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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 80, Part I, 26 April 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 80, Part I, 26 April 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 * BLAST ROCKS U.S., BRITISH CONSULATES IN SVERDLOVSK OBLAST * GOVERNMENT MISSED REVENUE COLLECTION GOAL * UZBEKISTAN JOINS GUAM End Note: LUZHKOV AIMS TO JOIN REGIONAL LEADERS xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA BLAST ROCKS U.S., BRITISH CONSULATES IN SVERDLOVSK OBLAST. A bomb exploded outside the building housing both the U.S. and British consulates in Ekaterinburg on 24 April. According to NTV, the building was severely damaged but no one was injured. ITAR-TASS reported that the bomb appeared to be a home-made device. A Federal Security Service spokesman said the consulates may not have been the intended target of the blast since several commercial enterprises are housed in the same building and their windows were closer to where the bomb was planted. Nonetheless, Ekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii called the bombing a "senseless and cruel provocation" and said "if anyone thinks that they are thereby fighting NATO, they are mistaken; they are fighting those residents living in neighboring [apartment] buildings." Soon after NATO began air strikes on Yugoslavia, a demonstration protesting the action was held outside the consulates (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 March 1999). JAC FOREIGN MINISTER REJECTS NATO OIL EMBARGO. Igor Ivanov said in Cairo on 24 April that Russia will not participate in a possible oil embargo against Yugoslavia, which NATO leaders agreed to during the alliance summit in Washington from 23-25 April. French President Jacques Chirac has expressed fear of a possible confrontation between Russian vessels bringing fuel to Yugoslavia and NATO warships. Energy products make up about 80 percent of Russian exports to Yugoslavia. The following day, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told the BBC in Washington that NATO commanders are "looking at options" to avoid such a confrontation. She added that "the Russians have made it clear that they are not going to get involved militarily." British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in the U.S. capital that "we are really trying hard to make sure all the doors are open to Russia to reopen dialogue with us." He added that "we want Russia to be part of the solution, not the problem." FS CHERNOMYRDIN, TALBOTT TO DISCUSS PEACE PLAN. Senior Kremlin officials held consultations with Russia's special envoy for Yugoslavia, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and senior Russian military commanders on 26 April, AP reported. The meeting took place just hours ahead of scheduled talks in Moscow between Chernomyrdin and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. The decision to dispatch Talbott to Moscow came after Russian President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton's 25 April telephone conversation in which they discussed Russia's mediation efforts. Chernomyrdin is expected to submit to Talbott the Russian peace plan for Kosova. "Kommersant-Daily" on 24 April said that Chernomyrdin favors a peace-keeping force composed of Uzbek, Georgian, Azerbaijani, Ukrainian, Czech, and Polish forces. The daily added that Chernomyrdin also wants Serbian forces and police to withdraw to the levels agreed on by Milosevic and U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke last October. FS GOVERNMENT MISSED REVENUE COLLECTION GOAL... Budget revenues in the first quarter of 1999 fell 2.1 percent shy of the targeted 89.2 billion rubles ($3.6 billion), according to the Finance Ministry, Interfax reported on 23 April. The Tax Ministry provided 54.4 billion rubles, which was 7.8 percent less than expected, while the State Property Committee fetched 681.6 million rubles, 56.1 percent less than estimated. Reuters reported that Deputy Tax Minister Sergei Shulgin claimed on 21 April that his ministry collected 25.5 billion rubles in March. This would mean the ministry had performed significantly better than the target of 18.1 billion rubles, according to Tax Minister Georgii Boos, Interfax reported. Shulgin added that the Tax Ministry also plans to meet the Finance Ministry target of 24.5 billion rubles for April. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov told reporters on 23 April that the duty on oil exports is to double on 20 May, Interfax reported. JAC ...AS WORLD BANK PREDICTS SOCIAL CRISIS STILL HASN'T PEAKED. Johannes Linn, the World Bank vice president for Europe and Central Asia, said on 25 April that Russia's social crisis is likely to peak next year because of the continuing decline in the Russian economy, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported. He added that next winter will likely be the most difficult time for Russia and its neighbors. First Deputy Economics Minister Ivan Materov said on 23 April that Russian GDP in 1999 is unlikely to meet last year's level but that in 2000 the economy will grow 3 percent. JAC BEREZOVSKII REPORTS FOR QUESTIONING. Business tycoon and former CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii appeared at the Office of the Prosecutor-General on 26 April for questioning. According to Interfax, Berezovskii left his hospital bed against doctors' orders. Berezovskii repeated his claims of innocence, saying that he is going to the prosecutor's office "as a law-abiding citizen." Earlier, it was reported that Berezovskii is suspected of money- laundering and "illegal entrepreneurship." JAC PRIME MINISTER SAYS HE REGRETS TAKING THE JOB... In an interview with Moscow's TV-6 on 25 April, Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov repeated that he would not participate in upcoming presidential elections. "I am sick and tired of repeating that I don't want to participate in elections now. I don't have any ambitions or desire to participate in the active political struggle for power," he said. He also admitted that he has "regretted many times" his decision to accept the post of prime minister. Primakov contested the view that his government is anti-business and anti-economic reform. "I know very well from history, from U.S. and German history, that without state regulation it is impossible to build a normal market economy. It is moreover impossible to get out of a crisis," he explained. JAC ...AS NEW PRESS ADVISER NAMED. "Vremya MN" reported on 23 April that Thomas Kolesnichenko, a prominent journalist specializing in foreign policy, has been appointed Primakov's adviser on public relations. According to the daily, Kolesnichenko will help Primakov "develop a taste for talking with journalists" and prevent him from quarreling with them, as he has done in the past. JAC NEW ELECTORAL BLOC WILL NOT NOMINATE ITS OWN CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT... At Otechestvo's second congress in Yaroslavl on 24 April, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov confirmed that his movement and Vsya Rossiya will act as a single bloc in Duma elections. He suggested that an alliance with Yabloko is also possible and that he will hold consultations with Golos Rossii "if this movement becomes viable." Meanwhile, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, a member of Vsya Rossiya, announced on 23 April that his bloc will not nominate a candidate for presidential elections, nor will it have an official leader (see also "End Note"). JAC ...AS COMMUNISTS AIM TO DISQUALIFY OTECHESTVO. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told reporters that some deputies from the Communist faction are preparing an inquiry to send to Russia's Supreme Court over the "illegality of the registration of Otechestvo," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 April. According to Seleznev, the movement was registered "behind the scenes on a Saturday night" and the Justice Ministry did not have enough time to verify all its documentation. According to the daily, the battle will be difficult to win in court since the relevant laws do not stipulate how much time the "verifying body needs to check documentation." JAC ZYUGANOV UNPOPULAR WITH RUSSIAN YOUTH? Igor Malyarov, first secretary of the Russian Communist Youth Union, told "Novye Izvestiya" on 23 April that the leadership of his organization as well as that of the National Patriotic Union's Youth Movement would rather see Seleznev or Duma Defense Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin as candidates for president of Russia than the current leader of the Communist Party Gennadii Zyuganov. JAC TOP DUMA STAFFER ARRESTED FOR BRIBERY. Vladimir Trofimov, chief of staff for the Duma's Foreign Relations Committee, has been arrested by Federal Security Service officials on suspicion of taking a $5,000 bribe, "Segodnya" reported on 24 April. According to the daily, Trofimov received the money in exchange for lobbying for an international agreement that would benefit several Russian scientific institutes. Andrei Kozyrev, the committee's deputy chairman and a former foreign minister, told the newspaper that the arrest was a blow to the whole committee but particularly to its chairman Vladimir Lukin. The newspaper reported that Trofimov enjoyed Lukin's confidence and frequently acted on his behalf. JAC ANOTHER KREMLIN OFFICIAL DEPARTS. President Yeltsin issued a decree 20 April dismissing Ruslan Orekhov from the office of deputy director of the presidential administration and director of the state legal department of the administration, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 23 April. According to the daily, Orekhov had submitted a request to resign some two months earlier. JAC PAKISTAN GOVERNMENT DELEGATION VISITS TATARSTAN. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Kazan on 22 April at the head of a 60- person delegation, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The following day, Sharif met with Tatarstan's Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov to discuss the prospects for trade and economic cooperation, in particular the purchase by Pakistan of KamAZ trucks or their assembly in Pakistan. The two sides agreed on the creation of a bilateral working commission. The Pakistani delegation also visited the Kazan helicopter plant and optical works. LF RADICAL TATAR PARTY CAMPAIGNS TO ABOLISH PRESIDENCY. The national independence party Ittifak has begun collecting signatures in support of the abolition of the post of president of the Tatarstan Republic, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 24 April. The party's chairwoman, Faustiya Bayramova, told the newspaper that "the institution of the presidency has not justified the hopes of the people. It has deteriorated into an authoritarian regime." She characterized incumbent President Mintimer Shaimiev as "the shame of the nation," accusing him of silencing the opposition and amending the republic's constitution to strengthen his own position. LF PRIMAKOV CHAIRS MEETING OF NORTH CAUCASUS LEADERS... A session of the North Caucasus Association Council was held in Vladikavkaz on 24 April, one week later than originally planned, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 1999). Addressing the session, which discussed the development of trade and economic cooperation between the republics and regions of the North Caucasus and the states of the South Caucasus, Prime Minister Primakov described the North Caucasus as "the bulwark of Russian statehood," noting its "great political and economic significance for the whole country," ITAR-TASS reported. North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov expressed concern that Moscow has not yet drafted a badly needed program of measures for the social and economic development of the North Caucasus for the period 2000-2005. LF ...MEETS WITH CHECHEN REPRESENTATIVE. Primakov also met with Lom-Ali Alsultanov, personal representative of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, in Vladikavkaz on 24 April, Interfax reported. Maskhadov had declined to attend the Vladikavkaz meeting, saying the issues to be discussed there do not concern Chechnya as an independent state. Alsultanov handed Primakov a personal message from Maskhadov. He later told Interfax that no date has yet been set for the planned meeting between Maskhadov and President Yeltsin. On 25 April, Maskhadov issued a decree creating a state commission on relations with Russia, one of whose tasks is to prepare for the meeting with Yeltsin, according to Interfax. LF TWO NORTH CAUCASUS REPUBLICS HOLD ELECTIONS. The incumbent president of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Vladimir Khubiev, has failed in his bid to be re-elected, dpa reported on 25 April. As none of his 12 rival candidates polled the requisite 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held in three weeks between Cherkessk city mayor Stanislav Derev and former commander of the Russian army ground forces General Vladimir Semenov (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 1, 5 January 1999). Derev and Semenov polled 40.1 and 17.9 percent, respectively. Turnout was 77 percent. In North Ossetia, 46.7 percent of the electorate cast their vote for a new 75-strong parliament, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian Central Electoral Commission chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, who traveled to North Ossetia for the poll, said voting proceeded quietly and without violations. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA MARKS GENOCIDE ANNIVERSARY. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians, together with foreign diplomats and leading members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, walked to the 1915 genocide memorial in Yerevan on 24 April to commemorate the killings under the Ottoman Empire of more than 1 million Armenians, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In a separate ceremony the previous day, a handful of soil from the grave of Henry Morgenthau, who was U.S. ambassador in Istanbul during the tragic events, was laid in the Tsitsernakaberd memorial. Morgenthau was among first Western officials to condemn the tragedy as the deliberate "extermination" of the Ottoman Empire's ethnic Armenian subjects. At a news conference in Yerevan on 24 April, a group of Turks from Germany urged the Turkish government to acknowledge the 1915 killings and deportations as genocide. The leader of the group, Ali Ertem, said more than 10,000 Turks have signed a petition, addressed to the Turkish parliament, in support of that demand. LF OPPOSITION FACTION TO BOYCOTT AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT SESSIONS. The Democratic Bloc, which is composed of 17 opposition deputies, has declared its intention to boycott parliamentary sessions until its request is met for a debate on the work of the legislature and its speaker Murtuz Alesqerov, Turan reported on 22 April, citing "Yeni Musavat." The following day, the newspaper quoted Ali Kerimov, who is first deputy chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AzPFP), as saying he is conducting negotiations with an undisclosed number of independent deputies and deputies from the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan party who wish to join the AzPFP. LF TRANSCAUCASUS PRESIDENTS MEET WITH NATO FOREIGN MINISTERS. Robert Kocharian, Heidar Aliev, and Eduard Shevardnadze met in Washington on 25 April with the foreign ministers of the U.S., France, Germany, Great Britain, Norway, and Turkey to discuss ways to resolve deadlocked conflicts in the region without bloodshed, Reuters reported. U.S Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stressed that such solutions must be based on respect for the territorial integrity of all three countries, willingness to grant the maximum autonomy to ethnic minorities, international security guarantees, and the right of refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes. She reaffirmed the desire of the international community to help the conflict parties to reach such solutions but warned that "there are limits to what we can do" without a firm commitment from the countries involved. LF UZBEKISTAN JOINS GUAM. At a ceremony in Uzbekistan's Washington embassy on the sidelines of the NATO summit, Uzbekistan formally became the fifth member of the Georgia- Ukraine-Azerbaijan-Moldova alignment, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 24 April. The grouping will now be known as GUUAM. The presidents of the five countries issued a joint statement affirming their support for one another's territorial integrity. They also backed both regional cooperation, including the creation of regional transport corridors, and cooperation within the framework of international organizations such as the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. The statement stressed that their cooperation is not aimed against third countries or groups of countries. ITAR-TASS quoted an unidentified diplomat from one of the five member states as saying that GUUAM does not intend to supplant the CIS, nor do any of its five members intend to leave the commonwealth. LF ORGANIZERS OF UZBEK BOMBINGS APPREHENDED? Not only the perpetrators but all the organizers of the 16 February bomb attacks in Tashkent have been arrested, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 23 April, quoting Uzbek First Deputy Prosecutor- General Azimzhon Ergashev. Speaking at a news conference in Tashkent four days earlier, President Islam Karimov had said that while the perpetrators of the attacks have been apprehended, the organizers remain on the run outside Uzbekistan, according to Interfax. LF END NOTE LUZHKOV AIMS TO JOIN REGIONAL LEADERS By Floriana Fossato Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov seems to have strengthened his political position in Russia as a result of two significant developments last week. On 21 April, the Federation Council rebuffed for the second time the Kremlin's request to replace Prosecutor- General Yurii Skuratov. Luzhkov, a presidential hopeful whose intervention reportedly influenced the house's decision, thereby dealt a new blow to President Boris Yeltsin. Shortly after, Luzhkov announced that the leadership of the party he founded last year, Otechestvo (Fatherland), had approved his proposal to join a new political bloc called Vsya Rossiya (All Russia), which includes16 influential regional leaders, such as Presidents Mintimer Shaimiev of Tatarstan, Murtaza Rakhimov of Bashkortostan and Ruslan Aushev of Ingushetia as well as the governors of Khabarovsk, Astrakhan, Perm, and Khanty-Mansiisk. Another politician aiming at playing a key role in the bloc is Oleg Morozov, the leader of the Russian Regions faction in the State Duma. Luzhkov, who unexpectedly showed up at the first meeting of the Vsya Rossiya organizing committee on 22 April, added that the political council of his party had taken the decision to join the new bloc the previous evening. Officials close to Luzhkov told Russian media that the fact that the decision came on the heels of the vote in the Federation Council was a "pure coincidence," but few believed that assertion. NTV commercial television, for its part, commented that "the outcome of the vote on the prosecutor-general has clearly changed Luzhkov's tactics." Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, the leader of another regional bloc, Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia), has said he may also join Vsya Rossiya. Sergei Markov, director of the Moscow Institute of Political Studies, says regional leaders of centrist political orientation aim at funding broad coalitions that would allow them to increase their influence in State Duma, so far dominated by the Communists and their allies. "They would like to create a 'party of power' from below, based on parties of power concretely existing, that they have already built up in their regions," he argues. In this way they would consolidate what they already have and get more." For the regional leaders, an alliance with Luzhkov's Otechestvo, which has said it wants to become Russia's future 'party of power,' could help them build a strong faction in the next Duma. For Luzhkov, the possible benefits of such an alliance are even more evident. Luzhkov enjoys broad popularity in Moscow. However, his ability to attract votes in the regions, where many people resent Moscow's higher standard of living, has remained untested. Many observers have warned that resentment toward Moscow could hamper Luzhkov's effort to obtain enough support either for Otechestvo in the parliamentary elections or for himself in the presidential ballot. Pooling efforts with powerful regional leaders would clearly help Luzhkov expand his appeal in the provinces. Luzhkov and Shaimiev, who is seen as Vsya Rossiya's most influential leader, so far have pledged to coordinate efforts ahead of parliamentary election scheduled for December. But some political analysts are raising doubts about whether the alliance can achieve more. Markov argues that if the different blocs "manage to join forces all together, this will be the political force that could win both parliamentary and presidential elections. But for them to get together will be difficult, because there are serious obstacles. One is the problem of leadership. It is not that they will fight for leadership. The leader can clearly be only one: Yurii Luzhkov." Markov adds that another problem is that Luzhkov's style is such that he does not tolerate partners, but only subordinates. And it is not a given that other governors will want to join forces with him on such a basis. And he also points out that the presidents of national republics have very different ideas as to what Russia's federal structure should be. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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