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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 29, Part I, 11 February 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 29, Part I, 11 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 * SERGEEV SETS MAY DEADLINE FOR MERGING NUCLEAR FORCE COMMANDS * RUSSIA'S EARLY WARNING SYSTEM RUNNING LATE? * AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CALLS FOR HALT TO PREDECESSOR'S TRIAL End Note: SPARRING OVER SEVASTOPOL xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA SERGEEV SETS MAY DEADLINE FOR MERGING NUCLEAR FORCE COMMANDS... After meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 10 February, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev told reporters that plans to unite Russia's strategic nuclear forces under one command will be completed by May 1999. Sergeev's plan has met with resistance from many generals, including chief of the armed forces General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin, and even First Deputy Defense Minster Nikolai Mikhailov has criticized it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 24 November 1998). JAC ...AS YELTSIN'S REMARKS CENSORED? Moscow's Center TV reported that President Boris Yeltsin made "quite a few curious statements" during his meeting with Sergeev, which were heard by members of the administration and "a few selected correspondents." However, according to Center TV, film footage of the meeting was silent and all voices were erased. Center TV is owned by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's city government. JAC ARSON SUSPECTED AT INTERIOR MINISTRY REGIONAL HEADQUARTERS. President Yeltsin on 11 February ordered Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Interior Minster Sergei Stepashin to investigate the fire that swept the Interior Ministry's regional headquarters in Samara Oblast the previous day. At least 48 people died, of whom only 16 have been identified. As of 2:00 p.m. Moscow time, another 36 people were still unaccounted for, RFE/RL's correspondent in Samara reported. Stepashin flew to the oblast the same day. JAC FORMER CENTRAL BANKER DENIES CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS. In an open letter to the State Duma, the president, and the prime minister on 11 February, former Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin and former Deputy Central Bank Chairman Sergei Aleksashenko defended their past policies, which are now under scrutiny following the release of former Prosecutor- General Yurii Skuratov's report (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1999). The two bankers said that it was necessary to set up a small offshore firm in the Channel Island of Jersey in order to protect Russia's reserves while the government conducted negotiations with its creditors, Reuters reported. However, they said that only $1.4 billion had ever been transferred, not $50 billion as previously reported. was transferred and Meanwhile, former Finance Minister Boris Fedorov told reporters that corrupt Central Bank and government officials profited from the offshore firm's operations. He said he had tried to raise the issue but was told to mind his own business. JAC RUSSIA'S EARLY WARNING SYSTEM RUNNING LATE? The "Washington Post" reported on 10 February that Russia has only three active early warning systems, which is four fewer than needed to provide round-the-clock coverage. According to the newspaper, for about three hours a day the system could not detect a U.S. missile launch. U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters that "it's fair to say that we are concerned about the potential deterioration of Russia's ballistic missile attack warning capabilities." The same day, NTV cited General Vladimir Dvorkin, director of the Defense Ministry's Fourth Central Research Institute, who "did not deny that the satellites on Russia's missile warning system are somewhat obsolete." However, the network reported "that does not mean that Russia does not have the capacity to monitor launches of ballistic missiles." In addition to its space satellites, there are also "the so-called over-the- horizon radar detection centers." JAC MASLYUKOV SAYS NO LINKAGE BETWEEN FOREIGN POLICY, DEBT. First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov denied allegations in a CIA report that Russia has violated international agreements on non-proliferation of missile and dual-purpose technology, Russian agencies reported on 10 February. Maslyukov added that such accusations "have apparently been made for political purposes." The same day, Maslyukov also distanced himself from earlier statements by his press spokesman Anton Surikov that Russia is being pressured to agree to soften its policy vis-a-vis Kosova and Iraq in order to receive IMF support. He said, "If we agree, then [Western officials] will quickly agree to a restructuring of foreign debt." Maslyukov told Interfax that "the IMF has made no political demand during any of our talks." JAC MOLDOVAN LEGISLATORS IN MOSCOW FOR TALKS ON GAS, TRANSDNIESTER. State Duma Chairman Seleznev met with his Moldovan counterpart, Dumitru Diacov, on 10 February, ITAR- TASS reported. Diacov, who is heading a parliamentary delegation for an official three-day visit, addressed the Duma, devoting the bulk of his speech to the Transdniestrian conflict, INFOTAG reported. Diacov called for Russian legislators' assistance in removing huge arsenals that belonged to Russia's former 14th army and in establishing a "political dialogue" on the question of the Transdniester. Diacov is also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Primakov, Foreign Minister Ivanov, the leadership of the Federation Council, and top officials at Gazprom. A likely topic of discussion will be Moldova's large debt for gas deliveries. Last month, Gazprom cut Moldova's fuel supplies in half. JAC ALTAI KRAI HUNGRY FOR FEDERAL FUNDS. Altai Krai State Assembly Chairman Danil Tabaev declared he will go on a hunger strike on 11 February to protest federal budget arrears to his republic. According to Tabaev, the Finance Ministry has reduced federal transfers to the krai by four times and failed to disburse 73 million rubles ($3.2 million) of 92 million rubles allotted for state workers, "Vremya MN" reported on 10 February. At the Federation Council's last session, Krai Governor Semen Zubakin said that Moscow's financial policies have had the effect of putting 90 percent of the region's population below the poverty line. JAC NIZHNII FALLS TO LUZHKOV? The recent founding meeting of the Nizhnii Novgorod branch of Yurii Luzhkov's Otechestvo [Fatherland] movement is seen by many in the oblast as a major victory for the Moscow mayor, according to "Kommersant- Daily" on 10 February. While a municipal deputy was elected head of the branch, its unofficial leader is considered to be Governor Ivan Sklyarov, who unexpectedly presided over the meeting. Given Sklyarov's de facto leadership and the likely "not insufficient" financial support from the large number of company and bank directors present at the meeting, many locals believe that "Luzhkov already has Nizhnii in his pocket," the newspaper commented. JC VLADIVOSTOK RESIDENTS RAISE FUNDS FOR FORMER MAYOR. Residents of Vladivostok have gathered more than 17,000 rubles ($736) for a legal defense fund for former Mayor Viktor Cherepkov, "Parlamentskaya gazeta" reported on 11 February. The monies will defray not only Cherepokov's legal fees for lawsuits protesting his removal from office but also his travel costs to and from Moscow and possibly The Hague, where he is contemplating filing an appeal with the International Court. JAC RUSSIA MAY CHARGE FEE FOR THOSE WANTING TO LEAVE. The Duma on 10 February passed in the third reading a law requiring individuals crossing Russia's national borders to pay a fee of 80 percent of the minimum wage or 68.4 rubles ($3), ITAR- TASS reported. The minimum wage is now 85.5 rubles but may be raised to 110 rubles. According to AFP, the fee must be paid to a bank and therefore cannot be dealt with on departure since few banks operate at airports or other border checkpoints. To go into effect, the law must also pass the Federation Council and be signed by President Yeltsin. JAC FAR EAST SOLDIERS ON NATURAL FOODS REGIMEN. Inspectors from the Federal Border Guards Service have discovered that soldiers in its regional directorate in Russia's Far East have been reduced to collecting ferns and wild berries and growing what vegetables they can to survive, "Vladivostok" reported on 13 January. Major-General Mikhail Aganesyan, chief of staff of the directorate, explained that his troops received only 30 percent of the money they were allotted in 1998. But he added that they still managed to do their job properly and "not a single trespasser slipped past their patrols." JAC CHECHEN PRESIDENT DEFIES RIVALS. Presidential spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev told journalists on 10 February that Aslan Maskhadov will not recognize the legality of the state council that opposition field commanders intend to create, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that Maskhadov will not dissolve the parliament, either. Maskhadov stripped that body of its legislative powers last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1999). The Chechen president assured supporters that the various Chechen factions will not use violence against one another. Also on 10 February, the field commanders convened the first meeting of the organizing congress they established to elect the proposed state council and new Shariah court. Two prominent field commanders, former acting Premier Shamil Basaev and Culture Minister Akhmed Zakaev, have advocated trying to find common ground with Maskhadov, according to "Vremya MN" on 10 February. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA MURDERED OFFICIAL'S BODYGUARDS ARRESTED IN ARMENIA. A spokesman for the Armenian Prosecutor-General's office told RFE/RL on 10 February that two bodyguards who accompanied General Artsrun Markarian on the day of his death have been arrested. Markarian's body was found near Yerevan on 9 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 1999). The bullets that killed Markarian were fired from his own Smith- Wesson pistol, which was found near the body. Armenian President Robert Kocharian told leading politicians on 10 February that "there is a real hope" that the murder will be solved swiftly, as the circumstances are "apparently simpler" than those surrounding the murders of two other senior officials in recent months. LF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CALLS FOR HALT TO PREDECESSOR'S TRIAL. In a statement issued by the presidential press service on 10 February, Heidar Aliev recommended that the criminal proceedings against Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman and former president Abulfaz Elchibey be halted, Turan and Interfax reported. Elchibey was charged with insulting the honor and dignity of the president after he alleged in November 1998 that Aliev played a role in the creation of the Kurdistan Workers' Party. Elchibey intended to produce documents in court substantiating that accusation. His trial originally opened on 25 January but has been adjourned several times since then (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January and 9 February 1999). LF AZERBAIJAN OIL EXPORT VIA CHECHNYA RESUMED. The Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) resumed the export of offshore oil via the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk pipeline on 10 February, Turan reported. Export had been halted following a fire in the Chechen sector of the pipeline on 4 February, which led the halt of oil production at the Chirag field on 9 February. Chechen presidential spokesman Mairbek Vachagaev denied claims that the pipeline was sabotaged, according to ITAR-TASS. The Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR has written repeatedly to the Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft, which operates the Russian sector of the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline, to protest frequent malfunctions. AIOC President David Woodward said in Baku on 1 February that his consortium may ask Transneft to reduce the tariffs for use of that pipeline from $15.67 per metric ton (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February 1999). LF GEORGIA, RUSSIA SEEK RAPPROCHEMENT. Meeting on 9 February with Russian Transport Minister Sergei Frank, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze urged Moscow to participate in the EC's TRACECA project to construct a road, rail, and ferry network linking Central Asia and Europe via the Caucasus. The following day, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Leonid Drachevskii held talks with senior Georgian officials, including Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili. Drachevskii later told journalists that the aim of his visit was "to discuss Georgian-Russian relations and find a solution to existing problems," according to Caucasus Press. He also discussed possible solutions to the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts. On 9-10 February, Russian First Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Mikhailov inspected Russian military and naval bases in Georgia in order to prepare a list of Russian facilities that are to be handed over to the Georgian government, ITAR-TASS reported. LF MORE KAZAKHSTANI PARTIES COMPLAIN ABOUT DELAYS IN REGISTERING. Amirzhan Kosanov, a leader of the Kazakh Republican People's Party, complained on 10 February that the Justice Ministry is delaying registration of the party to prevent it from participating in parliamentary elections later this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 1999), RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. The same day, Seydakhmet Kuttykadam held a press conference to complain about the delay in registering his movement, Orleu, which he similarly attributed to an attempt to prevent the movement from taking part in the ballot. Meanwhile, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has returned to Kazakhstan from Moscow, and it has been announced he may attend the founding congress of the re-organized pro-Nazarbayev party OTAN, which has merged with other parties supporting the president. BP MURDERER OF TAJIK OPPOSITION LEADER KILLED TRYING TO ESCAPE. Ravshan Gafurov, who was captured by Tajik police in late January and then confessed to killing Otakhon Latifi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 27 January 1999) was shot and killed by police on 10 February while trying to escape, ITAR- TASS reported. Gafurov attempted to flee while he was being taken from his cell to the outskirts of the capital, where investigators hoped to find more evidence on the Latifi case. After firing warning shots, the police shot down Gafurov. BP OUTLAWED GROUP GOES ON TRIAL IN DUSHANBE. The trial of 14 members of the Sadirov brothers' band charged with murder and kidnapping began on 11 February, ITAR-TASS reported. The group was responsible for kidnapping UN employees, Russian journalists, and Tajik government officials between December 1996 and November 1997. Bahrom Sadirov turned himself in after receiving wounds in a fight with Tajik troops in spring 1997. His brother, Rezvon, was killed by Tajik troops in November 1997. BP TAJIK COMMISSION PROPOSES BICAMERAL PARLIAMENT. The National Reconciliation Commission has approved a recommendation for creating a bicameral parliament, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 February. It is the first recommendation the commission has made since it began work in September 1997. The commission is charged with proposing changes to the country's constitution in order to create conditions for elections to the parliament and the presidency. Also, the commission reached consensus on the formation of the Central Election Commission, which will have 15 members, four of whom will be from the United Tajik Opposition. BP AFGHAN NEGOTIATIONS TO BE HELD IN TURKMEN CAPITAL. Representatives from the Afghanistan's Taliban movement and opposing forces under the command of General Ahmed Shah Masoud have agreed to hold talks in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, ITAR-TASS and AP reported on 10 February. The announcement came after representatives of the warring factions and the UN met in Ashgabat. Both sides stressed that Turkmenistan, which is officially recognized by the UN as a neutral country, is the only acceptable venue for their meeting. No date has been set for the beginning of formal negotiations, but the informal talks in Ashgabat are expected to continue on 11 February. There has been no mention to date of any party from outside Afghanistan taking part in those negotiations. BP CHAIRWOMAN OF KYRGYZ SOCIAL FUND RESIGNS. Roza Uchkempirova, the chairwoman of Kyrgyzstan's Social Fund, handed in her resignation to President Askar Akayev on 10 February, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Uchkempirova's dismissal follows remarks by Prime Minister Jumabek Ibraimov on 8 February suggesting that Uchkempirova had been involved in financial mismanagement. Two days earlier, Prosecutor-General Asanbek Sharshenaliev had told a government meeting on 6 February that his office has evidence that Uchkempirova spent 1.5 million som ($50,000) on cans of food that were past their expiry date. Those cans were intended for pensioners. According to Sharshenaliev, the fund has a record of buying cheap products for pensioners and altering the books to inflate purchase prices. BP KARIMOV COMMENTS ON CIS... In his meeting with Russian Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev on 11 February in Tashkent, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said "Russia does not have a clear policy for countries in the Central Asian region," ITAR-TASS reported. Karimov said that if "the states in the region are divided, then we will lose everything," a possible allusion to a dispute between his country and Tajikistan. Tashkent has publicly blamed Russian interference for that dispute. Karimov favored increased economic cooperation within the CIS, but with regard to Uzbekistan's decision to withdraw from the CIS Collective Security Treaty, he said "the Russians themselves have caught on to the fact that the agreement provided nothing." By way of example, he said that "when the Taliban captured the northern part of Afghanistan and were pointed toward us, no one from the CIS helped us.┼ [Belarusian President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka repudiated the agreement...and said he wouldn't send even one of his soldiers." At the same time, Karimov said the treaty could and should be revised. BP ...AND ON UZBEKISTAN. Karimov also noted that "Uzbekistan will never be a Shariah Islamic state." He pointed to "the great amount of attention given to developing the education and preparation of cadres in the republic" so that one day power will be transferred to "conscientious youth who have not fallen under foreign influence." While not explicitly calling for better relations with Russia, Karimov said, "Don't believe [those' who say Uzbekistan is drifting away from Russia--this is pure fiction." BP END NOTE SPARRING OVER SEVASTOPOL by Julie A. Corwin and Jan Maksymiuk Next week, Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, will again take up the issue of the Russian-Ukrainian treaty of friendship. The debate promises to be sharp, as the treaty has become increasingly controversial since its passage in the State Duma on 25 December 1998 and in Ukraine's Supreme Council on 14 January 1998. The treaty, which guarantees the inviolability of the current border between Russia and Ukraine, was first signed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, on 31 May 1997. The Federation Council seems likely to approve the treaty, fearing its rejection could drive Ukraine into NATO's embrace. But the issues of Crimea's status and Slavic integration are likely to remain hot topics in Russian politics, gaining in intensity as presidential elections near. After all, likely presidential contender Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and his adviser, Konstantin Zatulin, director of Russia's Institute for CIS Countries, have been the most outspoken recently in condemning the treaty. Similarly, the presidential contenders from among the Communists, party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, have been equally impassioned in the treaty's defense. In his speech to the Federal Council on 27 January, Luzhkov reportedly managed to persuade some senators in the Council to change their plans and vote to postpone consideration of the treaty. In his remarks, Luzhkov stressed that ratification of the treaty would in effect separate Crimea and Sevastopol from Russia forever, thus undermining the goal of brotherly relations between Russia and Ukraine. He also charged Ukraine with discriminating against ethnic Russians. Prior to that speech, Luzhkov's adviser, Zatulin launched his own attack on the treaty in a lengthy article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta." Anticipating Luzhkov's remarks, Zatulin argued that Crimea and Sevastopol belong "indisputably" to Russia and that an official endorsement of the Russian-Ukrainian treaty would legally seal their secession from Russia. According to Zatulin, CPSU General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev moved to transfer Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 in order to "enlist support of comrades from the Ukrainian Communist Party" in his struggle "to expose the cult of personality [of Joseph Stalin]" in the then CPSU Politburo. The formal decision to transfer Crimea from the RSFSR to the Ukrainian SSR--following a joint motion by the Supreme Soviet Presidiums of the RSFSR and the Ukrainian SSR- -was made by the USSR Supreme Soviet on 26 February 1954. That decision, according to Zatulin, contravened the USSR and RSFSR Constitutions, both of which pledged to guarantee the territorial integrity of the RSFSR. Regardless of its legal validity, Zatulin continues, the 1954 decision to incorporate Crimean Oblast into Ukraine did in no way embrace Sevastopol, which had been declared an independent administrative and economic center--subordinated directly to the RSFSR authorities in Moscow--by a USSR Supreme Soviet decree in 1948. Thus, Zatulin concludes, Ukraine has no legal rights whatsoever to the "city of Russia's military glory," as Russian media often refer to Sevastopol--the main base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Zatulin also addressed the issue of what he called the "ethnic genocide" of the 10 million Russians in Ukraine. These Russians, according to Zatulin, are currently subjected to a policy of forced Ukrainization and denied the right to develop their own independent ethnic identity. Zatulin concludes that the adoption of the Russian-Ukrainian treaty will result in Russia's "strategic defeat." Among those in favor of ratifying the treaty, rhetoric is equally inflamed. Duma Chairman Seleznev suggested that those who oppose the treaty "want to tear Ukraine away" from Russia and foil plans to form a Slavic Union of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. In what may be wishful thinking on his part, Seleznev concludes that Luzhkov is "committing political suicide" by opposing the treaty. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov is more nonchalant, blaming Luzhkov's opposition to the treaty on Zatulin, who, according to Zyuganov, spawns "scandals and discord wherever he appears." Zyuganov argues that the treaty is key to the revival of a Slavic union composed of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. While the bulk of the Russian electorate purportedly regrets the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it is unclear what financial or political costs--if any--they are willing to bear for some kind of smaller reconstituted Union or bigger and better Russia. Nevertheless, that sentiment can and will be exploited by both the Russian nationalists and Pan-Slavists, as Luzhkov, Zyuganov, and Seleznev have already so ably demonstrated. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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