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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 200, Part I, 15 October 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 200, Part I, 15 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 * MORE BAD NEWS ON RUSSIA'S FOOD FRONT * YELTSIN HEALTH CRISIS ABATES * DEFEATED AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES CHALLENGE POLL OUTCOME xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA MORE BAD NEWS ON RUSSIA'S FOOD FRONT. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture is forecasting lower output of almost all major farm commodities in 1998, Interfax reported on 15 October. The potato crop will be almost 12 percent smaller than last year and sugar beets 13.7 percent, while milk is expected to be down 3.2 percent; and meat and poultry sales 10.3 percent. As predicted earlier, this year's grain harvest is slated to be one of the worst in three decades, down 56 percent on last year. On 14 October, an official Russian delegation returned from a meeting at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. without making a formal request for food aid, Bloomberg reported. JAC DUMA DEPUTIES TO FORM HUMAN SHIELD. An eight-member delegation of State Duma deputies left for Yugoslavia on 14 October. Sergei Baburin of People's Power faction, who is leading the group, told ITAR-TASS that the legislators would act as a human shield to prevent a NATO air strike. The military newspaper "Krasnaya zvezda" sounded a pessimistic note about the agreement reached between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke: the "probability that NATO will still inflict a limited missile strike...within the next few days or weeks remains great." The newspaper concluded that the fears Russia expressed during the preparation of the Russia-NATO Founding Act are now being confirmed. "The assumption was made even then that NATO was secretly considering the option of unfriendly behavior toward Russia." "Segodnya" quoted a military official and an arms exporter on 14 October as saying arms deliveries to Belgrade can easily be carried out even with the tight monitoring of Serbian territory and airspace by NATO. JAC DUMA FAILS TO INCREASE ITS POWERS. The Duma failed to pass five amendments to the Russian Constitution on 14 October, four of which would have increased its powers at the expense of the executive branch. One amendment, which failed to pass by a narrow margin, would have introduced a permanent mechanism for the parliament to conduct investigations of the executive branch. Two other amendments would have given the Duma the power to dismiss key cabinet officials and the Federation Council more time to ratify laws passed by the Duma. The remaining two changes would have required the president to seek the Duma's consent both for the appointment of certain cabinet level officials and for initiating military action. Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev told reporters that the Duma will establish a working group composed of various factions to draft new versions of the constitutional amendments. JAC YELTSIN HEALTH CRISIS ABATES. The fevered examination of President Boris Yeltsin's health abated on 14 October after Yeltsin himself met with reporters and Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov declared Yeltsin "absolutely fit to work." The same day, the Federation Council rejected a resolution calling for Yeltsin's resignation "voluntarily and immediately." On 15 October, the Constitution Court is considering the issue of whether Yeltsin is now serving his first or second term in office, since Yeltsin was elected president in 1991, when Russia was still part of the Soviet Union. The Russian Constitution was not adopted until 1993. According to the constitution, a president cannot serve for more than two consecutive terms. Yeltsin has said he does not intend to seek office for a third time. JAC CHERNOMYRDIN FACING OUSTER... Samara Governor Konstantin Titov told the "Frankfurter Rundshau" on 14 October that former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin would likely be removed from his post as chairman of the Our Home is Russia (NDR) party at an upcoming executive council meeting. Titov accused Chernomyrdin of betraying both the voters of Yamal-Nenetsk, where Chernomyrdin decided not to run for a Duma seat, and his fellow NDR members by allowing himself to be nominated a second time for prime minister without first seeking NDR council permission. Titov also said Chernomyrdin betrayed the Russian people by failing to act effectively as the economy collapsed. Chernomyrdin told reporters on 8 October that there is no split within the NDR, nor will there be one in the future. JAC ...WHILE LIBERAL PARTIES DEEMED 'UNPREPARED' FOR ELECTIONS. Commenting on all "liberal, social democratic, and centrist parties", "Izvestiya" on 10 October wrote that "reformers are not ready for upcoming Duma elections" either "morally or organizationally." The newspaper argued that earlier, Russia had two potential leaders of a reformist alliance, Chernomyrdin and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. However, Luzhkov has opted for a left alliance, while Chernomyrdin's "position is all too shaky." Meanwhile, neither former presidential envoy to the IMF/World Bank Anatolii Chubais nor former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar "could ever secure the support of the majority of the country" even if "the new government fails and empty shops and coupons result," "Izvestiya" remarked. JAC BREZHNEV NAME TO RETURN TO POLITICAL SPOTLIGHT? Andrei Brezhnev, the grandson of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, has announced his intention to recreate the stable times of his grandfather when there was "a middle class that received 200 rubles a month and had their own apartments and cars." Brezhnev, 37, told reporters on 14 October that his party, the All Russian Communist Movement, advocates the resurrection of "pure communism," drawing on the experience of former Soviet leaders Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, and Brezhnev. The party claims to have 5,000 members in 47 regions in Russia and plans to participate in parliamentary and presidential elections, "Komsomolskaya Pravda" reported on 15 October. According to the "Moscow Times," the grandson of Khrushchev received an offer to launch a new political party but declined to do so. JAC YELTSIN CANCELS PURNEFTEGAZ SALE. Yeltsin has ordered the return of a 38 percent stake of Purneftegaz to its parent company, Rosneft, Interfax reported on 14 October. Purneftegaz had been sold for too low a price, according to the president's directive. Four companies, alleged to be closely affiliated with LUKoil, bought the Purneftegaz shares for $10 million in September, when Rosneft failed to pay back a loan to Mapo bank earlier in the year. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 October that details of the sale had aroused the interest of the office of the prosecutor-general and that it might have been more accurate to value the shares higher, since the entire company is worth some $500 million. JAC PENTECOSTALS IN PERM COME UNDER PRESSURE. Local authorities in the city of Osa, Perm Oblast, are pressuring a Pentecostal congregation to formally register as a religious organization, Keston News Service reported on 14 October. Under a 1997 law on religion, only "religious organizations" must be registered. The congregation considers itself a "religious group" and refuses to seek formal registration as a matter of religious principle. City and religious leaders view the matter differently. Arkhimandrite Veniamin Trepalyuk, for example, told Keston that legal ways to liquidate the "sect" have not yet been found but the local prosecutor-general has promised to resolve the matter. JAC JEWISH OBLAST STRIKES OIL? The oil exploration company Irkutskgeofizika believes it has discovered potential large oil deposits in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 October. A local institute estimates that the unproven reserves amount to at least 100 million tons. According to Aleksandr Kuzin, deputy chief of the region's committee on natural resources, two exploration wells will be drilled later. The International Energy Agency reported that Russian crude oil exports fell 20 percent in September from August partly because Russian oil companies were unable to cover export fees after the collapse of the country's payment system. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA DEFEATED AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES CHALLENGE POLL OUTCOME... Speaking at a news conference in Baku on 14 October, Azerbaijan National Independence Party chairman Etibar Mamedov again rejected incumbent President Heidar Aliev's claims that he was reelected in the 11 October presidential poll with 75 percent of the vote, Reuters reported. Mamedov said that he polled approximately 35 percent of the vote and Aliev received no more than 60 percent, despite massive falsification, thus failing to achieve the required two-thirds majority. Two other defeated candidates, Nizami Suleymanov and Ashraf Mehdiev, also rejected Aliev's claim to have polled two-thirds of the vote, while a fourth, Communist candidate Firidun Hasanov, claimed second place. Suleymanov also disputed the official estimate of turnout at 77 percent, claiming that it does not exceed 50 percent, according to Turan. Only the fifth challenger, Khanguseyn Kazymly, has accepted Aliev's victory claim as valid and characterized the poll as democratic. LF ...AS DOES OPPOSITIONIST BOYCOTTER. Former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev, one of five prominent opposition politicians who boycotted the elections, has condemned the election as undemocratic and the putative outcome as falsified, Turan reported on 14 October. He called on the international community to withdraw its support for Aliev. The five boycotters had issued a statement on 12 October condemning the way the elections were held, according to ANS Press. LF ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. During talks in Moscow on 14 October, Vartan Oskanian and Igor Ivanov stressed the "full convergence" of their respective positions and approaches to the Caucasus region, RFE/RL reported. The two ministers described their continuing adherence to the comprehensive Russian-Armenian treaty signed two years ago as a "firm basis" for "rapidly developing" bilateral ties. They agreed to continue efforts to foster the OSCE's transformation into the major pillar of European security in the 21st century. And they also called for renewed efforts by the OSCE to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, noting the organization's "current role in ensuring regional stability." Meeting with OSCE Secretary-General Gian- Carlo Aragona in Vienna last week, Oskanian again stressed that Armenia is not demanding independent status for Nagorno-Karabakh but expects Baku to demonstrate "flexibility" in the search for a "non- conventional" solution to the conflict, according to Noyan Tapan. LF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY SPEAKER WITHDRAWS RESIGNATION. Albert Bazeyan, one of the leaders of the majority Yerkrapah group within the Armenian parliament, withdrew his resignation on 14 October after the parliament refused to accept it, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Bazeyan had announced his decision to step down on 7 October following an acrimonious debate over opposition demands that the sale of the Yerevan Cognac factory and Armenia's two largest hotels to foreign investors be revoked. During that debate, opposition deputies threatened to demand a vote of no confidence in the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1998). President Robert Kocharian and Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian met with Yerkrapah deputies on 12 October and urged Bazeyan to withdraw his resignation. LF KYRGYZSTAN TO JOIN WTO. The World Trade Organization on 14 October finally voted to invite Kyrgyzstan to join the organization, having agreed on the membership terms, ITAR-TASS and the "Financial Times" reported. Kyrgyzstan will become the first CIS state to be admitted. It must first ratify the accession protocols, under which it must open the country's markets to foreign goods and services. BP KAZHEGELDIN ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY... Former Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin on 14 October officially announced his intention to run for president, ITAR-TASS reported. In a formal statement, obtained by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Kazhegeldin says Kazakhstan needs change and that Nazarbayev and his "pocket parliament" are "oriented only toward maintaining the personal power of the current president." Kazhegeldin said the parliament's 8 October decision to extend the term in office of future presidents from five to seven years is "shameful," promising to overturn the decision if he is elected president. With regard to the assassination attempt against him the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October 1998), Kazhegeldin said that he is not afraid and that under no circumstances will he withdraw his candidacy. BP ...WHILE PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN DENIES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. Kairat Sarybayev said information about an assassination attempt against Kazhegeldin was released to "raise his [Kazhegeldin's] popularity rating," Interfax reported on 14 October. Sarybayev said "the National Security Committee suggests the shots were fired in the air and Kazhegeldin remained unhurt." He commented that "the methods used by certain politicians for boosting their popularity ratings do not seem to have changed." BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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