|Be slow of tongue and quick of eye. - Cervantes|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 223, Part I, 18 November 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 223, Part I, 18 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 ACCUSES GOVERNORS OVER USE OF FEDERAL FUNDS * CENTRAL BANK NEEDS MORE RUBLES TO PROP UP BANKS * ARMENIAN PRESIDENT NAMES NEW CABINET APPOINTEES End Note: AVERTING 'ONE STATE--TWO SOCIETIES' IN ESTONIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA GOVERNMENT ACCUSES GOVERNORS OVER USE OF FEDERAL FUNDS... In an interview with "Vremya MN" on 16 November, Deputy Finance Minister Tatyana Nesterenko charged regional governors with failing to pass on federal monies transferred to them for wages and then blaming the federal government for mounting arrears. In "Literaturnaya gazeta" on 11 November, sociologist Olga Krishtanovskaya suggested the center no longer has a foolproof means of controlling regional elites because if they try to punish an "impertinent governor" by delaying federal allotments, then the governor can make speeches blaming Moscow for poor local living conditions. On the other hand, she noted that the federal government has managed to keep the nation's most economically powerful regions, such as Khanty-Mansiysk and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrugs, "politically weak" by "doing everything in its power to promote mediocre regional politicians." She added that regional elections are fast becoming "a formality" since more and more governors win elections with 80-90 percent of the vote. JAC ...WHILE KALMYKIA'S LEADER THREATENS CENTER. President of the Republic of Kalmykia Kirsan Ilyumzhinov told Russian Public Television (ORT) on 17 November that because of the failure of Moscow to send money to Kalmykia, the republic's leadership is forced to consider itself "de facto, outside of the Russian federation." He added that "of course, we want to remain in Russia...but we have been put in such a position that we are ready to consider this question." He added that Kalmykia will no longer transfer taxes to the federal budget. The next day, Ilyumzhinov told Interfax that Russia is showing signs of a federative crisis" that may lead to its breakup. Russian President Boris Yeltsin instructed the Security Council to review whether Ilyumzhinov's latest statements are consistent with the Russian Constitution, Interfax reported. JAC CENTRAL BANK NEEDS MORE RUBLES TO PROP UP BANKS. Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko told reporters on 17 November that the government will need an additional 10 billion rubles ($600 million) in order to assist in restructuring Russia's commercial banking sector. He added that a ruble rate of 12 rubles to $1 would be ideal for the nation's exporters, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The official rate on 17 November was 16.80 rubles per dollar. The economic plan that the government released last weekend called for a floating exchange rate, according to ITAR-TASS. On 17 November, Avtobank announced that it has reached an agreement to restructure a $47 million loan that would have come due shortly after the 90-day moratorium on foreign debts was imposed on 17 August. JAC GOVERNMENT BEGINS NEW ROUND OF TALKS WITH CREDITORS. A Finance Ministry delegation arrived in London on 17 November to begin a new round of talks with creditors holding defaulted short-term Treasury bonds. The government has already reached an agreement with the domestic holders of those bonds, "Vremya MN" reported. Meanwhile, both State Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov and Duma deputy and Our Home is Russia faction leader Aleksandr Shokhin said in separate interviews that Russia will be able to meet only a fraction of its [longer term] foreign debt in 1999. Shokhin told reporters that Russia needs a three- to five-year break from its foreign debt payments. JAC FSB CHIEF DENIES MURDER PLOT AGAINST BEREZOVSKII. Vladimir Putin, Federal Security Service (FSB) director, tried to squash media reports that the FSB sought to arrange the murder of financial magnate Boris Berezovskii (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 1998). He said on 17 November that the FSB will never promote the interests of any particular party or group and that both left- and right-wing groups in Russia have been unfairly accusing the service of either corruption or interference in the nation's political affairs. ORT carried extensive coverage of a news conference with the FSB agents who are alleging that a plot existed. Berezovskii reportedly exercises significant influence over ORT, although his companies hold only 8 percent of its shares. JAC START-II CHANCES RATED FIFTY-FIFTY. The START-II treaty has only a fifty-fifty chance of passage in the Duma when the vote takes place on 4 December, predicted military analyst Pavel Felgengauer in "Segodnya" on 17 November. Felgengauer cited Aleksei Arbatov, deputy chairman of the Duma's Defense Committee and member of the Yabloko faction, who said that 70 percent of the Duma's deputies are against the treaty but only 10 percent of these are "implacable foes." Arbatov said that "if the executive 'works' thoroughly on faction leaders," then the Communist faction may split during the vote. He also predicted that the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will vote solidly in favor if Primakov reaches an agreement with LDP leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky. On the other hand, Felgengauer notes that the Communists have "bad-mouthed the treaty for so long that the patriotic electorate may not understand a 'volte face.'" JAC DRAFT LAW PROMOTES CIVILIAN CONTROL OF ARMY. A draft law currently being revised by Primakov's cabinet envisions establishing civilian control over the armed forces, according to "Segodnya" on 16 November. The bill would "ensure constitutional use of the armed forces, protect servicemen's rights and interests, and provide control over financial matters" so that the "government will have to pay bills without delay and generals will have to account for every ruble." The Federation Council, the Duma, and legislative bodies of the Federation subjects would all have civilian control commissions. So far, the law in its current form has been opposed by Duma Defense Committee members Sergei Yushenkov (Democratic Choice) and Albert Makashov (Communist). The daily argued that a final draft of the law may not make it to the Duma for approval this session because the only member of the cabinet who strongly supports it is Defense Minister Igor Sergeev. JAC ROSVOORUZHENIE BOSS ON WAY OUT? First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov harshly criticized the leadership of Russia's arms export giant Rosvooruzhenie on 18 November, ITAR-TASS reported. Maslyukov said that the company's economic indicators for the first 10 months of 1998 are 40 percent below those planned. He advocated sacking Rosvooruzhenie Director-General Yevgenii Ananev and appointing "an aggressive and business-like man" in his place. Since his appointment in August 1997, Ananev has been repeatedly criticized for Russia's shrinking share in world arms sales. "Vremya MN" on 18 November identified Ananev's deputy, Vladimir Ryabikhin, who worked under Prime Minister Primakov when the latter headed the foreign intelligence service, as Ananev's probable successor. LF KURDS SET FIRE TO THEMSELVES IN MOSCOW PROTEST. Two members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) were hospitalized in Moscow on 17 November after setting fire to themselves outside the Duma building to protest Turkey's alleged policy of genocide against its Kurdish population and to demand that the Duma and the Russian government offer asylum to PKK chairman Abdullah Ocalan. One of the men died of his injuries on 18 November. Speaking at a Moscow press conference the previous day, the head of the Kurdish National Liberation Front in the CIS, Mahir Valat, warned that more Kurds may attempt self-immolation to protest their lack of statehood, according to Interfax. Valat also said that Ocalan was in Russia without the knowledge of the Russian authorities from 9 October, when he left Syria, until 12 November, when he departed for Italy. He was detained on arrival at Rome airport. LF SCHROEDER FINDS YELTSIN 'ACTIVE,' MEETS WITH RIVALS. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder wound up his official visit to Moscow on 17 November after meeting with Russian President Yeltsin. Schroeder told reporters that he found Yeltsin "active" and "well-informed" and that Yeltsin would participate in a G-7 meeting next June. Deputy chief of the presidential staff Sergei Prikhodko told reporters that the two leaders discussed bilateral trade, which has declined this year, but not the issue of German loans. The previous day, Schroeder met one-on-one with likely presidential race contenders such as former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, and Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed. Schroeder stressed that he wants close cooperation between Russia and Germany to continue. He noted that if Russia wants more foreign investment, it must protect those monies. JAC REGIONS SAY NO TO 'IMPORTED' WASTE. Krasnoyarsk Oblast officials are refusing to store waste from Ukraine's Zaporozhskaya nuclear power plant, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 November. Aleksandra Kulenkova, a deputy of Governor Lebed, said that the oblast is paid only $275 per kilogram of radioactive waste, compared with world market price of $800- 1,000, and that it receives payments irregularly. She added that since the federal government manage the nuclear waste shipments, the regional administration has no means to change the situation, short of a ban. Meanwhile, in Altai Republic, doctors have concluded that residents in areas where parts of booster rockets from the Baikonur space complex, in neighboring Kazakhstan, have landed are suffering ill health effects, adding that healthy men are dying of cardiac arrest and infants of cirrhosis, according to "Obshchaya gazeta" on 12 November. "Space waste" litters the landscape of more than 24,000 square meters, or one-quarter of the republic, according to "Trud" on 3 November. JAC TEACHERS STRIKE IN UDMURTIA. Teachers at dozens of secondary schools in the Republic of Udmurtia have staged a work stoppage to protest five months of unpaid wages, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 November. Classes have stopped at two-thirds of the schools of the capital of Izhevsk. Teachers in Leningrad and Kemerovo Oblast have launched similar protests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 12 November 1998). JAC CHECHEN MUFTI EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR PRESIDENT. Ahmad-haji Kadyrov, who narrowly escaped assassination in Grozny last month, said on Chechen television on 17 November that it is premature and unjustifiable to condemn President Aslan Maskhadov's policies before the Supreme Shariah Court has completed its investigation of the accusations against him by three rival field commanders, ITAR-TASS reported. Kadyrov also said that one of those field commanders, Salman Raduev, should submit to the four-year prison sentence that the Shariah court handed down to him on 4 November. Also on 17 November, Security Minister Aslanbek Arsaev told journalists that Maskhadov will personally oversee yet another campaign to neutralize criminal gangs specializing in abductions. A headquarters for coordinating the activities of the forces deployed in that campaign has been formed in Grozny. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PRESIDENT NAMES NEW CABINET APPOINTEES... Robert Kocharian named four new ministers on 17 November and merged two ministerial posts, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian named Hayk Gevorgian, chief manager of a big state enterprise and reportedly an ally of influential Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, as minister of trade and industry. Gevorgian replaces Garnik Nanagulian, whose initial request to step down five months ago had been refused by Kocharian, according to "Azg" on 17 November. Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Meruzhan Mikaelian was appointed energy minister to replace Gagik Martirosian, who has been given the newly established post of minister without portfolio responsible for "industrial infrastructure." Deputy Defense Minister Gevorg Vartanian was named minister for the environment. Minister for Operational Issues Shahen Karamanukian was fired and his duties merged with those of Minister for Territorial Rule David Zadoyan. Hayk Nikoghosian was appointed minister of health. LF ...RULES OUT SPLITTING KEY MINISTRY. Meeting last week with journalists, Kocharian made it clear that he categorically opposes the proposed division of the National Security and Interior Ministry into two entities, Noyan Tapan reported on 16 November. Kocharian said that if the parliament adopts a law on doing so, he will refuse to sign it. Last month, the parliament's Committee on Defense and Security voted to approve a legislative act that would restore the separate existence of police and national security in Armenia. The move was initiated by the opposition Hayrenik [Fatherland] group, which believes that both the ministry and Minister Serzh Sarkisian have acquired disproportionate powers. Sarkisian had told journalists last month that it is normal practice in democracies to have "police and counterintelligence" co-existing within the same agency. "Do they want to copy Syria or Uganda?" he asked. LF FORMER KARABAKH PREMIER OFFERED DEFENSE POST IN YEREVAN. Leonard Petrosian, who stepped down in May as prime minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, was named Armenian deputy defense minister on 17 November, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Petrosian's new duties will focus on supplies for the armed forces. LF GEORGIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS SHOW SUPPORT FOR RULING PARTY ERODING. The preliminary results of Georgia's 15 November municipal elections indicate that the Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK), which has a clear majority in the parliament, failed to receive such a majority in some local councils and will be forced to form coalitions with other parties in most of Georgia's largest cities. The left-wing Labor Party made a surprisingly strong showing, while the Socialists and National-Democrats fared worse than expected. The Union for Democratic Revival, headed by Adjar Supreme Council chairman Aslan Abashidze, won almost all the seats in Adjaria. Opposition party spokesmen accused the SMK of falsifying the vote, but international observers, including some from the Council of Europe, described the ballot as democratic. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 November quoted Central Electoral Commission chairman Djumber Lominadze as estimating voter turnout at just above the required minimum of 33.3 percent. LF NAZARBAYEV WANTS KAZHEGELDIN IN JANUARY ELECTIONS... Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is on a working visit in the northwestern city of Aktyubinsk, said on 17 November he wants former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin to run against him in the 10 January presidential elections, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. According to Interfax, Nazarbayev intends to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling of the Medeu District court, which fined Kazhegeldin for taking part in an unsanctioned demonstration in early October. Under that ruling, Kazhegeldin is barred from running in the elections. However, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 18 November that a new judge has been appointed to the Medeu court and will hear the case again on 18-19 November. Kazakhstan's Supreme Court is prepared to consider the case on 28-29 November if the Medeu court upholds its original ruling. BP AVERTING 'ONE STATE--TWO SOCIETIES' IN ESTONIA by Jan Cleave On several occasions this fall, Estonian President Lennart Meri has said he regards the passage of amendments to the country's citizenship law as one of the legislature's most important tasks in the coming months. He has appealed to lawmakers to overcome the "political passions" that have built up over the bill of amendments. And he has stressed that the bill's passage would be advantageous for both the domestic and the foreign policy of the country. Like neighboring Latvia, Estonia has a sizable ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking community and has been under pressure from both Moscow and the West to pass amendments making it easier for members of that community to become citizens. Last month, Meri's Latvian counterpart, Guntis Ulmanis, signed into law such legislation, but only after several well-publicized incidents that prompted Moscow to step up the pressure, the difficult passage of the amendments through the Latvian parliament, and their final approval in a referendum. Estonian lawmakers, meanwhile, have not yet completed the second reading of amendments to the Estonian citizenship law, nor has a date been set for such a debate. So far, the Estonian bill has been almost one year in the making: last December, just days after Estonia was included among the six countries singled out for "fast-track" EU membership talks, the government submitted the bill to the parliament. The draft provides for stateless children under 15 who were born after 26 February 1992 (when the country's 1938 citizenship law was reinstated) to gain citizenship. The children's parents must apply on their behalf, must be stateless themselves, and must have lived in Estonia for at least five years. It is estimated that some 6,000 children would be eligible for citizenship immediately and 1,500 annually thereafter. As was the case in Latvia (where the final version of the amendments makes a similar provision for stateless children who were born after 21 August 1991, when the country regained independence), nationalist-inclined politicians opposed the bill on the grounds that such children would not be required to prove proficiency in the state language. Such legislation, they argued, would discourage non-Estonians from learning Estonian (according to the Open Estonia Foundation, only 16 percent of non-Estonians speak Estonian fluently, while 37 percent are deemed to have a satisfactory command). When the bill was opposed by a majority of deputies in June, the parliament postponed its second reading until the fall. Estonian politicians who greeted last month's signing into law of the Latvian amendments have urged that Estonia follow suit as quickly as possible. Such a development would be advantageous on three fronts. At home, it would help speed up the integration of Russian-speakers (who constitute an estimated one-third of Estonia's 1.45 million population); the government advocated this in its national integration policy, aimed at averting what it calls "one state--two societies." With regard to relations with Russia, it might help expedite the signing of the border treaty, which Moscow has repeatedly linked to an improvement in the situation of Estonia's ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking community. And as far as Tallinn's bid for Western integration is concerned, it would meet requests by the European Commission to loosen citizenship requirements. It is difficult to predict whether the events that surrounded the Latvian citizenship law amendments will have an influence on parliamentary deputies in Tallinn when they resume debating the Estonian bill. On the one hand, there may be a strong desire not to further prolong the amendments' passage and to push for their speedy signing into law. On the other hand, among deputies opposed to the bill, there may be a degree of complacency based on the perception that Tallinn's relations with Moscow are not as tense as Riga's and that Estonia has, after all, already been included among the fast-track EU membership candidates. Such complacency could have serious repercussions, not least with regard to EU integration. In a recent document, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly commented that Latvia's chances of joining the EU would have been endangered had last month's citizenship referendum failed. That vote did not fail, however, and the European Commission is to consider recommending that Latvia be moved up to the fast-track group by the end of next year if Riga meets certain economic criteria. In the meantime, the EU and other organizations will be watching to see whether Estonia passes the citizenship law amendments, thereby helping consolidate its position among the fast-track candidates. If it does so without the kind of adverse publicity that surrounded Latvia this summer, it will also avoid tarnishing its image in the West and exacerbating relations with Russia. 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. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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