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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 27, Part I, 9 February 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 27, Part I, 9 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 * COMMUNISTS CALL FOR REVISING CONSTITUTION * YELTSIN CUTS JORDAN TRIP SHORT * AZERBAIJANI RULING PARTY WANTS ALIEV'S SON TO SUCCEED HIM xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA COMMUNISTS CALL FOR REVISING CONSTITUTION. Soon after the Security Council approved the "political peace treaty" proposed by Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov suggested that constitutional amendments on the redistribution of power between government branches be adopted within a month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 1999). Primakov's plan called for the legislative and executive branches to refrain from suggesting unilateral amendments to the constitution. Zyuganov told reporters on 8 February that amendments redistributing power are necessary because sooner or later "a decree with [President Boris] Yeltsin's signature will be issued and the cabinet will have to resign." Zyuganov also called for abolishing presidential elections, suggesting that the president be selected by a body made up of elected representatives and regional leaders as well as members of political parties and movements, trade unions, and every religion. JAC YELTSIN CUTS JORDAN TRIP SHORT. Russian President Yeltsin's trip to Amman, Jordan, on 8 February to attend King Hussein's funeral was quick, lasting only six hours. However, he managed to chat briefly with the presidents of the U.S., France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey as well as with the King of Spain, Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Interfax reported. Yeltsin also met with new King of Jordan Abdullah Hussein. Various news agencies reported that presidential aides supported Yeltsin as he walked up the stairs of the Raghadan palace, but Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Russian Public Television that Yeltsin did not require medical assistance during "a single moment" of the trip. "Izvestiya" reported that Yeltsin "looked radiant" as he disembarked in Amman, commenting that he was apparently not stricken by grief but elated by his effort "to put Prime Minister Primakov in his place." It was originally planned that Primakov, an Arabist by training, would head the delegation. JAC ARMED FORCES WILL HAVE TO WAIT FOR NEW WEAPONS. In a speech to the Air Defense University in Tver Oblast on 8 February, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said the Russian armed forces will not start receiving new weapons until after 2005, ITAR- TASS reported. Until then, existing weapons must be repaired and updated if possible. Navy Commander Vladimir Kuroydov was more optimistic, telling ITAR-TASS on 6 February that the navy will get new weapons in the near future, possibly later this year. In the nearer term, however, the navy will focus on "research and development for future projects." JAC ASSISTANCE SOUGHT FOR POCKETS OF STARVATION IN FAR EAST... The Russian branch of the International Red Cross has called for $5 million to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in the Far East, where 82,000 people need medical and food aid, AFP reported on 8 February. According to a Moscow-based Red Cross representative, the aid is needed within six weeks, to avoid deaths from starvation in Chukotka, Magadan, and Kamchatka Oblasts. Many hospitals in Magadan have been forced to reduce their operations because of a shortage of anesthetics, while the tuberculosis rate in the three-oblast area is four times the national average. JAC ...AS SVERDVLOVSK APPEALS FOR FOOD AID. Sverdlovsk Oblast authorities are appealing for 75,000 tons of wheat, 27,000 tons of soy, 4,000 tons of rice and also meat and powdered milk from the food assistance shipments provided by the EC and U.S., "Vremya MN" reported on 5 February. According to the daily, the price of bread has risen 30 percent and the oblast cannot purchase the necessary volume of wheat that it needs from its traditional suppliers, Kurgan Oblast and Bashkortostan, whose own supplies are low. In addition, the oblast's minister of labor and economics, Galina Kovaleva, revealed that the oblast government does not have enough money to import bread. JAC START-II ON AGENDA FOR MARCH. State Duma Security Committee Chairman and member of the Communist Party Viktor Ilyukhin told Interfax on 9 February that the Duma will start debating ratification of the START-II treaty in March. According to the agency, Ilyukhin does not think that the treaty will be ratified. Writing in "Novoe Vremya," Aleksandr Pikaev of the Moscow Carnegie Center says the chances of ratification for the treaty have never been so small. According to Pikaev, the U.S.'s suggested revision of the ABM treaty requires that the whole process of nuclear arms reduction be rethought. He concludes that the U.S. has left Russia with little choice: "Either the U.S. quits the treaty unilaterally or Russia gives its consent and gets in turn at least a hypothetical chance of influencing Washington's anti-ballistic missile defense system policy." JAC RUSSIA, KUWAIT DISCUSS BIGGER, BETTER OPEC. After meeting with Kuwaiti Prime Minster and Foreign Minister Sabah Jaber Ahmad Sabah on 8 February, Prime Minister Primakov declared that Russia hopes to broaden military-technical and economic cooperation with Kuwait. Primakov, according to his spokesperson, told Sabah that Russia will continue to insist on using only political and diplomatic tools to resolve Iraq's dispute with the UN over weapons inspections. Sabah is also scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, Minister of Fuel and Energy Sergei Generalov, and top officials at Rosvooruzhenie. Generalov said that he and Sabah will discuss the creation of a new petroleum exporting organization combining OPEC and IPEC. JAC PASKO TRIAL POSTPONED AGAIN. The espionage trial of military journalist Grigorii Pasko reopened in Vladivostok on 8 February only to be suspended again until 16 February. Pasko's lawyers won a recess until then to find a replacement for defense lawyer Karen Nersisian, who was barred from the trail on 29 January for allegedly leaking sensitive information to the press, ITAR-TASS reported. Pasko is charged with providing classified materials to Japanese television about the Northern Fleet's illicit dumping of nuclear waste. In a similar espionage case, lawyers for Aleksandr Nikitin, an environmentalist accused of publishing classified information about the Northern Fleet, have decided to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights, ITAR- TASS reported on 9 January. JAC KOMI ELECTS NEW STATE COUNCIL... Residents of Komi Republic went to the polls on 7 February to elect a new local legislature and municipal councils. RFE/RL's Russian Service reported that among those elected to the 50-strong State Council were 16 managers of leading local companies, 13 local administration heads, and three trade union leaders. Yabloko won only a single seat, while the Communist Party left empty- handed. Turnout was 44.81 percent, according to ITAR-TASS. JC ...WHILE VOTERS STAY AT HOME IN KARELIA. The same day, in two by-elections in Karelia, Yabloko member Aleksandr Gavrilov and television journalist Viktor Maksimov, backed by a voters' initiative group, were elected to the republic's Legislative Assembly, ITAR-TASS reported. According to preliminary results, Gavrilov received 39.5 percent of the vote and Maksimov 52 percent. Turnout was only 15 percent in Petrozavodsk, where Gavrilov triumphed. Election officials attributed this to temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius. The republic's law does not stipulate a minimum turnout for the elections to be valid. JC ALLEGED ARMENIAN SPY ARRESTED IN RUSSIA. Federal Security Service personnel arrested an Armenian in Tver on 3 February on suspicion of espionage, "Vremya MN" reported the next day. The man, whose name was given as Karmen Tunan, was said to be in possession of an automatic pistol with a silencer and an identity card naming him as on the staff of the Armenian Interior and National Security Ministry. LF AFFORDABLE HOUSING EVER MORE SCARCE IN SIBERIA. To purchase an apartment in Novosibirsk is now out of reach for all but the super-rich, "Nezavisimaya gazeta--Krug zhiznii" reported in its February issue. Since the 17 August devaluation of the ruble, apartments now cost twice as much as before. The few people who still had money after the crisis cornered the real estate market, quickly buying up apartments without even looking at them, according to the newspaper. Before the crisis, a two-room apartment with a telephone near the metro cost 150,000 rubles ($6,500 at the current exchange rate). JAC YELTSIN RULES PROPOSED REFERENDUM IN INGUSHETIA UNCONSTITUTIONAL. President Yeltsin on 6 February overruled Ingush President Ruslan Aushev's December decree ordering a referendum on 28 February on the division of responsibilities between Ingushetia and the federal center, Interfax reported. The referendum is intended to gauge the degree of public support for Aushev's proposals that Moscow should have no say in the nomination or dismissal of local police chiefs in Ingushetia and that certain, specifically Ingush customs (such as the abduction of a young girl by her prospective bridegroom or carrying a dagger) should not be considered crimes in Ingushetia, even though they are not permitted under the criminal code of the Russian Federation. Interfax reported on 8 February that the deputy chief of the Russian presidential staff, Oleg Sysuev, and Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Vyacheslav Mikhailov will meet with Aushev on 11 February to discuss unspecified "problems" that have arisen as a result of Yeltsin's ban on the referendum. LF CHECHEN PRESIDENT SAYS ISLAMIC LAW DOES NOT PRECLUDE DEMOCRACY. Aslan Maskhadov told journalists in Grozny on 8 February that the introduction of Shariah law, which he decreed on 3 February, will ensure democratic government and "will not leave any place for extremism, fundamentalism, and other radical trends," Interfax reported. The previous day, Maskhadov had decreed the creation of a shura, or Islamic council, as demanded last year by the radical field commanders who head the opposition to him, several of whom he named as its members. But since the shura is merely a consultative body, his rivals may ignore it. They plan to meet on 9 February to create their own alternative shura, which former Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov said will be empowered to nominate the next Chechen president, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 9 February. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT CONVENES EMERGENCY DEBATE OVER ARMENTEL. Deputies on 8 February began debating an opposition demand that the law on telecommunications be amended in order to strip the ArmenTel telecommunications company of the 15-year exclusive rights it acquired one year ago, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Constitutional Court ruled in January that the relevant article of the telecommunications law violates the constitutional ban on state and natural monopolies but need not necessarily be amended in the next five years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999). A U.S. former employee fired from ArmenTel last year claimed on 5 February that corruption within the company is endemic, and that Armenian officials have accepted millions of dollars in bribes from Trans World Telecom, which previously owned a 49 percent stake in ArmenTel. LF FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S TRIAL AGAIN ADJOURNED. The trial of Abulfaz Elchibey on charges of slandering the honor of President Heidar Aliev, which was scheduled to resume at a Baku district court on 8 February, has again been postponed, this time until 11 February, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January and 3 February 1999). No explanation was offered for the delay. "Avrasiya" on 8 February quoted Elchibey's lawyer as arguing that the case should be closed as there is no evidence to substantiate the charge. In November 1998, Elchibey claimed that Aliev was instrumental in creating the Kurdistan Workers' Party. Elchibey subsequently told journalists that he will produce documentation in court to substantiate that allegation. LF AZERBAIJANI RULING PARTY WANTS ALIEV'S SON TO SUCCEED HIM... "Yeni Azerbaycan," the newspaper of the eponymous ruling party, argued on 5 February that "public opinion" supports the candidacy of Aliev's son Ilham to succeed him as president, Turan reported. The newspaper added that Ilham "is the bearer of the genetic code of Heidar Aliev" and that "this genetic code does not belong to an ordinary person, but to a national patriarch and leader of the state." Sayad Aran, head of the Yeni Azerbaycan party's ideological department, told Turan three days later that the party supports Ilham Aliev's candidacy. But Abulfaz Elchibey and Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar dismissed the argument that Ilham is genetically the most suitable successor to the presidency as "dilettantism." LF ...EXPELS WOULD-BE REFORMER. Eynulla Fatullaev, who reportedly tried to create a faction within the Yeni Azerbaycan party to promote democratization, has been expelled from the party's ranks, Turan reported on 6 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1999). The independent newspaper "Azadlyq" quoted Fatullaev on 6 February as saying that he will continue to struggle for "political purity" within the party. LF KYRGYZ PRIME MINISTER MAKES ACCUSATIONS... Jumabek Ibraimov, speaking at a press conference in Bishkek on 8 February, said three leading officials are to be dismissed, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Former Finance Minister Taalaibek Koichumanov, who is currently head of the government's financial and investment department, chairwoman of the National Social Fund Roza Uchkempirova, and Salmor Alykulov, director-general of the Kyrgyztelekom joint-stock company, will all be sacked for embezzlement. Ibraimov did not say whether they will be formally charged. Such a decision must be approved by President Askar Akayev. BP ...AND REVELATIONS. Ibraimov also said that in the past, high ranking posts in the government have been "sold" to individuals. Ibraimov said that since he became prime minister, his relatives have been offered bribes in exchange for receiving positions in the government or in leading companies. He also said someone had offered him a $200,000 bribe to privatize a state industry and another a $50,000 bribe to become head of the Kyrgyzalco joint-stock company. The premier declined to name any particular individual but stressed the need to fight economic crime and corruption. He said the IMF and World Bank are prepared to help Kyrgyzstan to achieve this. BP INVESTIGATION INTO SLAYING OF UN WORKERS CONCLUDED. The office of the Tajik Prosecutor-General has completed its investigation into the killing of four UN employees last July and sent the case to the Supreme Court, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 February. The three men from the United Tajik Opposition will appear in court soon. All three were handed over by the UTO to law enforcement authorities. BP KAZAKHSTAN'S JUSTICE MINISTRY DELAYING REGISTRATION OF PARTIES. Viktor Voronov, the chairman of the ZAN Corporation, held a press conference in Almaty on 8 February to complain about Justice Ministry delays in registering political parties, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Voronov said the ministry is "biased" in its treatment of certain parties and movements, noting that the For Free Elections movement attempted to register in October and has still received no reply. According to Kazakhstan's law, the registration process must be completed within 15 days of submitting necessary forms. Voronov also pointed out that OTAN, a party organized by supporters of incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev, was registered quickly. BP KAZAKHSTAN'S PROSECUTOR-GENERAL COMPLAINS ABOUT GOVERNMENT. Yurii Khitrin told a meeting of the finance committee of the parliament's lower house on 8 February that the government is responsible for the "deliberate destruction" of agencies subordinated to the prosecutor's office, ITAR-TASS reported. Khitrin said since he came to office in 1997, the government has cut personnel three times and that following the latest cut in late January, only 1,335 people remain working in his office. Khitrin also complained about the plans to cut financing for his office by 390 million tenge ($4.5 million) and to lower the budgetary status of the office, which, he noted, will result in even more personnel cuts. BP TAJIK PRESIDENT DECLARES WAR ON TERRORISM, ORGANIZED CRIME. Imomali Rakhmonov, addressing the country's power structures and law enforcement agencies on 9 February, declared 1999 the year of combating terrorism and organized crime, ITAR-TASS reported. Rakhmonov said the battle must begin with "self- cleansing" within the power structures and law enforcement agencies as they "all too often break the laws, are involved in crimes, and are connected with the narcotics business." Rakhmonov said that illegally-owned weapons must be confiscated and order must be enforced within military units. He ordered an inventory of all national armed forces and military formations of the UTO, to be completed by 1 March. BP 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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