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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 241, Part I, 16 December 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 241, Part I, 16 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 * DIPLOMATIC RESIDENCE SPAT SPREADS TO MOSCOW * BUDGET TIMETABLE EXTENDING TO JANUARY? * LEGAL ACTION AGAINST AZERBAIJANI PRESS CONTINUES End Note: LOOKING WEST FROM BEIJING xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA DIPLOMATIC RESIDENCE SPAT SPREADS TO MOSCOW. In the latest of a series of articles about Russia's reaction to the removal of a security guardpost outside the home of the Russian ambassador in Washington, "Noviye izvestiya" reported on 15 December that Russian authorities have threatened to remove guards from the U.S. embassy in Moscow and from the U.S. ambassador's residence. According to the daily, U.S. Ambassador James Collins paid an urgent visit to the Russian Foreign Ministry, requesting that security measures be increased rather than decreased. The newspaper reported that a State Department official in Washington explained the guards' removal there by saying "we are having financial difficulties, and you Russians must understand this." "Noviye izvestiya" concluded, "We do understand. But what, then, are our state organs to do, when wages have not been paid for months and no one is removing guards from foreign diplomatic missions in Moscow?" JAC IVANOV REVIEWS U.S.-RUSSIAN RELATIONS. In an published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 December, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called the U.S. and Russia "natural strategic partners" but said that Moscow will oppose pressure to alter its relationship with Iran. "Our cooperation with Iran will continue to be implemented in strict compliance with our international commitments and nonproliferation policies," he wrote. He also noted that the strategic goals of the U.S. and Russia "mainly coincide" but "different measures and methods to reach [these goals] are often suggested, which sometimes causes serious differences." JAC TALE OF TWO MAYORS CONTINUES. Yurii Kopylov, appointed acting mayor of Vladivostok by Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, appealed on 15 December for "assistance" to help him occupy city administration headquarters, which are currently occupied by supporters of former Mayor Viktor Cherepkov, ITAR-TASS reported. However, Viktor Kondratov, presidential representative to the krai, said that "there will be no use of force to settle the conflict." "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 December that lights, telephones, and water have been turned off at the mayor's office in order to drive out Cherepkov's supporters. Earlier, many city residents experienced heating outages at their homes because of a battle between the local power supply company and the Mayor's Office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December 1998). JAC BUDGET TIMETABLE EXTENDING TO JANUARY? Duma deputy and deputy chairman of the Communist party faction Valentin Kuptsov told reporters on 15 December that the Duma is unlikely to pass the budget quickly. He said that "neither the party nor the voters would appreciate it if we skipped studying the government's proposals in depth." Meanwhile, Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev said that the Duma will try to complete consideration of the budget in January if it fails to do so by the end of the year. Duma Budget Committee Chairman (Russian Regions) Aleksandr Zhukov said that the budget has a good chance of passing in the first reading, while Agrarian faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov said his group will support the budget, despite the fact that it will not resolve the problems experienced by farms and agrobusinesses. JAC SOME OF ILYUKHIN'S BEST FRIENDS ARE JEWISH? State Duma Security Committee Chairman and member of the Communist Party Viktor Ilyukhin said at an impeachment commission hearing on 15 December that "large-scale genocide [against the Russian people] would have been less serious if the president's entourage and the government included representatives of other ethnic groups and did not consist exclusively of Jews, although they are a talented group." The next day, the Duma rejected a Yabloko faction proposal for a resolution condemning Ilyukhin for his remarks. Only 82 deputies voted in favor of the measure, according to Interfax. Ilyukhin, meanwhile, has denied that his remarks were anti- Semitic, according to ITAR-TASS. Duma deputy and fellow Communist Party member Tatyana Astrakhankina accused television journalists of trying to discredit Ilyukhin. Financial magnate Boris Berezovskii, who earlier proposed that the Communist Party be banned, suggested that if necessary, the government should use force to get rid of the party. JAC GOVERNMENT CAMPAIGNING FOR START-II... Russian military and government officials stepped up their rhetoric in support of State Duma ratification of the START-II treaty on 15 December. Strategic Rocket Force Commander General Vladimir Yakovlev told reporters that under the treaty, Russia would not have to take a single missile off combat duty before its service life expired. He added that "just like human life, the lifetime of any piece of equipment is limited." The same day, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov said that START-II is a touchstone for Russian foreign policy and delays in its ratification are providing other countries with justification for speeding up their own nuclear weapons program. Maslyukov also urged that talks begin immediately on START-III. JAC ...AS DUMA MEMBERS DEMAND QUID PRO QUO. Meanwhile, the treaty has become a subject for "political horse trading" in the Duma and some groups are demanding changes in the budget in exchange for their support for ratification, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 December. According to the daily, Yabloko, Our Home is Russia, and Russian Regions support ratification, while the Liberal Democratic Party is "unambiguously opposed." Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov reportedly believes that there is no point in examining the treaty until the government submits a plan on how it will safeguard the nation's security over the next 10 to 15 years. Duma Chairman Seleznev said the Duma Council will consider START-II ratification on 17 December. JAC ORT BANKRUPTCY CASE CONTINUES. Five creditors who filed suits against Russian Public Television (ORT) have withdrawn them under government pressure, "Kommersant- Daily" reported on 15 December. According to the newspaper, the government now has full control over the station, which "can be reminded of its debts and the prospect of bankruptcy at any moment." By gaining this leverage, the government has delivered a "crushing defeat" to financial magnate Boris Berezovskii, according to the newspaper. In the meantime, however, a Moscow arbitration court decided to continue bankruptcy proceedings against ORT, despite an appeal from the Federal Bankruptcy Service, the "Moscow Times" reported on 16 December. Artem Bikov, deputy head of the service, said his agency will continue to oppose ORT's bankruptcy. A first hearing has been scheduled for 18 February. JAC TEACHERS, PARENTS BLOCK RAILROAD. About 100 teachers and parents of schoolchildren from the village of Suda in the Vologda Oblast blocked the Oktyabrskaya railroad on 15 December, Interfax reported. At the same time, more than 12,000 teachers from 443 schools and daycare centers also protested months of unpaid wages. A local teachers' union official told Interfax that only teachers working in the cities of Vologda and Cherepovets and in one other school district in the oblast receive their pay regularly. The next day, a Transport Police official told Interfax that criminal proceedings have been initiated against the striking teachers who blocked the railroad and delayed four trains. JAC KIRIENKO GOES ONLINE. Former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko has launched his own website (www.kirienko.ru), Interfax reported on December 15. The site contains an application form for people wishing to join Kirienko's new movement, called Novoye Delo [New Cause]. Kirienko's former colleague, Boris Nemtsov, former deputy prime minister also has his own web site (www.nemtsov.ru), at which people can join his Young Russia movement. In an interview with "Novoye vremya" in its December issue, Nemtsov said that Young Russia's ranks are swelling by "one hundred new men a day." JAC RIGHT-WING NATIONALISTS BARRED FROM MEETING IN MOSCOW. Moscow city authorities have announced that Russian National Unity (RNU) will not be allowed to hold a congress with more than 5,000 attendees at the Izmailovo Sports Palace on 19 December. RNU leader Aleksandr Barkashov told Interfax the same day that his organization will appeal the ban. According to Barkashov, the city has no legal right to prohibit the meeting of the party, which "is registered in Moscow as well as in 33 other Russian regions." On the agenda of the meeting had been amendments to the group's charter enabling it to officially register with the Justice Ministry and participate in presidential elections in 2000, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported. JAC CHECHEN PARLIAMENT DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY. The Chechen parliament on 15 December refused to approve the deployment of the several thousand reservists mobilized by President Aslan Maskhadov to crackdown on crime, imposing instead a 30-day state of emergency, Interfax reported. Parliamentary speaker Ruslan Alikhadjiev told ITAR-TASS that the parliament's decision does not constitute defiance of the president, as the state of emergency will serve the same purpose as Maskhadov's proposed deployment of reservists. But Deputy Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriev condemned the parliament's decision as "the wrong way to combat crime," according to Interfax. As in July, when Maskhadov imposed a state of emergency following clashes between rival military groups, former Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin argued that Moscow should not condemn the Chechen move, which is technically illegal as only the Russian president is empowered to declare a state of emergency on the territory of the Russian Federation, ITAR-TASS reported. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA LEGAL ACTION AGAINST AZERBAIJANI PRESS CONTINUES. A Baku district court handed down two more fines on independent newspapers on 15 December, Turan reported. "Azadlyg" and "Yeni Musavat" were each fined 150 million manats ($39,000) for having insulted the honor and dignity of President Heidar Aliev by publishing former President Abulfaz Elchibey's allegations that Aliev played a role in the creation of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The Baku city court judge who on 14 December had imposed a fine on "Azadlyg" for publishing details of alleged purchases of foreign real estate by members of Aliev's family, has applied to the prosecutor-general to begin criminal proceedings for slander against the newspaper's editor, Gunduz Tairli. LF AZERBAIJAN WARNS OIL COMPANIES OVER COOPERATION WITH IRAN... The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry sent letters of protest on 15 December to Anglo-Dutch Royal/Dutch Shell and Britain's LASMO plc, which the previous day signed an agreement with the National Iranian Oil Company to conduct an exploration study in what Baku says is its national sector of the Caspian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December 1998), Reuters reported . The ministry also wrote to the governments of the other four Caspian littoral states--Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan--to protest the agreement. Ilham Aliev, vice president of the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, told journalists that by signing the agreement, BP and Shell have jeopardized their activities in Azerbaijan and their chances of participation in future projects. LF ...SIGNS ANOTHER PSA. Frontera Resources Corporation and SOCAR signed an agreement on 15 December in Baku to develop the Kyursangi and Karabaghli onshore oil fields, located 150 kilometers southwest of Baku, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported. The Saudi-U.S. Delta-Gas Alliance is the third partner in the consortium. The fields have been in production since the 1960s and have estimated reserves of 150 million metric tons of oil. LF GEORGIA DENIES MILITARY BUILDUP ON ABKHAZ BORDER. A senior Georgian Interior Ministry official told Caucasus Press on 15 December that Russian claims that Georgia has exceeded the maximum number of troops it may deploy close to the border with Abkhazia "do not correspond to reality" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998). Galaktion Mdzinarishvili said that the officer from the Russian peacekeeping force deployed along the border who made that allegation may have been confused by the weekly rotation of Georgian forces in that district. Abkhaz Interior Minister Amazbey Kchach has sent another 60 police officers to Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion in response to an increase in terrorist activity there, Caucasus Press reported on 16 December. LF ARMENIA'S ENTRY TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE CONDITIONAL ON FREE ELECTIONS. Presidential adviser and Self-Determination Union chairman Paruyr Hayrikian told journalists in Yerevan on 15 December that Armenia's full membership in the Council of Europe will depend on how next summer's parliamentary elections are conducted, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. "If our elections don't meet European standards, we may find ourselves in a sad situation," Hayrikian warned. Hayrikian met in Paris last week with Council of Europe officials. Armenia currently has special guest status with the council. A decision on its full membership is not expected before May 1999. Previously, Council of Europe officials had said that full membership for Armenia and Azerbaijan is contingent on progress toward resolving the Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan has declined to send a delegation to talks sponsored by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Karabakh that begin in Paris on 16 December. LF TAJIK DELEGATION WRAPS UP VISIT TO IRAN. A Tajik delegation led by President Imomali Rakhmonov left Tehran on 16 December following a three-day visit to that city, ITAR-TASS and IRNA reported. Rakhmonov met with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Khatami, and the country's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Said Ali Khamenei, the previous day. Rakhmonov thanked the Iranian leaders for their help during and after the Tajik civil war, saying the peace process in Tajikistan has become "irreversible." He received promises from the Iranian leadership of continued aid, including in the construction of dams and power plants. Rakhmonov and Khatami signed a declaration on strengthening "friendly relations" and accords on cooperation in the fields of banking, education, sport, tourism, communications, and avoidance of double-taxation. On 14 December, Rakhmonov met with Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani to discuss cooperation in defense. Included in the Tajik delegation were United Tajik Opposition leaders Said Abdullo Nuri and Khoja Akbar Turajonzoda. BP IMF TO RELEASE $217 MILLION LOAN TRANCHE TO KAZAKHSTAN. The IMF has approved releasing a $217 million tranche of a $430 million loan to Kazakhstan approved by the IMF in 1996, Reuters reported on 15 December. The IMF praised Kazakhstan for its tough economic policies and efforts to adjust "to difficult economic circumstances." Until now, Kazakhstan has not requested the release of a loan tranche, but the IMF representative in Kazakhstan, Paul Ross, said he expects the loan to be used to prop up the country's depleted gold and hard-currency reserves, which have decreased by an estimated $600 million in recent months. On 14 December, Kazakhstan approved the 1999 budget, which foresees a deficit of 3.1. percent of GDP. BP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE COMPLAINS OF RESTRICTED ACCESS TO VOTERS. Serikbolsyn Abdildin, the Communist Party's candidate in the January presidential elections, told journalists in Almaty on 15 December that if elected, he will offer the premiership to Deputy Prime Minister Baltash Tursumbayev, Interfax reported. Tursumbayev was ambassador to Turkey until October, when, after declaring himself a candidate in the presidential race, he accepted the post of deputy prime minister. At the same time, Abdildin said efforts are continuing to hamper his campaign, and he cited restrictions on his access to voters. RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty quoted him as also saying that if independent organizations are not allowed representatives on district electoral commissions, he will renounce his candidacy. BP NAZARBAYEV MARKS COUNTRY'S INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said at a meeting in Astana 15 December, one day before the seventh anniversary of the country's independence, that he does not expect an economic crisis to hit Kazakhstan, Interfax reported. Nazarbayev said he does not believe that the global financial crisis will "become a serious ordeal for our economy," but he added that the government has already started implementing a number of anti-crisis measures. Looking ahead to Kazakhstan's presidential elections next month, Nazarbayev rejected any suggestion that the Russian economic crisis would be repeated in his country following the 10 January vote. "This will not happen to us," Nazarbayev promised, adding that "if the people support me at the elections, they will support the policy of continued privatization, pension reform, low inflation, and increased investments." BP MORE HEADS ROLL IN KYRGYZ CORRUPTION PURGE. The director and chief accountant of the Governmental Fund for Economic Developments have been arrested on corruption charges, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported on 15 December. Aziz Imanaliev and Janyl Abekova join five others arrested earlier on corruption and embezzlement charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December 1998). In related news, Prosecutor-General Asanbek Sharshenaliev has been appointed chairman of the Supervisory Council on Corruption, Smuggling, and Economic Crimes. The council, which was formed by Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev on 11 December, includes all heads of law enforcement bodies. BP UYGHURS' TRIAL ENDS IN KYRGYZSTAN. The trial of three ethnic Uyghurs arrested in April on charges of disseminating Wahhabi propaganda, terrorism, illegal possession of weapons, forgery, and inciting inter- ethnic and inter-religious hatred has ended, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported on 15 December. Jalal Mahmud Kasarly, a Turkish citizen, was found guilty of illegal possession of weapons and armed resistance to authorities and sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment. Kurban Yasin, a Chinese citizen, was sentenced to eight months in prison but was freed immediately as he has been in detention for that period. Kular Dilaver, also a Turkish citizen, was acquitted. BP ANOTHER CYANIDE INCIDENT IN KYRGYZSTAN... The Kyrgyz authorities have ended their search for a canister containing 70 liters of cyanide, after finding the missing container outside a hospital in the city of Naryn, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The canister, which belonged to a company working on the Makmal gold mine in Naryn Oblast, was part of a shipment of 56 tons of cyanide from China. The contents of the container had been spilled onto the hospital courtyard. BP ...WHILE DIAGNOSIS CENTER TO OPEN AT SITE OF EARLIER CYANIDE SPILL. The Kumtor Gold Mining Company announced in Bishkek on 15 December that it will open a diagnosis and monitoring center in the village of Barskoon, on the southern shore of Issik Kul, RFE/RL correspondents in reported. The company will pay all construction expenses and finance the center for the first year. In May, a Kumtor truck overturned into the Barskoon River, spilling 1.7 tons of cyanide. That spill was linked to the deaths of four villagers and illnesses suffered by other local residents. BP END NOTE LOOKING WEST FROM BEIJING by Paul Goble Having consolidated its status as a major economic player in Asia, China is now positioning itself to play an expanded economic and geopolitical role within and among the post-Soviet states. But just as along the Pacific rim, Beijing's growing influence in these states is also generating a kind of backlash that the Chinese authorities have not yet found a way to overcome. Consequently, China's impact on developments in these countries--both intentional and unintentional--may prove to be large but very different from what the leaders in Beijing almost certainly would like to see. That downside risk helps explain why Beijing has moved so cautiously in the political realm up to now. But an event last week signals that at least some in the Chinese capital are prepared to take the greater risks associated with a higher political profile. On 10 December, Beijing successfully sold more than $500 million in bonds on the international market. This sale has attracted international attention not only because it was the first such offering by an Asian country since the August collapse of the Russian ruble but also because it was so clearly political. Beijing currently has more than $140 billion in foreign currency reserves and thus has no immediate need for the cash raised by this sale. Instead, it appears to have made this offering in order to highlight its stability, economic progress, and growing political influence. Not surprisingly, that aspect of the sale has sent shock waves through many Asian capitals. But those capitals may play an equally important role in the post- Soviet states, helping Moscow rein in its restive Far East while giving the other countries of the region expanded freedom of action. China's impact on the Russian Far East is likely to be especially great, but it may prove the most complex. On the one hand, increased Chinese involvement in the economy of that hard-pressed area is likely to be welcomed by the population, as long as it does not entail large-scale Chinese immigration. Such economic improvement, in turn, could push some regional leaders to think about pursuing an even more independent course, one that some have said might even include eventual independence as a Pacific rim state. But on the other hand, Moscow will almost certainly use any increase in Chinese participation there to generate Russian nationalism and hence increase cohesion of the Russian Federation. Over the past five years, Moscow officials and especially those in the military have sought to frighten Russians in the region by suggesting that an overpopulated China continues to look "greedily" at the wealthy but underpopulated Russian Far East. And Russian generals frequently have dramatically overstated the number of Chinese migrants there in order to press the case for greater vigilance against what they say is the Chinese threat. Such campaigns have not always worked, but they have proved effective in countering nascent secessionist movements in the region. They are likely to be tried again and may be more effective if China becomes the dominant player in the region, thus eliminating or at least reducing the possibility that leaders of the Russian Far East could play off China against Japan. China's impact on other post-Soviet states is likely to be larger and also less contradictory. Until recently, China has pursued a relatively low profile in both Central Asia and further afield, including the southern Caucasus and Ukraine. Now, it appears likely that China will choose to increase its economic presence and hence its political influence in these countries. Such a development would likely have three major consequences: First, it would give the economies of these countries a boost. Second, it almost certainly would lead other Asian countries to increase their participation in the economies of these countries, thus diversifying the latter's economic ties. And third, it would give these countries expanded opportunities to stand up to Russian pressure while participating in economic ties with a country that in most cases would be less likely to provoke Moscow than would greater attachments to Western states. In all these ways, China's latest sale of bonds may have an impact on the entire post-Soviet region. In itself, that sale is yet another indication of the way in which these countries are now being integrated not just into the West but into the world economy. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. 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