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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 215, Part I, 6 November 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 215, Part I, 6 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 * U.S. WARNS PRIMAKOV GOVERNMENT * MEDIA FACING COMMUNISTS' SCRUTINY, HIGHER COSTS * TAJIK PRESIDENT CLAIMS SUCCESS IN BATTLE WITH REBELS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA U.S. WARNS PRIMAKOV GOVERNMENT... U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott warned Russian officials that a massive monetary emission would endanger future U.S. support at international financial institutions, such as the IMF. Talbott spoke at a World Affairs Council meeting in Los Angeles on 5 November. According to Reuters, he is expected to make an even more comprehensive statement on U.S. policy towards Russia during a 6 November speech at Stanford University in California. "Novye izvestiya" on 5 November suggested that the U.S.-Russian relationship is "cooling." The newspaper, which reportedly receives financing from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ, said the U.S. "forced the IMF to refuse to give Russia a promised $2.5 billion credit, while at the same time the IMF generously allotted $30 billion to Brazil and $10 billion to South Korea." JAC ...AS MEDIA-MOST MARKETS YAVLINSKII IN U.S. "Kommersant- Daily" on 5 November argued that Igor Malashenko, first deputy chairman of the board of directors of Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-Most Group, who is touring the U.S. to drum up support for the presidential candidacy of Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, is seeking financial support as much for his company as for his candidate. Malashenko has been sent, the newspaper argued, to "convince Western partners that Media-Most is a structure that can secure the victory of any candidate. And if it does so, it will acquire its much needed funds." In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4 November, Malashenko said that he has undertaken his trip without Yavlinskii's authorization. He also noted that "a certain section of the American elite has become a domestic factor in Russia" and that the "main component of [former First Deputy Premier] Anatolii Chubais's political base" is "a section of the American elite." JAC MEDIA FACING COMMUNISTS' SCRUTINY, HIGHER COSTS... Communist Party officials have launched a public campaign against television media, pledging to establish a "public committee" on 7 November, the anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, to draw up accusations. On 4 November, State Duma Deputy and Communist Party faction member Aleksandr Kuvaev accused several prominent television journalists of "maiming and raping public consciousness" and "collaborating with the regime and its crimes against society," "Moscow Times" reported. Meanwhile, the Duma overrode a Federation Council veto of a law on privileges for the media, thereby extending breaks on value-added tax and profit tax for media holdings for another three years. But it failed to override a bill on customs tariffs that would have extended a similar exemption for the same period. Radio Mayak reported the same day that as a result, the price of newspapers and magazines printed outside Russia will rise two to three times. JAC ...RESPONDS WITH COUNTERATTACK. The next day, three television executives held their own press conference and reacted angrily to Kuvaev's statements. All Russian State Television and Radio Company Director Mikhail Shvydkoi compared the Communists' policy with that of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin's persecution of Jewish doctors toward the end of his regime. Russian Public Television Director Igor Shabdurasulov pledged to reveal "the real roots of yesterday's statements by leaders of the Communist Party." They promised not to retaliate by blocking Communists from the airwaves. However, NTV Director Oleg Dobrodeev said that Kuvaev is unlikely to appear on his network. JAC DEBT TALKS TO CONTINUE. Andrei Kostin, Vneshekonombank chairman, said on 5 November that his bank is prepared to begin talks on rescheduling the nation's debt if the government considers that necessary. Meanwhile, current talks with foreign creditors will likely be extended into next week, Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told Interfax. "Izvestiya" quoted analysts as claiming that Western banks are dragging the talks out as long as possible so that they can start to seize Russian monies held abroad after the 90-day moratorium on short-term loan repayments expires. LUKoil and Oneksimbank are major investors in "Izvestiya." JAC U.S. FOOD DEAL HITS SNAG. A last-minute dispute over tax exemptions for U.S. goods prevented final signature on an agreement for the provision of U.S. food aid worth $600 million. Negotiators had expected the deal to be completed by 5 November, but the Russian government refused to extend special tax privileges for humanitarian aid provided under a 1996 protocol for the goods that would have to be purchased. Under the agreement, the Russian government will receive a $600 million loan payable over 20 years with a five-year grace period and a 2 percent annual interest rate. In addition, the US is expected to donate 1.5 million tons of wheat. Meanwhile, French farm officials said that the EU will follow the U.S.'s lead and provide food aid of its own. "Vremya MN" on 4 November questioned why Roskhlebprodukt alone will oversee the state's grain purchases and why no competition or tender was held among Russian companies to manage the deliveries. JAC CENTRAL BANK TO PREPARE HIT LIST. Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov has ordered the Central Bank to prepare by 10 November a list of commercial banks that would help the government determine which banks to save. According to Russian agencies, Primakov declared at a cabinet meeting on 5 November that the Central Bank should select banks worthy of rescue according to how well they made payments to the budget and met the needs of their clients. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 November published an endorsement of Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko noting that unlike the "evil genius" [former Presidential Envoy to International Financial Institutions Anatolii] Chubais or the "primitive [former Central Bank Chairman Sergei] Dubinin," Gerashchenko "seems to be a person of high morals" whose main goal is a "working monetary system and the safety of the deposits of citizens and enterprises." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives financial backing from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. JAC HEALTH BILL DIES. A proposed law requiring a medical report on the health of the president missed passage in the State Duma by five votes on 5 November. The Communist Party, People's Power, Agrarians and Liberal Democratic factions all supported the bill, while Our Home is Russia, Yabloko, and Russian Regions opposed it. Presidential representative to the State Duma Aleksandr Kotenkov said the bill would never have become law in any case since it violated the Russian Constitution. He suggested that a law requiring a medical summary of the health of all elected officials, including deputies, governors and judges, would be reasonable and just. JAC STAVROPOL DISENCHANTED WITH MILITARY. Relations between military and civilians in the Stavropol region are beginning to fray, "Izvestiya" reported on 5 November. Stavropol has one of the highest numbers of troops on its territory because of the relocation of 50 military formations within the last five years. According to the newspaper, the failure of the federal government to transfer promised funds has brought the "army to the brink of bankruptcy along with everyone with whom it has concluded agreements." The daily cited one Stavropol official who said that civilians are particularly disenchanted because the crime rate has not decreased, despite the military's heavy presence. JAC RUSSIA, CHINA, NORTH KOREA SIGN BORDER ACCORD. Representatives of Russia, China, and North Korea, meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, on 3 November, signed an agreement defining the border along the Tumen River, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported. The new agreement was necessary because the river has shifted course since earlier agreements were signed. Negotiations began in 1993 but the sixth round of talks took place only this week because of the change in the North Korean leadership. BP CHINESE ECONOMISTS PREDICT DROP IN SINO-RUSSIAN TRADE. ITAR-TASS reported on 6 November that Chinese economists predict trade between their country and Russia will drop from $6.12 billion in 1997 to $5.5 billion this year. They cited the Russian financial crisis and the drop in the value of the ruble. The economists stressed the importance of Russia's economic recovery to China, noting that "if Russia catches cold, it is the Chinese border cities that sneeze." Last year, Russia and China vowed to increase bilateral trade to $20 billion by 2000. BP STEPASHIN RULES OUT ASYLUM FOR OCALAN. Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin told journalists on 5 November that Moscow will not grant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan's request for political asylum in Russia, Interfax reported. The previous day, the State Duma had appealed to President Yeltsin to comply with Ocalan's request. Stepashin conceded that the lower house "is entitled to its opinion" but added that Russia cannot support any terrorist group inside the country or abroad. He said Yeltsin shares this view. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin, however, was less categorical, telling journalists on 5 November that Ocalan's request for asylum will be reviewed "according to established procedures," Reuters reported. LF CHECHEN PRESIDENT APPEARS BEFORE SUPREME COURT. Aslan Maskhadov on 5 November complied with a demand by Chechnya's Supreme Shariah court to respond to charges brought by three rival field commanders that he has violated the Chechen Constitution and Islamic law, Russian agencies reported. Maskhadov told journalists later that all Chechen citizens, including the president, should observe Islamic law, but he declined to give details of the court proceedings. Maskhadov again rejected suggestions that his continuing standoff with Salman Raduev may lead to another civil war in Chechnya. Maskhadov also explained that he dismissed Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov because of the latter's refusal to implement the president's policy. He described Udugov as "a seasoned statesman who has done much for Chechnya's nationhood," according to Interfax. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA TAJIK PRESIDENT CLAIMS SUCCESS IN BATTLE WITH REBELS... Imomali Rakhmonov told journalists on 6 November that government forces have forced rebels out of many areas in the country's northern Leninabad Oblast, Russian media reported. Rakhmonov said Chkalovsk airport and several administrative buildings in the city of Khujand have been retaken from the rebels. Government forces are to be joined shortly by 1,000 fighters from the United Tajik Opposition under field commander Mirzo Ziyoyev. Rakhmonov said the rebels are retreating and vowed that all those who took part in the mutiny will be "eliminated or captured." Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have strengthened units along the border with Tajikistan to prevent the rebels from escaping into their countries. BP ...WHILE REBELS CLAIM VICTORY OVER GOVERNMENT FORCES. Rebels in northern Tajikistan blew up a strategic railway bridge on 5 November. Rebel commander Mahmud Khudaberdiyev told Russian Television on 5 November that his group is in control of "seven or eight districts" in northern Tajikistan. He added that said "the people are supporting us." Tajik Radio, however, denied Russian Television reports that rebels wiped out 35 percent of an airborne unit sent to the area. Khudaberdiyev added that his forces have already mined the Kairakkum Reservoir and threatened to blow it up if the government does not accept their demands. But President Rakhmonov said on 6 November that government troops are in control of the reservoir. BP KAZHEGELDIN BARRED FROM KAZAKH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. Central Electoral Commission chairwoman Zagipa Baliyeva said on 5 November that Akezhan Kazhegeldin is not eligible to run in the presidential elections scheduled for 10 January, Interfax reported. Baliyeva explained that the former prime minister is barred owing to a fine he received for participating in an unsanctioned meeting of a newly formed opposition group last month. However, she added that if a higher court overturns the ruling before 30 November, Kazhegeldin would be allowed to run in the elections. The U.S. State Department criticized the decision the same day pointing out that Kazakhstan, as an OSCE member state, is obliged to uphold the individual's right to seek office without discrimination, free and fair campaigning, and equal access to the media during the election campaign. BP NAZARBAYEV'S DAUGHTER TEMPORARILY STEPS DOWN. Dariga Nazarbayeva, daughter of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, announced on 6 November she will temporarily step down as head of the national news agency, Khabar, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. Nazarbayeva said the decision was based on "ethical reasons" and that she will resume her duties after the 10 January presidential elections. BP KAZAKH OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER RUNS INTO MORE TROUBLE. Having lost a law suit brought by the government this summer, "DAT" encountered further difficulties when all copies of its 31 October issue were impounded by customs officials, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. The newspaper is now being printed in Russia and Kyrgyzstan because its equipment was confiscated in connection with the law suit. Customs officials seized the shipment of newspapers arriving from Russia, saying customs procedures had not been observed. BP ARMENIA ANTICIPATES REVISION OF KARABAKH SETTLEMENT PLAN... Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told journalists in Yerevan on 5 November that the co- chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group may bring "substantially revised" proposals on resolving the Karabakh conflict when they visit Armenia and Azerbaijan next week, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Oskanian said he is not aware of the content of the new proposals but believes that they provide for a "package" settlement with "new approaches and no preconditions." Yerevan and Stepanakert both insist on a package solution rather than the "phased" peace plan proposed by the OSCE last fall, which Baku accepted. On their last visit to the region in mid-September, the Minsk Group co-chairmen suggested new approaches to resolving the conflict in talks. Karabakh officials said those approaches reflected a greater understanding of the Armenian position (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and18 September 1998). LF ...RESCHEDULED PEACE HEARINGS ON KARABAKH. Oskanian also said that the hearings on the Karabakh conflict under the aegis of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe may now take place on 16 December. Those hearings had originally been planned for 3 November but were postponed after the Azerbaijani government announced it will participate only if representatives of the former Azerbaijani population of Nagorno-Karabakh are invited to attend (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 27 October 1998). LF RATIFICATION OF ARMENIAN-RUSSIAN TREATY FINALIZED. Oskanian and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vasilii Sredin gave signed a protocol on exchanging the instruments of ratification of the bilateral treaty on friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance signed in Moscow in August 1997 by President Yeltsin and then Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 5 November. Sredin characterized that treaty, to which Azerbaijan objected, as "laying a serious foundation" for bilateral relations. On 4 November, Armenian Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian met with outgoing Russian ambassador Andrei Ournov in Yerevan to discuss military cooperation, which is an important component of the 1997 treaty. And in Moscow, Armenian Energy Minister Gagik Martirosian met with Russian First Deputy Premier Vadim Gustov and Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov to discuss the upcoming visit to Russia of Armenian Prime Minister Armen Darpinian. They also discussed avoiding double taxation and supplies of nuclear fuel for Armenia's nuclear power station, Noyan Tapan reported. LF CASPIAN PIPELINE DECISION AGAIN DELAYED. Meeting in London on 5 November, representatives of the Western oil companies that are members of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) decided to delay again a decision on the optimum route for the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil, Reuters reported. AMOCO Eurasia chairman Charles Pitman said the delay was agreed on with the Azerbaijan State Oil Company SOCAR in order to give the AIOC more time to formulate the decision, which was originally scheduled for 29 October and then postponed until 12 November. It will now be taken next month. Also on 5 November, representatives of SOCAR, the AIOC, and the Georgian government met with Turkish Energy Ministry officials in Istanbul, Reuters reported. Those talks are believed to have focused on the financial incentives Turkey unveiled last week for companies joining the consortium that will finance and build the planned Baku-Ceyhan export pipeline. LF GEORGIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING CAUSES CONSTERNATION. In response to an appeal from a judge, the Constitutional Court on 3 November rejected as "unconstitutional" a law passed earlier this year introducing a new professional examination for all judges, Interfax reported on 5 November. The ruling effectively nullifies the authority of some 90 judges who have already passed that test. Parliamentary majority leader Mikhail Saakashvili, the author of Georgia's legal reform program, condemned the Constitutional Court's decision as "tendentious." Parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania said it will delay the introduction of "a normal court system" by at least three years. President Eduard Shevardnadze has canceled a meeting with Constitutional Court judges scheduled for 7 November. LF GEORGIAN OFFICIAL CONCERNED AT PRESIDENT'S PLANNED ABKHAZ VISIT. Speaking on Georgian state television on 5 November, parliamentary Defense and Security Committee chairman Revaz Adamia said that Shevardnadze's planned visit to Sukhumi is "not without risk," ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze is scheduled to visit the Abkhaz capital during the first half of November to meet with his Abkhaz counterpart, Vladislav Ardzinba, and sign agreements on the repatriation of ethnic Georgians to Abkhazia and on economic aid. Adamia said that the Abkhaz authorities do not fully control the territory of Abkhazia and that it would be expedient for Ardzinba to come to Tbilisi instead, given the existence of forces whom he did not name and who he claimed are interested in killing the Georgian president. LF LEADER OF DISPLACED PERSONS FROM ABKHAZIA PROSECUTED. Legal proceedings have been brought against Georgian parliamentary deputy Boris Kakubava, who heads the radical Coordinating Council of Political Organizations from Abkhazia and Samachablo [South Ossetia], CAUCASUS PRESS reported on 6 November. Kakubava is charged with premeditated destruction of state property, exceeding his authority, and organizing and participating in mass actions violating public order. Those charges, which presumably stem from the 1 November attempt by displaced persons led by Kakubava to occupy a Tbilisi hospital, carry up to eight years' imprisonment (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 2 November 1998). Kakubava told journalists on 27 October that he will cooperate with any political force capable of ridding Georgia of Shevardnadze, whom he described as "a dictator." According to "Rezonansi" on 5 November, he has fled Tbilisi for Baku. LF 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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