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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 89, Part I, 7 May 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 89, Part I, 7 May 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 * G-8 AGREE ON KOSOVA DOCUMENT * NUKES NO LONGER JUST FOR MASS DESTRUCTION? * HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN KAZAKHSTAN EVOKES U.S. CONCERN End Note KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT OUTLINES POLICY PRIORITIES xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA G-8 AGREE ON KOSOVA DOCUMENT... The foreign ministers of the world's seven leading industrial countries and Russia approved a document on Kosova at their meeting in Bonn on 6 May, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the German city. They demanded an immediate and verifiable end to violence in Kosova, the withdrawal of Serbian police, military, and paramilitary troops, the deployment of "effective international civilian and security presences" mandated by the UN, the appointment of a provisional administration by the UN Security Council, the unhindered return of all refugees, and full access to Kosova for humanitarian relief organizations. They also want to see the beginning of a political process that will lead to autonomy for Kosova under the principles of the Rambouillet agreement, with respect for the sovereignty and integrity of Yugoslavia, including the disarmament of the UCK and a joint assistance program for the economic development of the Balkans. FS ...WANT SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION. The foreign ministers authorized Germany's Joschka Fischer to draft a UN resolution on the basis of the G-8 document and Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which provides for the use of force to uphold international peace and security. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the BBC that he understands that an "efficient security presence" means well-armed NATO forces that can secure a withdrawal of all Serbian forces. UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York that Secretary- General Kofi Annan considers the adoption of these principles an "important step." NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said in Brussels that the document marks a significant step toward securing "peace with justice for Kosova." He added that NATO will not end its air strikes until it has achieved its goals. FS IVANOV REJECTS NATO PRESENCE WITHOUT BELGRADE'S APPROVAL. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that the meeting did not produce "a breakthrough but a step in the right direction," adding that "a breakthrough will be achieved when the war ceases," ITAR-TASS reported. He told "Trud" of 7 May that a peace-keeping force could not include NATO troops without Belgrade's agreement. He accused NATO of aiming to "establish its complete domination in the 21st century." Referring to the NATO air strikes, he said that "if this madness is not stopped immediately there will be the gravest consequences for the future of the international stability and security." FS NUKES NO LONGER JUST FOR MASS DESTRUCTION? Writing in "Segodnya" on 6 May, military analyst Pavel Felgengauer suggests that the documents discussed at a 30 April Russian Security Council meeting "aim to make a limited nuclear war possible in theory." The announcement of the classified program may indicate the beginning of work on a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons "within the framework of a program that has long been proposed by the Ministry of Atomic Energy." The ministry's aim, according to Felgengauer, is to change the notion of nuclear weapons as only weapons of mass destruction. The program, which would reportedly not require much funding, at least initially, would aim to radically modernize Russia's entire nuclear arsenal, both tactical and strategic, so that Russia can "carry out precision low-yield 'nonstrategic' nuclear strikes" anywhere in the world. Felgengauer concludes that NATO air strikes enabled the ministry to finally win authorization to implement its plan. JAC GOVERNMENT SUGGESTS MORE POLITICALLY PALATABLE TAX INCREASES... Fearing that the State Duma would automatically reject legislation increasing taxes on gasoline, the government is set to propose that gas stations pay a new tax of 7,000-10,000 rubles a month, Russian Television reported on 6 May. In addition, the government will propose a new tax on cars whose engine-size exceed 2500 cubic centimeters. An annual payment of 1.2-1.8 rubles per cubic centimeter will not apply to cars produced domestically. The new tax measures will be submitted as part of a package of legislation required by the IMF in order to release new funds. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 6 May, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov said that the text of a memorandum concerning the government and Central Bank policies will be signed soon and submitted to the IMF Board of Directors. JAC ...AS COLLECTIONS RISE, INFLATION STEADY. Aleksandr Pochinok, head of the government's finance department, told reporters on 6 May that the government collected 27 million rubles ($1.12 million) in taxes and 13 million rubles in customs duties in April. Together these sums represent a 40 percent increase over March and the first time the government has met its goal for revenue collection in some months. Meanwhile, Russia's inflation rate in April was 3 percent, compared with 2.8 percent the previous month, according to the State Committee for Statistics, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 May. JAC ANOTHER HITCH SURFACES WITH EU FOOD AID. As the EU ponders whether to approve a third export tender for food to be shipped to Russia, EU and Russian officials are disagreeing over the pricing of food aid within Russia, "The Moscow Times" reported on 7 May. The EU wants the Russian government to cover additional expenses, such as transporting the aid and clearing it through customs. Under the current agreement, the food aid is sold at market prices, with the proceeds going to the Pension Fund. Some regions have rejected the aid, saying it is too expensive, while others refused to accept French grain because of its allegedly insufficient quality. According to the daily, about 30 percent of regions that originally signed up for assistance have now dropped out of the program. In some cases, regional administrators did not want to assume responsibility for ensuring that the profits went to the Pension Fund. JAC LUZHKOV TARGETTED IN ANTI-SEMITIC CAMPAIGN. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, a likely presidential contender and head of the Otechestvo movement, is featured on an anti-Semitic leaflet that is being distributed in Kirov Oblast. "Izvestiya" reported on 6 May that Kirov residents found anti-Semitic leaflets in their mailboxes claiming that Luzhkov is a Jew and "wants to be become president!" The leaflet shows Luzhkov and so-called oligarch Vladimir Gusinskii, who is also president of the Russian Jewish Congress, wearing yarmulkes at the opening of the Holocaust memorial synagogue on Poklonnaya Gora on 2 September 1998, "The Moscow Times" reported on 7 May. Last December, residents in Krasnodar Krai found leaflets in their mail boxes calling for the extermination of all Jews in the krai. The leaflets also called for Krasnodar Governor Nikolai Kondratenko to run for president of Russia in 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998). JAC BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, SKURATOV MAKES NO NEW REVELATIONS. At a 6 May closed-door session of the Federation Council's commission on corruption, Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov more or less recapped his earlier address to the full Federation Council, revealing no new information, "Izvestiya" reported on 7 May, citing unidentified sources. The newspaper reported that the commission's main work will likely be to agree on Skuratov's successor, since "his dismissal will happen anyway sooner or later." Among the potential candidates, according to the daily, are Yurii Golik, an adviser to Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, and Vladimir Platonov, deputy speaker of the Council. Also on 6 May, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Deputy Prosecutor- General Mikhail Katyshev has been removed from the investigation of key cases. According to the daily, Katyshev, who has a distinguished record of service at the prosecutor's office over the past 30 years, issued the orders to arrest business tycoons Boris Berezovskii and Aleksandr Smolenskii. JAC JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES RE-REGISTERED BY FEDERAL AUTHORITIES. The Justice Ministry re-registered the Jehovah's Witnesses as a religious organization on 5 May, despite a Moscow prosecutor's effort to ban the organization from the city. A controversial 1997 law requires that all religious organizations in Russia be registered or face the possibility of being banned. A Church spokesman told Reuters on 6 May that the Justice Ministry made its decision after a six-month examination of the group's literature and operations. The Moscow case is currently on hold as a panel of court- appointed experts conduct their own examination of the Church's literature. The Church claims that more than 250,000 people in Russia attend their religious services. JAC COAL MINERS LAUNCH NEW PROTEST ACTION. Miners at the Berezovskii coal mine in Krasnoyarsk Krai have stopped the shipment of fuel to the local power plant, which owes the miner 120 million rubles ($5 million), ITAR-TASS reported on 7 May. Under a previous agreement, the power plant is supposed to transfer to the pit 50 percent of all payments it receives for electricity, but, according to a local trade union official, it regularly fails to do so. JAC SUSPECT ARRESTED IN NORTH CAUCASUS ELECTION VIOLENCE. A man has been arrested in connection with 11 terrorist acts committed since the beginning of the presidential election campaign in the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 May. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the same day listed several arson or grenade attacks against members of the campaign staffs of the two candidates in the 16 May runoff. The newspaper cited a spokesmen for one of those two candidates, former Russian ground forces commander General Vladimir Semenov, as blaming the violence on unnamed candidates defeated in the first round of voting on 25 April. LF CRIMINAL GANGS CLASH IN GROZNY. At least three people were killed and 10 wounded, including some passers-by, when members of two criminal groups engaged in fighting in central Grozny during the evening of 6 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, the committee charged with drafting a new constitution for the Chechen Republic Ichkeria has completed that draft, which is currently being translated from Russian into Chechen under the supervision of former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 6 May. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIA DENIES ASPIRING TO NATO MEMBERSHIP. In an interview published on 6 May in the Armenian- and Russian-language government dailies, Deputy Defense Minister Vahan Shirkhanian said that Armenia does not intend to join the alliance but will continue to participate in the Partnership for Peace and other programs that contribute to strengthening national security, according to ITAR-TASS and Asbarez-on-Line. He also denied that Armenia's participation in last month's NATO summit in Washington could have a negative impact on Russian- Armenian relations. LF ARMENIAN COURT REJECTS TRADERS' APPEAL. A Yerevan district court rejected on 6 May the suit brought by the Armenian Traders Union against the Armenian government, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The traders had claimed that they had been wrongfully fined for failing to comply with a government ruling requiring them to input all transactions into cash registers, beginning on 1 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 1999). No fines should have been imposed prior to 1 April for failure to do so. The district court refused to hear the traders' appeal, claiming that only the Constitutional Court is empowered to challenge government rulings. LF AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PROTESTS JOURNALIST"S ARREST IN IRAN. Independent organizations representing Azerbaijani journalists issued a statement on 6 May condemning the detention three days earlier of Ganimat Zahidov, editor of the newspaper "Ekspress," by Iranian customs officials, Turan reported. Zahidov was returning from a trip to Iran during which he conducted a 10-hour interview with Mahmudali Chehragani, who is a professor at Tabriz university and a representative of Iran's ethnic Azeri community. The Iranian officials claim Zahidov was smuggling a pair of binoculars, but they also confiscated his tapes of the interview with Chehragani. LF GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR CRACKDOWN ON ECONOMIC CRIME. Addressing a government session on 6 May, Eduard Shevardnadze said that more than 1,000 cases of corruption and economic crime have been registered in Georgia since the beginning of 1999, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze added that some 400 police, customs and tax officials have been dismissed for various crimes. Georgian Internal Minister, Kakha Targamadze noted that 12 people have been arrested since January for attempting to circulate a total of more than $2 million in counterfeit bills. LF ARE THERE MOLES WITHIN THE GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY? "Alia" on 6 May quoted senior Georgian Defense Ministry official Gogi Gogashvili as saying that he believes unnamed ministry staff slated for redundancy in personnel cuts aimed at bringing the ministry's structure into conformity with NATO standards have been coopted by Russian intelligence. A second newspaper, "Rezonansi," reported the same day that unnamed Georgian generals are seeking to engineer the sacking of West Point-trained Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze and the appointment of a pro-Russian replacement. LF GEORGIA ACCUSES ABKHAZIA OF NEW TROOP BUILDUP. A spokesman for the Abkhaz Security Ministry in exile, which represents the Georgian population forced to flee Abkhazia in 1992-3, said on 6 May that the Abkhaz government deployed an additional 86 troops, including some ethnic Armenians, in Gali Raion on 5-6 May in order to secure the region's borders in the event of the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force, Caucasus Press reported. LF FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER AGAIN DENIES TAX EVASION CHARGES. Akezhan Kazhegeldin has written an open letter to Prosecutor- General Yurii Khitrin again saying that the accusations of tax evasion leveled against himself and his wife are "groundless" RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 7 May. The open letter was published in the 7 May edition of the newspaper "XXI vek" (21st Century). Khitrin announced last month that criminal proceedings are to be opened against Kazhegeldin, at which time the latter denied the charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 29 April 1999). LF HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN KAZAKHSTAN EVOKES U.S. CONCERN. Speaking at a congressional hearing on 6 May, U.S. congressman Christopher Smith expressed concern at Kazakhstan's apparent retreat from democratization, noting that the January 1999 presidential elections were "neither free nor fair," an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. A senior State Department official added that Kazakhstan should bring its electoral legislation into line with international standards, schedule elections far enough in advance to give the opposition adequate opportunity to prepare for them, register new political parties promptly, and include non-government representatives on central and local electoral commissions. Kazakhstan's ambassador in Washington, Bolat Nurgaliev, said his country takes "seriously" its obligations to meet OSCE standards, but he added that problems inherited from the Soviet era are an obstacle to democratization (see also "End Note" below). LF KAZAKH POLICE DISPERSE HUNGER STRIKERS. Seventeen employees of the Shymkent Phosphorus Plant who began a hunger strike on the town's central square last week to demand payment of their salaries for the past three years were dispersed by police on 6 May, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The plant, which is bankrupt and up for sale, owes its former workers about 600 million tenges (approximately $5 million). LF KYRGYZ CABINET DEBATES BUDGET CRISIS. Addressing a cabinet session in Bishkek on 6 May, newly appointed Prime Minister Amangeldi Muraliev said the country's present financial situation is the most serious ever, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He said the cabinet is unable to pay some 500 million soms (about $14 million) in back payments, including wages, pensions and other allowances. Finance Minister Marat Sultanov reported that industrial output declined in 1998 by 39.7 percent, compared with 1997. Agricultural output fell by 12 percent and construction by 48 percent. Revenues from privatization in 1998 also fell short of the anticipated figure. LF IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN UZBEKISTAN. Kamal Kharrazi met with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov, and Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov during a two-day working visit to Tashkent on 5-6 May, AFP and Interfax reported. The talks focussed on economic cooperation, the peace process in Tajikistan, and the situation in Afghanistan, AP-Blitz reported from Dushanbe. Karimov and Kharrazi agreed that the UN Security Council should be asked to mediate in the Afghan conflict. LF END NOTE KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT OUTLINES POLICY PRIORITIES By Liz Fuller In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Astana bureau on 4 May, President Nursultan Nazarbaev outlined his vision of Kazakhstan's domestic political development and relations with its two powerful neighbors, Russia and China. Nazarbaev said that the top priority both for himself and for the entire Kazakh nation is the preservation of Kazakhstan's independence. He warned that the country's independent status could be jeopardized by internal political dissent, in particular by attempts (he did not specify by whom) to use the country's present economic problems to score political points or to stir up tensions between the three main "hordes" or clans. Nazarbaev conceded that the world economic crisis has not spared Kazakhstan, but he claimed that his country has overcome the crisis's adverse effects more easily and more smoothly than other neighboring states. He noted that today, all the main decisions, including state budget allocations and new legislation, are based on the main premises of the Kazakhstan--2030 program of long-term economic and social development, which he unveiled in October 1997. Nazarbaev stressed that Kazakhstan must develop its industrial base and encourage the growth of small and medium- sized businesses, rather than rely exclusively on the export of oil or other mineral resources. He also noted the importance of ensuring the timely payment of wages, pensions and other benefits, which he admitted currently poses problems given the fall in world market prices for oil, gas, and non-ferrous metals, which constitute the country's prime exports. Turning to foreign policy, Nazarbaev stressed that Kazakhstan's independent status does not mean that the country should close its borders or retreat into isolationism; on the contrary, he argued that it should pursue a policy of open doors and "increase our relations with neighboring countries in all the possible spheres." He termed Kazakhstan's foreign policy "multivectoral" but owned that it is dictated in the first instance by the country's geographic location between two major powers. With reference to that location, he characterized relations with both China and Russia as "very good, very friendly," describing the two countries as "our main partners in economic development, in market relations and political life. We don't have any kind of demands [on them], neither economic or political." He noted the "historic fact" of Russian assistance in Kazakhstan's social and economic growth during the Soviet period. "If Russia is able to overcome all the economic and other hardships, if it manages to establish a real democratic society with market economy and freedoms, for us in Kazakhstan, this will be a real advantage," he said. "To live with such a great neighbor in peace is very important for us.... Our further cultural development without Russia is not possible... In the last several hundred years, we have got used to this nation." Without elaborating, he conceded that Kazakhstan still has differences with Russia but stressed that they must be resolved by exclusively peaceful means. Nazarbaev likewise emphasized the current, unprecedented harmonious relations with China, as reflected by his own "personal good relations" with Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, with whom he signed a landmark treaty last year demarcating the frontier between the two countries. Nazarbaev added that Kazakhstan also enjoys "very good" relations with the Islamic world, with other Turkophone countries, and with India and Pakistan. Asked about the rationale for Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev's recent meeting with Taliban representatives, Nazarbaev said that it should not be construed either as a gesture of support or as an attempt to "exclude" Russia from the Afghan peace process. He explained "we need peace in Afghanistan. If there is peace in Afghanistan, we shall be able to transport our oil to India through the shortest route." Nazarbaev's remarks on the domestic political landscape were more ambivalent. He greeted the recent amendments to the country's constitution, in particular the decision by the Kazakh parliament that 10 seats in the next parliament be allocated to representatives of political parties under the proportional system, saying this move is the fulfillment of a personal "dream." He noted that he considers it his duty as president to foster political tolerance and the development of democracy. But at the same time he noted that until eight years ago, Kazakhs had always lived under a totalitarian system, implying that democratization should not be rushed. "Our main goal now," he said, " is to give our people roofs over their heads, to give them their jobs and salaries. Those are our main three tasks with which to start democracy." A reversion to CPSU General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of indiscriminate criticism of all shortcomings could, Nazarbaev argued, culminate in the loss of Kazakhstan's statehood. In this context, Nazarbaev made it clear that he envisages very strict constraints on the activities of political parties, which he noted have "rights but also responsibilities and obligations." He warned that any party that proved "unable to continue its activities," or engaged in activities that could pose a danger to the country's independence would be banned immediately. He also made it clear that those constraints and obligations extend to the media. Asked to comment on journalists' recent criticisms that the country's new draft media law restricts press freedom, Nazarbaev said journalists would not be forbidden to criticize either the president or the government. But if they do so, he said, they should "bear in mind the norms and standards recognized elsewhere in the world." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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