|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 239, Part I, 14 December 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 239, Part I, 14 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 * YELTSIN OUSTS VLADIVOSTOK MAYOR * GOVERNMENT SUBMITS BUDGET * FIRST OIL PUMPED INTO BAKU-SUPSA PIPELINE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN OUSTS VLADIVOSTOK MAYOR. Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on 11 December, stripping Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov of his office. According to the decree, Cherepkov's term had run out months earlier, and the mayor had remained in office illegally. Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko was instructed to appoint an acting mayor until elections are held at the beginning of next year. Earlier, members of Primorskii Krai's legislature had appealed to Yeltsin to remove Cherepkov. Cherepkov, however, announced on 13 December that he will ignore the decree and that he has filed a suit against Yeltsin at the Russian Supreme Court. He also declared his intention to run for governor of Primore in the 1999 elections. The city of Vladivostok has been hit with chronic fuel and electricity shortages as temperatures have dipped below freezing. JAC U.S. CONSIDERS YELTSIN ON DUTY, GOVERNMENT ON TRACK... A delegation of U.S. officials led by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Deputy Treasury Secretary Larry Summers concluded their visit to Moscow on 12 December. The delegation met with Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and head of the presidential administration Nikolai Bordyuzha. After the meeting, a " high-ranking U.S. diplomat" told reporters on 11 December that the delegation has seen evidence that the Russian government remains committed to economic reform and that "no crisis of confidence exists between the U.S. and Russia." Although the delegation did not meet with Yeltsin, the official said that "there was quite concrete evidence that President Yeltsin was very much on the job and remains very much the president of his country." JAC ...AS NEW ROUND OF STEEL TALKS TO OPEN. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Russia will send delegations to start negotiations on steel trade in London on 14 December, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 December. The U.S. Department of Commerce reached a preliminary judgment that makes Russian steel exports to the U.S. vulnerable to high tariffs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 November 1998). JAC MOSCOW POWERLESS TO OVERTURN REGIONAL FOOD RESTRICTIONS? Head of the presidential administration Bordyuzha told Russian Television on 11 December that the decision of the Kemerovo and Krasnoyarsk governors to restrict food exports outside their region was "absolutely incorrect." A government spokesman told ITAR-TASS that the government will investigate the two decisions. However, the "Moscow Times" the next day quoted an Agriculture Ministry as saying that Moscow has been unable to stop governors from imposing domestic trade barriers. He said, "We have scolded the governors but nothing more concrete has been done." The daily also quoted Yurii Gnatovskii of the OGO grain-trading firm, as saying that local governments, such as Volgograd's, order their railroad authorities not to provide his company with railcars for shipping their grain. Other regions, according to Gnatovskii, "tell their traffic police to find faults with cargo documentation." JAC GOVERNMENT SUBMITS BUDGET. The Russian government submitted its draft 1999 budget on 11 December, as it had promised, Russian agencies reported. The next day, Prime Minister Primakov told Russian Public Television that he might be persuaded by the Duma to modify certain features of the budget as long as they are aimed at reducing the deficit, but he added that "strategic concessions" are not possible. ITAR-TASS noted that in previous years, budgets required at least two to three months to pass the State Duma. Former Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais told Ekho Moskvy on 12 December that the budget is "quite professional from the standpoint of its basic parameters." JAC DUMA PASSES ANTI-CRISIS BILL, RECOMMENDS CHUBAIS GET THE SACK. The Duma passed a draft law "On Priority Measures for the Budget and Tax Policy" in its second reading on 11 December. The vote was 316 to one. The law authorizes the emission of no more than 25.2 billion rubles ($1.26 billion) in the fourth quarter of 1998 and increases exporters' mandatory sales of hard currency from 50 percent of their proceeds to 75 percent. The legislation is expected to win easy passage in the Federation Council. The same day, the Duma passed a non-binding resolution recommending that former Deputy Prime Minister Chubais be dismissed from his position as head of Unified Energy Systems. According to Interfax, only the company's board of directors and board of government representatives can make changes to UES management. JAC YELTSIN WARNS AGAINST TINKERING WITH CONSTITUTION. In a 12 December radio address marking the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Russian Constitution, President Yeltsin spoke out against altering the constitution, which he called the "nucleus of Russia's new statehood." He added that the constitution "has become an obstacle for those who want to revive the arbitrary rule of the Communist Party bureaucracy, the persecution of the Church, and the command system for the economy." He warned that the wholesale replacement of the constitution would be "deadly for the country." JAC COMMUNISTS WIN IN VOLGOGRAD POLL. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation won 11 of the 16 vacant seats in the Volgograd Oblast legislature on 13 December, ITAR- TASS reported. Four local industrial leaders and a representative of the Volgograd Russian Sobor electoral bloc won the five remaining seats. The election took place despite heavy snow, power outages, and a bomb threat at one polling station. Turnout, however, was only 34.7 percent. At the first rotational local elections in March 1997, the Communist Party won 12 seats, making a current total of 23 mandates. LF STAROVOITOVA KILLED BY POLITICAL EXTREMISTS? The weapon used to kill Galina Starovoitova was rare and is used most often in covert military operations, the "St. Petersburg Times" reported on 11 December. Earlier, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that law enforcement officers believe that the gun could have come from a clandestine arms depot operated by a former policeman in a Moscow suburb. An anonymous letter found at the depot after police closed it down suggested that several members of the militant left-wing opposition, such as Communist Party member and Duma deputy Albert Makashov, have ties to the depot. "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported that some law enforcement officers believe the killing was not the work of "professionals" since they used "sloppy firearms" and parked their getaway car far away from the scene of the crime. JAC SOLZHENITSYN SAYS NO THANKS. Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has rejected one of Russia's highest honors, the Order of Saint Andrei, saying he cannot accept an award from the authority that has "brought Russia to its present state of ruin." President Yeltsin bestowed the award on Solzhenitsyn on the occasion of the latter's 80th birthday (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 1998). Oleg Sysuev, deputy chief of the presidential staff, told Russian Television that Solzhenitsyn "has an uneasy attitude toward authorities" and "it is his right to accept it or not." JAC NEW THEORY POSED FOR UFO INCIDENT IN ALTAI. Officials at a scientific research institute in Altai Republic believe that the crash of an "unidentified flying object" in the southeastern Altai mountains in May 1997 may have resulted from the test of a new missile propellant or of a Burya intercontinental missile launched from the Barnaul military base, "Trud" reported on 10 December. According to the daily, a dark cloud of burning fuel covered 5,000 square kilometers in the region, causing a number of deaths and illnesses. Local authorities believe the population was exposed to chlorine, a combat contaminant used during World War 1, the daily reported. JAC CHECHNYA CALLS UP RESERVISTS. President Aslan Maskhadov ordered the mobilization of reservists on 12 December in a new crackdown on crime following the execution of four foreign telephone engineers several days earlier. Several thousand volunteers came forward within 24 hours. Speaking on Chechen Television on 12 December, Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriev accused former field commander Arbi Baraev of having masterminded the abduction and murder of the four engineers. Baraev was dismissed as commander of the Islamic special purpose regiment in mid-July after his men were involved in fighting with rival Chechen forces in Gudermes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 1998). Atgeriev also blamed Baraev for the 10 December abduction of Chechen Prosecutor-General Mansur Tagiev, who was released two days later. LF ABDUCTED UN OFFICIAL FREED. Under the direction of Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, Russian and Ingushetian Interior Ministry forces secured the release of UN High Commission for Refugees official Vincent Cochetel in a rescue operation on the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia early on 12 December. Three of the kidnappers were killed during the shootout that ensued. Cochetel, who headed the UNHCR mission in the North Caucasus, was kidnapped in the North Ossetian capital, Vladikavkaz, in January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January 1998). LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA FIRST OIL PUMPED INTO BAKU-SUPSA PIPELINE. The Azerbaijani International Operating Company began filling the export oil pipeline from Baku to Georgia's Black Sea terminal of Supsa on 10 December, Caucasus Press reported. The process of filling the 930 kilometer pipeline will be completed by February 1999, and the pipeline will begin operating one month later. Initial annual throughput is estimated at 2.5 million metric tons. Gia Chanturia, the president of the Georgian International Operating Company, which operates the Georgian sector of the pipeline, told journalists in Tbilisi on 11 December that Georgia will receive some $25-30 million annually in tariffs, ITAR-TASS reported. LF AZERBAIJAN PROTESTS IRANIAN OIL DEAL. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 10 December condemning the proposed deal between Iran and the Royal Dutch Shell and Lazno oil companies to conduct geological exploration in what Baku claims is part of its sector of the Caspian Sea, Turan and Interfax reported. That agreement is scheduled to be signed on 14 December. The Azerbaijani statement condemned the proposed exploration as "illegal," "unilateral," and "inadmissible." It also rejects Iran's claim to 20 percent of the Caspian. The five Caspian littoral states have been at loggerheads for several years over the optimum approach to dividing the Caspian into national sectors and the precise borders of those sectors. LF AZERBAIJANI EX-PARLIAMENT SPEAKER FACES NEW CRIMINAL CHARGES. The prosecutor-general has opened another criminal case against Rasul Guliev on charges of insulting President Heidar Aliev, Interfax reported on 13 December. Guliev, who left Azerbaijan in 1996, accused Aliev of cutting a deal with the Armenian leadership under which Azerbaijani forces would not prevent Armenia occupying the Kelbadjar and Lachin districts of Azerbaijan and the town of Shusha in Nagorno-Karabakh (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 1998). In January 1998, Guliev was accused of having engaged in large-scale embezzlement when he headed Azerbaijan's largest oil refinery. He was stripped of his deputy's immunity in April. LF RUSSIA DELIVERS NUCLEAR FUEL TO ARMENIA. Russia delivered an urgently needed consignment of nuclear fuel for Armenia's Medzamor power station on 11 December, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, Armenian and Russian officials signed an agreement in Moscow whereby Russia will extend a $20.24 million loan to Armenia to finance safety measures at the plant and further shipments of fuel. Armenian enterprises owe Medzamor some $40 million for electricity supplies, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" of 16 October. LF MANUKIAN CRITICIZES ARMENIAN LEADERSHIP. Speaking at the 10th congress of his National Democratic Union on 11 December, former Prime Minister and twice defeated presidential candidate Vazgen Manukian charged that the economy of Armenia and Karabakh is mainly controlled by clans under the leadership of President Robert Kocharian, Defense Minister Vazgen Sargssian, Interior and Security Minister Serzh Sargssian, and Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan. Differences of opinion surfaced between Manukian, who insists that political change is possible only through democratic elections, and parliament deputy Davit Vartanian, who refuses to rule out "revolutionary methods," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In addition, Manukian rejects any cooperation with the existing Armenian government, while Vartanian would condone such cooperation to solve fundamental problems such as unemployment. In July, Vartanian accepted an offer from Kocharian to head the presidential oversight service. LF ARMENIANS PROTEST DESTRUCTION OF MONUMENTS IN NAKHICHEVAN. A senior Armenian clergyman and members of the Nakhichevan Union representing Armenians from that Azerbaijani exclave have addressed appeals to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and to UNESCO Secretary- General Federico Mayor to intervene to prevent the further destruction of Armenian religious and cultural monuments in Nakhichevan, Noyan Tapan reported on 10 December. In late November, Armenian architects on the Iranian bank of the Arax, which forms the frontier between Iran and Nakhichevan, reported that gravestones and stone crosses in the cemetery of Old Djuga in Nakhichevan were being destroyed by bulldozers or removed. In the 1920s, the population of Nakhichevan was predominantly Armenian, but as a result of emigration from the region, it is now 95 percent Azerbaijani. LF OPPOSITION TO CHAIR TWO FURTHER GEORGIAN CITY COUNCILS. Labor Party member Malkhaz Asatiani was elected chairman of the city council of Kutaisi, Georgia's second largest city, on 10 December, Caucasus Press reported. The same day, a member of the People's Party was elected chairman of the Gori City Council. A representative of the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) has rejected that outcome and absconded with the ballot papers. In his weekly radio address, President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 14 December that the SMK's lackluster showing in the 15 November local elections "is not a defeat" for that party. LF KYRGYZ OFFICIALS DETAINED DURING ANTI-CORRUPTION INVESTIGATION. Kyrgyz Interior Minister Omurbek Kutuev told journalists on 14 December that a number of state officials have been detained on corruption and embezzlement charges, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. Kutuev said arrests began on 12 December. Among those arrested, he named First Deputy Finance Minister Alymbek Biyalinov, Deputy Finance Minister Rysbek Begmatov, Deputy Minister of Ecology Jumakadyr Akeneev, Deputy Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Stamakun Asanaliev, and the head of the newly privatized Agricultural Leasing company. He added that there are more detainees but declined to give further details. Also on 14 December, President Askar Akayev signed a decree aimed at stepping up the battle against corruption. Last week, Akayev sacked the head of his administration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 December 1998). BP ABDULLOJONOV ACCUSES TAJIK GOVERNMENT OF GENOCIDE... Former Tajik Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdullojonov, who is wanted by Dushanbe for his role in the violence in the northern Leninabad Oblast early last month, issued a statement on 9 December accusing the Tajik government "led by President Imomali Rakhmonov" of "practicing political, regional, and ethnic genocide," ITAR-TASS reported three days later. Abdullojonov wrote that following the violence in the north last month, "thousands of people were thrown in prison, tens of thousands of homes were looted, and hundreds of the area's residents have disappeared without a trace." He also criticized the United Tajik Opposition for giving "tacit agreement" to events in northern Tajikistan, especially because "more than anyone else, they have experienced the horrors of the infringement of rights." BP ...AND TARGETING HIS RELATIVES. Abdullojonov also claimed he has relatives still living in the area who have been targeted by the Tajik authorities. He said his mother's home in Khujand was looted and his brother, the former mayor of Khujand, arrested. Saying he is accustomed to attacks against himself, he questioned the need to harass his relatives and friends still in Tajikistan. He also said that he is ready to appear before a "free and impartial international court" to answer to any charges of wrong-doing. BP KAZAKHSTAN'S POPULATION CONTINUES TO DECREASE. The director of the Migration and Immigration Agency, Zauytbek Turysbekov, said on 12 December that during Kazakhstan's seven years of independence, 2.17 million people have left Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported. During the same period, 590,000 people, of whom 170,000 are ethnic Kazakhs, have entered the country. As of 1 January 1998, the country's population was 15.6 million. BP TURKMENISTAN CELEBRATES THREE YEARS OF 'NEUTRALITY.' Turkmenistan on 12 December celebrated the third anniversary of the UN decision to officially recognize that country's "neutrality," ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. To mark the occasion, a 75-meter-high Neutrality Arch was unveiled, atop of which is a 12- meter, gold-plated statue of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov. The statue slowly revolves so that it is always facing the sun. BP xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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