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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 193, Part I, 6 October 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 193, Part I, 6 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 * YELTSIN CONTACTS WORLD LEADERS OVER KOSOVA * GOVERNMENT PROMISES PEACEFUL 7 OCTOBER PROTEST * KAZAKH DEPUTIES WANT EARLY PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS End Note: THE LATVIAN CHALLENGE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN CONTACTS WORLD LEADERS OVER KOSOVA... Russian President Boris Yeltsin completed a round of telephone calls to world leaders on 5 October, trying to reinforce Russia's diplomatic position in the Balkans and forestall NATO air strikes. He contacted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, German Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schroeder, U.S. President Bill Clinton, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Yeltsin stressed the importance of Belgrade's decision to invite an OSCE delegation to Kosova. Ekho Moskvy on 5 October quoted a Yugoslav embassy official in Moscow as saying Russian citizens from all over Russia are volunteering to help Serbia fight NATO. On 4 October, Patriarch Aleksii II of Moscow and All Russia, who met with the archbishop of Tirana in Moscow the same day, strongly rejected NATO bombing plans, saying that "any military interference in the region may have irreversible consequences. JAC ...AS LEBED, DUMA CONDEMN NATO. Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed and State Duma leaders have characterized possible NATO strikes in Yugoslavia as irresponsibly aggressive and incendiary. On 6 October, Lebed warned that the U.S. would get its "own Chechnya" if NATO launched an air strike against Yugoslavia. According to Interfax on 5 October, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that NATO's readiness to launch air strikes demonstrates more a "relapse of trigger-happiness" than a "recurrence of cold-war thinking." Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich of Our Home is Russia accused NATO officials of wanting to test their weaponry in Yugoslavia, saying that the "military industrial complex of NATO member nations "is the worst horror in the world" because the mounting tension around Kosova was engineered in its interests. Yabloko's Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Duma's Committee for International Affairs, declared that "Russia will resolutely resist NATO's plans to strike Serbia." JAC GOVERNMENT PROMISES PEACEFUL 7 OCTOBER PROTEST... As the national day of protest nears, the Russian government says it is prepared for all eventualities. Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin said that he will not allow the nation's railways and highways to be blocked and will respond "with the necessary measures" should attempts be made to destabilize the country, according to "Rossiyskaya gazeta" on 6 October. NTV reported on 4 October that 11,000 policemen and 4,000 interior troops will ensure order on Moscow streets. Interfax reported the next day that Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov plans to meet with leaders of prominent political organization on 5 and 6 October to confer with them about their plans. According to the Independent Union of Post Office Employees, the work of post offices and telegraph and telephone services will not be affected. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev reported that the Duma will convene as usual on 7 October. JAC ...AS ARMY EXPERIENCES JITTERS? "Segodnya" reported on 3 October that not only interior troops but Defense Ministry units, such as the Kantemirov and Taman divisions, have been ordered to be in a state of readiness. However, the newspaper added that Russian servicemen are not enthusiastic about the prospect of "street fighting." The previous day, "Segodnya" speculated that rumors circulating about the possible replacement of Defense Minister Igor Sergeev suggested that the presidential administration wants an "experienced warrior in the defense minister's seat at such a critical time"--one who, according to the newspaper, would be willing to shed blood, such as General Anatolii Kvashnin, who is chief of the General Staff and fought in Chechnya. "Segodnya" is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most Group. JAC SOME REGIONS POISED FOR UNREST. "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 6 October that local Communist Party organizations--contrary to the express wishes of their national leadership--plan to incite violence on 7 October. The newspaper reported that local Communists in Kursk are already angry that Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi has not allowed them to celebrate "red holidays" such as 7 November, while their counterparts in Rostov believe that the head of the regional administration, Viktor Chub, was illegally elected. According to "EWI's Russian Regional Report," some 5,000 employees of Atommash in Rostov unanimously decided that they will demonstrate on the plant's main square. It also reported that the Russian Communist Workers Party, which operates independently of the more mainstream Communist Party, plans to stage pickets near the entrances of several Perm enterprises. JAC FSB STRESSES REGIONAL CONTROL. President Yeltsin reorganized the structure of the Federal Security Service (FSB) on 6 October, according to Interfax. The new structure will now consist of a chairman, Vladimir Putin, two first deputies, six deputies who will head departments and two additional deputies who will oversee the Moscow and St. Petersburg divisions. The post of state secretary of the service has been eliminated, and a 17-member board composed of Putin, his deputies, and several top officers will be established. Putin said that the reorganization significantly enhances the status of the security chiefs of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Nikolai Patrushev, who Yeltsin dismissed from the post of deputy chief of staff of the presidential administration, will become deputy chairman and head of the department for economic security. JAC ECONOMIC DECISION-MAKING SHIFTING? After Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's effort to distance himself from the economic program of First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov, Maslyukov is himself trying to disassociate himself from the economic plan that "Kommersant-Daily" and other newspapers attributed to him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 1998). Maslyukov told NTV on 5 October that "only an idiot would suggest" banning the dollar and that the government is not going to nationalize commercial banks. "Moskovskii komsomolets" suggested on 6 October that Maslyukov's public failure has caused the center of where "economic decisions are made" to shift from the White House to the Central Bank. Meanwhile, tax collections dropped 18 percent in September from the previous month's level. New Federal Tax Service chief Georgii Boos pledged that in October, his service would bring tax collections up to at least the August level. JAC PRIMAKOV WOOS MAYORS. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 3 October that mayors of Russian cities were delighted with their audience with Prime Minster Primakov on 2 October at which he publicly instructed the Finance Ministry to "optimize the tax base for all three levels of power." The newspaper quoted Krasnodar Mayor Valerii Samoylenko as saying "the prime minister realizes that we are the foundation of the state and the population is behind us." It concluded that by promising the mayors the independence of their local budgets, Primakov is giving them "a real chance to become a major political force ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections." JAC OIL, GAS LOBBY AGAINST HIGHER TAXES. In an attempt to compensate for their reduced influence under the new Primakov government, Russian oil barons publicized their effort to fight off higher taxes. According to ITAR-TASS on 5 October, the leaders of 13 major Russian oil companies appealed to the government not to increase their taxes, as Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov has suggested. Earlier, Yukos-Moskva head Mikhail Khodorkovskii held his own news conference to protest the government's economic and industrial policy, noting that the result would be a sharp decline in oil production (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 1998). Echoing an earlier remark by Minister of Fuel and Energy Sergei Generalov, Leonid Fedun, LUKoil vice president, told reporters that the oil industry needs breathing space for some four or five months so that it can stabilize and then "pull out the rest of the nation's industry." Meanwhile, Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev has met with First Deputy Prime Minister Maslyukov to discuss his company's proposals for pulling the country out of its crisis. JAC CHECHEN OPPOSITION SEEKS TO REMOVE MASKHADOV PEACEFULLY. Shamil Basaev, a Chechen field commander and leading opposition figure, told an opposition meeting in Grozny on 5 October that his group will seek to remove Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov by peaceful means, ITAR-TASS reported. "We have been fighting enough, and our actions are aimed at ensuring that there is no civil war in Chechnya." He said he hopes that a special state commission will examine the opposition's charges and then present its conclusions to the parliament and Supreme Shariat Court. PG RUSSIANS, CHECHENS PRESS KIDNAPPING INVESTIGATION. Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin said on 5 October that his ministry is participating in the investigation into the kidnapping of three Englishmen and one New Zealander two days earlier, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that such steps are necessary to prevent what he described as "an attempt to drive a wedge" between Moscow and Chechen President Maskhadov. Stepashin's deputy, Vladimir Rushailo. is scheduled to travel to Chechnya to supervise operations. Meanwhile, the Chechen authorities have pledged to do everything possible to save the lives of those kidnapped, the Russian news service said. Some Chechen officials blamed the kidnapping on foreign groups aimed at disgracing Chechnya and destabilizing the republic. PG MURDERED RUSSIAN OFFICIAL WASN'T RECEIVING BENEFITS. Ivan Rybkin, the co-chairman of the Russian-Chechen negotiating commission, told ITAR-TASS on 5 October that the Russian Finance Ministry had stopped all fringe benefits, including hazardous duty pay, for workers of the Russian mission in Chechnya. In the light of the murder of one of its members last week, Rybkin said that he could "not understand the heartless decision of the Finance Ministry and its leader." PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKH DEPUTIES WANT EARLY PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. Meeting with President Nursultan Nazarbayev behind closed doors on 5 October, parliamentary deputies said they want additional amendments to the country's constitution, Interfax and RFE/RL correspondents in Astana reported. The majority of deputies favor bringing forward the presidential elections, scheduled for the year 2000, to next year. They also want to increase the number of years of a president's term in office from five to seven and strike from the constitution the provision limiting a president to two terms in office. The deputies warned that failure to include their proposals will make the passage of the amendments proposed by Nazarbayev "problematic." Some even threatened that impeachment proceedings may be launched. BP KAZAKH DEFENSE MINISTER IN CHINA. Mukhtar Altynbayev met with his Chinese counterpart, Chi Haotian, on 5 October, ITAR-TASS and China's Xinhua news agency reported. Altynbayev assured Chi that Kazakhstan will not allow any separatist group from China to use its territory as a base for operations aimed against the Chinese government. Though he did not specify any particular group, the Kazakh defense minister likely meant the Uyghur population of western China. Uyghur separatists were blamed for terrorist attacks in China in early 1997. Kazakhstan, which borders the region, is home to approximately 250,000 Uyghurs. The ministers met in the capital of the Uyghur Autonomous Region, Urumqi. BP UN NOT READY TO BEGIN FULL OPERATIONS IN TAJIKISTAN. UN special envoy to Tajikistan Jan Kubis said on 5 October that the UN mission to Tajikistan will not resume full operations there until the motives for the killings of four UN employees in late July have been clarified, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Tajik authorities are detaining three people who confessed to the killings but have not made public the detainees' reasons for committing the crime. DUSHANBE CALLS ON UTO TO DISBAND ARMED GROUPS. The Tajik government has called on the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) to disband all its armed units by 25 November. Those units would then be incorporated into the regular Tajik army, which is one of the terms of the Tajik peace accord signed in June 1997. Presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov said the disbandment of the units would be accompanied by the government's lifting of bans on political parties and restrictions on mass media loyal to the UTO. BP TURKMEN PRESIDENT DECLARES AMNESTY. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov signed an amnesty on 5 October freeing from prison women, disabled persons, those suffering from tuberculosis, juveniles, war veterans, and those over 6O, Interfax reported. Prisoners convicted of murder, terrorism, rape, or drug-related crimes are not eligible. Niyazov's decree was timed to coincide with the 6 October anniversary of the earthquake that struck Ashgabat 50 years ago, killing 160,000 people. Niyazov himself was left an orphan after that earthquake. BP ARMENIAN OPPOSITION ATTACKS GOVERNMENT ON PRIVATIZATION. At a special session of the parliament called by 68 of its members, opposition deputies sharply criticized the government for its privatization program, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Deputy Vahagn Khachaturian said the authorities have "discredited the concept of privatization" and do "not serve to be trusted." Meanwhile, Prime Minister Armen Darbinyan said in Washington that the government will press ahead with its privatization program. He ruled out any reversal of deals that have already been signed. PG ARMENIAN PREMIER STRIKES TOUGH LINE ON KARABAKH. Prime Minister Armen Darbinyan told a press briefing at RFE/RL's Washington office on 5 October that Yerevan wants a settlement of the Karabakh conflict but not on anyone else's terms. He said that Armenia believes the people of Nagorno- Karabakh have the right to decide their own future as an independent state or as a part of Armenia, but he rejected any possibility that the region could be part of Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, the results of local elections in the disputed enclave have been finalized, and privatization of land there has begun in earnest, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported 5 October. PG CANDIDATES OPPOSING ALIEV PREDICT A SECOND ROUND. Five of the six candidates who oppose incumbent President Heidar Aliev in the 11 October presidential race said at a press conference on the night of 4 October they believe the election will go into a second round because no one will gain the two-thirds majority necessary to win outright in the first round. National Independence Party leader Etibar Mamedov said that he believes no candidate can win that much without fraud, and he expressed confidence that there will be relatively little cheating because of the strict controls that have been established. PG AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION AGAIN CALLS FOR DELAY IN VOTE. Arguing that the upcoming presidential poll will be "undemocratic, unfree and unfair," the leaders of parties and political groups not participating in the election called on 4 October for a three-month postponement of the vote, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 October. The call came at a conference attended by delegates from 26 parties and 40 public groups. Several leaders said they will stage protests if a delay in the poll is not announced by 7 October. PG BAKU'S ENGLISH-LANGUAGE NEWSPAPER PULLS FIRST ISSUE. The publisher of a new English-language paper in Azerbaijan decided to pull the first issue on 5 October lest its contents annoy the government, Reuters reports. The U.S. publisher of the "Baku Sun," James Phillipoff, said that he made the decision unilaterally after officials at the Azerbaijani Communications Ministry complained about two articles entitled "Aliev Vows to Keep Order" and "Humans Retreat as Azerbaijan's Rat Population Flourishes." PG SHEVARDNADZE SEES NATO HELPING GEORGIA TO JOIN EUROPE. President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 5 October that he believes "Georgia should use relations with NATO not only and not so much for boosting its military potential as for stepped-up integration with European structures," ITAR-TASS reported. His comments follow a visit to Georgia on 29-30 September by NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana. PG END NOTE THE LATVIAN CHALLENGE by Paul Goble By reaffirming their commitment to the inclusion of those who moved into their country while it was under Soviet occupation, the Latvian people have presented a series of new challenges to the Russian Federation, the West, and perhaps especially to themselves. On 3 October, Latvian voters rejected by a vote of 53 percent to 45 percent a referendum that would have repealed an act of the Latvian parliament in June eliminating a number of restrictions on naturalization procedures for non-citizens living in Latvia. Because most of those falling into this category are ethnic Russians who moved into Latvia during Soviet occupation, Moscow, the West, and many ethnic Russians in Latvia itself viewed the removal of these restrictions as a necessary step toward Latvia's establishment of a civil society and its full integration into the international community. And each of these groups took steps to press the Latvian government and people to move in this direction. The Russian government regularly denounced Riga for its past approach to non-citizens, and some in Moscow have taken more direct steps to try to force Latvia to change its direction. Western governments have lobbied the Latvian authorities both directly and through the offices of the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities Max van der Stoel. They have pointed out the risks to Latvia if it failed to meet what they called European standards in this area. And non-citizens in Latvia itself often protested against what they claimed was discrimination against them, although as many Latvians have pointed out only a very small percentage of those eligible in the past actually sought to become citizens of the country. But now that Latvians have rejected the referendum and thus reaffirmed their commitment to the integration of the non-citizens on their territory, this step presents some new challenges to everyone involved. To the Russian government, the Latvian vote removes one of the most neuralgic issues in the relationship between Moscow and Riga. It undercuts the recent diplomatic and press campaign that Russians have launched against the Latvian authorities. And it means that Russian efforts to advance Moscow's influence in Latvia will need to find a new direction. Almost certainly, the volume of Russian attacks against Latvia will decline at least in the short term. After all, the Latvian voters have adopted what many in Moscow said they wanted. While this may mean that Moscow will seek to raise additional issues about the status of non-citizens in Latvia, it could also lead Moscow to refocus its attacks on Estonia, the other Baltic country that Russia has said is mistreating its non-citizens. To the West, the Latvian vote presents an even greater challenge. Western officials made it clear to Latvian leaders that the West would find it difficult to support Latvia if its voters scrapped the modifications in the citizenship legislation. According to Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, these Western representatives had indicated that their governments would have been less willing to back Latvian membership in key Western institutions like the EU and NATO and less willing to defend Latvia against Russian charges of ethnic discrimination. Now that the Latvian voters have done what the Western officials said needed to be done, many in Latvia will be looking to see whether the West will reward Riga for the step it has taken. One indication that at least some in the West are prepared to do so was an announcement by the U.S. State Department on 5 October that Washington was releasing $500,000 to help make the Latvian naturalization process more accessible. Another was the statement by German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel that the vote means that "an important barrier has been lifted on Latvia's road to the European Union." And yet a third was the announcement by Sweden that it will also provide additional help to the Latvian government. But many Latvians are likely to be looking for even more support from the West. Articles in the Latvian press indicate that many in that country believe they have now met standards on citizenship higher than those that exist in many other European countries. And that represents the third and probably greatest challenge arising from this vote--the one to the Latvian people themselves. They now have the obligation to make this system work, to implement in day-to-day life the provisions of the laws they have now approved. That will not be easy, especially given the feelings that this referendum both aroused and reflected. But it is likely to be less difficult in the long term than putting into practice something about which few are saying very much at the moment. That is the acceptance of the principle that building a civil society and returning to the West cannot be achieved by any single action, however noble. Rather, these goals require a process that will make demands on Latvia even as it continues to make the kind of progress that the outcome of this referendum reflects. 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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