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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 207, Part I, 26 October 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 207, Part I, 26 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 Russian Media Empires IV Media have closed or merged, advertising is shrinking, and layoffs and salary cuts are widespread as Russian media try to survive the financial crisis that began in August. http://www.rferl.org/nca/special/rumedia4/index.html xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * ANTI-KIDNAPPING OFFICIAL KILLED IN CHECHNYA * FAVORED MISSILE FAILS TEST * ALIEV URGES NATO TO HALT 'MILITARIZATION OF ARMENIA' End Note: PROMOTING FEDERALISM, FIGHTING DISEASE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA ANTI-KIDNAPPING OFFICIAL KILLED IN CHECHNYA... A car bomb killed General Shaid Bargishev on 25 October, only a day after he had said that his anti-kidnapping unit would launch a military sweep against criminal groups there, ITAR-TASS reported. Those groups are currently holding some 40 hostages. On 23 October, Bargishev acknowledged that criminal groups have failed to comply with his demand that they immediately release their hostages. The next day, he and other Chechen officials said they would attack and summarily execute hostage- takers. Following Bargishev's death, President Aslan Maskhadov pledged to crack down on all hostage-takers, Interfax reported. PG ...WHILE CHECHEN MUFTI ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. A bomb exploded 20 meters from the Muftiat building in Grozny on 26 October as Mufti Ahmad Haji Kadyrov's car was approaching, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The mufti's driver was injured, but Kadyrov escaped unharmed. A nearby building was completely destroyed and the mufti's car "burned to ashes," ITAR-TASS reported. Kadyrov blamed the attack on the same people who killed Bargishev the previous day, while an investigator confirmed that the same kind of explosive device was used in the attack on Bargishev as in that on Kadyrov. BP CHECHEN OPPOSITION DEMANDS MASKHADOV'S SUSPENSION. Speaking to a rally in Grozny on 23 October, Chechen opposition leaders Shamil Basaev and Salman Raduev said that the parliament should suspend President Aslan Maskhadov until the Supreme Shariat Court can rule on the charges brought against him, Interfax reported. Basaev said that Maskhadov had signed a decree to disarm Chechnya's paramilitary formations "at the request of the Russian interior minister" arguing that "God gave each of us the right to carry weapons." For his part, Raduev said that anyone in Chechnya who backs Maskhadov now will "be held accountable." He suggested that opposition leaders will seize a Russian city if the Chechen president refuses to face the charges. PG FAVORED MISSILE FAILS TEST. A single-warhead Topol-M missile exploded on 22 October during the first stage of its test launch, "Izvestiya" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported two days later. General Vladimir Yakovlev, head of the strategic rocket forces, said on Russian Public Television that the test was "very difficult" but he did not elaborate. "Izvestiya" concluded that the missile's failure could have a "crucial impact on Russia's defense capability," calling it "Russia's last remaining hope for providing strategic nuclear deterrence against possible aggressors in the first decades of the 21st century." Earlier, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov proposed that Russia concentrate its resources on the construction of 35-45 Topol-M missiles a year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 21 October 1998). In addition, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said that the government would make restructuring of nuclear deterrence forces a priority in future military reform, Russian Television reported on 24 October. JAC ANTI-CRISIS PROGRAMS PROLIFERATE. The State Duma on 23 October adopted its anti-crisis program, which requires the lower house to debate and enact at least 10 pieces of legislation. "Izvestiya" the following day characterized the program as a "terrible mess" that combines the methods of the marketplace and the command economy. According to the newspaper, the program calls for the establishment of state control over prices as well as the introduction of a market for interenterprise debt. The same day, a draft of the government's own anti-crisis program was submitted to Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Interfax reported. ITAR-TASS reported on 26 October that Primakov had convened a meeting of top-level cabinet officers to discuss the draft. Meanwhile, the IMF mission currently in Moscow is reported to be analyzing the government's draft fourth- quarter budget. JAC RUSSIA KNOCKS UN RESOLUTION. Russia on 24 October abstained from voting on a UN Security Council resolution authorizing ground and air monitors in Kosova. Russia objected to a number of provisions of the resolution, even after Security Council members dropped any clauses that seemed to directly or indirectly sanction the use of force. According to NTV, Sergei Lavrov, Russia's permanent representative to the UN, said the resolution still does not acknowledge that Belgrade has already complied with many of the UN's demands. Speaking on Russian Television on 24 October, Prime Minister Primakov noted that Russia's position on Kosova "annoys [Western powers] most of all." He added, "Let them get irritated. Russia is a great power." JAC RUSSIA PRAISES NEW MIDDLE EAST ACCORD. Russian officials hailed the accords signed by Israeli and Palestinian officials in Washington on 23 October. Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk told Ekho Moskvy that Russia will do "everything possible" to continue the Middle East dialogue "in consultation with the U.S. co-sponsor but acting separately, in contact with the Arab states and Israel." Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said that Russia "as a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process contributed to advances in the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue and will do so in the future." Rakhmanin also hailed the "important role" played by U.S. diplomacy and called for a "coordinated international effort to support the Middle East peace process." JAC VODKA PRODUCTION SET TO SOAR? Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik told fellow members of the Agrarian Party on 23 October that Russian vodka production will increase by 60 percent next year, Interfax reported. The previous day, Prime Minister Primakov supported an idea floated by the Trade Ministry to impose a temporary embargo on imported alcohol. At the same time, the government lowered duties on food imports for next six months. Earlier, Kulik pledged that a government decree imposing tighter regulation over alcohol would not increase prices or diminish the choice of imported alcohol (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"7 October 1998). JAC GOVERNMENT NAMES GAZPROM PRICE? A "government source" told Interfax that the Russian government hopes to attract 10 billion-11 billion rubles ($600-660 million) from the sale of a 2.5 percent stake in the company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1998). The source also claimed that Germany's Ruhrgaz is interested in purchasing the stake. In August, when the government was contemplating sale of a 5 percent stake in the company, "Kommersant- Daily" reported that Gazprom chairman Rem Vyakhirev wanted Royal Dutch Shell, its "strategic partner," to purchase the stake (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1998). In the spring, Vyakhirev thought $1 billion was a fair price for a 3 percent stake. JAC LUKASHENKA WINDS UP VISIT TO SIBERIA... Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka completed a three-day working visit to Omsk and Kemerovo Oblasts on 23 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 1998). One possible result of his visit is that Belarus will "take delivery" of up to 1 million tons of coal as soon as 1999, while Kemerovo may receive up to 400 BELaz trucks a year. It is unclear from media reports whether cash or barter will be used for the coal and/or trucks. Lukashenka told reporters that Belarus has established direct economic ties with 60 Russian regions. During his visit, Lukashenka also expressed support for Russian President Boris Yeltsin and advised members of Russia's Communist Party not to rewrite the constitution and weaken the presidency. He urged, "I appeal to you to get your hands off the constitution." JAC ...URGES RUSSIA TO STOP ARGUING ABOUT MUTUAL DEBTS. Lukashenka has proposed to resolve the problem of Belarusian and Russian mutual debts by creating a single economic area, Belarusian Television reported on 23 October. He told journalists in Kemerovo that both countries should end disputes over mutual debts. The Belarusian president admitted that Belarus owes Gazprom $240 million for gas deliveries but added that Russian companies owe Belarus more that $800 million for deliveries of machines and equipment. Lukashenka added that he will soon meet with Yeltsin in Moscow to discuss prospects of the Belarusian-Russian Union. JM "MONICAGATE" IS BAD FOR RUSSIA. The impeachment of U.S. President Bill Clinton would be disadvantageous for Russia, "Noviye izvestiya" concluded on 23 October. Clinton, according to the newspaper, continues conducting a policy that is "very advantageous for Russia, if not pro-Russian." It added that U.S. congressmen's criticism of Clinton's "amoral behavior in his private life" invariably includes attacks on his policy concerning Russia, saying that he "granted Russia piles of money and gambled on a sick president." The newspaper also predicted that if Clinton is impeached, "the Gore-Primakov Commission will go downhill at such a rapid pace that many Russian enterprises, particularly those in the defense and space industries, will be carried along with it." JAC MAYORAL ELECTIONS RESULTS TALLIED. The acting mayor of Kaliningrad, Yurii Savenko, won a second round of mayoral elections on 25 October. Savenko defeated Anatolii Khlopetskii, director-general of a local transport company. In Sovetsk, Vyacheslav Svetlov, deputy chairman of the city council and director of a local film school, captured 51.1 percent of the vote, compared with 43.1 percent for his rival, Nikolai Nikolaev, director of the joint-stock company Sandorgaz, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 October. On 18 October, voters in Kalmykia elected members of the local legislature, none of whom was from opposition parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 1998). JAC KRASNODAR ACTIVIST BEATEN. Human rights activist Vasilii Rakovich was brutally beaten in the Krasnodar region by attackers armed with a baseball bat and a brick, the "Human Rights Network" reported on 24 October. The attack was reportedly linked to Rakovich's defense of a fellow activist, Vasilii Chaikin, who has been under arrest in the region for 18 months. Rakovich was attacked close to the courthouse during a break in a court hearing of Chaikin's case. JAC SVERDLOVSK SUGGESTS SCRIP AS RUBLE SUPPLEMENT. Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel's 1999 budget contains some unusual features, including introduction of a form of a new regional currency, a $500 million Eurobond issue and the nationalization of banks and various industries, the "IEWS Russian Report" reported on 22 October. Governor Rossel responded to questions about the proposed new currency by saying that it was not really a new "monetary unit" but trade coupons issued in accordance with the volume of goods produced in the oblast. Local businessmen and legislators questioned the wisdom of introducing a monetary surrogate, arguing that it will not protect the oblast from a shortage of cash but instead speed up the destruction of a unified market. Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii also criticized the budget, saying that the oblast government is trying to solve its problems at the expense of Yekaterinburg. He noted that the oblast lowered the city's share of income tax revenues by 70 percent. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ALIEV URGES NATO TO HALT 'MILITARIZATION OF ARMENIA.' Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev told visiting NATO officials on 24 October that Russia is "arming Armenia against" the Western alliance and suggested that NATO should make a "serious effort" to prevent the "militarization of Armenia," ITAR-TASS reported. Aliev said that various Russian officials had told him that Moscow is supplying weapons to Armenia not to help Yerevan in its fight with Azerbaijan but rather to counter NATO. "If Russia is arming Armenia against NATO," the Azerbaijani leader said, "this should make you think." Speaking in Moscow on 25 October, Armenian Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian suggested that there is a balance of forces in the region now, but he said that Azerbaijan might try to gain military superiority "given its close contacts with Turkey and NATO," Interfax reported. PG AZERBAIJAN, KAZAKHSTAN EXPAND COOPERATION. During a visit to Baku on 23 October, Kazakh Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev signed three intergovernmental agreement with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Artur Rasizade, that will increase economic cooperation between the two Caspian states, ITAR-TASS reported. The accords call for Kazakhstan to double the amount of oil it exports via Azerbaijan as well as increase the exports of metals, grain, and other goods to Azerbaijan. On 25 October, President Aliev announced that the EU plans to extend a 30 million ecu ($25.4 million) loan to Azerbaijan to promote the TRACECA corridor project, which is intended to link Europe and Asia through the Caucasus, Interfax reported. PG AZERBAIJANI PREMIER RECONFIRMED BY PARLIAMENT. The Azerbaijani parliament on 23 October reconfirmed Artur Rasizade as prime minister, ITAR-TASS reported. An oil engineer with long ties to President Aliev, Rasizade has been prime minister of Azerbaijan since November 1996. PG AZERBAIJANI DEMONSTRATORS CALL FOR NEW ELECTIONS. An estimated 2,000-3,000 people rallied in Baku on 24 October to demand that the 11 October vote be declared invalid and new elections held, ITAR-TASS reported. First Deputy Chairman of the People's Front Party Ali Kerimov called on all opposition groups to close ranks and the prosecutor-general to launch criminal proceedings against Aliev and other officials for "vote rigging." Other speakers said they will continue their protests until Aliev resigns. They added that they wanted all foreign governments and companies to know that a post-Aliev government may not honor agreements they have reached with the current Baku authorities. PG ARMENIAN PRESIDENT NOT TO ATTEND TURKISH CELEBRATIONS. Citing pressure of work, President Robert Kocharian has announced he will not visit Ankara on 29-30 October to take part in the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey, Interfax reported on 23 October. PG ARMENIA CONCERNED BY COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELAY. Khosrov Arutyunyan, the speaker of the Armenian parliament, on 24 October telephoned Bruno Haller, the secretary- general of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, to say that Yerevan does not understand why the assembly has agreed to Azerbaijan's request that hearings on the Karabakh conflict, scheduled for 3 November, be delayed for at least another month, ITAR- TASS reported. Officials from Yerevan and Stepanakert had confirmed that they would attend the meetings in Strasbourg, which originally had been scheduled for November. PG GEORGIA FIRES TOP GENERAL AFTER MUTINY ATTEMPT. The Georgian Defense Ministry on 24 October dismissed General Zaur Uchade as commander of the western group of Georgian armed forces for failing to prevent the 19 October mutiny in his region, ITAR-TASS reported. The Georgian military also relieved two other senior officers as it continued its hunt for mutiny leader Akaki Eliava, who is thought to be in hiding somewhere within Georgia. More than 30 other people involved in the mutiny have been arrested, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 October. PG EBRD TO DOUBLE ASSISTANCE TO GEORGIA. A delegation from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development told President Eduard Shevardnadze on 24 October that the bank will double its financial assistance to Georgia next year, ITAR-TASS reported. The new assistance is intended to help Georgia improve its ability to serve as a transit corridor and to rehabilitate the Ingouri hydroelectric station. Shevardnadze said that "close cooperation" with the EBRD is "one of the main guarantors of Georgia's stability." He pledged to increase tax collections and fight corruption. PG UZBEK TAX COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN SACKED, JAILED. Murudulo Kurolov, who was dismissed by presidential decree on 21 October, was taken into custody three days later, ITAR- TASS reported. Kurolov was sacked for "serious violations," which Uzbek Radio reported to be "excessive vanity, pomposity..., contempt for national customs and traditions, disgracing the honor and authority as a leader, and abusing his post." His assistant, Masur Zakirov, committed suicide by jumping from a fifth floor window the day Kurolov was arrested. BP END NOTE PROMOTING FEDERALISM, FIGHTING DISEASE by Paul Goble A dramatic rise in the number of tuberculosis cases across the Russian Federation reflects a situation in which Moscow no longer has the administrative responsibility for fighting the disease and the regions do not yet have the resources to do so. Speaking to journalists last week, Aleksandr Khomenko of Moscow's Tuberculosis Institute said that 2.5 million Russians--or one in every 60 residents of the country--now have tuberculosis. He added that this figure is a 8.5 percent increase on the level at the beginning of this year. One of the reasons for this development is the lack of money available to Russian hospitals and public health institutions. At present, Russia spends approximately 1 billion rubles--some $62 million--a year on treating tuberculosis sufferers. That is equivalent to some $25 dollars and is far below the amount needed. For most strains of tuberculosis, treatment costs between $50 and $10, while for some new killer strains that have appeared in the Russian Federation in the last several years, treatment costs are estimated at $10,000 per person or even more. As a result, many of those infected either remain untreated or not cured and thus continue to spread the highly infectious disease to those with whom they come into contact. Thatmeans that the number of tuberculosis cases in Russia will continue to grow. Indeed, Khomenko said that Russia "can no longer control" this situation. The impact of Russia's declining economic fortunes and state revenues on the health of the population has already drawn a great deal of attention. But Khomenko suggested that the lack of resources has been seriously compounded by a change in the country's administrative arrangements. During the Soviet period, the central Health Ministry directed and paid for the fight against tuberculosis. But since 1991, this situation has changed. The regions are now responsible for combating the disease, and they lack both the personnel and the funding necessary to do the job, Khomenko explained. Moreover, when one region fails in its efforts to combat tuberculosis, an outbreak there can rapidly spread elsewhere, further complicating the battle. The government of Altai Krai, in southern Siberia, recently reported that it no longer has funds to deal with a rising number of tuberculosis cases among children, raising the specter that the disease there will quickly spread. This human tragedy, one that international medical groups in August called on Russian President Boris Yeltsin to address, reflects an underlying and as yet unresolved political problem in the Russian Federation: a growing gap between those with responsibilities for doing something and those with the resources to do it. In the field of public health, this gap is especially critical and obvious. But it is true in many other areas as well, including education, crime fighting, and economic development. Both by decision and default, Moscow increasingly has left to the regions the responsibilities for taking action but has not been willing or able to devolve to the regional governments the resources that these regions need to do the job. That situation helps to explain why many regional governors are pressing Moscow for more resources and why many in Moscow appear increasingly willing to argue that responsibility as well as resources should be returned to the center. In the short term, a return to the more centralized pattern of the past might help to alleviate the human suffering that tuberculosis and other diseases have inflicted on the Russian people. But in the longer term, matching resources with responsibilities at the local and regional level appears more likely to allow Russia to overcome the plague of tuberculosis as well as the other challenges of fiscal and political federalism. 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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