CHINESE PRESIDENT MEETS WITH YELTSIN...
Zemin and President Boris Yeltsin met today in Moscow and
signed declarations on a "multipolar world" and the "formation
of a new world order," ITAR-TASS and Russian Public TV
reported. The two leaders reached agreement on setting up a
Russian-Chinese Committee on Friendship, Peace, and
Development and discussed border cooperation, reduction of
border forces, economic cooperation, atomic energy projects,
and economic reforms in China. Talks also focused on
construction of a gas pipeline from Tomsk to Shanghai and
sales of equipment for Chinese hydro-electric power stations.
Earlier, Jiang attended an official welcoming ceremony at the
Kremlin. He met with high-level Russian government officials,
including Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who is to visit
China at the end of June.
...AND ADDRESSES STATE DUMA.
Following his meeting
with Yeltsin, Jiang addressed the State Duma and stressed the
need for a strategic partnership between China and Russia,
ITAR-TASS reported. He urged the development of economic,
technical, and other ties and expressed the hope that the two
countries' parliaments would achieve "maximum expansion of
ties." Jiang also said it was especially important for the
parliaments to focus on developing friendship between the
peoples of China and Russia.
NEMTSOV ISSUES ULTIMATUM TO GAZPROM.
Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov says that if the gas monopoly
Gazprom does not meet five government conditions, a new
director will be appointed to run the company, Russian news
agencies reported yesterday. Speaking to reporters in
Krasnoyarsk, Nemtsov said Gazprom must provide for the
growth of its stock, make its financial activities more
transparent, adjust its tariffs, meet its obligations to the
federal budget and the Pension Fund, and provide all
companies wanting to work in the gas market with equal
access to gas deposits and pipelines. Nemtsov said the
government representative in Gazprom will monitor
compliance with those conditions. Gazprom management are
likely to balk at the last condition in particular. Nemtsov's
comments indicate that the agreement he reached with
Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev last week (see RFE/RL
Newsline, 16 April 1997) did not shelve plans to increase the
government's role in managing Gazprom.
DUMA COUNCIL DEMANDS DRAFT BILL ON BUDGET
The State Duma Council has demanded that the
government submit its proposed budget cuts to the lower
house of parliament by the end of this month, RFE/RL's
Moscow bureau reported yesterday. According to Duma
Budget Committee Chairman Mikhail Zadornov, the
government was legally obliged to submit its proposed cuts by
20 April. Zadornov, a member of the Yabloko faction,
complained earlier this week that the Finance Ministry was
withholding details on the planned cuts in non-essential
spending even from other ministries. Meanwhile, Duma
Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said the lower house would be
willing to adjust spending but would never agree to "bury" the
1997 budget by cutting 100 trillion rubles ($17.4 billion). First
Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais estimated last week
that this year's budget will exceed the state's means by 100
LUKOIL APPOINTS NEW IZVESTIYA BOARD OF
LUKoil has appointed a new Izvestiya board of
directors composed of four representatives from the oil
company and three from the newspaper, Russian news
agencies reported yesterday. Izvestiya staff had sought to
delay the shareholders' meeting. In yesterday's Nezavisimaya
gazeta, journalist Yevgeniya Albats criticized the authors of an
open letter asking Yeltsin to protect Izvestiya and
Komsomolskaya pravda. She said the appeal sought to assign
Yeltsin "the role [formerly played] by the Central Committee of
the Communist Party of the Soviet Union." Nezavisimaya
gazeta editor Vitalii Tretyakov, who signed the editors' appeal
to Yeltsin, argues in today's issue of that newspaper that
Izvestiya is not a leader of the independent press but a "party
newspaper" favoring the political line of Yegor Gaidar and
Despite the Defense Ministry's repeated
appeals for additional funds, Russia's armed forces received
only 53% of their budget allocation in the first quarter of 1997,
ITAR-TASS reports today, citing the ministry's press service.
The ministry says that the 11 trillion rubles it received during
the last three months was spent on wages, foodstuffs, and fuel
and that no funds remained for training exercises or
equipment maintenance. Meanwhile, Admiral Igor Khmelnov,
the former commander of the Pacific Fleet, was formally
charged yesterday with fraud, perjury, and abuse of power,
Interfax reported. Khmelnov was sacked on 11 April after
being accused of illegally obtaining apartments for himself and
his family in Vladivostok, the fleet's main base.
CHUBAIS TELLS BANKERS TO INVEST AT HOME.
Deputy Prime Minister Chubais has advised Russian bankers
to invest in domestic industry rather than relying on currency
speculation as their main source of revenue, ITAR-TASS
reported yesterday. Chubais told the seventh congress of the
Association of Russian Banks that their future profits can no
longer be exclusively tied to the internal lending market. He
said "those who understand this soonest will win, those who
understand this later will lose, and those who fail to
understand it will perish." Chubais added that the government
plans to lower yields for short-term bonds, making it harder
for banks to profit from the internal borrowing market.
LENIN'S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATED QUIETLY.
Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov led a procession of some
1,000 supporters to Red Square yesterday to mark the 127th
birthday of Vladimir Lenin, Russian news agencies reported.
Participants laid wreaths at Lenin's mausoleum and filed past
his embalmed body inside the building. Zyuganov yesterday
denounced proposals to move Lenin's body out of the
mausoleum as "blasphemous." Duma Speaker Gennadii
Seleznev told Ekho Moskvy that there is no need to bury Lenin
as his body is already lying two meters below ground, as
required by Christian tradition. Meanwhile in St. Petersburg,
Communists rallied near Smolnyi, the building that housed
the Bolshevik headquarters during the 1917 revolution.
TATARSTAN'S ACADEMY OF SCIENCES RECOMMENDS
SWITCH TO LATIN ALPHABET.
The Academy of Sciences of
Tatarstan has recommended that the Tatar language adopt the
Latin alphabet on the grounds that Cyrillic letters do not
correspond well to sounds in Tatar, ITAR-TASS reported
yesterday. The Tatar language was written in Arabic script
until 1927, when a switch was made to the Latin alphabet. As
in the case of other Turkic languages spoken in the USSR, the
Cyrillic alphabet was imposed in 1939. RFE/RL's Tatar-
Bashkir service reports this is the first official endorsement of
changing back to the Latin alphabet. Previously, only Tatar
civic groups had called for the change.
YELTSIN REMEMBERS HIS HOMETOWN.
granted 1 billion rubles ($174,000) from the presidential
reserve fund to his native village of Butka in Sverdlovsk
Oblast, Russian news agencies reported yesterday, citing the
presidential press service. The money is intended to repair
social facilities in the village. Yeltsin has instructed the oblast
government to monitor how the funds are spent.
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SUPPORTS TRASECA PROJECT,
LUKASHENKA PROPOSES ALTERNATIVE.
Askar Akayev and
his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, held talks in
Tbilisi yesterday that focused on strengthening bilateral
relations and cooperating in transportation, RFE/RL's bureau
in the Georgian capital reported. Akayev stressed the
importance to Kyrgyzstan of the TRASECA road and rail
project that will link China, Central Asia, and the
Transcaucasus with Europe. Kyrgyzstan has received a $140
million loan from Japan to finance its participation in the
project. Meanwhile, Belarusian President Alyaksandr
Lukashenka proposed in Seoul yesterday the creation of a
Beijing-Moscow-Minsk transport corridor "not only as a victory
for the economy but as a response to NATO enlargement,"
Interfax reported. Belarusian economists say the corridor
would constitute a cheaper and safer way of transporting
Chinese goods to the CIS and Europe than existing routes.
Lukashenka said he will discuss the project with the Chinese
leadership in Beijing on 28 April.
IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR CLOSER
Ali Akbar Velayati told journalists
in Baku yesterday that the Transcaucasian countries should
join forces to prevent the increase of U.S. influence in the
region, RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported. He also said that the
liberation of Azerbaijani territories currently occupied by
Karabakh Armenian forces should take place without the
intervention of external powers. Velayati refused to answer
questions about Iranian economic cooperation with Armenia or
about his government's failure to honor an agreement to open
an Azerbaijani consulate in Tabriz. In response to Azerbaijani
President Heidar Aliev's request to "exert influence" on
Armenia to expedite a settlement to the Karabakh conflict,
Velayati said Iran will do what it can to promote "normal
relations" between Azerbaijan and Armenia, according to ITAR-
NORTH CAUCASIAN PRESIDENTS WANT GREATER ROLE
IN MEDIATING ABKHAZ CONFLICT.
The presidents of
Russia's North Caucasian republics believe that, given the
opportunity, they could mediate a political settlement between
the Georgian and Abkhaz leaderships, RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau
reported yesterday, citing BS-Press. Unnamed North
Caucasian leaders are reportedly unhappy that the mediation
process is monopolized by international organizations. They
say they want to play a greater role in that process. Georgia
enjoys harmonious relations with North Ossetia and is
expanding ties with Chechnya. Georgian First Deputy Security
Minister Avtandil Ioseliani will travel to the North Caucasus
BELARUS, SOUTH KOREA SIGN INVESTMENT TREATY.
Seoul yesterday, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka
and his South Korean counterpart, Kim Young-Sam, signed an
investment treaty as well as an agreement to accelerate
economic and diplomatic ties. Kim said the treaty was
intended to boost bilateral business ties and that he hoped
bilateral cooperation would be further enhanced by the
conclusion of various agreements currently under discussion.
Lukashenka said he supported South Korean efforts to
establish lasting peace with North Korea through four-way
peace talks that would include the U.S. and China.
Lukashenka travels today to Hanoi for a four-day visit.
MORE TALKS ON RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN BLACK SEA
Another round of Ukrainian-Russian negotiations over
the division of the Black Sea Fleet opened in Moscow
yesterday, RFE/RL's Kyiv bureau reported. The Ukrainian
delegation is headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Konstantyn
Hryshenko and the Russian delegation by Deputy Foreign
Minister Boris Pastukhov. Hryshchenko told journalists
yesterday there were no major breakthroughs at the outset of
the talks. But Pastuhov confirmed Russian President Boris
Yeltsin's statement last month that Russia will no longer make
the signing of a friendship and cooperation treaty with Ukraine
conditional on agreements on the Black Sea Fleet division and
the status of Sevastopol.
UKRAINIAN, WESTERN EXPERTS AGREE ON CHORNOBYL
Carol Kessler, head of the Western delegation to
talks in Kyiv on the closure of the Chornobyl nuclear power
plant, says Ukraine and Western countries have agreed on a
plan to reduce the threat from the radioactive ruins of the
facility. Kessler told journalists that yesterday's meeting was
"very successful" and that agreement was reached on a plan to
ensure the safety of the deteriorating concrete sarcophagus
entombing the reactor and the removal of the remaining
nuclear fuel inside. Kessler also said both Ukraine and the G-7
are "very positive" about fulfilling a 1995 agreement to close
Chornobyl by 2000. Kyiv has threatened to keep Chornobyl
open after then unless it receives international aid worth $1.2
billion to complete two new power stations.
Estonia and Russia have
reached agreement on multiple-entry visas that will allow
residents close to the border to cross more easily, BNS
reported yesterday. Estonia will issue special visas to Russian
residents living near the frontier, and Russia will grant special
permits to Estonians. Authorities decided to issue the
documents rather than simplify border-crossing procedures.
Meanwhile, the Chechnya support group in the Estonian
parliament has sent a letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin
and U.S. President Bill Clinton asking them to recognize the
independence of Chechnya, BNS and ETA reported yesterday.
The text of the letter was approved at a 21 April meeting
commemorating the first anniversary of the death of Chechen
leader Dzokhar Dudaev.
POLAND APPROVES FREE TRADE AGREEMENT WITH
Latvia moved closer to membership in the Central
European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) yesterday when the
Polish government approved a free trade pact with the Baltic
state, Reuters reported. Under the pact, customs duties will be
abolished on most industrial products. Some tariffs will
continue to apply for so-called sensitive products--such as
farm goods, textiles, steel, oil products, and cars--but will be
phased out. Latvia still needs to sign a free trade agreement
with Hungary and join the World Trade Organization to
become eligible for CEFTA. Current CEFTA members are the
Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. On 1
July, Romania is to become its sixth member.
POLAND MAY BUY RUSSIAN ARMS EVEN AFTER NATO
Marek Siwiec, head of Poland's National Security
Bureau, says his country may buy Russian arms even if it is
allowed to join NATO. Siwiec was speaking at a news
conference in Warsaw following his talks with Ivan Rybkin,
head of the Russian National Security Council. Rybkin
yesterday also met with President Aleksander Kwasniewski
and top security officials. Meanwhile, Finnish President Martti
Ahtisaari arrived in Warsaw for a three-day visit yesterday. His
Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski thanked him for
Finland's role in mediating disputes between Russia and NATO
over the alliance's planned expansion.
CZECH MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY'S ASSETS FROZEN.
financial assets of the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD)
have been frozen because the party has not paid taxes since
1991, Czech media report. The CSSD is now unable to pay
salaries or loan payments. CSSD Senator Egon Lansky, who
also is as an adviser to parliamentary chairman Milos Zeman,
called the move "political persecution." Czech Prime Minister
Vaclav Klaus told Czech Radio yesterday that Lansky's
assertion was scandalous. He said the minister of finance was
in no way involved in the decision to freeze the party's assets.
SLOVAKIA TO ADOPT COUNTERMEASURES AGAINST
CZECH IMPORT DEPOSITS.
Slovak officials say the Slovak
government is preparing measures to counter the Czech
Republic's introduction of import deposits, Czech TV reported
on 22 April. Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Sergej Kozlik has
submitted the proposed countermeasures to the government
for discussion, but officials have refused to give any details.
The Czech Republic last week announced steps designed to
boost the economy and, in particular, to stunt the growth of
foreign trade deficit. Importers of consumer goods and food
stuffs will have to deposit 20% of the value of the imported
goods with a bank and will get the money back only after six
months. Slovakia says the import barriers violate the Czech-
Slovak customs union agreement.
SLOVAK GOVERNMENT SUSPENDS REFERENDUM
The Slovak government says preparations
for a referendum on direct presidential elections have been
suspended pending a ruling by the Constitutional Court.
Deputy Prime Minister Katarina Tothova told reporters
yesterday that the cabinet has asked the court to rule whether
the constitution can, in fact, be changed by a referendum.
President Michal Kovac last month set referenda for next
month on the presidential ballot and on whether Slovakia
should join NATO. The opposition proposed the referendum on
direct presidential elections in a bid to prevent Meciar from
assuming presidential powers when Kovac's term in office
expires in March 1998.
SLOVAK OPPOSITION SPEAKS OUT AGAINST PRAISING
The opposition Democratic Union has
issued a statement denouncing attempts by the Slovak
National Party to use the anniversary of the execution of Jozef
Tiso to exonerate the "totalitarian regime of the wartime
Slovakia," RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported yesterday.
Tiso, who was executed in 1947 on charges of war crimes, was
president of the fascist Slovak State during World War II. In a
related development, the opposition post-communist
Democratic Left Party (SDL) has appealed to the government,
political parties, and democratically-minded people to radically
oppose the questioning of "anti-fascist traditions" in present-
day Slovakia. The SDL says it is appalled by the dissemination
of fascist and nationalist views in society as well as by the
recent praise of Tiso.
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS "NO NUKES" WITH
At the end of his five-day visit to Japan,
Laszlo Kovacs told the newspaper Nihon Keizai yesterday that
if Hungary joins NATO, no nuclear arms will be deployed on its
territory. Kovacs said Budapest is also opposed to having
NATO troops stationed in the country "on a permanent basis,"
according to an ITAR-TASS report. He said entry to NATO
should not be viewed as posing any threat to Russia, with
which Hungary has no common border. In other news, Premier
Gyula Horn yesterday concluded a four-day visit to Malaysia.
The two countries agreed to set up their first joint venture,
which will be in telecommunications.
BUDAPEST SOCIALIST PARTY OFFICE TARGETED IN PIPE
Hungarian TV reported yesterday that a pipe
bomb exploded at a district office of the governing Socialist
Party in Budapest. The blast caused some damage, but there
were no injuries. It was the second bomb attack on a Socialist
party office in the last three months.
BULGARIAN PARTIES MEET TO DISCUSS POST-ELECTION
Ivan Kostov, leader of the United Democratic
Forces (ODS), which won the 19 April parliamentary elections,
yesterday met with representatives of the four other parties
that won seats in the legislature, an RFE/RL correspondent in
Sofia reported. Socialist Party leader Georgi Parvanov said
after the talks that his formation agrees in general with the
ODS's anti-crisis program but remains opposed to the
application to join NATO. Euroleft, which is composed largely
of Socialist Party defectors, will support the program. Leaders
of the Union for National Salvation (ONS) told Kostov they
wanted a more detailed discussion of the IMF deal agreed on
last month. But Ahmed Dogan, leader of the largely ethnic
Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which is also a
member of the ONS, did not attend the meeting. Kostov said
his absence was a "bad beginning" for future cooperation.
ALBANIAN REBELS CALL MEETING TO DISCUSS
Rebel leader Albert Shyti
announced in Vlora yesterday that representatives from all
rebel town councils in southern Albania will meet in Vlora on
25 Arpil. Shyti says it is "time to evaluate the relations
between us and the multinational force." Vlora council
member Ylli Mecaj said that the foreign troops are officially in
the city to distribute aid, adding that "they must involve
themselves only with that and not form a direct or indirect
alliance with [President Sali] Berisha." Rebel leaders fear that
the force may help to shore up the embattled president as the
June elections draw near. Vlora residents have so far given the
foreign troops a friendly welcome.
ALBANIAN PRESIDENT STANDS BY POLICE CHIEF.
Speaking in Tirana yesterday, Berisha reiterated his opposition
to the 19 April dismissal of national police chief Agim Shehu.
The government has defended its decision to sack Shehu by
saying he is not acceptable to the Albanian public. It is unclear
whether Socialist Prime Minister Bashkim Fino has signed a
formal dismissal. Shehu is a close Berisha ally, and many
Albanians blame him for police brutality against Berisha's
opponents. Nine out of the ten parties in the broad coalition
government voted to oust Shehu.
Italian military spokesmen said in
Rome today that tugs have freed the cruiser Vittorio Veneto,
which ran aground off Vlora on 21 April. In the central
industrial town of Elbasan, the World Food Program reported
yesterday that it has delivered more than 200 tons of flour in
the presence of Italian troops. In Brussels, the WEU said it is
sending a delegation to Tirana today to assess what is needed
to rebuild Albania's police force. In Tirana, police officials said
yesterday that a bomb destroyed the car of Arben Ujka, deputy
chief of the city's criminal police force. And in Rome, the
Health Ministry announced that it has signed an agreement
with its Albanian counterpart to help revive Albania's health
UN'S KLEIN CERTIFIES SLAVONIAN ELECTIONS.
Klein, the UN administrator for the last Serb-held part of
Croatia, said in Vukovar yesterday that the 13-15 April
elections in the region were "free and fair," despite
irregularities that prompted an extension of polling time. He
remarked that the vote in eastern Slavonia presented "a victory
for reconciliation, [refugees'] return, and a better future." Klein
said he had "duly considered but dismissed" all complaints
and based his decision on monitors' reports. Final election
returns confirmed earlier, unofficial ones (see RFE/RL
Newsline, 21 April 1997). Klein is now preparing a plan to
enable refugees to return to their homes on either side of the
former front lines.
SERBIAN-CROATIAN COALITION IN VUKOVAR?
Stanimirovic, the leader of the Independent Democratic
Serbian Party (SDSS), said in Zagreb yesterday that he can
envisage a coalition in the Vukovar town council between his
party and President Franjo Tudjman's Croatian Democratic
Community (HDZ), an RFE/RL correspondent reported from
the Croatian capital. The SDSS and HDZ are the two largest
parties in the council, but the balance of power lies with the
Independents, led by local kingpin Tomislav Mercep. Mercep is
regarded by many Serbs as a war criminal and has many
enemies in the HDZ. The Serbs took Vukovar in a long and
destructive siege in 1991, and its return to Croatia is a highly
emotional issue in that country.
CROATIA ADMITS RIGHTS ABUSES AGAINST SERBS.
Klaric, the Croatian government's ombudsman, said in Zagreb
yesterday that there have been violations of Croatian Serbs'
human rights and that Serbian refugees have been prevented
from going home. Klaric noted that returning refugees face
legal obstacles to getting their homes back and then often find
that Croats are living in them. This is the first time that a
government official has admitted such abuses against Serbs in
the areas recaptured by the Croatian army in 1995, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb.
TRIAL OF "ZVORNIK SEVEN" ENDS.
Bosnian Serbs wrapped
up a controversial murder trial of seven Muslims in Zvornik
yesterday. The proceedings closed after the court-appointed
defense lawyers were given just five minutes to speak. The
international community's Deputy High Representative
Michael Steiner had demanded that the Serbs allow the
"Zvornik Seven" to choose their own lawyers. The Serbs
refused on the grounds that the Muslim lawyers chosen by the
men are not citizens of the Republika Srpska. The accused say
the Serbs tortured them in the jail where they have been since
U.S. peacekeepers handed them over to Serb police last May. A
verdict is due to be announced tomorrow.
ROMANIA OFFERS TO REPLACE U.S. TROOPS IN BOSNIA.
Foreign Minister Adrian Severin says Romania is ready to
replace the U.S. troops in Bosnia when they withdraw next
year. Severin was speaking at his meeting yesterday with U.S.
Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum, Radio Bucharest
reported. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said
that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Severin on 21
April that the U.S. wants Romania to be part of the process of
unifying Europe. But she said "no decisions have been made
by NATO on which new countries would be taken in."
Meanwhile, leaders of the U.S. Jewish communities have
urged the Romanian government to take down a statue of
wartime leader Ion Antonescu erected by his sympathizers on
the site of the marshal's 1946 execution, an RFE/RL
correspondent in Washington reported.
IMF APPROVES LOAN TO ROMANIA.
The IMF yesterday
approved a $400 million stand-by loan to Romania, which will
be released in five installments of $80 million each, Radio
Bucharest reports. The IMF will monitor the progress of
Romania's implementation of the reforms program before
releasing each installment. In other news, George Danielescu,
a former deputy chairman of the National Liberal Party and a
former minister of finance, is under investigation on suspicion
of forgery and fraud in connection with a mutual investment
fund, Romanian TV reported yesterday. Gen. Victor Athanasie
Stanculescu, who is also under investigation (see RFE/RL
Newsline, 21 April 1997), said the case against him was
"political" and aimed at discrediting the former government of
Petre Roman. Finally, the government on 21 April revoked the
licenses of two private banks--Credit Bank and Dacia Felix--
which ran into solvency difficulties nine months ago.
UKRAINE DISTANCES ITSELF FROM CHISINAU-TIRASPOL
Ukrainian Ambassador to Chisinau Evhen
Levitsky says his country welcomes the readiness of Chisinau
and Tiraspol to sign the memorandum on ways to settle the
conflict in Moldova but cannot agree with all its provisions.
Levitsky told Infotag that Ukraine objects in particular to the
memorandum's inclusion of a provision saying the CIS "has
experience" in settling such conflicts. Ukraine believes that the
OSCE, rather than CIS, can provide the best mechanisms for
such tasks. Ukraine is a guarantor of the memorandum,
which is to be signed in Moscow on 8 May. Levitsky said Kyiv
considers the text of the memorandum "still open" because it
has not been consulted on all the provisions.
"YEREVANGATE" DISCLOSURES LEAVE KEY QUESTIONS UNANSWERED
by Liz Fuller
More than two months have passed since the allegations
of large-scale clandestine arms shipments from Russia to
Armenia triggered a major political scandal. On 14 February,
Moskovskii komsomolets reported that Russian weaponry was
being illegally supplied to conflict zones, including
Chechnya, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. The one concrete
example cited was the transfer to Armenia in 1995 and 1996 of
84 T-72 tanks and 50 armored combat vehicles. At a news
conference the same day, Russian Minister for CIS Affairs
Aman Tuleev said the transfer of tanks and armored vehicles
to Armenia had taken place and that Russia had received no
payment for them. He said he had alerted senior Russian
officials and asked them to investigate the matter.
In a letter to Tuleev released to the press in mid-
March, Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov confirmed the
transfer of arms to Armenia, sparking denials from the
Armenian Foreign Ministry, protests from Azerbaijan, and
speculation in the Russian press about who sanctioned the
shipments. While corroborating details have since emerged, a
number of key questions remain unanswered.
At a 2 April closed session of the Russian State Duma,
Gen. Lev Rokhlin presented the findings of a Duma
investigation, listing all the military hardware involved and
specifying how, when, and with whose connivance it was
transported to Armenia from various locations in the Russian
Federation. Rokhlin estimated the worth of the equipment at
more than $1 billion but exonerated Armenia of trying to
avoid payment and suggested that huge sums of money had been
misappropriated by middlemen. He also argued that the
transfers could not have taken place without the knowledge of
then Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and that former chief of
staff Mikhail Kolesnikov could not have authorized them
without consulting Grachev. He did not speculate about who
could have given Grachev the green light to proceed but,
revealing an implicit flaw in his argument, said the arms
shipments continued after Igor Rodionov replaced Grachev as
defense minister last July but without Rodionov's knowledge.
Possibly on the basis of Rokhlin's testimony,
Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia Ramiz Rizaev told
journalists on 4 April that "the main culprits" were Grachev,
Kolesnikov, and Col.-Gen. Fedor Reut, who was dismissed from
his post as commander of the Group of Russian Forces in the
Transcaucasus on 4 March. In mid-April, a spokesman for the
presidential Main Control Directorate announced that neither
Russian President Boris Yeltsin nor the Russian government
had authorized the arms shipments. Vladimir Putin, the head
of the directorate, told reporters that Yeltsin knew the
names of those responsible and that Grachev, who had been
questioned by the directorate during its investigation, was
not one of them.
Various hypotheses have been advanced as to why the arms
transfers to Armenia were made public and for what reason,
with much attention focusing on Rokhlin's perceived role. It
has been suggested that the whole objective of the leak was
to thwart the Duma's ratification of the 1995 agreement,
signed by Yeltsin and Armenian President Levon Ter-
Petrossyan, permitting Russia to maintain a military presence
in Armenia. (The Duma ratified that agreement last week by an
overwhelming majority.) In early February, Nezavisimaya
gazeta's Yerevan correspondent identified Rokhlin as one of
the authors of a draft Duma resolution calling for a revision
of Russia's military-strategic policy in the Transcaucasus--
but not, as some observers have argued, the closure of
Russian bases in Georgia and Armenia, which Rokhlin opposes.
True, there are interest groups in Moscow that advocate
revising Russia's Transcaucasus policy to favor oil-rich
Azerbaijan at the expense of Moscow's traditional ally,
Armenia. But Yeltsin stated unequivocally at the CIS summit
in March that it is he who determines Russia's policy toward
the CIS member states.
It is conceivable that the data cited by Moskovskii
komsomolets was deliberately leaked by Defense Ministry
officials angry at the continued underfunding that has
weakened Russia's military potential, with the aim of
embarrassing and thereby exerting pressure on Yeltsin.
Rokhlin, for his part, has repeatedly stressed that his
disclosures were not directed against Armenia and that his
primary concern was to prevent further astronomical financial
losses. The sum of $1 billion, he points out, would pay for
30,000 apartments for military personnel or three months
wages for all officers and warrant officers of Russia's armed
Other players with other motives may also have been
involved in the "Yerevangate" affair. The findings of the
ongoing Russian Military Procuracy investigation may clarify
the still unanswered questions--assuming they are made