|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 211, Part I, 2 November 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 211, Part I, 2 November 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 * GOVERNMENT APPROVES ANTI-CRISIS PLAN * REVENUES RISE, WAGES ARE PAID * GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ PRESIDENTS TO MEET End Note: WHEN MOSCOW LOOKS BEYOND THE CIS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA GOVERNMENT APPROVES ANTI-CRISIS PLAN... After much delay, the government of Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov approved the broad outline of its "anti-crisis program" on 31 October. Details of the plan, however, will not be "finalized" until 5 November, Interfax reported. Primakov said the plan is more "a system of measures" that could be continually revised than a fixed program. The program calls for regulation of prices on essential foods and medicines and a gradual reduction of the value-added and profit taxes. Exporters will continue having to sell 75 percent of their hard currency to the government, while the Central Bank will implement its plan to restructure the commercial banking system. JAC ...AS SOME CRITICS LABEL IT INFLATIONARY. The IMF mission, according to Interfax, called the plan "a step backward in the process of moving toward a market economy." Chairman of the Duma Budget Committee Aleksandr Zhukov of the Russian Regions faction told Ekho Moskvy that the program does not contain "actual figures" and "its effectiveness cannot be judged." He added that the program outlines "many measures that require additional expenses or lead to temporary cuts in revenue." Federal Securities Commission Chairman Dmitrii Vasiliev also criticized the plan, suggesting that its inflation forecast of no more than 5 percent a month for the rest of the year needs to be revised upward. Echoing Zhukov's criticism, Vasiliev said that the plan would require the government to undertake some significant expenses, including wage and pension hikes. JAC REVENUES RISE, WAGES ARE PAID. The government collected 13 billion rubles ($812 million) in tax revenues last month, up 40 percent from the September level, the State Tax Service reported on 30 October. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov told Russian Television the next day that the government has collected more than 17 billion rubles "in real money" for the budget. Zadornov did not explain what portion of the 17 billion rubles was accounted for by tax collections. According to Interfax, the IMF mission called on the government to return to the practice of accepting tax payments only in cash. Both Zadornov and Primakov declared that all wages to government workers--both civilian and military--were paid for October. JAC YELTSIN'S FINGER STILL ON NUCLEAR BUTTON. Primakov told reporters on 31 October that the transfer of presidential powers to the prime minister during Boris Yeltsin's leave is "strictly out of the question" (see "RFE/RL Newsline 29 October 1998). He added that the "nuclear briefcase" remains "reliably in the president's hands." The next day, Oleg Sysuev, deputy head of presidential administration, told NTV that the "Financial Times" misquoted him as referring to a possible limitation of the role of the president. He added that the political role of the president would gain strength only until 2000, although the president's responsibilities vis-a-vis the economy might be reduced. JAC YABLOKO TO SEEK NO ALLIANCES... Yabloko members wrapped up a plenary meeting of the movement's Central Council on 1 November with public statements that the movement will not create any blocs or coalitions for upcoming State Duma and presidential elections. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii told council members that Duma elections are more important than the presidential ballot and that Yabloko will participate in those elections entirely on its own. Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, also said a national coalition with the Communist Party is impossible and that Yabloko will consider concluding separate agreements with the Communists on a regional level only under a worst-case scenario. JAC ...AS COMMUNISTS PROMISE THE SAME. At its plenum on 31 October-1 November, the Communist Party passed a motion calling for the party to present its own party list in Duma elections rather than form an election bloc. Earlier, party leader Gennadii Zyuganov downplayed recent talk of an alliance with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 1998). He told reporters on 31 October that "we've already got an left- center bloc--it's called the People's Patriotic Union." The same day, Luzhkov told Russian Public Television that he is not involved in negotiations for the creation of a center-left coalition. JAC RUSSIA TO SELL 5 PERCENT OF GAZPROM. Yeltsin has signed a decree authorizing the sale of 5 percent of Gazprom, the presidential press service reported on 2 November. Earlier, Russian agencies reported that between 2.5 and 3 percent of the company would be up for sale (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 26 October 1998). JAC IMF, RUSSIA TO STAY IN TOUCH. The IMF mission to Moscow wound up its most recent visit on 30 October saying that while there is a "common view on the desirable objectives for economic policy through the end of next year, the necessary policy measures are still under consideration in important areas." According to Russian agency reports, the mission may return to Russia in mid- November. Prime Minister Primakov told reporters that the fund objected to measures calling for state regulation of the economy but that such objections run counter to the statements of IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus that macroeconomic policies alone are insufficient to manage an economy. Primakov added that although a portion of money provided by the IMF to Russia has "gotten into the hands of dishonest people, the majority of the money has been used properly." JAC RUSSIA CAUTIONS BAGHDAD. In a statement issued on 1 November, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed "deep concern" at Iraq's decision the previous day to stop limited cooperation with UN weapons inspectors, Russian agencies reported. The statement called on Baghdad to "weigh scrupulously" the possible consequences of that decision and to renew its cooperation as the sole path to resolving the Iraqi problem and creating a normal life for the country's population. A Russian State Duma delegation headed by deputy speaker Mikhail Gutseriev is scheduled to meet with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on 2 November. LF POLL ON RUSSIAN-JAPANESE RELATIONS. A poll conducted by ITAR-TASS and the Japanese newspaper "Asahi Shimbun" shows most Japanese and many Russians do not think a formal peace treaty will be signed between their two countries by the year 2000. The poll was conducted in September-October and involved 2,400 people on the Russian mainland, 300 on Sakhalin Island, 300 on the Kuril Islands, and 3,000 in Japan. Most respondents did not think relations between Russia and Japan are developing "successfully," and the majority felt issues other than the territorial one should be a priority. However, most Russians polled said the four disputed Kuril Islands should not be given back to Japan under any circumstances, while most Japanese favored gradual transfer of those territories. If the islands were to be handed over to Japan, 49 percent of the residents on the islands said they would move to the Russian mainland. BP YUGOSLAVIA 'OBSERVES' BELARUSIAN-RUSSIAN ASSEMBLY. The parliamentary assembly of the Union of Russia and Belarus holds its ninth session in Yaroslavl on 2 November. A delegation from the Yugoslav parliament led by Vojislav Seselj, Serbian deputy prime minister and leader of the Serbian Radical Party, is expected to attend, ITAR-TASS reported. The assembly is expected to grant the status of "permanent observer" to Yugoslavia. Russian State Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin of the People's Power faction suggested that Yugoslavia be asked to join the Union of Belarus and Russia during a recent visit by Russian Duma members to Belgrade. JAC NIKITIN'S LAWYERS PRESS FOR ACQUITTAL. Despite a judge's decision to return his case for further investigation by the prosecution, Aleksandr Nikitin, who is charged with espionage, and his lawyers plan to file a complaint with Russia's Supreme Court and the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, according to a Bellona Foundation press release (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 1998). Nikitin's lawyers contend that their client should be formally acquitted since no crime can be proven and that not to do so is a violation of their client's human rights. Nikitin's lawyers also want the Russian Supreme Court to lift travel restrictions imposed on their client. JAC VOTERS TURN OUT FOR CHUVASH ELECTIONS. All seats on the State Council of Chuvashia may at last be filled following by-elections in 23 districts where voter turnout--25 percent--was sufficient to declare the ballot valid, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 November. In July elections, only 64 out of 87 vacancies in the council were filled. JAC GLENN'S COMEBACK TO TRIGGER SECOND SPACE RACE? Following former U.S. Senator John Glenn's return to space, former Russian Cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov, 64, told Interfax on 1 November that he is ready to make his own space flight. He suggested that a two-week rather than six-month stay on space station "Mir" would be appropriate. Meanwhile, fellow space veteran German Titov, 63, told ITAR-TASS that he would like to beat the 77-year-old Glenn's record as the oldest man in space, pledging to maintain his excellent physical condition over the next 15 years and hurtle into space once again. JAC CHECHEN PRESIDENT, RIVALS REACH AGREEMENT. Aslan Maskhadov on 31 October met with a group of elders representing the three field commanders who have been demanding his impeachment and resignation, ITAR-TASS reported. Presidential spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev said that Shamil Basaev, Salman Raduev, and Khunkar-pasha Israpilov agreed to withdraw those demands and meet for talks with Maskhadov. Maskhadov then canceled a rally planned for 1 November at which he had intended to explain his domestic and foreign policies to the Chechen people. Also on 31 October, Maskhadov named former parliamentary speaker Akhyad Idigov as foreign minister. Idigov accompanied him to Vladikavkaz last week to meet with Russian Prime Minister Primakov. Idigov replaces Movladi Udugov, who served as foreign minister since February 1997. The government of acting Prime Minister Shamil Basaev resigned in July. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ PRESIDENTS TO MEET. Following talks in Tbilisi on 29-30 October with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze, Abkhaz presidential envoy Anri Djergenia told journalists that the long-anticipated meeting between Shevardnadze and Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba will take place in the first half on November, probably in Sukhumi, Russian and Georgian agencies reported. Lortkipanidze said the two sides made significant progress toward an agreement on the repatriation of ethnic Georgians forced to flee their homes in Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war and the renewed hostilities in May 1998. He added that at their upcoming meeting, the two presidents will sign the repatriation agreement and another abjuring the use of force, according to Reuters. But they will not discuss the future political status of Abkhazia. On 29 October, two bombs damaged the premises of Abkhaz State Television in Sukhumi and a mobile television transmitter, the Netherlands-based Abkhaz Documentation Centre reported. LF SHEVARDNADZE MEETS WITH DISPLACED PERSONS. Shevardnadze on 31 October addressed a Tbilisi congress of some 1,000 delegates representing ethnic Georgian fugitives from Abkhazia, Reuters and Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze appealed to those fugitives to "be patient," assuring them that within a few years, Georgia will "restore its territorial integrity." Shevardnadze said that if talks with Abkhazia on a peaceful solution to the conflict become deadlocked, the UN will consider a Bosnia-style peace enforcement operation. But two days later, in his weekly radio address, Shevardnadze ruled out that option. Abkhaz parliament in exile chairman Tamaz Nadareishvili told the fugitives' congress that the only way Georgia can restore its jurisdiction over Abkhazia is by force. On 1 November, a group of 250 homeless fugitives failed in their attempt to occupy a Tbilisi hospital, Interfax reported. The leader of those fugitives, Boris Kakubava, denounced the 31 October congress for failing to defend the fugitives' interests. LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT UPBEAT OVER OIL TRANSIT DECLARATION... Both on 30 October and in his 2 November radio address, Shevardnadze expressed confidence that the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil will be built. Shevardnadze and the presidents of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan signed the so-called "Ankara declaration" on 29 October pledging their support for construction of that pipeline. Shevardnadze estimated that construction will take four or five years and that Georgia will receive $10 per metric ton in transit fees for Kazakh oil exported via the Baku-Supsa pipeline. But Kazakh presidential spokesman Asylbek Bisenbayev told journalists on 30 October that the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will be economically viable only if both Kazakh and Azerbaijani crude is exported via that route, according to Interfax. LF ...WHILE IRAN, CHECHNYA REMAIN SKEPTICAL. Iranian Foreign Ministry press secretary Makhmud Mohammedi on 30 October deplored what he termed the "politicization" of the choice of the Caspian export pipeline, Turan reported. Mohammedi said that the pressure currently being exerted on the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia over the optimum pipeline route is counterproductive, adding that raising the funds to finance the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will hinder those countries' economic development in other spheres. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov stressed that he agrees with the Russian argument that the Baku- Novorossiisk pipeline, which transits Chechnya, is the most economical route, according to Interfax. Meanwhile in Kyiv, Stephen Sestanovich, special aide to the U.S. secretary of state on the Newly Independent States , said that U.S. support for Baku-Ceyhan does not preclude the export of some Caspian oil via Ukrainian territory. That oil would be shipped by tanker from Supsa to Odessa. But Sestanovich added that Kyiv must convince potential investors of its attractiveness as an alternative export route. LF DASHNAKS DEMAND CORRUPTION CRACKDOWN. More than 10,000 people attended a rally in Yerevan on 30 October convened by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (HHD), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Speakers called on the Armenian leadership to officially condemn corruption and mismanagement by the previous administration, which they claimed are the cause of persisting economic hardship. Specifically, they accused a number of former leading officials of taking advantage of the privatization process to embezzle public funds. Although the HHD supports President Robert Kocharian, speakers at the rally stressed that it is not a "ruling party" in an apparent bid to distance the HHD from unpopular officials in central and local government. LF TWO PARTIES QUIT ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL. Ruben Vartanian of the center-right Self-Determination Union told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 31 October that his party will quit the presidential council created earlier this year by Kocharian. Arguing that the council has not met expectations, Vartanian deplored the fact that other parties represented on the council have retreated from an earlier agreement that the council's chairmanship should rotate every three months. On 29 October, the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) announced its withdrawal from the council, which it claimed failed to discuss a single major problem facing the country, according to "Hayk." HHSh chairman Vano Siradeghian told "Aravot" that there is no point in his party remaining a member of the council as no "serious forces" are represented on it. Nine parties are still members of the council. Those parties do not include the Communists or Vazgen Manukian's National Democratic Union. LF KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADER ARRESTED. Azamat co-chairman Petr Svoik was arrested by Interior Ministry troops on 30 October, Interfax reported. One of the leaders of the Kazakh Workers Movement, Semen Grobovskii, said Svoik was charged with slander, inciting "national conflict," and insulting an official. In other news, Interfax reported the same day that another candidate for the January presidential elections, vice president of the Munai research and production center Zhaksybai Bazilbayev, has passed the necessary Kazakh language examination. He joins President Nursultan Nazarbayev, former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, Communist Party candidate Serikbolsyn Abdildin and independent candidate Engels Gabbasov in clearing that hurdle. BP IMF TO EXTEND LOAN TO KAZAKHSTAN. The IMF is prepared to loan Kazakhstan between $400 million and $440 million as part of an Extended Fund Facility "to support National Bank reserves," Interfax reported on 30 October. IMF official Willy Kiekens said at a news conference on 30 October that IMF figures show Kazakhstan's trade with Russia, its leading trading partner, fell by 50 percent during the last few months. Planned budget revenues from the sale of metals to southeastern Asia will fall far short owing to the financial crisis in that region. Kiekens praised Kazakhstan's "strict budget and fiscal policy" as well as its tax and pension reform for keeping the country afloat without an IMF Extended Fund Facility loan. At the same time, he noted that IMF forecasts show Kazakhstan will fail to achieve the planned 3 percent GDP growth this year and that there will be "no growth" in 1999. BP KAZAKH PRESIDENT IN UZBEKISTAN. Nursultan Nazarbayev wrapped up his first official visit to neighboring Uzbekistan by signing an "eternal friendship" treaty with his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 31 October. The two leaders also signed an agreement on economic cooperation for the years 1998-2005. Karimov later said that the current level of bilateral cooperation is insufficient, adding that it is necessary to work with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which are partners in the Central Asian Economic Union. The two sides also signed accords on cooperation in customs, education, culture, and health care as well as on combating crime. BP UZBEK PRESIDENT URGES CIS REFORM. At a press conference with Nazarbayev after the signing of agreements, Karimov said "the structure of the Commonwealth should be seriously reformed," ITAR-TASS reported. Karimov said the CIS's main objective should be "widening the economic interaction" of member states to include the creation of free trade zones. Karimov also commented on Kazakh-Uzbek relations, saying it is incorrect to described them as "cold and strained," Reuters reported. Karimov said he thinks relations are such "when Moscow wants it." However, Nazarbayev noted "this is not the policy of Russia" and that both presidents are "strategic partners" of Russian President Yeltsin. BP U.S. SUSPENDS EMBASSY WORK IN TAJIKISTAN. The deputy U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan, Francis Culpepper, announced on 30 October that all embassy activities in Tajikistan have been suspended, ITAR-TASS reported. Culpepper said the move is in response to terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa and concerns over security at the embassy in Dushanbe. The embassy will resume work as soon as a new, more secure building is found. The embassy has been working with a skeleton crew since late September. BP END NOTE WHEN MOSCOW LOOKS BEYOND THE CIS by Paul Goble Moscow's use of military power in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States may have less to do with the situation within the individual member states than with Russian policies toward countries and alliances further afield. That possibility, seldom considered in the West, was raised last month by Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev during his meeting with visiting representatives of the North Atlantic Parliamentary Assembly's Committee on NATO Expansion and Assistance to the Newly Independent States. Speaking to that group on 24 October, Aliev said that various Russians had told him Moscow is providing large-scale military assistance to Armenia both to help Yerevan in its conflict with Baku over Nagorno-Karabakh and to put pressure on Turkey and NATO's southern flank. On the one hand, Aliev's remarks were most immediately intended to try to involve more West European countries in finding a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. By suggesting that Russia's de facto military alliance with Armenia meant that Moscow could no longer be a neutral arbiter as co- chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group charged with resolving the Karabakh dispute, Aliev clearly hoped to convince the West Europeans to play a new and larger role in securing peace in the region. Aliev also repeated that his government is prepared to "grant a high degree of self-rule to Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan" but suggested that "we can give nothing more than that." He appealed to the West Europeans to "indicate strongly to Armenia that its additional demands are unfounded and will never be accepted." And the Azerbaijani leader responded to European concerns about human rights by noting that some international organizations focusing on the violation of human rights in Baku have done little or nothing about what he called the "mass violation" of the rights of more than 1 million Azerbaijanis forced to leave their homes because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The UNHCR estimates the number of displaced persons at 860,000. But on the other hand, Aliev's comments call attention to a broader issue that so far has received relatively little attention either in the countries of the region or in the West: the possibility that Russian actions in what many in Moscow still call the "near abroad" are in fact directed at countries in the "far abroad." With the exception of discussions of so-called flank modifications in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, most analysts in Russia's neighbors and the West have considered Russia's military involvement in former Soviet republics almost exclusively in terms of Moscow's interest in maintaining its influence there. Thus, Russia's military assistance to Armenia and its establishment of bases there have generally been considered only in terms of Moscow's desire to play a major role in the Caucasus. And Russian involvement in the Transdniester region of Moldova or in Tajikistan has been discussed only in terms of Russian interests in those countries or in their respective regions. While such attention to Russian actions is entirely understandable both in these countries and in the West, it has three consequences that may prove more significant for international security. First, focusing attention on the influence of Russian actions in the CIS states often distracts analysts from considering the ways in which these actions may have a broader impact. Sometimes they will, sometimes they will not. But Aliev's observation may help to sensitize people to this possibility. Second, such attention inevitably increases the concerns many non-Russians feel about Moscow's intentions. To the extent they see themselves as the target, they may draw one set of conclusions. To the extent they see Moscow's aims as broader, they may draw very different conclusions, possibly leading them to seek different solutions than would otherwise have been the case. And third, such attention inevitably deflects Western attention away from Russian moves throughout the region as a whole. To the extent that what Moscow does is seen only through the prism of the CIS or the concept of "newly independent states," many Western governments may be inclined to play down the implications of what Russia intends. Moreover, if they view Moscow's goals more broadly, as Aliev suggests they should do, Western governments may conclude that they should pay closer attention to Russia's involvement in the former Soviet republics than they previously thought. Clearly, Aliev hopes that Western countries will reach that conclusion about Russian involvement in Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. But his analytic point clearly applies across the board throughout this all too unstable region. 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. 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