUME COOPERATION WITH GOVERNMENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA CABINET FORMATION INCHES FORWARD... Russian President Boris Yeltsin both emptied and filled a few more cabinet spots on 28 September, reappointing acting Minster for State Property Farit Gazizullin while firing acting head of the Federal Tax Service Boris Fedorov and acting Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko. Reuters reported on 29 September Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov has already introduced State Duma deputy Georgii Boos to tax service workers as their new boss, despite the fact that the White House has made no official announcement. ITAR-TASS reported on 28 September that Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov told reporters that Deputy Governor of Leningrad Oblast Valerii Kirpichnikov will be appointed minister for regional policy. JAC ...AS MINISTERS LOBBY FOR THEIR PALS. "Tribuna" on 29 September characterized the Primakov cabinet as "chaotic" and the formation of an emergency economic program as dangerously delayed. The newspaper concluded that part of the reason why the administration is dysfunctional is because certain cabinet officials, such as Deputy Prime Minister Maslyukov and former Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shokhin, who resigned last week, have been spending most of their time lobbying for jobs for their friends and "torpedoing" positions for their enemies. Maslyukov reportedly tried to get former Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov appointed as the new finance minister. Then he tried to arrange that his favored candidates be appointed to the posts of Rosvooruzheniye head and deputy minister of trade. Shokhin, meanwhile, had Georgii Gabuniya appointed minister of trade and Andrei Shapovalyants minister of economy. "Tribuna" is financed by Gazprom. JAC VASILIEV EXPLAINS RESIGNATION. Former head of the Federal Securities Commission Dmitrii Vasiliev has explained his reasons for offering his resignation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 1998). He told reporters on 28 September that he wanted to draw public attention to errors in the way the Primakov government is handling the country's economic crisis and "making financial and political catastrophe inevitable." According to Vasiliev, the government's biggest mistake is not reversing its decision of 17 August to default on short- term treasury bonds. He also criticized Central Bank policy, saying that the bank has made no effort to distinguish between viable and problem banks. He added that multiple exchange rates will scare away both foreign and domestic investors. "Moscow Times" reported on 29 September that Western traders reacted to news of Vasiliev's departure with sadness and credited him with maintaining a strong defense of shareholders' rights. "Moscow Times" is owned by Independent Media, which is owned by Menatep. JAC NDR TO MOVE INTO OPPOSITION? "Izvestiya" on 29 September predicted that the return of Aleksandr Shokhin to the leadership of Duma faction of Our Home is Russia (NDR) will trigger the party's move into firm opposition to the Primakov government. The newspaper also speculated that former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's plan to run for president in 2000 will "oblige him to drift toward radical criticism of Primakov's cabinet." Otherwise, the newspaper concluded, "the movement will not survive the 1999 parliamentary election and overcome the 5 percent threshold." LUKoil and Oneksimbank are major investors in "Izvestiya." JAC SOLDIERS ALLOTTED BACK PAY. Prime Minister Primakov told President Yeltsin on 28 September that two months' back wages have been paid to servicemen, according to presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushin. The money may have come just in the nick of time. Citing Federal Security Service sources, "Segodnya" reported on 26 September that officers in the 130th Far Eastern Division were prepared to block the TranSiberian railroad with their tanks if their back wages were not paid. "Segodnya" also said that certain troops, such as the OMON, the Special Rapid-Reaction Detachment, and border guards, have already been paid, creating resentment among other servicemen. ."Segodnya" is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most Group. JAC KOHL'S DEFEAT TO MEAN FEWER D-MARKS FOR RUSSIA... Russian analysts told Interfax on 28 September that the victory of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the German election will likely mean less financial support for Russia. Igor Bunin, head of Russia's Political Technology Center explained that the SDP rose to power "without making any commitments to Russia, which will allow it to be more demanding as far as Russia's debt to Germany is concerned." Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Politics Foundation, said that "Russian should not count on getting loans over the phone, as it did during the period of friendship between Yeltsin and [German Chancellor Helmut] Kohl." Communist Party Leader Gennadii Zyuganov hailed the SDP victory but added that the only loans that new German leadership will extend to Russia will be ones tied to specific programs and industries. JAC ...AND LESS WARMTH BETWEEN LEADERS. Both Bunin and "Izvestiya" predicted that a subtle cooling in relations between the two countries will occur. According to "Izvestiya" on 29 September, President Yeltsin made no secret of his support for Kohl during a trip to Bonn in June 1998 and did not adopt a balanced enough approach to the SDP and Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schroeder before the elections, which, according to the newspaper, Schroeder has not forgotten. However, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said that contacts with the SDP were "not interrupted even at a time when German Social Democrats were in the opposition." He added that Yeltsin and Schroeder met on several occasions, including in Bonn during June. JAC LUZHKOV WOULD GAIN FROM CONSOLIDATION. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 September that Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov would gain the most from the current plan under discussion to reduce the number of Russia's regions through consolidation. According to the daily, Russia's 89 regions would be consolidated into 23 provinces, and the mayor of Moscow would head a grouping of the nation's most important economic centers, including the Moscow, Tver, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Ivanovo, Vladimir, Ryazan, Tula, Kaluga, Bryansk and Smolensk Oblasts. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko would also benefit, gaining control over Amur, Sakhalin, and Chita Oblasts, Khabarovsk Krai, as well as the Jewish and Aga Buryat Autonomous Oblasts. The sources of financing for "Kommersant-Daily" are not known. JAC MORE EXPLOSIVE REVELATIONS IN MAYORAL RACE. More campaign "irregularities" have been reported in Vladivostok. ITAR-TASS on 29 September disclosed that the car belonging to campaign manager for one of the mayoral candidates, Vladimir Maksunov, was exploded by a hand-made bomb. Maksunov was not a front- runner, but, according to one of his staffers, other candidates considered him a nuisance for diverting votes that they needed. JAC COMMUNISTS DEMAND MEDIA SHAKE-UP... Communist Party leader Zyuganov on 28 September told reporters that while the Communist Party does not require that state television be "nationalized," it must improve its compliance with the nation's media law. Zyuganov added that his party will continue to push for the establishment of supervisory boards in the mass media. On 26 September, Zyuganov told a press conference that his party will demand that the leadership of All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company be replaced. However, Mikhail Seslavinskii, chairman of the Federal Television and Radio Broadcasting Service, said that he will not allow dismissals for political reasons. JAC ...WHILE FORMER TV HEAD PREDICTS STRUGGLE. In an interview with "Novaya gazeta" on 28 September, Igor Malashenko, the former head of NTV, said that in the last few years, Russian government officials seemed to recognize the media's right to an unprecedented degree of autonomy. But he added that now "we have to start all over again" because people have come into power who continue to observe "habits of the old system." During Prime Minister Primakov's first days in office, reporters complained that their access to administration officials was being severely curtailed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 1998). Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most Group is said to be a financial backer of "Novaya gazeta." JAC RUSSIAN ECONOMY SLIPS TO BOTTOM OF CIS RANKINGS. The CIS Interstate Statistical Committee reported that during the first eight months of the year, the Russian economy performed worse than that of any other CIS nations, according to Interfax on 28 September. From January to August, according to the Committee, Russian GDP fell by 2.1 percent and industrial output slipped 2.6 percent compared with gains in GDP of 0.2 percent in Ukraine and 9.2 percent in Azerbaijan. The committee seems to be relying on the CIS nations' own economic reporting, since GDP in Belarus is recorded as having risen an unbelievable 11 percent, while "economic tiger" Tajikistan registered a 6.5 percent growth in GDP. JAC CHECHEN PRESIDENT DENOUNCES PREDECESSOR. Addressing local administrators, religious leaders, and field commanders in Grozny on 28 September, Aslan Maskhadov accused former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev of promoting Wahhabism in Chechnya, cooperating with the intelligence services of unnamed Middle Eastern countries, and inciting the population of Chechnya to acts of disobedience, ITAR-TASS reported. In July, Yandarbiev had appeared before the Chechen Constitutional Court to offer to swear on the Koran that he played no role in the 23 July assassination attempt against Maskhadov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 1998). Maskhadov also pledged to intensify the struggle against crime and in particular abductions, for which he advocated the death penalty. LF MOSCOW EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR MASKHADOV. Former Russian Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin, who co-chairs the Russian-Chechen negotiating commission, similarly told ITAR- TASS on 28 September that Yandarbiev, together with "extremist Islamic circles" in the Middle East, is backing the three Chechen field commanders who on 23 September demanded that the Chechen parliament launch impeachment proceedings against Maskhadov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 1998). Rybkin described Maskhadov as "the legitimately elected president of Chechnya and the guarantor of stability in the region." He also proposed a meeting between Maskhadov and Russian Prime Minister Primakov. Vladimir Zorin, who chairs the Duma's Committee on Nationality Affairs, told Interfax on 28 September that the stalemate in talks between Moscow and Grozny risks strengthening hardliners in Grozny and further weakening Maskhadov's position. Oleg Sysuev, deputy head of the presidential staff, said that Russia should act more energetically to resolve social problems in Chechnya in order to bolster Maskhadov's position. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK OPPOSITION TO RESUME COOPERATION WITH GOVERNMENT. Agreement was reached on 28 September at a nine-hour meeting between President Imomali Rakhmonov, United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri, and all members of the National Reconciliation Commission representing both camps that the opposition will resume its work in the government and the commission, Russian agencies reported. The opposition had suspended their participation on 26 September pending the arrest of the killers of prominent opposition figure Otakhon Latifi. Rakhmonov and Nuri signed a 10-point program of measures intended to stabilize the situation in the country. Those measures include creating a government-opposition commission to investigate Latifi's murder and expediting the reform of the cabinet that will provide opposition representatives with 30 percent of government posts. LF INDEPENDENT KAZAKH NEWSPAPER PREMISES BOMBED. The offices in Almaty of the independent Russian-language newspaper "21-iy vek" were destroyed on 26 September by two bombs, RFE/RL 's Almaty bureau reported. The newspaper has regularly printed materials criticizing the Kazakh leadership. Recently, publishing houses have refused to print it. Editor Bigeldy Gabdullin told RFE/RL on 29 September that police have sealed off the burned-out premises and refused him and his staff entry. LF KYRGYZ OPPOSITION CALLS FOR CANCELLATION OF PLANNED REFERENDUM. Meeting in Bishkek on 28 September, the leaders of the Communist, Socialist, Agrarian, and Democratic Parties called on President Askar Akaev to cancel next month's planned referendum on proposed constitutional amendments and private land ownership, Interfax reported. They reasoned that given the acute economic situation, Akaev should instead concentrate on social and economic issues. The opposition leaders also appealed to Akaev to dismiss the present government and to halt what they termed the cabinet's persecution and discrediting of parliament deputies. During a roundtable discussion broadcast by an independent Bishkek television station on 26 September, Central Electoral Commission chairman Sultan Imanbaev said that Akaev decided to put the planned changes to a referendum because the parliament would have rejected those amendments curtailing its own powers, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CONVENES MARCH IN BAKU. Azerbaijani opposition supporters marched in Baku on 27 September to demand the postponement of the 11 October presidential poll, Russian agencies reported. Earlier, they had reached a compromise agreement with Baku Mayor Rafael Allakhverdiev over the route of the march. The participants also demanded a meeting with incumbent President Heidar Aliev, parliamentary chairman Murtuz Alesqerov, and Constitutional Court chairman Khanlar Gadjiev to discuss their election-related demands. The organizers estimated the number of marchers at 100,000, while the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry said they numbered only 4,000. Police escorted the marchers but took no action against them. Meeting with voters in Sumgait on 26 September, Aliev accused the opposition of attempting to destabilize the country. He affirmed his readiness to meet with representatives of any political parties, but only if they impose no preconditions for such a meeting, according to Turan. LF AZERBAIJAN DENIES CFE VIOLATIONS. Azerbaijani presidential adviser Vafa Gulu-zade has rejected a statement by Armenian President Robert Kocharian in his 25 September address to the UN General Assembly as "invention," Turan reported on 26 September. Kocharian said that Azerbaijan has exceeded the maximum limit set by the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe in three categories of armaments for land forces. Gulu-zade accused Armenia of violating the treaty and of having acquired from Russia both S-300 and Scud missiles. Gulu-zade also denied that Azerbaijan is setting preconditions for resuming talks on resolving the Karabakh conflict. And he accused Armenia of obstructing such talks by rejecting the principles endorsed at the 1996 OSCE summit in Lisbon. LF KARABAKH HOLDS LOCAL ELECTIONS. No major incidents or violations were reported during the local elections held in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic of 27 September, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. Voter participation exceeded 80 percent in rural areas but was only 51 percent in the capital, where the unrecognized republic's former interior minister, Karen Babayan, polled 87 percent of the vote to defeat his sole rival, Georgi Petrosian of the Dashnak party's (HHD) Karabakh organization. Petrosian's campaign manager had issued a statement on the eve of the poll claiming that Nagorno-Karabakh state television could not be impartial in its coverage of the vote as its chief director is one of Babayan's proxies. The international community has not commented on the outcome of the elections, which Azerbaijan has termed illegal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 1998). LF BOMB EXPLODES IN TBILISI ON EVE OF SOLANA VISIT. A bomb that exploded 100 meters from the Georgian parliament building in Tbilisi during the night of 28-29 September shattered windows in neighboring buildings but injured no one, Caucasus Press reported. It is unclear whether there is any connection between the explosion and the fifth anniversary on 28 September of the fall of the Abkhaz capital, Sukhumi, or the two-day visit to Tbilisi by NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, which begins on 29 September. On 28 September, four more members of the Russian peacekeeping force in Abkhazia were injured when their armored vehicle hit an anti-tank mine in Abkhazia's Gali Raion, Interfax reported. 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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