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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 227, Part I, 24 November 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 227, Part I, 24 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 RULES OUT STATE OF EMERGENCY * YELTSIN'S HEALTH STABILIZES * KAZAKH SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS VERDICT AGAINST FORMER PREMIER End Note: BEREZOVSKII AS MR. FIX-IT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA GOVERNMENT RULES OUT STATE OF EMERGENCY... Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Federal Security Service director Vladimir Putin both ruled out on 23 November the imposition of a state of emergency in response to the murder of State Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova. Meanwhile, St. Petersburg police have detained several suspects in the murder case. Ruslan Linkov, Starovoitova's press secretary, who was also shot in the attack, has regained consciousness and answered police questions. On 24 November, mourners, including former Prime Ministers Viktor Chernomyrdin and Sergei Kirienko and former acting Premier Yegor Gaidar, attended a funeral for Starovoitova, who will be interred at the Aleksandr Nevskii Monastery. JAC ...AS SELEZNEV BLASTS PRESS. Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev has announced that he will sue a St. Petersburg newspaper for accusing him of Starovoitova's death. He also told reporters that television is presenting Starovoitova's murder in "such a way as to promote the election campaigns of certain candidates to the [St. Petersburg] city assembly." Elections to that body are scheduled for 6 December. Seleznev also suggested setting up a national council to fight crime and corruption. JAC YELTSIN'S HEALTH STABILIZES. Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin told NTV on 23 November that President Boris Yeltsin's health has neither worsened nor improved. The same day, CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii told reporters that Russia should simply tolerate President Yeltsin's chronic illnesses since "there is no obvious alternative." The next day "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which receives funding from Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group, suggested that the succession of recent comments from Kremlin staff demonstrates that Yeltsin's entourage is preparing the country for the "official introduction of the post of the president's stand-in" and that "the stand-in could and should be Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov." "Izvestiya," which receives funding from LUKoil and Oneksimbank, argued that "the Kremlin has decided to bring the unduly modest prime minister to his senses using the constitution, which directly obliges him to become the interim president when the president is incapable of performing his duties." JAC RUSSIA PETITIONS CREDITORS OF SOVIET UNION FOR DEBT RELIEF... Russia on 20 November officially applied to its creditors to restructure debts inherited from the Soviet Union. Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said Russia will pay only $200 million of the $600 million debt up for repayment this year, the "Moscow Times" reported on 21 November. Next year, the government will owe $7.2 billion in payments on the Soviet debt, according to Reuters. The Primakov government also hopes to borrow new money from the IMF in order to refinance its debts to the fund and other international financial institutions. An IMF delegation is scheduled to leave Moscow on 24 November and is not expected to make any announcements of new loans before its departure. JAC ...AS GOVERNMENT ASSUMES IMF MONEY, DEBT RELIEF FORTHCOMING. Meanwhile, the cabinet continues debating various versions of a draft budget. On 21 November, Economy Minister Andrei Shapovalyants said that the budget based on his ministry's "optimistic" forecast, namely of a 30 percent annual inflation rate and a 3 percent decline in GDP, will most likely be approved. The forecast also assumes that Russia will receive the next tranche of its IMF loan and will persuade its creditors to restructure half its foreign debts. The government has pledged to present its budget plan to the Duma by 1 December. JAC RUSSIAN-CHINESE DECLARATION RELEASED... Following the 40-minute informal meeting between Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Jiang Zemin near Moscow on 23 November, their joint statement on "Russian-Chinese Relations on the Threshold of the 21st Century" was made public, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. The nine-point declaration calls for a multi-polar world, as did-- albeit in less detail--the 1997 Russian-Chinese declaration, and warns against the next century becoming an "exclusively 'American,' 'European,' or 'Asian- Pacific' century." The declaration also call for a greater role for the UN in world affairs. And while noting the "noticeable improvement in relations between the great powers after the conclusion of the Cold War," it favors "fostering conditions so that large powers do not make efforts at widening or creating new military alliances." BP ...TAKES SOME NEW REALITIES INTO CONSIDERATION. The declaration also addressed the world financial crisis, noting that in the next century ,"the globalization and regionalization of the world economy will become the most important factor in defining [the world's] condition." It calls for ensuring the "economic security of sovereign states" and the "exclusion of attempts at using currency or financial levers to impose political or economic conditions which infringe on the legitimate national interests of a particular country." The two sides also called for a political solution to the problems in Kosova, Afghanistan, and the Korean peninsula. With regard to "the situation in South Asia," the declaration said there is need to stress that the "Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty are of extreme significance." BP KALMYKIA ACCUSED OF CREATIVE ACCOUNTING. After President of Kalmykia Nursan Ilyumzhinov accused the federal Finance Ministry of committing genocide against his people by withholding funds, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov has ordered the republic to return an unauthorized government transfer of 236 million rubles ($14 million), ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November 1998). Zadornov sent a letter to the Duma and Primakov cabinet on 23 November, outlining the republic's financial violations. JAC MOSCOW CONSIDERING NEW APPROACH TO REGIONS? A 19 November statement by Oleg Sysuev, deputy chief of the presidential administration, may herald a new approach to regional policy, "Izvestiya" concluded two days later. Sysuev suggested that Moscow should dispense with its habit of concluding individual agreements with republics and oblasts. He said that already signed agreements must be implemented but that in the future, "a unitary state should have a unified approach to relations between the federal center and its subjects." The daily cited a source within the administration as saying Sysuev's comments represented only Sysuev's "personal viewpoint." But the daily concluded that Sysuev's remarks are "symptomatic of the executive branch's search for ways to prevent the disintegration of Russia." JAC ARMY, NAVY BRASS RILED OVER SERGEEV PROPOSAL. More reports about the military command's opposition to Defense Minister Igor Sergeev's advocacy of a single unified command for Russia's strategic nuclear forces have leaked to the press (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 1998). According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 November, First Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Mikhailov and the commanders in chief of the Air Force and Navy all oppose Sergeev's proposal and may push for Sergeev himself to be sacked. The newspaper concluded "if they are able to convince Prime Minister Primakov of the necessity of not rushing the creation of a joint command for strategic forces, then it cannot be ruled out that this decision will be followed by another regarding the minister himself." "Izvestiya" reported the previous day that officials at navy headquarters "wonder what units will be governed by admirals if the only real force of the fleet, its nuclear submarines, are subordinated to the [unified command] of the Strategic Nuclear Forces." JAC MORE TESTIMONIALS IN SUPPORT OF TOPOL-M. The November issue of "Vek" characterized the deployment of six Topol-M missiles near Saratov as a "military-technical and diplomatic accomplishment." According to the journal, the armed forces have found a way to honor international agreements, such as START-II (which bans multiple-warhead missiles), "without putting too large a dent in [their] defensive capability." The single- warhead Topol-M "may be based in silos, or they may be mobile." They also allow Russia "to save 18.5 million rubles [$1.1 million] on every silo," resulting in a total savings of 3.4 billion rubles. JAC GOVERNORS TO ALIGN WITH LUZHKOV? Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov has announced that he is setting up his own political movement called Moe Otechestvo [My Fatherland ], "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 November. Ayatskov, who has been openly critical lately of Chernomyrdin and his leadership of the Our Home is Russia party, said he thinks that an alliance with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Otechestvo [Fatherland] party is possible. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 19 November that Ayatskov's new movement, which would consist of governors whose terms are about to expire, would get its own deputies elected to the State Duma. JAC KRASNODAR GRANTS COMMUNISTS MANDATE. Voters in Krasnodar Krai have elected a pro-communist bloc to the local assembly, filling between 38-40 of 50 seats with Communists. Also, Communist Aleksandr Burulko, director of a local brick factory, won a slot in the 22 November run-off elections for the vacant seat in the State Duma, attracting more than four times as many votes as his competitor, Interfax reported. Krasnodar Governor Nikolai Kondratenko has been outspoken in his defense of Communist Party member and Duma Deputy Albert Makashov and his anti-Semitic remarks. JAC SOUTH AFRICA NOT TO BUY RUSSIAN TRAINING AIRCRAFT. South African Vice President Thabo Mbeki told reporters on 23 November that his country will not purchase training aircraft from Russia. Interfax reported that South Africa's requirement that each country exporting weapons invest 80 cents of every dollar into the local South African economy presented a problem for Russia. Mbeki also met with Russian businessmen and bankers. Vneshekonombank Chairman Andrei Kostin told Mbeki that his bank will open a branch office in South Africa in 1999. Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Generalov met with his South African counterpart, Penuel Maduna, to discuss off-shore oil and gas exploration and construction of a gas pipeline linking South Africa and Mozambique. South African President Nelson Mandela is expected to visit Moscow at the end of April.JAC CHECHEN PARLIAMENT REJECTS PROPOSED CABINET CHANGES. Chechen parliament deputy speaker Selim Beshaev told ITAR-TASS on 23 November that the parliament has rejected President Aslan Maskhadov's proposals for restructuring the Chechen government as "too sophisticated for a small republic." The parliament suggested creating five deputy prime minister posts in place of the nine proposed by Maskhadov in September. On 20 November, Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Akhmed Zakaev warned Russian and foreign journalists in Chechnya that they risk being stripped of their accreditation if they continue to use the toponyms "Chechnya" and "Grozny" instead of "Ichkeria" and "Djokhar-kala," Interfax reported. LF CHECHENS HELPED PREVENT CHUBAIS ASSASSINATION. A spokesman for the power monopoly United Energy Systems has confirmed that Chechen intelligence helped thwart the planned assassination of then First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais in late 1997, Interfax reported. Senior Chechen security official Ismail Dadalaev had told Interfax earlier the same day that Chechnya informed the Russian Federal Security Service of a plan by a Chechen bandit group to kill Chubais, who at that time was spearheading efforts by the Russian government to collect tax arrears. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKH SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS VERDICT AGAINST FORMER PREMIER. The Kazakh Supreme Court on 24 November completed its review of the verdict handed down in October by the Medeu District Court, which had found former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin guilty of participating in a meeting of an unsanctioned organization, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. The Supreme Court failed to overturn that verdict, in effect dashing Kazhegeldin's hopes of registering as a candidate in the 10 January presidential elections. Under Kazakh law, no one found guilty of an offense may run as an electoral candidate. Last week, incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev had requested that the Supreme Court review the case, saying he would welcome Kazhegeldin's participation in the poll (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 1998). LF SAMSUNG BUYS SHARES IN KAZAKH COPPER PLANT. Samsung Deutschland GmbH has purchased a 90 percent stake in the East Kazakhstan Copper and Chemicals Plant, Interfax reported on 23 November. Shares in the plant, which produces copper and zinc concentrate, were up for sale on the Kazakh stock exchange to the tune of 524.7 million tenge ($6.3 million). According to one official from the Kazakh Department for State Property and Privatization, it was the biggest single issue of shares in the country's short history. BP UN ENVOY TO TAJIKISTAN ADDRESSES PRESS. UN special envoy to Tajikistan Jan Kubis told journalists on 23 November that he hopes the departure of the Uzbek contingent from the CIS peacekeeping force will not have a negative impact on the work of those units still participating. ITAR-TASS reported on 23 November. (The units remaining in Tajikistan are from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.) He added the UN is interested in "all components" that facilitate the implementation of the 1997 peace accord. Kubis stressed that the UN mission to Tajikistan will not resume its tasks in full until the investigation into the July murder of four UN employees is completed. BP OSCE CHAIRMAN IN TBILISI. Polish Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman-in-Office Bronislaw Geremek met with Georgian officials in Tbilisi on 23 November to discuss the recent local elections and the OSCE's role in trying to mediate a solution to the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, ITAR-TASS reported. Meeting with President Eduard Shevardnadze, Geremek assessed the democratization process in Georgia as "irreversible," according to Caucasus Press. Geremek said that any settlement of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia must safeguard the interests of those ethnic minorities and also preserve Georgia's territorial integrity. He added that the OSCE is prepared to assist in monitoring the repatriation to Abkhazia's Gali Raion of Georgian displaced persons. Geremek and Shevardnadze signed a memorandum of cooperation between Georgia and the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. LF ABKHAZ LEADER ACCUSES GEORGIA OF SABOTAGING REPATRIATION. In his weekly radio address on 23 November, Vladislav Ardzinba said that the Georgian leadership is "constantly postponing" the signing of two documents drafted by his envoy Anri Djergenia and Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze and is trying to introduce fundamental changes into those texts, ITAR-TASS reported. One of those documents addresses conditions for economic aid to Abkhazia and for the return to Abkhazia's Gali Raion of Georgian displaced persons, while the second abjures the use of force by either side. Djergenia told journalists in Tbilisi on 23 November that Sukhumi will allow only those Georgians who have not lived in Abkhazia "for a long time" to return, presumably meaning those who fled in 1992-1993. This would exclude those who returned and were forced to flee a second time in May 1998. Djergenia also rejected the creation in Abkhazia of parallel (Georgian and Abkhaz) local councils, according to Caucasus Press. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT SAYS HE WON'T CEDE POWER. Addressing members of the Yeni Azerbaycan party he created six years ago as a personal power base, Heidar Aliev warned on 21 November that the country's authorities will suppress any move by the opposition to undermine them and will never cede power, Turan reported on 23 November. In an implicit contradiction, Aliev said that he had called on opposition leaders three times to open a dialogue with no preconditions, noting that such a dialogue is possible only if the opposition recognizes him as the country's legitimate president. Many opposition leaders refuse to do so, arguing that the results of the 11 October presidential election were falsified. Meanwhile, some opposition politicians and "thousands of readers" have pledged to join the hunger strike launched two weeks ago by editors of independent newspapers to protest libel suits brought by senior officials. The newspapers say those suits are intended to bankrupt them. LF END NOTE BEREZOVSKII AS MR. FIX-IT by Liz Fuller CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii recently unveiled his blueprint for reversing "seven years of disintegration" and breathing new life into the moribund Commonwealth of Independent States. The blueprint offers a framework for mutually beneficial economic cooperation among CIS members. Somewhat inauspiciously, perhaps, it was published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on Friday, 13 November. Over the past 10 days, Berezovskii has been touring the CIS states in an attempt to persuade their presidents to endorse his plan. To date, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Tajikistan have expressed cautious support, while their Azerbaijani and Turkmen counterparts have proven more skeptical. A discussion of Berezovskii's proposals is on the agenda for the CIS summit scheduled for 11-12 December, Russian President Boris Yeltsin's health permitting. Berezovskii was appointed executive secretary of the CIS in April 1998, when strains within the commonwealth had reached such magnitude that many observers were predicting its imminent demise. Those tensions derived partly from the CIS's failure to preserve a single, viable economic space composed of the former Soviet republics and partly from President Yeltsin's warning at the March 1997 CIS summit that Russia is prepared to resort to subversion and sabotage to weaken the Soviet successor states and keep them within its sphere of influence. In the "Nezavisimaya gazeta" article, Berezovskii expresses concern that widespread disenchantment with the CIS could evolve into anti-Russian sentiment within the non-Russian successor states and give rise to centrifugal tendencies within Russia itself. Berezovskii emphasizes that resurrecting the USSR is impossible, given that the union was geared toward a planned, not a market economy. At the same time, he argues that voluntary economic integration is in the interest of all CIS states, since it would expedite their integration into the global economy. But given that the primary reason for the demise of the USSR was the failure of its Communist Party to address the grievances of the non- Russian republics, any attempt to rebuild the political foundations of the CIS should be undertaken with extreme caution so as not to impinge on the desire of newly independent states to protect their sovereignty and independence, Berezovskii comments. As the first step toward reversing centrifugal economic trends, Berezovskii proposes creating one or several CIS free trade zones. (Among the hundreds of CIS agreements signed but not implemented over the past seven years is one, signed in April 1994, on setting up such a zone. That accord, however, fails to provide either clear guidelines or a timetable for doing so.) The Special CIS Inter-State Forum, created after the CIS Chisinau summit in October 1997, also considered the possibility of free trade zones. It used the April 1994 agreement as a springboard but failed to make recommendations on fundamental issues, including whether such zones should encompass only the movement of goods or also the service sector. In this context, Berezovskii warns that "palliative measures" are dangerous. A flawed blueprint for economic integration might temporarily create the illusion that the CIS is functioning effectively as an economic organization, but the inevitable disillusionment when that proved not to be the case would be so profound as to pose a real threat to the Commonwealth's survival. Berezovskii distinguishes two approaches to economic integration: the "soft" approach, as epitomized by the European Free Trade Association (created by countries that did not meet the criteria for entry into the EU), and the "hard" approach, as exemplified by the EU, in which economic integration paves the way for the creation of supranational structures, both economic and political. (One CIS proponent of the "hard" approach is the Kazakh economist Nigmatzhan Isingarin, who recently included in a list of "urgent priorities" for CIS integration the "gradual coordination [sblizhenie] of foreign policy positions.") Berezovskii considers the "soft" approach more appropriate for the CIS and proposes a CIS free trade zone as a first step in that direction. But he also predicts that the "soft" approach may acquire a momentum of its own: reversing the decline in intra-CIS trade would serve as the incentive for a CIS Customs Union, which, in turn, would engender moves to coordinate monetary policy and create a single market. Thus the "soft" approach may eventually lead to its members' accepting the "hard" approach. In this context, Berezovskii cites the fusion of the European Free Trade Association into the European Community. The (possibly fatal) difference between the EU and Berezovskii's blueprint is, of course, that the EU was not built from the remnants of a former empire. Moreover, Berezovskii's envisaged transition from a "soft" to a "hard" approach toward economic integration may cause an acute allergic reaction among those non- Russians who are inclined to see ulterior neo- imperialist motives behind any Russian advocacy of supra-national structures, thus jeopardizing the free trade zone from the outset. Berezovskii himself concedes that "introducing supra-national elements into the CIS at the present stage would not correspond to the strategic interests of its members." But he adds that "without a certain degree of coordination, it will be impossible to proceed further than creating a free trade zone." Berezovskii's success in selling his blueprint to the skeptics among the CIS presidents will depend on his ability to persuade them that the document is not intended ultimately to undermine their sovereignty and that the momentum can be halted before economic integration expands into the political sphere. 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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