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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 217, Part I, 10 November 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 217, Part I, 10 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 * INFLATION DOWN IN OCTOBER BUT READY TO SOAR? * EU TO SEND OWN FOOD SHIPMENT * MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN IN BAKU xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA INFLATION DOWN IN OCTOBER BUT READY TO SOAR? Yevgenii Primakov's government has achieved some measurable success in economic policy-making, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" claimed on 10 November. According to the newspaper, inflation in October fell to 3 percent from 36-38 percent the previous month. "Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day that the fourth quarter budget deficit in the revised budget will total 103 billion rubles ($6.9 billion), assuming that no credit from the IMF is forthcoming. The newspaper reported that the government decided to discuss the budget at a closed session of the State Duma because this version differs from the one that Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov showed the fund. Earlier, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov told reporters that the amount of money to be printed will not exceed 15 billion rubles in 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 1998). JAC EU TO SEND OWN FOOD SHIPMENT. The EU and Russia have reached a preliminary agreement on a food assistance package for Russia worth 400 million ECU ($470 million), Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik told reporters on 10 November. According to Kulik, Russia will purchase the food and receive humanitarian aid worth 10-2 million ECU. EU Commissioner Hans van den Broek told reporters the previous day that the package will include wheat, rye, pork, beef, skimmed milk, and rice. JAC JAPAN MAKES LOAN CONDITIONAL ON IMF COMPLIANCE. Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said on 10 November that a $800 million loan tranche to Russia will not be granted until Moscow has meet demands by the IMF, ITAR- TASS reported. Japanese Prime Minister Keidzo Obuchi had promised that the tranche would be released before the end of this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 1998). But Komura said that unless IMF conditions are met and delays on loans from that organization lifted, "Japan will not grant credit alone." BP NEW COMMAND PROPOSED FOR NUCLEAR FORCES. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, who was once the commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, has proposed forming a new "joint main command for strategic nuclear deterrent forces," "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 10 November. The new command would include strategic missile forces and the ministry's 12th Main Directorate, which has operational control over maritime and aviation nuclear forces. According to the newspaper, generals in the navy and air force are "irked" by the notion of forming a new body at a time when their services are having to slim down. They also dislike the fact that the proposal seems to upset the established order, according to which the General Staff commands and controls the country's nuclear forces. The daily also reported that Sergeev recommended the current head of the Strategic Rocket Forces Lieutenant-General Vladimir Yakovlev for the post of strategic forces commander-in-chief. JAC COMMUNISTS GET MORE VERBAL HEAT OVER MAKASHOV. Former Deputy Prime Minister and head of the Unified Energy Systems Anatolii Chubais has joined other members of the Moscow political elite calling for the Communist Party to be banned for its support of State Duma Deputy Albert Makashov and his anti-Semitic remarks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 1998). "Nezavisimaya gazeta" concluded on 10 November that Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov wiped out a "splendid collection of personal tactical and strategic victories" through the Communist Party's demonstration of support for Makashov. Meanwhile, "Komsomolskaya pravda" speculated that President Boris Yeltsin's sudden return to Moscow was motivated by the president's desire to "strike back" at the Communist Party. The newspaper reported that according to a presidential staff source, the Kremlin considers a ban on the party "unproductive" but the possibility of the White House's initiating legal proceedings against the party has not been ruled out. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" receives financial support from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, while Oneksimbank is a major shareholder in "Komsomolskaya pravda." JAC RUSSIAN ELITE OFFERS SUGGESTIONS ON CONSTITUTION. The working group of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy has issued its recommendations on how to amend the constitution while preserving stability. The group, which consists of a number of leading politicians, academics, and journalists, published a statement in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 6 November. That statement was also signed by dozens of their peers from other professions. According to the group, the "demand for amendments to the constitution is essentially political rather than juridical" and "calls to change the balance of powers in the constitution in favor of a parliamentary republic are exceptionally dangerous." The authors condemn efforts to amend the constitution before presidential elections or after such a ballot without the participation of the federal government. They suggest that amendments be introduced over a short period before the end of this year. The amendments would include increasing the Duma's role in the formation of the cabinet. JAC RUSSIA, BELARUS COOPERATE ON CRIME-FIGHTING. After meeting with his Belarusian counterpart, Valyantsin Ahalets, Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin told reporters on 9 November that they had discussed among other things, the unification of Russian and Belarusian legislation, in particular the criminal and criminal- procedure codes. According to Stepashin, the two countries are already cooperating on fighting crime and are creating a joint criminal database. Russian Television reported that the two Interior Ministries have conducted joint operations against criminal gangs in border districts in Smolensk and Lipetsk Oblasts. JAC ROSSEL BUYS GOOD PRESS COVERAGE? The head of the information department of a new television station in Yekaterinburg told local legislators that Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel founded the station in order "to assure appropriate coverage during the upcoming 1999 gubernatorial race," "EWI Russian Regional Report" reported on 5 November. The station receives 2.5 million rubles ($167,000) a year from the local budget and was designated a public broadcaster. The station is a "de facto commercial" channel, and station management refused to give local legislators air time, saying their company is a commercial enterprise. The report added that funding for public media rose more than 500 percent in last year's oblast budget, while public health and education programs have been chronically underfunded. In his speech on 6 November, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott called Sverdlovsk Oblast one of Russia's "oases of liberalalization" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 1998). JAC FAR EAST LEADERS WANT TO SET UP OWN BANKS. The trend towards regions "nationalizing" banks on their territory is continuing. "Izvestiya" on 6 November suggested that in the Far East, the real aim of the proposed effort may be to provide financing for local campaigns (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 1998). Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko and Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov have both declared their support for merging large local banks in their region into one controlled by the local authorities, the daily reported. Nazdratenko said that his plan was personally approved by Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko when he recently visited Moscow. Cherepkov said he wants to establish a municipal bank for servicing the accounts of the city budget. The daily quoted "local experts" saying that soon new banks will emerge that are "patronized by the krai's political elite." JAC TEACHERS STRIKE IN ST. PETERSBURG. Teachers at 25 schools in Leningrad Oblast did not return to work after the close of the fall vacations to protest a backlog of unpaid wages over the past three to four months, ITAR- TASS reported on 10 November. According to Vladimir Podolyan, chairman of the local union of education workers, unpaid wages total about 60 million rubles ($4 million). JAC COURT FAVORS BREAKUP OF COMMUNAL APARTMENTS. The Constitutional Court lifted a ban on the privatization of rooms in communal apartments last week. "Kommersant- Daily" noted on 4 November that the ruling does not mean that all residents of communal apartment will immediately become owners of their own rooms. The court did not rule out the possibility that the right to privatize individual rooms will face more legal challenges. An uncompromising neighbor could hold up a planned privatization by lodging a legal complaint that his rights have been violated, since under the constitution, the fulfillment of one citizen's rights cannot come at the expense of another's. JAC SUPPORTERS, OPPONENTS OF CHECHEN PRESIDENT CONVENE ... Former Chechen acting Premier Shamil Basaev convened a meeting on 9 November of the Pan-National Congress of the Chechen People, which was officially dissolved by deceased President Djokhar Dudaev. The session, held in violation of an agreement reached between Basaev and current President Aslan Maskhadov at a meeting of field commanders the previous day, was attended by some 1,000 Maskhadov opponents, AP reported. Also on 9 November, Maskhadov convened a rally of his supporters in the village of Gekhi-chu, where Dudaev was killed in April 1996, to mark the seventh anniversary of the latter's inauguration as Chechnya's first president. Former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev has appealed to both Maskhadov and Basaev to refrain from actions that could exacerbate the continuing tension in the republic. LF ...AS MOSCOW EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR MASKHADOV. Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian Interior Minister Stepashin said on 9 November that "Maskhadov is supported by Russia and other countries" and is able "to consolidate his authority," Interfax reported. Stepashin told journalists that at a meeting earlier that day with Prime Minister Primakov, the latter had assured him that funds had been allocated from the federal budget for the social sphere in Chechnya. Stepashin said that receipt of those funds, which Moscow has repeatedly promised over the past year, would enhance Maskhadov's prestige. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN IN BAKU. The Russian, French, and U.S. co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group met with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev in Baku on 9 November and presented new proposals for resolving the Karabakh conflict. Those proposals are based on the concept of a "union-state" comprising Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, according to Reuters. They also focus on the problem of displaced persons. ITAR- TASS quoted Aliev as saying that "the principle of a single state deserves attention" but that the new initiatives need to be thoroughly studied before the Azerbaijani side can express a formal opinion. Aliev's foreign policy adviser Vafa Gulu-zade told journalists that Baku regards the new proposals "very negatively" as the term "union-state" is ambiguous. Gulu-zade said Azerbaijan will not retreat from the so-called Lisbon principles, which provide for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and autonomy for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan. LF NEW AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION MOVEMENT FORMED. Twenty-three Azerbaijani opposition parties have announced their alignment in a new Movement for Democracy, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 November. The primary objective of the movement is to campaign for new presidential elections. The movement does not recognize the outcome of the 11 October presidential poll, in which Aliev was reelected with 76 percent of the vote, according to official returns. The Azerbaijan National Independence Party, headed by Etibar Mamedov, one of the defeated presidential candidates, has not joined the new movement. But Mamedov and representatives of 27 other parties signed a declaration on 9 November condemning the elections as falsified and affirming that "Heidar Aliev and his entourage have usurped power." LF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION ACCUSES LEADERSHIP OVER VIOLENCE. The leadership of the opposition Democratic Party and of the Movement for Electoral Reform and Democratic Elections have released official statements claiming that a group of young men in civilian clothes who attacked and beat up opposition leaders at the 8 November Baku rally are employees of a company owned by the brother of President Aliev, Turan reported on 9 November. Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General Eldar Hasanov condemned the attack at a 9 November meeting with Azerbaijan Popular Front Party board member Alimamed Nuriev, assuring him that criminal proceedings will be brought against the attackers. LF ARMENIA, RUSSIA TO RESUME DIAMOND COOPERATION. Russian officials, including the president of Almazy-Sakha- Rossii, met on 9 November in Yerevan with President Robert Kocharian to discuss the prospects for renewing cooperation in diamond-cutting, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Armenia was one of the leading centers of the Soviet diamond-processing industry before the collapse of the USSR, and diamonds remain one of its main export items. But since the early 1990s, South Africa's De Beers corporation has replaced Russia as Armenia's main supplier. A formal agreement whereby Russia will provide Armenia with uncut diamonds for processing is to be signed by the end of this year, according to Noyan Tapan. LF TAJIK PRESIDENT DECLARES DAY OF MOURNING... Imomali Rakhmonov declared 10 November a day of mourning for victims of an attempted rebellion in the northern part of Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported. Red Cross workers visited some of the scenes of the fighting the previous day. They report that more than 500 victims of the fighting are in Khujand hospitals, some 40 families are without shelter, and more than 2,000 houses are damaged. The Tajik government issued a statement the same day requesting that other CIS countries help apprehend the leaders of the rebellion, who are believed to have fled the country. Tajik presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov has said there are unconfirmed reports that some of the rebel leaders have escaped to Uzbekistan. The Uzbek Foreign Ministry released a statement calling such statements "slanderous." The UN mission to Tajikistan also criticized reports on Tajik Television claiming the UN knew about the rebellion in advance. BP ...WHILE INVESTIGATORS SEEK TO PIECE TOGETHER FACTS. Tajik investigators examining the attempted rebellion in Leninabad Region say they have documents that support Rakhmonov's assertion that the rebels planned a coup, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 November. Investigators found rebel maps indicating strategic targets not only in Leninabad Region but also in Dushanbe, the southern city of Kurgan-Tyube, and the Karategin Valley, east of Dushanbe. The attacks were planned "outside the country" and some of the rebels trained in Afghanistan, the investigators say. Some media reports during the rebellion claimed that among the rebels were soldiers of Afghan General Abdul Rashid Dostum. The Tajik government has released a list of those suspected of planning the attack. They include former Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdullojonov, former army Colonel Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, and former Customs Committee Chairman Yakub Salimov. BP RUSSIAN RUBLE DOING WELL IN KAZAKHSTAN. ITAR-TASS on 9 November reported that there is a growing demand for Russian rubles in Kazakhstan. The ruble's value on the Almaty stock exchange climbed 15 percent in the last week and is currently exchanged for 5.1-5.3 Kazakh tenge ($1=81 tenge). At currency exchange offices, the ruble can be bought at 4.5 tenge; it can then be sold at rates18-20 percent higher. Over the past week, the total volume of ruble transactions at the Almaty stock exchange amounted to 1.65 million rubles, the largest amount since before the Russian economic crisis began. BP TURKMEN PRESIDENT IN GOOD HEALTH. The German cardiologist who performed cardiac surgery on Saparmurat Niyazov in September 1997, has re-examined the Turkmen president and said his health has significantly improved, ITAR-TASS reported. Dr. Hans Meisner said it helps that Niyazov has quit smoking but warned that the president often disregards doctors' advice not to overburden himself. 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