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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 189, Part I, 30 September 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 189, Part I, 30 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 APPEALS FOR REGIONAL UNITY * NEW TAX CHIEF APPOINTED * SOLANA IN TBILISI xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA PRIMAKOV APPEALS FOR REGIONAL UNITY. Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov on 29 September called on governors from Russia's 89 regions to put an end to their "fiefdom mentality" and mobilize local resources within the context of a national, coordinated effort. Primakov promised to continue his consultations with regional leaders, pointing out that he has invited many of them into the government. But he suggested that the central government expects these gestures to be reciprocated by local authorities. Primakov backed up his general appeal for unity with the implicit threat of retaliation against rebellious leaders. He said that the national government is drafting legislation setting out procedures for firing elected governors who abuse their power. According to "Izvestiya," Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov said the law will be ready by the end of the week and will suppress attempts by some regions to violate the constitution. JAC GOVERNORS REACT WITH OBEDIENCE, SKEPTICISM... The reactions of the governors was--not surprisingly--as varied as their numbers. According to NTV, Sverdlovsk Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov is drawing up his own initiative on "how governors should be subordinate to the federal government." St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev said that he doubts whether a law to remove elected officials will really be passed but said that criminal proceedings against regional leaders for non-payment of taxes is appropriate. President of Ingushetia Ruslan Aushev also thought legislation on removing governors will "lead to nothing." Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel, who earlier agreed to become a member of the government's presidium, stressed that only legal means should be used to dismiss a governor, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC ...AND RESENTMENT. "Trud" reported on 30 September that Primakov's efforts to include governors in the government may have had the unintended effect of alienating those governors who were left out. According to the newspaper, some local leaders believe including some governors in the government may "only amount to certain regional leaders gaining access to ruling powers and lobbying the interests of their regions." On the issue of consolidating regions into a smaller number, Ryazan Governor Vyacheslav Lubimov said that regional associations in Russia historically tend "to lack vitality." He drew an analogy with the practice of merging collective farms during the Soviet era. Lubimov also revealed that agriculture in his region receives more financial support from Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's government than from the federal government and that therefore Ryazan would be unlikely to stop supplying foodstuffs to the capital. "Trud" is financed by Gazprom. JAC NEW TAX CHIEF APPOINTED. Duma deputy Georgii Boos was appointed head of the Federal Tax Service, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 September. In the Duma, Boos was a member of the Our Home is Russia faction and the Budget Committee. According to "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 30 September, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov said that the government collected more taxes in September than in August. Zadornov's claim contradicts an earlier report by the Federal Tax Service that tax revenues had dropped. Zadornov added that large taxpayers, such as Gazprom, still have not paid all the taxes they owe. He reported that in September Gazprom paid nothing, while oil companies paid less than 10 percent of their total debt. JAC COMMUNISTS, TRADE UNIONS FORM ALLIANCE? "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 September that top Communist Party officials finally agreed to cede leadership of the national day of protest on 7 October to the Federation of Independent Trade Unions. The Communists also agreed to follow the union's wishes on a number of other issues, including support for a law raising the official minimum wage. The newspaper concluded that only time will tell whether Russia has witnessed the formation of a "mighty new opposition alliance." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives financial backing from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. On 30 September, Communist Party activists, members of some trade unions, as well as scientists and teachers are planning to hold a protest action and block several major highways to Moscow for one hour beginning at mid-day, local time. The protesters are demanding the resignation of President Boris Yeltsin. JAC DUBININ AT CENTER OF NEW SCANDAL. Despite having resigned on 7 September, former Central Bank chairman Sergei Dubinin is still finding himself a target of critical press coverage. Investigative journalist Yurii Shchekochikhin, writing in "Novaya gazeta" on 29 September, reported that Dubinin's annual salary as bank chair was equal to $240,000 at last year's exchange rate--"equivalent to the budget for five prominent Moscow high schools or 12 villages." According to "Moscow Times," such a wage is only half of what the governor of the Bank of England earns but is almost twice what US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan earns. Perhaps more troubling than Dubinin's high salary, a banking analyst pointed out, is the information that bank deputies accepted seats on the boards of commercial banks, which the Central Bank in theory regulates. "Novaya gazeta" is reportedly financed by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most group, while the "Moscow Times" is owned by Independent Media, a company controlled by Menatep. JAC RUSSIA TO SEND NEW AMBASSADORS TO FRANCE, U.S. In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 September, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov confirmed earlier press speculation that Russian ambassador to the U.S. Yulii Vorontsov is to be replaced. He disclosed that Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Uzhakov is preparing to become Russia's ambassador to the U.S., while another deputy foreign minister, Nikolai Afanasyevskii, will become the new ambassador to France (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 1998). JAC SCHROEDER TO VISIT MOSCOW. After telephoning outgoing German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on 29 September, Russian President Yeltsin called Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schroeder to congratulate him on his victory and invite him to Moscow. According to ITAR-TASS, the summit will take place "shortly." "Noviye izvestiya" concluded on 29 September that while a hardening of the German position on Russia's repayment of its debts is to be expected, "Bonn's fundamental line in Russia will remain the same." German businesses have heavily invested in Russia. JAC MOSCOW TARGETS RELIGIOUS GROUP. Moscow has become the latest locality to try to take advantage of a 1997 law on freedom of conscience and religious organization. According to Reuters on 29 September, Moscow's prosecutors have accused Jehovah's Witnesses of violating the Russian Constitution with their missionary activities and are seeking to ban them. Evangelical Christians in Magadan and a Lutheran group in Khakassia have complained of similar efforts to circumscribe their activities. ITAR-TASS reported that the Prosecutor- General's Office launched the proceedings following a complaint from a group that seeks to unite people whose relatives have been drawn into totalitarian sects. The Russian agency cited an earlier case in which the father of a minor was stripped of his parental rights for trying to involve his son in activities of the Jehovah's Witnesses against his former wife's wishes. JAC LUZHKOV TO RUN AS NEW LABOUR CANDIDATE? In an interview with Reuters on 29 September, Moscow Mayor Luzhkov hinted that he might run for president in Russia's elections in 2000. He said, "If I see that the only [candidates] with a change of getting elected are those who are not capable of leading the country sensibly and correctly, then I will enter the race." Currently on a trip to England, Luzhkov also said that he found the philosophy of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's New Labour party appealing. He said, "It's organizing the economy on market principles--it's capitalism but with a very serious system of social support for the people. The Moscow city government is following these principles, perhaps in a rather primitive way. Our slogan is: working like capitalists, sharing like socialists." The following day, ITAR-TASS cited members of Luzkhov's delegation in England as saying that media reports that Luzhkov will run for president are "premature." JAC CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS CALL ON PRESIDENT TO RESIGN. Addressing a congress of some 5,000 fighters who took part in the 1994-1996 Chechen war, maverick field commander Salman Raduev accused President Aslan Maskhadov of "grave crimes against the Chechen people," Russian agencies reported. Delegates to the congress, which opened in Grozny on 29 September, adopted a resolution castigating Maskhadov for his alleged inability to govern the republic. They accused him of violating the constitution and thereby bringing Chechnya to the verge of civil war. And they also called upon the Chechen parliament and Constitutional Court to take appropriate legal action against the president. First deputy parliamentary speaker Selim Beshaev told Interfax that the parliament will set up a commission to investigate the congress's accusations against Maskhadov, which he described as groundless. Beshaev argued that it is the congress that has violated the constitution by calling for the overthrow of the leadership. LF ANOTHER RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVE ABDUCTED IN CHECHNYA. Akmal Saitanov, head of the socio-economic department of the Russian government mission in Chechnya, was abducted in Grozny on 29 September while on his way to attend the field commanders' congress, Interfax reported on 30 September, quoting Georgii Kurin, the Russian government's envoy to Chechnya. Kurin said he believed the motive of the kidnapping was to extort a ransom, but he added that "whether we like it or not, this crime is also aimed against Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov." LF RYBKIN CRITICIZES KIRIENKO GOVERNMENT'S APPROACH TO CIS. Russian Presidential Envoy to the CIS Ivan Rybkin told Interfax on 29 September that the Kirienko government's "neglect" of the CIS undermined bilateral cooperation between Russia and other CIS states. Rybkin noted that Kirienko had named the Russian co-chairmen to the various CIS commissions for bilateral cooperation among the commonwealth states only days before he was fired in August. Rybkin added that he has asked Prime Minister Primakov to relieve him of his duties as a member of the presidium of the CIS Inter-State Economic Committee and has proposed First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov as his successor in that post. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA SOLANA IN TBILISI. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze held talks in Tbilisi on 29 September on the Abkhaz conflict and on Georgia's participation in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Solana pledged that the current crisis in Russia will not adversely impact on NATO's plans for cooperation with Moscow. Speaking on Georgian Television shortly before Solana's arrival, Georgia's ambassador to the Benelux countries, Zurab Abashidze, said that it is premature to speak of Georgia's possible admission to the alliance, as state-building in that country has not yet reached the required level. Russia's opposition to NATO membership for the former Soviet republics would also have to be taken into consideration, Abashidze said. LF GEORGIA TO CUT POWER SUPPLIES TO DEBTOR DISTRICTS. As of 1 October, supplies of electricity to Samtredia, Borjomi, Chiatura, and other cities will be cut because of the population's failure to pay outstanding bills, Caucasus Press reported on 29 September. Supplies to Tbilisi will be considerably reduced. Those measures should benefit other districts, especilly since Armenia resumed regular supplies of electricity to Georgia on 25 September. Armenian Energy Minister Gagik Martirosian told reporters that those supplies are part of a "long-term agreement" between the Armenian and Georgian governments. "This winter Georgia will have no energy shortages," he said. LF ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CONDEMNS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING. In a statement released on 29 September, the Hanrapetutyun faction, which is the second-largest in the parliament, condemned the Constitutional Court's 26 September ruling. The court had said it has "no authority" to rule in the dispute over whether President Robert Kocharian violated the law when he failed to meet a demand by parliament deputies to convene an emergency debate on the controversial privatization of the Yerevan cognac factory, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The statement charged that the ruling is itself a violation of the law and a "retreat" from democracy. Also on 29 September, the Hayrenik deputies' group demanded that Kocharian "apologize to the people" for his actions. It also called on him to renounce "pressure" on the Constitutional Court and to appoint a new prime minister from the opposition. LF AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER AT UN. Addressing the UN General Assembly on 29 September, Tofiq Zulfugarov said that a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the key issue of his nation's foreign policy, according to an RFE/RL correspondent. Zulfugarov repeated that Azerbaijan is willing to give the enclave a high level of autonomy within the Azerbaijani state. But he added that a just and lasting settlement cannot be achieved by what he termed Armenian military pressure on Azerbaijan. Interfax on 29 September quoted the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry as claiming that two Armenian intelligence operatives were killed the previous day when a reconnaissance group up to 20-strong tried to infiltrate Azerbaijani army positions east of Nagorno- Karabakh. LF KAZAKH EX-PREMIER MOVES TO PROTECT BUSINESSMEN'S UNION. Speaking at a press conference in Almaty on 29 September, Akezhan Kazhegeldin announced that he will step down as president of the Kazakh Businessmen's Union in the hope of precluding difficulties in renewing the union's registration, which is due next week, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Kazhegeldin, who founded the union, told Interfax in June he intended to transform it into a political party. Kazhegeldin is widely regarded as a possible challenger to incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the presidential poll in 2000, although he has not formally announced his candidacy. Kazhegeldin's press secretary, Amirjan Qosanov, was badly beaten in August, and his aide Mikhail Vasilenko was arrested and detained for several days earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 23 September 1998). LF KAZAKH NEWSPAPER PROTESTS CLOSURE. The editorial staff of the Russian-language newspaper "21-iy vek" have appealed to the Almaty City Court to overturn a ruling by the Almaty City Juridical Board closing down the publication, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported on 30 September. The newspaper's premises were bombed and burned out on 26 September. LF KYRGYZ PRESIDENT PLEDGES NOT TO DISSOLVE PARLIAMENT. In his annual budget message to both chambers of the Kyrgyz parliament on 29 September, President Askar Akaev told deputies that as the country is currently at a "difficult stage" in the process of implementing political and economic reforms, all branches of power should consolidate, according to Interfax. Therefore, Akaev reasoned, the next parliamentary elections should take place only in 2000, as prescribed by law. Explaining the rationale for the introduction of private land ownership, which much of the population opposes, Akaev said that farmers should feel themselves masters of the land they cultivate. Opposition parliamentary deputies picketed the session, demanding that the referendum on private land ownership and other constitutional changes, which is scheduled for mid-October, be canceled. LF TAJIKISTAN DENIES HOLDING TALIBAN PRISONERS. The Tajik Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 29 September denying Pakistani media reports that some 90 Taliban fighters taken prisoner by General Ahmed Shah Massood have been transferred from Afghanistan to the Tajik city of Kulyab, Russian agencies reported. Also on 29 September, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin expressed satisfaction at the United Tajik Opposition's decision to resume cooperation with the Tajik government and National Reconciliation Commission, according to ITAR-TASS. LF TURKMENISTAN TO PURSUE "PERMANENT NEUTRALITY." Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov told the UN General Assembly on 29 September that Ashgabat intends to pursue a policy of "permanent neutrality," seeking to maintain equal and equitable relations with all countries through economic cooperation and political impartiality, according to an RFE/RL correspondent. Such a policy, Shikhmuradov continued, will allow Turkmenistan to exert an active influence on regional developments. Shikhmuradov also called for a peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict and a "dialogue of civilizations" between the U.S. and Iran. 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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