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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 242, Part I, 17 December 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 242, Part I, 17 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 * BOMBING OF IRAQ CONDEMNED BY KREMLIN * START-II RATIFICATION VICTIM OF BOMBING? * FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER'S POLITICAL PARTY LAUNCHED xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA BOMBING OF IRAQ CONDEMNED BY KREMLIN... Russian officials responded to news of U.S. and UK bombing raids on Iraq with the demand that those attacks cease at once. Russian President Boris Yeltsin accused the U.S. and Britain of "flagrantly [violating] the UN Charter and generally accepted principles of international law as well as norms and rules for states' responsible behavior." He added that the attacks "undermine the system of international security." Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov blamed UN weapons inspector Richard Butler for the recent worsening of tensions between Iraq and the U.S. Ivanov told Russian Television on 17 December that this "is not the first time that Butler grossly exceeded his power and ordered that the Special Commission be evacuated from Iraq." Earlier, Ivanov was quoted by NTV as saying that the U.S. did not warn him of the impending attacks. Russian newspapers, such as "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Noviye izvestiya" echoed Ivanov's sentiment that Butler's report had made the air strike inevitable. JAC ...AND BY LEGISLATURE. Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev called the attack "not only a strike against Iraq, but against world public opinion and the prestige of the UN." He added that, "Today the United States has assumed the role of an international gendarme, and the consequences of this step will be extremely grave." Duma deputy and leader of the Our Home is Russia faction Aleksandr Shokhin told Interfax on 17 December that the action illustrated Russia's failure to influence Iraq. Shokhin added that he did not believe the bombing was an attempt by President Bill Clinton to distract the U.S. from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Duma International Committee Chairman and Yabloko member Vladimir Lukin called the bombing "absolutely intolerable for the international community" while emphasizing that his party has always opposed military action against Iraq. JAC START-II RATIFICATION VICTIM OF BOMBING? Duma Deputy Shokhin told Interfax on 17 December that the left would use the Iraq bombing to further delay a decision on ratification of the START-II treaty. The same day, Duma deputy and member of the Liberal Democratic Party faction Mikhail Gutseriev told ITAR-TASS that the U.S.- British air strike "might worsen prospects for ratification of START-II." Meanwhile, "Noviye izvestiya" also predicted that ratification of START-II now seems unlikely. It argued that the Duma deputies "who are to vote on the ratification of the agreement usually react extremely harshly to excessive actions by the U.S. on the international front." JAC GAZPROM SALE ATTRACTS TWO BIDDERS. As a tender for the sale of a 2.5 percent stake in Gazprom closed on 16 December, at least two companies were reported to have submitted bids, the minimum required for the sale to be valid. Analysts believe that Germany's Ruhrgas was one of the bidders and is the likely winner of the tender, the results of which will be announced on 19 December. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov said recently that if the Gazprom sale is successful, the government might be able to reduce the size of the monetary emission it will need in 1999. On 15 December, a Gazprom official wrote glowingly of Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov for "Tribuna" and "Trud," pledging that the company is "ready to support the president and the prime minister with all its resources." The article also harshly criticized former Prime Minister and Gazprom chairman Viktor Chernomyrdin. Both "Tribuna" and "Trud" are owned by Gazprom. JAC ILYUKHIN REMARKS GARNER CONDEMNATION... Government and administration officials strongly condemned the anti- Semitic remarks of Communist and State Duma deputy Viktor Ilyukhin on 16 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 1998). Nikolai Bordyuzha, chief of the presidential administration, told reporters that Ilyukhin's remarks "undermine not only the reputation of the Duma but Russia's international reputation." Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov called Ilyukhin's statements "absolutely extremist," while presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin said that Ilyukhin's statements prove "that all preceding statements by Communist Party leaders on the theme were neither slips of the tongue nor accidents, as some wished to represent them." The same day, "Kommersant-Daily" suggested that the radical wing of the Communist party is deliberately provoking the Kremlin. It added that if some kind of criminal proceedings are launched, then Communists will be able to secure their position as the major opposition force. JAC ...AS COMMUNISTS BLAME MEDIA. Communist legislators have demanded that three major television channels be stripped of their accreditation for their biased coverage of Ilyukhin's remarks. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev urged "the media not to stir flames where they don't exist," asserting that "any phrase can be quoted out of context." However, he noted that no accreditation has been pulled yet and that the Duma's Committee on Information Policy, Communications, and the Press will settle the dispute. JAC VLADIVOSTOK STAND-OFF CONTINUES. A police battalion made an unsuccessful attempt to occupy the mayoral office building in Vladivostok on 16 December but was repulsed by supporters of former Mayor Viktor Cherepkov, ITAR- TASS reported, According to Reuters, a local police duty officer denied that police had stormed the building and stressed that Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko had vowed not to use force. JAC SWISS PRESIDENT MEETS WITH PRIMAKOV. Swiss President Flavio Cotti and Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov signed a joint statement on technological and financial cooperation on 16 December. Prime Minister Primakov said that Russia is interested in securing a new influx of Swiss capital and will create favorable conditions for such an influx. Flavio told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that Switzerland "believes in Russia's economic potential" and its industries "are definitely interested in the Russian market." According to Russian statistics, Switzerland was Russia's second largest foreign investor in 1997, after the U.S., AFP reported. Flavio arrived on 15 December in St. Petersburg for the first leg of a three-day trip to Russia. JAC IMF HAD ADVANCE WARNING OF 17 AUGUST MORATORIUM. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 December, former Federal Tax Service chief Boris Federov stated that IMF officials knew in advance of the Russian government's 17 August decision to announce a moratorium on foreign debt payments. Federov urged fund officials to try to dissuade then Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko from making what Federov considered to be a "politically suicidal" decision. But they "heard him out without giving any response." JAC NEW AMBASSADOR TO U.S. NAMED. President Yeltsin on 16 December named career diplomat Yurii Ushakov ambassador to the U.S. to replace Yulii Vorontsov, who is retiring. Until recently, Ushakov was deputy foreign minister responsible for relations with UN and other international organizations at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow. The removal of a security guardpost from Vorontsov's residence in Washington has been at the center of a recent diplomatic controversy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 1998). JAC NEW TEACHERS' ACTIONS LAUNCHED. Thirteen teachers in the town of Uemskii, near the city of Arkhangelsk, began a hunger strike to protest unpaid wages, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 December. The teachers have not been paid in full since April. Total unpaid wages in the region, according to a teacher's union official, total 200 million rubles ($10 million). In the town of Volzhsk, near Volgograd, two teachers began a hunger strike, as more than 2,000 of their colleagues continue a strike action. JAC REGIONS' INDUSTRIAL PERFORMANCE IS SPOTTY. The economic performance of individuals regions in the Russian Federation continued to follow a highly varied pattern in 1998, according to Economic Ministry projections, "Segodnya" reported on 15 December. In the Volga region, Astrakhan Oblast managed to boost manufacturing by 14.5 percent, while Ulyanovsk Oblast and the Republic of Kalmykia witnessed 13.3 percent and 15.2 percent declines, respectively. In the Far East, Magadan Oblast saw a 30 percent increase, while manufacturing in Kamchatka Oblast and Primorskii Krai dipped 18.5 percent and 12.6 percent, respectively. JAC CHECHEN PRESIDENT THREATENS RETALIATION FOR IRAQ BOMBINGS... Aslan Maskhadov issued a statement on 17 December warning that his forces are preparing to attack unspecified U.S. and British facilities in the Caucasus, Russia, and the Near East in retaliation for the air raids on Iraq, Reuters reported. Also on 17 December, thousands of people gathered in central Grozny to demonstrate their support for Maskhadov's proclaimed crackdown on crime, according to AP. LF ...AS HIS OPPONENTS ISSUE THREATS... Maskhadov's statement may have been intended primarily as a response to the accusations voiced on 16 December by Uvai Akhmadov, second-in-command to Arbi Baraev, the radical field commander suspected of executing four foreign hostages last week. Akhmadov said that "the West, together with Russia and their servant Maskhadov, want to destroy Chechnya to prevent the Islamic revival," AP reported. Baraev's men, who are entrenched in the town of Urus-Martan, southwest of Grozny, warned that they will launch counterattacks in Russia, rather than fight with fellow Chechens, if Maskhadov orders any attempt to disarm them, Caucasus Press reported on 17 December. LF ...AND HIS DEPUTY CALLS FOR ISLAMIC STATE. Addressing a council of Chechen imams on 16 December, Vice President Vakha Arsanov demanded the abolition of Chechnya's present constitution and of the parliament and presidency, pending the introduction of an Islamic state, Interfax reported. Arsanov proposed the creation of a state council that would proclaim a senior political figure, possibly Maskhadov, as imam vested with supreme power. But Chief Mufti Akhmad-hadji Kadyrov warned against that proposal, saying the Chechen people "are not ready" to live under Islamic law. LF FORMER AFGHAN ADVERSARIES MEET. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev met recently near the Tajik-Afghan border with the "Lion of the Panjsher," Ahmed Shah Massoud, to discuss securing the release of some 188 surviving Soviet servicemen who were taken prisoner by Afghan mujahedin during the 1979-1989 war, Interfax reported on 16 December. Massoud, currently one of the leaders of the anti-Taliban coalition, made his reputation as a mujahedin commander during that war. Aushev, a former Soviet army general who fought for several years in Afghanistan, heads the CIS Committee on servicemen who fought in wars on foreign territory. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER'S POLITICAL PARTY LAUNCHED. Delegates to a 16 December meeting in Almaty have elected the coordination council of the newly formed Republican People's Party, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. The party will be led by former Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, while the chairman of the party's council is Gaziz Aldamzharov, the former governor of Atyrau Oblast. A spokesman said the party's goals are to take power and create "real" democratic institutions. Police and plain-clothes policemen surrounded the building where the delegates were meeting, filming and photographing both the inside and outside of the building. Kazhegeldin was not present at the meeting. BP SMALL GROUP MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF ALMATY TRAGEDY. Some 100 people gathered in Almaty on 17 December to mark the 12th anniversary of violent unrest in that city, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Twelve years ago, the first secretary of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic's Communist Party, Dinmukhammed Kunayev, was sacked by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev during an anti- corruption campaign. The subsequent announcement of ethnic Russian Gennadii Kolbin as Kunayev's replacement drew Kazakh students into the streets in protest, and three days of unrest followed. The unrest was put down when additional KGB agents, Interior Ministry troops, and policemen were sent to Almaty (then called Alma- Ata). The fate of some who were arrested remains unknown, and many still have not been exonerated of crimes they allegedly committed at that time. BP KYRGYZSTAN RECEIVES CREDITS FOR WELFARE. The World Bank and international donors are lending Kyrgyzstan $36.5 million to develop the country's welfare program, Reuters and Interfax reported on 16 December. The head of the country's welfare program, Dinara Joldosheva, said the first tranche, worth $17 million, was released four days earlier. The money is targeted for developing the pension insurance system and support for the poor and the unemployed. BP TAJIK COMMUNISTS WANT TO HOLD ON TO ASSETS. The leader of the Tajik Communist Party, Shodi Shabdolov, said the May presidential decree "On the Property of Tajikistan's Communist Party" amounts to nationalization of the party's property and contravenes the country's constitution, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 December. Shabdolov noted that in 1992, the party voluntarily handed over to the government a number of buildings, including the Central Committee headquarters. The government is attempting to reclaim Communist Party property in order to privatize it, but Shabdolov said the party has purchased that property with its own funds. He also rejected claims that his party has broken any rules or laws in accepting funds from communist parties outside Tajikistan. BP AZERBAIJANI MINISTER SAID TO HAVE SOLICITED ELECTION FUNDS FROM UK COMPANIES. Azerbaijani Culture Minister Polad Bul Bul ogly wrote in September 1998 to British companies operating in Azerbaijan to ask them to make financial contributions to the presidential election campaign of incumbent Heidar Aliev, Turan reported on 16 December. British Ambassador Roger Thomas advised the companies in question not to comply with that request, pointing to election legislation that bans the donation of election funds by foreign states, companies, or individual citizens, the agency added. LF MORNINGSTAR UPBEAT ON BAKU-CEYHAN. speaking at a press conference in Baku on 16 December after talks with President Heidar Aliev, U.S. presidential envoy Richard Morningstar said that progress has been made on implementing plans for construction of an oil export pipeline from Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean terminal at Ceyhan, Turan and Interfax reported. He predicted that that project will be implemented within five years, noting that some U.S. government agencies will provide funding toward the estimated $3.5 billion cost. Morningstar added that the U.S. considers the construction of Transcaspian oil and gas pipelines of similar importance. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan state oil company Vice President Ilham Aliev has told journalists that at talks last week in Ankara between Turkish and Azerbaijani specialists, Turkey agreed to reduce tariffs for oil transported via the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline to less than $3 per barrel, according to Turan on 16 December. LF IRAN REJECTS AZERBAIJANI PROTEST OVER CASPIAN CONTRACT. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said on 16 December that Azerbaijan's protest over the 14 December contract signed between an Iranian and two Western oil companies "lacks a legal basis," Reuters reported, citing IRNA. In letters sent on 15 December to the governments of the four other Caspian littoral states and to the foreign oil companies involved, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry had protested the contract to conduct exploration in what Baku claims is its sector of the Caspian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 16 December 1998). LF RUSSIAN AIR FORCE COMMANDER VISITS ARMENIA. Colonel- General Anatolii Kornukov held meetings in Yerevan on 15-16 December with Armenian Prime Minister Armen Darpinian and Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The talks focused on military- technical cooperation and the development of the coordinated CIS air defense system, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 December. In January 1999, Armenia will join Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan as a member of that system. Five Russian MiG aircraft were flown to Armenia on 16 December to reinforce the air grouping at Russia's military base in that country. LF SVERDLOVSK GOVERNOR SIGNS ECONOMIC AGREEMENTS IN TBILISI. Visiting Georgia on 16 December, Eduard Rossel signed agreements on the delivery to Georgia of medical equipment worth $600,000 and the purchase of Georgian wine and cognac worth twice that amount, ITAR-TASS reported. He further expressed an interest in Georgia's manganese deposits and production of copper concentrates. Rossel also met with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Tbilisi Mayor Vano Zodelava, and Industry Minister Badri Shoshitaishvili. LF GEORGIA RULES OUT HIKE IN BREAD PRICES. Two senior Georgian officials have pledged to keep bread prices stable, despite dwindling reserves of wheat and the sharp fall in value of the Georgian lari, Caucasus Press reported on 15 and 17 December. But bread supplies to thousands of Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia now living in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi have been halted as a result of a strike by local bakers demanding unpaid back wages. LF SUPPORTERS OF DECEASED GEORGIAN PRESIDENT LAUNCH HUNGER STRIKE. Manana Archvadze-Gamsakhurdia, widow of the deceased former president, and two supporters launched a hunger strike in Tbilisi on 15 December to demand the release of former parliamentary deputy Givi Taktakishvili, Interfax reported on 16 December. Archvadze-Gamsakhurdia said Taktakishvili was detained in Moscow on the orders of Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze. On 11 December, Gamsakhurdia's younger son, Giorgi, told journalists in Tbilisi that he had applied to join the Tbilisi city police force. LF 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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