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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 20, Part I, 29 January 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 20, Part I, 29 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 * BUDGET PREDICTED TO PASS THIRD TIME * RUSSIAN PRESS PANS ALBRIGHT VISIT * ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ASSESSES IMPACT OF CONTROVERSIAL VOTE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA BUDGET PREDICTED TO PASS THIRD TIME. The State Duma on 29 January began debating the 1999 budget in its third reading. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev predicted that the budget will pass easily, while Aleksandr Pochinok, head of the government's finance department, told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that "practically all controversial issues have been resolved" and that even the "governors are now practically unanimous in their support for the budget." Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov said that his committee has approved "many" of a "a huge number of amendments" that were submitted. Among those amendments were a 3 billion ruble ($132 million) allocation for compensation for individuals who transferred their savings accounts from failing banks to Sberbank, 3 billion rubles for Russia's northern regions, 1.5 billion rubles for regional programs, 1 billion rubles for Siberian and Far Eastern regions and 1.6 billion rubles for "regional subsidies," according to Interfax. JAC RUSSIAN PRESS PANS ALBRIGHT VISIT. "Relations between Moscow and Washington are at their lowest point since 1991," "Trud" concluded on 29 January, arguing that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's recent visit to Moscow did not launch negotiations for START-III as had been expected. The previous day, "Noviye izvestiya" adopted a similar tone, arguing that "no progress has been reached on any of the 'global' issues discussed in Moscow." According to the newspaper, "an exaggerated amount of attention to the external aspects of Albright visit" was paid, partly in order to disguise that an agreement to disagree had been reached even before Albright arrived in Moscow. "Vremya MN" said on 27 January that Albright's visit produced no results but "demonstrated how US officials were now conducting relations with Russia: listen, nod their heads in agreement, and then do exactly what they wish." JAC TEACHERS' STRIKE TALLIES DIFFER. The education workers union estimated that 300,000 teachers from some 8,500 educational institutions either were on strike or suspended classes on 27 January, according to Interfax on 29 January. Meanwhile, the federal government's figures were much lower, suggesting that only 20,000 teachers were involved in the action, "Izvestiya" reported on 28 January. However, the daily noted, that teachers in even the best-paid regions, such as Leningrad and Samara Oblasts, decided to support their striking colleagues. According to the newspaper, Education Minister Vladimir Filippov believes that one solution for the chronic inability of some regional governments to transfer federal monies intended to pay teachers' wages would be the establishment of local commissions to look into how federal budget funds have been spent. Included in these commissions would be teachers, and local journalists would be asked to conduct their own investigations. JAC NEW REGIONAL BLOC FORMED... A new election alliance of regional leaders was established in Moscow on 27 January, in order to compete in upcoming parliamentary elections, Interfax reported. Twenty-one regional officials have signed up, including Kaliningrad and Rostov Oblast Governors Leonid Gorbenko and Vladimir Chub, Khakassian Republic head Alexei Lebed, Saratov and Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast assembly heads Aleksandr Kharitonov and Anatolii Kozeradskii, and Sergei Sobyanin, head of the Khanti-Mansiiysk Autonomous Okrug. One of the bloc's founders, Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov, may in fact be the group's leader, according to an anonymous source cited by Interfax. JAC ...AS ANOTHER NDR DEFECTION FEARED. Titov, who is also a deputy chairman of the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) party, has not decided whether to maintain membership in both organizations. NDR faction leader and Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov greeted the news with alarm, saying that the NDR's political council should be convened "no later than in February to find out why Titov and many others are dissatisfied." Ryzhkov told Interfax on 28 January that Titov's establishment of a new bloc "is one more piece of proof that the Our Home is Russia movement is in trouble." Titov suggested that the NDR might want to join his bloc. JAC RANKS OF 'NEW POOR' GROWING. Russians' average income since last August has decreased from $160 to $50 per month, " while the cost of imported goods has risen 3.5 times compared with July 1998, "Vechernaya Moskva" reported on 28 January. Meanwhile, the number of Russian citizens whose incomes are below the national minimum wage is growing by at least 10 million to 15 million people a month, according to the newspaper. Specialists at the Carnegie Moscow Center suggest that a new type of poor has emerged in Russia, "Noviye izvestiya" reported on 19 January. These people are well-educated, young to middle-aged, and have lost their status and high incomes but not their ideal of a prosperous life. They no longer have the resources to continue the lifestyle approved by the mainstream of society, such as being able to buy new clothes or fruit for their children or pay for a funeral, without massive borrowing. JAC PASKO TRIAL ATTRACTING INTELLIGENCE SERVICE SUPPORT, CENSURE. Yurii Maksimenko, the former chief of intelligence for Russia's Pacific Fleet, unexpectedly decided to testify in favor of military journalist Grigorii Pasko during his trial for espionage in Vladivostok, AFP reported on 26 January. Maksimenko, who was allowed to attend the trial as a representative of the Fleet Veterans Council, said earlier that the state's case was flawed by too many assumptions and too little proof, the "Moscow Times" reported on 22 January. On 28 January, the Federal Security Service's (FSB) public relations department issued a statement accusing the media of providing misleading and lopsided coverage of Pasko's trial, according to ITAR-TASS. According to the FSB, Pasko is charged with specific criminal offenses for which "his environmentalist activities and work as a journalist are irrelevant." On 29 January, Pasko's trial was adjourned until 8 February after one of his lawyers was banned from representing him in court. JAC LEBED MAKES PEACE WITH MEDIA? Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed and All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) head Mikhail Shvydkoi signed an agreement on the formation of a new state media holding company and the terms on which its Krasnoyarsk subsidiary would join that company, "Izvestiya" reported on 29 January. In addition, Lebed rescinded his directive appointing one of his local supporters as head of the Krasnoyarsk media company, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the previous day. Both newspapers interpreted Lebed's agreement as evidence that the governor is backing down in his confrontation with local media. Lebed, on the other hand, told reporters on 27 January that the conflict was the result of "misunderstanding" and that he will get together with VGTRK to "settle the issue like statesman." JAC PATRIARCH WARY ABOUT NATO EXPANSION. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II on 28 January cautioned visiting Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek about erecting barriers between Poland and Russia. He said, "We lived in a Europe divided into two blocs. One such bloc has survived, but many people still perceive it as aggressive and regard its gradual approach to Russian borders with fear," according to Interfax. The patriarch added that "the constant threat of air strikes on Yugoslavia only increases the internal perception of NATO as an aggressor." JAC U.S. COMPANY BECOMES DE FACTO LANDOWNER IN TULA. The Tulskaya Oblast Property Fund has sold 40 hectares of land to a joint-stock company 90 percent owned by Procter & Gamble, "Izvestiya" reported on 27 January. The joint-stock company paid 16 million rubles (some $696,000) for the land, on which the production and housing facilities of the company are located. According to the daily, over the past few years U.S. companies have invested tens of millions of dollars in the oblast's economy. A significant part of that sum has gone toward developing health-care and other social programs. JC HOW COLD IS IT? Temperatures in Khanti-Mansiisk Autonomous Okrug hit the lowest recorded this century on 27 January, sliding to minus 55.6 degrees Celsius, AFP reported. In Komi Republic, temperatures dipped to minus 53 degrees Celsius, and in Arkhangelsk Oblast temperatures below minus 40 degrees Celsius paralyzed drawbridges over the North Dvina River, Reuters reported. JAC NORTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS TO HALT RUSSIAN OUTMIGRATION. Addressing a congress last month of the Rus organization, which represents the ethnic Russian population of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, President Aleksandr Dsasokhov vowed to stem the outmigration of ethnic Russians from the republic. Some 44,700 Russians have left North Ossetia in recent years, almost 25 percent of the region's 1989 ethnic Russian population. Many of those who left found themselves unemployed as a result of the collapse of Russia's military-industrial complex, which was the largest employer in the region. But Dzasokhov noted that Russians are also proportionally under-represented in the police force and on local councils. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ASSESSES IMPACT OF CONTROVERSIAL VOTE. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation- Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) issued a statement on 28 January urging President Robert Kocharian to dissolve the parliament following the rejection of Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian's request to strip former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian of his parliamentary immunity. The statement said the 1995 parliamentary elections, in which the HHD was banned from participating, were rigged and the parliament is continuing the previous regime's policy, which it characterized as "directed against the vital interests of the Armenian people." Also on 28 January, Albert Bazeyan, leader of the largest Yerkrapah parliamentary group, denied rumors of a split within that group over whether Siradeghian should be brought to trial, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Meanwhile, several leading politicians have expressed doubts that former President Levon Ter-Petrossian's 26 January statement condemning the attempt to indict Siradeghian heralds Ter-Petrossian's imminent return to mainstream politics. Ter-Petrossian has lived in seclusion since his forced resignation one year ago. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT AMBIVALENT ON QUESTION OF NATO BASES. In an interview published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 28 January, Heidar Aliev avoided a direct answer to the question whether Azerbaijan might host either a Turkish or a NATO military base on its territory. ITAR-TASS quoted "a well-informed NATO source in Moscow" as similarly avoiding a direct answer to that question. That source went on to quote Turkish President Suleyman Demirel as dismissing reports of such a base in Azerbaijan as "pure speculation." Also on 28 January, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman interviewed by ITAR- TASS pointed to the contradiction between Aliev's statements and those of his adviser Vafa Guluzade, who has repeatedly argued openly in favor of such bases in Azerbaijan. LF UN SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR POLITICAL SOLUTION IN ABKHAZIA. In a 28 January resolution, the UN Security Council called for "an early and comprehensive political settlement [to the Abkhaz conflict], which includes a settlement on the political status of Abkhazia within the state of Georgia," Reuters reported. The resolution also urged immediate measures to expedite the return to Abkhazia of ethnic Georgian displaced persons forced to flee during the conflict, and it condemned the failure to halt guerrilla activities in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. The Council extended for another six months the mandate of the UN Observer Force in western Georgia. LF ...WHILE GEORGIAN MINISTERS CALL ON UN TO PLAY GREATER ROLE. Addressing the council, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili said the UN should be more active in promoting not only a settlement of the conflict but also the repatriation of Georgian displaced persons, according to AP. He argued that the 140-strong observer force is "too small" to control the area in question. Menagharishvili also called for the creation of a local administration in Gali under UN control to create secure conditions for the displaced persons' return. The Abkhaz have rejected that option. Speaking on Georgian Television on 27 January, Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze similarly called for "more resolute" UN moves to resolve the conflict, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. LF KAZAKH MILITARY PROCURATOR DISCUSSES MILITARY DISCIPLINE. Speaking at a press conference in Almaty on 29 January, Zharmakhan Tuyaqbayev expressed concern over the increase in the number of deserters last year and over unspecified instances of abuse of power by senior officers, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Senior Defense Ministry officials denied Russian media reports that four SU-27 fighter aircraft given to Kazakhstan by Russia earlier this week were intended as part payment of the rent for the Baikonur Space Complex (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January 1999). They said the aircraft were in payment of Soviet military equipment withdrawn from Kazakhstan in 1993. LF KYRGYZ PRESIDENT IN VIENNA. Askar Akayev met with his Austrian counterpart, Thomas Klestil, in Vienna on 27 January to discuss strengthening bilateral relations and developing new forms of cooperation, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported the following day. Akayev also met separately with Austrian businessmen to solicit investments, particularly in Kyrgyzstan's mining, light, and textile industries as well as in agriculture, according to ITAR-TASS. Akayev underscored that Austria's experience in developing its business sector, in particular by supporting small and medium-sized businesses, is of special relevance for his country. A memorandum on cooperation between the Interior Ministries of Austria and Kyrgyzstan was signed during his visit. LF KYRGYZSTAN SEEKS TO BREAK PENSIONS DEADLOCK... The Legislative Assembly on 28 January approved amendments to the pension law, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The changes provide for raising the retirement age for both men and women by four months annually over the next nine years, from 60 to 63 for men and from 55 to 58 for women by 2007. Last month, the Constitutional Court rejected as unconstitutional amendments passed by the Legislative Assembly in June 1998 that would have raised the pension age by six months each year. The government then formed a conciliation commission to work together with the parliament on drafting alternative amendments. The parliament remained opposed to the prospect of amending the law, but the government insisted that raising the retirement age is one of the conditions for a $36 million World Bank loan. LF ...WITHOUT BREAKING BANK. Also on 28 January, the Legislative Assembly approved the 1999 draft state budget with only one vote against, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The dissenter, Alevtina Pronenko, told RFE/RL that there is next to nothing allocated in that draft for social needs. She said the government plans to allot $50 million for pensioners in 1999 but that sum is not enough even to pay back pensions for 1998. Pronenko added that the $40.5 million to be given to Kyrgyzstan by international finance organizations in 1999 will all be used to repay the country's foreign debt. Pension Fund chairwoman Roza Uchkempirova had warned on 20 January that if the retirement age is not raised, the number of pensioners will increase this year from 32,000 to 41,000, and the fund's deficit would reach 310 million som (about $10 million). LF TAJIK PARLIAMENT DEPUTY ESCAPES ASSASSINATION. Khudja Karimov escaped unharmed when 10 masked assailants opened fire on his home in Gazimalik early on 28 January, but his brother was killed in the attack, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. A former member of the Tajikistan National Front, which opposed the Islamic opposition, Khudja Karimov was elected to the parliament in 1994 and wounded in an assassination attempt the following year. He was later sentenced to a one-year prison term for embezzlement. On 28 January, city administration official Dustamamad Mukhamadiev was gunned down outside his home in Leninabad. LF 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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