|Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. - Sir Winston Churchill|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 82, Part I, 28 April 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 82, Part I, 28 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 CURIOUS ABOUT WHAT'S HAPPENING OUTSIDE OF MOSCOW? Get detailed reports about Russia's regions and regional policy in the weekly "RFE/RL RUSSIAN FEDERATION REPORT." It's available on our web site at: http://www.rferl.org/russianreport/index.html To subscribe, send an e-mail to: email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * YELTSIN DUMPS GUSTOV, PROMOTES STEPASHIN * NEW MILITARY DOCTRINE TO BE READY IN THREE MONTHS * POPULAR KYRGYZ MAYOR FORCED TO RESIGN End Note: WORLD BANK PREDICTS ROUGH YEAR AHEAD FOR MOST EAST EUROPEAN STATES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN DUMPS GUSTOV, PROMOTES STEPASHIN... Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on 27 April dismissing First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov and promoting Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin to that office. Stepashin will be responsible for overseeing elections and conducting regional policy, while continuing to head the Interior Ministry. Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin said that Yeltsin believes the "segment of the cabinet supervising the regions must be reinforced." Russian Television noted that "inasmuch as the most problematic regions in Russia are Chechnya and the North Caucasus as a whole, it is logical that Stepashin has been appointed to this position, since he has been intensely involved with Chechen problems for years." Gustov is the first top member of Yevgenii Primakov's cabinet to be dismissed. A former governor of Leningrad Oblast, Gustov told Interfax that he will now run in elections, but declined to specify where. JAC ...AS MEANS OF TIGHTENING CONTROL OVER REGIONS? The same day that Yeltsin dismissed Gustov, he also met with the informal leaders of two regional blocs, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev of Vsya Rossiya and Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov of Golos Rossii. Titov told reporters after the meeting that Yeltsin approves of the "platform of liberalism" of Golos Rossii and is "impressed with the composition of the bloc." The previous day, deputy head of the presidential administration Oleg Sysuev said that the merger of Vsya Rossiya and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Otechestvo would be a "step in a constructive direction." The leader of the Idel-Yort (Volga Is Our Home) faction in Tatarstan's legislative assembly, Fandas Safiullin, told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 27 April that once Vsya Rossiya and Otechestvo have achieved their main goal of keeping Communists out of the State Duma, they will likely go their separate ways. Safiullin pointed out that Luzhkov supports liquidating the national republics, while President Shaimiev is a federalist who favors retaining the republics' sovereignty. JAC NEW MILITARY DOCTRINE TO BE READY IN THREE MONTHS. Talking to journalists on 27 April, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev expanded on his recent comments about the revision of Russia's military doctrine. Sergeev said Moscow is particularly concerned about two provisions of NATO's new strategic concept that enable the alliance to use force outside NATO's zone of responsibility and without the UN's consent. He added that the possibility of Baltic States' joining NATO "poses a serious threat to Russia" and "we will never be able to agree." If the Baltic States join NATO, Russia will have to take additional steps to minimize its security risks, he said. In an interview published in "Krasnaya Zvezda" the same day, Ivanov said that Russia's new military doctrine will be finished in three months and submitted to President Yeltsin for approval. Before NATO began air strikes against Yugoslavia, Ivanov predicted that a plan merging the armed forces strategic nuclear forces would be ready by May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 1999). JAC CHERNOMYRDIN, TALBOTT PLEDGE TO CONTINUE PEACE EFFORTS. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, after meeting with Russian special envoy for Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin on 27 April, told Reuters that "there is no question that Russia and the U.S. are working together on [solving the Kosova] problem." He stressed that "it is important that our urgent work continues, and it will continue." Talbot reaffirmed the U.S. position that Serbian forces have to withdraw from Kosova and that a peace-keeping force must include a NATO chain of command. FS KOSOVA TALKS FOCUS ON PEACE-FORCE "LABELING." Unnamed British Foreign Office officials told "The Guardian" of 28 April that current diplomatic efforts focus on "labeling" a possible de facto NATO-led peace-keeping force as a UN entity. They added that a UN resolution authorizing such a force would not have to mention NATO explicitly. The daily also quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying that Chernomyrdin acknowledged during his talk with Talbott that there is "no serious prospect of diplomatic movement" from Belgrade. They added that they are encouraged by Chernomyrdin, who, they said, is negotiating seriously on details. And they noted that "there was not much time spent on condemning the NATO air offensive" during the Chernomyrdin-Talbott meeting. In Berlin, Talbott briefed German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on 27 April and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan the following day. FS WEST, UN INTENSIFY DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS IN MOSCOW. German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping began talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergeev, and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Moscow on 28 April. He did not disclose details of the talks but said that Chernomyrdin will continue the discussions with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Bonn the following day, Reuters reported. Also on 28 April, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou arrived for separate talks with Russian leaders. Annan and Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy are scheduled to hold talks with Chernomyrdin, Ivanov, and other Russian leaders in Moscow on 29 April. Meanwhile, in a move underlining solidarity with Belgrade, Yeltsin sent a telegram to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on the occasion of Yugoslav National Day, 27 April, saying that Russians "feel deeply for the fraternal people of Yugoslavia," Reuters reported. FS RUSSIAN, BELARUSIAN LEADERS DISCUSS UNION, TOUCH ON YUGOSLAV ISSUE. President Yeltsin and President of Belarus Alyaksandr Lukashenka met on 28 April to discuss a host of issues related to the Union of Belarus and Russia. Prior to the meeting, President Yeltsin said that the two leaders would "touch on the issue of Yugoslavia but we will just be exchanging opinions." He added that they will not be taking any steps forward on the issue of that country joining the union. At the meeting, Lukashenka and Yeltsin signed 11 agreements, most of them related to the union, Interfax reported. The documents cover issues such as establishing a single customs zone. The two leaders also discussed a joint defense concept that envisions the two sides using the same types of weapons and equipment in a future joint force, according to the agency. An agreement on security will be drafted and signed "at the next stage," ITAR-TASS quoted Yeltsin as saying. JAC RUSSIAN, IRAQI OIL MINISTERS MEET. Amir Rashid held talks in Moscow on 27 April with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Generalov, Foreign Minister Ivanov, and Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Bulgak. The two sides agreed that Russia will purchase 40 percent of the $5.2 billion worth of oil that Iraq plans to sell under the next stage of the UN oil-for- food program. Ivanov informed Rashid of Russian proposals to the UN Security Council to end economic sanctions against that country and introduce a new system of international monitoring, according to AP, citing a Foreign Ministry statement. Also discussed was possible Russian participation in exploration at Iraq's huge West Qurna field once UN sanctions are lifted. Also on 27 April, a delegation of State Duma deputies headed by Liberal Democratic Party chairman Vladimir Zhirinovsky flew to Baghdad to deliver aid and celebrate Saddam Hussein's 62nd birthday on 28 April. LF NATURAL GAS PRODUCTION EDGES UP. Gazprom's production of natural gas increased 4 percent in 1998 to 553.7 billion cubic meters, compared with 533.7 billion cubic meters the previous year, Interfax reported on 27 April. Three Gazprom subsidiaries boosted their annual output: Nadymgazprom, Yamburggasdobychi, and Astrakhangazprom. As of 1 January 1999, Russian consumers owed Gazprom 109.3 billion rubles ($4.5 billion), while other CIS countries owed the company 32.6 billion rubles. A top Gazprom official told "Izvestiya" on 27 April that the company plans to cut its gas supply to more than 3,000 debtor firms in the near future. JAC PASKO WRAPS UP TESTIMONY. Military journalist Grigorii Pasko has finished giving testimony in his trial for espionage and treason, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 27 April. Pasko is accused of handing over to Japanese media information on the environmentally hazardous practices of the Pacific Fleet. Pasko revealed that he had complained many times to the Pacific Fleet commander about being harassed by the fleet's security officers. One of Pasko's lawyers contends that his client was framed by those officers because he refused to collaborate with them. On 23 April, Pasko told the court that only one classified document was in his apartment at the time of his arrest and that he has no idea how prosecutors got hold of nine others that they claim were in his possession. ITAR-TASS reported the same day that one of the prosecution's main witnesses, journalist Yurii Ralin, announced he will soon make a statement explaining why he was forced to lie during his tesimony. JAC TWO MAYORS' RACES DECIDED. Nikolai Bulakin, mayor of Abakan in the Republic of Khakassia, was re-elected for a second four-year term on 25 April. In addition, more than two-thirds of the members of the city's new legislative assembly, are Bulakin's supporters, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 27 April. Also on 25 April, Yurii Link, director of Noyabrsk's electricity network, was elected mayor of Noyabrsk in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 27 April. Some newspapers alleged that Link's campaign was supported by business tycoon Boris Berezovskii. JAC SWEDISH PREMIER CONCLUDES VISIT. Goran Persson completed a two-day visit to Russia on 27 April by visiting Samara. The previous day, Persson met with Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Deputy Prime Minister Bulgak, and First Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev. Persson stressed that Stockholm continues to see Russia's economic potential as huge, ITAR-TASS reported. Swedish investment in Russia totaled $412.9 million in 1998, and Swedish companies plan to invest an additional $250 million in various paper and wood- pulp projects by the end of 2000, according to the Russian Trade Ministry, Interfax reported. After their meeting, Primakov said Russia is satisfied with the level of cooperation with Sweden, both at bilateral and international levels. The two officials signed an agreement on cooperation in the areas of energy efficiency and renewable energy resources. JAC 'MIR' BENEFACTOR WANTS FREE RIDE. British businessman Peter Llewelyn told AP on 28 April that although he intends to travel on the space station "Mir," he will not be paying for the privilege (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 1999). He said that the trip will be part of a fundraising effort for a children's' hospital outside Moscow and that people will sponsor him with so much money per mile. According to the agency, Pittsburgh police described Llewelyn as a well- dressed, smooth-talking con artist. Two years ago in the U.S., Llewelyn was accused of swindling $38,000 from a business partner. The charges were later dropped. JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA NEW ARMENIAN CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION CHAIRMAN NAMED. At its first session on 27 April, the new Central Electoral Commission voted to elect as its chairman Artak Sahradian, who is a senior Social Security Ministry official, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF CORRECTION: "RFE/RL Newsline" on 27 April incorrectly reported that five political parties and blocs are represented on the Central Electoral Commission. The correct figure is 10, five representing the factions in the present parliament and the remaining five by those parties and blocs that collected the largest number of signatures in their support. ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS MEET. Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliev met for two hours at the U.S. State Department on 26 April to discuss the Karabakh conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. Kocharian subsequently said that the meeting was "among the most useful in the recent period," as it gave the two presidents a better understanding of each other's motives. He said agreement was reached on further talks, which he suggested should be held on the frontier between the two countries. But Kocharian also owned that even such high level contacts are unlikely to produce immediately a formula for resolving the conflict. In an exclusive interview with Turan, reprinted in the Armenian press on 28 April, Kocharian ruled out any further concessions by Armenia but denied that his country wishes to delay a solution to the conflict. Aliev, for his part, again expressed his rejection of the most recent Minsk Group draft peace proposal, which he said contravenes international law. LF AZERBAIJAN SIGNS NEW OIL CONTRACTS. President Aliev signed production-sharing agreements with three U.S. oil companies in Washington on 27 April, Reuters and the "Financial Times" reported. Exxon acquired a 30 percent stake in the Zafar and Mashal offshore fields, while Mobil acquired the rights to the Savalan, Dalga, Lerik-Deniz, and Janub offshore deposits. Those contracts are valued at $5 billion and $4.5 billion, respectively, and the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR has a 50 percent stake in each. Texas-based Moncrief Oil signed a $500 million exploration and production-sharing contract for a 410 square mile region of the lower Kura River. LF GEORGIA BECOMES FULL MEMBER OF COUNCIL OF EUROPE. President Eduard Shevardnadze attended an official ceremony in Strasbourg on 27 April to mark Georgia's formal acceptance as a full member of the Council of Europe, in which Armenia and Azerbaijan still have only special guest status. Addressing the parliament in Tbilisi the same day, speaker Zurab Zhvania said that in admitting Georgia to full membership, the Council of Europe acknowledges the country's compliance with democratic standards, according to Caucasus Press. Meanwhile, six members of the "Free Georgia--Future Generation" movement began a hunger strike in Tbilisi on 26 April to demand the release of 134 people imprisoned since 1992 whom they consider political prisoners. LF KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTIES CRITICIZE DRAFT LEGISLATION ON ELECTIONS... At a news conference in Almaty on 27 April, representatives of the recently registered Birlesu political movement criticized as "undemocratic" the draft law on amendments to the presidential decree on the conduct of elections, RFE/RL's Kazakh service reported. The Birlesu members objected that the amendments do not make provision for the popular election of regional governors, who are to be appointed by regional councils. They also noted that the fee to register as a parliamentary candidate is so high that very few people can afford it. LF ...AND MEDIA. Also on 27 April, Orleu Movement chairman Seydakhmet Quttyqadam and Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan Deputy Chairman Amirzhan Qosanov told a news conference in Almaty that they consider the draft media law currently being considered by the parliament to be "very far from democratic," RFE/RL correspondents reported from the former capital. They claimed that the new legislation "would increase state control over all periodicals, television channels, and radio stations." LF POPULAR KYRGYZ MAYOR FORCED TO RESIGN... Bishkek Mayor Feliks Kulov told a press conference on 27 April that he wrote three days earlier to President Askar Akaev submitting his resignation, which the latter accepted on 26 April, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. In his letter to the president, Kulov said Akaev condones actions "that do not correspond to democracy and the rule of law." Specifically, he charged that rumors have been spread that he is preparing to undertake unconstitutional action in order to oust Akaev and that he is one of the most corrupt persons in the country. Also on 27 April, presidential press secretary Kanybek Imanaliev told journalists that Kulov is not a competent economic manager and that he intends to devote himself in the future to "pure politics." Observers say that the personable and popular 51- year-old Kulov, who as Interior Minister defied the perpetrators of the August 1991 Moscow putsch, could pose a serious challenge to Akaev in the 2000 presidential elections. Kulov refused to say on 27 April whether he will run in that poll. LF ...AS SECURITY MINISTRY IMPLICATED IN ILLICIT SURVEILLANCE. Kyrgyz National Security Minister Misir Ashirkulov told journalists in Bishkek on 27 April that an unspecified number of members of his ministry's Kalkhan anti-terrorist squad, which Kulov created when he was minister of security, have been arrested following the discovery of surveillance equipment in an apartment belonging to the ministry, Interfax reported. The commander of the Kalkhan squad has also been arrested. LF EU EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER SLOWDOWN IN TAJIK PEACE PROCESS. German Ambassador Matthias Mayer told journalists in Dushanbe on 27 April that the EU, which his country currently chairs, is concerned about "problems" in the Tajik peace process, Interfax reported. Mayer said that the peace process could be speeded up by success in the referendum and parliamentary elections due this year. He also expressed regret at President Imomali Rakhmonov's rejection of proposed constitutional amendments drafted by the Committee for National Reconciliation, which includes both government and opposition representatives. Meyer said the EU considers those amendments "a realistic step toward implementation of the peace agreement." In a 23 April statement, the United Tajik Opposition deplored Rakhmonov's rejection of the amendments and appealed to the international community for support (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 April 1999). LF END NOTE WORLD BANK PREDICTS ROUGH YEAR AHEAD FOR MOST EAST EUROPEAN STATES by Robert Lyle The World Bank's top official dealing with Russia and the other transition states in Central and Eastern Europe paints a sobering, even daunting, picture of what many in the region will face over the next year or so. Johannes Linn, the bank's vice president for Europe and Central Asia, says the region faces a protracted crisis of economic, social, and, most recently, security problems, especially over the next 12 months. Speaking to reporters in Washington on 25 April, before the start of this week's annual meetings of the bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Linn said Russia and Ukraine especially face serious economic difficulties "We continue to expect a decline in output and an uncertain political outlook due to elections that are coming up this year and next year," he said. "The social situation in these countries is fragile since incomes are continuing to decline and social support systems are continuing to weaken. Poverty is on the rise, in Russia, for example, in our estimate, almost 20 percent of the population is in extreme poverty. And we of course also see a situation where structural and social reforms are incomplete and proceeding only very slowly and with limited political support." Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic are the good news, he said, noting that these countries remain relatively stable and unaffected by the ongoing Russian financial crisis because of early reforms and strong policies. But for most former Soviet countries, the impact of that crisis has been severe and will be felt for a long time to come, according to Linn. The global economy won't make the real difference among these nations, he says, it depends on their own policies and their proximity to Russia. Asked about the lessons learned from the Asian and Russian financial crises, Linn said there were many, including the basics of strong domestic reforms. But one lesson that was part of Russia's collapse last summer was its strong defense of currency exchange rates. A major part of the IMF's last loan drawing for Russia was eaten up in the Central Bank's attempt to defend the exchange rate of the ruble. Linn says it is clear now this can lead to severe crises: "Ukraine is a good example where in fact a rather sensible management of getting away entirely from a fixed exchange rate in fact prevented the kind of meltdown we see in Russia. "The weakness of banking systems and supervision, linking this of course also with the exposure of short term debts, in appropriate foreign exchange positions--again Russia being a good example--are another important lesson that we are drawing for much more work and attention has to be given." Another significant lesson, according to Linn, is the danger of a weak social safety net. Very weak social protection systems are unable to deal with the fallout of severe economic crisis, he argued, noting that the case of Russia was particularly bad. "We had difficulty in engaging the Russians through 1996 in an active dialogue on social reforms," he noted, "and still have difficulty in Ukraine today. Earlier attention to social system reforms of social systems and then more significant action also would have helped in crisis response." Linn pointed out that Russia has still not dealt adequately with its social safety net and the deepening crisis only makes clearer that Russia cannot afford further postponement of reform. He said that in a recent study of the social system in Russia, the bank predicted that the worst of the crisis is still ahead in the coming 12 months. Next winter will be the hardest time, said Linn, far worse than this year. The bank projects that real personal incomes in Russia will fall an average of 13 percent through 1999, with the extreme poverty rate rising to more than 18 percent of the population, while social expenditures by the government will fall by 15 percent. More broadly for the region, Linn said the major lesson from the crisis has been the necessity of a political consensus on reforms. He compares the examples of Bulgaria and Romania: "Bulgaria has now in fact recovered from a severe financial crisis only two years ago because in fact it has pursued a consistent and comprehensive reform and stabilization process based on a reasonably clear and sustainable political consensus between the president, the government, parliament, and wide segments in the population. Romania, by contrast, has had considerable difficulties that one can trace back to the lack of political consensus and difficulty of forming a clear political underpinning for reform and stabilization. "Now we're hopeful that in looking forward, Romania can find a more consensus-oriented reform process, and indeed Romania is one of the pilot countries for the comprehensive development framework where we will focus very much with the leadership and under the leadership of the president, on trying to build this broader consensus." The author is a Washington-based, senior RFE/RL correspondent. 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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