|The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 150, Part I, 4 August 1999
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 150, Part I, 4 August 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 * MOSCOW MAYOR, REGIONAL LEADERS PROCLAIM NEW ALLIANCE * AKSENENKO'S AUTHORITY WIDENED * TAJIK OPPOSITION ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF DEMILITARIZATION End Note: DJUKANOVIC'S MOSCOW VISIT SEEN AS 'TURNING POINT' xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA MOSCOW MAYOR, REGIONAL LEADERS PROCLAIM NEW ALLIANCE... Members of the Political Council of the so-called governors' bloc, All Russia, voted on 3 August in favor of an alliance with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Fatherland movement. All Russia coordinator Oleg Morozov told reporters that details of how the union will function still need to be worked out, but he said the basic principles on which the two groups can unite "have effectively been 90 percent agreed upon," Interfax reported. Despite Luzhkov's claims that the Kremlin is conspiring against him, Morozov ruled out the possibility of a confrontation between the Kremlin and the new alliance. All Russia's informal leader, Mintimer Shaimiev, who is also president of Tatarstan, met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 4 August, after which Shaimiev said that the president expressed an interest in the possible creation of a centrist coalition based on the new grouping, according to Interfax. JAC ...AS ISSUE OF LEADERSHIP REMAINS OPEN. A final decision on the consolidation of the two groups will be made at the All Russia's congress in Bashkortostan on 21 August, according to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau. On the potentially thorny issue of leadership, Shaimiev said that an understanding has been reached that all regional leaders will be equal in the alliance, according to Interfax. He added that "the main condition of our unification is equality and Fatherland has agreed to that." Analysts have suggested that the regional leaders will resist efforts by Luzhkov to impose his leadership on the group (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 28 July 1999). Meanwhile, Luzhkov has repeated his invitation to former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov to head the new alliance. Primakov previously praised the proposed merger of the two groups but has so far declined to clarify his future plans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July and 3 August 1999). JAC DISMISSED OFFICIAL CALLS KREMLIN DESTRUCTIVE FORCE... Sergei Zverev, whom President Yeltsin dismissed as deputy head of the presidential administration on 2 August, offered reporters the next day a wide-ranging critique of Kremlin policies. He said that the administration "has transformed itself into a body that is tearing society apart." When asked about the possibility of a state of emergency or postponed elections, Zverev said he "does not exclude any scenario. They are losing control of the situation." Zverev predicted that if the Kremlin decides to fight against the new alliance between Fatherland and All Russia, then Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin will likely resign because he will not agree to such a confrontation. Zverev, who once held an executive post at Gazprom, said that Gazprom is "begin attacked by media belonging to a certain political personage [presumably financier Boris Berezovskii] on the one hand and the presidential administration on the other." JAC ...SAYS YELTSIN APPEARS HEALTHY. On the subject of Yeltsin's health, Zverev said that he met with Yeltsin five or six times during his 15 weeks on the job and saw no signs of a deterioration in the president's health. JAC AKSENENKO'S AUTHORITY WIDENED. Prime Minister Stepashin signed a decree on 3 August that redistributes duties among his cabinet. First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko will now oversee the Federal Energy Commission, Federal Property Fund, and the State Property Ministry, according to RIA-Novosti. The latter two entities were formally supervised by Prime Minister Stepashin and First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko. Aksenenko will also assume some control over the Anti-Trust Ministry, while Khristenko will continue to monitor certain policy areas at the Property Ministry and Federal Energy Commission. In addition, he will oversee the Culture, Sports, and Tourism Ministries, instead of Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko, who now has oversight of the new Media Ministry. PlanEcon senior economist Ben Slay told "The Moscow Times" on 4 August that "it looks like Russia has an export version of the government, which includes [Finance Minister Mikhail] Zadornov...and a government [for domestic consumption] that has real powers." JAC INFLATION PICKS UP SPEED. Inflation in July reached 2.8 percent, compared with 1.9 percent in June, according to the Russian Statistics Agency on 4 August. According to the agency, inflation in the first seven months of 1999 was 28 percent, compared with 4.2 percent during the same period last year. Last month, the Economics Ministry forecast that inflation could reach 45 percent this year, rather than the 30 percent projected in the 1999 budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 1999). JAC TAX MINISTRY OVERSHOOTS REVENUE TARGET. The Tax Ministry collected 29.5 billion rubles ($1.2 billion) in cash in July according to preliminary figures, Interfax reported on 4 August citing the ministry's press service. This figure is 7.04 billion rubles or 31.4 percent higher than the target for that month. Last month's reports about the imminent resignation of Tax Minister Aleksandr Pochinok circulated by Russian media, such as "Segodnya," have so far proven incorrect (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 1999). JAC NO LONDON CLUB AGREEMENT EXPECTED SOON. Mikhail Zadornov, presidential envoy to international financial institutions, told Ekho Moskvy on 3 August that the London Club of creditors will not make a decision on Russian debt in the near future: "Negotiations will take weeks, maybe months," he said. Eric Fine, a debt strategist with Morgan Stanley, agreed, telling AFP on 2 August that the Stepashin "government doesn't necessarily have an incentive to reach a quick deal as its term expires soon. Moreover, official and private creditors may not want a settlement under this government." However, Finance Minister Kasyanov predicted on 4 August that a deal would be reached by Christmas "with implementation by the third quarter." It was not clear from reports which Christmas he meant. First Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko was even more optimistic, telling reporters on 3 August that Russia can expect an agreement in principle by 19 August, when the 2000 draft budget must be submitted to the cabinet, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC COMMUNISTS, KREMLIN SWAP THREATS. The Communist Party intends to ask prosecutors to check whether remarks made by Prime Minister Stepashin during a recent visit to the U.S. violated the law, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 August. Stepashin said that "Communism in Russia will never win, they will never come back. Nobody will allow it." The party believes that the remark indicates that federal authorities plan to meddle with the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary elections. The next day in an interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda," presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin said that the corpse of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin will be buried "by all means" but declined to specify when. Observers have suggested that Kremlin circulates rumors about burying Lenin from time to time to irritate the Communists, who invariably react angrily to such news. JAC HARVEST FORECAST REVISED UPWARD... The Agriculture Ministry has revised its forecast for this year's grain harvest, raising it from 58-60 million tons to 60-62 million tons, Reuters reported on 3 August. First Deputy Agriculture Minister said that Krasnodar, Stavropol and central regions are performing better than expected. A bout of hot dry weather and swarms of locusts from neighboring Kazakhstan had earlier caused crop forecasts to be downgraded. JAC ...AS FEWER SPIES, SOLDIERS TO HELP OUT IN FIELDS. Despite concerns about the country's crops, military and security organs will send fewer of their personnel to help harvest potatoes, cabbages, and other vegetables this year, "Moskovskii Komsomolets" reported. This year, 15,050 staff will be sent, compared with 15,500 last year. According to the newspaper, the cuts were made to the benefit of so- called elite units, such as the Foreign Intelligence Service. The Border Guards will also send 300 fewer troops. JAC RUSSIA, NATO SETTLE DETAILS OF KFOR OPERATION. General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the department for international cooperation at Russia's Defense Ministry, told Interfax on 3 August that Russian and NATO officials have settled the last remaining disputes over Russia's role in KFOR. The disputes included details about the precise boundaries of the Russians' areas of responsibility. A NATO spokesman told RFE/RL the next day that the agreement included merely technical and operational details and is of minor political significance. FS RUSSIA, UZBEKISTAN CONCERNED AT AFGHAN SITUATION. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told journalists in Moscow on 3 August that Russia "resolutely opposes" the escalation of fighting in northern Afghanistan, Russian agencies reported. Rakhmanin expressed concern at unconfirmed reports that volunteers from Pakistan and militant Arab supporters of Saudi terrorist leader Osama bin Laden are fighting on the side of the Taliban. In Tashkent, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry released on 3 August an appeal by the Uzbek government to both Afghan warring parties to end hostilities and come to the negotiating table as "no military solution to the Afghan problem is feasible," according to Interfax. The statement also called on the member states of the Six plus Two group, to which Pakistan belongs, to abide by their commitment not to provide military support to either of the warring Afghan sides. LF NEW CLASHES IN DAGESTAN. Four policemen were killed and two injured in clashes with guerrillas who attacked the Tsumadin border post on 3 August, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. The previous day, Dagestan police had repulsed an attempt by guerrillas to seize Agvali, which is the largest town in Tsumadin Raion. Meeting later on 3 August, Dagestan's government and state assembly issued a statement describing the attacks as an attempt to overthrow the republic's leadership and claiming that the guerrillas were led by three citizens of Dagestan, including Nadir Khachilaev. A former leader of the Union of Muslims of Russia, Khachilaev has been in hiding in Chechnya since the fall of 1998 after local police issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with the May 1998 storming by his supporters of the government headquarters in Makhachkala (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 May 1998). In Moscow, Chechen official representative Mairbek Vachagaev denied that Chechen detachments were involved in the fighting. He added that Tsumadin Raion does not border on Chechnya. LF KARACHAEVO-CHERKESS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE'S PROXIES ASSAULTED. Aleksandr Belanov, one of the campaign supporters of retired General Vladimir Semenov, was hospitalized in Cherkessk on 3 August with serious head injuries after being attacked by unknown assailants, ITAR-TASS reported. Two other Semenov supporters were attacked earlier the same day. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTRY PROTESTS IRAN'S SUPPORT FOR DJAVADOV. Iranian Ambassador Ali Rza Bikdeli was summoned to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on 3 August to hear Minister Tofik Zulfugarov's formal complaint over the continued presence in Iran of former Interior Ministry special forces officer Mahir Djavadov, Turan reported. Djavadov fled Azerbaijan in March 1995 after a standoff between the Interior Ministry special forces and Azerbaijani army troops, in which his brother Rovshan was killed. He traveled to Iran late last year and has repeatedly announced his intention of taking power in Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 12, 23 March 1999). Zulfugarov said that Tehran's failure to curtail Djavadov's "illegal activities" negatively affects relations between the two countries. Also on 3 August, Azerbaijani State Foreign Policy Adviser Vafa Guluzade said that Iran's failure to extradite Djavadov could lead to the postponement of the planned visit to Iran by Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999). LF AZERBAIJANI POLICE PREVENT PICKET OF U.S. EMBASSY. Police on 4 August thwarted an attempt by political parties aligned in the Coordinating Council for Karabakh to demonstrate outside the U.S. embassy in Baku to protest the U.S.'s alleged double standards in its policy toward Azerbaijan and Armenia, Turan reported. A similar attempt the previous day by members of the Liberty Party was also blocked by police. LF GEORGIAN MINISTER OF STATE IN MOSCOW. Vazha Lortkipanidze met in Moscow on 3 August with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Stepashin, First Deputy Premier Nikolai Aksenenko, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Russian Security Council Secretary and Federal Security Service Director Vladimir Putin, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. The talks reportedly focused on issues that have increased tensions in bilateral relations, including the Abkhaz conflict and the future of the four Russian military bases in Georgia. Lortkipanidze told journalists on 4 August that he will meet that evening in Moscow with Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba, Caucasus Press reported. LF ADZHAR LEADER INCRIMINATED IN GEORGIAN MERCHANT FLEET SCANDAL. Georgian Prosecutor-General Djamlet Babilashvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 3 August that several leading officials from the Adjar Autonomous Republic are responsible for the near bankruptcy of the Georgian merchant fleet, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Babilashvili accused Batumi Mayor Aslan Smirba of misappropriating $120,000 belonging to the fleet, adding that a further $250,000 was illegally transferred from the fleet's London bank account to a fund controlled by Adjar Supreme Council chairman and Georgian presidential candidate Aslan Abashidze. Abashidze's Revival Union is the second largest faction within the Georgian parliament, and observers believe the five party alliance that he heads may pose a serious threat to the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia in the October parliamentary elections. Smirba has denied the accusations against him. The Georgian merchant fleet owes some $100 million to foreign creditors. LF MORE REPRISALS AGAINST MEDIA IN KAZAKHSTAN. Court proceedings are under way in Almaty against the independent weekly "Nachnem s ponedelnika," RFE/RL correspondents in the former capital reported on 4 August. The newspaper's staff are accused of having published false statements critical of the Almaty City Court. On 3 August, the Committee to Protect Journalists wrote to Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev expressing concern at the harassment by Kazakhstan's National Security Committee of Bigeldy Gabdullin, who is editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper "XXI vek." LF MEDICAL PERSONNEL IN KAZAKHSTAN DEMAND BACK WAGES. Dozens of doctors and other medical personnel staged a demonstration in Almaty on 3 August to demand payment of overdue salaries, RFE/RL correspondents in the former capital reported. They also demanded the rescinding of a decision by local authorities to reduce the number of personnel employed in local hospitals and clinics. LF TAJIK OPPOSITION ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF DEMILITARIZATION. United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri told a session of the Tajik Commission for National Reconciliation on 3 August that the process of disarming opposition fighters and of their enrolment into the Tajik army or Interior Ministry forces has been completed, marking the transformation of the opposition from a military into a political force. A second senior UTO official, Khabib Sanginov, stressed that the disarmament process is irreversible, according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 3 August, the Commission for National Reconciliation issued an appeal to all armed bands not subordinate to the UTO to surrender their arms within three weeks. Under an agreement signed in June by Nuri and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, the Tajik government is obliged to lift the 1993 ban on opposition parties and media within one week of the disbanding of the UTO's military units. Paolo Lembo, who is acting representative in Tajikistan of the UN secretary-general, termed the demilitarization of the opposition a further step toward democratization. He expressed the hope that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be free and fair. LF END NOTE DJUKANOVIC'S MOSCOW VISIT SEEN AS 'TURNING POINT' by Floriana Fossato Despite the lack of public comment from top Russian officials following their talks with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic in Moscow on 2 August, most Russian media are describing the visit as a "turning point" in the country's foreign policy. Djukanovic's official visit was the first time that a leader who has challenged Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was warmly received at the top levels in Moscow. Ahead of the Moscow trip, Djukanovic had repeated earlier warnings that Montenegro might declare its independence unless Serbia--its larger partner in the Yugoslav Federation--introduces substantial reforms leading to democracy and a market economy. The Russian daily "Kommersant-Daily" wrote on 3 August that Djukanovic's visit showed that Russia "intends to forge links with democratic forces opposing Slobodan Milosevic." It added that "even more important, [the visit indicates that] Moscow intends to sever ties with the questionable friends it inherited from its [Soviet] past." Djukanovic's talks with Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov focused on boosting political and economic ties between Russia and Montenegro. Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that both sides agreed "on the need to solve problems in Yugoslavia through dialogue and the existing constitutional order." Luzhkov--a leading presidential candidate in Russia--was the only Russian politician to comment publicly on Djukanovic's visit. He spoke in support of Montenegro, saying that "we must not allow Milosevic's arbitrariness toward Montenegro. This is the most important thing. It could lead to a new worsening of the situation." At the same time, the Moscow major stressed that that he still considers NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia "an act of aggression." Stepashin, in footage broadcast by Russian television networks, only repeated his view that humanitarian aid should be provided to all Yugoslavia, not just the province of Kosova and Montenegro. Western countries, including the U.S., say Serbia should be excluded from receiving such aid as long as Milosevic remains in power. "I think that the position of Russia and of its president has played an important role in putting an end to military operations," Stepashin commented. "This is something that everybody acknowledges and was confirmed also in Sarajevo [at the 29-30 July Balkans reconstruction summit]. Those who, as a result of the military operations, are now in a difficult situation, independently of the place where they live, need the support of international organizations and also of Russia." During the Balkan reconstruction summit, however, Stepashin did acknowledge that "the sufferings of the Yugoslav population were caused not only by the [NATO] bombings but chiefly by Milosevic's regime." Djukanovic, for his part, told "Kommersant-Daily" in an interview published on 3 August that "it is very important that Moscow recognized Milosevic's responsibility for Yugoslavia's tragedy. This shattered the illusions of many Yugoslavs whom Belgrade had convinced that Russia supported Milosevic and would defend him." During NATO's 11-week bombing campaign, Russia clearly supported Milosevic. Most analysts in Moscow say the new pragmatism in Moscow shows an understanding of changed circumstances. Andrei Piantkovskii, director of the Moscow Center for Strategic Studies, told RFE/RL that "this is not the first time Russia changed position on an issue. Simply, Russian officials have finally understood that support for Milosevic leads nowhere and it is time for a change." Sergei Rogov, director of the U.S. and Canada Studies Institute, told "The Moscow Times" that Russia now is "interested in participating in the Balkan settlement and not in being associated with anti-Western regimes." Russian news agencies reported that in the talks with Djukanovic, emphasis was given to the issue of reconstructing war-torn Yugoslavia. Russia has promised some $150 million from its budget to finance fuel and food supplies this year and to promote Russian companies' efforts to win contracts for reconstruction in Yugoslavia. Much of the country's energy infrastructure was built with Soviet and Russian assistance. Economy Minister Andrei Shapovalyants said recently that his ministry will be in charge of controlling the funds and that a special commission focusing on Russia's participation in the reconstruction of Yugoslavia will have only a "consultative character." "Kommersant-Daily" on 3 August reported that the work of the special commission--chaired by Stepashin--will likely be aimed at facilitating the participation of Russian companies in the rebuilding works. It also quoted controversial businessman Vladimir Potanin, appointed as Stepashin's deputy on the commission, as saying that in order to be able to join the group of Western donor countries, Russia "will have to convince the West that [by] rebuilding Yugoslavia, it does not aim at strengthening Milosevic." The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow. 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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