|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 237, Part I, 10 December 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 237, Part I, 10 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 * NEW PSA LEGISLATION PASSES * CHECHEN PRESIDENT SHEDS LIGHT ON HOSTAGES' MURDER * ARMENIAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER SHOT DEAD xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA NEW PSA LEGISLATION PASSES. After rejecting a number of bills on production sharing agreements (PSA), the State Duma on 9 December finally passed in the third reading a series of amendments to the PSA law. The vote was 347 to six. Under the law, small oil fields with less than 25 million tons of reserves will need approval only from federal and local governments--not from the Duma. In addition, the law requires PSA participants to purchase 70 percent of their equipment and hire 80 percent of their work force in Russia. The "Moscow Times" on 10 December quoted one oil industry lobbyist as saying that passage of the bill opens the door for the Duma to pass other legislation necessary to convince foreign investors to proceed with large investments in the oil sector. The law is expected to easily win the approval of the Federation Council and President Boris Yeltsin. JAC U.S. OFFICIALS ARRIVE IN MOSCOW. A delegation of U.S. officials led by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Deputy Treasury Secretary Larry Summers arrived in Moscow on 9 December. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said that "such a broad interdepartmental composition of the American delegation reflects the important, comprehensive character of Russian-U.S. relations." "Noviye izvestiya," on the other hand, called the delegation "a motley crew" sent to Russia because the [Bill] Clinton administration realizes that "it is impossible to understand Russia" from Washington. The newspaper reported that the delegation will try to persuade Moscow to send "a leading negotiator" to the IMF before the end of the year. It also noted that First Deputy Minister Yurii Maslyukov is scheduled to visit around 15 December and quoted "an IMF spokesman" as saying that if Maslyukov "really wants to secure any results on his arrival, he will have to revise some of his economic views." JAC CHECHEN PRESIDENT SHEDS LIGHT ON HOSTAGES' MURDER. Aslan Maskhadov confirmed on 9 December that the three British engineers and their New Zealand colleague were killed by their abductors during a botched rescue operation. Maskhadov vowed to "take all necessary steps to resolve this horrible crime," AP reported. Deputy Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriev on 9 December denied media reports that one of the murderers has been arrested, according to Interfax. Neighboring Stavropol Krai, Ingushetia, and Dagestan have all closed their borders with Chechnya. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev expressed concern that the murders may deter potential foreign investors in the North Caucasus. CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii said on 9 December that the killings are "a tragedy" for Maskhadov, given that they will exacerbate Chechnya's pariah status. Berezovskii hinted that Moscow's failure to give unequivocal support to Maskhadov has eroded the latter's control over internal Chechen developments and thereby contributed to the killings. LF RUSSIA REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO NUCLEAR COOPERATION WITH IRAN. Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov told journalists in Moscow on 9 December that Russia will continue construction of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant but will not violate the nuclear non-proliferation treaty by providing Tehran with nuclear technology, AP and Interfax reported. Visiting Tehran in late November, Adamov discussed with Iranian experts the possibility of Russia building three additional reactors for that plant. Also on 9 December, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright asked her Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, for a firm commitment to limit Russia's involvement in the Iranian missile program, according to "The New York Times." The Russian Foreign Ministry and the Iranian Embassy in Moscow have both declined to comment on a 8 December report in that newspaper saying Iran has recruited several Russian germ warfare experts. LF NATO INVITES RUSSIA TO PARTY. NATO on 9 December formally invited Russia to attend its 50th anniversary summit in Washington next April. The same day, Foreign Minister Ivanov, who was in Brussels, condemned a proposal to include the use of NATO forces without UN Security Council consent in the alliance's new strategic concept. He said that "any decision on the use of force must be adopted in accordance with Article 7 of the UN Charter," Interfax reported. Ivanov also repeated Moscow's opposition to NATO's decision to retain the option of using force against Belgrade for its actions in Kosova. At a cost of $11 million, Russia will send more than 120 men to Kosova to participate in the OSCE monitoring mission, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 December. JAC JUSTICE MINISTRY PROPOSES DEATH PENALTY BAN. Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov on 9 December presented a draft bill to abolish the death penalty. Russia promised to ban capital punishment by the end of February 1999 when it joined the Council of Europe. The Duma, however, is unlikely to pass the bill, having already rejected similar draft legislation. Mikhail Mityukov, presidential representative to the Constitutional Court, told Interfax on 10 December that Yeltsin supports a gradual implementation of a ban on capital punishment. The president also favors the gradual introduction of trial by jury. Last year, the Duma failed to debate a bill to introduce juries, which was submitted by the administration, because Duma deputies believed that there was not enough money to fund the proposal. JAC PRIMAKOV AGAIN DENIES PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS. In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 9 December, Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov again denied that he has any plans to seek the presidency or that he will consider remaining prime minister under a new president. He said "Don't forget that in 1999, I will be 70." JAC LEBED, KEY INDUSTRIALIST TANGLE. Anatolii Bykov, CEO of the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Plant, told NTV on 6 December that supporting Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksander Lebed's election campaign was a mistake. The next day, Bykov elaborated, saying that 70 percent of the district administration heads in the krai are poised to resign from sheer frustration. He added that Lebed's young and inexperienced team mistreat the local elite and neglect official work to return home to Moscow. "Izvestiya" on 10 December described Bykov as having "colossal" influence in Krasnoyarsk and said that opposition to Lebed is now of a new, different order. "Trud" reported the same day that Lebed accused Bykov of meeting with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on several occasions and of intending to back Luzhkov's Otechestvo [Fatherland] movement. Bykov denies that he has ever met with Luzhkov. JAC REGIONAL SUPPORT FOR NEW LUZHKOV MOVEMENT GROWS. Otechestvo has attracted the support of 20 regional governors, including Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Governor Ivan Sklyarov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 9 December. The newspaper also reported that several members of the left-wing Movement for the Revival of the Urals will likely join as well. In November, Nikolai Lubenets, mayor of Trekhgornii in Chelyabinsk Oblast, formed his own branch of Otechestvo. The daily reported that Luzhkov visited Lubenets in September during a short trip to the Urals. Elsewhere in the Urals, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel was not invited to join Luzhkov's party, "EWI's Russian Regional Report" concluded on 3 December, because Luzhkov believes that Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii has a better chance to win upcoming gubernatorial election. On 10 December, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Luzhkov signed an economic cooperation agreement with Rossel, but the newspaper quoted the former as making a joke at the latter's expense while visiting the oblast. JAC ELECTION FRAUD IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD? Loose lips sank Anatolii Nekrasov, head of the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast election committee, who lost his job after he told a local newspaper that the results of mayoral elections held in September might have been rigged, "Kommersant- Daily" reported on 8 December. Nekrasov admitted that local officials might have tampered with automatic vote- counting devices. JAC YAROSLAVL CONSUMERS FACING EMPTY SHELVES. Moscow consumers are buying up unprocessed food products and raw materials from Yaroslavl Oblast at prices higher than locals can afford, "EWI's Russian Regional Report" reported on 6 December. For example, collective farms can charge their Moscow-based customers 5-6 rubles (15- 25 U.S. cents) per liter of milk, while local customers will pay only 3 rubles. As a result, shelves in local stores are increasingly bare. On 1 December, Yaroslavl Oblast Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn signed a decree reducing subsidies for collective farms that sell their products to consumers outside the region. JAC WASHINGTON EMBASSY SNAFU CONTINUES. A spokesman for the Russian embassy in Washington hinted that Moscow might retaliate for Washington's withdrawal of a security guard post from the Russian ambassador's residence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 1998), "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 9 December. In a statement issued to the newspaper, the spokesman said, "As the 'Washington Times' writes, the Americans have taken these measures in order to economize. Economizing is economizing, but the Americans of all people should be perfectly well aware of the consequences of inadequately protecting a foreign mission." He added that "there is, of course, no question of withdrawing protection from the U.S. ambassador's Moscow residence in Spasopeskovskii Pereulok, but Russia's next steps will largely depend on the U.S. reaction to the protest note." JAC PRIMAKOV LOOKING SHAGGY? "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 8 December asked Yelena Vasina, a leading stylist from the L'Oreal Professional salon, for advise on how to spiff up some of Russia's leading politicians. For Prime Minister Primakov, she suggested a hair cut would not be a bad idea. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov would be better off wearing shirts with wider collars and ties with a large knot to offset his large head and wide face, she said And former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, according to Vasina, needs to update his eyeglass frames with something more dignified. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER SHOT DEAD. Colonel Vahram Khorkhoruni was shot dead outside his home in Yerevan early on 10 December, Western agencies reported, citing Interfax. Khorkhoruni, who was 47, began his career in the Russian Interior Ministry and then in its Armenian counterpart, before transferring to the Ministry of Defense. His most recent responsibility was for armaments. Armenian Presidential aide Aram Sargsian told Reuters that the motives for the killing are unclear. LF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT STARTS DEBATING BUDGET... The Armenian parliament began debating the 1999 draft budget on 8 December, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The draft budget provides for revenues of 187.9 billion drams (some $360 million), expenditures of 239.1 billion drams, and a deficit of some 57 billion drams. Economics and Finance Minister Eduard Sandoyan told deputies that the government intends to strengthen its social policy and will introduce a system of modest family allowances for some 230,000 needy families. Employees paid from the state budget will receive a 20 percent wage increase and the basic pension will rise by 30 percent. The opposition Hayrenik parliamentary group is boycotting the debate. Its members argue that the budget protects the shadow economy without alleviating the plight of the population. LF ...WHILE DASHNAK PARTY CRITICIZES DRAFT. Leading members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun), which has only one parliamentary deputy, told a news conference on 9 December that some provisions of the 1999 budget run counter to election promises made by President Robert Kocharian, Noyan Tapan reported. Noting that "people are running out of patience," they predicted that the financial situation of many Armenian families relying heavily on money from relatives in Russia may deteriorate as a result of the financial crisis in that country. The ARFD strongly backed Kocharian's presidential bid. LF GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER PROPOSES GUAM PEACEKEEPING FORCE. Davit Tevzadze has proposed that Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova form a peacekeeping force to promote regional security and guard the proposed export oil pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil, Turan reported on 9 December. Tevzadze said experts from all four countries have discussed the possibility of cooperation with NATO to create such a force within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program. Tevzadze said that the proposed force could also interact with the Balkan peacekeeping force set up earlier this year. Tevzadze was speaking in Bucharest, where he signed a bilateral agreement on defense cooperation with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, on 8 December. LF GEORGIAN RULING PARTY LOSES CONTROL OF TBILISI CITY COUNCIL. Lado Kakhadze of the opposition Labor Party was elected chairman of the Tbilisi City Council on 9 December, Caucasus Press reported, citing "Rezonansi." The Union of Citizens of Georgia, the majority party within the parliament, did not participate in the vote. The union failed to win an absolute majority in most areas in the 15 November local elections. LF GEORGIA'S CHECHEN MINORITY LAUNCHES PROTEST. The Chechen population of two villages in the northeastern Sighnaghi Raion have blocked a local highway to protest delays in paying wages and pensions, Caucasus Press reported on 10 December, citing "Akhali kartuli gazeti." There are an estimated 10,000-15,000 Chechens in Georgia. LF TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY BANNED. The Supreme Court has banned the National Unity Party, Interfax reported on 9 December. The party was headed by former Tajik Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdullojonov, who is wanted by Tajik law enforcement agencies for his part in the November rebellion in northern Tajikistan. All the party's property and assets have been nationalized. The Supreme Court noted that the party has not held a congress since its founding in 1994, has not issued any membership cards, and has not decided on a seal or letterhead. The party's leadership attempted to distance itself from Abdullojonov in November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2O November 1998) condemning Abdullojonov for his role in the November violence. BP AKAYEV SACKS HEAD OF ADMINISTRATION. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev signed a decree on 10 December dismissing the head of his administration, Omar Sultanov, ITAR-TASS reported. Akayev's press secretary told journalists that in the future, Akayev will deal firmly with those who are engaged in intrigue." He declined to comment further on the reasons for Sultanov's dismissal. ITAR-TASS, meanwhile, noted that Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev has accused Sultanov of interfering in his ministry's work. Sultanov was appointed head of the presidential administration in March 1998. BP QUESTIONS ARISE ABOUT TURKMEN GRAIN HARVEST. Despite the Turkmen government's claims that this year's grain harvest exceeds target figures, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 8 December that the price of government- subsidized flour has quadrupled since 1 November. The government announced at the end of the summer that farmers had harvested slightly more than the planned 1.2 million tons of grain. While the Agricultural Ministry has claimed many times that 800,000 tons would be enough to supply all domestic needs, there are reports that in some areas that flour is scarce and the price of government-subsidized flour, which only the poor and families with many children are eligible to receive, has risen from 25 manat ($1=5,200 manat) per kilogram to 100 manat. The government admitted at the end of November that less than half the targeted amount of cotton has been gathered. BP KAZAKHSTAN, WESTERN OIL COMPANIES SIGN AGREEMENT. Kazakh officials were in Washington on 9 December to sign an agreement with representatives of Royal Dutch Shell and the U.S. companies Mobil and Chevron on conducting feasibility studies for a pipeline connecting the eastern and western coasts of the Caspian Sea, ITAR-TASS and dpa reported. The pipeline will connect oil and gas fields in western Kazakhstan with Baku. Russian Minister of Oil and Fuel Vladimir Stanev was also present at the signing and said his country "need not be concerned about the deal." He noted that under the terms of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium agreement, participants can ship oil via any route they choose but must nonetheless pay Russian tariffs for oil they originally agreed to pump to Novorossiisk. BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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