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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 191, Part I, 2 October 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 191, Part I, 2 October 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 SEEKS DISTANCE FROM DRAFT PLAN * CHECHEN PRESIDENT DISMISSES ENTIRE CABINET * NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN YEREVAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA PRIMAKOV SEEKS DISTANCE FROM DRAFT PLAN... The release of details of First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov's draft economic program triggered a flurry of clarifications and denials by Russian government officials. Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov stressed that no single program as yet exists, adding that six are currently under discussion. He explained that now "we are talking about a system of measures that will establish the starting principles for the government's future economic program." One of the most controversial elements of Maslyukov's plan proved to be the proposed ban on the buying and selling of hard currency by individuals. However, Primakov said talk of monopolizing the influx of foreign currency into Russia is "sheer nonsense." The Central Bank's press office, according to "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 2 October, also dismissed the idea of banning the dollar as "nonsense." On the other hand, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov seemed to embrace the idea, telling Interfax that "not a single country in the world permits the simultaneous circulation of two currencies." JAC ...WHILE ZADORNOV MOUNTS BATTLE. "Kommersant-Daily" on 2 October reported that Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov strenuously objected to the program during a presidium meeting the previous day. Without mentioning how it obtained such a detailed account of the proceedings, the newspaper said that Zadornov critiqued the program paragraph by paragraph. "Moscow Times" quoted Western economists who said that parts of the plan if implemented might not be disastrous. It quoted economist Ralph Sueppel of JP Morgan saying, "These measures do everything possible to push up hard currency reserves, which is what the government needs to do to avoid complete default. The danger may come if in a few months the situation stabilizes and everyone thinks these measures are good. There is nothing in the plan saying that they are temporary." JAC MORE DETAILS OF DRAFT PROGRAM EMERGE. Maslyukov's proposed program would severely diminish the power of the Central Bank by transferring some of its powers to a committee for coordinating monetary and credit policies of state financial bodies. According to Interfax on 1 October, the committee would be made up of representatives from the Central Bank, Federal Securities Commission, Sberbank, Vnesheconombank, and the Ministries of Finance and Economy. The plan would also slash the number of commercial banks in the country by raising the minimum capital requirement to 20 million ECU ($17 million). Under the program, only a few entities would be allowed to conduct transactions with hard currency. Exporters would have to go through a laborious process of obtaining and presenting letters of credit--not dissimilar to the system that existed in the Soviet economy. Both importers and exporters of raw materials would have to qualify under a government tender simply to do business. JAC CHECHEN PRESIDENT DISMISSES ENTIRE CABINET. Aslan Maskhadov, who assumed the functions of prime minister in July following the resignation of acting Premier Shamil Basaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1998), dismissed the entire cabinet on 1 October, together with the heads of all republican agencies and organizations. He also abolished the posts of first deputy prime minister but introduced eight deputy prime ministerial posts. Three of those deputy premiers will have responsibility for the Ministries of Economics, Oil, and Construction, all of which Maskhadov severely criticized, according to Interfax. Maskhadov said the old cabinet will continue in office until he reveals the composition of its successor, adding that 15-20 percent of ministers will retain their posts. LF RUSSIAN-IRANIAN TALKS. Russian Deputy Foreign Ministry Georgii Mamedov met in Moscow on 1 October with Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Safari to discuss international and regional cooperation and nuclear non-proliferation, Russian agencies reported. The previous day, the Duma faction of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Duma faction had called on the Duma to adopt a statement calling increased cooperation with Iran, Interfax reported. Zhirinovsky was a member of the Duma delegation that, headed by speaker Gennadii Seleznev, visited Tehran in late September. During that visit, Zhirinovsky held private meetings with the Iranian security minister and other senior officials. Also on 1 October, Caucasus Press reported that a senior Iranian naval commander had told Iranian media that Iran intends to increase its military presence in the Caspian. LF PRESIDIUM LINEUP FINALIZED. "Rossiiskaya gazeta" published a full list of the members of the presidium of the Russian government on 2 October. Included are the prime minister, the two first deputy prime ministers, and the ministers for interior, defense, foreign affairs, economy, finance, and state property. Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Bulgak, Gennadii Kulik, and Valentina Matvienko are also members. Eight governors have been tapped to participate. These are leaders of inter-regional associations, such as Nikolai Merkushin (Greater Volga), Eduard Rossel (Urals), Viktor Ishaev (Far East and Trans-Baikal), Vladimir Chub (North Caucasus), Vladimir Yakovlev (Northwest), Viktor Kress (Siberian Accord), Anatolii Lisitsin (Central Russia), and Yegor Stroev (Black Earth). JAC MORE FALLOUT FROM ROSSEL MEETING. The White House press service quickly disputed Sverdlovsk governor Rossel's claim on 1 October that President Boris Yeltsin had agreed to his suggestion that the dollar be banned and a ruble backed by government reserves of precious metals be introduced. Nonetheless, the report continues to garner attention. On 2 October, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" wrote that the White House denials are not convincing, in part because "three days before devaluation Boris Yeltsin stated that there will be no devaluation." Another reason for skepticism, according to the newspaper, is that the government's draft economic program calls for the restricting of the free circulation of the dollar. "Kommersant-Daily," on the other hand, argued that Rossel's idea was unlikely to win support in part because it would require that the ruble printing presses be locked away in order to be successful. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives financial support from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, while sources for funding of "Kommersant-Daily" are unknown. JAC RUSSIA CONTINUES VERBAL PRESSURE ON IMF. Prime Minister Primakov appeared to suggest that the IMF would have to take the blame for any actions his government might take if the next $4.3 billion tranche from the IMF is not forthcoming. Without the IMF's help, he said, the government "would have to take unpopular measures." In an interview with "Vremya MN," Mikhail Kasyanov, deputy minister of finance, said that Russia has "no grounds at all to raise the question [of the next tranche]." He added that "the government is only starting to consider its program. By 12 October, the date of the IMF delegation's arrival in Moscow, we will have to complete the document to submit to them." IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus told reporters that "what is needed is a government with a clear strategy for going ahead and we don't see it yet." JAC U.S. OFFERS ASYLUM TO KALMYKS. The U.S. has granted refugee status to seven "victims of political repression" from the Republic of Kalmykia, the "Moscow Times" reported on 2 October. Three adults were either friends or associates of Larisa Yudina, the editor of "Sovietskaya Kalmykia," an opposition newspaper, who was killed in what widely believed to be retaliation for her investigations into corruption in the republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June and 26 August 1998). Because of their association with Yudina, they had received death threats, while one was beaten and another confined to a psychiatric hospital. They fled with their children to Moscow, where they were denied the status of "forced migrants" by both the Federal Migration Service and the Moscow migration service. JAC ARMY WAGES IN THE PIPELINE. After a small delay, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that it has finally received two- months worth of soldiers' back wages. According to the Ministry's press spokesman, the troops themselves will receive the money in "a matter of one or two days." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" concluded on 1 October that despite the slowness with which both military and civilian personnel have been paid, only "the Russian army's worker and employees" will participate in the general strike on 7 October. "Officers will not be able to have their say because career servicemen are not allowed to take part in political actions," the newspaper added. JAC LUZHKOV TO START NEW CENTER-LEFT PARTY. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told reporters on 1 October that Russia is ready for a center-left democratic party. At the same time, Luzhkov denied claims made by former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin that he has formed an election alliance with the Communists. He added that his approach to "major political and economic questions was similar to that of the Communist Party." In particular, he explained that private property that doesn't work should be nationalized and if state property is ineffectively managed then it should be privatized. "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Luzhkov supported the election to the Duma of former Federal Frontier Service head Andrei Nikolaev, and in return for the favor, Nikolaev created the Union of People's Power and Labor, which has formed key alliances with other movements. Last week Nikolaev signed an agreement of cooperation with Zyuganov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 1998). JAC DUMA FORCED TO ECONOMIZE? Reuters on 2 October reported that State Duma members abandoned their plan to sue Finance Minister Zadornov after he reassured them money owed them would be forthcoming. According to Interfax on 1 October, the Finance Ministry owes 203.4 million rubles ($12 million) to the Duma, while the Duma itself has unpaid bills totaling 149 million rubles. The Moskva Hotel, where many deputies live during parliamentary sessions, has threatened to evict the legislators for their growing tab. The Duma's heating system has reportedly been cut off, while deputies have been denied transport and printing services. Duma head of staff Nikolai Troshkin told reporters that the Duma does not have a single sheet of paper and cannot duplicate deputies statements any more. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN YEREVAN. Javier Solana arrived in Yerevan from Baku on 1 October on the last leg of a Transcaucasian tour that he said is aimed at deepening the Alliance's "good relations" with the three countries of the region, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Following talks with Prime Minister Armen Darpinian on regional initiatives, Solana said there is "space for further cooperation" between NATO and Armenia, which Darpinian said has a "very serious future." Solana said he does not consider Armenia's close military cooperation with Russia an obstacle to relations with NATO. General Mikael Harutyunian, Armenian army chief of staff, said that his talks with Solana will focus on Armenia's involvement in the Partnership for Peace program and on future cooperation, including training of officers and joint military exercises. A senior Armenian Foreign Ministry official told RFE/RL on 30 September that Yerevan will not seek NATO membership in the foreseeable future. LF ARMENIA, GEORGIA AT ODDS OVER GAS TRANSIT. Georgia has rejected an Armenian demand for compensation for the cost of building a gas pipeline from Russia via Georgia to Armenia during the early 1990s, Caucasus Press reported on 1 October. David Eliashvili, head of the Georgian company Transgazprom, termed the Armenian claims groundless, pointing out that Yerevan is in arrears in paying transit fees. In December 1997, Armenia and Russia created a joint venture to manage supplies of Russian natural gas to Armenia. Under a subsequent agreement signed in July 1998, that joint venture assumed ownership of Armenia's natural gas infrastructure. LF RUSSIAN PRESS BLAMES U.S. BODY FOR AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION TACTICS. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 September lays the blame for the ongoing confrontation between the Azerbaijani opposition and authorities over the upcoming presidential poll on the National Democratic Institute. The daily claims that the institute openly backs the opposition, which embarked on "mass acts directed against the president" only in August after the NDI proposed postponing the presidential poll until a later date. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which is financed by Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, termed the NDI's activities a violation of all the laws of international ethics and interference in the internal affairs of a foreign state. It suggested that the U.S. wants the poll to be flawed by procedural violations on the assumption that a compromised and weak Aliev would be more susceptible to U.S. pressure. LF GEORGIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS IN JEOPARDY? As of 1 October, the Georgian Finance Ministry had transferred to the Central Electoral Commission only 100,000 lari ($74,000) of the estimated 1.53 million lari needed to finance the 15 November municipal elections, Caucasus Press reported. The ministry's budget has been sequestered, and the Central Bank has failed to transfer funds to the ministry because of its debts to the state. Also on 1 October, Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze and Prosecutor-General Djamlet Babilashvili assured the Georgian parliament that they will take all necessary measures to prevent any interference by the "power" bodies in the voting. LF GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS TO HOLD CONGRESS IN ADJARIA. Parliamentary deputy Boris Kakubava has reached agreement with Adjar Supreme Council chairman Aslan Abashidze on convening a congress of Georgian displaced persons who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war in Batumi, Caucasus Press reported. Representatives of the displaced persons were prevented from holding that congress in Tbilisi in late September as originally planned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 28 September 1998). LF TWO AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS BEATEN. Two sisters on the staff of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," Esmira and Ilhama Namiqqizi, were attacked and beaten at a Baku metro station on the evening of 30 September, ANS-press reported on 2 October. Rauf Arifoglu, editor of "Yeni Musavat," told journalists that the newspaper had received "numerous" threatening telephone calls in recent weeks. On 29 September, Esmira Namiqqizi had published an article criticizing several officers of the Interior Ministry's Anti-Gangster and Anti- Terrorism Department. LF TAJIKISTAN DENIES AIDING ANTI-TALIBAN OPPOSITION. Presidential press spokesman Zafar Saidov has denied allegations by an Afghan Taliban leader that Tajikistan provided an airbus to transport Iranian- and Russian-supplied arms to anti-Taliban rebels on Afghan territory, Reuters reported on 2 October. In a radio broadcast the previous day, a Taliban leader had claimed that a pilot who recently defected to the Taliban forces said he had flown a planeload of ammunition from southern Tajikistan to Bagram, north of Kabul, for delivery to opposition commander Ahmed Shah Massoud. LF TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION ISSUE ULTIMATUM TO WARLORDS. In a joint statement released on 1 October, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri issued an ultimatum to rebel field commanders to surrender their arms within one week, Reuters and Interfax reported. According to the ultimatum, any maverick groups that fail to comply will be forcibly neutralized. The document is directed primarily against the military formations commanded by Said Mukhtor Yurov and Rafshan Gafurov, which operate east of Dushanbe. Also on 1 October, ITAR-TASS reported that the contact group of ambassadors of states that are guarantors of the 1997 General Peace Agreement have issued a statement welcoming the agreement reached between the Tajik leadership and opposition on the resumption of cooperation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 1998). LF TURKMENISTAN, UKRAINE FAIL TO SETTLE GAS DEBTS. Talks between President Saparmurat Niyazov and Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Anatoliy Holubchenko in Ashgabat have failed to yield an agreement on how Kyiv should pay its estimated $704 million debt for Turkmen gas supplied in 1996-1997, Interfax reported on 1 October. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma had proposed that Kyiv would supply commodities to cover part of that debt. Nor was agreement reached on several proposed bilateral construction projects, including a bridge across the Amu-Darya River in eastern Turkmenistan and the reconstruction of compressor stations. 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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