Silence is the real crime against humanity. - Nadezhda Mandelstam
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 224, Part I, 19 November 1998


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 224, Part I, 19 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

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Headlines, Part I

* PRIMAKOV TO FILL IN FOR YELTSIN IN INDIA

* TEACHERS' STRIKES SPREADING

* MORE EDITORS JOIN HUNGER-STRIKE IN AZERBAIJAN
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RUSSIA

PRIMAKOV TO FILL IN FOR YELTSIN IN INDIA... Russian
Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov told reporters in Kuala
Lumpur on 18 November that while U.S. Vice President
Gore did not promise direct support for Russia with IMF
during their meeting the previous day, he did suggest
that the U.S. will look for some way to back Russian
interests vis-a-vis the fund. According to "Nezavisimaya
gazeta," Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko,
who attended the meeting in Malaysia, said Gore
mentioned that the U.S. has trusted the Russian
government repeatedly in the past only to have loans
wind up in foreign bank accounts. Meanwhile,
presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushin announced that
Primakov will fill in for Yeltsin during an official
visit to India that had been scheduled for 6 and 7
December. Originally, Yeltsin had been scheduled to go
to Kuala Lumpur. JAC

...AND ON A MORE PERMANENT BASIS? Meanwhile, the Russian
press is carrying speculation that an "understanding"
among presidential staff exists that Prime Minister
Primakov is the de facto president of Russia. "Segodnya"
cited "rumors" on 17 November that the presidential
staff have received a directive not only to give
Primakov their full support but also to "'place him a
little bit ahead of Yeltsin.'" The next day
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" argued that Yeltsin is isolated
from real political processes and has a minimal
involvement in state affairs. It added "for the 18
months until the elections the president will have to
function 'as simply a guarantor.'" The next day, the
newspaper attacked Primakov, suggesting that he cannot
ensure stability in the country judging by the
increasing radicalization of the left opposition and his
inability to check its advances. Vladimir Gusinskii's
Media-Most Group owns "Segodnya," while "Nezavisimaya
gazeta" receives financial support from Boris
Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. JAC

KALMYKIA'S LEADER RETREATS FROM SECESSION THREAT.
President of the Republic of Kalmykia Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
backed down from his earlier suggestion that his
republic should seek "associate membership" in the
Russian Federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November
1998). On 19 November, he told NTV that his remarks were
meant only to dramatize the plight of his region and not
as an official statement. Ilyumzhinov was widely
condemned for his earlier statement in the State Duma,
provoking Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vladimir
Lukin (Yabloko) to comment, "I will be very disappointed
if the authorities let him get away with it." Duma
Chairman Gennadii Seleznev suggested that Ilyumzhinov be
questioned at Matrosskaya Tishina or Lefortovo prisons.
Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov declared the
statements unconstitutional. "Izvestiya" predicted on 19
November that Ilyumzhinov would be removed from power
because this is a "unique matter on which both branches
of the government agree." JAC

TEACHERS' STRIKES SPREADING. Fifteen thousand teachers
in Primorskii Krai went on strike on 17 November to
demand more than eight months' back wages, "Izvestiya"
reported on 18 November. In some cities and raions,
teachers plan to be out only three days, but strikers in
the northeast region, where some teachers participated
in a two-week work stoppage last month, are threatening
to stop work indefinitely. More than 10,000 teachers in
Chita Oblast and 2,000 teachers in Sverdlovsk Oblast are
on strike to protest unpaid wages, according to ITAR-
TASS. The debt owed in Chita totals 110 million rubles
($6.5 million) and 450 million rubles in Sverdlovsk.
Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel said that regional
resources are insufficient to cover the debt since tax
collections dropped in October. Teachers have also
launched protests in Leningrad and Kemerovo Oblasts and
the Republic of Udmurtia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and
18 November 1998). JAC

DUMA APPROVES EMERGENCY MEASURES. The Duma approved the
government's bill on budget and policy measures in the
first reading on 18 November. The vote was 272 in favor
and six against A second vote will likely take place in
early December. Under the bill, the Central Bank will
advance 25 billion rubles ($1.5 billion) to the Finance
Ministry by buying state securities. JAC

RUSSIANS EARNING LESS... Incomes adjusted for inflation
and tax dropped 26.9 percent in October, compared with
the same month the previous year, Interfax reported on
18 November. Real wages plunged 34.9 percent. Meanwhile,
unemployment reached 11.5 percent at the end of October,
a 4.7 percent increase compared with the same month last
year, according to estimates of the State Statistics
Committee, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 November.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta--Krug zhizni" reported in its
November issue that 70 percent of Russia's unemployed
are women and that only 12 percent of Russian women, who
are "among the world's best educated," can afford major
medical assistance. JAC

...AND EATING POORLY. While experts continue to debate
whether food aid from the EU and U.S. is necessary to
avert hunger, there appears to be some agreement that
Russians are eating less well owing to the economic
crisis. Gennadii Romanenko, head of Russia's Academy of
Agricultural Sciences, told Interfax on 18 November that
poor families will have to switch to less nutritious
diets based primarily on potatoes, cabbage, and carrots
and forego milk and meat. At the other end of the
economic spectrum, "Vechernaya Moskva" reported on 17
November that less than 2 percent of the capital's
residents now go to restaurants, almost half of which
have closed. JAC

ORT HEADED FOR BANKRUPTCY? Russian Public Television
director Igor Shabdurasulov warned on 18 November that
his company may have to declare bankruptcy if the
government, which owns 51 percent of ORT's shares, does
not pay its debts. A Moscow court ordered marshals to
take an inventory of the network's property in a suit
filed against them for unpaid loans. An ORT spokesman
told the "Moscow Times" that the station is now
operating on a emergency programming schedule, which
means relying on re-runs, and has made severe cuts in
the budget of its politically influential news service.
The spokesman also noted that left-wing political groups
have targeted the broadcaster--as well as others--for
"blackening" the reputation of the Communist Party. JAC

LEGAL ACTION TO BAN RELIGIOUS GROUP DELAYED. A Moscow
judge on 18 November postponed hearing the case to ban
Jehovah's Witnesses because of insufficient evidence
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1998). The case will
reopen on 9 February. According to Interfax, a previous
suit against the religious group was dropped in April
because of lack of evidence. JAC

NDR, FATHERLAND CONSIDERING ALLIANCE... Moscow Mayor
Yurii Luzhkov told reporters on 18 November that his new
political movement, Otechestvo [Fatherland ], might
cooperate with the Our Home is Russia (NDR) party under
"certain conditions." Luzhkov said that his movement is
open for cooperation with all healthy forces in Russian
society. The previous day, NDR leader and former Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said that such an alliance
with Luzhkov's new movement is possible. Chernomyrdin
also confirmed his plans to run for president again.
"Segodnya" reported that "rumors are circulating" that
Chernomyrdin is considering an alliance before upcoming
parliamentary elections that would unite other former
prime ministers, such as Sergei Kirienko and Yegor
Gaidar. JAC

...AS GOVERNORS CONSIDER DEFECTING? Saratov Governor
Dmitrii Ayatskov, who recently openly criticized
Chernomrydin's leadership of the NDR, said that
Otechestvo and the regional lobby that is being formed
for the State Duma elections will compose the most
powerful centrist faction in Russia, "Vremya MN"
reported on 18 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16
November 1998). The newspaper claimed that as soon as
the new movement was announced, "its cell organizations
began appearing in the provinces." For example, one such
organization was formed on 17 November in Bashkortostan,
the daily reported. JAC

YASTRZHEMBSKII TO JOIN LUZHKOV'S TEAM. Former
presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii is likely
to replace retiring Deputy Mayor of Moscow Ernest
Bakirov, Russian agencies reported. Yastrzhembskii would
be in charge of international, interregional, and public
relations. Shortly before Yastrzhembskii's dismissal
from the Kremlin, Russian newspapers reported that along
with then Security Council chief Andrei Kokoshin,
Yastrzhembskii had been advising Yeltsin to nominate
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov as prime minister rather than
Viktor Chernomyrdin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September
1998). JAC

 TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

MORE EDITORS JOIN HUNGER STRIKE IN AZERBAIJAN. Eighteen
editors from independent newspapers have joined the
hunger strike begun six days earlier by "Yeni Musavat"
editor Rauf Arifoglu, Reuters and Turan reported on 18
November. The editors are protesting criminal cases
brought against "Yeni Musvavat" and other papers for
insulting the honor and dignity of Azerbaijani President
Heidar Aliev. They say those cases are politically
motivated and intended to "strangle the independent
press." Meeting with Arifoglu and "Azadlyg" editor
Gunduz Tairli on 18 November, Prosecutor-General Eldar
Hasanov offered to drop the criminal cases and to impose
only minimal fines if the editors published apologies.
The two editors, however, rejected that offer, according
to Turan. Hasanov reminded the editors that President
Aliev personally controls the right of Azerbaijani
citizens to free speech and freedom of the media,
according to ANS-Press. LF

FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT WILL NOT JOIN LIBEL SUIT
WAR. Former President and Azerbaijan Popular Front Party
chairman Abulfaz Elchibey told Turan on 18 November that
he will not start libel proceedings against "Yeni
Azerbaycan," the newspaper of the eponymous party
created by Aliev as his personal power base. The
previous day, "Yeni Azerbaycan" reported that an
Azerbaijan Popular Front Party emissary had departed for
Rome to hold talks with detained Kurdistan Workers'
Party chairman Abdullah Ocalan in the hope of thwarting
construction of the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export
pipeline. The Azerbaijan Popular Front Party had issued
a statement on 16 November affirming its support for
that project as one of several export routes for
Azerbaijan's Caspian oil. LF

OPPOSITION ACTIVIST ON TRIAL OVER ALLEGED COUP PLAN. The
trial of Fuad Gakhramanly, a senior member of the
Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, opened in Baku on 18
November on charges of inciting crimes against the
state, Turan reported. Those charges are based on an
unpublished article entitled "Meeting Tactics of the
Opposition," which was confiscated during a raid on the
premises of the independent newspaper "Chag" in June
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 30 June 1998). The
prosecution claims that the document was intended as a
blueprint for overthrowing the present leadership and
was drafted by a think-tank affiliated with the
Azerbaijan Popular Front Party. Senior members of that
party, including Elchibey and deputy chairman Ali
Kerimili, have denied the existence of such a think-tank
and sought to distance themselves from Gakhramanly. LF

ARMENIA SEES COMPETITION FOR OIL PIPELINE AS
DESTABILIZING. Addressing journalists in Geneva on 18
November, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said
that Caspian oil will remain a factor for instability in
the Transcaucasus until agreement is reached on the
route for the Main Export Pipeline and on the division
of the Caspian Sea into national sectors, ITAR-TASS
reported. Oskanian also described the Russian military
base in Armenia as a crucial component of Armenia's
security and a source of stability in the Caucasus.
Oskanian termed Armenia's relations with Russia
"perfect," referring to the recent exchange of
instruments of ratification of the treaty on friendship,
cooperation, and mutual assistance, signed in August
1997. Also on 18 November, Armenian Prime Minister Armen
Darpinian told officials at the International Court in
The Hague that developing regional cooperation, both
political and economic, in the Caucasus is one of
Armenia's top foreign-policy priorities. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION CONDEMNS NEW ELECTION LAW. Ten
opposition parliamentary parties issued a joint
statement on 18 November condemning as undemocratic the
election law passed in the first reading two days
earlier, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 17 November 1998). Under that law, the
majority of seats in the new parliament would be
allocated in single-mandate constituencies. The
statement expressed concern that the new law, which was
drafted by the majority Yerkrapah group, "enables the
authorities to form an obedient National Assembly
through [vote] falsification." It added that, "We, the
undersigned parties, announce that, temporarily
disregarding our political differences, we will continue
our struggle for the establishment of democracy." Also
on 18 November, the Communist Party of Armenia, which
similarly opposes the new law, announced it will hold
separate talks with Yerkrapah on the new law. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT, BEREZOVSKII DISCUSS ABKHAZIA. CIS
Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii held talks in
Tbilisi on 18 November with President Eduard
Shevardnadze, Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze, and
Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili, Caucasus Press
reported. Shevardnadze told journalists after the talks
that he has invited Berezovskii to attend his meeting
with Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba, which is
tentatively scheduled for late November. At that meeting
Shevardnadze and Ardzinba are to sign two agreements
paving the way for the repatriation to Abkhazia of
ethnic Georgians forced to flee during the 1992-1993 war
and the renewed hostilities in May 1998. Berezovskii,
who has undertaken two attempts to mediate between
Tbilisi and Sukhumi, said that a settlement of the
Abkhaz conflict could serve as an example for resolving
other conflicts within the CIS, Interfax reported. LF

KAZHEGELDIN RECEIVES ANOTHER FINE... Former Kazakh Prime
Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin appeared at the Medeu
district court on 18 November, RFE/RL correspondents
reported. Last month, that court fined him for
participating in an unsanctioned rally. Kazhegeldin had
been hoping the court would overturn that ruling, but
instead it imposed a fine for "disrespect" toward the
court in failing to attend his first trial. This creates
another obstacle to Kazhegeldin's running in the 10
January presidential elections. Under Kazakh law, an
individual found guilty of violating the law may not
compete in such elections for one year. Kazhegeldin's
case is due to be heard by Kazakhstan's Supreme Court on
28-29 November. The last day to register as a candidate
for the presidential elections is 30 November. BP

...GIVES INTERVIEW PRIOR TO COURT APPEARANCE. Speaking
to RFE/RL correspondents before entering the court room.
Kazhegeldin said he does not appreciate President
Nursultan Nazarbayev's announcement that a request will
be made to the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling
against Kazhegeldin. The former premier said it
demonstrates that the court is not truly independent. He
also questioned the freedom of the press in Kazakhstan,
noting that since the 8 October announcement of early
elections, six independent newspapers have been closed
down, while another independent newspaper, "DAT," is "in
court every other day." BP

KYRGYZ CURRENCY CONTINUES TO PLUMMET. Kyrgyzstan's
national currency, the som, continues to fall and was
trading at 36-37 to $1 on 18 November (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 13 November 1998), RFE/RL correspondents in
Bishkek reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" links
Kyrgyzstan's problem with the devaluation of the Russian
ruble, noting that Kyrgyzstan and Russia "are
economically, rather tightly bound." The newspaper
quotes Kyrgyz National Bank Chairman Marat Sultanov as
saying that the country's gold and hard-currency
reserves have declined by 12 percent since 1 November.
The chairman of the parliament's Policy Committee for
Taxation, Customs, and Banks, Daniyar Usenov, said "it
is expected that toward the end of February 1999,
Kyrgyzstan will be on the verge of an economic
catastrophe." BP

UZBEK COTTON HARVEST DOWN AGAIN. Uzbekistan's
Projections and Statistics Committee is expecting the
1998 cotton harvest to be more than 12 percent below
target, Interfax reported on 18 November. Uzbekistan now
expects to produce about 3.25 million tons of cotton
this year, compared with 3.6 million tons harvested by
16 November last year (which similarly fell short of the
target figure by nearly 10 percent). However, Uzbekistan
is slowly weaning itself from long-time dependence on
cotton. At an OSCE-organized conference in Tashkent in
late September, diversification of agriculture was a
central topic. BP

OSCE OPEN OFFICE IN TURKMENISTAN. OSCE Secretariat
officials arrived in Ashgabat on 18 November, to work
out final details for opening the organization's office
there early next year, Interfax reported. The Ashgabat
office will be headed by Austrian former ambassador to
the OSCE Paul Ulman. BP

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