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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 15, Part I, 22 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 15, Part I, 22 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, LONDON CLUB TO RESUME DEBT TALKS * START-II LINKED WITH ABM TREATY * KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT TASKS PREMIER WITH FORMING NEW GOVERNMENT End Note: WHY DON'T RUSSIANS REBEL? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIA, LONDON CLUB TO RESUME DEBT TALKS. London Club creditors agreed to resume negotiations on Russia's debt inherited from the Soviet Union, which is estimated at about $32 billion, "Vremya MN" reported on 21 January. A majority of Club members voted to renew talks rather than demand immediate payment, according to the newspaper. Last month, Russia defaulted on a $362 million payment, causing Fitch ICBA to downgrade its rating on Russia's Soviet Union debt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1999). On 26 January, a Russian delegation will attend a meeting of the Paris Club, with whom the Russian government would also like to restructure its debt. But in order to do so, an IMF approved program would need to be in place, according to Reuters. First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov told reporters on 20 January that the government is planning to stop taking out foreign loans altogether. JAC START-II LINKED WITH ABM TREATY... Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, head of the Defense Ministry's Department for International Military Cooperation, told Interfax on 21 January that the U.S.'s plans to review the ABM treaty could harm chances for ratification of the START-II treaty. The Duma is scheduled to debate the treaty in March. Ivashov said that "attempts to bypass the ABM treaty will upset strategic stability." In a letter sent to President Boris Yeltsin last week, U.S. President Bill Clinton proposed lifting the deployment of anti-missile defense systems, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 January. However, according to the agency, Robert Bell, special aide to Clinton on defense policy and arms control, said that deployment of such a system may not require amending the ABM treaty but that if modification is necessary the U.S. will work with Russia to reach an agreement. JAC ... BLASTED BY LEBED. In an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 January, Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor and possible presidential contender Aleksandr Lebed slammed the START-II treaty, urging the Duma not to ratify it. He said that ratification of the treaty "may cause irreparable damage to Russia's national security." Lebed called for a more drastic cut in the number of strategic offensive weapons owned by Russia and the U.S than that provided for by START-II, from 3,000-3,500 nuclear warheads to 1,500-1,700 each. The same day, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev praised the treaty, calling it "necessary and beneficial for Russia." JAC MORE INDICATORS OF ECONOMIC DECLINE. Russian industrial output slumped 5.2 percent in 1998 compared with the previous year, ITAR-TASS reported. Light industry witnessed the biggest decline, 11.5 percent, followed by metals (8.1 percent) and chemicals (7.5 percent). Real per capita income plunged 16 percent as nearly a quarter of the population slipped below the subsistence wage of 493 rubles ($22) a month. Foreign trade turnover slid 16 percent during the first 11 months of 1998, compared with the same period the previous year. JAC FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES OCALAN IS IN RUSSIA. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told journalists in Moscow on 21 January that the Russian authorities have no information to corroborate reports that Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) chairman Abdullah Ocalan is in Russia. He added that the investigation into those reports continues. But Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said in Ankara later that day that Turkish intelligence reports suggest that Ocalan is "almost certainly" in Russia, AFP reported. Also on 21 January, Naira Melkumian, the foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, rejected as "an exotic hoax" a report in "Kommersant-Daily" on 21 January that Ocalan had arrived in the enclave from Italy at the invitation of the Karabakh authorities, AP reported. LF RUSSIA TO ASSUME LARGER ROLE IN MIDEAST PEACE PROCESS? During a meeting with visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon on 21 January, Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov pledged that Russia is ready to step up efforts to assist the Arab-Israeli peace process. The previous day, Sharon met separately with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, Defense Minister Sergeev, and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev. During their meeting, Ivanov told Sharon that the Russian government will fight "any form of political extremism, including anti-Semitism." JAC MOSCOW REPEATS WARNINGS ABOUT USE OF FORCE IN KOSOVA. Foreign Minister Ivanov told reporters on 22 January that the use of force in Kosova would "not only aggravate the regional situation but may also trigger a new Balkan war." The previous day, Foreign Ministry spokesman Rakhmanin declined to comment on a Russian newspaper report that First Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev had warned Belgrade that failure to revise its decision on expelling the head of the OSCE mission in Kosova would mean decreased Russian support for Belgrade's position. Rakhmanin said only that Russia "believes that the necessary and favorable conditions for the OSCE to function in [Kosova] should be created." JAC 'ROMANIAN VARIANT' CONSIDERED POSSIBLE IN RUSSIA... As the Congress of Russian Coal-Mining Cities convened in Moscow on 21 January, some participants said that a "Romanian variant" is a possibility for Russian coal miners, "Tribuna" reported on 22 January. Bakhtiyar Mamaev, acting mayor of Leninsk-Kuznetskii in Kemerovo Oblast, said that a Romanian-style protest is possible "in the very near future if the government does not repay its debts to coal miners." He added that "we will face a disaster much worse than in Romania because this time it will [involve] not only the coal miners but their wives, employees of businesses that cater to the mines and the miners, and other organizations dependent on the state budget." Aleksandr Naumov, president of the Association of Coal Mining Cities, predicted a major Romanian-style coal miners' strike in May "if no measures are taken" to improve the life of coal miners or the situation in the coal industry. JAC ...AS NEW QUESTIONS ABOUT COAL SECTOR LOAN RAISED. Vladimir Bandukov, head of the Partizansk city administration in the Primorskii Krai, ruled out such a possibility, however, noting that "our government knows how to maneuver and let off steam in a timely fashion." He added that the coal miners' trade union is split and lacks a strong leader. Russian Miners movement head Vladimir Katalnikov met with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 20 January to ask for Luzhkov's help in finding "information about unauthorized use of the World Bank's coal sector loan, which had been extended to restructure the coal-mining industry and assist workers' adaption to the closure of mines," "Vremya MN" reported on 21 January. JAC LEBED FACING MORE PROBLEMS IN KRASNOYARSK. Krasnoyarsk Governor Lebed is poised to lose control over the Borodinskii coal mine to Krasnoyarsk Fuel Company (KTK), which is affiliated with the TaNAKo group, controlled by Lebed's former supporter and influential local industry head Anatolii Bykov, "Izvestiya" reported on 21 January. Krasugol, which owns the mine, transferred the right to collect a 42 million ruble ($1.9 million) debt to KTK, according to the newspaper. Using obscene language, Lebed chastised the directors of the coal mine and the KTK during a televised local meeting on 17 January, prompting the coal mine director to threaten to sue Lebed, while KTK's director challenged Lebed to a boxing match, "Segodnya" reported. According to "Izvestiya," Lebed intends to report on the situation to Prime Minister Primakov and Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov on 26 January. JAC MILITARY FINDS DRAFTEES IN POOR SHAPE. Some preliminary findings from the General Staff's analysis of the latest conscription campaign, which ended on 15 January, are now available "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20 January. Many potential draftees could not be enlisted for a variety of reasons: almost one in three had poor health; one-tenth had either alcohol or drug abuse problems; and another 40 percent were brought up in "problematic families," according to the newspaper. Another 40,000 young men were estimated to have dodged the draft altogether. JAC BASHKORTOSTAN PARLIAMENT PASSES CONTROVERSIAL LANGUAGE LAW. The Legislative Assembly--the lower house of the parliament of Bashkortostan--passed the new language law in the second and third readings on 21 January, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The bill must now be approved by the upper house and signed into law by President Murtaza Rakhimov. Deputies ignored an appeal by the parliament of neighboring Tatarstan to amend the bill in order to designate Tatar a state language in Bashkortostan together with Bashkir and Russian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 1999). LF COSSACKS DEMAND SVERDLOVSK BE RENAMED. The Union of Russian Cossacks issued a statement on 21 January demanding that Sverdlovsk Oblast be renamed "Yekaterinburg" in order stop honoring the Cossacks' chief persecutor, Bolshevik Central Executive Committee Chairman Yakov Sverdlov, ITAR-TASS reported. The Cossacks noted that Sverdlov signed an order on 24 January 1919 that unleashed the purges against the Cossacks. JAC MORE INTER-FACTIONAL FIGHTING IN CHECHNYA. Chechen police clashed with armed opposition detachments on 21 January in the town of Urus Martan, southwest of Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking on Chechen Television, Deputy Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriev warned that preparations are under way for a coup d'etat but did not name the forces involved. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT TASKS PREMIER WITH FORMING NEW GOVERNMENT. The parliament of Kazakhstan voted by 100 to two with one abstention on 21 January in favor of President Nursultan Nazarbayev's proposal that Nurlan Balghymbayev form a new government, Reuters and ITAR- TASS reported. In accordance with the constitution, Balghymbayev and his cabinet resigned after the 10 January presidential election, as did all regional governors. Outlining his new program to the parliament, Balghymbayev vowed to concentrate on increasing domestic production in order to reduce imports, preserving a stable exchange rate, and seeking more foreign investment in the chemical and petrochemical sectors and light industry. LF EU REGISTERS CONCERN OVER PRESIDENTIAL POLL IN KAZAKHSTAN. In a statement issued on 21 January, Germany, which holds the EU rotating presidency, termed the 10 January presidential elections "a setback for democratization" and for the rule of law in Kazakhstan, dpa reported. The statement expressed concern that the election date was brought forward at short notice and that contrary to the country's constitution, potential candidates were barred from running on the grounds that they had been convicted of minor offenses. LF FOOD SHORTAGES IN BAIKONUR. An 11 January government directive imposing quotas on Russian imports has resulted in serious food shortages in the town of Baikonur, home to the thousands of ethnic Russian employees of the space launch complex, which Russia leases from Kazakhstan. Traditionally, Baikonur imported all its goods from the Russian Federation and local markets accepted only Russian rubles, not Kazakhstan tenges. After visiting Baikonur town on 22 January, Kazakhstan's Deputy Prime Minister Baltash Tursynbayev told journalists that food prices there are now three times higher than in Qyzyl-Orda City and twice as high as in Moscow, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. LF KYRGYZSTAN, BELARUS SEEK TO INCREASE TRADE. Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister Jumabek Ibraimov and Belarusian charge d'affaires Alyaksandr Tumor held talks in Bishkek on 21 January on Kyrgystan's possible purchase of Belarusian farm machinery and deliveries of Kyrgyz wool and other agricultural products to Belarus, Interfax reported. Up to one dozen draft bilateral agreements, including on creating an inter-governmental trade commission and on protecting mutual investments, were prepared for signature. Trade in 1998 between the two countries, which are both members of the CIS Customs Union, exceeded $18 million. LF ECONOMIC CRIME ON INCREASE IN KYRGYZSTAN. Addressing a 21 January session of the government commission for combating economic crime, Ibraimov said such offenses doubled in 1998 compared with the previous year, according to Interfax. Ibraimov told the meeting that law enforcement bodies returned to the 1998 state budget about 33 million som ($1 million) that had been either embezzled or misappropriated. He called for stronger measures to combat tax evasion, smuggling, and corruption, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH CONCERNED ABOUT ARMENIAN DEATHS. In a 15 January letter to Armenian President Robert Kocharian, Human Rights Watch enumerates instances of reprisals, beatings, and resulting deaths among conscripts serving in the Armenian armed forces. It estimates the average annual number of such deaths over the past three years at 200. The letter also draws attention to similar reprisals against detainees at the hands of police officers and expresses concern over restrictions on religious freedom and attempts to falsify the outcome of the 1998 presidential elections. Human Rights Watch concludes that such abuses disqualify Armenia from full membership in the Council of Europe. LF GENERAL MOTORS TO MANUFACTURE VEHICLES IN ARMENIA. The Armenian government announced on 21 January that General Motors has decided to launch production operations in Armenia in conjunction with the Armenian Ministry of Industry and Trade, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Visiting Yerevan last October, General Motors' vice president for the former Soviet republics said the company was considering assembling minibuses, small tractors, and trucks in Armenia and selling them throughout the region (see "RFE/RL Armenia Report," 26 October 1998). He said research conducted by General Motors had revealed a "favorable investment climate" in Armenia. LF ARMENIAN WAR VETERANS DISAGREE OVER IDEOLOGY. Deputy parliamentary speaker Albert Bazeyan, who is also deputy chairman of the Yerkrapah union of veterans of the Karabakh war, has taken issue with statements by Razmik Vasilian, a Yerkrapah member and former commander of the volunteer Armenian National Army, which was set up to fight in Karabakh and dissolved by the Armenian parliament in August 1990. In an interview with Noyan Tapan on 20 January, Vasilian called for the creation of a "national ideology" and of "a union of national and nationalist forces" that would "promote the establishment of a powerful state through ideology and courage." Bazeyan said that as an employee of the Armenian Defense Ministry, Vasilian has no right to make political statements. He also denied that Yerkrapah had discussed aligning with Vasilian's planned new organization. LF OFFICIAL SAYS PROGRESS ON AZERBAIJAN OIL EXPORT PIPELINEŠ Speaking in Washington on 21 January, U.S. adviser on Caspian issues Richard Morningstar predicted that the ongoing talks between Turkish, Azerbaijani, U.S., and international oil company representatives could result in "a clear agreement" within the next 12 months to proceed with construction of the planned Baku- Ceyhan pipeline, AP reported. Last month, the president of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company said that a decision on whether to opt for the Baku-Ceyhan route would be taken in mid-1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 1998). Morningstar downplayed the failure of trial wells drilled by two international consortia in 1998 to yield oil in commercially viable quantities. One of those consortia formally announced on 21 January that it will cease Caspian operations in February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1998). LF ...SUSTAINING KAZAKHSTAN'S INTEREST. Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbayev met with visiting Turkish Energy Minister Ziya Aktas in Astana on 21 January, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. Balghymbayev said the overall assessment of proposed export routes for Kazakhstan's oil will be completed within seven or eight months. He noted that the possible use of the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline to transport Kazakh crude to international markets is among his government's "top priorities." LF GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION SEEK TO IMPROVE MEDICAL CARE. Health Minister Avtandil Djorbenadze has instructed local administrators to pay greater attention to the health of the population and to increase to 15-20 percent the percentage of local budget expenditures on health care, Caucasus Press reported on 21 January. Meanwhile Shalva Natelashvili, head of the Labor Party, which garnered some 20 percent of the vote in the November 1998 municipal elections, told journalists on 21 January that the city councils of Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Rustavi, and other towns where the party has a majority on local councils are making good on the party's pre- election promise to reintroduce free medical care and to reinstate sacked nursery staff and teachers. LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF. National Democratic Party chairwoman Irina Sarisgvili- Chanturia told journalists on 22 January that her party intends to nominate her as its candidate for the presidential elections in 2000, ITAR-TASS reported. She will be the first woman to run for the post of president, which was reinstated in 1995. LF GEORGIAN POLICE TRY TO PERSUADE REBEL LEADER TO SURRENDER. Georgian police have located Colonel Akaki Eliava, who has been in hiding since mounting an unsuccessful insurgency in October 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1998 and 20 January 1999), Interfax reported on 21 January. Deputy Interior Minister Temur Murghulia is currently negotiating with Eliava, who may surrender if the charges of treason against him are dropped, Caucasus Press reported on 21 January. LF END NOTE WHY DON'T RUSSIANS REBEL? By Paul Goble Russia's enormous economic and political difficulties over the past several years have prompted many there and elsewhere to ask why more Russians do not go on strike or engage in political demonstrations. A new U.S. Information Agency report, "Who Protests in Russia," reveals how few Russians have taken part in such protests and provides at least part of the answer as to why. Based on extensive polling in Russia over the last few years, the report says that only 7 percent of Russians claim they have taken part in any political rally or demonstration and only 4 percent have gone on strike. It asserts that the number of Russians prepared to engage in such protests has been declining. And it explains these figures by suggesting that overwhelming majorities of Russians do not take part in such protests because they do not believe that either economic actions or political demonstrations will benefit them in any way. But the report's focus on those who do protest calls attention to three factors that could signal this trend will be reversed, leading more Russians to take part in strikes and demonstrations over the next few year and thus to challenge existing power relations in Russian economic and political life. First, as the report shows, those Russians who feel their personal situations are desperate, who have not been paid for extensive periods, and who lack alternative sources of support are far more likely to protest than those whose situations are not as desperate. Until now, many Russians have refrained from doing so either because they did not think protests would work, because they still felt they had something to lose, or because they could turn to family and friends for support. But if conditions deteriorate, as now seems likely, and if people learn about strike actions or public protests, then ever more Russians will fall into this "personal desperation" and may take to the streets. Second, according to the USIA report, Russians who are members of a trade union or are active supporters of one or another political party are far more likely to participate in demonstrations than those who do not fall into this category. Based on surveys over the last three years, the presence of a trade union at the workplace "more than doubles" the likelihood that those employed there will participate in strikes or other forms of protest. And those who report "a great deal" of interest in politics are almost eight times as likely to participate in strikes or protests than those who say they have "no interest at all." On the one hand, this pattern suggests that strikes may become more likely as political parties try to use trade unions in order to reach more voters. So far that has not happened very often: the report notes that only 6 percent of employed Russians now say that a member of the Russian Communist Party member has asked them to join a protest. And on the other, it implies that as more Russians focus on politics during the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, an increasing number of them are likely to participate in public demonstrations. That will be particularly likely, the USIA study suggests, if Russian political parties run campaigns that seek to identify who is to blame for Russia's current predicament. Russians who think they know "who is to blame" are far more likely to protest than those who do not. Moreover, because of the overlap, the USIA polls found that between those who protest for economic reasons and those who do so for political ones, any increase in economic protests could spark an increase in political protests, and vice versa. And third, as the USIA report notes, the roughly 7.5 million Russians who have participated in protests over the last several years may see their numbers grow if more Russians working in jobs they consider strategically important are able to successfully challenge the authorities and win concessions or at least back pay. Consequently, as the Russian government and Russian firms attempt to live up to their promises to pay back wages, workers who have not yet received them may seek to use strikes to catch up with those who have. And that, in turn, could lead to a cycle that the authorities might find difficult to contain. None of this is to say that Russia is about to face a tidal wave of strikes and political demonstrations. Rather, it is to note that the passivity many Russians have displayed up to now is the product of specific experiences and calculations, just as it reflects some underlying national culture. And it is also to suggest that as in the past, the quiescence the Russians now display could end more abruptly and explosively than many observers now predict. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 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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