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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 230, Part I, 1 December 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 230, Part I, 1 December 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 * BUDGET DEADLINE SLIPPING AWAY * NEW THEORIES TOUTED IN STAROVOITOVA CASE * AZERBAIJANI OIL CONSORTIUM TERMINATES OPERATIONS End Note: REALIST LUZHKOV VERSUS POPULIST LUZHKOV xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA BUDGET DEADLINE SLIPPING AWAY... After announcing that the government will postpone submitting the 1999 budget to the State Duma from 1 December until 7 December, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov revealed on 30 November that the cabinet will now wait until 10 December to discuss that document and will finally submit it two days later. According to Interfax, the government needs additional time to make calculations. For example, a proposal to lower value-added tax from 20 percent to 14 percent was approved on 27 November, but a regional association has asked the government to raise the 14 percent target to 15 percent and direct the additional proceeds to agriculture and the coal industry. "Kommersant-Daily" on 1 December published two versions of the budget showing that the Finance Ministry increased the deficit projection by 9.6 billion rubles ($537 million) to 104.5 billion rubles, 31.9 billion rubles of which the Central Bank will provide. JAC ...AS IMF CHIEF ARRIVES FOR VISIT. The newspaper also pointed out that these figures would have to be recalculated again should the government manage to pry any money out of IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus, who arrived in Moscow on 1 December, or win support among creditors for restructuring external debt. The daily concluded that Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov has to wage battle over the budget on three fronts: with the IMF, legislators, and lobbyists within his own government. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov told reporters on 30 November that the government needs at least another $10.3 billion from the fund for 1999. "Izvestiya" on 1 December quoted "experts" as saying that if the government does not receive new credits from the fund during Camdessus's trip, then no new money can be expected before the middle of next year. JAC SBERBANK TELLS CUSTOMERS TO WAIT. On 30 November, Russian bank customers were supposed to have finally gained access to their savings after transferring their accounts from failing commercial banks to Sberbank. However, Sberbank announced that due to lack of cash and other "technical difficulties," depositors will have to wait until some future date, which will be announced by the Central Bank. Sberbank President Andrei Kazmin said during a radio broadcast, that his bank may never be able to cover accounts transferred from Inkombank, the "Moscow Times" reported on 1 December. The same day "Izvestiya" reported that according to its sources, Inkombank failed to fulfill several conditions for transferring its deposits to Sberbank and therefore its former customers should be "seriously" concerned. JAC NEW THEORIES TOUTED IN STAROVOITOVA CASE. Moscow's TV-6 reported on 30 November that the St. Petersburg prosecutor-general has announced that it is seeking businessman Ruslan Kolyak on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Duma deputy and liberal activist Galina Starovoitova. Investigators believe that Starovoitova's death may be connected with the commercial activity of her son, who lives in Britain. Three days earlier, "Noviye izvestiya" published a transcript of what it alleged was a taped phone conversation that links St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev with organized crime. The paper reported that the tape had been in Starovoitova's possession. Governor Yakovlev told ITAR- TASS that the killing "is part of a large-scale effort to provoke social conflict and discredit law-enforcement agencies." On 27 November, Yakovlev appeared on television visiting Starovoitova's grave. He did not attend the funeral. JAC DUMA FINDS YELTSIN NOT GUILTY OF ONE CHARGE. The Duma's impeachment commission decided not to add a fourth charge of destroying the country's defense capability to the list of impeachable actions allegedly committed by President Boris Yeltsin, Commission Deputy Chairwoman Yelena Mizulina told reporters on 30 November. According to Mizulina, a member of the Yabloko faction, Yeltsin made mistakes but it is impossible to prove there was criminal intent. Oleg Sysuev, deputy head of the presidential administration, told reporters on 1 December that Yeltsin will return to his office "in the near future" and that doctors are finding it difficult to keep the president in the hospital. JAC RUSSIA TO LIFT BAN ON DEATH PENALTY? Human rights activists have expressed concern that Prime Minister Primakov's recent remarks about "the physical elimination of those who raise their hands against society, the public, and children" indicate that the government plans to lift its moratorium on the death penalty imposed after Russia joined the Council of Europe. Vladimir Kartashkin, chairman of the presidential human rights commission, told ITAR-TASS on 1 December that "various people at the highest level and also in the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Supreme Court, and the Justice Ministry are saying that we ought to lift the moratorium." Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court will consider a complaint that hundreds of cases in which the death-penalty was handed down should be overturned because they were issued in trials without juries, Interfax reported on 30 November. If the court upholds the complaint, then the majority of death- penalty cases in the country would be overturned. JAC RUSSIA GATHERING FUNDS FOR WEAPON DESTRUCTION. Russia has reduced its troops located in the northwest by more than 40 percent, thus fulfilling a pledge that Russian President Boris Yeltsin made to Sweden last year, Interfax reported on 30 November. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who is visiting Stockholm and Oslo from 1-4 December, will raise the issue of Sweden and Norway's following suit with their own troop reductions, according to the agency. Meanwhile, Colonel-General Stanislav Petrov, chief of radiation, chemical, and biological protection forces at the Defense Ministry, told ITAR-TASS that an agreement has been signed with Germany for the provision of foreign aid to assist in the destruction of chemical weapons. He said that another agreement was about to be signed with The Netherlands, while negotiations with Italy, Finland, and Sweden are under way. The Federation Council will discuss a bill to exempt such assistance from tax and customs duties. JAC GREENPEACE LABELS IRKUTSK AREA 'CHEMICAL CHERNOBYL.' The environmental organization Greenpeace reported on 30 November that mercury leaks from a chemical factory in Irkutsk have created an 18-mile ecological catastrophe zone, AFP reported. A regional court shut the factory down two months ago, but underground water poisoned by the mercury still flows into the Angara River. A Greenpeace spokesman said that the up to half a million people in the area have been poisoned to some degree. JAC ELECTIONS IN TUVA FAIL AGAIN. On 29 November, voters in the Republic of Tuva failed for the fourth time to turn up in sufficient numbers to make elections to the local legislature valid. A turnout of 50 percent of eligible voters is required. Tuva officials explained that voters are not apathetic but reluctant to venture out to polling stations because the weather is -42 degrees Celsius, Russian Public Television reported the next day. JAC KAMCHATKA, SVERDLOVSK RESIDENTS LEFT OUT IN COLD. Despite media attention to the plight of regions in the Far East, Kamchatka Oblast continues to suffer from a severe shortage of energy supplies, Russian Radio reported on 30 November. The nuclear power plant at Petropavlosk-Kamchatkskii has only 24 hours' worth of fuel. A tanker carrying three days' supplies was expected to arrive on 1 December. Some residents are expected to have electricity for only eight hours a day. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" reported on 28 November that closer to Moscow, residents in Alapaevsk, Sverdlovsk Oblast, have had neither gas nor heat for a week, while temperatures outside dipped to -40 degree Celsius. According to the daily, people with cars are keeping their children warm in their vehicles, while almost all schools and kindergartens are closed. JAC NEW TATAR POLITICAL MOVEMENT FORMED. Representatives of the nationalist Ittifak party and the Communist Party of Tatarstan agreed on 28 November to form a united political movement called Omet [Hope], RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Gabdulla Galiulla, one of the leaders of Tatarstan's Muslims until February 1998, has been chosen as head of the movement. Omet declared its intention to propose joint candidates for the 1999 elections to the Russian State Duma and for the Tatarstan presidential elections due in 2000. LF RUSSIAN, ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS DISCUSS OCALAN PROBLEM. During their 30 November talks in Moscow, Igor Ivanov and Lamberto Dini exchanged information on Kurdistan Workers' Party leader Abdullah Ocalan, Reuters and Interfax reported. Ocalan was apprehended in Rome during the night of 12 -13 November on arrival from Moscow and may be sent back to Russia if his request for political asylum in Italy is refused and no other country demands his extradition. According to "Komsomolskaya pravda" of 1 December, Moscow opposes that option because it would adversely affect its relations with Turkey. Also on 30 November, some 50 Kurds staged a demonstration outside the U.S. embassy in Moscow to demand that Washington intervene to prevent Ocalan's "extermination" by Turkey, ITAR-TASS reported. LF CIS PREMIERS ENTHUSIASTIC OVER FREE ECONOMIC ZONE. Meeting in Moscow on 25 November, CIS prime ministers endorsed CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii's proposal to implement an earlier decision on creating a CIS free economic zone (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1998). But they noted that Russia will not be able to ensure conditions for such a zone before 2000, according to Noyan Tapan. But several participants, including the representatives of Ukraine, Belarus, and Uzbekistan, rejected a further proposal by Berezovskii to rationalize CIS executive structures by merging the CIS Inter-State Economic Committee and the Executive Secretariat. Russian Prime Minister Primakov had sought to reassure his colleagues that the proposed creation of a new CIS executive organ "will not in any way be a supra-national government or an organ that could take decisions on behalf of CIS heads of state," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 27 November. LF FIVE RUSSIAN POLICEMEN KILLED IN DAGESTAN. Five OMON (special police) officers were shot dead in an ambush on the administrative border between Chechnya and Dagestan late on 29 November, Russian agencies reported. Dagestani police said that the killers then fled to Chechnya, but Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriev laid the blame for the shootings on members of Dagestan's caviar mafia. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJANI OIL CONSORTIUM TERMINATES OPERATIONS. Cipco, the second international consortium to be established to exploit Azerbaijan's offshore oil reserves, announced on 30 November that it is terminating operations in Azerbaijan following the failure of three trial wells to yield the hoped-for reserves of oil, according to the Dow Jones News Service. The consortium was set up in November 1995 by Pennzoil, Agip, LUKoil and Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR to develop the Karabakh field. All three trial wells drilled in that field this year have yielded gas condensate but only the third well produced oil, though not in commercially viable quantities. LF GEORGIA ON TRACK FOR ADMISSION TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE. The Political Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has drafted a proposal recommending Georgia's acceptance as a full member of that body, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 30 November. The proposal characterizes Georgia as a pluralistic, democratic state but sets conditions for full membership, including ratifying the European Human Rights Convention and the framework convention on national minorities, and taking measures to safeguard the freedom of the press and improve the work of local authorities. Georgian press reports had suggested that Georgia's full membership might be contingent on measures to expedite the repatriation of Meskhetians deported from southern Georgia in 1944. LF ARMENIAN PARTIES CONTINUE DISCUSSIONS OF ELECTION LAW. At its 18th congress on 26 November, the Self- Determination Union unanimously condemned as undemocratic the election law passed by the parliament on 16 November, Noyan Tapan reported. But congress delegates also approved measures aimed at amending that law, including an appeal to the Yerkrapah parliamentary group that drafted it and an alliance with other opposition groups. Parliamentary deputy speaker Albert Bazeyan (Yerkrapah) rejected charges by the former majority Hanrapetutiun faction that the vote on the law was undemocratic. Bazeyan added that Yerkrapah is currently holding talks with representatives of 16 parties, including the Communist Party of Armenia, that have proposed amendments to the law. LF UZBEK PRESIDENT DENIES ANY ROLE IN TAJIK REBELLION... At a press conference in Tashkent on 30 November, Uzbek President Islam Karimov denied his country had any role in the rebellion in northern Tajikistan early last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 1998), ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Karimov said the fighting in Tajikistan's Leninabad Oblast was the result of an inter-clan struggle for power. He noted that while "there is no alternative" to the peace agreement signed in Moscow in June 1997, which, he pointed out, provides for "dividing portfolios between the Kulyab clan [in southern Tajikistan] led by [President Imomali] Rakhmonov and the United Tajik Opposition." Karimov said implicating his country in Tajikistan's problems is "an attempt to steer toward inter-ethnic and inter-state confrontation." He added "it's very convenient to find an outside enemy." BP ...CRITICIZES TAJIK GOVERNMENT, RUSSIA'S FSB. Karimov also said that drug-trafficking is conducted on a large scale in Tajikistan and that tons of narcotics are detained at the Uzbek and Kyrgyz borders with that country. "Both governing and law-enforcement bodies are involved in the drug business," he argued, warning that the "Uzbek-Tajik frontier will be strengthened and a visa regime introduced if necessary." The Uzbek president then implicated Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) in the attempted rebellion, saying "certain Russian special services" are seeking to estrange Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Karimov identified the FSB's Colonel Rizo Tursunov as coordinating measures to escalate tensions between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. And he also claimed he had all the evidence necessary to prove Tursunov's role. The FSB released a statement later the same day expressing surprise at Karimov's comments and rejecting all accusations. BP KYRGYZ PRESIDENT VISITS TASHKENT. Askar Akayev paid a one-day visit to the Uzbek capital on 30 November to meet with his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The main aim of his visit was reportedly to seek to ensure uninterrupted supplies of Uzbek gas. Kyrgyzstan owes $3.3 million for supplies, and Uzbekistan has threatened to stop all deliveries on 1 December. The two sides reached an agreement whereby Kyrgyzstan will pay 70 percent of its gas debt by means of goods and hydro-electric power. BP KAZAKH PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN BEGINS. Following the close of registering for the 10 January presidential elections and with the field narrowed to four candidates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 1998), incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev told a group of foreign diplomats the elections will be "just and democratic," Interfax reported on 30 November. Nazarbayev said he is "pained" by U.S. criticism of the election process, specifically the court decision barring former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin from participating because of a minor offense. But he added that the U.S. statement "mixes two separate problems--one is [related to] specific election legislation, the second is the practical implementation of the laws of a country," ITAR-TASS reported. Pensioner Karishal Assanov, told RFE/RL correspondents on 29 November that he was withdrawing his candidacy for the elections as he did not wish to take part in the "farce" being organized in Kazakhstan. BP TAJIKISTAN UNPREPARED FOR WINTER. ITAR-TASS reported on 29 November that there is a critical shortage in Tajikistan of supplies necessary for the winter. Compared with 1997, Tajikistan's coal supplies are down by half and domestic heating oil by 21 percent. Industries purchased less than half the oil they did in 1997, when there were also shortages. The government cannot afford to purchase additional supplies. Consumer goods are also reported to be in short supply, but 98 percent of those goods are dealt with by the private sector. Also, the government has already rationed electricity supplies to homes and industries. BP END NOTE REALIST LUZHKOV VERSUS POPULIST LUZHKOV by Floriana Fossato The Moscow city government's budget meeting last week was dominated by two issues: how to maintain services amid the deep economic turmoil in the country and where to get the necessary funds to guarantee existing city programs. For the populist mayor of Moscow, Yurii Luzhkov, the realization that the Moscow city government's once-bottomless coffers are running dry poses several important challenges. The first of those challenges is economic. Until recently, Moscow was considered an island of relative prosperity in a sea of economic disarray. But as Russia's economic crisis deepens, both the image of the Moscow miracle and Luzhkov's reputation as one of the few Russian political bosses who can get things done are rapidly coming under threat. Political analysts say that to preserve his image, Luzhkov the populist has to transform himself into Luzhkov the realist. At the meeting of the Moscow city government on 24 November, deputy mayor Yurii Razlyak said that projected budget revenues in 1999 will be the same or even less than this year. Other city officials said the situation is made worse by the fact that tax collection is shrinking dramatically. And in order to service some $1.5 billion in foreign debt, Moscow will have to pay $120 million in 1999, which, according to city officials, is equal to 45 percent of the city's hard- currency reserves. One of Luzhkov's most persistent critics, Aleksei Ulyukaev, deputy director of the Institute for the Economy in Transition, told RFE/RL that "Moscow's budget situation is very serious," adding that "the real base of the budget is shrinking." Luzhkov's second challenge stems from the dilemma over how to introduce unpopular measures without damaging his position as one of the main contenders for the Russian presidency. Political analysts say that Luzhkov's launching in mid-November of a political movement, Otechestvo [Fatherland], represents the opening of his presidential campaign. Having decided to abandon a short and largely unproductive flirtation with the Communists, Luzhkov said his movement will "absorb everything that is logical from the left and everything that is logical from the right" but will "avoid all radicalism either of the right or the left." Acutely aware of the need to maintain social services despite Moscow's economic troubles, Luzhkov told city officials at the 24 November city government meeting that social programs, including plans to build new schools and medical clinics in Moscow, should continue. Financial officials replied that funds to make up for the shortfall in tax revenues could come from new Western credits, from increased revenue earned by government-controlled alcohol sales, or from the introduction of a new sales tax and other unpopular fiscal measures. Saying that fresh Western credits should be avoided, Luzhkov was forced to approve some unpopular moves. Among those moves is an increase by one-third of monthly Moscow city travel cards beginning in January. Moscow apartment rents and utilities will rise by 30-50 percent over the next few months. And the cost of water will increase 45 percent in December, while rents will go up another 50 percent next April and heat and electricity by 30 percent next July. According to Ulyukaev, unpopular measures have been taken but "without too much publicity." He added that Luzhkov's social program for Moscow is unrealistic and "financing it will be difficult, but [for political reasons] it must continue until the presidential elections." At the city government meeting, Luzhkov also introduced a new colleague, President Boris Yeltsin's former spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembskii, who was abruptly fired in mid-September. Following much speculation, Yastrzhembskii was appointed Luzhkov's deputy in charge of public relations and regional and international affairs. Yastrzhembskii, for his part, has not denied Russian media reports that he was fired by Yeltsin for promoting the Moscow mayor as a candidate for prime minister over Yevgenii Primakov. (Other former Yeltsin aides, including ex-Security Council chief Andrei Kokoshin and former Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov have also joined forces with Luzhkov.) Russian media had suggested that Yastrzhembskii would be brought into the Moscow government to promote Luzhkov in his presidential bid. In the past, the former presidential spokesman was widely credited with giving a smooth, professional face to the Kremlin press service and frequently rescuing Yeltsin from his own words and actions. Attending his first city hall meeting last week, Yastrzhembskii did not rule out the possibility of assuming the role of Luzhkov's new image maker. He warned journalists that the race for the presidency has not yet officially started but said that if he were asked to help Luzhkov, he would certainly do so. "If the electoral trumpet sounds, I think I will take part in this campaign," he commented. The author is a Moscow-based RFE/RL correspondent. 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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