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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 18, Part I, 27 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 18, Part I, 27 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 * PRIMAKOV PROPOSES PEACE TREATY WITH DUMA * TEACHERS BEGIN NATIONWIDE STRIKE * FORMER ARMENIAN PRESIDENT CONDEMNS INDICTMENT ATTEMPT End Note: IS RUSSIA ANOTHER SOMALIA? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA PRIMAKOV PROPOSES PEACE TREATY WITH DUMA... In a letter and package of documents sent to the State Duma, Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov outlined a proposal for a political pact between Russia's executive and legislative branch strangely similar to some early versions of the political accord discussed by the two groups last fall. Under the proposal, President Boris Yeltsin would refrain from dissolving the Duma, which, in turn, would drop impeachment hearings and agree not to hold a no-confidence vote in the government. The presidential press service responded initially on 26 January that any truce could not limit the president's constitutional rights. Later, deputy head of the presidential administration Oleg Sysuev told NTV that the proposal was implemented in line with the president's orders. "Segodnya" argued that Primakov's action indicates he "has taken over the helm of state power" and "is acting independently of the will of Boris Yeltsin." JAC ...AS DEPUTIES, GOVERNORS REGISTER MIXED REACTION. According to NTV, Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi, North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov, Russian Regions faction head and Duma deputy Oleg Morozov all hailed the proposal, while President of Ingushetia Ruslan Aushev called the concept good "but a little late" and asked whether it contradicts the constitution. Deputy Aleksandr Shokhin raised a similar objection, saying that the proposal is legal nonsense since it would in effect suspend the constitution. Duma deputy (Communist Party) Viktor Ilyukhin said he will never agree to dropping impeachment proceedings. According to ITAR-TASS, Prime Minister Primakov and Duma leaders may discuss a draft statement on political stability next week. Moscow Mayor and possible presidential contender Yurii Luzhkov said that the accord "plays down the significance" of the office of the president and strips the head of state of some of his powers. JAC TEACHERS BEGIN NATIONWIDE STRIKE. Teachers from various Russian regions, including Ulyanovsk and Chita Oblasts and the Republic of Buryatia, took part in a nationwide strike, RFE/RL reported on 27 January. On the streets of Sakhalin Oblast, almost 5,000 teachers protested unpaid wages, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Yuzhno Sakhalinsk. In Irkutsk, 2,200 workers from 77 educational establishments went on strike, ITAR-TASS reported. Vladimir Yakovlev, head of the education workers union, told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau the previous day that 380,000 workers in the education sector would likely stay away from work. According to Yakovlev, some 120,000 teachers have protested since the beginning of this month. Among the regions that have seen the most teachers' protests are Kamchatka and Murmansk Oblasts, Altai Krai, and Republic of Karelia, while in three raions in Ryazan Oblast teachers did not receive even 1 ruble last year. JAC PRIMAKOV CALLS FOR REORGANIZING FEDERATION. Talk of reducing the number of regions in Russia was revived on 26 January, when Prime Minister Primakov suggested the possibility of merging Russia's constituent territories and establishing a "house of nationalities" in the Russian parliament might be considered in 2000. Speaking at an all-Russia conference on federal relations, Primakov said he supported an initiative of Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress to reorganize Russia's administrative-territorial system and that "about 30 regions have territorial claims on one another now, which is a bad sign." He added that he shares the position of those who believe that governors and regional administration heads should not be elected, Interfax reported. Speaking at the same conference, Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov said that 70 percent of regional legislation does not correspond to federal law, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC SOME REGIONS STILL UNHAPPY ABOUT BUDGET TRANSFERS... Despite the fact that Moscow has increased their share of federal tax revenues in the 1999 budget, regional governors continue to express dissatisfaction with the budget. Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said on 27 January that the upper house may veto the budget if the conciliation commission does not resolve all disagreements over the distribution of federal resources and adjust the system of tax collection in constituent territories. Members of the Urals Economic Association agreed that the document "completely ignores the interests of Russia's regions and the composition of their respective budgets," according to "EWI Russian Regional Report" on 21 January. Irkutsk Oblast Governor Boris Govorin also denounced the budget, warning that Moscow expects revenues far greater than the oblast's capacity to deliver, according to the report. JAC ...AS FINANCE MINISTRY SUGGESTS COLD TURKEY. At least some Finance Ministry officials are promising to adopt a tougher line on regional transfers than did their predecessors. Deputy Finance Minister Viktor Khristenko told "Vremya MN" on 15 January that "money is a drug and once you have wheedled some financial aid you get inspired to ask for more and more." According to the daily, "financial aid without fixed purposes, which governors of various regions currently enjoy, has become a pernicious practice." However, it added, "Moscow cannot ignore legislative restrictions on intervention in governors' financial affairs." According to Khristenko, regions that pay state workers and transfer tax revenue in a timely fashion will receive financial support, while those with a sizable backlog of unpaid salaries to state organizations will come under the Treasury's scrutiny. JAC SEVERODVINSK WANTS TO BE CLOSED AGAIN. Arkhangelsk Oblast Governor Anatolii Efremov is proposing to the federal government that the city of Severodvinsk be granted the status of closed territorial formation, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 January. If given such a status, the city would be directly subordinated to and receive funding from the federal government. Experts estimate that the city's budget would double, from 300 million rubles (some $12 million) to 600 million rubles. Severodvinsk, where the country's largest nuclear submarines are built, has experienced severe financial difficulties owing to cuts in funding for defense contracts and the lack of money for conversion programs. JC COMMUNISTS LABEL U.S. MEDIA ASSISTANCE 'INTERFERENCE.' The Communist Party's Duma faction has requested more information about U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's offer of $10 million to assist the development of independent media in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). According to Interfax, Duma deputy and Communist Party member Rinat Gabidullin said that the U.S.'s intention to support the Russian press prior to elections is "crude interference in the country's internal affairs." JAC MASLYUKOV HEADED FOR UNEMPLOYMENT? Citing "reliable sources," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 January that a presidential edict dismissing First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov "has already been prepared." Maslyukov's dismissal, according to the newspaper, would enable President Yeltsin to send a "clear signal" to the prime minister as to the direction in which economic reforms must be implemented. In addition, Maslyukov's departure would help smooth over tense relations with Western creditors. The same day, presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin called reports that Maslyukov would be dismissed "nonsense." JAC NEW FUEL ADDED TO SPECULATION ABOUT MIKHALKOV CANDIDACY. In a new interview published on 27 January in "Rossiiskie vesti," renowned film actor/director Nikita Mikhalkov made a statement about his presidential ambitions similar to that which appeared in the "Sunday Times" and that he later denied (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January). He told the Russian newspaper that he is ready "to support within constitutional terms anyone in whom he sees the strength and desire to help the country" but that if there is no such person, he "will have to weigh his own strength." "Noviye izvestiya" reported on 26 January that not only financial magnate Boris Berezovskii is ready to support Mikhalkov but also Media Most Group Chairman Vladimir Gusinskii. "Noviye izvestiya" receives financial support from Berezovskii's LogoVAZ group. JAC ZHIRINOVSKII TO SEEK SVERDLOVSK POST. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii has confirmed his plans to run for governor of Sverdlovsk Oblast. He told the "Berliner Zeitung" on 25 January that one prong of his election strategy will be to open talks with the local mafia. He added that Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed was having problems in his region because "he turned his back on the local mafia and businessmen." Earlier, he told a local television station in Yekaterinburg that he will take part in gubernatorial elections this summer and then run for the presidency in 2000 as Russia's most effective governor. Other candidates for the governor's seat are Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii, incumbent Eduard Rossel, and State Duma deputy Valerii Yazev, a member of the Our Home Is Russia faction. According to "EWI's Russian Regional Report," Yazev claims that Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has promised him his support. JAC CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS DRAFT "STABILIZATION" PROPOSALS. Meeting in Novie Atagi, south of Grozny, on 26 January, former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and prominent field commanders, including Shamil Basaev, Ruslan Gelaev, Khunkar-pasha Israpilov, and Akhmed Zakaev, reached agreement on a program of measures to reorganize the present system of authority in Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. They described the present situation in Chechnya as a political and state crisis but denied any intention of ousting President Aslan Maskhadov. Former Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov blamed Russia for instigating the skirmishes on 21 January in the opposition stronghold of Urus Martan, which Deputy Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriev claimed presaged an attempted coup. Udugov said there are no forces in Chechnya capable of unleashing a civil war (see also "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 4, 26 January 1999). LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA FORMER ARMENIAN PRESIDENT CONDEMNS INDICTMENT ATTEMPT. Levon Ter-Petrossian issued a statement on 26 January condemning the failed bid by Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian to persuade parliamentary deputies to lift the immunity of former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). Ter-Petrossian rejected Hovsepian's claim to have evidence that Siradeghian ordered the murder of two police officers in January 1994, saying the "evidence" was the testimony of only one individual. He said Hovsepian is either incompetent or simply bowing to orders from his superiors. Siradeghian, who is chairman of the board of the former ruling Armenian Pan- National Movement, was one of Ter-Petrossian's closest associates. LF DEBATE OVER NATO PRESENCE IN AZERBAIJAN CONTINUES. Azerbaijani presidential foreign policy adviser Vafa Guluzade told Interfax on 26 January that he believes agreement should be reached during President Heidar Aliev's current visit to Turkey on the transfer of a NATO airbase from Turkey to Azerbaijan's Apsheron peninsula. Guluzade said the decision on relocating the base should be taken immediately as the transportation of Caspian energy resources via Azerbaijan is "in danger" and "tomorrow may be too late." But an unnamed source within the Azerbaijani presidential apparatus told Interfax the same day that Guluzade was expressing his personal opinion, not Azerbaijan's official policy. Also on 26 January, Russian State Duma Defense Committee chairman Roman Popkovich argued that there is no need for NATO or U.S. bases in Azerbaijan, ITAR-TASS reported. Popkovich termed Guluzade's statements "an attempt to influence decision-making in Russia" and warned that Russia has "even more" strategic interests in the Transcaucasus than does the U.S. LF GEORGIA'S MOST WANTED MAN TO RUN FOR PARLIAMENT, PRESIDENT? Countless posters depicting Igor Giorgadze, the former Georgian intelligence chief accused of masterminding the August 1995 attempt to assassinate head of state Eduard Shevardnadze, decorated the streets of the west Georgian town of Zugdidi on 25 January, Shevardnadze's 71st birthday, Caucasus Press reported. Identical posters, bearing the slogan "The future Is Ours," have been sighted recently in other regions of Georgia. Giorgadze's father, Panteleimon, who heads the United Communist Party of Georgia, told Caucasus Press that Igor Giorgadze may be included in that party's list of candidates for this fall's parliamentary elections. Giorgadze fled Georgia in 1995 and is currently believed to be in hiding in Syria. Some Georgian observers have named him as a possible candidate in next year's presidential elections. LF IMF, EU TO GRANT FURTHER AID TO KYRGYZSTAN. Presidential press secretary Kanybek Imanaliyev said on 25 January that a visiting IMF delegation has agreed at talks with President Askar Akayev to increase from $15 million to $28 million its aid to Bishkek to cushion the impact of the Russian financial crisis, Interfax reported. The IMF delegation assured Prime Minister Jumabek Ibraimov the following day that the fund will disburse all previously planned loans to Kyrgyzstan for this year, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Ibraimov also met on 26 January with a European Commission representative who confirmed that the EU will grant Kyrgyzstan 1 million euros ($1.156 million) in 1999 to reform the country's health service. LF CAPTURED TAJIK WARLORD CONFESSES TO LATIFI MURDER. Ravshan Gafurov, who was arrested on the outskirts of Dushanbe earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999), has confessed to the 22 September shooting of leading Tajik opposition figure Otakhon Latifi, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported on 26 January, quoting an Interior Ministry spokesman. Gafurov has also confessed to 25 other murders. Tajik police announced last month that they had arrested a group of people suspected of killing Latifi. President Imomali Rakhmonov said that at the time, he was "99 percent certain" that those arrested committed the killing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 1998). LF TURKMEN, PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. Meeting in Islamabad on 26 January, Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz and his visiting Turkmen counterpart, Boris Shikhmuradov, discussed how to cooperate in halting the ongoing civil strife in Afghanistan, dpa reported. Attention focused on the possibility of convening a meeting in Uzbekistan of the so-called "six-plus-two" (Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, China, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan plus Russia and the U.S.) to discuss the Afghan situation. Both ministers agreed that lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan would greatly enhance the possibilities for bilateral economic cooperation. Shikhmuradov also met with Taliban representatives, who termed their talks "very positive." Agreement was reached to hold trilateral discussions on the proposed Turkmen gas export pipeline via Afghanistan to Pakistan, but no date was set for those discussions. LF END NOTE IS RUSSIA ANOTHER SOMALIA? by Donald N. Jensen "Upper Volta with missiles" is how some foreigners described the USSR shortly before its demise, an allusion to the great disparity between the former Soviet Union's vast nuclear arsenal and its lagging economy. While Russia's economic miseries have hardly eased since then, the inability of the Russian state to carry out its core functions--the preservation of public order, the maintenance of a monetary system, tax collection, and income redistribution, and the provision of minimal social welfare--invites comparison with developing countries such as Somalia, Haiti, and Liberia, where the nation-state has failed. Moreover, it is the collapse of the Russian state, not the breakup of the federation or economic depression, that may in the long run prove the greatest threat to Russian democratic development and international stability. In a recent paper, Thomas Graham, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, argues that a key trend in Russia over the past decade has been the fragmentation, decentralization, and erosion of political and economic power. To some extent, this is a result of the policies pursued by Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin as well as of global trends. But it has also been both an effect and a cause of the economic decline those policies precipitated. While in Africa the collapse is primarily the result of inter-tribal factionalism, in Russia it is the by-product of bitter inter-elite rivalries, greed, and administrative chaos in Moscow, all of which have eroded the center's capacity to govern effectively. To a large extent, however, Russia's degeneration reflects a society atomized to the point where the concept of national interest has been lost. The diffusion of power, contrary to widespread opinion in both Russia and the West, has not created strong regions. Rather, the striking feature of the Russian political and economic system, Graham argues, can be summed up as "weak Center--weak regions," that is, there is no concentration of power anywhere in the country capable by itself of managing the situation or creating coalitions for that purpose. As a result, neither the Center nor the regions fully control the political and economic situation. Thus, Russia's failure to police its borders, eradicate pollution, pay overdue wages, and prudently use loans from the IMF is not merely the result of corruption, obstructionist economic lobbies, or the lack of political will (the latter an explanation frequently used in the West to explain the economic collapse last August). They are due to the "gangrene," which is how one prominent newspaper recently referred to the weakening state. There are nevertheless some things the federal government can still do reasonably well. Its nuclear force would deter any potential aggressor from invading, while its ability to subsidize debtor regions is an important lever of control. Even in these areas, however, there are signs of disintegration. The government is increasingly unable to bear the costs of nuclear force modernization. The state is sometimes unable even to meet Weber's criterion that central to most viable nation-states is the legitimate monopoly on the use of force. The August economic collapse, moreover, has weakened the economies of the 13 regions (out of 89) that are net contributors to the federal budget. Collapsing states are, of course, nothing new. But today they are no longer isolated and can threaten their neighbors. Such states harbor international criminal organizations, serve as highways for narcotics trafficking, and can have a major effect on the world financial community. In Russia's case, the weak state may be unable to prevent the transfer abroad of nuclear weapons technology, while the natural gas firm Gazprom is so politically powerful that it conducts its own foreign policy, sometimes against the wishes of the Russian Foreign Ministry. For Russia the central question is where power will finally be concentrated, both geographically and within the state bureaucracy. It is also a crucial question as to what consequences such concentration will have. Russia is likely far from having answers to those questions. For the United States, the challenge is how best to take into account the state's deterioration, while trying to make progress on the many issues of bilateral concern. At a minimum, Washington should take greater account of non-governmental actors such as Gazprom and LUKoil as well as the few regional leaders, including Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who have political clout. The U.S. should also take care to create clearer and stronger incentives for the successful implementation of policies that it supports. In this context, the tight controls on Washington's food aid package and the recent ban on contacts with three scientific centers suspected of selling missile technology to Iran may prove small but nonetheless constructive steps. The author is associate director of RFE/RL broadcasting. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 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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