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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 118, Part I, 17 June 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 118, Part I, 17 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 * DUMA CALLS STEPASHIN'S BLUFF * COHEN REPORTS 'GOOD PROGRESS' IN TALKS WITH SERGEEV * KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT WITHDRAWS REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL POWERS END NOTE: OBSTACLES TO PARTY LOYALTY IN THE EAST xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA DUMA CALLS STEPASHIN'S BLUFF... Resisting verbal pressure from Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin and others, State Duma members issued their first rejection on 17 June of a bill from the package of measures drafted in accordance with the government's agreement with the IMF. The vote was 101 in favor with 219 against and 6 abstentions, according to ITAR- TASS. The Communist, People's Power, Agrarian, and Yabloko factions opposed the bill, while Our Home is Russia and Russian Regions supported it. Earlier, Stepashin threatened to call a vote of confidence in the government if the IMF legislation were rejected. Prior to the vote the government withdrew its version of the bill imposing a tax on gasoline stations in favor of one worked out by a trilateral commission composed of representatives of the Duma, the Federation Council, and the government. JAC ...APPARENTLY UNCONVINCED BY PRICE PLEDGE. One author of the compromise bill, Duma deputy and Yabloko member Sergei Don told "The Moscow Times" the same day that the trilateral commission's product had been distorted by government amendments introducing effective gas price controls, and that it would "bring about a rise in corruption and a huge rise in prices. At worst it would lead to deficits and lines for gas." "Rossiiskaya Gazeta" reported on 17 June that the pact signed by more than 50 Russian energy and rail companies promising to freeze prices until the end of the year contains no clause about penalties for violations of its provisions. JAC IMF CASH MAY NOT COME TILL THE FALL. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus said on 16 June that he does not consider the passage of specific tax bills by the Duma a strict requirement for Russia to get new loans, Interfax reported. He reportedly said that the fund's only requirement for Russia is that it have a transparent budget and that the government tell the people the truth. "Segodnya" predicted that the law taxing gasoline stations notwithstanding, the government needs to get 30 bills through the lower chamber and approval on a first reading alone "cannot satisfy the IMF." Therefore, the question of resuming cooperation with the IMF is postponed till the fall, according to the daily. The same day, Peter Westin of the Russian-European Center for Economic Policy in Moscow also concluded that "it looks likely that the IMF money will not arrive until September- October now," AFP reported. JAC NO NEWS ABOUT DEFAULT MAY BE GOOD NEWS. The 16 June deadline for Russia's London Club creditors to declare Russia in default for missing a payment on Soviet-era debt passed with no word from the creditors, "The Moscow Times" reported the next day. Moscow missed a $850 million payment on 2 June. Before the deadline passed, some analysts said that rumors about the possibility of a default being declared by the club were designed to pressure Russia during negotiations over restructuring the debt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 1999). Meanwhile, the Russian press has been carrying reports that the London Club has agreed to delay some of Russia's payments. ITAR-TASS reported on 15 June, citing an anonymous official at the Fitch ICBA credit agency, that the London Club had granted a grace period until 2 December. The same day "Segodnya" reported that club members had postponed payments worth $578 million due in 1999 until after 2000. JAC COHEN REPORTS 'GOOD PROGRESS' IN TALKS WITH SERGEEV. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen told AP that "good progress has been made" in Kosova negotiations with his Russian counterpart Igor Sergeev in Helsinki on 16 June. Cohen and Sergeev did not finalize an agreement, however, on the role of Russia within KFOR. Sergeev told ITAR-TASS after the meeting: "We have reached an agreement on the structure of command of the peacekeeping operation with the participation of the Russian military contingent." Cohen, however, told AP: "We've had some agreements in some areas, but until the entire package as such is resolved there can be no agreement." He added that one possibility is to give the Russians a "zone of responsibility" within a section of Kosova commanded by NATO forces. Sergeev and Cohen resumed the talks on 17 June. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov are scheduled to join the negotiations later in the day. FS CONFUSION REMAINS OVER COMMAND STRUCTURE. Russian President Boris Yeltsin told ITAR-TASS in Moscow on 16 June that Russia insists on having an unspecified "area of responsibility" in Kosova. Yeltsin, after talking to Sergeev by telephone, said that "discussion [in Helsinki] of most of the questions went peacefully," but stressed that he "categorically disagrees" with NATO, which rejects the creation of a Russian sector under separate Russian command. Russian special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin stressed that "at all stages of the...negotiations...we left no doubt that the Russian contingent will never be subordinated to NATO commanders." The chief of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and chairman of the Russian Security Council, Vladimir Putin, said after meeting with Yeltsin on 17 June that the model established in Bosnia--where Russian troops work in tandem with the NATO-led peacekeeping force--might serve well in Kosova. FS ANOTHER BANK POISED TO LOSE ITS LICENSE... Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko told reporters on 16 June that Oneksimbank's license may be revoked at any moment. According to Gerashchenko, the bank's management is aware of its precarious state and is currently negotiating with the Central Bank and a variety of creditors--most of them foreign--about settling its debts, which were earlier estimated at $2 billion. Gerashchenko added that the fate of two more major banks is now being decided but he declined to identify them. Oneksimbank was one of Russia's top ten largest banks and its chairman Vladimir Potanin was considered one of Russia's so-called oligarchs. JAC ...AS OVERALL NUMBERS OF BANKS THIN ONLY SLIGHTLY. The same day, "Vremya MN" reported that the number of credit organizations operating in the Russian market slipped by 1 percent during the month of May, from 1,422 to 1,407 as of 1 June. From January to May, the number of credit organization declined only 5 percent. In February, Gerashchenko predicted that Russia would have only 200-300 commercial banks by the end of 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 1999). He later revised this estimate upwards. JAC JUSTICE MINISTRY FAVORS EXTENDING DEADLINE FOR RELIGIOUS GROUPS. Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov believes that only 35 percent of Russia's religious organizations have been registered as required by a controversial 1997 law on religion, "Segodnya" reported on 16 June. As a result, Krasheninnikov supports extending the current deadline of 31 December 1999 by an additional two years. Under the law, groups that are unregistered can be banned. JAC DUMA PASSES LAW TO SUPPORT SPACE INDUSTRY. The State Duma passed on 16 June on the third reading a law on state support for the space industry. Under the law, space sector enterprises and organizations will be temporarily exempt from federal taxes and soft loans will be extended to the sector, Interfax reported. The law also calls for state support for regions whose land is littered with debris from rocket launches. Ecologists in one affected area, the Republic of Khakassia, estimated that 30 tons of waste has fallen on the region from rockets and satellites launched at Baikonur space complex in neighboring Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 19 May 1999). Other regions littered by space waste are Altai Krai, Astrakhan Oblast and the Republic of Bashkortostan. JAC FIRES CONTINUE TO SWEEP RUSSIAN FORESTS. As of 16 June, 132 forest fires were blazing in Russia, 79 of which started in the previous 24 hours, a federal forestry service official told ITAR-TASS. According to the official, more than a thousand acres of forests were destroyed in the past day. Forest service officials have expressed concern that their agency's chronic lack of fuel and equipment will lead to the destruction of more of the region's taiga as the fire season sets in (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 26 May 1999). Last year, more than 400,000 acres of forest were destroyed by fire, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC KAMCHATKA RESIDENTS TURN FROM PETITIONS TO STREET PROTESTS. Almost 2,000 people participated in a protest march in the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii on 16 June to protest continuing electricity outages, "Trud" reported the next day. Earlier, Russian Television reported that residents were collecting signatures on a petition asking that the UN establish control over their peninsula (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1999). On 16 June, the Japanese government responded by announcing that it would provide three diesel- run electric generators to three institutions for the handicapped, mentally retarded, and orphaned children, according to Interfax. According to a statement from the Japanese embassy in Moscow, the humanitarian aid will arrive at the beginning of September. After meeting with Kamchatka Oblast Governor Vladimir Biryukov on 17 May, Prime Minister Stepashin announced that a decision would be made that day on whether to allocate 50 million rubles ($2.1 million) to purchase fuel for the oblast, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA PAPAL VISIT TO ARMENIA POSTPONED. The planned visit to Armenia by Pope John Paul II on 18 June has been postponed due to the pontiff's illness, Reuters reported on 16 June quoting Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls. The pope had hoped to make a brief stopover in Armenia on his return from Poland to Rome in order to meet with the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin I, who is reportedly terminally ill with cancer. An official papal visit to Armenia in early July to mark the 1700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as the state religion was postponed ten days ago because of the Catholicos's failing health (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June 1999). LF AZERBAIJAN, RUSSIA CONSIDER ALTERNATIVE OIL EXPORT OPTIONS. Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii told oil executives in Moscow on 16 June that there is no alternative to the permanent closure of the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk oil export pipeline, Interfax reported. Transneft head Dimitrii Savelev suggested that Azerbaijani oil could be exported by rail via Dagestan instead. But Natik Aliev, president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, said that he doubts whether that solution would benefit Azerbaijan, ITAR-TASS reported. Aliev added that Transneft has not yet informed Azerbaijan of its decision to close the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline. Chechen presidential chief of staff Apti Batalov told Interfax on 16 June that Chechnya "is taking the most resolute measures" to prevent further thefts of oil from that pipeline and will fulfill all its obligations in that respect. LF ABKHAZIA ACCUSES TBILISI OF ABETTING GEORGIAN GUERRILLAS. Amazbei Kchach, interior minister of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, told Caucasus Press on 16 June that he is certain that Georgian leadership is backing the White Legion guerrilla movement, which Kchach accused of trying to destabilize the situation in southern Abkhazia in order to deter Georgian displaced persons from returning to their abandoned homes there. The White Legion recently issued a statement, which was summarized in the Georgian daily "Alia" on 15 June, vowing to continue its struggle for the restoration of Georgia's territorial integrity and the repatriation of displaced persons, whose numbers it estimated at 300,000. According to UNHCR data, the true figure is probably closer to 200,000. Although the Georgian leadership claims to have no control over the White Legion, in May 1998 it undertook to prevent further killings by that force in southern Abkhazia (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 1998). LF KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT WITHDRAWS REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL POWERS. Nursultan Nazarbaev retracted on 15 June the request he submitted to the lower chamber of parliament five days earlier to expand his legislative powers, Interfax reported on 16 June quoting presidential press secretary Asylbek Bisenbaev. Nazarbaev had argued that he needed such powers in order to clear a backlog of legislation that would help to galvanize the country's flagging economy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 1999). But deputies assured the president at a 11 June meeting that they will ensure the timely adoption of those laws despite the upcoming parliamentary summer recess. LF KAZAKH LOCAL COURT REJECTS EX-PREMIER'S APPEAL. A district court in Almaty on 16 June rejected a written appeal by former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin's lawyer, Vitalii Voronov, that the criminal proceedings brought against Kazhegeldin from tax evasion are unfounded, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. Voronov informed the court that his client paid the 5 million tenge (approximately $38,000) he owed in taxes for 1997. But the court ruled that the charges are valid and denied that they were politically motivated. Voronov said that Kazhegeldin will remain abroad until his legal status is clarified, according to Interfax. LF KAZAKH POLICE ROUND UP ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. Police in Almaty have launched an operation to detain and deport illegal immigrants, RFE/RL correspondents reported from the former capital on 16 June. To date, 800 people have been deported, 132 of them on 15 June to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Some Chinese immigrants have also been apprehended. An additional 1,500 people have been fined for violating Kazakhstan's passport regulations. President Nazarbaev attended a session of the State Security Council on 16 June that discussed the illegal immigrant problem and the demarcation of Kazakhstan's frontiers, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. LF BEREZOVSKII ACQUIRES KAZAKH TV CHANNEL, NEWSPAPER. Russian politician and businessman Boris Berezovskii has purchased the Almaty TV channel KTV and the independent satirical newspaper "Karavan," RFE/RL correspondents reported on 16 June, citing a second private Almaty TV station. LF TURKEY EXPRESSES CONCERN AT KARABAKH CEASEFIRE VIOLATION. The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 17 June expressing concern that the 14 June fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces could endanger regional stability and negatively impact on efforts to achieve a peaceful solution of the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1999). The statement repeated the Azerbaijani version of events which blamed the fighting on the Armenian side. Turan also reported that Armenian forces opened fire on the same Azerbaijani positions near the northeastern border of the unrecognized Republic of Nagorno- Karabakh during the afternoon of 16 June with small arms and grenade launchers from positions 8 kilometers away. The use of small arms at that distance seems implausible. The Azerbaijani troops returned fire, and both sides suffered losses, Turan reported. LF KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT BLAMES GOVERNMENT FOR GRAIN SHORTAGES. The lower chamber of the Kyrgyz parliament adopted a statement on 16 June criticizing the government's policy on grain and flour supplies, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The statement noted that the government had recently sent large quantities of flour to Uzbekistan in payment of Kyrgyzstan's outstanding gas debts and that domestic grain supplies are currently exhausted. It proposed that the Kyrgyz government should ask Kazakhstan to settle its $22 million debt to Kyrgyzstan in grain. Bread and flour prices in Kyrgyzstan have recently risen by 30-40 percent. LF TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION WORKING GROUPS RESUME TALKS. Meeting in Dushanbe on 16 June, government and opposition working groups scheduled a meeting the following day between President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri, Reuters reported. The two will address opposition demands that the Tajik authorities comply with specific aspects of the 1997 peace agreement allocating opposition representatives 30 percent of national and local government posts. The opposition insists on the appointment as defense minister of its candidate, Mirzo Ziyoev, the release of 93 imprisoned Tajik fighters, and the holding of parliamentary elections before the presidential poll which Rakhmonov has pledged will take place no later than early November--when his five-year term expires. The UTO suspended cooperation within the Commission for National reconciliation on 24 May to protest the Tajik authorities' failure to meet those demands (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 1999). LF TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY OBJECTS TO RUSSIAN MILITARY PRESENCE, REFERENDUM. The Democratic Party of Tajikistan has issued a statement condemning the April agreement between Moscow and Dushanbe allowing Russia to maintain a military base in Tajikistan, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 June. The statement says the Russian military presence serves to prop up the present Tajik leadership and deters foreign investment. The statement also appealed to the population and political parties to lobby against the holding of a proposed referendum on amendments to the Tajik Constitution. It argued that the proposed amendment on the "separation of religion from the state" could engender a new round of fighting between government and opposition forces. LF UZBEK TERRORISM TRIAL RESUMES. Uzbekistan's Supreme Court resumed proceedings on 16 June after a five-day break against 22 people accused of perpetrating the bombings in Tashkent on 16 February that killed 16 people and injured almost 100 more, AP reported. They are accused of terrorism, attempting to kill President Islam Karimov, drug trafficking, illegal possession of weapons, and robbery. The state prosecutor called for the death sentence on 10 of the defendants, and for prison terms of 10-14 years for the remainder. Also on 16 June, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said it had recalled its ambassador from Tashkent for consultations following criticism by Uzbek officials of Ankara's delay in extraditing to Uzbekistan two men suspected of participating in the bomb attacks. LF END NOTE Obstacles To Party Loyalty In The East By Paul Goble Relatively few people in post-Soviet countries have developed much loyalty to the new political parties. This state of affairs has raised concerns about the prospects for representative democracy in this region--despite the slow development in the West of party loyalty in the past and recent declines in party loyalty there. Most discussions about the absence of party loyalty in the post-Soviet countries have focused on the unwillingness of people to commit to a particular party because of their experiences with the single Communist Party in the past. Those discussions have focused on the lack in these countries of the kind of clear-cut social and economic cleavage lines on which parties and party loyalty normally rest. But two recent studies of the development of political parties in Estonia point to a third factor that in the short run, at least, may prove to be even more important: the absence of loyalty to any particular party by members of the political elite and their willingness to hop from one party to another in the elusive pursuit of votes and power. In his book, "Parties and Democracy in the Post-Soviet Republics: The Case of Estonia," David Arter traces the remarkable career path of Tiit Made, a former communist who founded the Green Movement but refused to join any of the Green parties. After that, Arter wrote, Made shifted to the left-wing Democratic Labor Party, only to jump to the rightist Entrepreneurial Party before leaving that to chair the Center Party. And Made, who has jumped yet again since Arter's book was published--the Estonian politician has now founded a new Development Party--is not alone. As American social scientist Rein Taagepera points out in the current issue of "Party Politics," many other Estonian politicians have done the same. He points out that in the 1995 parliamentary elections, 44 of the 101 incumbents were re-elected, but 16 of these-- more than one-third in all--had run and won under a new and different party label. And that has led Taagepera to ask: "How on earth could voters develop any party loyalty before the politicians themselves do?" But in asking this question, Taagepera raises three broader issues that most of those discussing this "problem" in post-communist countries generally ignore. First, Taagepera notes, those who bemoan the absence of party loyalty in the post-Soviet states forget just how long it took Western countries to develop modern political parties. In Scandinavia, he argues, it took "half a century to proceed from the first proto-parties of the mid-1800s to constellations that could be called party systems, without utterly diluting the meaning of the term 'system.'" Estonia and her neighbors have moved far more quickly, even if they do not yet have the kind of parties and party loyalties typical of western and northern Europe. Second, Taagepera suggests that most studies of party development in post-Soviet countries ignore just what the Soviet system did to atomize the population, destroying the kind of social and economic integuments that bind people together for collective action of the kind political parties represent. He acknowledges that Estonia, like other countries "where democracy existed before an authoritarian or totalitarian interlude," has done better than those countries lacking such a foundation. But he pointedly notes that "the atomization of society and economy under Soviet rule was far more severe than in Spain under Franco or even the communist regimes in Central Europe." And third, Taagepera argues that the "central assumption democracy without parties is unthinkable," may not be true or at least not true in the way its supporters claim. Not only does it ignore that party loyalty is declining rapidly in most Western countries, but it fails to take into account the new media environment that allow politicians to advance themselves without the support of the party apparatus. Indeed, Taagepera says, "if dealignment is real in the West (partly because TV stresses personalities and displaces the parties from their information-providing role), then Estonia could actually be seen as taking a shortcut into the Western future" rather than moving off in ways that preclude a democratic outcome. Almost certainly parties, party loyalty, and party development will affect further development of the post- communist countries. But Arter's findings and Taagepera's arguments suggest that their role may be far more complicated and differentiated than some both there and in the West have assumed. And that in turn suggests that those monitoring the development of democracy need to take into account a variety of factors--including the loyalty of politicians to parties-- before decrying the absence of party loyalty by the population at large. 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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