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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 114, Part I, 11 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 114, Part I, 11 June 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 * TALKS ON KOSOVA PEACEKEEPING TROOPS ISSUE BREAK OFF * FIRST RUSSIAN SOLDIERS ALREADY DEPARTED? * ARMENIAN DEFENSE CHIEF NAMED PRIME MINISTER End Note: THE APPROACHING END OF THE 'PARTY OF POWER' xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA TALKS ON KOSOVA PEACEKEEPING TROOPS ISSUE BREAK OFF. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott left Moscow on 11 June without securing an agreement to a unified NATO command for the Kosova peace-keeping force. Talbott arrived in Moscow the previous day to discuss Russia's role in such a force with presidential envoy to Yugoslavia Viktor Chernomyrdin, Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, and various Defense Ministry officials. Russian officials have repeatedly insisted that the force should be put under the UN's command, rather than NATO's. Head of the department for international military cooperation at the Russian Defense Ministry General Leonid Ivashov, who was conducting talks with Assistant Defense Secretary Ted Warner and others, told reporters on 11 June that "our positions on the role of the Russian military contingent in Kosovo differ. The Americans have taken a timeout," according to ITAR-TASS. Ivashov added that "if we do not reach an agreement, we will work out with Yugoslavia the sector we will control," according to AFP. JAC FIRST RUSSIAN SOLDIERS ALREADY DEPARTED? Interfax reported the same day that 300 paratroopers of the first 1,000 Russian troops could head for Yugoslavia as early as 11 June. In addition, 500 Russian peacekeepers currently in Bosnia- Herzegovina could relocate to Kosova in the near future. "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported the same day that by 15 August 2,200 Russian airborne troops will be ready to move into Kosova from airborne troop units stationed in Tula, Ivanovo, and Pskov. Citing Beta news agency, AP reported on 11 June that a convoy of Russian troops numbering up to 1,000 crossed over from Bosnia into Serbia at midmorning and were expected in Kosovo by the afternoon. Beta said that the Russian vehicles bore the insignia of the Kosova peacekeeping force. JAC RUSSIA-NATO RELATIONS STILL IN DEEP FREEZE. Russian President Boris Yeltsin said on 11 June that Russia's relationship with NATO "remains frozen; we will see later what happens." The same day, an unidentified Russian Foreign Ministry official told Interfax that the announced pause in NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia is not a justification for a renewal of relations with NATO. He added that "first the operation must stop completely" and following that, "the Russian-NATO Founding Act will need rethinking." Anonymous Defense Ministry officials added that renewing relations with NATO "is not on our list of priorities now." "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported that one Defense Ministry official reported that the ministry will no longer hold consultations and talks with representatives of the NATO command on the Kosova issue, explaining that "we will resolve all issues directly with the Americans." JAC NEW BUDGET ALLOCATES LESS TO MILITARY... Russia will devote 110.88 billion rubles ($4.56 billion) or 2.17 percent of GDP to military spending next year, according to the current draft of the 2000 budget, Prime-Tass reported on 10 June. Defense spending is the second-largest expenditure item in the budget, followed by spending on law enforcement activities and state security, which totals 1.35 percent of GDP or 68.74 billion rubles. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters on 10 June that the draft budget plans $10 billion for foreign debt payments, compared with the $15.6 billion owed. The remainder will have to be rescheduled, according to Khristenko. In addition, international financial institutions will have to provide new financing worth $3-3.85 billion to cover next year's deficit. JAC ...THAN TO CREDITORS. The 1999 budget sets aside $9.5 billion for expected payments totaling 17.5 billion. Khristenko had predicted that foreign creditors are likely to decide on Russia's debt-restructuring plan by 15 June. Aleksandr Livshits, former finance minister, suggested that a decision on restructuring Soviet-era debt is likely to take a year. In addition, some analysts have suggested that rumors being circulated about the London Club plans to declare Russia in default are part of a broader strategy to gain more concessions during debt-restructuring negotiations. According to Interfax, Russia failed to make payments worth $1.218 billion to the London Club in June. JAC RUSSIA TO IMPOSE NEW CURBS ON TOBACCO. State Duma deputies on 10 June approved a bill in the first reading that would impose stricter control over tobacco sales and advertising. The legislation bans the sale of tobacco products to people under the age of 18, smoking in certain public places, and limits cigarette advertising, according to ITAR-TASS. Health Committee chairman Nikolai Gerasimenko told deputies before the vote that 70 percent of Russian men smoke, 27 percent of women, and "42 percent of children and teenagers," according to "The Moscow Times" on 11 June. Under the law, employers can impose an 860 rubles ($35) fine on workers who smoke outside specially designated areas. JAC LUZHKOV CLAIMS KREMLIN'S OUT TO GET HIM. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told reporters on 10 June that the presidential administration has given orders to find compromising materials about him and the work of the Moscow city government. He said that the administration, despite its public professions of impartiality toward him, has in fact declared him "Enemy No. 1." The same day, head of the presidential administration Aleksandr Voloshin told Interfax that he knows nothing about such orders and that the administration has enough real work to do on the threshold of parliamentary elections, such as preventing attempts to tinker with the ballot. At a meeting with the heads of regional election commissions, Voloshin said that while the administration dislikes the idea of moving up Moscow mayoral elections, it will not oppose such a move as long as "everything is done lawfully," according to ITAR-TASS (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 1999). JAC LEBED'S POPULARITY AS NATIONAL FIGURE SLIPS. A poll of 1,500 respondents in urban and rural areas conducted by the Public Opinion Fund showed that 6 percent would have voted for Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed if presidential elections had been held in May 1999, Interfax reported on 10 June. Last year, 12 percent of respondents in a similar poll conducted by the same organization said they would vote for Lebed. Within a period of 12 months, Lebed dropped from second or third place in the popularity ratings to sixth. In a new book on Lebed, Nikolai Petrov of the Carnegie Moscow Center concludes that the first several months of Lebed's tenure as governor were not overly successful and that he may be impeached as early as May or June of this year. He also notes that national voters may not hold Lebed's performance as governor against him partly because they do not completely trust mass media accounts of his performance. JAC ANOTHER GOVERNOR SEEKING TO BENEFIT FROM EARLY ELECTIONS? Following the Novgorod Oblast Duma vote last month to move up gubernatorial elections from December to September (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 9 June 1999), the opposition has accused incumbent Governor Mikhail Prusak, who has broad support in the local legislature, of seeking to serve his own political interests, an "EWI Russian Regional Report" correspondent reported on 10 June. The opposition argues that Prusak is afraid to hold the gubernatorial vote at the same time as the State Duma elections because turnout could be high enough to oust him from office. They also point to the high cost of staging two separate election campaigns. Similar arguments were raised in Belgorod Oblast when the local legislature, loyal to incumbent Governor Yevgenii Savchenko, voted to hold an early ballot. Savchenko easily won re-election last month, beating out another leftist candidate and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii. JC MINISTER URGES RENEWED COOPERATION WITH LIBYA. At a 10 June cabinet session, Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu urged that military and technical cooperation with Libya be renewed, Interfax reported. Pointing out that Libya had earlier bought Russian-made weaponry worth $18 billion, Shoigu noted that those weapons now require servicing and maintenance. He also commented that possible payments by debtor countries such as Libya should be taken into account in drawing up Russia's 2000 budget. Earlier this year, the UN Security Council lifted sanctions against Tripoli. Also on 10 June, the Russian national airline resumed passenger flights to Libya, ITAR-TASS and AP reported. Aeroflot is offering a weekly service between the two capitals. JC SEVEN DIE IN ST. PETERSBURG SUBWAY ACCIDENT. Seven people were killed and more than a dozen injured when a concrete roof collapsed in the entrance to the Sennaya Square subway station in downtown St. Petersburg on 10 June. Governor Aleksandr Yakovlev told ITAR-TASS the next day that so far police do not believe a terrorist act caused the accident. The subway station was built in the mid-1960s. JC KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA COURT SAYS ELECTION VALID. The Supreme Court of Karachaevo-Cherkessia on 10 June declared the recent presidential elections valid and said that Vladimir Semenov, who won a majority in the second round, has been elected president, Caucasus Press reported. The court had investigated the poll for two weeks following a complaint against the republic's Central Electoral Committee. PG STEPASHIN SAYS RUSSIAN, CHECHEN PRESIDENTS TO MEET. Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin said in Vladikavkaz on 11 June that a meeting between Russian President Yeltsin and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov will take place by all means," ITAR-TASS reported. Stepashin added that the presidential session will be arranged on the basis of his conversations with Maskhadov. PG RED CROSS APPEALS FOR RELEASE OF HOSTAGES IN NORTH CAUCASUS. The International Committee of the Red Cross issued another appeal on 10 June for the release of a New Zealander and his Russian associate who were taken hostage last month near Chechnya, AP reported. The ICRC said that Chechen officials claim that they have taken "appropriate measures" to secure the release of these hostages. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported the same day that a correspondent from the Russian Federation's Volga Military District was released by his kidnappers at the Chechen border. PG TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA ARMENIAN DEFENSE CHIEF NAMED PRIME MINISTER. Government sources in Yerevan told RFE/RL that Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, whose Miasnutyun alliance won the 30 May parliamentary elections, has been appointed prime minister by President Robert Kocharian. The appointment is to be announced later on 11 June. The names of other members of the new cabinet have not yet been announced. PG GEORGIA, ARMENIA, IRAN TO COOPERATE IN FIGHTING CRIME. The foreign ministers of Georgia, Armenia, and Iran signed a memorandum in Tbilisi on 10 June committing their countries to work together to control illegal drugs and money laundering, the Georgian news agency Iprinda reported. Under the terms of the agreement, the three will hold annual meetings, exchange information, and train one another's specialists in these areas. PG YEREVAN SAYS ITS WEAPONS DON'T THREATEN OTHERS. Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian said in Tbilisi on 10 June that his country has every right to purchase weapons for its national security, Prime-News reported. But he insisted that the weapons it possesses do not pose a threat to Georgia. PG RICH-POOR GAP INCREASES IN ARMENIA. The UN Development Program announced on 10 June that living standards for most Armenians have deteriorated over the last several years and that the gap between the wealthy and the poor has increased, Armenpress reported. The average monthly salary in Armenia is now $27. PG DEBAKEY SAYS ALIEV IN GOOD HEALTH. U.S. heart surgeon Michael DeBakey told ITAR-TASS on 11 June that Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev has made excellent progress in recovering from his 29 April surgery and is now in good health. DeBakey, who acknowledged that he has not seen Aliev since the surgery, said he based his assessment on conversations with Aliev's doctors. PG BAKU SEES NO CHANGE IN ARMENIA'S POSITION. Vafa Guluzade, Azerbaijani President Aliev's chief foreign policy adviser, told the Turan news agency on 10 June that he does not believe that the election of former communist leader Karen Demirchian as speaker of the Armenian parliament will produce significant changes in Yerevan's approach to foreign policy. He added that "one can expect changes in Yerevan's attitude to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict only when Russia's influence on Armenia declines." PG BAKU SAYS IRAN HAS INCREASED ESPIONAGE ACTIVITIES. Azerbaijan's Security Ministry told Reuters on 10 June that Tehran has increased its espionage effort against Baku and that Iranian agents are seeking to weaken the Azerbaijani republic. The Iranian Embassy denied the charges. PG NEW AZERBAIJANI GAS FIELD LARGER THAN EXPECTED. President Aliev said on 10 June that test wells at the Shakh Deniz oil field suggest that this field contains almost twice as much gas as predicted, Reuters reported. The Azerbaijani leader said that there may be 700 billion cubic meters of gas in the field, instead of the 400 billion cubic meters estimated. PG TBILISI SEES SUPPORT FOR 'INTERNATIONALIZING' ABKHAZ PEACE PROCESS. Georgian State Minister Vazha Lordkipanidze on 10 June said that Tbilisi's ambassador in Brussels has found support for adopting the "Kosovo pattern" for a resolution of the Abkhaz dispute, Prime-News reported. According to the Caucasus Press news agency, among those supporting this view are the U.S. and German ambassadors. PG GREECE TO PRESENT WARSHIP TO GEORGIA. The Greek Defense Ministry will present a warship and other military equipment to Georgia in two weeks or so, Caucasus Press reported on 10 June. The same day, Tbilisi officials noted that Russia has slowed or even stopped its promised withdrawal of frontier troops from Georgia. PG NAZARBAEV MARKS FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF NEW CAPITAL. Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev on 10 June participated in celebrations marking the first anniversary of the shift of his country's capital from Almaty to Astana, Interfax-Central Asia reported. He said that "much has changed" in the new capital over the last year and that it "will become the administrative center of the country and the cultural and scientific center of our state." PG KAZAKHSTAN DENIES VIOLATING ANTI-DUMPING ACCORD. Viktor Yazikov, an official of Kazakhatomprom, told Interfax- Kazakhstan on 10 June that his country has not violated an agreement on ending an anti-dumping investigation concerning uranium exports to the West. Yazikov said that charges to this effect reflect an effort by Washington to promote the interests of the U.S. Enrichment Corporation. PG KAZAKHSTAN FAILS TO HELP REPATRIATES. According to prosecutors in Kazakhstan, the government has failed to provide sufficient funds to help those who have returned to the country from other republics but who do not have the status of refugees, Asia-Plus reported. More than 175,000 such people came to Kazakhstan between 1991 and the end of 1998. As a result, the authorities have set a quota of only 500 families for all of 1999. PG BOMB DAMAGES TAJIK TOWN. An explosion in Tursunzade on 10 June caused extensive property damage but claimed no casualties, Reuters reported on 11 June. Local officials said there is no indication that the latest bombing is linked to the country's long-running civil war. PG TURKMENISTAN VISA LAW BLOCKS DEPARTURE OF 51. According to Interfax on 10 June, the new mandatory visa regime set up by Ashgabat on 8 June has already prevented 51 people from flying out of the Turkmen capital to Moscow. Acquiring the necessary documentation will take "at least a month," the news agency said. PG END NOTE THE APPROACHING END OF THE 'PARTY OF POWER' By Paul Goble Economic failures, geopolitical isolation, and electoral experience are combining to bring an end to the rule of the "party of power," one of the most characteristic features of the post-communist transition in the former Soviet republics. An amorphous and non-ideological group consisting of a non-party president, a politicized bureaucracy, and a depoliticized government closely linked to non-official groups, the party of power serves as a buffer between Communists on the left and nationalists on the right in the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Moldova, and other post-Soviet states. At the present time, the party of power, both as a concept and a reality, still dominates the political landscape. But as Vladimir Bruger writes in the 26 May issue of the Moscow newspaper "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Sodruzhestvo," its days may be numbered because of forces beyond its control. He suggests that it is likely to be replaced by a politicized politics and a more pragmatic political style. The first such force working against the continued dominance of the "party of power" in these countries is the continuing if not accelerating collapse of their economies. Because the parties of power have justified their remaining in office by pointing to the evils that either the nationalists or Communists may bring, they have often escaped public attack even if they have not received much public support. But as the economic situation in these countries has deteriorated, the parties of power no longer can make that argument work to their advantage. "In contrast to ideology or PR," Bruger writes, "economics demands an accounting for everything that is done and not done." And ever more people and politicians are deciding that the alternatives denounced by the party of power may in fact not be worse than the incumbents. The second force undermining the continuation of this form of governance is the changing geopolitical position of these countries. Immediately after the collapse of communism, the first post-Soviet governments--which included second- level party nomenklatura officials as well as a thin stratum of reformers--expected that the West would not only provide substantial aid but would work to integrate these countries into Western organizations. Neither has happened, at least as far as the population can see, Bruger notes. As a result, ever more people in these countries are prepared to consider supporting parties of the left or the right advocating policies that can be variously described as committed to self-reliance or going it alone. And the third force is the growing electoral experience of both politicians and the population in these states. The parties of power were able to coopt many politicians, and these ideologically based leaders were all too willing to be coopted--because the party of power had all the power--and all too willing not to challenge the bases of the party of power because they hoped eventually to use its levers themselves. One distinguishing characteristic of this tendency, Bruger notes, is that in both Russia and Ukraine, the political parties that form the parliamentary majorities in parliament have accepted the designation of opposition and have behaved as such. But that pattern is beginning to change as a result of the pressures of electoral politics. Some of those now aspiring to office were earlier cast out of the party of power and have since changed their views. After being fired as Russian premier, Viktor Chernomyrdin's political party adopted a very different stand on the constitutional arrangements that have allowed the Russian party of power to control all decision-making. Even more important, as the populations of these countries gain experience with elections, those politicians who hope to win support are now being forced to distance themselves from the failings of those currently in power. Thus, as Bruger points out, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov immediately declared that his new party "cannot be held responsible for everything that was done before us." None of this necessarily sounds an immediate death knell for the parties of power. The authoritarian traditions of these countries mean that many leaders, even those who head more ideologically based parties, prefer the informal and backroom dealings that the parties of power have practiced over the last few years. And in the past, the parties of power have shown their ability to manipulate the media and the political system during elections and successfully maintain their positions of power by portraying their opponents as more dangerous than themselves. But economic collapse, international isolation, and experience with elections have fragmented the parties of power in all these countries, Bruger notes, thus reducing their ability to respond to challenges. That makes it ever more likely that over the next decade, the current "party of power" system will give way to a more ideologically and interest-based politics. That may produce bad things as well as good, Bruger concludes. But he adds that it will at least mean that the post-communist transition will enter a new phase, one that will put still more distance between where these countries will be and where they were in the communist past. 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. 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