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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 209, Part I, 29 October 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 209, Part I, 29 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 CALLS FOR MORE STATE REGULATION OF ECONOMY * YELTSIN RESTS AT BARVIKHA * CASPIAN PIPELINE DECISION TO BE DELAYED End Note: IS GEORGIA INHERENTLY UNSTABLE? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA PRIMAKOV CALLS FOR MORE STATE REGULATION OF ECONOMY. Speaking in Vladikavkaz on 29 October, his 69th birthday, Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov said that his government has "resolutely opted" for increasing the role of the state in the regulation of the economy, ITAR-TASS reported. Primakov said that "the state must determine the parameters and trends in industrial restructuring" in order to restore "order and discipline" in the country and protect "all forms of property." He also suggested that foreign investments should be "channeled to us" so that production can be increased. PG MOSCOW SCRAMBLES TO DEAL WITH ECONOMIC PROBLEMS. In order to service its foreign debts--which officials on 28 October said Russia can do--the Russian government is expanding its exports of oil, Russian agencies reported. The Russian government also acknowledged several other problems: a budget deficit of $3.4 billion during the first nine months of the year and only 11.4 percent of expected privatization revenues in the same period, according to Interfax. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov said that Moscow will seek to force five or seven foreign countries to pay their debts to Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 October. Meanwhile, Russian officials met with the Paris Club to discuss debt management, and Primakov appointed Economics Minister Andrei Shapovalyants as the country's coordinator for securing EU assistance, Interfax reported on 27 October. PG YELTSIN RESTS AT BARVIKHA. Houston heart specialist Michael DeBakey told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 28 October that Boris Yeltsin is not that sick and is resting comfortably at the Barvikha sanitarium. Yeltsin aides said that the president may go to Sochi to convalesce. Meanwhile, Russian officials said that Yeltsin's meeting with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman has been postponed, although they indicated that his November sessions with top officials from China, Japan, Germany, Italy, and Holland are still scheduled to take place. But Yeltsin cannot have been cheered by a recent poll showing that only 5 percent of Russians approve of his work, while 93 percent disapprove, according to Interfax on 28 October. PG YELTSIN'S ILLNESS PROMPTS CALLS FOR POLITICAL CHANGES... Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told ITAR-TASS on 28 October that Yeltsin has transferred most day-to- day tasks to his prime minister but will remain in office until the end of his term. The State Duma, however, has announced that it will debate a law on presidential health in early November, while other politicians suggested more radical solutions. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev said in Beijing on 27 October that Yeltsin should transfer power temporarily while he is ill, and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin suggested that the constitution be changed to allow Yeltsin to transfer power to Primakov for the remainder of his term, Interfax reported. Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov, for his part, called for Yeltsin's resignation and the election of a new president by a special constitutional assembly. PG ...AND PROPOSALS FOR CHANGES IN ELECTION PROCEDURES. A proposal by Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev that the president be elected by a special electoral college consisting of the parliament and local electors drew support from Seleznev but was opposed by Central Election Commission chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko and Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii. Yavlinskii told Interfax on 28 October that such a shift would be like "using the guillotine to cure a headache." PG IVANOV SAYS RUSSIA 'TOO BIG' FOR NATO, EU. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told "Izvestiya" on 28 October that Russia is simply "too large" to ever join NATO or the EU. Were Russia to try to join, "neither NATO nor the EU could remain the same," he commented. At the same time, Ivanov said seeking membership in those organizations is something Russia will not do. PG PRIMAKOV SAYS EU BACKS MOSCOW'S ANTI-CRISIS ACTIONS. Following meetings with European Commission Chairman Jacques Santer and Austrian Federal Chancellor Viktor Klima on 27 October, Prime Minister Primakov said that the EU supports Moscow's efforts to overcome the current crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. Primakov also said he reached agreements with Austrian firms and organizations that will attract some $600 million in Austrian investment to Russia, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 28 October. PG YAVLINSKII SAYS CORRUPTION THREATENS PRIMAKOV GOVERNMENT. In an interview with London's "Daily Telegraph," Yabloko leader Yavlinskii said that corruption threatens to undermine Primakov's government, Russian agencies reported on 28 October. Yavlinskii's remarks were sharply criticized by both government officials and his parliamentary opponents. Yavlinskii indicated that he still supports Primakov as prime minister. PG MOSCOW PLEASED BY NATO'S DECISION NOT TO USE FORCE IN KOSOVA. Russian officials on 27-28 October both expressed pleasure at and took credit for NATO's decision not to use force in Kosova, Russian agencies reported. But the Foreign Ministry made it clear that it is still concerned about the possibility that NATO might change its mind in the future. Meanwhile, Viktor Ilyukhin, the chairman of the Duma's Security Committee, said on 28 October that approximately 10,000 Russian volunteers are "ready to help the Slavs in the Yugoslav Federative Republic." But a Public Opinion Fund poll found that only 16 percent of Russians support the Serbs, 4 percent support the Kosovars, 43 percent back neither, and 37 percent say they have no opinion or do no know anything about the conflict. Moreover, 63 percent they said they oppose Russia providing military assistance to Yugoslavia in the event of a NATO attack, Interfax reported. PG UNEMPLOYMENT RISES TO 11.5 PERCENT. The Labor Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 28 October that it estimates that some 8.5 million working age people are now unemployed in Russia, some 11.5 percent of the work force. That number is significantly larger than the official numbers of 1.75 million or 2.5 percent that Russian officials have given in the past. PG MOSCOW STREAMLINES ARMS TRADE, MISSILE SYSTEMS. Former Russian Economics Minister Yakov Urinson told Interfax on 27 October that Russia's system for promoting arms sales abroad is a good one because it does not allow arms producers to enter the market directly or one company to monopolize that trade. Meanwhile, Commander Vladimir Yakovlev, the commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces said that his forces will be armed with a single modernized missile system Topol-M instead of its current six types of missiles, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 October. Such an arrangement, Yakovlev said, will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of his forces. PG LUZHKOV URGES CREATION OF EAST EUROPEAN MARKET. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has proposed establishing a new East European market modeled on the EU, Interfax reported on 28 October. He said such a group would promote trade and that it is probably not yet the right time to talk about broader political ties of the kind associated with COMECON. PG HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER COMPLAINS ABOUT BANKS. Oleg Mironov, Russia's commissioner for human rights, has spoken out in support of depositors who are suing the country's banks for failing to give them back their deposits in a timely manner, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 October. And he has asked the chairman of the Supreme Court to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of depositors' rights. PG ATOMIC MINISTRY SAYS THEFT OF NUCLEAR MATERIALS HAVE CEASED. Nikolai Redin, the deputy chief of the Atomic Energy Ministry's security department, told ITAR-TASS on 28 October that there have been no thefts of nuclear materials in the Russian Federation during the last three years and that there have never been any thefts of weapons-grade materials. He said that there was a wave of thefts of sub-weapons-grade materials earlier because the mass media had featured stories about a "black market for nuclear materials with incredibly high prices." Redin denied that there was such a market, and he noted that the ministry is installing a new computerized control system at its 23 plants around the country. PG NIKITIN TRIAL CONTINUES. The trial of retired Naval Captain Aleksandr Nikitin continued in St. Petersburg on 28 October, Interfax reported. Nikitin is accused of betraying state secrets in an environmental report on pollution caused by Russia's Northern Fleet that he wrote for the Norwegian Bellona environmental organization. A Defense Ministry official testified that Nikitin's report had inflicted 4.5 billion rubles in damages on the Russian state. If found guilty, Nikitin could face up to 20 years in prison. Meanwhile, the "Russian Securities Market News" reported on 26 October that Bellona has experienced difficulties with its E- mail to Russia since the trial began. The publication commented that these problems may be "a purely Soviet coincidence." PG PRIMAKOV PLEDGES TO SUPPORT DOMESTIC PRODUCERS. While attending a meeting of the Greater Volga Association Council in Saransk on 28 October, Prime Minister Primakov said that his government will do what it can to support domestic production, ITAR-TASS reported. The association, created to improve cooperation among the various political units in the Volga region, is considering ways to overcome the country's economic crisis. Meanwhile, the leaders of the seven major industrial cities in this region signed an agreement on 28 October establishing an association of their own, the Russian news agency reported. PG YELTSIN SAID CONSIDERING LIMITS ON REGIONAL AUTONOMY. Oleg Sysuev, Yeltsin's first deputy chief of staff told "Segodnya" on 28 October, that the president is considering changes in the constitution that would limit the power of regional officials. "Our misfortunes on the road of economic reforms," Sysuev said, "are largely linked to the weakness of the executive branch. We have 89 regional units that, to put it bluntly, are not accountable to the center." He thereby echoed Prime Minister Primakov's recent proposals for legislation that would allow Moscow to oust elected officials in the regions if they violated central policies. PG KURIL RESIDENTS WANT JAPAN TO LEASE THEIR ISLAND. Some of the 3,800 residents on Shikotan Island, which belongs to the Kuril chain, are sending a petition to President Yeltsin to lease their home to the Japanese for 99 years if the central government does not provide them with aid by the end of November, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 October. They have also appealed to Moscow Mayor Luzhkov. The petitioners cited Yeltsin's 1992 decree that gave local governments in the region the right to lease portions of their territories to foreign investors for a 99-year period. PG RUSSIAN-SOUTH KOREAN NAVAL MANEUVERS GET 'EXCELLENT MARKS.' Russian-South Korean naval exercises in communications and maneuvering received "excellent marks" from the Russian Navy's Pacific Command, ITAR- TASS reported. The exercises, held in Peter the Great Bay on 27 October, involved the Russian destroyer "Admiral Vinogradov" and the South Korean frigate "Seoul" as well as support ships. In other news, representatives of the South Korean government and the Red Cross arrived in nearby Sakhalin on 28 October to discuss the repatriation of ethnic Koreans deported to that area by the Japanese authorities more than a half century ago, Interfax reported. BP/PG DUDAEV SAID TO BE STILL ALIVE. Aleksei Mitrofanov, chairman of the Duma Committee on Geo-Politics and a member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, told journalists on 28 October that former Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev faked his death in a rocket attack in April 1996 and may now be living in Istanbul. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky is currently trying to locate him in that city, Reuters reported. But former Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov rejected Mitrofanov's claims as "ravings." There were no witnesses to Dudaev's death, and his place of burial is kept secret. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA CASPIAN PIPELINE DECISION TO BE DELAYED. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev told journalists on 28 October that the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) will make its recommendation on the optimal route for the so-called Main Export Pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil on 12 November, Interfax reported. That recommendation was to have been made public on 29 October. Following talks with AIOC head John Leggate on 27 October, Aliev had expressed concern that under the terms of the contract signed with the AIOC in September 1994, construction of the pipeline should have been completed within 54 months. Aliev reaffirmed his determination that the Baku-Ceyhan route should be chosen. Aliev's son Ilham, who is deputy president of the Azerbaijan State Oil Company SOCAR, denied on 28 October that Baku will endorse an alternative route for the MEP. LF ARMENIAN-RUSSIAN MILITARY COOPERATION 'NOT A THREAT.' Smbat Ayvazian, leader of the majority Yerkrapah group within the Armenian parliament, has rejected Azerbaijani President Aliev's claim that Russia is arming Armenia against NATO, Caucasus Press reported on 27 October. Ayvazian said that Aliev has emerged "weaker" and "more vulnerable" from the 11 October presidential elections, according to "Aravot." The Azerbaijani president had told visiting NATO officials in Baku on 23 October that they should make a serious effort to prevent the "militarization of Armenia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1998). NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, visiting Yerevan on 1 October, had said that Armenian- Russian defense cooperation is not an obstacle to closer NATO-Armenian cooperation. LF ARMENIAN, KARABAKH PRESIDENTS MEET. Kocharian met with the president and prime minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Arkadii Ghukasian and Zhirair Poghosian, on 27 October to discuss the economic and social situation in the enclave and the Armenian state budget for 1999, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Ghukasian had discussed economic issues with Armenian Prime Minister Darpinian in Yerevan on 23 October. LF FORMER GEORGIAN SECURITY MINISTER BLAMES UPHEAVALS ON CASH SHORTAGE. Djemal Gakhokidze told Interfax on 27 October that budgetary constraints had precluded implementing what he considered essential changes in the country's security system. Those changes, he suggested, might have prevented the assassination attempt on President Shevardnadze in February and last week's mutiny in western Georgia. He also said that his resignation following the failed mutiny was voluntary, and he endorsed the nomination of Vakhtang Kutateladze, whom Shevardnadze has proposed as Gakhokidze's successor. Kutateladze, who is a 43-year-old KGB veteran and has been the head of Shevardnadze's bodyguard since 1994, told journalists on 28 October that he accepted the nomination as security minister reluctantly. Like his predecessor, he stressed that the Georgian security system needs reorganizing. LF KAZAKH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ENCOUNTERS DIFFICULTIES AT AIRPORT. National Security Committee authorities at Almaty airport sought to prevent presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin from boarding a Lufthansa plane bound for Germany on 27 October, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Officers confiscated Kazhegeldin's passport but returned it when they learned they were being videotaped. Kazhegeldin was allowed to depart but the flight was delayed 30 minutes. Also on 27 October, the court that found Kazhegeldin guilty of participating in "a session and mass gatherings of an unregistered organization" upheld its verdict, ordering Kazhegeldin to appear before the court. BP KAZAKH NEWSPAPER REPORTS ON NAZARBAYEV'S PROPERTY ABROAD. The independent newspaper "DAT" reported in its 28 October edition that President Nursultan Nazarbayev owns a villa in Saint Tropez, France, worth $119 million, according to RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty. The newspaper published a picture of the alleged Nazarbayev villa. BP AKAYEV ENDS JAPAN VISIT. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev wrapped up an unofficial three-day visit to Japan on 27 October, Reuters and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Akayev and Japanese Prime Minister Keidzo Obuchi signed a document aimed at boosting economic, political and cultural ties. Interfax reported on 28 October that Japan will loan Kyrgyzstan $40 million to improve the Bishkek-Osh highway. BP UZBEKISTAN REPORTS GDP GROWTH. According to a government report on 27 October, Uzbekistan's GDP increased by 4.4 percent in the first nine months of 1998, Interfax reported. Industrial output grew by 6.1 percent and agricultural output by 4.9 percent. Capital investment also increased by 13.1 percent and services by 12.4 percent. The budget deficit is on target, and less money was printed than planned. Some cabinet members criticized the delay in utilizing foreign credits for small and medium -sized businesses and the slow pace of agricultural reforms. BP END NOTE IS GEORGIA INHERENTLY UNSTABLE? by Liz Fuller Georgia hit the headlines again last week, when an army lieutenant identified as a former supporter of the late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia apparently attempted to overthrow the country's leadership, only to abandon the undertaking later the same day. The failed insurrection was the fourth major upheaval the country has experienced this year (following the botched assassination attempt on President Eduard Shevardnadze in February, the abduction 10 days later of four members of the UN observer force in western Georgia, and renewed hostilities in Abkhazia's Gali Raion in late May). The circumstances surrounding all four crises remain nebulous, and official explanations have generally been contradictory. That lack of clarity, in turn, creates the impression that the country is inherently unstable. Yet while that impression is accurate, the upheavals are not the cause of the malaise, rather merely a symptom of it. Three factors make Georgia vulnerable to subversion. Two of those factors are internal: the domestic political power structure and centrifugal tendencies in regions on the periphery. The third is the vested interest of some circles in Russia in preventing the export of Caspian hydrocarbons to international markets. Georgian domestic politics are dominated by Shevardnadze, who since his return from Moscow to Tbilisi in March 1992, following Gamsakhurdia's violent ouster has systematically neutralized almost all political figures who could pose a challenge to him. He has simultaneously crafted a personal power base in the form of the Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK), currently the largest parliamentary group, in which former nomenklatura apparatchiks with whom Shevardnadze worked in the 1970s and early 1980s vastly outnumber the energetic young reformers whom he has selected and promoted over the past few years. As a result of that personnel policy, many people, both in Georgia and abroad, have come to perceive Shevardnadze as the embodiment and guarantee of a tenuous stability. But that stability is at the same time threatened by endemic corruption within the central government and at the local level, where councilors stubbornly resist any reform plans that might circumscribe their personal power. This "crisis in the reform process" has, in turn, alienated many of the young reformers who last summer threatened to quit the SMK and form a "loyal opposition" within the parliament. Popular disillusion with the ruling SMK is so great that domestic observers believe the party's only hope of winning the majority of seats on local councils in 15 November elections lies in resorting to large-scale falsification. The anticipated beneficiary of the erosion of support for the SMK is Aslan Abashidze, chairman of the Supreme Council of the autonomous Republic of Adjaria on the Black Sea coast bordering Turkey. Abashidze's individualistic and autarkic policies (which many Tbilisi observers believe have Moscow's support) have resulted in a markedly higher degree of stability and economic prosperity than elsewhere in Georgia. A strong showing in the November local elections by Abashidze's All-Georgian Union of Revival, which is the second- largest parliamentary group, could lead to an open power struggle between Abashidze and Shevardnadze. Nor is Adjaria the only region in Georgia over which the jurisdiction of the central government does not extend. Tbilisi effectively forfeited control of South Ossetia in 1992 and of Abkhazia a year later. The former is now financed almost solely by Moscow, which nonetheless refuses to condone its unification with the Republic of North Ossetia within the Russian Federation. As for Abkhazia, it is de facto an independent statelet. Only minimal progress has been made at negotiations on formal agreements that would define the relationship between those former autonomies and the central government as well as pave the way for the return to their homes of those forced to flee during the hostilities. The estimated 200,000 ethnic Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia are increasingly exerting pressure on the Georgian government to secure an internationally guaranteed settlement that would enable them to return home and protect them from anticipated reprisals from the Abkhaz. The ethnic Armenian population of the southern region of Djavakheti, bordering on Armenia, is reportedly lobbying aggressively for autonomous status. And the population of the west Georgian region of Mingrelia, Gamsakhurdia's ancestral home, tends to regard Shevardnadze as a usurper. This alienation of much of the periphery from the capital constitutes the ideal leverage with which to plunge Georgia into chaos, a fact of which the Georgian leadership is acutely aware. Who precisely would have a vested interest in doing so is less easy to say. Several prominent Georgian politicians have hinted that last week's failed mutiny by Lieutenant Akaki Eliava (like the assassination attempt on Shevardnadze in February) may have been orchestrated in Moscow by individuals who recruited supporters of Gamsakhurdia who still refuse to acknowledge Shevardnadze's legitimacy. The identity of the instigators may be unknown, but most observers are convinced that they are motivated by the determination to contain the growing U.S. presence in the Transcaucasus and to prevent the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Georgia. 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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