|Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. - Thomas Carlyle|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 201, Part I, 14 October 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 201, Part I, 14 October 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 * FEDERATION COUNCIL SNUBS YELTSIN A THIRD TIME * GOVERNORS PREPARING TO NIX BUDGET? * GEORGIAN OFFICIALS TRY TO NEGOTIATE UN HOSTAGES' RELEASE End Note: EU UNVEILS NEW APPROACH TO EASTWARD ENLARGEMENT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA FEDERATION COUNCIL SNUBS YELTSIN A THIRD TIME... The upper legislative chamber voted by 98 to 52 to reject a third request by President Boris Yeltsin to permanently dismiss suspended Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov. Ninety votes were needed for Skuratov's ouster. Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, who appeared to support the measure, said the action was defeated only because senators want to "wait for the Constitutional Court's ruling." Senators had asked the court last June to decide whether Yeltsin's decree suspending Skuratov pending the outcome of a criminal investigation is constitutional (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 1999). Addressing the Council before its vote, Skuratov said that "the personal interests of president and his family" were behind his dismissal. The presidential press service released a statement later alleging that to cover up his own incompetence, Skuratov "deliberately makes false accusations." Such an "important post cannot be held by a person letting himself be used in a dirty game," the statement said. JAC ...AS NEW KREMLIN PERSONNEL SHAKE-UP TIPPED. Most newspapers evaluated the Kremlin's decision to bring the Skuratov issue to a vote as a serious blunder for which chief of the presidential administration Aleksandr Voloshin will likely take the blame. "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 14 October that this latest attempt to oust Skuratov attracted even less votes than last time (when 61 voted in favor), while "Vremya MN" reported that members of the Fatherland-All Russia alliances voted to support Skuratov. Both "Kommersant-Daily" and "Segodnya," which are owned by rival "oligarchs," one of whom is loyal to and the other opposes the Kremlin, concluded that Voloshin will likely lose his job. "Segodnya" reported the previous day rumors are circulating that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will be replaced because Putin is in danger of becoming more popular than the president. JAC GOVERNORS PREPARING TO NIX BUDGET? Federation Council Budget Committee Chairman Konstantin Titov told Interfax on 13 October that "there is little hope" that the upper legislative chamber will pass the revised 2000 draft budget. He noted that the new draft does not allocate half of budget revenues to the regions, as many governors have demanded. Titov's remarks follow speeches by Prime Minister Putin to regional leaders in support of the budget. Putin earlier told members of the interregional association Black Earth to resist approaching the budget with an attitude of "territorial egoism," according to Interfax. JAC CHECHEN FORCES RETREAT FROM STRATEGIC VILLAGE. Chechen forces on 13 October abandoned the village of Goragorsky, west of Grozny, after losing five men in fierce fighting with federal forces over the past few days, Reuters reported, citing sources close to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. They also said that Russian forces were shelling the village of Tolstoi-Yurt, just south of the Terek River, and appeared to be preparing a new assault on the village of Bamut, 45 kilometers southwest of Grozny. Also on 13 October, Colonel General Viktor Kazantsev, who commands the Russian forces in the North Caucasus, said his men will advance south of the Terek River and expand the security zone, within which schools and medical centers will be set up and pensions paid. Moscow has already appointed military commandants in at least two districts of northern Chechnya. LF KORNUKOV SAYS AIR STRIKES WILL CONTINUE. In Moscow, Russian Air Force commander Colonel General Anatolii Kornukov told journalists that Russian air raids have destroyed almost all bases and facilities belonging to Chechen militants. But he added that strikes in support of the Russian ground forces will be continued until the rebels are totally destroyed, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. LF BASAEV VOWS TO FIGHT 'TO THE END.' A senior Russian officer had said on 11 October that field commander Shamil Basaev was among the Chechens surrounded in Goragorsky (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 October 1999). But on 13 October Basaev met with journalists in Grozny, where he predicted that the war will be a long one and vowed that the Chechens "will not simply let the Russians withdraw. We will fight to the end," Reuters reported. Basaev denied persistent rumors of tensions between himself and President Maskhadov. He also rejected Russian arguments that the invasion of Chechnya was a justified crackdown on international terrorism, attributing it to Russia's "imperial ambitions." Also on 13 October, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told ITAR-TASS that Basaev is creating a special group tasked with the assassination of deputies to the 1996 pro-Russian Chechen puppet parliament and the abduction of their relatives. LF RUSSIA WILLING TO ACCEPT AID FOR DISPLACED PERSONS. Russian Deputy Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Khetagurov told journalists in Moscow on 13 October that although Moscow has not made a formal request for humanitarian aid, it would welcome "any help or interest" in alleviating the plight of an estimated 160,000 people who have fled the fighting in Chechnya, Reuters and Interfax reported. Khetagurov denied that the influx of fugitives into Ingushetia constitutes a humanitarian tragedy, saying that there are 3,000 vacant places in the tent camps set up to accommodate displaced persons. LF KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA LEGISLATURE APPROVES NEW PREMIER. The People's Assembly of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia has endorsed the candidacy of Vasilii Neshchadinov as the republic's new premier, Russian Radio reported on 13 October. It had failed to do so on 11 October for lack of a quorum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999). It also approved two proposed deputy premiers, Karachai Akhmat Sochiev and Fatima Khunizheva, who are ethnic Karachai and Abaza, respectively. The remaining two deputy premier posts, which are to go to a Cherkess and a Nogai, remain vacant. On 13 October, republican President Vladimir Semenov appointed a respected Cossack Ataman, retired Major General Yurii Antonov, to head the republic's newly created Security Council. LF GOVERNMENT TO BY-PASS IMF OVER DEFENSE SPENDING. Thomas Dawson, head of the IMF's external affairs department, told reporters on 13 October that it is still too early to say whether the fund will release the second tranche of its loan to Russia in November, according to Reuters. The same day, Prime Minister Putin admitted that military operations in the North Caucasus "are putting additional pressure on the budget" but all expenses there have been covered by additional budget revenues. "Vremya MN" explained on 14 October that the government is trying to reduce its debts to the Defense Ministry from past years and in this way such spending does not formally concern the IMF. According to the newspaper, the government owes the Defense Ministry almost 50 billion rubles ($1.9 billion) because 23.6 percent of the funds allocated for national defense under the 1998 budget and 30.7 percent under the 1997 budget were never transferred. JAC MOSCOW EXPRESSES 'SERIOUS CONCERN' OVER U.S. SENATE TEST BAN VOTE. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told journalists on 14 October that Moscow "expresses dissatisfaction and serious concern" over the U.S. Senate's "refusal" the previous day to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, ITAR-TASS reported. "This decision deals a serious blow to the whole system of agreements in the sphere of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, especially to the prospects of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," he added. Reuters quoted Rakhmanin as saying Russia will need to analyze carefully the consequences of the Senate vote. The news agency noted that he did not elaborate. Over the last week, Russian officials have said that the final touches are being put to documents needed to submit the test ban treaty to the State Duma for ratification (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 11 October 1999). JC OLD ZHIRINOVSKII PARTY EMERGES IN NEW FORM. The newly created Zhirinovskii Bloc has announced its top three candidates for upcoming State Duma elections, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 October. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii will top the list, followed by Duma Information Policy Committee Chairman Oleg Finko and Duma deputy Yegor Solomatin, who heads the Russian Union of Free Youth. That organization, the LDPR, and the Spiritual Revival party comprise the Zhirinovskii Bloc, which was hastily assembled after the Central Election Commission failed to approve LDPR's party list (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999). Both Finko and Solomatin are LDPR members. ITAR-TASS reported that Finko was elected head of Spiritual Revival on 13 October. However, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day that Zhirinovskii's half-sister, Lyubov Zhirinovskaya, is the party's head. The new bloc will reportedly submit its documents to the election commission on 14 October. JAC FEDERAL TROOPS ASSIST IN HOSTILE TAKEOVER AT PAPER MILL. Some 30 Justice Ministry troops raided the Vyborgskii paper mill in Leningrad Oblast early on 14 October to remove workers seeking to prevent the company's foreign owners from assuming control, Russian agencies and AP reported. One employee was injured when the troops opened fire on workers who had barricaded themselves into the building. Some 500 employees reportedly rushed to their colleagues' rescue, surrounding the building that the troops had entered. Meanwhile, police officials have been sent to the site to help end the stand- off. The raid was carried out to implement a local court order in May 1998 that the British owners of the plant be allowed to take control of their property. The mill's strike committee, however, has refused to comply with that ruling, and the plant was bought earlier this year by another British company (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 4 August 1999). JC WAGE ARREARS REDUCED AS ELECTION NEARS. Labor Minister Sergei Kalashnikov told Ekho Moskvy on 13 October that the backlog of unpaid wages to state-sector workers has declined more than 30 percent since the beginning of year to 56 billion rubles ($2.2 billion). As of 1 May, arrears totaled 63.108 billion rubles. He added that the government plans to increase pensions by 15 percent as of 1 November. On 14 October, Prime Minister Putin signed a decree raising the average monthly minimum wage to 979 rubles beginning 1 November from the current level of 950 rubles, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC ANALYST: NEW MILITARY DOCTRINE HIGHLIGHTS GENERALS' 'OUTRIGHT ANTI-WESTERNISM.' Writing in "The Moscow Times" on 14 October, independent defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer argued that the draft of the new military doctrine, published in "Krasnaya zvezda" on 9 October, is important as an "indicator of widespread anti-western opinions inside Russia's military elite" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1999). Noting that the draft was ready 12 months ago, Felgenhauer went on to say that the "outright anti-westernism of the published draft is also the most likely reason it has not been signed into law for more than one year." And the fact that the draft was published before receiving the president's approval--a "highly unusual" development for Russian bureaucratic procedure--is a "clear attempt by Russian military chiefs to twist the Kremlin's [arm] into signing a document the West will see as confrontational," he concludes. JC OIL COMPANIES TO CREATE CONSORTIUM FOR IRAQI PROJECTS. Rosneftegazstroi, Zarubezhneftegazstroi, and the East Siberian Oil and Gas Company have agreed to set up a consortium for oil and gas projects in Iraq, Interfax reported on 13 October. Ivan Mazur, the chief executive officer of Rosneftegazstroi, told the news agency that the group will raise capital only for those projects "certain" to receive UN approval. He added that the idea to form the consortium arose during Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi's recent visit to Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). JC RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN STATE MOVES A MILLIMETER FORWARD. The Federation Council on 13 October ratified a Russian- Belarusian agreement on the joint use of military facilities, according to ITAR-TASS. Russian and Belarusian defense ministers signed the agreement in the fall of 1998. The upper legislative chamber intends to establish a working group to examine proposals from Russian regions on the Union of Belarus and Russia. On 13 October, Viktor Stepanov, a top official with the preparatory committee for the union, told reporters that the treaty on the creation of a joint state will likely be signed by the end of November. Stepanov added that formation of a single army is not being discussed, but leaders of the two countries are considering a "joint defense order, regional troop groupings, and a common border guard policy." JAC TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA FRONTRUNNER IN ARMENIAN CATHOLICOS VOTE DENIES GOVERNMENT BACKING. Archbishop Garegin Nersisian, the most likely candidate for the leadership of the Armenian Apostolic Church, has rejected allegations by rival clerics that the Armenian authorities are actively lobbying for his victory in the upcoming ecclesiastical election, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 13 October. Nersisian said those allegations negatively affect preparations for the election. He also noted that President Robert Kocharian recently assured bishops that the state will not interfere in the election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 11 October 1999). Nersisian rejected criticism of the decision to include in the Ararat diocese delegation to the election the Yerevan mayor and the Ararat police chief, saying that "Our Church does not differentiate between its faithful and does not separate them by position and circumstances." LF ARMENIA RECEIVES NEW IMF LOAN TRANCHE. The IMF has released the final tranche, worth $29 million, of a three-year ESAF loan, Interfax reported on 13 October. The fund and the Armenian government reached agreement on the terms for disbursement last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 1999). The release of the tranche, originally expected in June, was delayed until the Armenian government unveiled its proposals for covering the budget deficit, which was higher than anticipated. LF AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS PROTEST TV STATION CLOSURE. Some 50 journalists staged an unsanctioned picket outside the Ministry of Justice in Baku on 13 October to protest the closure of the independent Sara TV station, Turan reported. The stations was closed on 9 October after broadcasting an appeal by opposition party leaders to participate in a demonstration that day against the Azerbaijani leadership's Karabakh policy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 1999). The Geirat, Vahdat, and Independent Azerbaijan Parties as well as the Party of Democratic Entrepreneurs have followed the example of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party and the Azerbaijan National Independence Party and issued statements condemning the closure. LF GEORGIAN OFFICIALS TRY TO NEGOTIATE UN HOSTAGES' RELEASE. Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze on 13 October cut short his visit to Ukraine and returned to Tbilisi. The following day, he traveled to the Kodori gorge in western Georgia where unidentified gunmen seized seven hostages the previous day, Caucasus Press reported. Five of the hostages are members of the UN observer mission and are citizens of Uruguay, Switzerland, Sweden, Greece, and the Czech Republic. The others are an interpreter and a German doctor. Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 13 October that the Georgian authorities are negotiating with the kidnappers, who are demanding a $200,000 ransom for the hostages, Interfax reported. Both he and Tevzadze said the Georgian army will launch an operation to free the hostages if those negotiations fail. The Russian Foreign Ministry offered the assistance of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in western Georgia in securing the hostages' release, Interfax reported. LF POLLSTERS PREDICT COMMUNIST WIN IN KAZAKH ELECTIONS... Bakhytzhamal Bekturganova, who is president of the Almaty Association of Sociologists and Political Scientists, told journalists in the former capital on 13 October that a survey conducted by the association suggests that the Communist Party won the 10 October elections to the lower house of parliament, Interfax reported. Bukturganova said exit polls conducted in 16 cities and encompassing one -third of all constituencies suggested that the Communist Party garnered 27.7 percent of the vote, the pro-presidential Otan party 16 percent, and the Civic Party 12.3 percent. She added that under the association's methodology, the survey results are likely to differ from official returns by no more than 15 percentage points and that a discrepancy of more than 10 percentage points would suggest vote falsification. LF ...AS CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION REJECTS COMPLAINTS. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 October that Kazakhstan's Central Electoral Commission has investigated more than a dozen complaints of violations of voting procedure on polling day. The commission rejected all of them, saying the violations in question could not have affected the outcome of the poll. LF KAZAKH PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW DEFENSE MINISTER. Nursultan Nazarbaev on 13 October named Lieutenant General Sat Tokpakbaev as head of the Defense Ministry, replacing Mukhtar Altynbaev, who was fired in August following revelations of the unsanctioned sale of MiG-21 fighters to North Korea, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 1999). Tokpakbaev, who is 60, previously headed the National Security Council and the presidential bodyguards. Nazarbaev also issued a decree on renaming or merging several government ministries. The Agency for Economic Planning is upgraded to the status of Ministry of the Economy, and the financial and economic functions of the former Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms are transferred to it. The remaining departments of that agency are subordinated directly to the president. The Atomic Energy and Space Ministries are removed from the Ministry of Energy, Trade, and Industry and subordinated to a new Ministry for Education and Science. LF KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER OUTLINES GOALS. In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 13 October, former Bishkek Mayor Feliks Kulov said the primary objectives of his recently formed Ar-Namys party are establishing constitutional order in a democratic society and removing the five-year moratorium imposed on the private ownership of land, which the electorate approved in a referendum one year ago. Characterizing the present political situation as "closer to anarchy than democracy," Kulov advocated improving the administrative system by initially combining the posts of president and premier, on the grounds that the president is not responsible for the economy and the prime minister does not have the powers to influence economic processes. In the second stage of reform, Kulov argued, the parliament should be elected on a party list system and should then form a government and elect a head of state. LF INFLATION SOARS IN KYRGYZSTAN. Inflation in Kyrgyzstan during the first nine months of 1999 reached 32.5 percent, compared with 5.6 percent for the same period in 1998, Interfax reported on 12 October. Food prices rose by 39.7 percent, while consumer goods by 6.8 percent and gasoline by 2.1 percent. LF RUSSIAN MILITARY TO LEAVE TURKMENISTAN. Russian First Deputy Defense Minister Vasilii Mikhailov told Interfax that the 50 Russian officers who have been stationed in Turkmenistan since 1994 will leave, as their help in creating a new Turkmen army is no longer needed. He was speaking after talks with Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on 13 October. He added that a new bilateral commission for military-technical cooperation will be formed and that Moscow has offered to help upgrade Turkmen military hardware, especially aircraft, in order to prevent other countries from carrying out that task. Turkmen Defense Minister Batyr Sardjaev will visit Moscow early next year, Mikhailov said. LF TURKMENISTAN UNVEILS DRAFT OIL AND GAS PROGRAM. Turkmenistan's Ministry for the Oil and Gas Industry on 13 October published a new program for the period 2000-2010, which is to be endorsed at the next session of the People's Council in December. The program envisages increasing oil production to 28 million tons in 2005 and to 48 million tons in 2010, with crude oil exports rising to 16 million tons and 33 million tons, respectively. The 10-year draft economic program approved by President Niyazov in July projected that oil output would reach 30 million tons in 2010 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1999). Gas production is to increase by 220 percent over the next decade, to 85 billion cubic meters in 2005 and 120 billion cubic meters in 2010. Investments in the oil and gas sector are expected to increase by more than 250 percent. LF END NOTE EU UNVEILS NEW APPROACH TO EASTWARD ENLARGEMENT By Breffni O'Rourke The EU on 13 October announced a radically new approach to the process of enlargement into Central and Eastern Europe. At the core of the new strategy is the decision to recommend the start of negotiations next year with another six countries: Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Bulgaria as well as Malta. These countries, regarded as the group of less advanced candidates for membership, will therefore join the six so-called first wave countries-- Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovenia, and Cyprus--which have already opened negotiations with Brussels. In this way, the union will no longer distinguish between first-wave and other candidate countries. Turkey is now also acknowledged as a formal candidate but is not yet admitted to negotiations, on the grounds that key criteria are not yet met. In the new negotiations, each country will progress toward meeting membership requirements at its own individual pace, a principle called "differentiation." The new accession strategy bears the stamp of the EU's first commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen of Germany. Verheugen says the strategy is aimed at balancing two potentially conflicting objectives: namely speed of accession and quality of preparation. He says speed is essential because of the expectations of the candidates, while quality is vital because the EU does not want "partial members" but new members with full rights and responsibilities. Verheugen also brought more clarity to the vexed question of when new members will be admitted. The report welcomes the fact that some applicants have already set their own target dates and says that the EU Commission will recommend that the EU summit in Helsinki in December commit the EU to be ready to decide from 2002 about the accession of candidates that fulfil the necessary criteria. Among the individual countries that were not included in the first wave, the progress report names Slovakia as having made good progress during the year, both in terms of democratization and economic reform. However, it says that Slovakia does not yet have a fully functioning market mechanism and in addition needs to do more to implement policy decisions and legislation on administration and the judiciary. The head of the EU integration section of the Slovak Foreign Ministry, Jan Kuderjavy, told RFE/RL that "this kind of relatively positive evaluation was badly needed [in Slovakia] and now I think everybody can see that the effort that was employed throughout the whole year, since our [reform] government was established last autumn, is bringing already first fruits." Lithuania, like Slovakia, is not yet regarded as having a full market economy, and in addition is seen as sluggish in adapting its legislation to fit EU norms. Fellow Baltic State Latvia needs to devote serious attention to general public administration and judicial reform but has made good economic progress in the last year. Estonia, which is also doing well economically and is one of the first-wave countries, needs to ensure that its language legislation is implemented in such a way as to comply with international standards. Turning to Bulgaria and Romania, the report finds that neither country met economic criteria. Bulgaria continues to make significant progress and shows sustained effort but started from a very low level. Romania has, at best, stabilized as compared with last year, the report argues. In the case of both those countries, the EU Commission has set conditions before membership negotiations can begin. For Bulgaria, those conditions stipulate that it must continue to make economic reform progress and must decide by the end of this year on an acceptable closure date for the risky nuclear reactors at Kozloduy. For Romania, the terms are that it, too, must make continued economic progress, and in view of the large number of orphans in the country it must implement reform of child-care institutions. The deputy head of Romania's diplomatic mission in Brussels, Viorel Ardeleanu, told RFE/RL that his country will work hard to meet the conditions so that negotiations can begin. He praised the EU's new approach, saying that "the main thing is that all six countries are invited to start negotiations in 2000.... This is an extraordinary signal for the political class and in general for the whole society in Romania." Turkey, with its long-strained relations with the EU, is a special case. The report recommends that Turkey be made a formal candidate, thereby giving it the prospect of eventual EU membership. But at the same time, the EU declines to open negotiations with Turkey and in this context points to failings of democratization in that country. The commission urges Ankara to undertake specific steps. These include enhancing domestic political dialogue, with particular reference to improving human rights, revising the way it handles EU financial assistance, and developing a national program for adjusting its legislation to EU norms. As for the west Balkans, the EU report recommends that EU leaders confirm the prospect of eventual membership for the former Yugoslav states and Albania. But it says that in addition to meeting the usual criteria, those countries will have to recognize one another's borders, settle all issues relating to national minorities, and pursue economic integration in a regional framework. Looking further afield, the report notes that relations with Russia, Ukraine, the Caucasus states and the Maghreb countries of North Africa are of strategic importance to the EU. They should go beyond trade and assistance programs and include issues such as the fight against organized crime, drug trafficking, and migration and environmental policies. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. 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