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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 3, Part I, 6 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 3, Part I, 6 January 1999 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 * RUSSIA TIGHTENS MISSILE TECHNOLOGY CONTROLS * DUMA TO APPROVE BUDGET BY MID-FEBRUARY? * AZERBAIJANI EX-PREMIER PLEADS NOT GUILTY ON COUP CHARGE End Note: KURDISH NATIONALISM IN ARMENIA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIA TIGHTENS MISSILE TECHNOLOGY CONTROLS. President Boris Yeltsin on 5 January signed amendments designed to bring previous Russian policies into compliance with international agreements on the control of exports of weapons and dual-use technology. The amendments expand the list of items prohibited for export. According to the presidential press service, the amendments confirm Russia's commitment to a policy of non-proliferation and strengthen its national system for export controls. The U.S. and Israel have charged Russia with exporting its missile technology to Iran. JAC OIL REVENUES PLUMMET... Russian oil exports generated 30 percent less revenue in the first 11 months of 1998 compared with the previous year, according to statistics from the State Customs Committee, Interfax reported on 5 January. During the same period, producers exported 10 percent more to partly compensate for the slump in world oil prices. According to AFP, exports of natural gas, crude oil, and refined products make up 42 percent of Russia's hard currency earnings. JAC ...AS GOVERNMENT SLAPS DUTY ON FUEL OIL EXPORTS. The government has introduced export duties on fuel oil in order to prevent electricity shortages. A duty of 10 ecus per ton ($11.7) will be imposed on shipments from 1 January to 31 March. Unified Energy System (UES) head Anatolii Chubais had complained to the parliament that increased fuel oil exports have reduced the nation's fuel oil reserves over the past two months. The fall in the ruble made fuel oil exports profitable, despite low world prices, Bloomberg reported on 5 January. Some refinery managers have said that they will find ways to continue exporting, the "Moscow Times" reported. JAC DUMA TO APPROVE BUDGET BY MID-FEBRUARY? State Duma Deputy Speaker and member of Our Home is Russia Vladimir Ryzhkov told ITAR-TASS that the 1999 budget might be approved in its fourth and final reading as early as 10 February. According to Ryzhkov, the second reading of the budget will likely be scheduled for 15 January and the third for 3 February. He added that 150 suggested amendments to the budget, most of which proposed redistributing budget expenditures, have been submitted. Meanwhile, citing Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov, Interfax reported that the second reading may occur on 12 January and that 130 amendments have been submitted, which if passed would increase spending by one-third. On 5 January, Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov authorized the government to spend money at the same rate as the previous year until the new budget is approved. JAC MORE TALKS WITH IMF SCHEDULED. First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov is expected to meet with IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer in Boston within the framework of a conference from 14-16 January, an IMF spokeswoman told Reuters on 5 January. An IMF mission will visit Moscow sometime in the last two weeks of January to review the government's economic plans. Deputy Finance Minister Oleg Vyugin said that the release of new credits is not on the mission's agenda. JAC YELTSIN PLEDGES TO PAY MOSKVA REPAIR BILL. President Yeltsin has approved proposals for financing repairs of the nuclear cruiser "Moskva" by Ukraine's Nikolaev shipyard, Interfax reported on 5 January. The government owes the shipyard 58 million rubles ($2.8 million) for repairs to the cruiser, which are more than 90 percent complete. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said that the ship, which was built in the 1980s, "is an excellent vessel from a technical point of view" and that its "life span has not been exhausted." JAC ANTI-REFORM REGIONS COMPRISE MAJORITY. Regions with strong economies and good prospects for growth are the most likely to support politicians that favor market economic reforms; however, these regions are outnumbered by their poorer counterparts, who tend to tend to support Communists and "anti-liberals," the January issue of "Vek" argued. According to the journal, "it is impossible to find more than 15 regions with strong economies." JAC COSMONAUT ON 'MIR' TO SERVE ANOTHER STINT. Sergei Avdeev, the cosmonaut who celebrated his 43rd birthday and 500th day in space on 1 January, may spend an additional 99 days on board the space station "Mir" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). Avdeev may remain on board when a new international crew arrives in February. "Mir" was scheduled to cease operations in mid-summer, but a private investor has recently offered to keep "Mir" in orbit, provided the government guarantees a loan to the company that runs the station. JAC NEW NDR CANDIDATES DISCUSSED. Among the likely candidates to head the Our Home is Russia (NDR) faction in the Duma are acting faction head Boris Kuznetsov, Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich, Andrei Polyakov, head of the Committee for Local Government, and Valerii Yazev, a prominent Urals businessmen, Deputy Duma speaker Ryzhkov told ITAR-TASS on 5 January. Ryzhkov admitted that his name has also been floated as a prime contender for the post, which was vacated by Aleksandr Shokhin in late December following a disagreement with NDR party head, Viktor Chernomyrdin. JAC NEW HEAD OF RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION APPOINTED. Russian President Boris Yeltsin and President of Belarus Alyaksandr Lukashenka have appointed Viktor Stepanov, former premier of the Karelian Republic, chairman of the Executive Committee of the Russia-Belarus Union, Interfax reported on 5 January. Stepanov replaces Vladimir Pokrovskii, who was dismissed. JAC DZERZHINSKII TO BE CAST IN ICE. To express their support for an earlier decision by the State Duma to restore the statue of Cheka founder Felix Dzerzhinskii to Lubyanka square in Moscow, the municipal authorities in Birobidzhan, capital of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast have authorized the construction of their own Dzerzhinskii in ice, "Trud" reported on 1 January. A local businessman and former Communist Party regional secretary will provide the several thousand rubles to fund the project. The ice sculpture is expected to last only until the spring. JAC CYPRUS CONSIDERING ALTERNATIVE TO S-300s? Having decided not to deploy on Cyprus the S-300 air defense missiles it contracted to purchase from Russia, the Greek Cypriot government is now considering buying either Tor-M1 Russian short-range missiles or comparable ASPIDE Italian-made missiles, AP and "Financial Times" reported on 6 January, citing the Russian daily "Segodnya." Greek Cyprus reached that decision under pressure from Turkey. The Tor-M1 has a range of 12 kilometers, compared with 200 kilometer range of the S-300. Following the Greek Cypriot decision, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesmen said Moscow expects the Greek Cypriot government to abide by the 1997 contract to purchase the S-300s (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). LF FOUR RUSSIAN POLICEMEN SHOT DEAD ON CHECHEN-INGUSH BORDER. Unidentified gunmen have shot dead four Russian police officials and wounded several others in the Ingush village of Aki-yurt, close to the border with Chechnya, Russian agencies reported on 5 January. Ingush Interior Ministry officials said the killers then crossed the border into Chechnya. But Chechen State Security Minister Aslanbek Arsaev told ITAR-TASS that a search has yielded no trace of the killers, who he suggested may be hiding in Ingushetia or neighboring North Ossetia. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJANI EX-PREMIER PLEADS NOT GUILTY ON COUP CHARGE. Suret Huseinov pleaded not guilty on 4 January to charges of attempting a coup d'etat in October 1994, setting up illegal armed formations, and drug trafficking, Turan reported the following day. Huseinov also denied any involvement in the declaration of a separate Talysh-Murgan Republic on the Azerbaijani- Iranian border in mid-1993. He claimed that the disturbances in October 1994, which the prosecution characterized as an attempted coup, were orchestrated by former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev. Huseinov, who led the insurrection that precipitated the flight from Baku in June 1993 of President Abulfaz Elchibey, served as prime minister under Heidar Aliev until October 1994, when he was dismissed on suspicion of attempting to oust Aliev, He fled to Moscow but was extradited to Azerbaijan in April 1996. The prosecutor has demanded life imprisonment for Huseinov. The final sentence is to be handed down later this month. LF ANOTHER JOURNALIST BEATEN IN AZERBAIJAN. Yalchin Imanov, a journalist with the independent "Yeni Musavat" newspaper, was beaten in two separate incidents on 3 January when he tried to obtain an interview with the chief administrator of Barda Raion, Turan reported. Imanov was first assaulted by a guard employed by the administrator and then taken to the local police department, where he was beaten again. Reporters Sans Frontieres has lodged a protest with Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov over both incidents. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER CALLS FOR DEFENSE PACT WITH TURKEY. In a statement published by the Turkish daily "Zaman" on 31 December and cited by Groong on 5 January, Vafa Guluzade said that in view of what he termed the "Cold War" between Russia and Turkey, Baku wants to conclude a defense agreement with Ankara on the lines of that between Russia and Armenia. Guluzade added that military assistance to Azerbaijan would strengthen Turkey's own security as well as its position in the region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 December 1998). LF NEXT JAMES BOND MOVIE TO BE SHOT IN BAKU. A spokeswoman for Eon Productions told journalists in Baku on 5 January that the company plans to shoot a new movie featuring the British agent 007 in Baku, Reuters reported. She said the plot will focus on "power-hungry criminals in an oil-rich former Soviet republic" and that Baku was selected for the location because of its petroleum infrastructure. Also on 5 January, Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR announced that it exceeded the 9 million metric ton target for oil extraction in 1998 by 52,000 tons, ITAR-TASS reported. But an RFE/RL correspondent noted that because of plummeting oil prices, Azerbaijan failed to make any profit on oil exports last year. LF HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH BLASTS ELECTIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN. Human Rights Watch, in a 5 January press release on the presidential elections in Kazakhstan, blasted the upcoming vote as "blatantly unfair," according to RFE/RL, which obtained a copy. The organization said that incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev "likes to present himself as a dignified partner for Western leaders and investors" but "the way his government has twisted arms in this campaign should leave no illusions about what kind of leader Nazarbayev really is." The release lists a series of abuses, including pressure on workers and students to sign petitions in support of President Nazarbayev, the violation of citizens' rights to freely disseminate and receive information, the government's encroachment on the right to free speech, bias in registering political support groups, and obstruction of public demonstrations. BP CANDIDATE IN KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS COMPLAINS ABOUT LEAFLETS. The campaign office of Gani Kasymov, the head of Kazakhstan's Customs Committee and a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, issued a statement on 5 January complaining about leaflets being distributed in Almaty, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The leaflets say that Kasymov is "a member of the corrupt nomenklatura and a puppet candidate brought into the race by the incumbent president's people." No one has claimed responsibility for distributing the leaflets. Kasymov's campaign manager, Zhanquat Abdigaliyev, said two state-controlled newspapers, "Kazakhstanskaya Pravda" and "Yegemen Kazakstan," have refused to print Kasymov's political platform. Meanwhile, Serikbolsyn Abdildin, the Communist Party candidate in the elections, has said he will appear on national television on 7 January and has challenged President Nursultan Nazarbayev also to appear for a debate with him. BP OSCE SAYS IT WILL BE ABLE TO ASSESS KAZAKHSTAN'S ELECTIONS. Dimitr Dimitrov, a representative of the OSCE mission to Kazakhstan, said on 5 January that the mission has full access to documents necessary to assess the conduct of the 10 January presidential elections, ITAR-TASS reported. Dimitrov said the authorities in Kazakhstan are not interfering with the mission's work and that the mission expects to release a brief official statement on the day after the elections and a detailed analysis one month later. BP TAJIK SUPREME COURT PASSES DEATH SENTENCE. The Supreme Court on 5 January handed down the death sentence to Sharip Sharipov and prison terms to 17 of his accomplices, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 January. Sharipov was accused of organizing and carrying out attacks on Tajik and Russian servicemen in the Dushanbe area in 1994-1995. He and his group are alleged to have been responsible for "dozens of murders" and to have planned to bomb the presidential palace. Sharipov has claimed that he is a victim of slander. Observers say Sharipov has no chance of being granted a presidential pardon. President Imomali Rakhmonov rejected a request for pardon in late December by six men sentenced to death for their alleged role in an attack on Rakhmonov in Khujand in April 1997. Among those sentenced for involvement in that incident was Abdulkhafiz Abdullayev, the brother of former Tajik Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdullojonov. Abdullojonov is wanted on charges by the Tajik authorities. BP UNITED TAJIK OPPOSITION ORDERED TO CONTROL ITS UNITS. Tajikistan's National Reconciliation Commission on 5 January ordered the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) to inspect the temporary bases of its units on the outskirts of Dushanbe and to inventory stockpiles of weapons and munitions, ITAR-TASS reported. The deputy leader of the commission, Abdumajid Dostiyev, said it is "necessary to control the presence of opposition personnel...as well as armaments and ammunition." Dostiyev added that every absence without leave or unauthorized opening of weapons lockers must be reported and investigated. The decision comes following a gun battle between two UTO field commanders in downtown Dushanbe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1998). BP CHINARA JAKIPOVA RESIGNS FROM SOROS FOUNDATION IN KYRGYZSTAN. Former Minister of Education Chinara Jakipova on 5 January announced she will step down as head of Kyrgyzstan's branch of the Soros Foundation. Jakipova has received high popularity ratings in polls on likely future presidential candidates and is known to be a very influential figure in Kyrgyzstan's political circles. However, she told an RFE/RL correspondent in September that she is not yet considering running in the 2000 presidential elections. Jakipova said on 5 January that she is leaving the Soros Foundation to engage in some "creative work." BP END NOTE KURDISH NATIONALISM IN ARMENIA By Onnik Krikorian The arrest last month in Rome of Abdullah Ocalan, president of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), has led to a dramatic increase in support for the Kurdish national liberation movement, even among those Kurds living in countries where repression has not been particularly evident in recent years. In Armenia, Ocalan's arrest has served to accelerate the trend among the country's 50,000--60,000 strong Yezidi community to identify themselves not only as Yezidi but also as Kurds. The Yezidi are indeed Kurdish, speaking the same language as the majority of the Kurds (Kurmanji), and all Kurds were originally Zoroastrian before the majority converted to Islam. The Yezidi religion--even with elements of the Zoroastrian, Islamic, and Christian faiths--closely resembles that of the Armenians before the adoption of Christianity, and the PKK has recently acknowledged that fact in an attempt to clarify the origins of the Kurdish nation. Visiting Armenia in June 1998 in what was most likely a recruiting drive, Mahir Welat, the PKK representative to Moscow and the CIS, affirmed, "I am a Muslim Kurd but I also honor all religions. All Kurds used to be Yezidi [Zoroastrian] in the past. Some of us were forced into becoming Muslim, but now it is our intention to return and to educate ourselves again." The Yezidi are currently the largest ethnic minority in Armenia, the Muslim Kurds having left during the early years of the Karabakh conflict. Moreover, both the Armenians and the Yezidi fled Ottoman Turkey during the massacres of 1915, and both harbor the same hatred of the Turkish and [Muslim] Kurdish perpetrators that has shaped much of the identity and policy of present- day Armenia. Although relatively small in size, the Yezidi community in Armenia still has strategic significance for the PKK. An upsurge of Kurdish nationalism in Armenia would inevitably affect an estimated 200,000 Muslim Kurds who have assimilated into Azerbaijani society. Indeed, with the PKK representative to the Caucasus based in Armenia and with Welat's recent visit, the situation of the Azerbaijani Kurds may already be targeted for attention. According to Welat, "the attitude of Armenia toward national minorities is considered part of the generosity and graciousness of the Armenian people. Azerbaijan has many nations too, but if we consider their national policy, it is very bad. For those who show loyalty toward Azerbaijan, the attitude towards them is normal, but for those such as the Kurds, the attitude is quite different. They do not have normal lives." Official PKK policy is to praise Armenia but to criticize Azerbaijan for the treatment of its own Kurdish population--despite a notable silence when the Kurds living in Kelbajar and Lachin were expelled by Armenian forces during the Karabakh conflict. The PKK even remained silent when, under the presidency of Levon Ter-Petrossian, there was a short-term policy to promote a Yezidi identify far removed from any Kurdish origin. That policy, however, only strengthened the resolve among the Yezidi to develop a strong Kurdish identity. Yezidi villages now openly demonstrate their support for the PKK by displaying portraits of Ocalan and PKK guerillas on their walls. In early December, buses ferrying villagers to Yerevan to attend the 20th anniversary celebration of the formation of the PKK displayed ERNK (National Liberation Front of Kurdistan) and PKK flags, and a recorded message from Ocalan himself was broadcast to the hundreds who attended. While the reasons for the increase in Kurdish nationalism among the Yezidi are complex, there is little doubt that one significant factor is a marked reluctance among many Armenians to consider Armenia anything other than a mono-ethnic country. Even though policy toward minorities may change under President Robert Kocharian, the Yezidi have so far been overlooked during the development of the new social and political structures. Thus, it was inevitable that the opportunity to find themselves an integral part of a nation fighting for liberation would prove attractive. With Ocalan in Rome and with the Yezidi having found a new identity desirable in a new Armenia, open support for the PKK in Armenia is currently politically expedient in that it is directed against Turkey. As the result of the developments in Rome--and regardless of sensitivities over identity in the past-- 50,000 Yezidi in Armenia have come to identify themselves as Kurds virtually overnight. But that new sense of purpose may pose problems in the near future, both for the Yezidi themselves and for Armenia. Given the sensitivity of the Kurdish question, it is uncertain how long Armenia will continue with its new-found tolerance toward a minority that enthusiastically identifies itself with a movement that might well achieve autonomy in eastern Turkey, which many Armenians consider part of historical Western Armenia. (Some Armenian political groups such as the Dashnaktsutiune-- the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--have reportedly held talks with the Kurds on reconciling the two nations' respective claims on those territories.) And if there is indeed an upsurge of Kurdish nationalism among the Kurds of Azerbaijan, Baku may choose to attribute that development to a deliberate policy of destabilization on the part of Armenia, rather than lay the blame on the PKK or on its own reluctance to address the needs and aspirations of a significant ethnic minority. The author is a free-lance journalist currently based in Yerevan. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the position of any organization with which he may be employed or otherwise affiliated. 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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