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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 24, Part I, 4 February 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 24, Part I, 4 February 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 * INVESTIGATORS SAY YELTSIN WAS BUGGED * RUSSIA THREATENS RETALIATION FOR ABM VIOLATIONS * RUSSIA, ARMENIA REJECT CRITICISM OF DEFENSE COOPERATION End Note: WHEN THE WORLD TURNS AWAY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA INVESTIGATORS SAY YELTSIN WAS BUGGED. Deputy Prosecutor- General Mikhail Katyshev on 3 February revealed that a search of Sibneft's headquarters that day produced evidence that President Boris Yeltsin and his family had been the victims of illegal electronic surveillance, according to ITAR-TASS (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February 1999). Katyshev told Interfax that he has no doubt that a criminal case will be opened and "the big shots" charged. Sibneft's press service responded to the news reports by noting that "equipment discovered in the office was only used inside the company to ensure commercial security." JAC RUSSIA THREATENS RETALIATION FOR ABM REVISION. The head of the 12th Department at Ministry of Defense, Colonel- General Igor Valynkin, told reporters on 3 February that Russia will "undoubtedly respond" to "a revision of the ABM treaty," which would upset stability. He added that Moscow and Washington must extend mutual control over each other's strategic and nuclear weapons. "Segodnya" argued on 30 January that "Moscow is so antagonistic" to U.S. efforts to develop an anti-ballistic missile system not because it believes that even in 20 years such a system could ever be designed to achieve 100 percent effectiveness. Rather, according to the daily, Moscow realizes that the White House is trying to generate new business for the U.S.'s defense industry while trying to disguise its defense policy, as part of some magnanimous effort, to extend anti-ballistic missile defense technology to the world. JAC IS BORIS BEREZOVKSII HAVING A BAD WEEK OR BAD YEAR? The day after federal prosecutors raided the offices of Sibneft, officials at Aeroflot loyal to business tycoon Boris Berezovskii were sacked. Berezovskii has been closely associated with Sibneft and reportedly has a large stake in Aeroflot. Aeroflot managing director and President Yeltsin's son-in-law, Valerii Okulov, dismissed Aeroflot's commercial director and its head of the department for cargo sales, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 February. Berezovskii lost a controlling stake in a competitor to Aeroflot, Transaero, in January after a Moscow court decision, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported. Russian newspapers also noted that the recent financial troubles experienced by Russian Public Television, in which Berezovskii also has an indirect stake, constitute a blow against him. JAC U.S. THREATENS RUSSIA OVER SYRIA. The administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton declared that it will reduce financial assistance to Russia by $50 million if Moscow carries out plans to sell anti-tank equipment to Syria, "Izvestiya" reported on 4 February. The newspaper concluded that the U.S. is still pursuing both its "old policy in the Middle East" of blocking the military development of countries hostile to Israel and pursuing its new one of "encroaching upon Moscow's right to choose its own partners." Syria's defense minister will visit Moscow in late February to discuss ways of boosting Russian-Syrian military cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 February. Tlass will also discuss the purchase of Russian S-300 missiles. JAC NEW THEORY TOUTED TO EXPLAIN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S DEPARTURE. In an article laying out a variety of hypotheses to explain Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov's resignation on 2 February, "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 4 February adds a few new twists to earlier press speculation. For example, the newspaper suggested that Skuratov's office went "too deep" in its investigation of the Central Bank and that Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko is deliberately hiding the material Skuratov uncovered because Russia needs IMF money. Likely candidates to replace Skuratov, "Izvestiya" reported on 4 February, are Yurii Chaika, current acting Prosecutor-General, Yurii Demin, chief military prosecutor, and Oleg Kutafin, rector of the Moscow State Legal Academy. JAC PUTIN TO FOLLOW IN SKURATOV'S FOOTSTEPS? Citing "unofficial sources," "Vremya MN" reported on 3 February that Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Vladimir Putin handed in his resignation at almost the same time as Prosecutor-General Skuratov. According to the newspaper, neither the presidential press service nor the FSB cared to comment. JAC DEADLINE FOR IMF MEMO SLIPPING AGAIN. After telling reporters earlier that the Russian government will submit its memorandum explaining its economic program to the IMF on 4 February, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov told reporters on 3 February that work on the document may take another 10 days. Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov had earlier said the memorandum will be ready on 1 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 1999). "Kommersant-Daily" speculated on 3 February that Primakov is experiencing a mutiny among his staff, since not only Maslyukov but also Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik have publicly contradicted him, saying that a date for completing the memorandum has not been fixed. JAC ANOTHER INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL PROMOTED AT WHITE HOUSE. Boris Ivanov, an officer in the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service before 1992, has been appointed first deputy chief of President Yeltsin's press service directorate, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 February. According to the agency, Ivanov has 20 years of experience in journalism, including stints at TASS and "Izvestiya." JAC DUMA WANTS RYZHKOV OR NO ONE. The State Duma has rejected a candidate to fill the post of deputy speaker, vacated by Vladimir Ryzhkov, who left to head the Our Home Is Russia (NDR) faction. After Duma deputies voted down Andrei Polyakov, who had been proposed by the NDR, Communist Party member and deputy Serge Reshulskii suggested abolishing the post altogether to save money, according to Russian Television. JAC SARATOV GOVERNOR SUPPORTS IDEA OF NEW REGIONAL POLITICAL PARTY. Without commenting directly on fellow NDR member and Governor of Samara Konstantin Titov's formation of a new election bloc of regional heads, Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov told Interfax on 3 February that he supports the idea of a regional political movement and that whoever leads it should concentrate all his attention on the movement to avoid a repetition of what happened with the NDR movement. He predicted that the new Duma will differ radically from the current one because voters in the provinces have learned that only "150 out of the 450 deputies work actively," the rest are dead wood. Duma deputy and former NDR faction leader Aleksandr Shokhin told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that the governors are apparently aspiring to govern the country, not just their individual regions, and that it is impossible to predict the country's future until after the upcoming parliamentary elections. JAC RUSSIANS IN KURILS UNHAPPY WITH JAPANESE FISHING RIGHTS. The Sakhalin Regional Duma has taken up the cause of Russian fishermen in the area of the Kuril Islands, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 February. In a message to the authorities in Moscow, the local parliament claims that the Russian-Japanese fishing agreement signed last year prevents Russian fishermen from entering waters they traditionally fished prior to the agreement, meaning that their catch is now smaller. Vladimir Gorshechnikov, the president of the Sakhalin Association of the Fishing Industry, said bans on fishing aimed at ensuring Japanese fishermen their quota deprive thousands of Kuril residents of their means of earning a living. BP 'MIR' TRIES TO SPREAD SUNSHINE... Cosmonauts on the space station "Mir" tried to position a large reflective screen to deflect sunshine onto Earth for several minutes on 4 February, but problems developed during the screen's unfolding. The experiment was expected to light up parts of Canada, Belarus, Ukraine, Germany, and the Czech Republic. According to ITAR-TASS, scientists hope to deploy such mirrors to light up areas where natural calamities have taken place or emergency situations are occurring. They also want to use them for far northern regions where sunshine can be extremely limited. JAC ...WHILE CHINA MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN STATION. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" speculated on 29 January that a Chinese company might be the foreign investor that the Russian Space Agency is seeking to sponsor "Mir" over the next three years. According to the newspaper, "representatives of the greatest world power still declaring its allegiance to the socialist option" have "far reaching plans for a breakthrough in [the country's] efforts to achieve the status of a superpower." JAC KURDISH REPRESENTATION IN MOSCOW REFUSES COMMENT ON OCALAN. A spokeswoman for the Kurdish National Liberation Front in the CIS and Eastern Europe declined on 3 February to respond to an Interfax query concerning Turkish media allegations that Kurdistan Workers' Party leader Abdullah Ocalan had arrived in Moscow that day. She added that Ocalan's location "has not been made public for his personal safety." LF CHECHEN PRESIDENT DECREES INTRODUCTION OF ISLAMIC LAW... Aslan Maskhadov on 3 February signed decrees suspending the legislative functions of the Chechen parliament and ordering the immediate transition to Shariah law throughout Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. Maskhadov also ordered the creation of a commission to draft a new Islamic constitution within one month. Later, he met with leading field commanders who had demanded the introduction of Islamic law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). The field commanders expressed their continued support for Maskhadov on condition that he implement the new decrees. Maskhadov, for his part, warned them not to proceed with their planned congress of war veterans. They, however, ignored that warning, and the congress took place in Grozny on 4 February, RFE/RL's correspondent in the Chechen capital reported. LF ...WHICH IS SEEN AS STABILIZING MOVE. Former Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov expressed approval of Maskhadov's imposition of Islamic law, which he termed "the most correct decision" and one that will enable Maskhadov "to take the situation in the republic under [his] control," ITAR-TASS reported. Former Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin similarly described Maskhadov's move as an attempt to prevent an open split between the Chechen president and the opposition. But Rybkin also noted that Maskhadov's decree violates the Chechen Constitution adopted under deceased President Djokhar Dudaev. That constitution defines the Chechen Republic Ichkeria as a secular state on the territory of which all religions are equal and does not empower the president to dissolve the parliament. Rybkin also expressed concern at how the introduction of Islamic law in Chechnya might negatively impact on neighboring regions of the North Caucasus. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIA, ARMENIA REJECT CRITICISM OF DEFENSE COOPERATION. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 3 February rejecting Azerbaijani charges that the stationing of Russian arms in Armenia poses a threat to Azerbaijan's security, Russian agencies reported. The statement noted that the weaponry in question, which includes S-300 air-defense missile systems and MiG-29 fighter aircraft, is not being handed over to the Armenian armed forces but deployed at the Russian military base in Armenia. Armenian presidential spokesman Vahe Gabrielian told journalists on3 February that Russian-Armenian cooperation is regulated by the treaty on friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance signed by the two countries' presidents in August 1997. Gabrielian stressed that the number of military personnel and arms deployed at the Russian military base in Armenia does not exceed the limits stipulated by the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. LF WILL PRESIDENT DISSOLVE ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT? Eduard Yegorian, leader of the opposition Hayrenik parliamentary faction, told deputies on 3 February that he believes President Kocharian is planning to dissolve the parliament after the final reading of the new election law, scheduled for 5 February, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Yegorian claimed that Kocharian wants to call pre-term elections in order to undercut the chances of the center-right opposition. The present parliament's term expires in June. Presidential spokesmen declined to comment on Yegorian's predictions. LF ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER RESIGNS. President Robert Kocharian has granted Self-Determination Union chairman Paruyr Hairikian's request to step down as presidential adviser on human rights issues, Interfax reported on 3 February. Hairikian told parliamentary deputies on 26 January that he tendered his resignation in order to be able to contest the upcoming parliamentary elections "as a free citizen," according to Noyan Tapan. Hairikian stressed that he is not withdrawing his cooperation with the Armenian leadership and will continue to serve on commissions of which he is a member. On 28 January, Hairikian predicted that his party will be among the four with the largest representation in the next parliament. LF SPOKESMAN DENIES SPLIT IN AZERBAIJAN'S RULING PARTY. Siyavush Novruzov, a senior official of the Yeni Azerbaycan party loyal to Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, has said that the party's statutes do not allow the creation of factions and therefore claims by party member Einulla Fatullaev to head a faction named Adolat [Justice] are unfounded, TURAN reported on 3 February. Novruzov denied that Fatullaev has already been expelled from the party but did not rule out that possibility. The independent newspaper "Azadlyg" reported on 3 February that some 60 party members have joined Fatullaev's Adolat faction, which aims to foster democracy within the party. "Azadlyg" also claimed that Information Minister Siruz Tebrizli intervened to quash an attempt to expel Fatullaev from Yeni Azerbaycan. LF TOP U.S. OFFICIAL VISITS TBILISI. U.S. special adviser for Caspian issues Richard Morningstar held talks in Tbilisi on 3 February with senior Georgian officials, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. The talks, which Morningstar told journalists were "fruitful," focused on the transportation of Caspian oil and gas to international markets via Georgian territory. Morningstar said intensive discussions are under way with the Turkish government on how to make the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline "economically lucrative." He categorically rejected the alternative route via Iran, adding that the oil companies engaged in exploiting Azerbaijan's Caspian oil "had to face up to harsh economic realities," RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau reported. Morningstar said he hopes that conflicts will not jeopardize the exploitation of the oil pipeline from Baku to the Georgian Black Sea terminal at Supsa. Morningstar also said that the U.S. "is not considering" a military presence in Azerbaijan. LF RUSSIA LAMENTS UZBEK DECISION ON SECURITY TREATY. An official at the Russian Foreign Ministry on 3 February said his country regrets Uzbekistan's decision to withdraw from the CIS Collective Security Treaty, Interfax reported. Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov responded to accusations by Uzbek officials that Russia is increasing its military presence in the CIS countries by arguing that "Russia is pursuing a restrained policy and is curbing military activity particularly in CIS countries." He charged that "individual members of the CIS are increasing the number of military exercises [involving] the participation of NATO units, particularly near the Russian borders." Ivashov added that the collective security treaty is more important than ever as "the U.S. has opted for an open use-of- force policy and NATO is demonstrating aggressiveness and is trying to enlarge its sphere of influence." BP ISLAMIC GROUP POSES THEAT TO UZBEKISTAN. In an interview published in "Xalq Sozi" on 3 February, President Islam Karimov said members of an Islamic group called Hezbi Tahriri Islomiya are active in his country and represent a threat to security. Karimov said the group intends to eliminate all administrative boundaries between Islamic countries and form an "Islamic Caliphate." He noted that the group has substantial financial backing and is already "poisoning the minds" of young and inexperienced people. The Uzbek president called on the government to respect "real Islam" and not allow such forces to act on Uzbek territory. BP KAZAKHSTAN'S GOVERNMENT PROPOSES SPENDING CUTS. Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev announced on 3 February that the government plans to cut 1999 budget expenditures by 10 percent, Russian news agencies and Reuters reported. The cuts will amount to 31 billion tenge ($335 million). Balgimbayev said they are necessary because of the drop in the world-market prices of the country's major exports, oil and metals. In the last quarter of 1998, Kazakhstan lost 40 billion tenge in revenues because of those falling prices. The premier said "excessive benefits and pensions" are the areas first to be trimmed, but he stressed that the government will maintain state funds for those most in need and local budgets will continue to provide part of the funding. Balgimbayev also said there will be reductions in the Finance, Interior, and Defense Ministries of 27, 15, and 30 percent, respectively. BP KAZAKHSTAN RATIFIES BORDER AGREEMENT WITH CHINA. Kazakhstan's parliament on 3 February ratified an agreement with China demarcating a disputed section of their common border, ITAR-TASS reported. Kazakhstan receives 56.9 percent of the contested 34,000 square kilometers. BP KYRGYZ ADMINISTRATION TO MAKE CUTS ALSO. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Jumabek Ibraimov on 3 February gave instructions to the government to cut spending, Interfax reported. Ibraimov said government expenditures on transportation, equipment, services, and communications exceeded its budget by 5 million som ($167,000). Ibraimov placed the responsibility for implementing the cuts on the heads of departments. Ministries, state agencies, and local governments were similarly instructed to cut spending. Limits were also imposed on the use of phones. BP CENTRAZBAT TO BE HELD IN U.S. THIS YEAR. RFE/RL correspondents in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan report that this year's Centrazbat military exercises will be held in the U.S. of Louisiana on 19-20 May. The exercises took place in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in 1997 and in both those countries as well as in Kyrgyzstan last year. They are part of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. END NOTE WHEN THE WORLD TURNS AWAY by Paul Goble When the whole world is watching, even the most authoritarian regimes try to put on a democratic face. But when the world turns away, these same governments and their supporters often revert to the repressive practices and ideas that undercut their propaganda efforts. Following its recent special presidential election, Kazakhstan became the latest in a long line of post- communist countries to follow this pattern, one that seems likely to present increasingly serious challenges to the country's authorities, the people under their control, and the international community as a whole. Before the 10 January poll, in which President Nursultan Nazarbayev was easily reelected, Nazarbayev, his government, and his supporters did everything they could to present Kazakhstan as a country committed to democratic and free market values. They blanketed Western publications with advertisements extolling Kazakhstan's commitments in these areas, while the press in Kazakhstan was full of articles talking about the many linkages between the values of the West and those of Kazakhstan. The authorities hosted international observers. And when they violated democratic norms during the election- -such as excluding former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin from running against Nazarbayev--they sought to cover themselves with at least the veneer of legality. But once the vote and the international attention it had attracted were safely behind them, these same people dropped many of the democratic pretenses they had adopted during the campaign, having failed to convince any of the international observers that the election had been genuinely fair and free. One particularly egregious example of this shift in tone and direction is an article by Kerim Elemes published in the Kazakh-language newspaper "Qazaq Adebiyeti" on 28 January. Because the text of this commentary is unlikely to appear in Kazakhstan-supported advertising abroad, portions of it call for fuller quotation. In a sweeping attack on U.S. interests and intentions in Central Asia, the article asserts that Washington wants "to dissolve Kazakhstan" and to replace Nazarbayev with someone "who does not speak his native language and has no idea about real Kazakhness, that is, a kind of person they want to rule us." The article goes on to asks "What do Americans know about democracy? Their history is a bloody conquest of the new territories not belonging to them.... Kazakhs have never conquered anyone.... Kazakhs know much more about democracy. If Americans are real democrats, why are blacks still slaves in America, why do American Indians still not have equal rights with their conquerors?" Such an article would not have appeared a month ago, just before the election. Not only would it have undercut the message that the Kazakhstan authorities wanted to send; it would also have attracted a great deal of international attention. Now, however, it is unlikely to have that effect. But the appearance of such an article now calls attention to the dilemmas presented by the broader oscillation between democratic propaganda and authoritarian politics. For the authorities in Kazakhstan, this shifting of gears appears likely to reduce rather than increase their legitimacy in the eyes of the population. In the absence of significant economic growth, that could force the regime to rely ever more heavily on repression to remain in power. For the population of Kazakhstan, the move from authoritarianism to democracy and back again seems certain to have two contradictory effects. On the one hand, it almost certainly will contribute to a trivialization of democratic terminology in the minds of many people, as they see democratic terms misused. On the other, it may create greater demands for genuine, as opposed to propaganda, democracy. And for the international community interested in promoting democracy in Kazakhstan and other former communist states, this change of vocabulary inevitably raises some serious questions about how this community can best advance the cause of democracy without generating the kind of instability that might make a democratic transition extraordinarily difficult. Should the international community make a greater and more constant investment in monitoring developments in places such as Kazakhstan rather than going there virtually only when an election takes place? Or would such a policy backfire, infuriating potential supporters by suggesting a continuing tutelage? There are no easy answers to such questions. But the "Qazaq Adebiyeti" article suggests that ever more people will pose such questions, while the various answers given will define not only the fate of democracy in Kazakhstan and other countries similarly situated but many other things as well. 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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