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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 91, Part I, 11 May 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 3, No. 91, Part I, 11 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 * IMPEACHMENT FIXED ON DUMA AGENDA * RUSSIAN UN AMBASSADOR SAYS CHINA WANTS CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION * AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT LEAVES HOSPITAL End Note: MORE THAN AUTONOMY, LESS THAN INDEPENDENCE xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA IMPEACHMENT FIXED ON DUMA AGENDA. The State Duma Council confirmed on 11 May that the process of impeaching Russian President Boris Yeltsin will begin on 13 May and continue through 15 May, Russian Public Television reported. Duma deputies will consider separately the five charges against the president. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii said that his party will support three of those charges, while Liberal Democratic Party member and Chairman of the Committee on Geopolitics Aleksei Mitrofanov said on 11 May that his party has not yet decided how it will vote, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Ekho Moskvy reported the same day that an informed Kremlin source has claimed that Yeltsin will propose Railways Minister Viktor Aksenenko as a replacement for Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov before the vote takes place. Writing in "Trud" on 8 May, political analyst Vyacheslav Nikonov predicted that a dissolution of the Primakov government would trigger "a tremendous political crisis, comparable only to the events of the fall of 1993." JAC RUSSIAN UN AMBASSADOR SAYS CHINA WANTS CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION. Following a closed Security Council session in New York on 10 May, Russian Ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov said that "China insists on an official apology, on an official investigation, and on bringing to court those guilty for the [accidental NATO] attack" on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the night of 7-8 May. He added that the embassy bombing, "whether it was [done] deliberately or inadvertently, is a glaring violation of international law," ITAR-TASS reported. FS CHERNOMYRDIN SAYS CHINA'S VIEWS 'CLOSE' TO RUSSIA'S... Yeltsin's envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin told ITAR- TASS in Beijing on 11 May that Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Prime Minister Zhu Rongji have views on the Kosova crisis "close" to those of Russia. After meeting with both Chinese leaders, Chernomyrdin said that he discussed with them a possible UN Security Council Resolution based on the principles adopted at last week's G-8 summit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 1999). He did not say, however, whether China will support the resolution that G-8 Foreign Ministry officials are preparing in Bonn. Chernomyrdin also told the state-run Xinhua news agency that the NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade constituted "aggressive behavior and a brutal act." FS ...PRAISES PARTIAL SERBIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL. Chernomyrdin told Interfax in Beijing that a partial troop withdrawal announced by Yugoslav officials (see Part II) is "important for resolving the Yugoslav crisis." He added, however, that that all corresponding documents must be "studied carefully to find out the details of the announced move." His aide, Valentin Sergeev, said in Moscow that the withdrawal may be "one of [Belgrade's] most serious moves in the process of resolving the Yugoslav crisis," Reuters reported. He claimed that the move was largely the result of Russia's mediation efforts. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said in Brussels on 10 May that a partial troop withdrawal is not sufficient to fulfill NATO's five key demands to end its air-campaign. FS GOVERNMENT TO REINTRODUCE FIXED PRICES ON VODKA... As part of the government's pursuit of budget revenue to satisfy IMF requirements for disbursement of a new loan, the Primakov government is drafting a resolution requiring that state distilleries manufacture and distribute vodka according to retail and wholesale prices fixed for the country as a whole, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 11 May. According to the daily, First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov, among others, believes that this measure will bring an additional 2.5-3 billion rubles ($104-125 million) into the state coffers. The newspaper cites unnamed analysts at the Finance Ministry who believe that the policy will only increase "vodka piracy," thus increasing the amount of lost revenues from the vodka excise tax. JAC ...AND NATIONALIZE INSOLVENT BANKS? "Kommersant-Vlast" reported in its latest issue that the package of bills prepared by the government in compliance with its agreement with the IMF will attract opposition not only from the Duma but also from the presidential administration. Citing an unnamed high-ranking Kremlin official, the publication reported that the Yeltsin administration opposes the bill on the insolvency of lending organizations, which would reportedly require that banks be nationalized if they become insolvent. According to "Kommersant-Vlast," the "IMF believes that another wave of bank privatizations will be the next phase" after nationalization. However, the publication noted that while Duma deputies may be willing to support banks' nationalization, they will never support those institutions' re-privatization. JAC FEWER RUSSIANS FILE PERSONAL INCOME TAX RETURNS. According to preliminary estimates, the number of individuals who filed personal income tax returns for 1998 was down 7 percent on the previous year, "Finansovaya Rossiya" reported in May. Two reasons for this drop, according to Max Sokol, director of the Individual Taxation Directorate, are because some citizens decided to wait to declare their income in May and because those who earned less than 20,000 rubles ($832) do not have to file a return. The proportion of residents who filed returns was higher in Moscow and some large cities in southern Russia than in other parts of the country, according to the publication. JAC 'MIR' STILL LOOKING FOR FINANCING. Vladimir Nikitskii, Energiya's deputy director-general, told Interfax on 10 May that sufficient funding to keep "Mir" in orbit has not yet been found, and if no investors are lined up by June, the space station will drop into the Pacific Ocean in late August. According to Nikitskii, British businessman Peter Llewellyn helped Energiya secure a $100 million loan, which will help finance only the station's 28th mission. He added that Llewellyn's promotional flight is just part of a broad search for sources of funding outside the federal budget. JAC LENINGRAD NARROWLY MISSES DEFAULT? In contrast to coverage by other media outlets, such as AP, "The St. Petersburg Times" and "Vremya MN" reported on 7 May that the Leningrad Oblast did not default on a $50 million syndicated loan on 5 May but managed to persuade its creditors to reschedule the loan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 1999). According to the St. Petersburg daily, the oblast's Finance Committee Chairman Aleksandr Yakovlev, told reporters on 6 May that, after visiting the construction site of a new Philip Morris factory, creditors agreed to a restructuring proposal that called for the loans to be repaid in full by May 2001. Revenues from a tobacco excise tax will be a key source of new financing for the oblast government. JAC SVERDVLOVSK GOVERNOR SUGGESTS GOLD REPLACEMENT FOR DOLLAR. Eduard Rossel is proposing that a gold coin worth more than the U.S. dollar be introduced in Russia, Interfax reported on 10 May. After the introduction of the coin, "all dollars must be loaded on a barge and shipped to" the U.S. Rossel added that Russia "should stop enriching the U.S. economy." Earlier, Rossel, who appears to fancy himself as an innovator in the realm of monetary policy, suggested that Russia impose a ban on circulation of the dollar (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 1998). In addition, one version of the oblast's 1999 budget called for the introduction of a local currency. JAC SMOLENSKII RETURNS. So-called oligarch and head of SBS-AGRO bank Aleksandr Smolenskii returned to Moscow from Austria on 10 May, Interfax AiF reported. On 6 April, the office of the Prosecutor-General announced its intention to arrest the banker on suspicion of money-laundering and other illegal financial machinations. Later, it was announced that a warrant for his arrest had been withdrawn. JAC CHECHNYA PREPARES FOR PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO MOSCOW. Aslan Maskhadov met for two hours on 10 May with members of the commission that traveled to Moscow later that day to finalize the agenda for Maskhadov's upcoming meeting with Russian President Yeltsin, Interfax reported. Former Deputy Prime Minister Akhmed Zakaev said that meeting may take place on 13 or 14 May. It is to focus on why earlier agreements signed by the two sides were not implemented and how to set about doing so. Russian Nationalities Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov said on 7 May that Yeltsin is prepared for the meeting, which Abdulatipov predicted will be "useful for both sides," according to ITAR-TASS. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT LEAVES HOSPITAL. Heidar Aliev was discharged from the Cleveland Clinic on 10 May, his 76th birthday, eleven days after undergoing cardiac surgery, Reuters reported. Aliev said he is feeling "much better than before the operation," but an Azerbaijani embassy spokesman said the president must undergo further checkups. He declined to specify when Aliev will return to Azerbaijan. In a live television broadcast to Azerbaijanis the previous day, Aliev congratulated his countrymen on the anniversary of the end of World War II. He also said he is conducting telephone conversations with leading Azerbaijani officials and commended their running of the country in his absence, according to Turan. LF U.S. HOPES FOR RELEASE OF IMPRISONED AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST. At a press briefing in Washington on 10 May, U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin expressed disappointment that the Azerbaijani authorities have rejected appeals for the release of Fuad Gakhramanly, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Gakhramanly was sentenced in November last year to 18 months' imprisonment for an unpublished article that the prosecution claimed outlined tactics for overthrowing President Aliev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 1998). Rubin said he hopes Gakhramanly will be released under an amnesty to mark Azerbaijan's national independence day on 28 May. The International League for Human Rights has also appealed to President Aliev to release Gakhramanly, Turan reported on 10 May. LF AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST GIVES VARYING EXPLANATIONS OF DETENTION IN IRAN. "Ekspress" editor Ganimat Zahidov briefed journalists in Baku on 10 May on the circumstances of his detention by the Iranian authorities at the Astara frontier crossing on 3 May, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 10 May, 1999). Zahidov said Iranian officials had objected to his having conducted an interview in Tabriz with a prominent representative of Iran's ethnic Azerbaijani population while he, Zahidov, was travelling on a tourist visa, which, the officials said, did not entitle him to engage in journalistic activities. Zahidov then had to go to Enzeli in order to acquire a valid visa before returning to Baku. Speaking later on 10 May on private ANS-TV, however, Zahidov said that Iranian intelligence operatives had detained him at Astara and taken him to Enzeli, where they threatened him with imprisonment unless he agreed to cooperate with them, including preparing an assassination attempt on former President Abulfaz Elchibey. LF GREEK, GEORGIAN PRESIDENTS DISCUSS COOPERATION. Visiting Tbilisi on 9-11 May, Constantine Stefanopoulos met with his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze, parliamentary speaker Zurab Zhvania, Patriarch Ilia II, and members of Georgia's ethnic Greek minority, Caucasus Press reported on 10 May. Shevardnadze and Stefanopoulos discussed bilateral cooperation within the Council of Europe and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, the conflicts in Kosova and Abkhazia, possible enhanced Greek involvement in the TRACECA transport corridor, and the export via Georgia of Caspian oil. Stefanopoulos said Greece still supports plans for a pipeline from the Bulgarian port of Varna to Alexandropoulis that would bypass the Turkish straits. Two inter-governmental agreements on avoiding dual taxation and on assistance in the field of civil and criminal law were signed on 10 May. LF CIS EXECUTIVE SECRETARY VISITS KAZAKHSTAN. Yurii Yarov flew to Astana on 11 May where he briefed Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev on the implementation of decisions adopted by the 2 April CIS summit, including the creation of a CIS free trade zone, RFE/RL correspondents reported. At a subsequent meeting with journalists Yarov declined to comment on Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's 7 May statement that "the CIS has absolutely no prospects for development..., it doesn't even fulfil the role of a political club" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 1999) LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT MEETS WITH MINISTERS. Nazarbaev met on 10 May with Justice Minister Baurzhan Mukhamedzhanov, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Minister Serikbek Daukeev, and Transport and Communications Minister Serik Burkitbaev, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. The discussions focused on implementation of presidential decrees on combating corruption, expanding natural gas supplies from the North Aral region to the south of the country, which has recently been hit by shortages, and improving the country's telecommunications system. Also on 10 May, First Deputy Prosecutor-General Onalsyn Zhumabekov told ITAR-TASS that the Kazakh authorities have compiled a "black-list" of some 3,000 officials sacked or sentenced for, or merely suspected of, corruption or economic crime and who will be barred from holding government posts. LF KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEPUTY REPORTS ON AFTERMATH OF BARSKOON DISASTER. Jypar Jeksheev briefed journalists in Bishkek on 10 May about his trip the previous week to the Issyk-Kul region, scene of the May 1998 spill of toxic chemicals that caused four deaths, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Jepsheev said that some 60 local residents are still suffering from the symptoms of poisoning and that the local authorities ignored a 6-9 May picket by residents demanding help. LF UN SECRETARY-GENERAL ASSESSES SITUATION IN TAJIKISTAN. In a letter to the UN Security Council on 10 May, Kofi Annan recommended extending for a further six months the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Tajikistan, which expires on 15 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Annan noted that progress in implementing the 1997 Tajik peace agreements has been complicated by the "deeply-rooted mistrust" between the government and the opposition. He added that tensions between the government and the United Tajik Opposition have delayed the involvement of other political forces in the peace process. LF END NOTE MORE THAN AUTONOMY, LESS THAN INDEPENDENCE by Paul Goble Discussions about Kosova's future status, one likely to be more than autonomy but less than independence, call attention to an increasing willingness on the part of the international community to consider political arrangements that the existing state system had seemed to preclude. Most proposals currently on the table about that war- torn land include some kind of international military presence--although disagreements remain about its size, composition, and armaments--that would allow the Kosovars to return to their homes in security. But none of these scenarios calls for the recognition of Kosova as a full- fledged independent state. Indeed, most seem designed to prevent that very outcome. On the one hand, these various proposals to give Kosova a special status reflect an effort by the international community to solve the immediate problem. And most of the governments making them have gone out of their way to insist that arrangements designed for Kosova will not become a precedent either for other ethnic communities seeking greater rights or for an international community interested in defending those rights. But on the other hand, the debate about how to deal with Kosova appears to reflect the convergence of three major shifts in the international system over the last few decades. A Kosova settlement of virtually any kind seems certain to increase those shifts, regardless of what any participant in this debate now says. First, sovereignty no longer means what it did in the past. The heightened role of the UN, particularly since the end of the Cold War, has led ever more states to accept restrictions on activities that they had earlier viewed as their sovereign right to engage in. Government leaders no longer insist that they have unlimited rights with respect either to the treatment of their own populations or in their relations with other states. That has not meant the end of the international system of states. Indeed, far from all countries have accepted these new arrangements. But it has meant that the component parts of that system have changed, even though few of them are prepared to recognize the full magnitude of consequences that these changes entail. Second, the international system, or at least major parts of it, is apparently now prepared to intervene in the affairs of other countries in ways that most of its members earlier had felt were prohibited. Until very recently, neither individual governments nor groups of states were prepared to argue that they had the right to intervene on the territory of another state in the name of protecting human rights or combating crimes against humanity. Now in Kosova, NATO has done just that, intervening to protect the Kosovars but insisting that the Western countries will not, at least not yet, recognize an independent Kosova. Such intervention further limits the meaning of sovereignty not only of Yugoslavia but potentially of other countries as well. That is the foundation of some objections to what NATO is doing, but the crimes against which NATO is acting have overwhelmed these objections in the minds of most people and governments in the West. And third, these two shifts have combined to power a third one: a willingness to accept the possibility that particular territories might enjoy something more than autonomy but less than independence. Most analysts trace the history of the current international system of states to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. That agreement created the system of nation-states by recognizing the power of any given state to be absolute and unquestioned on its territory. That system allowed other states to compete with it externally, but it did not allow any of them to make demands that would lead to shared sovereignty. In fact, that idealized picture never existed, and it has become ever less true in the 20th century. Perhaps the clearest example of the way in which the international system has accepted a kind of shared or restricted sovereignty concerns Taiwan, an island most countries around the world consider to be part of China but which they treat for all practical purposes as an independent country. Yet another concerns the efforts to promote shared Irish and British rule over Northern Ireland, an arrangement that has yet to bear fruit but is seen by many as the only way out of the tragic conflict that has torn that region for much of the past generation. And Kosova represents yet another step in the refashioning of the international state system, a step that is likely to have ever broader consequences in the future. And that is even more likely to be the case if, as now, those taking that step seek to deny that outcome. 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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