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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 212, Part I, 3 November 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 212, Part I, 3 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 * YABLOKO CHARGES GOVERNMENT WITH CORRUPTION * DUMA SETS CONDITION FOR START-II RATIFICATION * GEORGIAN MUTINY LEADER DEMANDS PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YABLOKO CHARGES GOVERNMENT WITH CORRUPTION... In a letter to Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, State Duma deputies and members of the Yabloko faction, Sergei Mitrokhin, Yurii Shchekochikhin, and Anatolii Kuznetsov pose 16 questions about allegedly suspicious activities of members of his government. The letter, which was published in Russian newspapers on 3 November, asked whether First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov conducted business while a member of government, whether the government reached decisions regarding businesses founded by Maslyukov or his relatives, and whether Maslyukov awarded a license to the telecommunications company Vympelkom without that company having to compete with other firms. Similar questions were also posed about the activities of First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Gustov and Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik. The authors of the letter explain that they provided the questions in response to Primakov's request that Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii explain allegations of corruption within the government that he made in an earlier interview with the British "Daily Telegraph." JAC ...AS GOVERNMENT ISSUES DENIALS. Prime Minister Primakov took the charges in stride, quipping to reporters that Yavlinskii "did not join the government because he didn't have enough money for the post." On a more serious note, he said that Yavlinskii is suggesting that corruption is so endemic throughout Russia that it probably exists in Yavlinskii's own faction. Maslyukov labeled the charges a "provocation" and said payments between the Russian Space Agency and Vympelcom were rescheduled because of the economic situation in the country--not because of improper influence. Officials at Vympelcom also denied Yabloko's charges, saying that the allegation was the result of a "misinterpretation." While some Moscow-based analysts accused Yavlinskii of trying to start his presidential campaign with a splash, former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko lent Yabloko his support, telling Ekho Moskvy that he was routinely offered bribes when a member of government. JAC REGIONS 'NATIONALIZE' LOCAL BANKS, INDUSTRY. The "Moscow Times" reported on 31 October that regional governments are poised to take controlling shares in their largest banks. According to the newspaper, the city of St. Petersburg plans to assume more than 25 percent of shares in four leading banks, while Sverdlovsk Oblast plans to merge three local banks into one in which it will have a controlling stake. In a separate story on 3 November, the newspaper reported that Sverdlovsk is planning to obtain a 25 percent stake in Nizhnii Tagil Metal in exchange for a restructuring of the company's local tax debt and wage arrears. The newspaper concluded that such relationships may be destructive and cited the example of Tatneft in Tatarstan: "Over the past two years Tatneft has borrowed more than $1 billion on international capital markets, but some of these funds may have been diverted to pet projects of the government rather than the company." JAC RUSSIA DRIVING HARD BARGAIN WITH FOOD AID? The U.S. and Russian delegations to talks on the shipment of U.S. meat, rice, and grain to Russia have delayed final signature on a protocol that was expected to have been signed on 2 November. "Noviye izvestiya" argued on 31 October that despite Russia's current agricultural crisis, Russian negotiators are in a good position to drive a hard bargain, since Russia "consumes 32 percent of pork exports and 41 percent of beef exports from EU countries" and 40 percent of U.S. exports of chicken legs. According to the newspaper, Deputy Prime Minister Kulik is insisting that Russia needs long-term credits to finance its food purchases. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 October compared U.S. chicken legs with their domestic counterparts and found them lacking. It described the U.S. frozen chicken legs as "kicking Russia in the stomach" and dealing a blow to the prestige of its government. JAC DUMA SETS CONDITION FOR START-II RATIFICATION. Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin of the Communist Party told Interfax on 3 November that the START-II treaty is unlikely to be ratified unless the government guarantees that the single-warhead Topol-M missile replaces the RS-18 and RS-20 missile systems. Ilyukhin said that the Topol-M should be introduced within two years of dismantling the older missiles. Earlier, First Deputy Prime Minister Maslyukov advocated that the government build 35-45 new Topol-M missiles (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1998). JAC RUSSIA, BELARUS FORM JOINT PARLIAMENT... Representatives to the Union of Russia and Belarus meeting in Yaroslavl on 2 November agreed to reorganize the union into a two- chamber legislative body. AP reported that the new body will pass laws relevant only to the union and is not intended to substitute for the two nations' own legislatures. The upper chamber of the new body will consist of legislators from the two countries, while the members of the lower chamber will be elected directly by voters in each country during national parliamentary elections, according to ITAR-TASS. Twenty-five seats will be reserved for Belarus and 75 for Russia. JAC ...WHICH YUGOSLAV NATIONALISTS CONSIDER JOINING. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, who attended the meeting, said that Yugoslavia wants to join the union and that "the freedom of Slavic peoples can be defended only by uniting." President of Belarus Alyaksandr Lukashenka was also enthusiastic, saying that Yugoslavia "has a favorable strategic situation and climatic conditions" and "would do Belarus and Russia much good from an economic and strategic point of view." Meanwhile, Anatol Malafeyeu, chairman of Belarus's Chamber of Representatives, expressed the hope that Primakov's appointment as Russia's prime minister would "deepen integration processes" between Russia and Belarus. JAC RUHRGAZ TO RESCUE? The price of Gazprom shares soared more than 25 percent on the Moscow stock exchange following the government's announcement of its intentions to sell up to 5 percent of the company. The tender will take place before the end of the year, Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Bulgak told Interfax on 2 November. Citing an anonymous source in the government, the news agency reported that the government will sell only 2.2 percent to 3 percent of Gazprom initially. "Kommersant-Daily" on 3 November argued that the government hopes that sale proceeds will help at least partly to avoid a default on sovereign debt. The newspaper added that although the devaluation of the ruble lowered the company's price tag, the government may be able to get $1 billion for a 3 percent stake because now Ruhrgaz, in addition to Shell and ENI, is an interested buyer. JAC RUSSIA COMPLAINS ABOUT JAPANESE FISHING BOATS VIOLATING BORDER. The Maritime Department of the Russian Border Guards has said that recent violations of Russia's state borders by Japanese fishing vessels are "a planned action," Interfax reported on 2 November. On 30 October, Russian border guards detained three fishing vessels off the Kuril Islands but released them after the crews promised to pay a $47,000 fine. Two days later, another eight Japanese vessels entered the area without informing the Russian border guards, thereby violating a bilateral fishing agreement signed earlier this year. The ships ignored border-guard radio signals, but the guards took no action. Interfax quotes an unnamed spokesman for the Maritime Department as saying the violations were "aimed to check the reaction of Russian border guards." BP RUSSIAN SPACE MODULE READY FOR BLAST-OFF. Russian engineers completed work on "Zarya," the first module of the International Space Station on 2 November, ITAR-TASS reported. "Zarya" is scheduled to be launched on 20 November. If all goes according to schedule, NASA will launch a U.S.-built module in December. So far, however, the schedule for the space station has experienced many delays. JAC RUSSIAN ARMY INVESTIGATING ITS OWN 'X FILES'. The Defense Ministry houses a group of specialists studying "paranormal phenomena," such as UFOs and occult practices, "Novaya gazeta" reported on 26 October. According to the journal, Major-General Aleksei Savin, who heads the unit, founded the group in the late 1980s at the behest of former General Staff Chief of Staff Mikhail Moiseev. The unit reportedly conducts experiments on humans, specifically military cadets. It also won support from the highest levels of the Defense Ministry, when some of its staff "predicted" the ascent of Anatolii Kvashnin to Moiseev's position. JAC LUZHKOV EXTENDING REACH TO CHESS CITY? The Republic of Kalmykia has a new prime minister, Yurii Baturin, who also heads the INTEK construction company, which completed the building of Chess City in Kalmykia. Earlier, the Russian press reported that Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who is Baturin's brother-in-law, despatched Baturin to help President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov finish Chess City when financing for the project dried up in the wake of a scandal that followed the murder of a journalist investigating official corruption in Kalmykia. JAC CHECHEN, INGUSH PRESIDENTS CRITICIZE BEREZOVSKII. Interviewed in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 3 November, Aslan Maskhadov and Ruslan Aushev said CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii's attempts to secure the release of Russian presidential representative Valentin Vlasov and other Russian hostages are counterproductive. The two presidents criticized Berezovskii for circumventing them and trying to negotiate Vlasov's release directly with maverick field commander Salman Raduev, whom, they said, Berezovskii has provided with "more computers than some Russian intelligence services possess." In negotiating directly with Raduev, Aushev claimed, Berezovskii has driven up the ransom demanded for Vlasov from $4 million to $7 million. Vlasov was abducted on the Chechen-Ingush border on 1 May. Last month, Berezovskii denied paying ransoms to secure the release of hostages. Meanwhile, Chechen Deputy Security Minister Nasrudi Bashiev has announced the arrest of two persons suspected of kidnapping three Britons and a New Zealander in Chechnya last month, AP reported on 2 November, citing Interfax. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA GEORGIAN MUTINY LEADER DEMANDS PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION. Lieutenant Akaki Eliava, who led the abortive insurrection in western Georgia on 19-20 October, has demanded the release of all his supporters arrested for their participation in the revolt, the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze, and official condemnation of the removal from power of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia in 1991-1992, Interfax reported on 2 November. Eliava threatened a new military campaign against the Georgian authorities if those demands are not met by 15 November. Thirty-four people have been arrested to date for their role in the uprising, ITAR- TASS reported on 2 November, quoting Military Prosecutor Badri Bitsadze. LF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DELEGATION VISITS GEORGIA. A delegation headed by deputy parliamentary speaker Yurii Bakhshian has concluded a three-day visit to Tbilisi, where it held talks with Georgian parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania and Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze, Noyan Tapan reported. Zhvania stressed that the dissatisfaction of the predominantly Armenian population of the south Georgian region of Djavakheti must not be exploited to undermine bilateral relations. The talks also focused on ongoing cooperation in the energy and transport sectors, including the Eurasian Transport and Energy Corridors, and on drafting bilateral programs for national security and cooperation with international organizations. LF ARMENIAN PARTY THREATENED WITH LIBEL SUIT. Several prominent Armenian political figures have said they intend to sue the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (HHD) for libel, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 2 November. The politicians, who include former national security chief Davit Shahnazarian and Eduard Yegorian, who heads the Hayrenik parliamentary group, are among several associates of former President Levon Ter- Petrossian whom the HHD has accused of corruption and embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 2 November 1998). Senior HHD member Gegham Manukian said on 2 November that his party has evidence to support its allegations of malpractice. LF AZERBAIJAN OPPOSITION PLANS NEW UMBRELLA MOVEMENT. Representatives of more than 20 Azerbaijani political parties and defeated presidential candidate Ashraf Mehtiyev met on 2 November to discuss setting up a Movement for Democracy, Turan and RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported. The movement will campaign for new parliamentary, presidential. and municipal elections. Membership will be open to all those who do not recognize the legitimacy of the present leadership. LF AZERBAIJAN, TURKMENISTAN SEEK CASPIAN ACCORD. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev will travel to Ashgabat shortly with a government delegation for talks with Turkmen officials on ownership of several Caspian offshore oil fields to which both countries lay claim, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 3 November. But Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov has made clear that Ashgabat will not compromise on the Kyapaz field and will raise the possibility of becoming a member of the international consortium currently developing the Azeri and Chirag fields, according to Turan on 2 November. LF ALIEV SETS DEADLINE FOR MEP DECISION. Aliev on 1 November ordered the Azerbaijan State Oil Company SOCAR and the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) to draw up by 12 November their recommendation on the optimum route for the so-called Main Export Pipeline for Caspian oil. Aliev again rejected claims that the proposed Baku-Ceyhan route will cost up to $1 billion more than the alternatives. In a 2 November interview with Reuters, U.S. envoy for Caspian energy issues Richard Morningstar similarly cast doubts on the estimated cost of the Baku-Ceyhan route but made clear that the U.S. government will not provide funds for that project. Morningstar also said he does not consider it "critical at this point" for the AIOC to make a firm commitment to the Baku-Ceyhan route. He predicted intensive negotiations between Azerbaijan, Turkey, and the AIOC on how to fund the Baku-Ceyhan route. LF TURKMEN OIL PRODUCTION REACHES RECORD LEVELS. Turkmenistan's Oil and Gas Ministry on 2 November announced that daily oil extraction has reached 20,000 tons, Interfax reported on 2 October. The ministry said that improved extraction methods will "guarantee" a total output of 7 million tons in 1998. That figure will grow to 10 million tons by the year 2000, the ministry said, adding that half of the total output will be exported. BP BOMB EXPLOSIONS IN TAJIK CITY. Several bombs exploded in the southwestern city of Kurgan-Tyube on 3 November, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. One bomb went off outside the city's Interior Ministry building, killing one person who was in a parked car nearby. Bombs also exploded near other administrative buildings in the city at intervals of 20 minutes, but no other casualties are reported. Law enforcement officials describe the explosions as acts of terrorism. BP KYRGYZ NATIONAL CURRENCY LOSES VALUE AGAIN. Chairman of the Kyrgyz National Bank Marat Sultanov told a news conference on 2 November that the som is continuing to lose value because foreign investors are withdrawing money from the country, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Sultanov said the Russian financial crisis is also partly to blame for the decrease. Since July, the som has dropped from 17 to $1 to 24-25. Sultanov said that the National Bank has spent 12 percent of its hard currency reserves since August. He added that the state budget for 1999 will have to be revised. BP 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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