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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 63, Part I, 31 March 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 63, Part I, 31 March 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 * MOSCOW SAYS PRIMAKOV MISSION NOT A FAILURE * IMF SUGGESTS WAYS TO EARN ADDITIONAL BUDGET REVENUE * ANOTHER TAJIK POLITICIAN SHOT DEAD End Note: THE JACKALS AND THE LION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA MOSCOW SAYS PRIMAKOV MISSION NOT A FAILURE. Deputy Foreign Minister Grigorii Karasin told Interfax on 31 March that Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's diplomatic mission to Belgrade and Bonn cannot be characterized as a failure. "No efforts of statesmen aimed at ending bloodshed and returning the situation to one based on sound logic can be called wasted," he explained. Primakov, for his part, argued that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic sent NATO "a positive signal." Provided that support for Albanian separatists ends, Milosevic, according to Primakov, is ready to create conditions for the return of refugees, tackle all problems by political means, and start reducing Yugoslavia's military presence in Kosova if NATO air raids are stopped. After talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Primakov told NTV that Schroeder called on Russia to "continue playing a positive mediation role." Primakov spent six hours with Milosevic on 30 March discussing the Kosova situation, ITAR- TASS reported. JAC GROUP CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR U.S. EMBASSY SHOOTING. A leftist organization called "Skif" (Scythian) has claimed responsibility for the shots fired at the U.S. embassy in Moscow on 28 March, Interfax reported on 31 March. The group said that the attack was the start of a campaign against Western targets to protest NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, AP reported. The group was formed in honor of the late Metropolitan Ioann of St. Petersburg and Ladoga, who according to Interfax, supported left-wing movements but not terrorist organizations. In letters sent to Russian newspapers, the group disclosed the serial numbers of the grenade launchers left on the scene, but the Federal Security Service has so far not confirmed the validity of those missives. JAC SELEZNEV SUGGESTS IMPEACHMENT COULD BE POSTPONED. Russian President Boris Yeltsin's annual address to the federation on 30 March elicited mostly negative appraisals from his fellow politicians. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that the 20-minute speech had no content and that Yeltsin "is completely unable to respond honestly and intelligently to real-life problems." Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov argued that the president's address did not tackle one of the most important issues, namely, the reasons for the mid-August economic crisis. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev told "Kommersant-Daily" the next day that in his speech the president showed his full support for Primakov's government. Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev told Interfax that impeachment proceedings scheduled for 15 April could be postponed to a later date. Earlier, Zyuganov rejected Primakov's request to delay the debates. However, on 31 March, deputy head of the presidential administration Oleg Sysuev told reporters that the administration opposes postponing the vote, saying that "such issues must be dealt with in a clear way." JAC IMF SUGGESTS WAYS TO EARN ADDITIONAL BUDGET REVENUE... Citing one of the participants in negotiations with the IMF, "Vremya MN" on 30 March reported that IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus brought some concrete suggestions for increasing Russia's budget revenue. For example, he reportedly proposed abolishing tax and customs privileges for the media, increasing excise taxes on high octane gasoline, and increasing the taxes collected from Gazprom by $1 billion. Another boost for tax revenues will likely come from President Yeltsin's expected veto of legislation that would reduce value-added tax from 20 percent to 15 percent beginning 1 July, which both the State Duma and the Federation Council have passed, according to Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov on 29 March. Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik said the next day that the government is developing a plan to raise 30-32 billion rubles ($1.2-1.3 billion) in additional budget revenue. JAC ...WHILE 'VERY CONCERNED' ABOUT FIMACO. U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin said on 30 March that the IMF is "very concerned" about Russia's use of an offshore firm to manage its hard-currency reserves, AFP reported. He added that the issue was very much on the minds of IMF officials when they structured the agreement that was reached on 29 March. Last month, a report by the Prosecutor-General's Office detailed the Central Bank's use of a tiny firm, FIMACO, in the Channel Islands to handle billions of dollars of reserves (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1999). JAC RIGHT DEMOCRATS SEEK RELIGIOUS SOLUTION. The trio of members of the Right Cause political movement--former Acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, and former State Tax Service head Boris Fedorov--met with Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini in Rome on 31 March on the next leg of their European tour devoted to finding a peaceful solution to the Kosova crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. They are scheduled to meet later with the Vatican official, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. According to the agency, the three envoys believe that the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches should unite efforts to stop the war. The previous day, the agency reported that the three met with Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic and Patriarch Pavel of the Serb Orthodox Church. "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 30 March that even "if the young reformers fail to influence the warring parties, they will not have wasted their time since the trip is good publicity." JAC SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER WRAPS UP VISIT. After meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on 30 March, Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin announced that the two countries will sign an accord on measures to fight crime and terrorism next month, Interfax reported. Stepashin warned that "some of those terrorists in the North Caucasus who are trying to cloak themselves with religion and Wahhabism will have a hard time." Prince al-Faisal said that Saudi leaders will not be meeting with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, who is currently in Saudi Arabia for the hajj. He also expressed surprise that people claiming to be supporters of Wahhabism in the North Caucasus "have long beards," which is more typical of followers of other religious traditions. The same day, the Saudi foreign minister also met with Duma Chairman Seleznev, with whom he discussed foreign-policy issues such as Iraq and Kosova. Both men agreed that the UN Security Council has been weakened. JAC CUSTOMS SERVICE REPEALS BREAK FOR FOREIGNERS. The State Customs Service announced on 30 March that goods brought in on a temporary basis by foreign firms and organizations will no longer be exempt from customs duties, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, foreign entities will have to pay each month 3 percent of all custom duties for such goods; however, goods brought into the country before 1 April 1999 will not be subject to the new measure. JAC FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS KREMLIN'S CANDIDATE FOR COURT. By a vote of 67 to 46, members of the Federation Council voted on 31 March to reject Mikhail Mityukov's candidacy for the Constitutional Court, ITAR-TASS reported. Mityukov, who is the presidential representative to the Constitutional Court, was nominated by President Yeltsin. JAC PRIMORSKII ELECTIONS ATTRACT SUFFICIENT VOTERS... Voters in Primorskii Krai on 28 March elected candidates for seven of 11 vacancies in the legislative assembly of Nakhodka, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 March. In the city of Arseniev, according to preliminary results, a sufficient number of voters turned out to fill 10 slots in that city's legislative body, according to the newspaper. However, mayoral elections in that city scheduled for the same day were postponed by court order. JAC ...BUT NOT SO IN TUVA. Elections in the Republic of Tuva for the republic's parliament and the legislature of Kyzyl were also held on 28 March. Results were declared invalid because more than 50 percent of eligible voters cast their votes in only two districts for the republic level legislature and in only four districts for the city's legislative assembly, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the agency, three previous elections have also failed to yield valid results because of lack of voter interest. JAC CHECHNYA HALTS EXPORT OF AZERBAIJANI OIL. Chechen Presidential Press Secretary Mairbek Vachagaev announced on 29 March that Chechnya has halted the pumping of Azerbaijani oil through the Chechen sector of the Baku-Grozny- Novorossiisk export pipeline because of Russia's failure to pay for security personnel to guard the pipeline, Turan reported the following day. Vachagaev said that Moscow owes a total 100 million rubles ($4.13 million) for the past six months. A spokesman for the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR told Turan that the disruption of exports via the Baku- Novorossiisk pipeline will not affect oil production, as the alternative Baku-Supsa pipeline is now in operation. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA FOUR ARMENIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIANS TO BOYCOTT PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION. In a statement issued in Yerevan on 30 March, four close political associates of former President Levon Ter- Petrossian said they will not participate in the 30 May parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian, former National Security Minister David Shahnazarian, former Yerevan Mayor Vahagn Khachatrian, and former deputy parliamentary speaker Karapet Rubinian predicted that the poll will be falsified. "The constitutional order in the Republic of Armenia has been destroyed. The institute of elections, as a legal base for forming a government, is not operational," the statement continued. The four politicians said that President Robert Kocharian has failed in all policy areas during his one year in power, adding that the country's economy "is fully controlled by the power structures." LF AZERBAIJAN CONTINUES PROBE OVER INTERCEPTED MIGS. National Security Ministry press spokesman Araz Gurbanov on 30 March denied Russian and Czech reports that the criminal investigation into the 18 March detention of a Russian cargo plane carrying six MiG-21s has been shelved, Turan reported. Gurbanov said the plane violated Azerbaijan's air code by transporting fighter aircraft and weaponry without a license. And he argued that it also infringed the International Convention on Civil Aviation by transporting 16 persons not listed in the flight documents as either passengers or crew. Also on 30 March, CTK quoted a spokesman for the Azerbaijani presidential press service as saying that Azerbaijan is continuing its investigation into the role of the Czech company Agroplast in coordinating the transport of the MiGs from Kazakhstan to the Czech Republic. He said Azerbaijan will keep the MiGs until the investigation is completed. LF AZERBAIJANI STATE ADVISER DENIES PLANS FOR PRESIDENT'S SON TO SUCCEED HIM. State foreign policy adviser Vafa Guluzade has dismissed as a joke claims by former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev that Guluzade is implementing measures to ensure that Ilham Aliev succeeds his father, Heidar, as president of Azerbaijan, Turan reported on 30 March. The independent newspaper "Azadlyg" published Guliev's allegations on 30 March, adding that recent arrests of Interior Ministry officials were connected with the succession scheme. LF IS CORRUPTION DETERRING FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN AZERBAIJAN? Ali Masimov, president of the Foundation for the Development of Democracy, has argued that corruption in Azerbaijan is so serious that bribes paid to bureaucrats by enterprise managers now stand at 200 percent of production costs, Turan reported on 29 March. Consequently, the total "production costs" are so high that domestically produced goods cannot compete with imports on the local market. Masimov also observed that the lack of import quotas for cheap liquor and cigarettes have resulted in a "deep crisis" in Azerbaijan's tobacco and viticulture industries. On 25 March, Turan had quoted Turkish media reports of a meeting between Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and Turkish businessmen, who said that 110 Turkish companies pulled out of Azerbaijan last year because of corruption among Azerbaijani officials. LF UZBEK DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS TBILISI. Hikmatulla Tursunov and his Georgian counterpart, Davit Tevzadze, signed a protocol on expanding defense cooperation in Tbilisi on 30 March, the final day of Tursunov's three-day visit to Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. On 29 March, Tursunov's delegation had visited the Tbilisi aircraft works, which manufactures SU-25 jets. Uzbekistan had reportedly shown an interest in purchasing such aircraft during Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's visit to Tashkent on 9-10 March. But at a press conference on 30 March, Tursunov said the possibility of buying SU-25s was never discussed. Tevzadze told journalists that he and Tursunov discussed the possibility of Uzbek participation in the peacekeeping battalion to be formed by the four GUAM states (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) but that a decision on whether Uzbekistan will do so is not within their competence. LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT SAYS ANTI-CORRUPTION MEASURES INADEQUATE. Nursultan Nazarbaev chaired a session of the State Disciplinary Control Commission in Astana on 29 March, RFE/RL's bureau in Kazakhstan's capital reported the following day. Also present were Prosecutor-General Yurii Khitrin, Interior Minister Qayirbek Suleymenov, and National Security Committee chairman Nurtay Abyqaev. Nazarbaev criticized the work of the commission over the past year, noting that it targets "only small fry, not high-ranking officials," according to Interfax. In the future, the commission will convene monthly, and regional governors will be required to attend. LF ANTI-NAZARBAEV GRAFFITI REPORTED IN TWO KAZAKH CITIES. National Security Council chairman Abyqaev told RFE/RL correspondents in Astana on 30 March that a special group has been formed to investigate the appearance last week of anti- Nazarbaev slogans on fences and buildings in Almaty and Astana. Abyqayev said that the inscriptions were apparently the work of mentally sick people, adding that those persons may have been used by "criminal or illegal groups". LF KYRGYZ OFFICIAL ASSESSES IMPACT OF 'TRADE WAR.' Arzymat Sulaimankulov, deputy minister of industry and foreign trade, said in Bishkek on 30 March that Kyrgyzstan has incurred losses totaling some $1.5 million as a result of the customs tariffs imposed by Kazakhstan on Kyrgyz goods one month ago, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Sulaimankulov predicted that those losses may rise to more than $4 million by the end of the year. He added that Uzbekistan has also increased customs duties on goods from Kyrgyzstan, but he did not provide further details. LF ANOTHER TAJIK POLITICIAN SHOT DEAD. Tajik Socialist Party leader Safarali Kendjaev was shot dead by unidentified gunmen outside his home in Dushanbe on 30 March, AP-Blitz reported. One of Kendjaev's bodyguards also died in the attack, and a second was wounded. Kendjaev was chairman of the Tajik parliament's legislation and human rights committee. He is the third prominent politician to be assassinated in Tajikistan over the past year. LF UZBEK POLICE KILL THREE BOMBING SUSPECTS IN SHOOTOUT. Uzbek police claimed on 30 March to have killed three people suspected of involvement in the 16 February Tashkent bombings that killed 13 people, according to AP on 30 March and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the next day. Three further suspects killed themselves, and several police were wounded during the shootout in an apartment building in Tashkent. LF JAPAN TO ADVANCE NEW LOAN TO UZBEKISTAN. The Japanese government will open a $107.6 million credit line to finance improvements to Uzbekistan's telephone network, Interfax reported on 30 March. An agreement to this effect was reached during Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov's visit to Tokyo last week. LF END NOTE THE JACKALS AND THE LION by Paul Goble As the Commonwealth of Independent States prepares for a summit in Moscow on 2 April, one of Russia's leading foreign- policy commentators is arguing that Moscow should stop trying to integrate the former Soviet space on the basis of the CIS and instead deal one-on-one with each of the former Soviet republics. Appearing at a roundtable discussion organized by the Russian foreign-policy journal "International Affairs," Sergei Karaganov suggests that the CIS today "is a rare example of a retrograde movement in history" and that overcoming "illusions" about it will serve Moscow's interests as it attempts to expand its influence in the countries that now belong to the commonwealth. Karaganov, who is chairman of the prestigious Russian Council for Foreign and Defense Policy and deputy director of the Academy of Sciences' Institute of Europe, has frequently been a bellwether for Russian policy toward the former Soviet republics. And as a result, his argument now is likely to affect how Moscow approaches the upcoming CIS summit. According to Karaganov, the CIS "has long been moving increasingly in the direction of its own disintegration." He suggests it crossed that Rubicon five or six years ago, when it failed to serve as the basis for creating an integrated economic space on the territory of the former Soviet Union. It has been retained, Karaganov insists, largely because current Russian leaders bear some responsibility for the demise of the USSR. Because that opportunity was missed, Karaganov continues, the increasing differences among these countries have now made it impossible to create such an integrated economic space. The more than 1,000 CIS agreements that some of the commonwealth's members have signed have had the effect of discrediting the very idea of future cooperation. Karaganov goes on to argue that the non-Russian countries made "a major strategic mistake" in not agreeing to a tight political arrangement five years ago, one that would have restricted Russia's freedom of action even more than their own. Indeed, he suggests that this mistake was "a paragon of foreign-policy idiocy." But in fact, several CIS leaders, particularly Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, did push at that time for a more precisely defined arrangement among the commonwealth countries, while Russian leaders routinely refused to agree, a reflection of their recognition at the time of what Karaganov is suggesting now. Karaganov also suggests that the non-Russian leaders now recognize their "mistake" and are forming various coalitions and alliances--such as GUAM, which unites Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova and may expand to include others--to gang up on Russia as Karaganov suggests they did at the CIS summit in Chisinau in October 1997. In describing these moves, Karaganov offers the following metaphor. He suggests that the non-Russian leaders now recognize that "only a pack of jackals can tear a lion to pieces." He asks rhetorically what policy the lion, even if he is "sick and wounded," should adopt. And he suggests that "more likely than not" there is only one answer: "to crush the jackals one by one." Unfortunately, as Karaganov notes, Russia lacks "the political and economic resources" needed to do so and therefore should remain calm, recognizing that at present "there is no need to crush anyone." While some observers may see this comment as vitiating his metaphor, many of the leaders of the CIS member states are likely to perceive it as something else: an effort to pressure them into following Moscow's line lest Moscow deal with them one by one in the future, as Karaganov's wounded "lion" might deal with individual "jackals." While some of these leaders may be impressed by Karaganov's logic, others certainly will not be, thus setting the stage for a possibly contentious CIS summit on 2 April and an even more contentious future set of relationships between Russia and its neighbors. 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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